Graduate Team – Victoria and Flanders
Meet March Residential Graduate Tori
Graduate Team: Victoria and Flanders
About the Team: Flanders, a male yellow Lab, is Tori’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: New London, Connecticut
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Miranda Beckmann (March Residential class)
Tori works as a library assistant, with a wide range of duties that include handling interlibrary loans, as well as assisting patrons with books and materials, computers and library programs. She thoroughly enjoys combining her love of books and Sci-Fi by running a Sci-Fi Fantasy Discussion Group, that covers topics like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. She is also assisting with a new book club that explores the classics, like Jane Eyre. Besides reading, Tori loves ballroom dancing, especially the tango. She points out that her low vision is actually an asset that makes her a better dancer, reacting to her follower rather than sight. With fond memories of trips abroad, Tori is looking forward to traveling with Flanders. A fan of live theater, she loves visiting friends in NYC and attending shows, and each year her family takes a trip to Universal Theme Park in Florida. It’s no surprise that this self-described “book nerd” is a big fan of Harry Potter World and declares those rides are “the best”.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Flanders is a big sweetheart. He’s very chill and after work he’s happy to relax with his head on my lap, giving plenty of kisses. When I’m at work he’s content to hang out under the desk, but gets all excited when we go looking for books or he’s able to locate the stepstool he was trained to find to prevent me from tripping. He’s very smart and learns new locations very quickly, like the crosswalk light and places in my neighborhood. He’s very impressive.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had been using the cane for a few years, but my vision was getting worse, so it was time to start looking at guide dog programs. I knew Guiding Eyes has been around a long time and has a very good reputation, so it’s the only school I applied to. On the website I read about the programs, what to expect when onsite and training and information about getting a guide dog. The school wasn’t far away and had everything I wanted. When I got the call to join the modified residential program, I was like, ‘Yes! I’m coming!’ It is such an amazing organization.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel more confident going out by myself and can move more quickly when I’m with him. I’m getting out and doing what I want to do. I’m more comfortable around stairs now, because he always stops at the top and waits for me. He helps me at work and I’m really looking forward to traveling with him.”
Were there any training highlights? “It was how amazing and supportive the staff was. Everyone made us feel very safe and secure. One evening when my worries caught up with me, my instructor Miranda left me a voicemail I want to save forever; a little pep talk, ‘You and Flanders have got this!’ The program itself was so phenomenal; they taught us everything!”
Meet Guide Dog Flanders
- DOB: 9/20/2018
- Dog ID: 3F318
- Color/Breed: Yellow Labrador Retriever
- Gender: Male
- Brood: Amelia
- Stud: Florian
- Littermates: Ferris, Finney, Fortune, Fargo, Fame, Filo, Freda, Farrah
- Region: Shenandoah
- Regional Manager: Leslie Stephens
- Puppy Raiser: Mr. and Mrs. Phillip McAllister
- Facebook: Guiding Eyes Shenandoah Puppy Raisers
Flanders was an inherently happy, attentive pup who developed into a confident, affectionate adult. Raised in a rural environment, he enjoyed abundant walks and play (always ready to fetch a toy). He met farm animals on a puppy sit, (horses were his favorite). He participated in school outreach programs with elementary school students and interacted with the public at numerous Orvis store gift wrap events. Whether going for walks at local parks, a stroll on a university campus, or exploring local stores, Flanders was focused yet friendly. Flanders visited Dulles International airport with classmate (Vanna), and experienced shuttle bus rides and meandering crowds. During the COVID-19 holding period, Flanders lived with Guiding Eyes Labradors, Ferris and Zipper, and was said to be a wonderful house guest, experiencing home office and group meeting situations.
Philip and Kathleen McAllister, Puppy Raisers of Flanders
Enjoy these photos of the team and Flanders 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.