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Gero and Gilbert

Thank you to our generous May Graduates Sponsor…

“The University of Rhode Island Puppy Raisers Club wishes the graduate teams good luck in their new partnerships!”

Meet May Residential Training Graduate Gero

The faces of a happy team - Gero and GilbertGraduate Team: Gero and Gilbert
About the Team: Gilbert, a male black Lab, is Gero’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:  Providence, Rhode Island
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Amy DiPalo

Gero grew up in Germany and served in the army as a young adult. At the age of 19, Gero was told he would lose his sight within 5 years, but he has never let that slow him down. After his time in the military, he decided to accelerate studies by coming to the U.S., earning his degrees in the states. He fell in love with the country and decided to stay. During his 35-year career in business, Gero served as the head of international corporations, which allowed him to travel the globe. He lived in London for a time and has traveled to many places, including Scotland, Paris, Malaysia, Thailand and many more. He hopes to soon travel to Greece with his daughter, when it is safe to do so, and has a fine appreciation of the thousands of years of history the country holds. Throughout his life, Gero has firmly believed that he is not defined by his vision loss, and that power of mind and determination will allow a person to accomplish whatever it is they set their mind to. Gilbert has become a large and important part of Gero’s continuing journey, and he looks forward to many years of teamwork and friendship.   

How would you describe your guide dog? “Gilbert is very, very smart, very affectionate, and very easy going. I have a German Shepherd and a cat at home, and they all absolutely get along great. He has integrated into our family so naturally, it’s amazing. I have three grandkids that live in Massachusetts, and they all love Gilbert. The youngest was running around with him for 2 hours; they had so much fun. In terms of compassion and intelligence, Gilbert is in a league of his own.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I grew up in post-WW2 Germany and there were many blind soldiers, so you would see guide dogs in Germany very frequently. It was a part of my every day scene growing up and so it has always been on my mind. I remember there was a training facility near my grandfather’s house and we would stop and watch the dogs working on our walks around the neighborhood. Nowadays, my middle daughter trains German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, so she has a lot of dog knowledge. She was the one who put me in touch with Guiding Eyes and told me that they came highly recommended.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel liberated now that he’s with me. It was a big step taking on this new partnership, but I can walk anywhere I want with total confidence. This has opened me up to going places that I didn’t dare go before, like certain stores or busy intersections. I used to constantly trip over cracks in the sidewalk, but I can point one out to him and reward him once or twice and then he’s got it figured out. The next time we go there he knows to slow down. I’m no longer afraid.”

Were there any training highlights? “Working with Amy was really wonderful. I also really enjoyed riding the escalators with Gilbert. They can be harrowing to navigate normally, but he is just a natural. Gilbert just has this “bring it on” attitude, and he just approaches a problem and solves it. I find it so impressive the way that he picks things up. He understands what I want him to do, whether it be traversing the escalators or approaching a knob or a handrail. It makes it so easy to trust his abilities.”

Meet Guide Dog Gilbert

We were supposed to take Gilbert for 10 days while his raiser from Ohio State went on spring break in March of 2020, as we really were not ready to raise again. Because he was such a sweet and mellow boy who fit into new situations easily, he ended up staying for 8 months instead. Because of the pandemic we were not able to do our usual outings, but he did great interacting with our 2 year old granddaughter, as well as our geriatric dogs and cat. He also went camping with us, handling himself well on trails, with wildlife and strange dogs, and adapting to cramped quarters in our trailer. He was great at quietly settling while we were seated to eat or at an event, a skill we assumed he got lots of practice at while at OSU. With his friendly, lovable and eager to please personality and the skills he mastered so easily, we were confident he was going to make a wonderful guide dog, as well as a lifelong friend to a Guiding Eyes graduate.

Kim and Ken Delfing, Puppy Raisers of Gilbert

Enjoy these photos of the team and Gilbert as a pup on program…