February 2018 Graduating Class

 In Graduations, News & Events

Best wishes and congratulations to the February 2018 class. “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”– Mark Twain
-Tina and Frank Shevetone

“My sunshine doesn’t come from the skies, It comes from the love in my dogs eyes.”
We would like to honor all of the volunteers.
-Judy, Andrew and Tyler Eisele

Congratulations to Team Finn. May you have many safe and happy adventures together.
Thank you to Finn’s puppy raisers for all you’ve done to make this day possible.
Best wishes to all.
-Central New York Puppy Raising Region

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.

Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates

Amy & Rumor
Deanna “Coach” Lynn & Wendell
Jessica “Jess” & Milton
Daryl “Dee” & Rudy
Carlos & Treasure
Nicole “Nic” & Elvis
Andrew & Nera
Nicole & Pat


ACTION Training

Kenneth “Ken” & Elton
Tina & Talent

Home Training

Chelsea & Finn
Jennifer & Odette
Angela & Rajah


(P): A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.
(S): The donor listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dog:
• Elvis was Special Named by the Macquarie Group.

Congratulations to our graduating class!

Many thanks to our Training Staff

Class Supervisor: Jolene Hollister
Class Instructors: Laurel Sheets, Louise Thompson
Instructor Assistant: Amy Sanders
Running Guides Specialist: Nick Speranza
Action Instructor: Woody TenEyck

Home Training

Graham Buck, Assistant Director of Training
James Gardner: Director of Home Training
Andrea Martine: Special Needs Instructor


Amy and Rumor

17-year-old Amy grew up in China, where she lived until she was adopted and brought to her home in Maryland in 2013. She’s one of 3 girls from China that her parents adopted over the past several years.

Amy has been totally blind since birth and her mom, who Amy says is “an amazing advocate” has done everything she can to help Amy get the services she needed and catch up to her peers.

Amy is partnered with Guiding Eyes dog Rumor, a female yellow Lab. She says, “I feel gifted to have her, I almost cried with joy!” Amy loves to walk and now with Rumor she plans to do as much of it as she can! She also loves baking and listening to music.

Amy plans to ultimately become a linguist. She speaks fluent Chinese, as do her two adopted sisters. Amy laughingly says that the three girls drive their mom a little “crazy” when they start talking to each other in Chinese!

Of Guiding Eyes and her experience in class Amy says, “I was nervous about being away from home but everyone here is so nice, they’ve made me feel so comfortable!”

Congratulations to Rumor’s puppy raisers, Collin Wright & Family.


Deanna “Coach” Lynn and Wendell

Coach is partnered with Wendell, a male yellow Lab and her first guide dog. She has been visually impaired since around 2005 due to hereditary glaucoma and her vision has grown progressively worse so that now she can see just light out of one eye. She says that walking with Wendell feels “far more natural” than walking with a white cane.

Coach is a US Army veteran who served 7 years on active duty along with 5 years in the reserves and 2 in the National Guard. She’s now retired from a teaching and coaching (hence the nickname) career teaching physical education, health and English at the high school level as well as teaching kindergarten. She coached girls high school basketball, boys and girls elementary and middle school basketball and middle school volleyball.

Of Wendell she says, “He was picked just for me! When it’s time to play he’s ready to go! When it’s time to work he’s ready, and he’s always ready to go outside!”

Coach and Wendell will be busy going to adaptive sporting events, mostly for veterans. When asked what her current favorite sport is Coach immediately said, “white water kayaking! She’s excited about what the future will bring with Wendell by her side!

Congratulations to Wendell’s puppy raisers, Dona & Tom Kauth, and Diane Pletcher.


Jessica “Jess” and Milton

Jess hales from Alexandria, VA where she works in customer care for an office supply company. She grew up in Florida and went to the Statler Center in Buffalo for her certification in the hospitality field. That, she laughs, is where she experienced her first snow!

Jess has been blind since birth due to retinopathy of prematurity and Milton, a Black Lab, is her 2nd guide dog, first from Guiding Eyes. Of him she says, “I feel freer and more confident when traveling with a dog. He’s been such an encouragement, he’s loyal, affectionate and loves to fetch!”

Jess is married to fellow Guiding Eyes Grad Alex Diaz. They both have busy lifestyles and both enjoy getting out with their guides. Jess says that Milton will “challenge me to get out of my comfort zone a bit.” She says the bonding is slow, steady and getting stronger every day.

Congratulations to Milton’s puppy raisers, Becky Biggs, and Saul & Esther Spigel.


Daryl “Dee” and Rudy

Originally from the Bronx, Dee now calls CT home. She worked in the health care field for ten years; decided to make a career change then got her BA from the college of New Rochelle and worked a number of years as a kindergarten teacher until her retirement.

Diagnosed with glaucoma in 1989 Dee Moved to Baltimore, MD, in 1994 where she lived for 18 yrs. She moved to Manchester, CT in 2013, where her dear friend Tina lived. When Tina passed away from cancer in 2015 Dee felt very “alone” because of the loss of her childhood friend. It was at that point that she decided to pursue getting a guide dog. She’s now partnered with Rudy, a male black Labrador. Dee says she already feels safer. She says he is “Rudy on duty, the sunshine of my life”. She raves that Guiding Eyes is excellent, more than she could have imagined. She felt apprehensive about coming, but feels safe, comfortable, and is learning about all the aspects of working with and caring for Rudy.

Dee’s Mom, Queen Esther, was a family Griot (storyteller) and shared the family history passed down through generations back as far as 1826 when her great-great grandmother Ann Leary was born. Dee is working on writing a memoir titled, “Tone To The Blood”, based on this history. And will be adding a chapter about her own story and her guide dog Rudy on Duty.

Congratulations to Rudy’s puppy raisers, Paul Waller, Jeanne Dregalla, and the Newman Family.


Carlos & Treasure

Carlos has come to Guiding Eyes from Minnesota and is partnered with Treasure, a female German shepherd. She is his third guide dog, his first from Guiding Eyes. She’s also his first German shepherd.

Carlos has “a few” college degrees, including marketing and IT, along with an MBA. He currently works as a software tester. He has lived in several locations and especially likes Northern CA.

Carlos says that the training at Guiding Eyes is superior. He describes Treasure as “very alert, very loyal.” He says, with a smile in his voice, that Treasure is sweet and likes to cuddle. “If I sit on the floor she’ll plop in my lap and sit there till I ask her to move.”

Carlos is an avid reader, “will read anything, books, magazines, anything”. A great day for Carlos and Treasure will include heading to a lake, beach, park or coffee shop and hanging out with a good book.

Congratulations to Treasure’s puppy raiser, Ms. Monika Conrad.


Nicole “Nic” & Elvis

Nic, who lives in CT, has come to Guiding Eyes for her first guide, male black Lab Elvis. She has been visually impaired for 5 years with very limited vision remaining in one eye. She says she “just didn’t enjoy getting out with her cane.” Now, with Elvis by her side she says it’s getting clearer and clearer that I made the right decision”.

Nic worked in the health care field her entire adult life, with her last job being a nurse at a nursing home. She has 2 children, a 21-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.

Nic loves to sing, go to movies, and listen to audio books, especially James Patterson novels.

Nic chose Guiding Eyes on the recommendation of some graduates who live in her area. She says she feels she’s learning fast plus the training is helping her get in shape! She describes Elvis as sweet, obedient and always ready to play. “And” she adds, “he’s always rarin’ to go!” She says enthusiastically “I’d recommend Guiding Eyes to anyone who wants to get a guide dog!”

Congratulations to Elvis’ puppy raisers, The Paszul Family.


Andrew & Nera

Andrew grew up in Southern CA and now lives in San Francisco. He is in his 3rd year of law school and plans to graduate in December, 2018 with both a law degree and an M.B.A. Once he completes his degrees Andrew is interested in corporate law particularly around environmental and animal welfare issues.

Andrew had partial vision growing up but became totally blind at age 18 due to retinitis pigmentosa.

Nera, a female yellow Lab, is Andrew’s first guide. He felt that walking with a guide dog would be a much more fluid way to travel. He says that working with Nera is “definitely different, and loving it so far, a great way to travel!” He adds: “It’s great to be in a symbiotic relationship with another being.”

One of the reasons Andrew chose Guiding Eyes is the running guide program. Now that he is experiencing the sense of freedom that walking with Nera brings he is really looking forward to running with her and enjoying that same sense of freedom and confidence! He says he’s “amazed at how Guiding Eyes is able to raise and train these incredible dogs and create this amazing opportunity!”

Congratulations to Nera’s puppy raisers, Haven & Fred Thomas.


Nicole & Pat

Nicole was born in Israel to Russian parents. They came to the US when Nicole was 7 and settled in the Chicago area. Nicole says they still speak Russian at home. Her vision loss is due to Leiber’s Congenital Amaurosis, leaving her with limited blurry vision in both eyes.

Pat, a male black Lab, is her 3rd guide from Guiding Eyes. She received her first Guiding Eyes dog right out of high school. She now has a B.A. in Psychology and a Masters in Clinical Psychology and Counseling. She plans to become a mental health therapist in is working toward her first licensing exam in the field.

Nicole admits that transitioning from one dog to the next is never easy, she has occasionally called Pat by one of her previous dogs’ names. But, she says, that’s just part of the transitioning process. Of Pat she says, “he’s the perfect match for me, both working and personality”. She adds: “He has a therapeutic personality and when he leans against me all doubts and fears go away”. She hopes to be able to use that personality to her advantage when working with some of her future clients.

Congratulations to Pat’s puppy raisers, The Weronski Family.


Kenneth “Ken” & Elton

Ken has come to Guiding Eyes for his 2nd guide dog, a male black Lab named Elton.  He lost his sight in 2010 due to detached retina, and other complications.

Ken lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, Jenn, and their two “little dogs”. He works as a personal trainer for a local community center and Jenn is an athletic trainer at a local college. In what spare time he has, Ken enjoys carpentry, computers and music.

Ken says that Elton is a great worker, with a soft personality until he gets “revved up”. “He’s very strong and solid. He works hard and he plays hard.”

Ken is a student in the ACTION program which brings him to guiding Eyes for only 10 days and this fits well with his busy work schedule. He feels that Guiding Eyes has been very supportive through his transition from previous guide Johnny to Elton. He is grateful for both dogs and looks forward to returning home with Elton.

Congratulations to Elton’s puppy raiser, Jody McCain.


Sandra “Tina” and Talent

Tina is partnered with Talent, a female German shepherd. Talent is her 2nd dog from Guiding Eyes and her 1st shepherd.

Tina’s vision loss is due to retinopathy of prematurity, leaving her with limited light perception and some contrast or shadow vision. She currently lives in Utah where she is working on her Master’s degree in American studies with emphasis on disability advocacy and policy. Her ultimate goal is to be a legislative advocate.

Tina’s retired dog, Butch, a Labrador retriever, worked with her for 8 years. When asked about differences between working with a Lab and a shepherd she said that they have a different gait, a different motion. She describes Talent’s gait as “smooth, like gliding”. “And”, she says, “Talent is so focused on me!” She emphasizes that she will always appreciate and love Butch, his place is strong and permanent in her heart.

Tina is participating in the ACTION program and will continue her training back home in Utah for a few days. She is grateful to Guiding Eyes for this program and for their flexibility and support.

On Dec. 29, 2017, Tina married Nick Reisner, an accounting student at Utah State.

She’s anxious to get home and start her new life with both of her new partners, husband Nick and guide dog Talent!

Congratulations to Talent’s puppy raiser, Debbie Coyle.

Home Training

Chelsea and Finn

Chelsea was trained through the Guiding Eyes Home Training program and is partnered with her first guide dog, Finn, a male yellow Lab. She lives with her husband and 3 children, ages 10,8 and 20 months, in a small PA town. Born and raised in Miami, FL she has lived in PA since November. When asked about how she liked the winter weather the word she first came up with was “interesting”. She added that the kids do love the snow.

Chelsea has a Bachelor’s degree in political science and a few terms in law school, though she said that trying to juggle all the work involved with law school with caring for her family became difficult so she put law school on hold for the time being. She currently works doing audio editing of news playlists which allows her to work from home and also keeps her in touch with what’s going on in the world.

Chelsea and Finn are bonding well. She says he’s “doing great, hitting all the targets, very disciplined and obedient”.  When off duty Finn loves to play in the yard and is accumulating plenty of toys, and Chelsea has begun making homemade dehydrated treats for him!

She described her training as “great, very thorough and professional”. She says she learned a lot of great skills and feels well-equipped to work with Finn and be a strong, confident guide dog team.

her main interest right now is being with and caring for her family. She keeps busy with her job and her kids and now with Finn, who’s definitely found his place in the Dupree family!


Angela and Rajah

Angela lives in CA and as partnered with German shepherd rajah, her 5th guide, 1st from Guiding Eyes. She received her training at ome through the Special Needs program.

Angela has been visually impaired much of her life and says she’s been blind for 15 or more years, vision limited to some light perception. In 2011 her hearing also declined.

Angela is currently studying pottery and is loving working with a pitter’s wheel. She loves ceramics, mosaic art, reading walking, hiking, swimming, traveling and visiting family.

When asked how Rajah is impacting her life she comments: “He is giving me my confidence back. It is amazing just being able to walk from the curb to my class or to the bathroom by myself. Being able to walk around the block. I feel so much more free and confident.” Plus she adds that he gets “soooo many compliments!”

Of her training experience Angela says that it was “amazing”, that her instructor Andrea was patient and accommodating. She was willing to work with Angela for 12 days to help her feel secure and confident.

Angela and Rajah are on their way together as a team and Angela is clearly excited and enthusiastic! “We are a great team and learning a lot about each other. Rajah is a godsend!”