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February 2009 Graduating Class

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated in February 2008.

And many thanks to our instructors:

Many thanks to volunteer Marge Widman for contributing the interviews.

Jose Montanez and Davey

New York retail worker enjoys building improvements while training with second dog

Jose Montanez and DaveyJose Montanez, 38, returned to Guiding Eyes for Davey, his second Guiding Eyes dog. Jose lost his vision as the result of a blood transfusion in 1989. He has, through the years, worked for Designer Shoe Warehouse and Good Will Industries performing shelf and rack work. Jose loves to bowl, walk, listen to music, and go to the movies. He also has a sharp awareness and enjoys the sounds of nature while seated at water’s edge. Davey is an energetic companion and sometimes playful; he is also trustworthy and always ready to work in harness. Jose anticipates that Davey will get him safely to work through the city traffic by foot, bus, and train. Amazed at all of the recent additions and renovations at the Guiding Eyes campus, Jose especially appreciated having a private room with his own TV. He offers this thought to all of us: “Life for everyone has its ups and downs; be on your toes and take it in stride. Life is too short to do otherwise.”

Melanie Moore and Dingo

Wife joins husband as a Guiding Eyes graduate

Melanie Moore and DingoMelanie Moore of Toronto came to Guiding Eyes for Dingo, her third guide dog, but first from Guiding Eyes. She has been blind since her birth 44 years ago as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, and is the mother of two older boys, 21 and 26. She recently remarried and learned first-hand from her new husband Brian the value of having a well-trained guide dog. Brian and his dog, Arizona, graduated from Guiding Eyes last March. Melanie is a graduate of Carleton University in Ottawa, and today takes care of their two-year-old son. She hopes to re-establish her career in social work in the near future.

She is particularly appreciative that Guiding Eyes gives its graduates the opportunity to meet and keep in touch with their dog’s puppy raisers, and she knows that Dingo will fit into her family’s home life with ease. “Having just moved to a new location and traveling with a baby on my back is a challenge. I know that Dingo will help me as I find my way around. As a first-timer at Guiding Eyes, I give my total endorsement of a program that is family oriented and administered with kindness, clarity and inclusion. Great care is given to ensure that the student is always part of the decision making process.”

Rob Palaski and Brandy

Massage therapist proud to embrace first Guiding Eyes dog

Rob Palaski and BrandyRob Palaski’s sight was slowly diminishing when he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa eleven years ago. He came from Connecticut to claim Brandy, his first Guiding Eyes dog. Rob is a faithful attendee at the annual National Federation of the Blind Conference held in Dallas. It was there that he was introduced to Guiding Eyes and submitted his application to the school just six months ago.

Rob, now 37, is self-employed as a massage therapist and knows that without sight, his “tactile sense” is a true asset in his occupation. Brandy (by the way, a female) is loyal, loving, a good worker, smart and loves to kiss. “She’ll help me run my life, be a companion, and enable me to enjoy my independence; I will walk confidently with my head held high.”

Lenard Parker and Bishop

Family man looks to future as a drug counselor

Lenard Parker and BishopLenard Parker came to Guiding Eyes for Bishop, his first guide dog. In 2001 Lenard lost his sight as a result of glaucoma. He is a father of four from his first marriage, and he and his second wife of 13 years have six more children. Lenard, 45, is a social sciences student at Harold Washington College, and hopes to become a substance abuse counselor. It is not surprising to learn that Lenard loves children. He also loves to read mysteries, and listen to music – jazz, rock, and pop. He attends outdoor concerts in the parks, and enjoys watching movies and TV with his wife and children.

Lenard says that Bishop is a “gung-ho, get-the-job-done” canine who both plays and works hard. “We move together as one body!” he exclaims. Lenard knows that Bishop will adeptly facilitate his travel needs. “Bishop raises the meaning of independence to a higher level. I love it here: the instructors are effective in teaching, enhancing and solidifying my skills; they make it fun and give me assurance that I am, indeed, an important part of one big family.”

Angel Rodriguez and Scout

ACTION student and his Guiding Eyes grad wife bring a daughter into the world

Angel Rodriguez and ScoutNew York resident Angel Rodriguez returned for Scout, his third Guiding Eyes dog. Angel was convinced 20 years ago that he found his “pot of gold” when he discovered the “perfect school for the blind.” Angel earned both his Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Hunter College and has been employed as a vocational rehab counselor for more than eight years. His wife of 15 years Gladys also has a Guiding Eyes dog. They are the proud parents of a baby daughter, Lia Marie, now 15 months old.

For relaxation, Angel enjoys judo, boating, swimming, going to movies, and playing his guitar and saxophone. Angel was able to introduce Scout to his family before arriving here for his ACTION training. He describes his German shepherd as an extremely good-natured, attentive and concise worker who “stands tall” when in harness. Angel expressed gratitude and amazement at the continuing improvements in the school’s facilities and training methods.