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January 2011 Graduating Class

image of the January 2011 graduating class

Sean R. Baker & Libra
Elizabeth A. Bottner & Dalton
Curtis D. Graham & Indo
Deborah Groeber & Gypsy
Ryan Henders & Irby
David Jespersen & Hamlet
Johann “Hans” Pertiller and Kendra
Nino  Pesce & Mel
Dale N. Sczweck & Iman
Diane Shelto & Jingles
Tiffany Weber & Katonah

Home Training Graduates
Rosemarie  McCaffery & Anya
Diane  Menzel & David

Many thanks to our instructors:
Melinda Angstrom, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Kathryn Klaus, Class Instructor
Caryn Fellows, Class Instructor
James Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Julie Angle, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Tom White, Instructor Assistant

image of Sean R Baker and LibraSean R Baker and Libra

Sean Baker will return home to Maine with Libra, a yellow female Labrador.

Sean has Choroid Anemia, considered a cousin to retinitis pigmentosa.  He is totally blind in his right eye and has a narrow field of vision in his left.  He can see shapes and shadows, but very little detail.

Sean is a stay at home dad for his two girls and plans to start some seasonal work.  He lives near his three sisters, two brothers, mom and stepdad.  Everyone is excited about Libra and feel she will be a wonderful addition to Sean’s life.

Sean likes to spend time outdoors, hiking and exploring the many nearby parks.  He also likes to bake and do arts and crafts with his kids.  Sean loves speaking with people and hearing their stories, and very much enjoyed the company of Austrian student Hans Pertiller.

Sean looked forward to getting Libra, his first guide dog, from the moment he got on the plane. Libra is super affectionate and he knows that things will work out well.

Elizabeth A. Bottner and Dalton

Elizabeth A. Bottner is an Action Student from Illinois. She will return home with Dalton, a yellow male Labrador.

image of Curtis D. Graham and IndoCurtis D. Graham and Indo

Curtis Graham has been paired with Indo, a yellow male Labrador.  Glaucoma caused his sight impairment which became more compromised by a retina detachment.

Curtis was born in Oklahoma and moved to Maryland when he was 12.  He’s lived there since, raising five children during that time.

Curtis joined the Marine Corps after attending City College in Baltimore.  He then spent 33 years as a Greyhound bus driver.  He traveled across the country many times, and has wonderful memories of the people he met and drove to their various destinations.

Curtis is not one to be idle. He has volunteered with The National Aquarium for the past eight years.  He is a football fan, especially of the Baltimore Ravens.

Indo is the second Guiding Eyes dog for Curtis.  “Having a guide dog is much better than relying on a cane. With a cane, there are times when personal contact with others can’t be avoided. A guide dog avoids personal contact, avoids obstacles, and increases your independence.”

image of Deborah Groeber and GypsyDeborah Groeber and Gypsy

Deborah Groeber, an Action Student from Pennsylvania has been matched with Gypsy, a black female Labrador.








image of Ryan Henders and IrbyRyan  Henders and Irby

Ryan Henders has been matched with Irby, a black male Labrador. They will return to Ryan’s home in Illinois.

Bilateral retinoblastoma caused Ryan’s sight impairment, and he’s had the same limited vision since he was nine months old.

Ryan credits his parents and assistive technology for helping him to live an independent lifestyle.  He is now a communications major at Western Michigan and hopes to have a career in broadcast journalism. He lives off campus with a roommate and is learning to cook. Ryan is also a musician who plays the drums and guitar; he stresses the importance music has had in his life.

Ryan’s college life is very busy, with travels back and forth to campus.  Irby is fast and has a good, strong pull in the harness; he will certainly keep up with Ryan’s hectic schedule.  “Irby always has the lead and he loves, loves, loves working and is always ready to go.” When not working, Irby enjoys his playtime; sometimes he tucks his head down under him – it looks like he is trying to stand on his head!

image of David F. Jespersen and HamletDavid F. Jespersen and Hamlet

David Jespersen has traveled from North Carolina. Hamlet, a black male Labrador, will accompany David back home.

Dave’s vision loss was caused by retinitis pigmentosa.  Dave graduated from the University of New Hampshire with an AAS degree in Computer Science, and then went on to earn his Bachelors in Marketing and a Masters in Education from Notre Dame. After graduating, Dave went to work at New Hampshire’s largest newspaper – the Union Leader Corporation. He now works in customer service and sales at a newspaper in North Carolina.

Dave came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog because he loves taking walks with his wife and getting out and doing things. His wife is a graduate of Guiding Eyes and is now working with her second guide dog.  Dave recently inherited his father’s metal and milling machine and is now learning metal working.

image of Johann "Hans" Pertiller and KendraJohann “Hans” Pertiller and Kendra

Hans Pertiller is from Austria.  He’ll fly home with Kendra, a female yellow Labrador.

Hans lost his sight at age 16 due to a retinal disease.  He then transferred to a school for the blind in Germany and took the exam for University. After studying computer programming, he began programming for a bank, a career he retired from just last year.  His wife still works and his daughter is a student.  Both have vision impairments.

Hans enjoys to read and to sing with a choir.  He enjoys sports, cross country skiing, and tandem riding and hiking in the Alps. He plays guitar and loves going to theatre, concerts, and cultural events with friends.  The dog is a big part of his hobbies.  He likes animals and is very interested in the psychology of their behavior.

Hans and Kendra bonded quickly, and Hans looks forward to returning home with her.  He can’t wait to walk as long and as far as he wants, every day.  “When you’re blind, you can’t move as fast as you want. You are forced is to move slowly and must be so careful with a cane. Walking is no pleasure, it is work.”  Kendra changes all that.

image of Nino Pesce and MelNino Pesce and Mel

Pennsylvania resident Nino Pesce was paired with black Lab Mel through the ACTION program.

Nino worked in the optometry field prior to deterioration of the rods of the retina and macular degeneration. Today, he has two jobs; he works as a travel agent at a local agency and he bags groceries in the supermarket.

Nino has six children, eighteen grandchildren, and one great grandchild. He loves to travel and has been fortunate to visit eleven countries and twenty six states, with more to come.  Nino and Mel will certainly be busy on their journey together!



image of Dale N. Sczweck and ImanDale N. Sczweck and Iman

Dale Sczweck is from Pennsylvania, but is currently a student living in Illinois.  He was matched with Iman, a yellow female Labrador.  Diagnosed at four months old with retina blastula, his left eye was removed and replaced with a prosthetic.  His right eye was radiated, leaving him with limited sight.

Dale is studying Assistive Technology at Northern Illinois University and is passionate about the impact of technology on the blind community.  “The growth of technology has enabled blind people to become independent and to be a viable part of society.”

Dale is a musician and plays lead trombone in the Northern Illinois Jazz Ensemble. He loves running, fishing, nature, hunting with his dad and four wheeling on the farm. “As a blind person you have to be a realist but you shouldn’t limit yourself.  Being blind is a characteristic, not a definition, of who you are.”

Dale came to Guiding Eyes for the quality of the dogs and training, and the amount of support the school provides the graduates. “Everybody is incredible and always willing to work overtime. The accommodations are unlike anything else. Single rooms allow for bonding and the ability to focus. A lot happens in a short period.”

Dale clicked with Iman right away.  During free play, Iman checks in with Dale every few minutes.  They have developed a good working relationship, and Dale already feels his mobility is better than ever before.

image of Diane Shelto and JinglesDiane Shelto and Jingles

Diane Shelto is a native New Yorker.  She recently retired and moved to the Catskills, and in January, she was matched with her very first guide dog – black Labrador Jingles.

Diane is a graduate of Queens College with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood and a Masters in Education.  She ran her own NYS licensed pre-school and kindergarten. During this time, she married her husband and they had a daughter.

In 1974, Diane was diagnosed with macular degeneration and moved to California.  By 1987, she was legally blind.  She attended Mueller College and became a licensed massage therapist. When Diane eventually moved back to NY, she studied Braille and computers at Helen Keller Services.

Jingles is a perfect match for Diane. Her personality matches her name. She loves to play and adores being out working. “Life takes you around so many bends and curves and you never know what’s around the corner. To me, Jingles is a person in a black coat, with four feet and a tail. She is amazing.”Diane is looking forward to returning home with Jingles and safely navigating around town together.

image of Tiffany Weber and KatonahTiffany Weber and Katonah

Tiffany Weber graduated with Katonah, a yellow male Labrador.  The pair returns home to Illinois.