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Joelle and Coconut

Meet Graduate Joelle

Graduate Joelle and yellow guide dog CoconutGraduate Team:  Joelle and Coconut
About the Team:  Coconut, a female yellow Lab, is Joelle’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Susan Kroha
February On-Campus Training

Joelle returns to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog. She is passionate about helping others and chose to pursue a career in counseling. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the California University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science degree in professional counseling from Carlow University.  She looks forward to working with older adults using an integrative care approach.  In her free time, Joelle enjoys reading, cooking, baking and spending time with her family.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Coconut always has a smile on her face to brighten up the day! She is easy going and makes friends quickly. Coconut and my pet dog Oscar instantly became best buddies. After a long day of working, she loves to cuddle with me and my family. Her favorite game is playing keep away with one of her toys.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I got my first guide dog, Keifer, from Guiding Eyes in 2013.  When it was time for a new guide dog, I knew I would return here. The staff at Guiding Eyes treat the clients and dogs so well!  I have Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and as a result I have developed some additional health challenges, including hearing loss, since getting my first guide dog. I was glad I could participate in the Specialized Training program at Guiding Eyes.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I am much more confident with a guide dog.  I lost a great deal of that confidence after Kiefer retired and I returned to using my cane. I can already feel my confidence returning as I work with Coconut. I am ready to learn how to take the bus to church and the mall. Coconut is literally another alarm clock, coming to get me up, with a toy and a nudge of my hand, when she hears it. Coconut also knows when the elevator doors open and leads me right in. I am excited for the future as I enter the work force with Coconut by my side.”

Were there any training highlights? “From the Guiding Eyes campus in Yorktown Heights, my trainer Susan and I traveled to the Field-Training Center in White Plains each day to work on various routes. I remember picking up Coconut’s harness and it felt like a jolt of confidence had traveled through my body. I was so astonished, because I never thought I would get that feeling back after retiring my first guide. On the third day of training Susan informed me we were going to cross intersections with traffic. I cried I was so scared, but Susan reassured me I would be safe.  Using a ‘crossing card’, traffic was alerted to my hearing and vision loss and need for their help and attention. This tool, coupled with Susan’s directional clues ‘drawn’ on my back, were some of the ways the training successfully accommodated both hearing and vision loss.”


Meet Guide Dog Coconut

Special Recognition: Coconut was special named by John Donnelly and was a Pathfinder pup. Her progress was followed by a Pathfinder Society Member – someone who remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans received reports and photos of her from puppyhood.


Coconut is Sweet, Smart and Strong. She was a joy and pleasure to co-raise with my friend Christine. We had a wonderful time playing with all our dog and people friends. She loved to snuggle with my forever girl, Lilly and she adored our cat Jager. She was respectful, gracious and loving. And let’s not forget that “head­tilt” LOVE. Sorry, not sorry, I am forever just gushing with love for her!

Sue Bradford, Puppy Raiser of Coconut


Enjoy these photos of the team and Coconut as a pup on program…