Graduate Team – Susan & Oakley

 In Graduations, News & Events

Thank you to our generous September Graduate Team Sponsors…

“In memory of Aunt Maxine, a life-long animal lover, who cherished all the animals she knew, but most of all, was in awe of Jada, Cindy Lou Altman’s Guiding Eyes guide dog, and the freedom and confidence Cindy Lou gained. Maxine would be beaming knowing this graduation was sponsored in her memory.”

– Cris and Cindy Lou Altman

“In memory of Joe Hilton, and wishing Guiding Eyes Moseley good luck!”

– Tina Shevetone and Judy Eisele

Meet Home Training Graduate Susan

Susan and Oakley pose on wooden decking

Graduate Team:  Susan and Oakley (nickname Bailey)
About the Team:  Oakley, a male black Lab, is Susan’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:  Bayside, New York
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Nikki Wentz

Susan has an energy about her that is reflected in her many and varied accomplishments. Not only did she earn a Law degree as well as a master’s degree in Dance, Susan also enjoyed a career as a successful jewelry designer, owning her own company for many years.  Her husband Tod assists with the management of Doggie Do Gooders, a pet services business Susan has also owned and operated for 19 years.  Susan loves to take walks around her neighborhood with her guide dog, dance around the house, have visits from the grandchildren and read. She often reads 4 to 5 books per week! Susan’s first guide dog, Jake, never left her side for 7 years. Although she can never replace him, she is thrilled to have Oakley, who she calls Bailey, in her life. The nickname Bailey was chosen for the character from her favorite movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, and was inspired by the sentiment of the line“George Bailey, the richest man in town, because he was so well loved. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Bailey is solid, in build and personality. He’s a very happy boy and very smart. When out of harness, he can be goofy, playful and loving, and enjoys running with my other two dogs, but when working, he’s take-charge; totally concentrated and self-assured. On a walk, Bailey is directed and knows what he’s doing and makes me feel safe. He really takes care of me and he also wakes me up with great kisses each morning.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “When first diagnosed with vision loss, I was frightened. I attended Lighthouse for cane training, but I wasn’t yet accepting of my declining vision and began having falls as it got worse.  I learned of Guiding Eyes from Foundation Fighting Blindness, but I also became acquainted with comedian, Brian Fischler, the founder of the charity, ‘Laugh for Sight’. I experienced Brian’s training with his first guide, Guiding Eyes Nash, and with my own vision rapidly deteriorating, I became even more familiar with the organization. I applied and was matched to my beloved guide Jake.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I love dogs, and a wonderful loving dog is a perfect antidote to feeling down. My guides have allowed me to travel safely by myself; giving me independence and a lot of joy. They have kept me involved in life – in the world. Whether at a restaurant, the doctors, the park or a hair salon, people approach me. If the circumstances are such that I wish to allow them to interact with the dog, I can signal this, to them and my guide, by dropping the harness and maintaining a hold on the leash. It keeps me connected with the world and makes me very popular!”

Were there any training highlights? “My ‘aha’ moment came at the beginning, when I first noticed how Bailey was so different from Jake.  Jake was gentler, whereas Bailey is very focused and totally into it. I realized this was a good thing. My vision loss is worse now; Bailey took charge immediately and that’s just what I needed.”

Meet Guide Dog Oakley
(nicknamed Bailey)

  • DOB: 6/13/2018
  • Tattoo ID: 4OO18
  • Color/Breed: Black Labrador Retriever
  • Gender: Male
  • Brood: Erin
  • Stud: Finley
  • Littermates: Orlando, Ocean, Owen, Orson, Oshie, Orzo, Odyssey
  • Region: Erie
  • RM: Cassie Houghton
  • Pup Raiser: Diane Ende
  • Facebook: Guiding Eyes/Erie Puppy Raisers

Oakley with a big smile in the sunshine

Oakley’s most endearing trait is his willingness of spirit, always ready for any challenge and handling them with confidence and ease. He was my hiking partner when exploring nature, stopping often to take in the scenery. He also had the ability to make sure we didn’t get lost on the wooded, hilly trails.  He was a great teaching assistant in my classes for disabled children. He was beloved by my students who relied on him for comfort and puppy kisses to brighten their day. I enjoyed watching Oakley mature and develop the confidence to make good decisions. Now, he will start a new chapter with his partner, making new memories filled with love.

Diane Ende,  Raiser of Oakley

Enjoy these photos of the new team and Oakley as a puppy on program…

Meet our other recent guide dog team graduates. Click here!

Friends and Family:  Watch this video to learn more about  Working with a Guide Dog Team.

Patton, an adolescent black labrador retriever, sits proudly on the nature path on our Yorktown Heights campus in front of the pond. Patton wears his blue Guiding Eyes training vest.Grad Terry and guide Cruiser take a break by the fountain
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