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Gregory and Vern

Meet Graduate Greg

Greg and his black lab guide dog Vern sit together for their team portraitGraduate Team: Gregory and Vern
About the Team: Vern is a male, black Labrador and Greg’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Mitchell, Manitoba, Canada
Training: December 2023 On-Campus

Greg lives in Mitchell, Manitoba, about an hour southeast of Winnipeg, Canada. Greg retired from Canada’s passenger railway system after 40 years of service. He ended his career as the Winnipeg train station master ten years ago, after losing much of his sight at the age of fifty-five due to diabetes. Today, he has only partial vision remaining in one eye. He is married to wife Mona, and they are competitive table shuffleboard players, both having participated in “The Canadians”, which attracts the highest skilled players from Canada’s eight provinces. His wife has represented their province and won in the women’s single, doubles and mixed doubles championships. Together, Greg and Mona have won in the mixed doubles category. The couple enjoys traveling throughout Canada and the United States, whether participating in their next table shuffleboard competition or golfing together. They live on several acres of land and Gregory enjoys the warm months sitting on his riding mower cutting his grass.  

How would you describe your guide dog? “Vern is unbelievable. He is so smart, so lovable and just incredible. I thank God for the people of Guiding Eyes who were Vern’s puppy raisers, for his trainer Chrissy, and for the staff who matched Vern and I up, as well as all my class trainers.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My field officer from the C.N.I.B. (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) gave me a list of three or four schools to check out but recommended that I check out Guiding Eyes first because he said they have the best trained dogs.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “First and foremost, I do get around better, faster, and safer with a guide dog. My wife still works for Canada’s cross country passenger train system and is often required to travel and be away from home for up to seven days. Vern is a great companion and I do not feel alone with him by my side.”

Were there any training highlights? “Getting a great dog was the number one highlight. The number two highlight was the staff I met on campus. They were all awesome, including the trainers, kitchen staff, nurses, and housekeeping employees. My training included working with Vern on the local train and taking the vans to the City of White Plains and around Yorktown. It was an experience of a lifetime for me. The training staff, including Shannon, Kat, Chelsea, and Payden were incredible. Kat nicknamed me Canada. Including myself, there were 6 trainees in my class. We continue to be in touch with each other and I hope that we will remain in touch going forward. We all had so much fun.”

Meet Guide Dog Vern

DOB:  12/22/2021
Litter ID: 8V321
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Wanita
Stud: Pablo
Littermates: Veronica, Vala, Vero, Vasha, Valise, Vale, Vader, Vega
Region:  Rhode Island
Regional Puppy Instructor: Maureen Hollis
Puppy Raiser:  Ava Marceau, Paloma Torres, Jane Durning
Facebook: Rhode Island Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Vern was a free spirited puppy to raise; he always walks to the beat to his own drum. Vern always knew how to impress people in class and when working in public. He loved playing and absolutely adored swimming -anything with water, you could count on him being there. I love Vern and I’m so happy he wants to work, because he’s an extremely intelligent and capable dog. My favorite thing about raising Vern was it was never, ever a dull day, because he was so funny and willing to work. He was always there when I had a rough day. I could take him for a walk and talk to him and he would always listen. I want to thank Maureen who helped me and Ava in raising him and listened when we had concerns. And I want to thank Ava for helping me raise my first guide dog, and his trainer and his new handler for working so well with Vern. ~Paloma Torres, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…