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Dana and Topaz

Meet November Residential Training Graduate Dana

Grad Dana and yellow Lab guide dog TopazGraduate Team: Dana and Topaz
About the Team: Topaz, a female yellow Lab, is Dana’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:  Greenville, South Carolina
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Judith DeMaria

Dana was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Texas, Austin Campus, where she pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. Dana worked as an engineering manager and was eventually promoted to corporate management, working in her field of expertise for thirty years. Her hobbies and interests include walking for exercise, audio books, knitting and yoga. Dana is especially enjoying being back out on the running track, jogging once again, with her partner Topaz.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Topaz is my first guide dog. She is sweet, loving, intelligent, energetic, and very hard working.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I had previously been connected to the local community’s Commission for the Blind. My mobility instructor highly recommended Guiding Eyes as a resource for a guide dog.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Topaz has had a huge impact on my life. She takes me everywhere I go, keeping me safe, comfortable, and confident; she has brought a lot of happiness into my life. She is nothing short of wonderful and a great companion. I can now walk across streets, so I don’t have to avoid places that I could not get to safely before having Topaz. I had a situation recently where Topaz came across the sidewalk, but wouldn’t budge. I quickly realized that she saw an animal and would not allow me to get close to it.  I also used to be a runner, but have not been able to run since I lost my vision. When I trained at Guiding Eyes, Topaz was certified as a running guide, so now I have been able to jog on a local track with Topaz by my side. It has been life-changing.”

Were there any training highlights? “My training took place at the Guiding Eyes campus in Yorktown Heights, New York. The training was intensive and included trips to White Plains, FDR State Park, a mall, a local grocery, and a coffee shop. I had to learn a great amount in a relatively short amount of time, like how to interact with Topaz, gaining the skills required to enable Topaz to help me. I realized quickly how different having Topaz is, than just having a pet.  My trainer, Judith, was fantastic and it was apparent that Topaz loved her. My entire experience at the Guiding Eyes campus was exceptional. The school’s entire staff was friendly, nice, and very attentive to my needs. The food served was great and it was like my class was being served by our own personal chef.”

Meet Guide Dog Topaz

Topaz’s greatest strength from the very beginning was her ability to settle. She absolutely loved to be under the desk on someone’s feet. First choice was Karl’s, but she would gladly do the same with Kim or our son as well. We enjoyed how easy going, eager to please, and loving she was. Our best away from home outing was when we took her to Colonial Williamsburg, where she walked around, did photo ops in front of many of the buildings, and made friends with some horses. It was challenging to keep her in a learning frame of mind during the pandemic, but around home, her favorite place to go was a nearby park with lots of different trails. We hope that you both enjoy many great years together as a team and we would love to meet you in person someday.

Karl and Kim Houseknecht, Puppy Raisers of Topaz

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