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February 2013 Graduating Class

February 2013 Graduate Teams

We are extremely grateful for Judith Collord’s generosity in sponsoring the training of Guiding Eyes Halo. “I wish them all the luck in the world and a long and happy relationship together.” – Judith Collord

Meet our Graduates:
Lawrence & Halo
Linda & Riley
Shelly & Jefferson
Osman & Gala
Tom & Muldoon
Michelle & Osa
Kathy & Shamus
Amanda & Dakin
Eric & Ryan
Lynnette & Dream

Many thanks to our instructors:
Melinda Angstrom, Class Supervisor
Jessy DiNapoli, ACTION Instructor
Christina Vetrano, Class Instructor
Jamie Viezbicke, Class Instructor
Hope Smith, Instructor Assistant

Lawrence and Halo
Lawrence is a college student from Texas born with optic nerve hypoplasia. He was matched with a female yellow Labrador named Halo – his first guide dog.

Lawrence is a percussion performer and instrumentalist with a major in music and audio engineering. He also enjoys reading and is interested in politics. His current University of Texas grade point average is a 3.6 and he hopes to be accepted at the Manhattan School of Music or the New School.

Lawrence is an accomplished cane user but wanted the additional independence guide dogs bring. He is learning to work with Halo and enjoying the process. He’s looking forward to the new “balance” Halo brings and is excited about the next steps they’ll take together.

Congratulations to Frank & Michelle Chenette of the Cleveland West region.

Linda and Riley
Linda is “59-years-young” and recently retired from her career as a lawyer. She returns to Guiding Eyes for her sixth guide dog – female black Lab Riley – who will join her husband and retired guide at home in New York.

Linda’s vision loss is caused by retinopathy of prematurity. She had very supportive parents and grew up living independently. Her first dog joined her for sophomore year at the University of Michigan where she majored in general studies before going on to law school. She loves to read, walk and cook and plans to participate on the Board of her church; Riley will be kept very busy!

Linda looks forward to further bonding with Riley and laying the foundation for a long and happy working relationship together.

Congratulations to the Davis Family of the Eastern Connecticut region.

Shelly and Jefferson
Shelly is from Oklahoma and was matched with male yellow Labrador Jefferson, her first guide dog.

Shelly planned to be a professional golfer and was ranked number three in the country as a sophomore in high school. She and a friend were driving home from a golf tournament when they were involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Shelley now has limited vision in her right eye and wears a prothesis in her left.

Shelly is married with a grown son, a daughter and two grandchildren. She decided a year and half ago it was time to get back into society and started by learning how to walk with a cane. When she was ready, she began researching guide dog schools and decided Guiding Eyes was the right place for her. Of working with Jefferson, Shelly shares, “I walked around for 30 years with my head down. Now I can stand up straight and be confident that I won’t fall.”

Congratulations to The Gautier Family of the New Hampshire region.

Osman and Gala
Osman is matched with female black Labrador Gala, his first guide dog. They will return home to Michigan together.

Osman was born in Liberia and spent the first 15 years of his life in 12 different refugee camps. He was three months old when the Civil War broke out in Liberia and his family was forced to relocate to Sierra Leone. He was scheduled to have surgery to correct his vision when the capital was overthrown and his family had to flee.

Crossing the border into Guinea in 1996, he was separated from his mom and older brother. He reunited with his brother nine years later but never saw his mother again. Osman’s dad hoped to find employment in Guinea to pay for his son’s surgeries but was unfortunately unsuccessful; Osman became totally blind at age 14. With the help of Save the Children and a Michigan church, the family was ultimately able to immigrate to the United States.

Osman graduated high school and attends Western Michigan University where he triple majors in creative writing, international studies and computer science. His hobbies include goal ball, track and wrestling. He writes poetry and flash fiction and hopes to one day become a professional writer. Osman describes Gala as, “my little sunshine, an engine with a lovely fur coat, my best friend and my companion.” Osman is excited, grateful and humble. He thanks the puppy raisers, staff and donors – everyone who took the time and energy to bring Gala into his life.

Congratulations to Kelly O’Grady of the Central New York region.

Tom and Muldoon
Connecticut resident Tom was matched with yellow Labrador Muldoon, his first guide dog.

Retinitis of prematurity caused Tom’s vision loss. He grew up with pet dogs and learned about Guiding Eyes when his aunt came to the school in 1998. Tom owns and operates a cafeteria, where Muldoon will hang out in a safe, comfortable spot under the register. He was a volunteer fireman in high school and now spends his downtime watching NASCAR and collecting diecast cars.

Tom is glad he could come to Guiding Eyes in February and have the experience of practicing in the snow. He shares, “Muldoon knows what to do; I’m the one that needs the training.” He looks forward to getting home to his wife and continuing to grow as a team with Muldoon.

Congratulations to Carrie Barnett of the Bay region.

Michelle and Osa
Michelle was matched with her first guide dog this month – female yellow Labrador Osa.

Michelle was born with a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa. She has a degree from Messina School of Business and an associate’s degree in applied science with x-ray and medical assistant minors. She’ll be starting a new job upon her return home with Osa.

Michelle looks forward to seeing her three sons in North Carolina. With Osa her “world will be more normal” and she will be able to walk with her head up.  This team already have a strong bond and they love to play together; they dance and play fetch and “Osa is always smiling.”

Congratulations to Annie, J.C. & Willow Parker of the Northern Connecticut region.

Kathy and Shamus
Kathy was matched with a male black Labrador named Shamus, her eighth guide dog but first Labrador. The team will return to Colorado where Kathy’s husband, daughter and two pet dogs eagerly await.

Kathy has been legally blind since she was a teenager due to macular degeneration. She had to use a cane for a short time before receiving Shamus and was incredibly relieved to be partnered again with a guide. She shares, “having a dog is like driving around in a Mercedes.”

Although Kathy puts in many hours for a large office supply store, she always makes sure to find time to crochet and take long walks. She loves adventure and can’t wait to get back to taking public transportation with Shamus by her side. She also looks forward to being able to Christmas shop by herself – and actually surprise people with the gifts she buys!

Congratulations to Jessica Meyer of the Eastern Connecticut region.

Amanda and Dakin
Amanda is matched with her second guide dog – male yellow Labrador Dakin. They will return to Wisconsin where Amanda is studying early childhood.

Amanda is the oldest of two girls and was born premature; her sight loss is due to retinopathy of prematurity. She loves listening to music – especially Christian, country and pop. She is so excited to have Dakin and finds it difficult to put her strong feelings into words. Amanda envisions new horizons with Dakin; she has always wanted to travel and now feels safe. She’s looking forward to soon visiting Los Angeles and Nashville.

Congratulations to Kavitha Ganesan of the Montgomery region.

Eric and Ryan
Eric participated in the ACTION program – an accelerated training with two weeks at Guiding Eyes and five days at home with an instructor. Ryan, a yellow Labrador, is his third dog.

Eric has retinitis pigmentosa and working with a guide dog makes him feel connected. He attended SUNY Albany, earning undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. He’s certified in three states and now works as a high school guidance counselor in Vermont. Eric’s training was timed perfectly around school vacation; they’ll practice the new routes while the students are away. By the time classes resume, the team will be comfortable navigating the buildings.

Eric has always been interested in technology; he regularly does Beta testing for app developers and creates podcasts on how to use different technologies – particularly iPhones. He enjoys helping the blind community maximize its use of technology. He also loves woodworking; he gutted and restored his 1850’s home and then built a 24 foot long porch. Eric looks forward to returning home to his girlfriend, his dogs and his African gray parrot.

Congratulations to Julie Haynes of the North Carolina region.

Lynnette and Dream
Lynnette returns to Guiding Eyes from Canada and was partnered with female black and tan Labrador Dream through the ACTION program. They are known to all as the “Dream Team.”

Lynnette’s vision loss was caused by retinitis pigmentosa and cystoid macular edema.  She attends University of Guelph part-time working towards a diploma in Human Resources Management and works in the coin room with Guelph Transit.   Her hobbies include shopping and spending time with family and friends. She loves animals and scrapbooking; she once combined these passions and created a 40 page scrapbook for her retired dog’s puppy raiser.

In 2012, Lynnette married her longtime partner after they had spent 13 years together. They share their home with their daughter, two cats and Lynnette’s retired guide, Quincy. At home in Canada, Lynnette is a regular advocate for Guiding Eyes – visiting elementary schools and educating children and adults on the guide dog movement. She hopes to have a relationship with Dream’s puppy raiser and says, “I want to thank every single person out there who has taken time out of their lives to raise a dog to provide us independence and a better life – a huge, huge thank you!”

Congratulations to Jean Silverman of the Montgomery region.