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Donna and Toby

Meet Graduate Donna

Graduate Team:  Donna and TobyDonna and black Lab guide dog Toby sit for team photo
About the Team
:  Toby, a female, black Lab, is Donna’s 2nd guide dog from Guiding Eyes
Location: Grafton, Massachusetts
Training: February On-Campus Training

Donna is a graduate of Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School. While there she studied culinary arts. Donna provides childcare for two young brothers and provides technical education for the blind and visually impaired at her local library. She enjoys staying active by walking and hiking.  Donna and Toby, along with her retired guide Lasha, enjoy going for walks -including the 2 ½ miles to church!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Toby is a love bug when not in harness! She is a character with a playful personality. When Toby is working, she is focused.  She loves to work and is always ready to go! Toby and my retired guide Lasha, get along great and enjoy each other’s company.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I have a friend who had guide dogs from Guiding Eyes. I was able to witness how capably they guided her. After long talks with my friend, I decided to apply. Guiding Eyes offers high quality dogs and comprehensive training. When it was time to retire Lasha, I returned to Guiding Eyes and got Toby.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “I got my first guide in 2013.  I have some vision; however, I need to strain to use it.  The eye strain often caused pain and headaches.  After I got Lasha, I stopped straining and the eye pain and headaches quickly diminished! Aside from improved health, I have much more freedom and independence with my guide dog.  Working with a guide dog is seamless and smooth. I used to get very anxious crossing the street with my cane, but with Lasha, and now Toby, I am confident when approaching intersections.  It is so comforting knowing I have a capable partner and best friend wherever I go.  I’m never alone and together I know we can go anywhere and do everything. Toby and I went to a medical appointment recently. Although she had never been to the facility before, she navigated it like a pro! To my surprise, she even knew how to use the elevator, a skill we had not yet practiced together. I am so impressed by Toby and so grateful to Guiding Eyes.”

Were there any training highlights?  “I returned to the Guiding Eyes campus for my training. Toby and I bonded right away! It was immediately clear that Toby is a well-trained and competent guide.  She did it all and did it well!  The day we went into New York City, Toby and I navigated the city streets the whole day; we did not take the bus once. Working with my trainer Dan was a highlight. Dan was relaxed yet knew exactly the right advice and instruction I needed and when I needed it. Toby was well trained, and Dan did a great job training me! When it comes to learning to work with a guide dog, the student must trust the process.  If you have an open mind for the instruction and an open heart for the dog, you will be successful.”

Meet Guide Dog Toby

DOB:  5/12/2020
Litter ID: 1KK20
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Jenna
Stud: Tito
Littermates: Kirby, Karma, Kurt, Kiwi, Koala, Kermit
Region:  Baltimore
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jeanyne Gembarski
Puppy Raiser:  Larry & Nancy Long
Facebook: Baltimore Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Toby was special named by Robert and Barbara Smith in memory of their beloved family dog Toby.

From the Puppy Raiser…

We raised Toby during Covid’s challenging times, having so many online classes, as opposed to interactions with other pups and people. We do though, have a big family, so Toby was blessed to be able to go to children’s birthday parties, soft ball, soccer, and basketball, games, and even an ice-skating rink. She attended graduations, both preschool and high school. She went to a bridal shower, and also the wedding. She visited the sick, and too, the quietness of a funeral. Toby was the most loving pup we’ve ever raised. This was probably her best quality!!  ~ Larry and Nancy Long

Photos of the Team…