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Dirk and Fernando

Meet Graduate Dirk

Dirk leans towards black lab guide dog Fernando as they sit on an indoor bench for team portraitGraduate Team: Dirk and Fernando
About the Team: Fernando, a male black Lab, is Dirk’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Red Level, Alabama
Training: March 2023 On-Campus 

Dirk was born and raised in Edison, New Jersey. He has been married to his wife Claire for 43 years and they live in southern Alabama, about 70 miles from the Florida Gulf Coast. He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in the second grade, around the time of JFK’s presidential inauguration. Dirk achieved eagle scout status as a teenager, then in 1975 graduated from Rutgers University with his bachelor’s degree. He went on to attend Auburn University and graduated with a master’s degree in Fisheries. His early work in fisheries included time at a hatchery for Texas A&M University, as well as at other private facilities. In the early 1980’s he started his own hatchery and worked there with his wife until they retired in 2007. Their hatchery raised fingerlings for farm pond stocking and eventually ornamental koi which were shipped nationwide. Dirk’s hobbies include gardening, beekeeping, fishing, woodworking, and hunting. He and his wife purchased land in northern Alabama and are currently building a house, performing most of the trades themselves. He serves as the President of the local Andalusia Lion’s Club and is especially proud of the work they do in sponsoring the Alabama Lions Physically Challenged Deer Hunt, providing adaptive equipment, guides, training, meals, and accommodations for the past several years.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Fernando is very laid back and never excitable. He is a very good worker. When not working he enjoys playing with our family dog and swimming in our 15-acre pond.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Fernando is my second guide dog from Guiding Eyes.  I am two for two with Guiding Eyes, and one for four with other agencies.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Fernando has given me confidence and the freedom to travel and move about safely. He has kept me out of trouble and eliminated my hitting into others when I relied on a cane. Fernando has become my best friend.”

Were there any training highlights? “I liked our small class size. It enabled the training to be contoured to my lifestyle. The training timeframe was reasonable and very effective. The staff, especially Kat, was able to spend a good amount of time with me. The facility was nice, and the food was excellent and too abundant, if you know what I mean. Victoria and Marianne were my classmates. We had many laughs and I still communicate with both.”

Meet Guide Dog Fernando

DOB:  1/23/2020
Litter ID: 4F20
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Winter
Stud: Ryan
Littermates: Finnian, Francis, Fallon, Felipe, Fabian, Farrell, Ford, Felicia
Region:  Eastern MA, Maine
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  Lynn Stas, Joshua James, Deborah Dik
Facebook: Eastern Mass Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Fernando was the cutest puppy very inquisitive and happy to learn new things. He was gentle and thoughtful. He loved to go to Lowe’s with me and check out the flowers, and Target where all the employees love to say hi to him. He was always so polite greeting people which made him a popular customer. Loved raising him and so happy he is graduating – you are going to love him. ~ Lynn Stas, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…