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How we joined the Guiding Eyes family

by Volunteer Puppy Raiser Andrew Moore

Puppy Raiser Andrew Moore with Guiding Eyes Lab PeppyEveryone who works for or volunteers with Guiding Eyes has their own unique story about how they got involved.  I consider our story to be a little different than most but, for us, it really was the perfect alignment of disconnected segments that brought my wife, DeAnna, and me to the Guiding Eyes family.

This past spring, the late afternoon conversations at work in my cubicle fell to the upcoming NFL draft and general football talk.  I was asked about Eli Manning; didn’t he go to Ole Miss, were both of us there at the same time, and did I ever get to see him play in person?  (For the record, I graduated from Ole Miss several years before Eli got there, and I never got to see him play in person.)  The questions I was asked made me look Eli up on Wiki just to double check all of my facts.  While reading through Eli’s Wikipedia page, I read an interesting bit about Eli’s involvement with Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  I “Googled” the organization and took a few minutes to read through their website; I discovered they had a puppy raising region in my area.

At this point I should explain that DeAnna has been plagued her entire life with visual issues stemming from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).  She lost one eye to disease and health issues several years ago and has had a corneal transplant on her remaining eye.  Despite all of this, she never let those issues slow her down; she graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, was a practicing veterinarian for more than 17 years, she has been an excellent wife and mother and she now teaches in the biology department at Tidewater Community College (Chesapeake Campus).  DeAnna has, for as long as I can remember, told me she wanted to be involved with a guide dog organization, in some capacity, so that she could contribute in some fashion before she has to have her own guide dog.

I forwarded the website links onto DeAnna at home and a few minutes later she called me at work and had more excitement in her voice than I’ve heard in a long time.  She had lots of questions for me, and before long we were swapping emails with Virginia Beach coordinator Gina Rose.  After this, we met some puppies, watched some videos and learned how much of a difference these special animals make in the lives of the blind and visually impaired.  We were hooked!

We worked our schedule around the Monday night orientation classes and then did our puppy sit (with Marisa, now a Guiding Eyes brood.)  Then we waited… but not for long.  It only took a few weeks before we got the call that we should stay home on May 18th and wait for our new puppy.  The new addition arrived late afternoon; I think that it took about five minutes for both of us to fall in love with “Peppy”.

Now more than five months later, our eight month old “puppy” is practically a grown dog.  He’s smart, very well behaved and actually looks at me like he understands exactly what I’m saying even when I’m just talking to him about nothing in particular.  He works very hard to please, loves to play, always wants to learn more and really has a good sense about work-time and play-time.  DeAnna and I have loved every minute of our time with Peppy so far and look forward to the 8-10 months we have left with him before he goes up for IFT.  Somebody is going to hit the jackpot with Peppy (but I’m sure all the puppy raisers out there feel the same way about their dog and that can only be a good thing).

To me, Guiding Eyes is not just a guide dog school and not just a charity; it’s something you experience – like family.  Only your family could correct you on how to walk your dog or hold your leash (without causing a fight).

This year I decided to add Guiding Eyes to my Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) donation list.  (Military members and government employees can give to qualified nonprofits through CFC.)   I was asked, “Why are you giving money to a charity that you volunteer for?”  The answer is simple: the great work this “family” does is deserving of my support.  I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t reach out and thank my fellow Ole Miss alum, Eli Manning for all of the work and support he provides for Guiding Eyes.  Most people don’t believe this story when they ask me how I found the organization; if it wasn’t for Eli and his work, DeAnna and I might not have found Guiding Eyes and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to raise Peppy.  All of this has been an experience worth waiting for!

Andrew Moore is a Commander in the United States Navy and is currently assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, J6 Directorate in Suffolk, Virginia.  CDR Moore has been in the Navy and Navy Reserve for more than 30 years.  He, DeAnna, and Peppy reside in Chesapeake, Virginia and are active participants in the Virginia Beach Puppy Raising Region.