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Erin and Neptune

Meet Graduate Erin

Erin and black lab guide dog Neptune sit for team portraitGraduate Team: Erin and Neptune
About the Team: Neptune, a male black Lab, is Erin’s 3rd guide dog
Location: Berkeley, California
Training: April 2023 On-Campus

Erin works remotely as a digital accessibility engineer for a healthcare company. She previously worked in the educational technology field and at non-profits, a shift from her English and psychology educational background. Erin mentors blind high school and college students and has conversations about navigating the world as a person who is blind. She loves cooking, reading literary fiction and mysteries, hiking, and sailing. She likes listening to folk and indie music, and hopes to get back in the groove of seeing at least 1 local concert a month, as she did prior to the pandemic. She enjoys exploring the Berkeley neighborhoods, whether going to restaurants, coffee shops, or other fun occasions. When she’s not out adventuring, she loves spending time with her pets, including her previous guide Kendall, her cat Lars, and current guide Neptune. She values friendships near and far, and anticipates flying to the Pacific Northwest and to the East Coast with Neptune to visit friends and family.

How would you describe your guide dog? “He’s a loving and affectionate dog who wants to please. He’s sweet and wants to be with me all the time; even under the desk while I’m working. He’s snuggly too and would climb up in your lap if you let him. Neptune integrated well into the house. He plays with my 11-year-old retired guide, Kendall, and those two are best buddies, playing tug of war. They’ve destroyed their fair share of toys together, but it was a bonding experience. He and my cat play and chase each other back and forth. He’s easy to have in the house and sweet with everybody. In harness, he’s still sweet and happy, very curious, but also, I can tell he’s taking on the responsibility of keeping me safe on the busy city streets. He likes reaching destinations and hanging out in one place for a while, so he can enjoy the scenery. We’ll pick up takeout for lunch and he’ll try to take me to a table instead of going back out.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I had some friends with guide dogs from Guiding Eyes and I was impressed with them, so I decided to check it out. I like how respectful they are of their students and grads. Both times, I felt treated like a competent adult and dog handler, and they go out of their way to help everyone succeed. Their philosophy of dog training aligned with what I was looking for. Kendall was from Guiding Eyes and was so wonderful I wanted to come back to GEB again.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Now that I work from home, it is a good motivator to get out more and go on solo adventures. I can use a cane well, but it requires too much mental focus for me to daydream or take a walk to clear my head the same way I can with a guide, once we’re a comfortable team. There’s a sense of ease moving through space with my guide dog that I enjoy. They see obstacles up ahead and start making decisions, whereas with the cane, you need to get close to something and then decide. When my dog and I are moving together in this way, we enjoy less interference from strangers who think I might be about to run in to something. Together we project confidence and move quickly, and I love how that feels.”

Were there any training highlights? “A unique thing was that our class was all women and I felt like we all got along well and bonded. It was nice to be in community with folks. We all got home and texted each other saying, ‘It’s so quiet, where are you guys?’ In terms of training with Neptune, the standout was the most complicated thing we did, which was going to New York City. That was probably the longest walk we took, and where we were able to work through construction and a lot of distractions, people, and kids. This helped us get into a rhythm together, as did our easiest route on a bike path, where we walked and worked as a team. There’s a lot of moments in training where it’s all sort of snippets of what it’ll be like. Those longer routes are the ones that stick out as a preview for what we’ll be like as a team.

Meet Guide Dog Neptune

DOB:  9/5/2020
Litter ID: SNN20
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Tamby
Stud: Tito
Littermates: Nacho, Nixie, Norm
Region:  Catoctin
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jeanyne Gembarski
Puppy Raiser:  Anne & Dale Gallon
Facebook: Catoctin Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Neptune was a joy to raise becoming a big part of our lives – eager to please, loving & attentive. He loved sitting on the floor on my lap for an evening love fest. He enjoyed new adventures. Nothing phased him on our daily town walks & he had many fans that he greeted. He enjoyed long walks in the woods, and visiting the coast of Maine & the ocean. He was always ready for a new outing – loud noises or new situations didn’t phase him. He and our retired GEB dog, George, became fast friends playing and sleeping together! Neptune will always have a special place in our heart as he is one of the most loving dogs we’ve known. We are thrilled to send best wishes to Neptune and Erin for a lifetime of companionship and adventures!  ~ Dale and Anne Gallon, Puppy Raisers

Photos of the Team…