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Jeff and Guthrie

Meet Graduate Jeff

Jeff sits with black Lab guide dog Guthrie for team portrait

Graduate Team:  Jeff and Guthrie
About the Team:  Guthrie, a male black Lab, is Jeff’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog
Location:   Wyoming, Michigan
Training:  May 2023 On-Campus

Jeff has been a hydraulic mechanic, a pipe fitter, a plumber, and owner of a demolition company. Twenty-five years ago, before he became totally blind and with the encouragement of friends, Jeff took coursework to become a certified massage therapist. He was totally blind by 2009, but continued to treat his many satisfied clients who appreciated his knowledge and deep muscle massage. Now at age 60, that skill and care continue, enhanced by the additional calming effect of having Guthrie in the treatment room. While growing up, Jeff’s parents understood what having the hereditary trait, Retinitis Pigmentosa, meant for their son. While he still had his sight, they took him to visit every one of the 48 contiguous U.S. states. They taught him to be independent and strong and were very supportive. One of his sons and his daughter live locally in Michigan, and while Jeff was in residence at Guiding Eyes, his sons living in Boston came to Yorktown to visit. He so enjoys being able to have visits with his children and his twelve grandchildren, and now Guthrie will as well.

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Guthrie is the joy of my life. He is great. He makes me laugh and we wrestle on the floor. He is goofy and fun.  He hangs out with me in my massage studio. In harness he is great. He moves me around things and leaves me wondering what the obstacle was. He is so good.”  

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had two other guide dogs, but Guthrie is the first from Guiding Eyes.  I went a year without a dog, just using a cane.  A friend said to me, ‘you need a dog’, so we started reading about other guide schools. He found Guiding Eyes and we really liked what it said.  He helped me apply and right away they contacted me.  Dave, a field rep, [Regional GDMI], from Guiding Eyes came to my house. He checked the speed that I walk, then we sat at my table and talked. When Guiding Eyes called and said they had a match,  it was perfect. I am never going back to the cane. As Dave and my friend said, ‘It is going to change your life’. It’s a good school and they were really good to me. The day I was supposed to fly out, I was notified that my flight was cancelled. I called Guiding Eyes, and they said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to get you to New York’.  They made calls and got me on another flight and to the school that same day.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “My instructor Michelle brought out a dog, but soon, said this is not working for you, and I agreed. She brought out Guthrie, and after walking a couple of blocks said, ‘I can tell this is the right dog for you.’  I said yes, this is it.  It’s so comfortable.  He’s perfect.  They made sure he was going to be a good fit for me.  Hats off to the school. I feel normal. I feel complete. Guthrie is my best friend.  It’s funny, when you walk into a grocery store, or any store with a guide dog, people come up to you and ask if they can help you.  It is totally different than when you walk in with a cane. People are friendly when there’s a dog around.  We take two walks every day; each is one and a half to two miles. It’s like meditation, just talking with my dog. It changes your life. They got it 100 percent right with me.”

Were there any training highlights?  “All the staff and trainers were great. Hat’s off to Michelle Tang. She is just awesome. She’s fantastic. She is a super star. We did lots of things in training. We went to a mall, a coffee shop, and practiced going through revolving doors. We did not need to go to New York City for the subways because we don’t have any in my city. Guiding Eyes is superior in making great matches and it changes your life.”

Meet Guide Dog Guthrie

DOB:  3/31/2021
Litter ID: 8G21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Fortune
Stud: Dasher
Littermates: Grayson, Gatsby, Gonzo, General, Gemini, Gibbs, Grover, Gideon
Region: NoVa-South
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jodi Haveles, Janet Bartolotta
Puppy Raiser: Gavin Johnson
Facebook: NoVa- South Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Guthrie was an amazing puppy from day one. He always aimed to please and was easy to train. We would often get comments about how strikingly handsome Guthrie was and indeed, he has been the most attractive dog we have raised. He loved his big brother, released dog Fergus and the two of them would play tug and run together for hours. He also was our cat Gulliver’s favorite playmate. Guthrie loved to go boating and loved to snuggle on a soft blanket on the floor with Gavin. He and Gavin were inseparable. He enjoyed helping to cheer Gavin on during wrestling matches from the stands. We are so excited for Jeff and Guthrie’s new life together as a team.  ~ Erika and Gavin Johnson, Puppy Raisers

Photos of the Team…