In memory of my wife, Barbara Woods, who loved dogs and Guiding Eyes. Through our entire marriage, we have had dogs, usually two at a time, and enjoyed them! Sponsoring the graduating class is a perfect way to honor her memory.
– Richard Woods
Graduate Team: Christian and Zeke
About the Team: Zeke, a male yellow Lab, is Christian’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Villa Park, Illinois
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Deanna Lentini
January On-Campus Training
Christian is 20 years old and has been visually impaired since birth. He has a fraternal twin brother, Anthony with low visual acuity as well. Christian has resided his entire life in Villa Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He was fascinated by social media at an early age and so, just for the fun of it, he created videos of elevators, posting his work on YouTube. His other interests include educating the public about disabilities and service dog awareness. He is involved with the School Association of Special Education, in a program that provides job skills training through its transition program for people with disabilities. When time permits on weekends, Christian enjoys hanging out with friends at the local mall. He also enjoys his family’s two pet dogs, Peanut and Coco. Prior to the pandemic, Christian volunteered at Elmhurst Hospital running its comfort cart, providing patients with extra blankets, magazines, puzzles and other such items. He is hoping the hospital is able to ease its pandemic restrictions in the coming months so he may return to his volunteer work. Christian is interested in someday becoming a medical assistant in a hospital.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Zeke is my first guide dog. He is very fast and has sped up my life. When he is not working, he is a lot of fun to play with, and a great companion.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I learned about Guiding Eyes several years ago. I was involved with the Chicago Lighthouse, participating in their “Operation Cuddle Up” program. They were collaborating with Guiding Eyes to provide dogs that were not graduating as guide dogs and placing them as companions.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Zeke has provided me with confidence and has increased my independence. Until Zeke came along, I relied on a cane. I feel safer and more confident and no longer use a cane. I feel like I have more freedom and I am more social now. When I used a cane, I think strangers seemed fearful and awkward in approaching me. Having a guide dog brings people over and my life is more social. Zeke has broken down walls for me.”
Were there any training highlights? “My trainer, Deanna Lentini, took Zeke and I to the city of White Plains. As an urban area, there were lots of street crossings and a busy environment for training. She also trained me on an escalator in the City Center Mall. This is especially helpful as I like to hang out with friends at the local mall. When Deanna brought Zeke in my dorm room I felt safe since we bonded quickly. He trusted me immediately and was very gentle. The Guiding Eyes dorm room was very nice; I felt very comfortable and secure during my training. The kitchen staff was so helpful in assisting me with their menu and they had me taste new foods.”
Zeke was a pleasure to raise! During his puppyhood he was thoughtful, taking his time when it came to doing just about anything. He was always gentle while in the presence of my young grandchildren. He handled situations with calm and ease, making him a joy to take anywhere. He traveled with me by car, a number of times, back and forth to Atlanta. He enjoyed going to our Christmas Tree farm and hiking the 150 acres and swimming in the creek. He was an observer at the horse barn and spent a lot of time watching our chickens. As a puppy, Zeke was most successful with 20 minute outings to smaller villages, walking the streets, taking in the sites and sounds, and then finding a bench to relax at while watching the world go by. Raising a gentle pup, who was ready to work and please, was what made Zeke fun to raise! My hope is that Zeke will provide you with gentleness and reliability so that you both are a successful and happy guide dog team.
Cindy Swift, Puppy Raiser of Zeke