Meet the members of our most recent training class who graduated successfully on July 23, 2004. Their uplifting stories reflect determination to lead independent lives with greater freedom to fulfill their personal goals. Please consider providing your support to future guide dog teams like them.
Support Guiding Eyes Many thanks to volunteer Marge Widman for contributing the interviews and photographs for this article.
Matt Alexander hails from Rochester, New York. Margo is Matt’s second dog, but his first from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Due to a brain injury at birth and resultant medical procedures plus a bout with Meningitis, Matt says that he now is totally blind and unashamedly admits that his memory sometimes fails him. His MS in Physics has rendered him little success in finding work. The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and The Center for Opto- Electronics presently attract his interest and abilities. Matt is a handsome, happy people-person who wishes more than anything to be a productive member of society. He describes Margo as a perfect helpmate: she’s docile, not hyper, loves to sleep and to work, and especially enjoys playtime with her new master. “She sure is a lot of fun!” Matt feels that Margo will give him a sense of true independence and enable him to walk with confidence up and down the streets of Rochester. He describes the July class as a group of fantastic people. His favorite learning experience was the traffic instruction in White Plains.
Dick Campbell calls Winnipeg, Canada home. His pronunciation of words like “about” which sounds like “aboot” is the only clue to his country of origin. Dick has been totally blind since the age of 26 as a result of incessant sight loss from diabetes. He has now happily acquired his first guide dog at the age of 41 (where have you been all these years, Dick?). Dick’s previous employment included teaching computer and automotive electronics at Chrysler Corp. in Canada. When that became untenable, Dick enrolled at the University of Manitoba where he is now completing his second year towards a degree that will enable him to engage in social work. Dick thinks that Broadway is a perfect match for his own upbeat, outgoing, realist qualities: she is well-controlled, smart, laid back and acts like a “little princess.” He definitely admires and deeply respects her “car sense.” Broadway will have a housemate at home – a gentle, affectionate (and constantly shedding) male Husky. Dick feels firmly that Broadway will afford him a generous amount of freedom and security – truly a precious gift.
Joyce Carrico, an ACTION (Accelerated Client Training Option) student, is a native of Michigan, but now resides in New York City. Joyce has had eight dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She initially applied for a Guiding Eyes dog after observing a friend who had become so much more mobile with her guide dog than she had been with a cane. Blind since birth, Joyce describes herself as an outgoing, interesting people-person who loves animals. At present, Joyce uses her education and training skills as a resource person for JBI, International (formally known as The Jewish Braille Institute) working as a technology specialist. She has three adopted children (now 32, 30 and 28). Joyce expects that Sienna will greatly enhance her lifestyle. Joyce earnestly expressed, “I am now where I want to be in life,” and added, “Sienna at my side is the closest thing to being sighted.” Then, with a twinkle in her eye, she commented that sometimes, with their training and wisdom, the dogs make fools of their human companions. Sienna loves to play, but Joyce has full confidence in her new dog, especially noting her adept handling of traffic dilemmas in White Plains.
Michael Grunze, traveled from Naperville, Illinois for his first dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind When asked about his special interests in life, he responded, “my girlfriend, music, baseball and my new Guiding Eyes dog, Bess. (He refused putting these items in order of preference – smart move!). Mike is self-described as sarcastic, fun loving and discerning. In assessing Bess’s nature, he claims that she likes attention, is a very hard worker, is smart and stubborn. Smiling, he described Bess taking a commanded position by backing into it instead of turning around – a shortcut, so to speak. Mike loves music, is a drummer and aspires to becoming a High-School Band Director. A recent High School grad, he is enrolled in Western Illinois University, to move towards his life’s ambition. Moving about a large university will be made much easier with Bess at his side as his four- legged “symbiont.” Michael says that Bess is the first animal with whom he has ever shared a relationship – and he loves it. Citing the July class as “awesome,” he particularly enjoys the sharing of stories and close-knit “feel.”
Michigan can claim Andrew Hasley as a native son. Andrew chose to come to Guiding Eyes for the Blind by conducting intensive research, much the same way as he investigated colleges; he knows that he made a wise choice. His interest was particularly piqued by Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s innovative breeding program. Blind since birth, Andrew attends Michigan’s Albion College where he is majoring in Biology. He aspires some day to become a veterinarian. Andrew wears his personality- what you see is who he is: astute, outgoing, honest, loyal, good guy, who has a voracious love for people and life. He feels that Fletcher is a great match for his own inner qualities: an excellent worker, a go-getter and one who displays a passion for playtime. He termed Fletcher as being like a “sighted guide on steroids” making walking about so much easier without having to feel for things like cracks in the sidewalk. Fletcher’s ability to safely guide him around a car which was parked in a cross walk amidst heavy traffic was the most amazing and convincing moment with his new companion. Oh yes, “The group was great – an even mix. I love it! ” He bestowed highest praise for the consistent, helpful and compassionate care given by the instructors and trainers!
Kenneth will be Courtney Hummel’s first dog from Guiding Eyes and first dog ever. Courtney is from Normal, Illinois and is termed as legally blind; she can distinguish only forms and light. A happy, positive, outgoing, people person, she is a strong advocate for the disabled and is definitely fun to be around. She is studying toward an Associates Degree at the Community College at Normal, Illinois. Personal independence is a priority item on her list and she believes that her guide dog, Kenneth, will help her in fulfilling that wish. She feels really bonded with Kenneth: at work, when he shows her which way to turn, and at down times, when he loves to snuggle. Courtney commented that she has never been able to feel confident in walking at a normal speed and is working on her confidence in curb conquest. Extolling the camaraderie among her Guiding Eyes classmates, Courtney says, “they’re a lot of fun and I enjoy it all so much!” Describing the trainers and instructors as “great, helpful and understanding,” she enthusiastically sums it all up by stating, “This is the best school!”
Liz Katz is a returning graduate of Guiding Eyes, from New York City. She has had three Guiding Eyes dogs. She originally came to Guiding Eyes at the strong recommendation of a friend when she needed extra help – especially in the last four years without her sight, which was affected by an inflammatory disease. Describing herself as being self confident, social, and upbeat, we decided that since her new male Lab is named Baron, she could claim the title of “Baroness.” Liz worked for many years as an Administrative Secretary. She now works setting up appointments for a home insurance agency. Although Liz is most reluctant to travel on New York City subways (it’s just a personal thing), she knows that Baron will give her more effective mobility and ease her mind as she travels by foot and by bus in the city, which is filled with activity and mobility challenges. She literally has entrusted her life to Baron, who will help her to make necessary adjustments and move her along at a faster pace. A bit tentative and uncertain about traffic dilemmas, she gives highest praise to the exceptional trainers and instructors who make success come true for each of the students and their specific needs . . . and they make it enjoyable as well!
Linda Parent is a returning graduate from Wilkes-Barre, PA. Malcolm is Linda Parent’s fifth Guiding Eyes dog. Although originally from Connecticut, Linda moved to Wilkes-Barre shortly after she graduated from high school. (It was a Guiding Eyes for the Blind representative then who brought Guiding Eyes for the Blind to her attention). Her blindness occurred when as a three-year-old, she was administered 100% oxygen for a period of 28 days. She is self-described as positive, a computer whiz who loves to work and is an avid reader. Linda worked for 28 years at court hearings in Wilkes- Barre, typing testimony from taped recordings, but is now seeking a new job. She describes her new partner, Malcolm, as silly, sensitive, sweet, cautious and a guide who walks slowly to accommodate her arthritic knees. She looks forward to returning home with a companion who doesn’t ever seem to experience a bad mood and knows the job that must be done. She stated, “Our relationship is almost like a marriage.” Malcolm is Linda’s first, male guide dog. Since their meeting he has shown affection by hugging her with his outreached paws and just recently allowed her to give him a belly rub.
Rachel Ray, from Paris, Texas, celebrated her graduation from High School this Spring. Rachel certainly did her homework in choosing Guiding Eyes for the Blind for helping her to manage her progressive visual impairment. She checked with friends, her mobility instructor and did a great deal of Internet research. Voila! Rachel represents and celebrates her Irish heritage in her self-described personality: she sports an infectious energy, can be stubborn and quiet at times, has a natural ability for and love of music (especially the “Irish stuff”) and looks to every day with great expectation. An experienced Braillist, Rachel hopes to go to college and, ultimately, to teach the visually impaired. She knows that her Parisian neighbors will be “green with admiration” when they notice her new independence with Theo in harness taking the lead. Theo is a “licker;” Rachel is confident that they have bonded well; he wakes her up in the morning by butting her with his cold nose. (She loves it.) This Irish lassie feels that the July class has been “awesome in jelling” and added: “the trainers/instructors and staff here, are GREAT!!”
From nearby Newtown, Connecticut, Alex Snow is somewhat a “neighbor” of Guiding Eyes for the Blind and boasts of being the youngest member of July’s class. His choice of Guiding Eyes for the Blind was made easy by thorough Internet research, recommendation of friends and the school’s proximity to his home. In a Senior High School class numbering 350 students, Alex says he will pursue studies in computer science. He is now looking at colleges in the Northeast, but will probably settle for one in Connecticut. Alex is a water skier and is always looking to try new avenues of adventure. (Ah, youth!) Alex describes himself as being quiet, a thinker, liberal, independent and likes to travel; his new helpmate, Pedro, is laid back, calm, yet very alert and trustworthy; Alex looks forward to bringing him to school everyday where he knows that his classmates will make him “one of the crowd.” He echoed his Guiding Eyes for the Blind classmates’ statements: “This class is good! – the instructors really know what they’re doing!” Experiencing their first harness venture, Alex felt overwhelmed with his feeling of trust in Pedro’s guidance. He couldn’t have summed it up better when he said: “Anyone who wants independence, really should have a Guiding Eyes dog!”
A virtual Georgia Peach, Alice Stacey will take Norris, her first Guiding Eyes for the Blind dog, back home with her to Peachtree City (near Atlanta). Having admired the great working and well-mannered dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, she was convinced this was the school for her. Alice, an Albino, is hearing impaired and experiencing progressive deterioration of her tunnel vision. Alice is a “hyper, laughing/cheerful, always up” person, although she admits that these qualities are not in total swing until mid-day. She thinks that she and Norris are like Ying and Yang; he is calm, mature, steady – but they meet successfully somewhere in the middle. She feels that they “clicked” the first day at playtime together; she further noted that Norris is most appreciative of having his downtime “belly scratch.” Alice is currently studying at the University of West Georgia, and headed towards a career in social work. She has been active in the leadership of several Baptist Student Union youth organizations and noted that she was the first blind person to be elected President of the college-level club, Circle K International. Norris has his work cut out for him on the busy streets and subways of Atlanta, but Alice is confident of his abilities. Although Alice is a people- lover at heart, she admits that she had never experienced being with 11 other blind people at once until her class at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. And, you know what? She loved it!