June On-Campus Training
Graduate Team: Elexis and Waldo
About the Team: Waldo, a male black Lab is Elexis’ 1st guide dog
Hometown: Rockwell, North Carolina
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Shannon McGee
Elexis is 21 years old and a student at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. She is working toward an associate degree in Art. Next, Elexis plans to earn a degree in education and hopes to be a teacher for visually impaired students. Besides her schooling, Elexis is working to improve her skills overall to become more independent. Her journey to meet Waldo was one of her first steps in expanding her independence. Elexis’ flight to NY to attend class at Guiding Eyes was her very first flight and she traveled solo! She is also learning how to cook for herself. Elexis enjoys playing the flute to relax at the end of a busy and hectic day.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Waldo is very energetic and loves to work as a guide! He loves to swim and play with a ball, especially if the ball squeaks.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Although I have been blind since birth, my goal is to be as independent as possible. I really prefer not to use a cane and do not want to have to rely on others all the time. During high school, my Orientation and Mobility Specialist recommended a guide dog and specifically Guiding Eyes for the Blind. After reading the Guiding Eyes website and learning about the programs and guide dogs, I applied. I’m so glad I did, because now I have Waldo!”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Waldo and I continue to learn to work together. I recently moved to a new area, so together we are learning our way around. I’m looking forward to classes starting up next month and navigating the campus with him. Waldo loves people and to guide, so he’ll be a natural.”
Were there any training highlights? “The whole experience of getting Waldo has been a highlight. I flew for the first time and got my very first dog! From the moment I first walked with Waldo, it felt very natural. I was able to relax and not have to worry about what obstacles there might be. The instructors were excellent. There was a total of 5 students in my class, but three of the students are experienced guide dog users and they offered helpful advice too. I especially appreciated the support they offered as I learned the hand signals needed to communicate with Waldo.”
Waldo was our first GEB puppy who came to us soon after a busy Christmas season. He walked into his new home with complete confidence regardless of the adult lab already living there. Waldo always had a loving personality and displayed constant affection for people and dogs. He was playful, curious, and athletic. Some of his favorite moments were rock jumping, going through snow tunnels, and playing fetch. Despite the restricted training due to Covid, Waldo persevered and always had fun with his training. Anyone that looks and interacts with him will instantly notice his soft, kind eyes on his big, handsome head as he is giving you cuddles and love. Although he left us early to be a stud dog the silver lining of it all is that we now have one of his adorable pups named Jonah. We are so proud of Waldo and we know he will do amazing with his new partner on this exciting new journey.
Karen Elkin, Puppy Raiser