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January 2020 Graduating Class

Congratulations to our first Graduating Class of 2020!

We thank this month’s sponsors for their generosity…

“Congratulations to everyone who made this graduation possible, you are amazing.”

 – Dylan Kranich+Friends+Family

“Congratulations to the January 2020 graduating class and guide teams, Mark & Teddy and Sabina & Josie.”

 – From Cindy Sullivan and Bob Rollmann,
fosters of Teddy and Josie’s dad, Guiding Eyes Ingot

“NYC Delta Gamma is thrilled to support our friends at Guiding Eyes. We’re so excited for the next generation of guide dogs to go out and change lives!”

Residential Graduates
Ariana & Ned
David & Xavier
Kate & Dodger
Lynnea & Kenny
Robert & Annabelle
Sabina & Josie
Sajja & Layla
Tracey & Calla
Tyler & Edric
Warren & Gwen

Home Training Graduates
Carla & Binka
Mark & Teddy
Mary (Cathy) & Pierce

Many Thanks to Our Training Staff
Class Supervisor:
Shanon Walsh
Class Instructors:
Caryn Fellows, Marybeth Heady
Instructor Assistant:
Julia Berger-Bailey
Instructor Apprentice:
Judith DeMaria
Running Guide Specialists:
Nick Speranza & Mike Racioppo
Home Training Instructors:
Jessy DiNapoli, Graham Buck,
and Jim Gardner

Watch Graduation Live Stream

Watch Narrated Graduation Slideshow

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.

Friends and Family:  Watch this video to learn more about  Working with a Guide Dog Team.

Meet Our Residential Training Graduates

Graduate Ariana and Guide Dog Ned

Graduate Team: Ariana & Ned
About the Team: Ned, a male black Lab, is Ariana’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog
Meriden, Connecticut

Ariana, is studying Early Childhood Education at Gateway Community College in New Haven, Connecticut. She is exploring various career paths in this field, but above all, knows that she wants to work with children. Ariana enjoys playing acoustic guitar, as well as participating in her faith. She cannot wait to return home with Ned and introduce him to her home area!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Ned is very sweet. He loves to play but he also has a relaxed side to him. The way he plops down is so funny! Ned is very affectionate, listens well and when he works, he is really focused.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I came to Guiding Eyes with my Orientation and Mobility Specialist and a group of others. While we were here, we got to walk with a guide dog and instantly, I just knew it was a good fit for me.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “It is very different than working with a cane. I feel more confident and don’t have to be so hyper-aware of what’s around me. I’m really looking forward to introducing Ned to my routes at home and navigating my college campus together.”

Were there any training highlights?  “I just love spending time with him, whether we’re working together or he’s off-harness. And just discovering the huge difference between working a dog and using a cane – I feel safer when I’m crossing the street and more comfortable with a dog.”

Congratulations Ned’s raisers, Richard & Barbara Katz

Graduate David and Guide Dog Xavier

Graduate Team: David & Xavier
About the Team: Xavier, a male German Shepherd, is David’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog
Minneapolis, Minnesota

David always had an interest in law enforcement growing up, and although he chose not to pursue that as a career, he has done volunteer work with Police K-9s. David grew up in Minnesota, and throughout his life has always loved the outdoors – rain, snow, or shine. Whether on motorcycles, snowmobiles, or skiing, David loved to be out there, and Minnesota is a great place for outdoor activities. He is looking forward to transitioning back into some of the things he has always loved and cannot wait to head home and share some new adventures with Xavier.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Xavier is so confident. He’s really attentive and a great match for me. He seems to like being petted more than he likes food. Even when he’s eating, he’s looking towards me between every few bites.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Before I lost my sight, I worked a lot with police canines. I’ve always really liked dogs and shepherds and knew a guide dog would be a good fit for me. My instructor at Blind Inc. has a German Shepherd guide from Guiding Eyes and she suggested I look into it. I looked at a few different schools, but research showed Guiding Eyes was the place for me.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “It’s been so great working with Xavier. His guide work is really good and he’s helping me adjust to a solid schedule, which is beneficial. The companionship and contact are so awesome. I thought the transition to a dog might be much tougher than it is. We’re getting more and more in sync with each other, day by day.”

Were there any training highlights? “When we’re out working, Xavier is even more conscious of me and what is going on around me, than I had expected. He’s checking out the slope of curves, stopping at driveways; it really is pretty amazing. Super awesome experience here; it’s been over and beyond. Our class is getting along great and the staff has been really professional and friendly. They’re great at their jobs and are working really hard for us and our success.”

Congratulations  Xavier’s raisers, Mike and Linda Williams

Graduate Kate and Guide Dog Dodger

Graduate Team: Kate & Dodger
About the Team: Dodger, a male yellow Lab, is Kate’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog              
Watertown, Massachusetts

Kate helps prepare high school graduates with visual impairments for college as the Associate Director of College Success at Perkins School for the Blind.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and – inspired to pursue a career as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired – Kate went on to earn her master’s degree in education with a concentration in blindness and visual impairment at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Kate loves the outdoors, whether hiking, camping, or tandem biking, and is looking forward to runs with Dodger. She also looks forward to Dodger meeting her retired guide, Hosta, who is back home waiting for their arrival. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “We both love to run and he loves to cuddle as much as I do, so I knew we were a perfect match right away. When he’s not working, Dodger usually has a tennis ball in his mouth and he never says no to food!”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I have always been a dog person. When I first lost my vision, someone who visited me in the hospital had a guide dog and I think I always knew, that part of the independence I was seeking was going to come through getting a guide dog. I met a graduate from Guiding Eyes who recommended that I apply here. Once I began the process, I was thrilled with the generosity of the organization and the people I met; it just felt right. After my first dog, I knew I’d never go anywhere else.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “The comfort, confidence, and safety that I feel while working with a guide dog has been huge. Having this protective, loving creature with me always; I just feel safer. The independence he brings – that all of my guide dogs have brought me – enables me to travel where I want, which is so important to me.”

Were there any training highlights? “That first time he just curled up in my lap, I knew we were the perfect match. Going into Manhattan was really refreshing. I used to live in the city, but I was a bit nervous about traveling in such a busy area. Dodger was truly remarkable.”

Congratulations Dodger’s raiser, DruAnne Marshall

Graduate Lynnea and Guide Dog Kenny

Graduate Team: Lynnea & Kenny
About the Team: Kenny, a male black Lab, is Lynnea’s 4th Guiding Eyes dog           
Rhinebeck, New York

Lynnea began her college education at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a math major, but her true calling led her to Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, to become a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. Lynnea worked as a TVI for 14 years, teaching braille and serving as a role model for her students. She now lives in Rhinebeck, where she provides care and assistance for her parents. She is looking forward to heading home, getting back into the swing of things and working with her “new wheels,” Kenny.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Kenny can be so goofy, but he is an excellent worker. He makes great choices; especially when he’s on the spot and has to make those spur of the moment decisions. At the end of the day, he’s a giant lovebug.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I never enjoyed working with the cane. I find it can be frustrating, so I thought a guide dog might work out better for me. I decided to apply for a guide dog at Guiding Eyes and now I’m here for my fourth.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I got my first guide dog because I was going off to college. I knew I could do the whole college thing on my own. Thinking back to all of my dogs is really emotional. These dogs give you a lot of independence and your comfort level is just higher with them.”

Were there any training highlights? “My favorite part of working with him, is how careful he is with obstacles. He leads me around puddles and even walked around a napkin the other day!”

Congratulations Kenny’s raiser, Gayle Fowler

Graduate Robert and Guide Dog Annabelle

Graduate team: Robert & Annabelle
About the team: Annabelle, a female black Lab, is Robert’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina

Robert was previously employed in Customer Service, working in hotel reservations and car rental. Now he looks forward to embarking upon a new career, as he goes back to school for a vending stand program. In his spare time, he likes to read, walk, spend time with family and travel, when he can. Also a musician, Robert plays piano, and as a piano technician, tunes and repairs pianos on the side. He is about to embark upon the new project of tuning a piano he’s recently been gifted. He looks forward to introducing Annabelle to his wife and her Guiding Eyes guide dog.

How would you describe your guide dog? “I’d say it’s as if she’s a distant cousin of my former dog. She acts a lot like her, has a personality a lot like hers, and she even works a lot like her. Annabelle’s very dedicated and loves what she’s doing. I think she’s going to be just as dedicated and devoted as her, too.”

What made you decided to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Guiding Eyes is like family; treating everybody the same. you’re not just here to get a dog; you’re here to be successful, to achieve, and everybody here wants that for you. I appreciate that it’s not just a school or a business; it’s a caring group of people that wants to see us succeed with a guide dog. That’s what keeps bringing me back. The training is excellent; these guys know what they’re doing and put a lot of love and compassion into what they do. I like the process; the way they sit down with you, really get to know you, and walk with you to see exactly what sort of dog will fit your needs. They’re so focused on making sure they make the right choice for you.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s like having a glimpse into what it’s like to be sighted; to take off and go somewhere safely, with no mishaps or running into things. It’s almost like being sighted.”

Were there any training highlights? “There have been a few changes since the last time I was here. They use food rewards much more and I see the part it plays in helping the dog focus on what they’re doing, and doing a good job. Now I can see where it plays perfectly.”

Congratulations Annabelle’s raisers, The Towsley Family

Graduate Sabina and Guide Dog JosieGraduate Team:   Sabina and Josie
About the Team:  Josie, a female yellow Lab, is Sabina’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Louisville, Colorado

Sabina has been a massage therapist for the past 25 years and truly enjoys her clients and finding the best approach to help each one. Sabina previously lived in Hawaii for 25 years, but she has been residing in Colorado for about the same length of time.  She loves the outdoors, spending free time gardening, walking, and hiking, or canoeing and camping with her husband. Her other interests are of a creative nature, including baking homemade bread with her own sourdough starter and doing ceramics. Sabina loves working with clay, creating interesting textures and designs with elements from nature.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Josie is extremely affectionate; freely giving it and showing when she wants it. I’m often amazed at how smart these dogs are. She’s very tuned in and sensitive to how I’m feeling or I what I might want. If I want to sit quietly with her, she’s willing to do that.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My first dog, Bonita, was from Guiding Eyes and it was a good experience. She was a great dog and an incredible worker, who likely saved me more than once. Being with Guiding Eyes feels very familiar. I can count on their dogs being well trained; this school has been around a long time and has a lot of guide dog experience. I like that.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “A guide dog makes it possible to go hiking or take long walks with more freedom and safety. It’s amazing what they will take you around or what they won’t let you step into. They are just so attentive in their working skills, keeping you safely out of the way, like at street crossings.”

Were there any training highlights? “From the start of our time together, I was able to see that she learns very quickly. We marked the huge cracks in the curb along the route, and from then on, she would always stop at them. I thank Guiding Eyes for their generosity in providing these dogs and this program. Thank you to the trainers for being really on top of things; making sure the students have the tools that we need and teaching us everything, so that when we go home, we can utilize those tools.”

Congratulations Josie’s raiser, Carla Coelho and Patricia Noel

Graduate Team: Sajja & Layla
About the Team: Layla, a female black Lab, is Sajja’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog
Honolulu, Hawaii

Originally from Nepal, Sajja now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she is a PhD student at the University of Hawaii, studying Communications and Information Sciences. She has also earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Social Work from the same school. Her current studies focus on Audio Description, and she is working on a long-term project to audio describe brochures for all of the National Parks in the country. Sajja loves to read, walk and is a huge Loretta Lynn fan. She is very much looking forward to heading back to Hawaii, where her husband cannot wait to meet Layla!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Layla is very patient and gentle, but loves to play with other dogs. She’s obedient and always wants to do the best for me. Working with a guide dog is different than working with a cane.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had thought about getting a guide dog for a long time. I have many friends who have guide dogs and they rave about the freedom they provide. For me, born and raised in Nepal, this was more of an opportunity here in America, since there are not really service dogs available there. So I applied to a few different schools, but Guiding Eyes’ response was very quick and I chose to come here.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I am really enjoying working with a guide dog. Layla is fed, watered, and walked on a schedule and I enjoy the added responsibilities of working with her. I’m looking forward to being at home in Hawaii with Layla and seeing people there.”

Were there any training highlights? “I have really enjoyed the training program here overall. It has been a good experience with the other students, as well as the staff.”

Congratulations Layla’s raisers, Cheryl Keenan and Ruth & Larry Ladd

Graduate Tracey and Guide Dog CallaGraduate Team:    Tracey and Calla
About the Team:  Calla, a female black Lab, is Tracey’s 5th Guiding Eyes dog
Portland, Maine

Tracey works in the Banking and Finance industry as a Business Analyst Specialist. She returns to Guiding Eyes for her fifth guide dog after retiring her previous dog, Mystic. Tracey remains active and enjoys keeping fit by walking and doing other forms of exercise. She notes that Calla loves to walk fast, so she is looking forward to many brisk walks together!


Congratulations Calla’s raisers, Camille & Hannah Clifford and Ms. Monika Conrad

 Graduate Tyler and Guide Dog EdricGraduate team:  Tyler & Edric
About the team: Edric, a male yellow Lab, is Tyler’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Portland, Maine

Tyler is a Junior at St Joseph’s College in Maine, where he’s studying Marketing & Management. He is considering going to Graduate or Law School when he completes his current degree. He enjoys the outdoors and during the summer spends a lot of time on his grandparents’ motor boat, which they keep on a lake near his school.

How would you describe your guide dog? “I’m very impressed so far! When it’s just Edric and I together, he’s very calm and relaxed; sweet and easy to deal with. Even when he’s not working, he listens to me very well. If I get excited, he loves to play, but he has an ‘off’ switch, which I think is going be very good when I’m in class. He’ll be good at sitting near me, just doing his own thing. We have bonded pretty easily, so it’s been great – a very welcoming and interesting process.”

What made you decided to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had been thinking about applying for a guide dog for a couple of years. My O&M instructor gave me some info on schools near us and I decided Guiding Eyes was going to be the best fit for me. It’s been a great experience.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “It makes me want to get out more. With Edric, I feel I’ll be a lot more comfortable going out and about on my own, more independently, with a sense of security I did not have before. We get a lot of snow and I think Edric will help me navigate that more easily. Just being able to walk around more independently, not asking people for directions. I like to be a social person and very active, so it’ll be interesting to see how having a guide dog impacts those situations. I’m very excited for the future.”

Were there any training highlights? “I’ve enjoyed everything; even when learning from my errors, because it makes for a better experience when you have help to do the right thing. It’s not super-stressful because we have support and guidance.”

Congratulations Edric’s raiser, Zach Thomas and The Denson Family

Graduate Warren and Guide Dog GwenGraduate Team:   Warren and Gwen
About the Team:  Gwen, a female yellow Lab, is Warren’s 1st guide dog
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Warren’s Outreach position with a telecommunications corporation, takes him to conventions and sporting events, promoting their advances in accessibility – a perfect match for his outgoing personality. He considers teaming up with his first guide dog Gwen, a perfect match, as well. Warren enjoys socializing and doing things with friends and family, but his absolute passion is running, having run 3 marathons and 4 half-marathons. It’s his love of running that first drew him to Guiding Eyes and the Running Guide Program.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Wonderful. We’re well matched and it’s been beautiful working together. She listens well and often reminds me where to go. I also like how she elegantly crosses her paws and watches what’s going on around her.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I learned of the school by word of mouth. Through my love of running, I have made friends with Guiding Eyes graduates who are runners. They recommended Guiding Eyes and the Running Guide Program. Never having had a guide dog, I didn’t know much about guide dog schools, but I was attracted when hearing of that program.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “Definitely more independence. Living in Philly, all the places I need to go I can easily walk to, but I’ll have less of a need to rely on others or my memory, on our normal routes. Gwen will help get me there. And more freedom; although I appreciate the assistance, when I feel like going out on a run, instead of depending on the schedule of a human guide, I’ll have the freedom to go when I want.”

Were there any training highlights? “Seeing how well these dogs are trained. She knows what to do and where to go. I appreciate everything that’s being offered to us. The trainers are really great about answering our questions and the accommodations are 5-Star. Everyone that puts their mark on Guiding Eyes has been excellent.”

Congratulations Gwen’s raisers, Mayada Wadsworth and David Buck

Meet Our Home Training Graduates

Graduate Carla and Guide Dog BinkaGraduate Team:   Carla and Binka
About the Team:  Binka, a female black Lab, is Carla’s 3rd  Guiding Eyes dog
Olympia, Washington

Carla has been a guide dog user for 49 years and is pleased to be matched with her 12th dog, Binka, through the Specialized Training Program. She is enjoying retirement from her secretarial position at the State of Washington and says she loves to read, especially mysteries and family sagas.  Carla is a big fan of the Seattle Seahawks football team and baseball’s Seattle Mariners. She really likes getting together with friends, to shop at the mall, grab a coffee at Starbucks or just hang out. Carla says she “learned the name Binka means extreme act of kindness, and she is totally that.”

How would you describe your guide dog? “Binka’s fantastic; just wonderful. She’s very calm and very gentle. She is totally doing everything I’m asking her to do. She’s just perfect. She’s is a serious worker, but she has a playful side, and when she plays, she has a great time. She loves to bring a toy to throw for her.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I knew with my balance and lower back issues, the best choice for me was to apply for the Specialized Training Program at Guiding Eyes. I felt they would be willing to work with me in getting a dog. It worked out and Binka’s going to be great. Jessy, my trainer was the best. She brought the mobility balance harness for me to try and it’s working well for us.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “At the beginning, I was an average cane user, but I wasn’t doing everything I wanted to do and I didn’t like going out by myself. When I applied for my first guide dog, it was for more independence and it just changed my whole life. I can go anyplace I need to go; whether it’s with someone or by myself, on the bus or on the train; I can do it.”

Were there any training highlights? “What stands out in my mind, is that even when I first started working with her, she was very careful and had really good obstacle clearances. She watches out for me; for any uneven place – a curb, a step, or a crack in the sidewalk. I mean, right from the beginning, she’s been doing exactly what she’s supposed to do for me.”

 Congratulation Binka’s raisers, Pamela White & Burt Saunders

Graduate Mark and Guide Dog TeddyGraduate Team:  Mark and Teddy
About the Team: Teddy, a male yellow Lab, is Mark’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Peyton, Colorado

Mark returns to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog, after retiring his cherished guide dog, Charlotte. Originally from Hawaii, Mark lives in Colorado with his wife and son, where he makes his living as a Chiropractor with a private practice in Colorado Springs. A triathlon runner prior to vision loss, Mark has maintained an active lifestyle, in partnership with his incredible guide dogs.

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Teddy is curious and he wants to know where everybody is and what they are doing. He wants to be part of the fun; he’s very playful. If Teddy could describe himself in a phrase it would be “Yippy Skippy, here I am!”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My previous, amazing dog was ready to be officially retired. Guiding Eyes provides guide dogs of great quality and breeding and although my life is full of activity, I have not had to stop. My guide dogs have allowed me to have an active and independent life.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “Having a guide dog allows me to be independent and mobile, with limitless possibilities.  My family loves Teddy and he is very affectionate.”

Were there any training highlights?  “Graham is a great trainer with a lot of insight and knowledge. He is patient, professional and caring.  Thank you to Guiding eyes for providing endless opportunities through your hard work with all your service dogs.”

Congratulations Teddy’s raisers, The Kirkwood Family

Graduate Mary (Cathy) and Guide Dog PierceGraduate Team:  Mary (Cathy) and Pierce
About the Team:  Pierce, a male yellow lab, is Cathy’s 7th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Millsboro, Delaware

Cathy is a seasoned guide dog user, having come to Guiding Eyes since the 1970’s. Cathy retired from her secretarial position with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC in 2003 and now lives in the country with her husband of 25 years. Cathy looks forward to walks outdoors and road trips with Pierce, but she also loves reading, shopping and keeping track of what’s going on in the world.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Pierce likes to work; he’s always ready to go somewhere. He rides beautifully in the car and he’s so well behaved in restaurants and when we’re shopping. Oh, I just love him. He is very affectionate – my 70lb lapdog.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Back in the 1970’s, I applied to three guide dog schools, but I chose Guiding Eyes and it’s been Guiding Eyes ever since.  It’s like my second home. Over the years, thing change of course, but they still do a phenomenal job. I’ve had great trainers. Most of my trainings were on campus, but the most recent were in the Home Training program. I’ve really appreciated that because my training has been tailored to how I live.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Well, a guide dog obviously gives you more freedom and independence. Also, they are an ice breaker – no one ever comes over to say I have a beautiful white cane! It’s kind of interesting, when people come up to us, they are able learn what a guide dog can do. We love to spread the word about Guiding Eyes, the breeding program and such. And of course, they are great company.”

Were there any training highlights? “Pierce was so great with the traffic checks, right from the start. He did quite well when we were training out beyond my neighborhood. When he arrived, he was very happy to meet me – we’ve been bonding well ever since.”

Congratulations Pierce’s raisers, Doheny Family