Graduate Team – Derrick and Yasha

 In Graduations, News & Events

Thank you to our generous April Graduate Sponsor…

In memory of my wife, Barbara Woods, who loved dogs and Guiding Eyes. Through our entire marriage, we have had dogs, usually two at a time, and enjoyed them! Sponsoring the graduating class is a perfect way to honor her memory.

– Richard Woods

Meet April Residential Training Graduate Derrick

Graduate Derrick and yellow Lab guide dog YashaGraduate Team: Derrick and Yasha
About the Team: Yasha, a female yellow Lab, is Derrick’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Washington, Utah
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Louise Thompson  (April Residential Training)

Derrick received his first guide dog, Yasha, but Guiding Eyes was a familiar choice. In recent years, both his brother and sister have received Guiding Eyes dogs, as a result of the hereditary condition they share, retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Derrick has been married to his wife Cami for 13 years. They have four children ranging in age from four to twelve years old. Derrick grew up in Los Angeles, but has lived throughout the United States, eventually settling in the small rural town of Washington, Utah, located two hours from Las Vegas. Derrick graduated from Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, in 2009, with a degree in mechanical engineering. He is employed by Wind River Software, a company that develops software solutions for industries and technologies, including software that runs the Mars Rover. Derrick manages the company’s large software program development projects, directing critical system software engineers all over the world. His job requires traveling internationally and now Yasha will be by his side. Derrick plays both the piano and guitar. His favorite genre of music is alternative rock and Dishwalla is his favorite rock band.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Yasha is a spunky, two years old, yellow Lab. She loves to lead and walk fast. When not working she always loves a good game of tug of war.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My siblings recommended contacting Guiding Eyes. They said it was the only place to go for guide dogs. It was also the right move for me based on my own experience.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Prior to Yasha, I relied on a cane. Having Yasha, I learned that there is no comparison in getting around, navigating stores and shops. It now takes a lot less effort to go out in public. Her reliability brings me a great deal more safety and security. She is the first pet our family has had. When not working Yasha can be like adding half a kid to my crew of four.” 

Were there any training highlights? “I found the entire Guiding Eyes staff to be very kind and attentive. The trainers communicated clearly, explaining why we should do something a certain way. Each day of training was incredibly productive, and progress was made quickly. Louise Thompson always communicated clearly and directly and she was always super funny. She offered us a wealth of information pertaining to our training. My training included traveling on the train to White Plains, a moderate size city, about 30 minutes from the Guiding Eyes campus. The accommodations and food were excellent, and the staff did everything to make our group comfortable.”

Meet Guide Dog Yasha

  • DOB:  11/6/2019
  • Tattoo ID:  2Y319
  • Color/Breed: Yellow Labrador
  • Gender: Female
  • Brood: Harlow
  • Stud: Zinc
  • Littermates:  York, Yani
  • Region: Eastern CT/ Montgomery
  • Regional Manager: Maureen Hollis/Jeanyne Gembarski
  • Puppy Raiser:  Barbara Close/The Birks Family
  • Facebook:   Guiding Eyes Eastern CT Puppy Raisers
  • Facebook:  Guiding Eyes Montgomery Puppy Raisers
Yellow Lab guide dog Yasha

I had Yasha for the first 3 months of her training and enjoyed every minute. She was one of (if not the) sweetest dogs I have worked with. And smart! It always amazed me how quickly she would pick up new commands. She was great to walk because she never pulled, rarely got distracted and walked at a great pace. Always very confident. Always ready to try something new. I’m very excited that she made it to guide dog and know that she will be a great asset to her “person”.

Barbara Close, Puppy Raiser of Yasha

Yasha is patient and loyal. Her eyes focus on you with such intensity that they make you melt.  Yasha arrived when 5 months old (at the very beginning of the COVID world in April 2020). My husband and I were working home, my youngest was finishing his high school junior year, and my oldest, his college freshman year from home. She had a lot of people around – and wanted a lot of attention. We rewarded her for settling or getting a toy and she grew into an incredible companion who loved to play, explore and be with her family. She loves hiking and swimming. She plays tug of war like no other, greets you every morning with extreme enthusiasm, will wait patiently to eat or go for a walk, and smiles when she is outside. After busy days of outings, walks and playtime she always enjoyed evening downtime. At the end of each day she’d snuggle on the floor with me and rest up for whatever the next day would bring. We are so proud of her amazing dedication and beautiful spirit.

Heather Birks, Puppy Raiser of Yasha

Enjoy these photos of the team and Yasha as a pup on program…

Meet our other recent guide dog team graduates. Click here!

Friends and Family:  Watch this video to learn more about  Working with a Guide Dog Team.

Graduate Casey and black Lab guide KangaGraduate Calle and black Lab guide Teal
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