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July 2016 Graduating Class

July  2016

Given in honor of Ralph Sole and Dudley P., and in memory of
Alpo, O’Neil, and Midas, with all my love.
Terri Pigue

In honor of my guide, Fairest: I give her food, care, and love. In return, she gives me
the world. We love her so very much. Best of luck to everyone in the July 2016 class.
Morgan Leland & Jason Diefenbacher

In loving memory of Jim DePuy, whose unselfish dedication to puppy raising
touched the lives of countless puppies, graduates, and fellow volunteers.
Jim’s humble life of service continues to inspire us all.
Central New York Puppy Raising Region

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support
of our video streaming capabilities.


Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates:
Derek & Temple
Hillary & Nettles (S)
Nicole & Farley
Meg & Jayden
Olga & Gianna
Ralph & Jonas
Suzanne & Latham
Ted & Oregon
Wayne & Strider

ACTION Training
Daniel & Irish
Patrick & Schubert

(S): The donor listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dog:
• Nettles was special-named by John Hammel.

Congratulations to our graduating class!

Many thanks to our instructors:

Class Supervisor:  Melinda Angstrom
Class Instructors:  Michelle Tang and Shannon McGee
Instructor Assistant:  Ann Marie Poellot

ACTION Training:  Graham Buck


Derek and Temple

D. Neach & Temple Derek traveled from Tennessee for his second Guiding Eyes dog, Temple, a German Shepherd black-and-tan mix. Derek will finish his last semester at East Tennessee State University in the fall of 2016 with a major in information technology. His goal is to move to Colorado and work for Apple as an Apple Care Advisor. When he’s not studying, Derek is water skiing, honing his archery skills, rock climbing, solving computer problems, listening to audio books, or watching his favorite TV show, “Mister Robot,” about the hacker culture.

Derek was born with retinopathy of prematurity. At six months of age a retina detached. He has some light perception and can see the form of a person but no details. He received his first Guiding Eyes guide dog the summer before he went to college and found he was more approachable as people stopped to comment on the dog.

“Society is slowly coming to understand the value of service dogs and what they can do to change a person’s life,” Derek says. “Having a dog is a big responsibility. But because of my dogs, I am more confident and more independent. I am more comfortable interacting with others because the dog helps to break down barriers to communication. I am free to move about and say, ‘Check out this awesome dog!’”

Congratulations to Temple’s puppy raisers, Barbara McCabe and the Wilson Family!


Hillary and Nettles

H. Ensminger & NettlesHillary remembers struggling to read in high school. By the time she finished college, she had figured out something was seriously wrong with her vision. A diagnosis of Stargardt disease, a form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration, meant she would lose her central vision and perhaps her ability to make out details, shapes, and color.

Undeterred, Hillary attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, moved to North Carolina, and with her then husband started a catering company and two restaurants. Eventually she went back to school for non-profit management and grant writing.

Nettles, a yellow female Lab, is her first Guiding Eyes guide dog. “She’s incredibly mellow, which is great because we can’t both be type As,” says Hillary. “But we both are fast walkers.” Her children are grown, but several people who are very close to her have medical challenges, and they are leaning on her for support. “I need Nettles,” she says. “I think of her as four extra feet to freedom.” She pauses. “I want to see the world—Sicily, Tuscany, New York. I’m not sure how much worse my vision will get.” As she looks over at Nettles, she ponders the question:  “How do you define love?”

Congratulations to Nettles’s puppy raisers, Mr. and Mrs. Ron Daniels and Brian Davis!


Nicole and FarleyJ. Loustaunau & Farley

Nicole’s journey is just beginning. Though born with retinopathy of prematurity, it was a retinal detachment, the result of a domestic violence assault, that caused her sight loss. That she still has some vision confounds her retinal specialist who says there’s no medical explanation for how she sees anything at all. Recently Nicole learned that she has trauma-related macular degeneration. Eventually she will be totally blind.

But ironically, things have never looked brighter for this stay-at-home mom who is now married, the mother of two young children, and a student at the University of Phoenix where she is excelling. Farley, a yellow male Labrador, is her first Guiding Eyes guide dog. She calls him her companion, her “light.” “I feel safe with Farley. I don’t have to hold my husband’s arm when I’m at the mall or the movie theater. I don’t have to feel like a burden. I don’t have to worry anymore.”

Nicole plans to major in human services with an emphasis on children and family services. “I don’t want to be a domestic violence statistic. I want to be an advocate and make a difference for others. Farley is the icing on my cake. Like me, all he needs is love, then anything is possible.”

Congratulations to Farley’s puppy raisers, Joann Criscuolo and John Seymour!


Meg and JaydenM. Blackburn & Jayden

This is a year of “firsts” for Meg: her first plane ride (she traveled from Indiana), her first guide dog, her first Starbucks coffee, and her first professionally taken photo. Of her three-week stay at Guiding Eyes working with Jayden, a yellow male Lab, she says she has laughed and cried at each new challenge and each new accomplishment, whether it was stepping off a curb for the first time or mastering the stairs.

Meg lost her sight due to domestic violence. Though isolated for years, she managed to rescue herself, she says, and she’s discovered just how resilient she is. Having worked in the hotel business for 32 years, she is now retired. She’s taking a correspondence course on world history, and she’s exploring employment opportunities. She’s a quilter, and she loves a good spy novel.

Helping others is most important to Meg. She volunteers at the Mountain Mission School, an organization that rescues at-risk children. She’s a mentor to the boys, and she makes sure they have essentials, whether that’s toiletries or a soft pillow.

Jayden means freedom to Meg. “The world is beyond Guiding Eyes. There’s no stopping me now. Anything’s possible. Without Guiding Eyes, though, none of this would have been possible.”

Congratulations to Jayden’s puppy raisers, Sue and Steve Papish and Amanda Martineau and Mark Sclafani!


Olga and GiannaO. Crispin & Gianna

Now that Olga has been matched with Gianna, a yellow female Lab and her first Guiding Eyes guide dog, she is certain she won’t miss her white cane. She tripped and fell too many times trying to navigate her way around obstacles. With Gianna, it’s smooth going!

Olga’s mother noticed problems with her daughter’s eyes when she was ten years old, but a doctor assured her she was fine. Her mom persisted, and eventually Olga was diagnosed with Wolfram Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes progressive vision loss. Olga knows she may also lose her hearing.

At 17, Olga is a straight-A student. She will be a junior in a public high school in the fall of 2016. She’s certain she will be far more independent with Gianna by her side. Olga will start her first job this summer at North Carolina State University. Most of all, she looks forward to shopping at the mall and going to college without her mom worrying about her. She is fluent in Spanish, and she enjoys writing poems, running track, and playing the guitar.

Clearly Olga has taken her parents’ advice to heart: “Keep going, keep smiling, keep your head up. And ignore the negative.”

Congratulations to Gianna’s puppy raisers, the Prior Family!


Ralph and JonasR. Sole & Jonas

After a tragic automobile accident in 1980, doctors prepared Ralph’s mother for the worse. Weeks later, when Ralph emerged from a coma, nurses placed a sign over his bed: Miracle Man. He had pulled through, but he was totally blind.

Ralph had no idea what to expect or what his life would be like going forward. He had always been active. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany in military intelligence, worked in a steel mill, traded horses, opened his own lawn and garden center, conducted auto auctions, and earned his real estate license. “I was completely lost,” he says. Then he heard about Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Recently he traveled from Missouri for Jonas, a yellow male Lab and his fifth Guiding Eyes dog.

“The Guiding Eyes experience changed my whole outlook on life,” says Ralph. “I met students and graduates who had achieved so much. They gave me hope. The instructors are fabulous, and the training gets better and better.” Of Jonas, he says, “He’s swift, he has a great pull, and he’s the perfect gentleman.”

Congratulations to Jonas’s puppy raiser, Dianne Martin!


Suzanne and LathamS. Rourndtree & Latham

Suzanne is a self-described health nut who works out four to five times a week. She walks, lifts weights, does cardio, and swims laps. She showed horses in Missouri’s Western Pleasure competitions but sold her last horse a few years ago.

Latham, a black male Lab, is Suzanne’s fourth Guiding Eyes guide dog. At the age of 15 a brain tumor triggered a seizure. Overnight she was totally blind. She was 17 when she got her first guide dog from Guiding Eyes. For the last 20 years she’s been working from home as a medical transcriptionist. “These are great dogs,” she says. “I’m more independent and mobile, and it’s easier to get around with a dog. I can walk faster.”

These dogs, she says, are also ice-breakers. “People don’t know what to say or do to help me when I have my white cane. I’m more approachable when I’m with my dog. People may not understand blindness, but most like—and understand—dogs, so my dog becomes a common starting point. It’s my opportunity to educate someone about my blindness.”

Congratulations to Latham’s puppy raisers, Mr. and Mrs. Benvie!


Ted and OregonT. Eaves & Oregon

Ted served our nation as an Air Force Captain for seven years, working on air-to-air guided missiles and F-86 fighter jets. As a civilian he designed an industrial printing machine which he sold out of his own machine shop. Now retired, his days are filled, he says, with “whatever I decide to do.”

An avid golfer, Ted was playing with friends when he hit the best shot of his life, the ball landing within three feet of the hole. He stepped up to take his swing and suddenly everything turned red. Unbeknownst to him he had macular degeneration and all of his blood vessels had started leaking. He is legally blind and enjoying his new companion, Oregon, a Guiding Eyes German Shepherd black-and-tan mix.

“Oregon is well-trained, obeys commands, and has the strength to pull me at a good pace,” says Ted of his first guide dog. “He loves to play and wrestle. I tried to explain to the boy that I’ve got some age on me!” Ted says in his soft North Carolina drawl. Ted notes that Guiding Eyes, unlike other schools, accepted him even though he was over 70 when he applied.

Ted has been married to Brenda for 54 years. They have three children, four grandchildren, and one great grandchild. He can’t wait to introduce Oregon to his family and his friends. “He’ll be accepted and treated better than me!” Ted says, laughing. “He will become my very close friend, someone I can depend on.”

Congratulations to Oregon’s puppy raiser, Cindy Tait!


Wayne and StriderW. Weller & Strider

Wayne traveled from Buffalo, NY, to receive his first Guiding Eyes guide dog. He was in high school when he began experiencing headaches. Eventually he learned they were caused by a tumor on his optic nerve. After several surgeries he had some peripheral vision in one eye, but found his sight would come and go. Today, he says, he is totally blind. But that hasn’t slowed him down any. He was kicked off of the bowling team for people who are blind because, he says proudly, “I was too good!” And he plays golf with sighted partners. He’s also a fan of video games, especially Madden NFL, which he plays with his brother.

Now that Wayne has Strider, a black male Lab, he is grateful that he doesn’t have to rely on his white cane anymore. “In stores,” he says, “those displays were going down! With Strider, I will be a lot more confident and independent. I can go anywhere I want to go. I expect I will also have more respect. People ignore me when I’ve got my white cane, but they don’t ignore me when I’m with Strider. It’s pedal to the medal now. Nothing can stop me!”

Guiding Eyes, he says, is a “top gun guide dog school.” Strider is a hard worker, and he’s got “a heck of a personality.” It’s no wonder Wayne wants to help others. A friend’s 16-year-old daughter is losing her sight, and Wayne is teaching her Braille.

Congratulations to Strider’s puppy raisers, Tiffany Tomaselli and Sandra L. Rigazio!

ACTION Training

Daniel and IrishD. Martin & Irish

Daniel has come to Guiding Eyes from Virginia for his third Guiding Eyes guide dog. An experienced handler, he chose our abbreviated ACTION program. Having lost his sight in an automobile accident when he was 15, he sees only colored dots much like in a kaleidoscope.  Though he became a very competent white cane traveler, his wife worried that he might trip people with his cane or get hit by a car. She urged him to try a guide dog.

“My Guiding Eyes dogs have broadened my horizons of possibility,” Daniel says. He developed the confidence to “go out and do things.” Daniel is married with three children—one girl they adopted from Guatemala and two boys. They share their home with a retired Guiding Eyes guide and two cats.

Daniel earned his Master’s in vocational rehabilitation counseling from the University of Pittsburgh and is employed as an assistive technology instructor with the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. In his spare time he works out, lifts weights, listens to audio books, and writes fiction books. When asked what his dog means to him, he doesn’t hesitate. “Freedom,” he says.

Congratulations to Irish’s puppy raisers, Cathyann Burns and Jeanne Dregalla!


Patrick and SchubertP. Palmer & Schubert

Patrick is known for his Jimmy Buffet-like colorful attire, his active lifestyle, and his outlook on life. Diagnosed with Coate’s disease at 25, he was totally blind by his 30s. Patrick traveled from Missouri to Guiding Eyes for Schubert, his fifth dog, and to participate in our ACTION program, an abbreviated training course for experienced handlers. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” he says, “because of the quality of staff and dogs.”

Patrick retired last year from The Whole Person, a nonprofit dedicated to independent living and blind rehabilitation, where he was a disability rights advocate. When a colleague suggested he meet a friend of hers, Patrick invited the young woman on a “blind date.” Two weeks later he proposed to Jennifer, and they have been married 21 years. Family includes two daughters, five grandchildren, and two great grandsons.

Schubert, says Patrick, is his best Guiding Eyes dog yet. “We’re matched so perfectly—fast pace, personality, not easily distracted. I love to travel and can go where I want, when I want. I feel safe, comfortable, and confident. Schubert makes me feel whole again. I can’t wait to jog with him in Mexico, my favorite destination!”

Congratulations to Schubert’s puppy raisers, the Newman Family!