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Jeffrey and Armstrong

Meet Graduate Jeffrey

Jeffrey stands outside in his yard with yellow Lab guide dog Armstrong in harnessGraduate Team: Jeffrey and Armstrong
About the Team: Armstrong, a male yellow Lab, is Jeffrey’s 4th Guiding Eyes dog
Location: Grantville, Pennsylvania
Training: October 2023 Home Training

Jeff is enjoying retirement after many years of owning and operating a furniture finishing business with his wife Lois. He takes pleasure in spending time with Lois, current guide Armstrong, and retired guide Hayes. Jeff graduated from Edinboro State College with a degree in psychology and was a youth care counselor at Haverford State Hospital prior to starting his own business. With his first guide dog, Guiding Eyes Ink, Jeff gave speeches to groups in his local community about proper guide dog etiquette when encountering a working team. Motivational books are some of his favorite audio books to listen to, and he loves the idea of becoming a motivational speaker. He enjoys spending time outdoors, going out for rides, shopping, and doing errands with his Lois. Jeffrey has a close community of friends, with whom he enjoys spending time with and frequenting their favorite coffee shops.

How would you describe your guide dog? “I was really impressed the first day Ellin and I went out, because we were in a large store and multiple people kept trying to get Armstrong’s attention. Armstrong kept his head up and kept me going forward. Stumbling is my nature, but Armstrong is alert in harness and knows what to do, does it well, and hasn’t let me fall yet. Out of harness, his favorite spot is lying in the lounge chair. He’ll jump onto the bed with me if I am about to lay down, and he’s playful and loves to give kisses. Hayes and Armstrong get along and occasionally have tugs of war.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I always knew I needed some kind of assistance because I walk with a pronounced, uneven gait. I could trip over a piece of newspaper on the floor. I was always legally blind but knew someday I’d go completely blind and decided I would get a guide dog once I was married. I married in February 2000 and in October traveled to Guiding Eyes to get my first guide. This time, my instructor, Ellin, called to say Guiding Eyes had a dog she’d retrain for my special needs and have ready by the end of the year. Otherwise, it could’ve been a year later. My previous guide, Hayes, is developing cataracts, and I needed a guide dog. It was a godsend.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “We live out in the country and the best part of it is that I can go get my own mail and come back. The other week we were at the store, and I thought my wife said to go right so I went right. All of a sudden, she wasn’t there when I was talking to her. Having Armstrong stopped me from panicking, and he got us back to her. To me, that was important. I take him out in the morning, then we go up the steps and he finds Lois so she can hold him while I take Hayes out.”

Were there any training highlights? “Ellin was my first instructor when I came to Guiding Eyes. I believe that Ellin is experienced and understands my problem, so that was a high point to have her come down and Home Train us for my latest guide. I tend to hold the harness handle differently than most because I need to keep my balance. She’s well aware of my situation and knows what to do. My wife has a bad knee and recently fell and dislocated her shoulder. Armstrong and I went in the ambulance with her, and Armstrong did great at what he’s trained to do. What’s remarkable is that Ellin came to see my wife at the hospital. I would recommend Guiding Eyes to anybody because they care, show a lot of sensitivity, and they match the dog to you well.”

Meet Guide Dog Armstrong

From the Puppy Raisers…

We began raising Armstrong when he was about a year old. He was a big, strong dog that liked to pull and lunge. We worked a lot on controlling his excitement and learning just how big he was. We did some stability and agility exercises and he really got to know how to control himself. He quickly settled in with our family and was always gentle with everyone and the neighborhood kids. As he got older, Armstrong most liked to lie around, relax, and sunbath. He turned into a very mellow dog who enjoyed long slow walks and chewing on a bone. He’d play tug a bit and chase a ball now and again, but for the most part he liked to watch the world and enjoy affection. Armstrong loved cuddling and getting a belly rub and if you let he he’d crawl right into your lap. He probably still thinks he’s a lap dog. When out, Armstrong was a great ambassador for Guiding Eyes. He was the practice dog for four different people who were considering being raisers; all of them eventually signed up and are raising now. ~The Payne Family, Puppy Raisers

Photos of the team…