Graduate Team – Daniel and Ursa

 In 2021 Graduations, Graduations, News & Events

Meet Home Training Graduate Daniel

Graduate Team: Daniel and Ursa
About the Team:  Ursa a female yellow Lab, is Daniel’s 1st Guide Dog
Hometown:  Fort Collins, Colorado
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Melissa Smith

Daniel is an entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and endurance athlete, whose efforts are focused on giving back. In 2018, he sold his highly successful company, Rodelle, renowned for its high-quality vanilla extract, a bit of a shift in flavors for someone who grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He subsequently retired to his home in Colorado where he lives with his family, but this ambitious first- time guide dog user didn’t become idle. He continues investing in different companies across the globe and being active in Team See Possibilities, one of his two non-profits, whose mission is to inspire and empower young people who are blind, by taking on epic endurance challenges, providing access to successful blind mentors from around the world and offering scholarships. Through amazing adventures, such as their climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, or running the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Dan and his team demonstrate what the visually impaired are capable of achieving. On a smaller scale, Daniel is looking forward to traveling with Ursa on a family trip to the East Coast this summer, to see family and friends and spend time at the beach.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She is super sweet, very focused when working and really an awesome companion. She’s a cuddler. We have no lack of entertainment in our home; a young puppy, an 11 year old dog and a parrot, but we introduced her slowly and she fit right in.  Ursa’s puppy raisers, [Doubet family], did such an outstanding job.  She’s so personable and well trained with such great house manners. She’s tremendously well socialized, and really, really a pleasure.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I’ve known of Guiding Eyes for many years and always thought having a guide dog would be fascinating and really liberating, however I always hesitated.  With Covid, my son still in high school, the significant lack of travel, and selling my company, it just opened up the opportunity; that now is the right time to put in the training and work together.  Hearing the first-hand experiences of my good friend, Michael Stone, [2020 graduate] and his dog Geo, really helped.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I love the fact that Ursa is a running guide dog. One of our next endurance challenges is a 93 mile run around Mount Rainier, so I’m spending a lot of time training. She opens up opportunities, because whereas before I used to spend time lining up people to go for a run, now I can run with Ursa. It’s so liberating and brings a lot of joy and a sense of freedom. I’ve mapped out a route to my office – about 6 miles through a bicycle trail. There’s also a 2.6 mile route, all on city sidewalks, that I’ve never been able to do by myself; it was unnerving with the cane, but Ursa and I have done it and it is so liberating. I can just go to the office whenever I want.”

Were there any training highlights? “Melissa is an absolutely fantastic trainer.  Being able to do it in my home environment, on this terrain and the trails I use, was great.  The best thing was Ursa’s recognition of obstacles. There’s quite a bit of road construction around town and there have been times Ursa just stopped and I reached out to find there was orange fencing and no sidewalk in front of us. Getting to know how she figures out how to safely get around an obstacle is very cool.  What had me most impressed was her car avoidance; when Melissa simulated danger with her car during training, Ursa’s reaction and avoidance of danger was incredible.”

Meet Guide Dog Ursa

  • DOB: 7/16/2018
  • Tattoo ID:  2UU18
  • Color/Breed: Yellow Labrador Retriever
  • Gender: Female
  • Brood:  Rhett
  • Stud:  Hayden
  • Littermates:  Uriah, Ulla
  • Region: Fingerlakes
  • Regional Manager: Joy Hawksby
  • Puppy Raiser:  The Doubet Family
  • Facebook:  Guiding Eyes Fingerlakes Puppy Raisers
guide dog Ursa

Ursa is the type of dog you can’t help but fall in love with instantly. She is a cuddle bug and loves to give you a paw. Our family always loved to call her Ursa Bear because of her big personality and love for snuggling next to us. She was always a big hit at the elementary school where I work. Students would happily greet her in the hallway and loved to come in and read to her. Ursa not only loves people, but dogs too, preferring to snuggle with our other dogs rather than by herself. We are so proud of the confident, young dog that she has become and can’t wait to see what life has in store for her and her new handler.

Shannon Doubet and Family, Puppy Raisers of Ursa

Enjoy these photos of the team and Ursa as a pup 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.

Guide dog Flanders looks up to his new handler ToriPhil kneels next to guide dog Kit