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Judy and Lyons

Meet Graduate Judy

Judy sits with black Lab guide Lyons for their team portrait

Graduate Team:  Judy and Lyons
About the Team:  Lyons, a male black Lab is Judy’s 3rd guide dog (2nd from Guiding Eyes)
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Training: August 2023 On-Campus

Judy immigrated to the United States from Cuba with her family when she was almost 2 years old.  She grew up in Miami and stayed local to attend college. Judy earned her bachelor’s degree in music therapy from the University of Miami and a master’s degree in visual disabilities at Florida State University. After working at Lighthouse Central Florida in Orlando for 17 years as a vision rehabilitation therapist and supervisor, Judy accepted a job as an assistive technology specialist with the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and she and her husband relocated to Colorado.  She is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT), and a Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist (CATIS). Judy is also a musician. She  especially enjoys singing and playing piano. She also enjoys spending time with loved ones, playing cards and board games, reading, tandem cycling, shopping, and of course she loves dogs!  She and her husband have 3 dogs: Judy’s retired guide Keats, current guide Lyons, and Spike, a retired PTSD dog they recently adopted.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Lyons is very curious, super smart, spunky, sweet, playful and of course, handsome.  He is an expert at targeting.  Lyons is working on learning to help me find seats, trash cans, pedestrian push buttons at crosswalks, and more. He will even learn how to find my husband! These are all things I’ve taught my previous guides, and Lyons is already making great progress. I love coffee and live within walking distance of four Starbucks. My instructor joked that soon I’ll be commanding Lyons, ‘To the Latte!’”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “Prior to getting my first guide dog, I had a teacher who had a guide dog from Guiding Eyes.  He was a wonderful resource. He not only encouraged me to get a guide dog but set my expectations and gave me a realistic view of life with a guide dog.  Since getting my first guide dog, I have met several other graduates of Guiding Eyes, and I am consistently impressed by how well trained and well behaved their guide dogs are.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Since I got my first guide dog in 2005, each has given me freedom and confidence! As a cane user, I was an independent and safe traveler, but working with a guide dog gave me new wings. I travel regularly for work and pleasure.  I find I can get around quickly and effortlessly.  I also enjoy knowing I am part of a team and together we can problem solve.  I feel much safer crossing streets with a dog. The first time I went shopping at a mall with my guide dog, I felt like I was flying! I could hardly believe how quickly I was able to go from one end of the mall to the other. Daily, I interact with many people, both professionally and socially. In many cases, my guide dogs are an icebreaker and help initiate interactions with others.”

Were there any training highlights? “While on campus, I observed how each member of the Guiding Eyes organization, regardless of their role, works to provide great care to both dogs and students. That care and support continues past graduation. I am so grateful to have another exceptionally trained guide dog from Guiding Eyes. During training, I took advantage of the opportunity to go to New York City with Lyons. I often visit Miami and Denver, so I was excited to work with him in a city. Lyons was a rockstar!  He was both confident and careful and really demonstrated to me what he is capable of. With Lyons being my 3rd guide dog, I am aware of the process it takes to go from being strangers to a team.  Someone once described getting a guide dog as learning to dance with a new partner.  It is such an accurate description and inspired me to write new lyrics to the song, ‘I Hope You Dance’, as an anthem to guide dog teams everywhere!  It was an honor to share it and sing at our graduation.”

Judy has shared a video taken at the Sept 1st Graduation of her singing her version of “I Hope You Dance”

Meet Guide Dog Lyons

DOB:  8/5/2021
Litter ID: 4LL21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Nell
Stud: Donny
Littermates: Lacy, Lash, Laurel, Lenny
Region:  Wayne County
Regional Puppy Instructor: MeKalea Chambliss
Puppy Raiser:   Tara Kesel & Family
Facebook: Wayne County Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Lyons was special named by the Wayne County Puppy Raising Region in honor of Tara Kesel. Lyons’ progress was also followed by a Pathfinder Society Member. 

From the Puppy Raiser…

Lyons was a special named puppy, named for the school and community that have helped me raise these puppies in my classroom. He is a dog that truly embodied the Lyons Pride spirit, acting as our mascot and leading our seniors into pep rallies, and on their graduation walk, escorting them towards their future. I am so proud of him as he continues his work leading his new partner forward through life. ~ Tara Kesel, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…