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.
Kenneth is an experienced guide dog user who wears multiple hats. He is a stay-at-home Dad for daughters, 9 and 12, plus a 6 year old son, all in cyber school due to the pandemic. Professionally, he works for an agency that provides customer service on behalf of the State of Louisiana and is also an Accessibility Consultant for the National Science Foundation. In addition to those positions, Ken works for “Haptically Speaking”, creating tactile diagrams funded by grants. A current project is a book for NASA called “Earth” which focuses on climate change. Ken also does advocacy work for students with vision loss and their parents. For those welcomed moments of relaxation, Ken likes to watch sports, whether live or televised, especially baseball, basketball and football. When the opportunity arises, he enjoys singing and playing the piano, as well as sunny weather at the beach.
How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s a bundle of joy with tons of energy. She reminds me of my first guide dog, Prelude. Ashley loves to be with me and my family; she just loves life. She also loves working. If I touch the harness, she’s like, ‘Where are we going? I’m ready to go.’ I really like that. This was a really good pairing for sure.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “All my dogs have been from Guiding Eyes, since the first when I was a senior in high school. When I was applying to schools, Guiding Eyes was the first to respond; others never did, or I was declined. Guiding Eyes came to me for a home study and even spoke to my school principal. I clearly remember my time in class, the trainers, including Kathy and Ted Zubrycki, and the other students. My first guide then went to college with me and even introduced me to my wife, Leigh. Prelude wandered out of an open dorm room, down the hall, and right into Leigh’s room where I found them together.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I’m a lot more mobile and a lot more independent. It just makes life a lot easier. I feel more accepted by society, in general, I think. People see you and they’re more likely to come up and ask if you need help. I was without a dog for five or six months, until Ashley, and it was very different. Having a guide dog breaks those barriers.”
Were there any training highlights? “What really hit me, was how much she reminds me of my first guide dog. She’s smart as a whip; you show her something once and she has it. After the instructor Jim left, Ashley knew the route to the store after having only been there once. When I went to my doctor the second time, she knew exactly which door to go to when we entered the building. Having a dog like Ashley really takes the stress out of situations.”
When I think of Ashley, the first word that comes to my mind is “joy.” She is such a happy, cuddly pup, and from the moment they placed her wiggly body in my arms at the CDC she filled our lives with love and plenty of puppy kisses. Ashley is a friend to all who meet her, including our three cats. She is curious, excited, and playful, but she is also gentle and kind. She once found a baby rabbit hiding in the grass in our fenced in backyard, and she gently picked it up and brought it to me, carefully placing it in front of me, completely unharmed, as if maybe she thought I needed a new baby after my own went off to college. Ashley is incredibly smart, and very intuitive. She learned all of her skills very quickly, and always seemed to know what I needed her to do before I even asked her. Ashley loves to go camping, hike, and swim, and she is always happy to go anywhere at all. She was a wonderful companion to me, and I know she will give one hundred percent of herself (and plenty of puppy kisses) to her new partner.
Naomi Barkevich and Family, Puppy Raisers of Ashley