Graduate Team – Sherry and Shani
Graduate Team: Sherry and Shani
About the Team: Shani, a female yellow Labrador, is Sherry’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog and 6th guide dog
Hometown: Longmont, Colorado
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Melissa Smith
Sherry received her first guide dog when she was 17 years old, having dreamed of that day since the age of 7, when she read of a boy and his guide dog in a children’s book. For the past 11 years, Sherry has provided customer tech support for a company that creates hardware and software for blind or low vision users. She is also a writer of romance novels, with her first expected out in 2021, and her second underway. Although both her books include a blind character with a guide dog, blindness is not the focus of their plots. Sherry enjoys “reading anything”, listening to music and meeting friends for coffee. As a season ticket holder, she looks forward to the eventual reopening of musical theater in her area and enjoying shows with Shani by her side.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Shani is the sweetest dog and I gush about her to anyone who will listen. She’s very affectionate and always focused on me, preferring to lie at my feet and stay close. She is very cautious, watching for small cracks in the sidewalk or indoor surface changes that could affect my balance. It’s as if she was specially trained just for me. I’ve loved her since the minute I met her. In work and personality, she is everything I wanted in a guide dog and more. She is as close to perfect as a dog can get.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “When it comes to Guiding Eyes, I am full on, onboard and raving to everyone. I was impressed with what I heard from others about their Guiding Eyes dogs and the training and support they received. I liked what I read about the school and their reputation, and being a proponent of positive training, that and the Specialized Training Program were important to me. I have Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and need an easily managed dog with a slower, cautious pace. The Guiding Eyes team I met with had an instinctive grasp of exactly what I needed.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “How hasn’t it? I was shy as a kid, and because of my arthritis, had always walked slower with balance issues. But at 17, the first time I took a guide dog handle in hand and said ‘forward’, and went flying down that street, I felt alive like I never had before. I was moving independently and freely; I was moving fast and was safe. I had waited for this for 10 years, so I never had trouble trusting. I just knew this was right; this was for me. I’ve had the courage to try traveling in areas that would have otherwise intimidated me using a cane. They also provide companionship; having a dog that loves me and needs me during difficult times in my life helped keep me going. I was without a dog for 18 months and since Shani came into my life, I feel like me again, with a dog at my side and a harness in my hand. I had been a good cane traveler, but a guide dog gives a whole other level of confidence and independence.”
Were there any training highlights? “Although my instructor Melissa had worked her only one time from my home to the coffee shop, the first time I worked Shani on that route, she took me straight to the door. From the start, when we’d return to the condo complex, she knew where to turn down my driveway and would go right to my gate. She would instinctively slow down on inclines or indicate the change from tile to carpet in a store. Our bond was so strong and so fast; she just understood what I needed. These small things are vital to my comfort and safety. I have so much respect and thankfulness for this dog.”
Meet Guide Dog Shani
- DOB: 8/1/15
- Tattoo ID: 4YY15
- Color/Breed: Yellow Labrador Retriever
- Gender: Female
- Brood: Maura
- Stud: Gallagher
- Littermates: Yvetta, Yella, Yoki, Yaska, Yorick, Yasha, Ynez, Yami, Yoda, Yeti, Yahoo
- Region: Cattaraugus
- Regional Manager: Cassie Houghton
- Puppy Raiser: Denise Barber
- Facebook: Guiding Eyes Cattauraugus Puppy Raisers
They will be good for each other. Shani has a big piece of my heart and was famous for her sweet personality with the training staff. I’m so happy she can be of service.
Denise Barber, Puppy Raiser of Shani
Enjoy these photos of the team and Shani 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.