Graduate Team – Thomas and Velvet

 In 2021 Graduations, Graduations, News & Events

Thank you to our generous April Graduate Sponsor…

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.

– Richard Woods

Meet Home Training Graduate Thomas

Graduate Tom and guide dog VelvetGraduate Team: Thomas and Velvet
About the Team: Velvet, a female black Lab, is Tom’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:  Westport, Connecticut
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Kathy Rooney

Tom has worked in business for most of his adult life. Growing up in the San Francisco area, he studied economics and psychology at Stanford University and then went on to earn an MBA at UC Berkeley where he focused on Marketing. He spent a few years as a Brand Manager and then moved into a career in finance. Tom and his wife moved to the tri-state area to be closer to family, and he is now a Managing Director in Marketing at an investment bank where he has worked for the last 23 years. In his spare time, Tom is an avid rower and has participated in his local area’s rowing club, on and off for over twenty years. Tom and his wife have two sons, aged 20 and 14, and a 9-year-old Golden Retriever named Rocket. Tom feels very fortunate to have a family that has been so supportive of him getting a guide dog, and Velvet has been fitting right in at home. Tom is looking forward to getting out for some running with Velvet as the weather warms up.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Velvet is definitely one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known. She has this presence about her and seems to always be aware of what’s going on around her. Velvet has a serious side, especially when we’re working, but she has a goofy side too and can be a lot of fun.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My sister-in-law’s family participates in the Home Socialization Program at Guiding Eyes and sometimes takes puppies home for a weekend -we’ve gotten to spent time with a number of puppies over the years. We live in Connecticut so Guiding Eyes is very local to us and I really liked that we had a personal connection to the school. I was also very intrigued by the Running Guides Program. I’ve always been an active person so the idea of running with Velvet definitely appealed to me.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s really about maintaining my independence as my progressive eye disease continues to worsen. After working from home for the last year or so, I’ll be returning to my daily train commute sooner or later.  I think I can make that transition much more confidently with Velvet. It’s a bit of an assurance that I can do what I used to do, regardless of the changes in my vision.”

Were there any training highlights? “The first time I went running with Velvet around the track; that was really cool and a freeing experience. I was still a bit cautious before we got started, but as soon as we started running the adrenaline took over. We just took off and were zooming around. We had to slow down soon after so I could catch my breath, but the experience was exhilarating.”

Meet Guide Dog Velvet

  • DOB: 11/13/2018
  • Tattoo ID: 5V318
  • Color/Breed: Black Labrador Retriever
  • Gender: Female
  • Brood:  Tiara
  • Stud:  Florian
  • Littermates:  Vance, Vangie, Vanna, Vesey, Valiant
  • Region: Cleveland East/North Carolina
  • Regional Manager: Leslie Stephens/Kerry Lemerise
  • Puppy Raiser:  Dana Chapin/The Echols Family
  • Facebook:  Guiding Eyes Ohio Puppy Raisers
  • Facebook:  Guiding Eyes North Carolina Puppy Raisers
Guide dog Velvet in harness

Velvet was a very confident and smart puppy who was always willing to go on an adventure.  She mastered all types of stairs at a young age, and had very good control around birds, such as geese when going on walks around ponds!  She was a very fun pup to walk around town when working on people greetings, since that was one of the hardest things for her to master.  I enjoyed her spunky personality and all the fun we had together. Velvet was a joy to start and I am so proud I could help her on her journey.

Dana Chapin, starter puppy raiser of Velvet

Velvet’s greatest trait was her very playful spirit, but once she settled in to work, she was really focused. Hiking on the weekends was an absolute favorite with Velvet and our family. She was always ready for an adventure and had an energy about her that made me smile. As always, I enjoyed my experience raising Velvet and I couldn’t do it without the team support in the NC region and our Region Manager, Kerry, who is amazing.

 Christine Echols, puppy raiser of Velvet

Enjoy these photos of the team and Velvet 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.

Graduate Linda and guide dog Bina