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Jessica and Valise

Meet Graduate Jessica

Jessica and black Lab guide dog Valise sit for their team portraitGraduate Team: Jessica & Valise
About the team: Valise, a female black Lab, is Jessica’s 1st guide dog
Location: Temple, Texas
Training: March 2024 On-Campus

Jessica and her husband, Lennon, live in Temple, Texas on a five-acre farm complete with riding horses, chickens, rabbits, and their two Pomeranians. Her guide dog, Valise, enjoys living on the farm and meeting all the animals and although she is very good with them, she would really like to play with the rabbits! Jessica enjoys homesteading, hiking, running, gardening, cooking, canning, and being active in her church, the Temple Christian Center. Her goal is to complete her degree in Animal and Equine Science and establish a small therapeutic riding facility. She would like to offer equine therapy to people from all walks of life, including adults and children, and those with disabilities, such as visual impairment. Jessica is excited to explore new experiences with Valise, gaining confidence as she works with a guide dog.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Valise has a big heart and a personality to match. She is super sweet, lovable, and silly. She loves lots of affection and snuggles. Valise loves to work and gets very excited when her harness comes out! She’s extremely playful when not working, of course. She loves her squeaky toys like crazy. I throw one squeaky toy and she comes back with another, and sometimes she comes back with more than one! Her favorite is a squeaky frog -she ‘sploots’ like a frog! She sleeps by my side every night. I just couldn’t resist. She’s definitely a snuggler.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Honestly, I’ve always wanted a guide dog, ever since junior high. I knew that couldn’t happen until later in life, yet when the time came, I was talking myself out of it. I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone so I made all these excuses. Then I met with my O&M instructor, and she convinced me to consider it. She told me it would be worth it, so I applied and was accepted to a couple of schools. I knew Guiding Eyes was the one because of the support and everything they offer. I’m super grateful for this opportunity!”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I’m thankful and blessed to have her. Life will never be the same! My confidence has gone up so much. Being able to walk places and feel safer and more independent has been amazing! We walk our routes and do all the things we need to do without worrying about running into things. It’s incredible what these dogs can do and what they offer, and you can tell they love it. They really enjoy their work. One of the coolest things is that Valise constantly checks in on me, whether in harness or out. She has to make sure I’m okay. People have commented on it. Out on our routes she ‘nose boops’ my thigh to check-in. I also deal with social anxiety and things have gotten so much better just having her to go out with. I can be out and doing things and talking to people without being uncomfortable. It’s been a really cool experience.”

Were there any training highlights? “Honestly, the whole experience was a highlight. The food was great! Chef Rob made way more food than I could ever eat, and it was all good! We only had four people in class and we all really connected. We still stay in touch and check in on how everyone’s doing and how their dogs are doing. The bonds made and the support you receive from each other is amazing. Our two weeks together were so fun! Massage class with Susan was a great experience and we also did yoga with our dogs which was pretty neat! Training can be stressful, so it was nice to relax with your dog. It’s literally like a family in every way. The dogs bring everyone together.”

Meet Guide Dog Valise

DOB:  12/22/2021
Litter ID: 6V321
Color/Breed: Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Wanita
Stud: Pablo
Littermates: Veronica, Vala, Vero, Vasha, Vale, Vern, Vader, Vega
Region:  Maine
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  The Shapiro Family
Facebook: Maine Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

After a ten year hiatus we decided to be puppy raisers again, this time with our young kids. I enjoyed introducing them to this amazing community of raisers and the spirit of giving to others. At the end of her stay with us my girls were proud to have Valise visit their classrooms. Valise was a fun pup to have around. She is super cuddly and funny. She had springs attached to her legs and could jump straight up in joy. She joined us in many adventures from our goat farm to the ocean. At the end of an adventure you were sure to hear her snore! ~ Grace Shapiro

Photos of the Team…