February 2019 Graduating Class

 In Graduations, News & Events
Graduating class of February 2019

Congratulations to our February 2019 graduating class!

In Memory of Ted Zubrycki, Dave See, and in honor of Kathy Zubrycki who were trainers in my first class at Guiding Eyes. Also, my first roommate Mary Bower Novak and her guide Frazier and my first guide Pearl. Thank you to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind family for the love, friendship and confidence to be independent. Wishing the best to the February 2019 graduating class.

– Cheryl McNeil-Fisher

Congratulations to the February 2019 graduating class and guide dog team Barbara and Chad, from Bob Rollmann and Cindy Sullivan, fosters for proud dad GEB Ingot.

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

Residential Graduates:

  • Ashley and Rain
  • Barbara and Chad
  • Cheryl and Raven
  • Elizabeth and Ocala
  • Karen and Flint
  • Meagan and Henna
  • Sandra and Sierra
  • Terry and Twain

Home Training Graduates:

  • Joy and Rosella

Many thanks to our Training Staff:

  • Class Supervisor: Jolene Hollister
  • Class Instructors: Shannon McGee, Louise Thompson
  • Running Guides Specialist: Nick Speranza
  • Instructor Assistant: Kimberly Hansen
  • Home Training Instructors: Jim Gardner

Meet the Residential Training Graduates

Graduate Ashley and guide dog Rain

Graduate Team:  Ashley and Rain
About the Team:  Rain, a female German Shepherd, is Ashley’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:  Overland Park, Kansas

Ashley has been actively pursuing her PhD in Chemistry. She enjoys hiking and traveling, regularly attending conferences and lecturing at trade schools across the country about Talking LabQuest, a data tool for blind and low vision scientists.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s great. I laugh because she always checks the shower when entering a bathroom, like she’s securing the area. She’s a hard worker and I don’t think I could have been matched better. Anything I could have wanted in the perfect guide dog…she’s it.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Some of my friends had guide dogs and I noticed what seemed to be the most successful teams had graduated from here. Guiding Eyes makes the best matches. Starting with the Home Interview, everyone was very nice to me and treated me like a person.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s the new sense of freedom. I’m a good cane traveler, but I spent most of my life sighted. Walking with a guide dog feels more like walking sighted and I enjoy that feeling. Safety, is an issue too. When traveling in a big city, I look forward to feeling safer having a dog with me, especially at night.”

Were there any training highlights? “The staff was so supportive when I was experiencing pace issues. I loved Rain and was relieved when the instructor reassured me that an adjustment to the harness handle was all we needed. That one little hardware switch changed everything. We had a great class and things began to click.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Do your research and always consider all the options. Do some soul searching about whether you want a guide dog or a pet and consider the responsibility involved in their care.”

 

Congratulations to Rain’s Puppy Raisers, The Bumbalo-Wright Family!

Graduate Barbara and guide dog Chad

Graduate Team: Barbara and Chad
About the Team: Chad, a male black Labrador, is Barbara’s 4th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Barbara is celebrating 25 years as a Guiding Eyes graduate! She is a busy and outgoing violinist, writer, singer, actress and piano tuner. She enjoys performing at special events and churches and is working on her first literary fiction novel.

How would you describe your guide dog? “He’s sweet and can be a clown, but he’s very serious about his work – cautious at turns and in tight areas and very steady on stairs. He gets excited about work or play, but he’s able to settle himself easily. Each morning he likes to rub up against both sides of me and then he’s ready to start the day!”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve been getting my dogs from Guiding Eyes for 25 years and I’m impressed each time. Their approach is very progressive –continuing to hone their training tools or add new ones to keep the training individualized. The staff has always been kind, respectful and courteous. I’m glad to be back. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel so much freer and confident since having guide dogs. They are more than a mobility aid – they’ve been companions that makes my soul feel more complete. I like to walk, shop, perform and gives tours and workshops at the American Printing House for the Blind. My guide dogs have helped me do that.”

Were there any training highlights? “During controlled play in Alumni Hall it was great to see his eagerness in finding a target, and he’s the most consistent dog I’ve ever known with the “out” command. Also, our pace is well matched, so the arm is relaxed, and walking feels so good. When it clicks, it’s so neat.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Well, first and foremost, I’d ask, ‘Do you love dogs?’ It’s a huge responsibility and you must be patient with yourself and your dog. It’s about your state of being and depends on your personality and lifestyle. If you would like the freedom of walking without worry of what’s in front of you, you should get a guide dog.”

 

Congratulations to Chad’s Puppy Raisers, Don and Joanne Shepard!

Graduate Cheryl and guide dog RavenGraduate Team:  Cheryl & Raven
About the Team:  Raven, a female German Shepherd, is Cheryl’s 5th dog from Guiding Eyes
Hometown:  Wallkill, New York

Cheryl is an author of children’s books, which often feature guide dogs! This February class is actually a very special one for Cheryl, as it was 25 years ago in February that she received her very first guide dog, Pearl. She loves to work out at the gym and frequents the indoor track and is looking forward to getting active with Raven. Cheryl is also very involved with friends and civic organizations in her area and can’t wait to introduce her to everyone back home.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s a great pace match for me. She’s a powerhouse and I love that when I want to get up and go, she is always ready and able! But when I want to take it easy, she is always willing.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Twenty-five years ago, I heard an advertisement on the radio for a Guiding Eyes for the Blind Walkathon. It was there that I decided to apply.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I have so much more independence and more confidence in myself. I can walk faster and more confidently with a guide dog than I could with a cane, or even a person! These dogs know their job and they’re good at it. I can’t wait to get home and get back to walking at a faster pace.”

Were there any training highlights? “The Instructors here are amazing. The camaraderie, professionalism, and how they gel together is really exceptional. From the vet staff to the kitchen staff, Guiding Eyes really is a class act.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Guiding Eyes is a family and has always been there for me when we need it. I know that when I call I’ll have support, and if we can’t work it out over the phone, there will be someone at my door. I encourage anyone who is interested in a guide dog to go for it.”

 

Congratulations to Raven’s Puppy Raisers, The Stephens Family!

Graduate Liz and guide dog Ocala

Graduate Team: Liz and Ocala
About the Team: Ocala, a  female black Labrador, is Liz’s 4th guide dog
Hometown: West Haven, Connecticut

Liz comes from southwestern Connecticut and for the last three years has played goalie for the Hartford Braillers, a Blind Hockey team in her area. Liz enjoys trying new things and says that she will try anything once. She enjoys being active, traveling, reading, and spending time with friends. She is excited to continue building a partnership with Ocala and is looking forward to those “lightbulb” moments when you succeed as a team.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She has personality! She is confident and very sure of herself. She is definitely the “I got this” type.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had some friends who had guide dogs from Guiding Eyes and thought that they were great. Guiding Eyes was the only school that I applied to.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Guide dogs and white canes are both great Orientation and Mobility tools, but come with different versions of independence. Having a guide dog works for me because I like that we overcome obstacles together. I am really looking forward to continuing to forge that bond with Ocala.”

Were there any training highlights? “The New York City trip is always a highlight for me. It is my favorite place in the world. It’s a great confidence-builder to zip down the sidewalk, navigating obstacles, when you and your dog are really in the zone together.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Do your research. Everyone is different and needs different things. Talk to current guide dog users about their experience and ask questions. Know what it is that you are looking for.”

 

Congratulations to Ocala’s Puppy Raiser, Ms Samantha Epstein!

Graduate Karen and guide dog Flint

Graduate Team: Karen and Flint
About the Team: Flint, a  male black Labrador is Karen’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Ridgefield, Connecticut

Karen is a School Administrator in Connecticut who loves to be outdoors. She also enjoys cooking meals with her husband and 13-year old daughter, who cannot wait for Karen and Flint to return home. Introducing Flint to their pet Labrador, Manza, will be another exciting moment, and Karen is looking forward to getting out into nature with the two of them together. She is excited to continue this journey with Flint, and to continue forging their bond as they learn together.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Flint is very sweet and very intelligent, and he loves to play! He’s so affectionate and loves his belly-rubs. Getting to celebrate with him when we succeed at something has been one of the best parts of my training here.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I know people at work who have connections to Guiding Eyes and I have heard such wonderful things about it. I knew this was the choice for me.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “There’s definitely a feeling of independence, and I feel like I don’t have to be so cautious all the time. It’s exciting to have someone alongside of me that I can learn with.”

Were there any training highlights? “The first time I walked with Flint, the instructor was describing the obstacles that Flint was guiding me around, and I hadn’t even realized that he was doing it! It was pretty cool to hear.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “It’s an incredible experience. Sensing their intelligence and feeling how they care for you is impossible to understand unless you’ve experienced it yourself. I would encourage anyone who loves dogs to pursue it.”

 

Congratulations to Flint’s Puppy Raiser, Mercedez Tilton!

 

Graduate Meagan and guide dog Henna

Graduate Team:  Meagan and Henna
About the Team:  Henna, a female German Shepherd, is Meagan’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:  Albuquerque, New Mexico

Meagan is an active and determined full-time college student, studying to be an American Sign Language Interpreter. She enjoys adventurous activities like hiking and skiing, but also has a passion for building Limited Edition Lego sets!

How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s very funny and vocal [makes a low noise] in letting you know what she wants. If I’m sitting on the bed she likes to come over and poke me with her nose and she likes to show me that she loves me by giving kisses if I’m sitting on the floor.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I was very happy with my first guide dog from Guiding Eyes. I loved her so much that I can’t imagine going anywhere else. Guiding Eyes has been very accommodating to my specific needs as a person with a hearing impairment. The instructors are very supportive, even after you’ve gone home with the dog.

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “It’s fun to travel with a furry friend beside you. I feel safer because I might not hear a car taking a turn, but the guide dog will. It’s also someone to talk to, so you’re not lonely on a 30-minute walk.”

Were there any training highlights?  “On our test route even before I knew we were going to be matched, she came right over and gave me kisses, as if to say Hi! I like you! It was love at first sight. When we were officially matched the next day, we bonded instantly.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog?  “If you can, find an opportunity to experience walking with a guide dog, to see how you like it. You never know. And you should definitely try this school.”

 

Congratulations to Henna’s Puppy Raiser, Caitlyn Landry!

Graduate Sandy and guide dog Sierra

Graduate Team:  Sandy and Sierra
About the Team:  Sierra, a female yellow Labrador, is Sandy’s 3rd guide dog
Hometown:  Cattaraugus, New York

Sandy is from a beautiful town near Buffalo, New York that she describes as her little slice of heaven. When she and her husband are not in their hometown, they could be at their vacation spot by the lake or spending time with their six children and nine grandchildren. Sandy is looking forward to getting home with Sierra and starting on some new adventures!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Sierra has the perfect amount of personality and perfect amount of energy for me. If I want to go, we go, and if I want to take it slow, she’s okay with that too.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I wanted to get out and live more. My husband is very active and we have 9 grandchildren, so I wanted to feel confident getting out and being involved. I wanted to feel freer.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “The independence that you gain is huge. There is so much that we’re looking forward to, like taking some family trips. My family is also very involved in supporting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I am so excited to get more involved in those things.”

Were there any training highlights? “The first time I worked with Sierra it just felt right. I knew right then it was the perfect match. The moment where you can tell your dog recognizes you as their person is such an amazing feeling and it’s amazing to be here with other people who are on the same journey. They really understand what I am going through.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “It’s a big change. You need to be there for your dog as much as they are there for you, but the bond that you create is so worth it.”

 

Congratulations to Sierra’s Puppy Raisers, The Marth Family!

 

Graduate Terry and guide dog Twain

Graduate Team: Terry and Twain
About the Team: Twain, a male black Labrador, is Terry’s 1st guide dog from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Newtown, Pennsylvania

Terry is a Historian of Physics, who earned his Ph.D. under the mentorship of Professor Mary Jo Nye at Oregon State University. In addition to a MA in the History of Science, Terry also holds a MAIS focusing on Spiritual Traditions and Ethics. He is currently working on a biography of the theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler. Terry is a former US Merchant Marine Deck Officer and spent many years as a Maritime Educator. Terry combines his passions for education and sports as the Head Coach of the Junior Varsity Football team, Assistant Coach of the Varsity Football Team and Assistant Coach of the Wrestling Team at the George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Twain has exactly the right mixture of confidence and caution. He is assertive when needed, and cautious where it’s appropriate to be cautious.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve had guide dogs for many years, and quite a few people that I have met along the way have raved about Guiding Eyes, and now I understand why!”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “It’s been a huge change. I feel much more confident traveling independently, and it has opened a lot of opportunities for me and made me realize that I could do more. I went on to earn two Master’s Degrees and a PhD. And they haven’t just changed my life, there is a ripple effect into the lives of those all around me.”

Were there any training highlights? “Twain and I have a particularly good chemistry. I am a former Merchant Marine Deck Officer, and there are times in ship-handling when the boat is just an extension of all of your other senses. Walking with Twain, it really feels like we are just in that zone.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting a guide dog? “Come to Guiding Eyes. Having been an educator, I see the instructors through that viewpoint. They have such empathy for the learning process that the students are going through and have an amazing ability to be supportive and instill confidence that we will succeed in this journey.”

 

Congratulations to Twain ’s Puppy Raiser, Alexandrea Matott!

 

Meet the Home Training Graduates

Graduate Joy and guide dog RosellaGraduate Team:   Joy and Rosella
About the Team:   Rosella, a female German Shepherd, is Joy’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:   
Hartford, Wisconsin

Joy is a returning Guiding Eyes graduate, having retired her previous guides, Dustin and Perri, both Labradors. She is looking forward to welcoming German Shepherd Rosella into her busy life.

 

Congratulations to Rosella’s Puppy Raisers, Noora McCormick and The Niezrecki Family!

Closeup of guide Gus in harnessMarch-2019 Graduating Class Photo
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