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Heather and Herb

Meet Graduate Heather

Heather and black lab guide dog Herb sit together outside for their team portrait.Graduate Team: Heather and Herb
About the Team: Herb, a male black Lab, is Heather’s first guide dog
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Training: May 2024 On-Campus

Heather was born in Rapid City, South Dakota. As a child, the family relocated north, and she was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. She is currently employed as a supply chain technician for Providence Hospital in Anchorage. Heather completed training at the Business Enterprise Program (BEP), which enables blind individuals to own businesses in both State and Federal buildings. She ran a café before taking her current position at the hospital. Heather’s goal is to complete training to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Heather has two adult daughters; one lives in Alaska and the other daughter moved south to a warmer climate in Texas. Heather was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy as an infant and has limited vision in one eye and no vision in the other. Her interests include long walks, hiking, and blind soccer, which is an adaptation of the popular sport for athletes with a visual impairment. It is played wearing eyeshades and using a soccer ball that emits noise. Herb is Heather’s first guide dog.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Herb is my handsome man. He is very smart and outgoing. He is very well-trained and proficient at his job.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I received services from the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. They provide services like technology assistance, personal care, and O&M. The Director of the Center has a guide dog, Edgar, from Guiding Eyes. I met Edgar, and needless to say, Guiding Eyes was highly recommended.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel much more independent and freer. Instead of being stuck inside four walls, I can go out on my own and not have to rely on the availability of others.”

Were there any training highlights? “Traveling to New York – I had never been to New York! I trained in the City of White Plains and surrounding areas similar in size to Anchorage. The Guiding Eyes campus was the best place I ever visited in my entire life. Their staff, from day one, made me feel part of their family. They understood and cared about my personal needs. Upon my arrival, I told my trainer Kat that I was afraid I would mess up my new guide dog and his training. Kat laughed and said I was too hard on myself. She said I would do just fine, and she turned out to be right. One of the highlights was experiencing New York pizza for the very first time. It was the best pizza I have ever tasted. So much better than pizza in Alaska…frozen pizza. In my class, I had four companions and developed four close friendships. They all became like family.”

Meet Guide Dog Herb

DOB:  6/7/2022
Litter ID: 5HH22
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Bonnie
Stud: Bosley
Littermates: Henna, Henry, Harvey, Helix, Heron
Region:  Fingerlakes
Regional Puppy Instructor: Cassie Houghton
Puppy Raiser:  Jenna Gaglioti, Helssy Almanzar
Facebook: Fingerlakes NY Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Raising Herb was not just about training, but rather about fostering trust, empathy, and drive. As a puppy, Herb was sweet, incredibly smart, and hardworking. His confidence and calm demeanor carried him through every situation. I am sure he will flourish as he continues on his path in Anchorage with his handler. His goofy personality put a smile on my face daily, and I wouldn’t trade our time together for the world. No person that worked with him ever doubted that he would change a life. The challenges we faced together, although few, have now turned into triumphs, and I am proud of the dog he has become. It was a true honor to have had a hand in his journey, and I am forever grateful that he came into my life. I wish Herb & his new handler success in this new chapter of their lives. ~Jenna Gaglioti

Photos of the Team…