Graduate Team – David & Ira
Graduate Team: David & Ira
About the Team: Ira, a male black Lab, is David’s first guide dog
Hometown: Caribou, Maine
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Susan Kroha
David was born in Rhode Island, but now lives in Maine with his wife, Jerri. Both are Vietnam veterans who served overseas in the 1970’s, and although often in the same locations, the pair never met until living in Oregon in the mid-1990’s. David received degrees in Psychology and Anthropology from the University of Oregon, and after sustaining an injury while part of the Department of Corrections medical staff, started his own business as a Real Estate Property Manager. After they were married, David and Jerri were interested in moving east, so as he puts it, they “spun a globe and picked a spot”. Once Jerri was given the opportunity to transfer her job to that area, everything fell into place. Twelve years later, they are still living happily in Maine and have never looked back. Now, being able to work with Ira has been life-changing for David, and he is looking forward to working with Ira for years to come.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Oh my gosh – he is very sweet, loving and helpful. He’s not just a guide dog, but a wonderful companion too. We make a great team, and when I take out the harness in the morning, he runs right up, ready to go. He loves it. His training was impeccable, and his abilities are beyond my imagination. This has been life changing.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I spent a lot of time in a wheelchair after a spinal injury 35 years ago. After losing my vision on top of that, independence just seemed out of the question. I am not bound to the wheelchair any longer, but it was still frustrating to feel like I couldn’t go places or do things on my own. I did a lot of research on options that were out there for me and finally found Guiding Eyes. They worked hard to figure out exactly what I needed in a dog. I’ve wanted this for a long time, and it’s been a wonderful experience.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “The absolute biggest thing for me is that I have independence again. For the first time in years, I can go Christmas shopping for my wife completely on my own. He’s opened doors and opportunities for me too. I feel confident enough with him, that soon I’ll be working with my physical therapist to move towards walking with a support cane, rather than a crutch like I do now.”
Were there any training highlights? “The training was absolutely great. Our instructor Susan was fantastic, and I can’t wait for her to return in the spring so we can work on some other things in the city. I didn’t realize how highly trained these dogs were; the list of things Ira can do is extensive, and I’ve been really impressed with him. One of the best moments during training happened on a day we were working in the mall. Being able to stand up next to my wife and hold her hand as we walked – that was a huge, huge thing for us. It was enormously special.”
Meet Guide Dog Ira
- DOB: 7/20/2017
- Tattoo ID: 4I317
- Color/Breed: Black Labrador Retriever
- Gender: Male
- Brood: Athena
- Stud: Dom
- Littermates: Icabod, Ives, Imus, Izzie, Iron, Icarus
- Region: Eastern Mass
- Regional Manager: Pat Webber
- Puppy Raiser: Robin Liberty
- Facebook: Guiding Eyes EMA puppy raisers
To say that raising Ira was life-changing would not be an over-statement. His nickname amongst my region team was “Sweet Boy Ira” and he was my best friend. He brought me out of my shell as he drew curiosity and wonder wherever we went. Every afternoon became an adventure because there was no outing he wouldn’t try, (and excel at). Together we visited festivals, hit a theme park, and cruised the mall. He was fearless, curious, and kept me on my toes. I am so proud that he is fulfilling his destiny of providing independence to someone with low vision. To the new team, I wish many years of happiness and bold adventures. May he bring you as much joy as he brought me.
Robin Liberty, Puppy Raiser of Ira
Enjoy these photos of the team and Ira 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.