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January 2013 Graduating Class

Thank you to our January graduation sponsors.
The Carey Family, John and Suzanne Ford and Jessica, & Tim, Kyle and Luke Carey

Meet our Graduates:
Robert & Belinda
Walter & Naboo
John & Namath
Jen & Keating
Johnny & Sammy
Angie & Harry
Patty & Tahoe
Kathie & Fenton
Christie & Bogie
John & Salty
Marybeth & Fay
Kate & Phil

Home Training Graduates:
Jeffrey & Cal

Many thanks to our instructors:
Ben Cawley, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Stephanie Koret, Class Instructor
Caryn Fellows, Class Instructor
Kathy Rooney, Home Training Field Representative
Shane Chadbourne, Instructor Assistant


Robert and Belinda
Robert returns to Guiding Eyes from Missouri for his second guide dog – yellow Lab Belinda.  Belinda is already full of affection for her new partner, and Robert’s wife and stepson eagerly await the team’s return home.

Robert is retired from a career as a cross-country truck driver and driving is still in his blood.  He hopes that Belinda enjoys cars as much as he does and looks forward to her at his side at the track or racing remote control cars.  When asked about the difference between walking with a cane and walking with a guide dog, Robert shares, “People often turn and run away when they see the cane. A dog makes me more approachable. I have to smile when the kids are stopping the parents from petting my dog.”  He encourages other blind and visually impaired friends to get guide dogs.  “At first it’s scary.  But if you trust the dog, you soon find you don’t have to worry about tripping or running into things.   It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”


Walter and Naboo
Walter graduated from high school last May and is the youngest member of the January class.  He will soon start classes at Phoenix Community College, majoring in audio production.  Female yellow Lab Naboo will make navigating the campus much easier.

Walter is the youngest of six children and was diagnosed at the age of five with retinitis pigmentosa.  He started playing music when he was 12-years-old, and at 14 began performing and touring with local bands playing piano, sax and accordion. The encouragement of his goalball teammates convinced him to apply to Guiding Eyes.  The growing bond and trust he shares with Naboo is a rewarding experience; he is looking forward to independence and safety with her at his side.
Listen to Walter perform “A Place in the Sun” by Stevie Wonder at the January graduation ceremony.


John and Namath
John lost the majority of his vision due to retinitis pigmentosa.  This month he came from Virginia to be matched with his first guide dog – male yellow Labrador Namath.

John has information management and computer science degrees from the University of Maryland.  His United States Army career took him to Korea for six years before ending early due to progressive vision loss.  John was happy to return home to his son and three daughters.  Nowadays, he works at The Pentagon as an Information Technology Specialist. When he isn’t working, he enjoys all forms of dancing, particularly East Coast swing.  Getting around with Namath is a joy and John enjoys a renewed sense of freedom.




Jen and Keating

Jen will return home to Massachusetts-to her husband of 25 years, her two children and their twin granddaughters. They are excitedly waiting for her and her first guide dog, a male yellow labrador named Keating.

Jen has glaucoma and it was under control until 2008.  Four surgeries stabilized the pressure but she continued to lose her vision due to a brain tumor.  Jen has a Masters Degree in Business from Salem State College and has worked in the criminal justice system for 14 years.  Her career has been rewarding; she’s had the opportunity to collaborate with community resources with the intent to help probationers get on the right track while enforcing court orders.  She was also the college intern liaison/coordinator and was inspired by students’ perspectives and eagerness to help and learn.

Jen enjoys her children immensely and spends some of her remaining free time gardening, knitting and taking classes through the Hadley School for the Blind. Keating is a compassionate dog and he symbolizes a next step in Jen’s life; she’s looking forward to their future together.

“I’ve realized my Guiding Eyes dog is not just for my safety, but also for companionship in what can be an isolating disability.  I have many “ah ha” moments when I learn what this awesome dog can do and how I can apply it to my life.  I forgot that walking could be fun and I keep finding things that I can do again.  Keating will bring me freedom, independence, dignity and a sense of connection back to the world.  I now have a full-time friend who gives me confidence to go anywhere and do anything.  The boundaries are unimaginable.”

Johnny and Sammy
Johnny is a native of North Carolina.  He and his wife have three grown kids, grandkids and three great grandkids.  The whole family is excited to meet his first guide dog – male yellow Labrador Sammy.

Johnny has retinitis pigmentosa and was a cross-country truck driver for the first part of his career. Today he is employed at the warehouse for Industries for the Blind. His leisure time is spent with family – reading and watching TV.  He was a golfer before his sight deteriorated and is now considering partnering with a blind golf coach and joining the golf team at work.

Guiding Eyes dog Sammy is very different from Johnny’s pet dogs.  As the team’s bond grows, Johnny trusts his dog more and is developing increased confidence in their work together.  He is looking forward to getting out at night – no longer staying in because the sun has set.


Angie and Harry
Angie was matched with Harry, a Golden retriever and her fourth guide dog. They return to Pennsylvania where she shares her house with a roommate.  Her parents and two sisters live nearby.

Angie was born blind with congenital optic nerve dysplasia. She works with a computer company that specializes in training people to use accessible technologies, a position that requires travel all over the country.  Her guide dog is an invaluable asset.

Angie loves to read, surf the web and go camping and hiking. Harry is her first Golden retriever and a wonderful surprise.  She knows he will fit in with her household and work style and she is looking forward to introducing him to her pet cat.



Patty and Tahoe
Patty travels from Illinois and is matched with her first guide dog – male yellow Lab Tahoe.  She has advanced glaucoma, and her 10-year-old son is excited that she’s taking his suggestion to get a guide dog.

Patty hopes to one day open her own restaurant.  She holds an associate’s degree in culinary arts and a bachelor’s degree in food service management from Johnson and Wales.  She loves to cook and plan parties; there are always more adults than children at her son’s birthday parties.

A dog is a new experience for Patty and the match with Tahoe feels perfect.  She appreciates his patience while they learn to work together.  Their first night walk was reaffirming; Tahoe showed Patty that she no longer has to be held back – and can now resume life without limitations.


Kathie and Fenton
Kathie is a native New Yorker who was matched with her first guide dog – black Lab Fenton.  Fenton will be the first guide dog in their hometown.

Kathie earned her licensed practical nurse (LPN) designation after high school and went on to college to receive her registered nursing degree.  She was part of the team that opened the Coxsackie Prison Hospital, building its program into the thriving one it is today.  From there she began working with children with disabilities to assist with their transportation to schools.  Kathie lost her sight after walking into a china cabinet, and numerous surgeries have helped her regain a little vision.

Kathie enjoys hiking and camping and looks forward to the summer.  She’s always known that “you have to keep moving” to be successful, and felt that a guide dog was key for her journey forward.  Fenton feels like the missing puzzle piece, and she looks forward to their new life together.


Christie and Bogie
Christie was matched with her second guide dog – male yellow Labrador Bogie.  The team will return home to Oklahoma, where Christie shares her life with her husband, two daughters and a son.

Christie has always been blind due to Aniridia Nystagmus and glaucoma.  Her first dog accompanied her to college where she majored in business and marketing.  She then worked in a coffee bar for two and half years and set her goal on opening her own coffee house.  Her dream was realized last November when she opened the doors to Oh My Coffee.  Her children will grow up in a family business they can one day take over.  In the meantime, Bogie will have safe places in shop; one close to the coffee bar and visible to the public and the second spot behind the counter.  She’s looking forward to having him with her in daily life, as she runs the business and cares for her children.
Listen to Christie speak at graduation.


John and Salty
John received his first guide dog in 1982 and now returns to Guiding Eyes for his fourth – male yellow Labrador Salty.

John and his older brother were both born with retinitis pigmentosa.  John retired his last guide dog in September and has been using his cane since then.  His neighborhood lacks sidewalks in some places and there are several challenging intersections; his cane required him to take the bus often to avoid dangerous situations.  He now looks forward to traveling much more freely with Salty by his side.  He also shares that they have tons of fun playing together.

John has been a horseperson for over 30 years.  He’s worked with appaloosas and mustangs, training them for dressage and endurance trail riding.  As a foreman on a Florida horse farm, he personally delivered 130 foals.  In addition to his work with horses, John is a graduate of MITL, certified in mechanical and electronics assembly with a psychology minor.


Marybeth and Fay

Not profiled









Kate and Phil
New York City resident Kate was matched with Phil, a yellow Labrador and her second guide dog.

Kate was born with acrhomatopsia and has limited vision.  She sees poor detail and only has a little depth and light perception.  She attended Goucher College in Maryland with first guide dog Bambi.  They majored in psychology and spent a semester abroad in England.  Today Kate is an intern at Lighthouse International working in recruiting and outreach. Her favorite hobby is travel; she enjoys learning about the history of places she visits.

Kate has always enjoyed the more fluid travel with guide dogs.  She thanks puppy raisers for all their hard work. “I understand the challenge of raising a puppy and giving it up.  These are incredible people who believe in this opportunity to help others.  There is so much pride and satisfaction in what they do.”