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Hugo and Idaho

Meet Graduate Hugo

Hugo sits with black Lab guide dog Idaho for their team portraitGraduate Team: Hugo and Idaho
About the Team: Idaho, a male black lab, is Hugo’s 1st guide dog
Location: Perth Amboy, New Jersey
Training: February 2024 On-Campus

Hugo is active in his community, speaking to others with vision loss about his experiences.  He is also involved with the National Federation for the Blind. As a former cane user and first-time guide dog handler, he emphasizes that the choice is up to the individual, as to which is most suited to them. He also shares that being visually impaired can be a brand new start. Hugo is dedicated to his bible studies and is devoted to his faith and the church. Hugo has a 22-year-old son and a young granddaughter and believes that kindness and understanding are the important qualities that have helped him be an amazing father and grandfather. Hugo loves listening to music and feels it helps him destress and find a connection with others. He’s a former boxer and football player, so he enjoys staying active. The gym is like a second home to him, spending many hours training and participating in powerlifting competitions. He also enjoys going out with friends now and then during his free time.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Idaho is calm, patient, and attentive. He’s like an extra rib, arm, and leg, because he doesn’t leave my side. Not even if I go out to the garbage chute; he’ll wait or go to other rooms looking for me. When I was in Yorktown Heights, after only meeting me once, he recognized me and put his tongue all over me. We both responded with love. We play together with his toys. He’s really attached to me in a way that not even glue could put two things together.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve always been an independent person because my mom taught me how to be, along with my stepfather, who led a good example. I learned how to cook and do everything. I brought those skills to being visually impaired when I had to relearn how to do everything myself, which helped me a lot. I used a cane and Bob, my mobility instructor, suggested I try Guiding Eyes. Because I grasped how to use my cane so quickly, he said I’d be a good fit for a guide dog.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I was always good and secure with the cane, but it’s also been good with Idaho. My friends and family are happy to see me go from using a cane to having a guide dog, and they walk with me with pride and joy. When I come back from the gym, Idaho gets excited and it’s like he hasn’t seen me in 20 years. Shannon, my trainer’s advice, is to accept it, and I’ve been working on understanding that. It’s difficult -my heart is like a pillow, soft and compassionate. Idaho and I are learning this process together.”

Were there any training highlights? “My instructors Shannon and Dan were very compassionate and very understanding, with a lot of patience. Everything with Idaho was so good. When he and I met a second time he recognized me and was so happy, licking my face. During training, when one of the instructors first took him up an escalator, they said he briefly looked back at me, as if to say, ‘Hey, I should be working with him!’ My experience with Idaho was joyful.”

Meet Guide Dog Idaho

DOB:  11/5/2021
Litter ID: 5I321
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Zula
Stud: Darren
Littermates: Ira, Ingalls, Ina, Ives, Izzie, Imus, Icabod
Region:  Catoctin
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jeanyne Gembarski
Puppy Raiser: Jeanyne Gembarski
Facebook: Catoctin Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Idaho was always ready to go wherever I took him. He would lay quietly on the front wheel well floor as I drove to our destination but as soon as I put my car in park, he was sitting up peaking out the window to see where we were. He went with me on my errands and loved the oooh’s and ahhh’s from other people expressing how big and handsome and well behaved he was. No matter what we did during the day, Idaho would always be as happy as me to be home to relax for the night. He would happily lay on his bed next to my feet after I gave him a nice chest massage which he always leaned into. I wish all the best to Hugo as you start your journey of newfound independence with Idaho by your side. ~ Jeanyne Gembarski

Photos of the Team…