By Melissa Carney
Community Outreach & Graduate Support Manager
When one’s mission is powerful enough, its impact will touch countless lives, from the goals they set to new triumphs they share. In May of 2016, I graduated from Guiding Eyes with my first guide dog, a male yellow Labrador named Aron. At that time, I began truly accepting blindness as part of my identity, gained confidence in my own independent travel abilities, and placed a different type of faith into four eager paws. The bond between handler and guide dog is centered around the fundamentals of trust, love, loyalty, and teamwork. My personal bond with Aron inspired me to apply for the position of Community Outreach and Graduate support Manager at Guiding Eyes in the summer of 2021 to give back to my community. In this role, I provide resources and individualized support to graduates, assist in resolving access discrimination issues, and lead presentations on blindness and guide dog awareness for the public.
I was not the only one struck by the beauty of newfound partnership. My family shared in happy tears when Aron pulled me to safety after spotting an oncoming car running a red light, watched us memorize college campuses and major cities, and smiled when a 67-pound Labrador convinced himself he was a lap dog. They witnessed the mark he left on my joy and independence. As a result, my mom, Kristine, became a puppy raiser in May and brought home Guiding Eyes Wegman, an irresistibly sweet and intelligent black Labrador. She wanted to actively contribute to someone else’s journey of being matched with a life-changing partner. My mom pours every ounce of her heart and soul into raising Wegman with the skills, obedience, and house manners needed to be a future guide dog, and I could not be prouder.
Wegman accompanies my mom to work every day at Liberty Bank’s headquarters in Middletown, CT. while there, he is exposed to many sights, sounds, lessons in patience, and adoring fans. Liberty Bank has been extremely supportive of my mom’s efforts and the mission of Guiding Eyes. They have provided several educational opportunities for employees to learn about a guide dog’s purpose and proper etiquette.
One irreplaceable bond between handler and guide dog sparked a chain of events that brought hundreds, even thousands of individuals, together in support of the Guiding Eyes mission to breed, raise, train, and match guide dogs with those who are blind or low vision for greater confidence and independence.