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July 2018 Graduating Class

Congratulations to our July 2018 graduating class!

Congratulations to Team Olive and Team Willis! May you have many safe and happy adventures together. Many thanks to their puppy raisers for their steadfast dedication and enthusiasm to the Guiding Eyes mission. You will forever be friends of the Central New York Region! – Central New York Region

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

Watch this month’s graduation live

Residential Graduates:

  • Annee & Willis
  • Belinda & Kaylin
  • Cheryl & Night
  • Christine & Vereen
  • Emma & Holly
  • Jasmine & Pax
  • Lance & Saki
  • Leslie & Yonnie
  • Madeline & Mercury
  • Shyanne & Olive (S)
  • Tori & Alfred
  • William & Kendall

Home Training Graduates:

  • Douglas & Kimberly (P)

Many thanks to our Training Staff:

  • Class Supervisor: Miranda Beckmann
  • Class Instructors: Lori Busse, Cara Ebeling
  • Apprentice Instructor: Marybeth Heady
  • Instructor Assistant: Kelly Magrath
  • Special Needs Instructor: Julie Angle
  • Running Guides Specialist: Nick Speranza
  • Home Training Instructor: Megan Bakeri

P: A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.

S:  The donors listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dogs: Olive was Special Named by Claudia Holliday

Meet the Residential Training Graduates

Graduation photo of July graduate Annee and guide dog Willis
Annee and Willis

Graduate Team: Annee and Willis
About Willis: Willis, a black Lab, is her second guide dog, and the first from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Walla Walla, Washington

After retiring her first guide dog, Annee went back to using a cane for 20 years. But when she lost her hearing, she didn’t feel safe leaving her house. As someone who travels internationally and is very active – she currently serves as a board member for the Washington Braille Library and the Washington Council for the Blind; writes curriculum for Helen Keller Services for the Blind; and hopes to start teaching again – she knew she needed to come to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “The long walks together. It’s something I haven’t been able to do for years, especially after losing my hearing. I love feeling like I can take off and go visit my daughter in San Diego and that I’m safe and can manage things. I’m also looking forward to hiking with him. Willis will help enlarge my world.”
A highlight of training: “I turned him into quite the ‘Dapper Don.’ He had his booties and cooling vest on the other day and it was so adorable to see him walking down the streets. A highlight has also been crossing streets and feeling safe, which is huge for me. I can take off and not have to worry about obstacles. Willis is just a joy. He’s gentle and very giving. It’s a joy to have our relationship growing and knowing he is keeping me safe.”
What makes my relationship with Willis special: “He’s playful when he doesn’t have his harness on. He lays under my desk as I do work. He’s right beside me all the time, but when he wants ‘me time’ he’ll go check himself into his crate. He’s very responsive and sensitive. He dances around with excitement when I tell him it’s time to go work. I’ve enjoyed his silliness.”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “The ability to travel alone and feel safe is huge to me. When I lost my vision, I went from doing everything to doing almost nothing except work around my house and yard. Now, I can go out and feel safe. Willis keeps me going straight. It’s gotten more complicated after losing my hearing, and he’s helping to simplify that.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I’ve really enjoyed my time here. The lectures and instruction are thorough. The facilities and food are great. I’m gluten-free and they’ve worked with me and my diet. It seems that whatever you need, they’re flexible and work with you. I’ve made some really great friends here, too.”

Congratulations to Willis’ puppy raiser, Erica McPhail!
*Annee graduated from the Special Needs Training program

Graduation photo of July graduate Belinda and guide dog Kaylin
Belinda and Kaylin

Graduate Team: Belinda and Kaylin
About Kaylin: Kaylin is a female yellow Lab and Belinda’s first guide dog
Hometown: Guttenberg, New Jersey

Bee, a current high school student, has been losing her vision since she was a child. Feeling like she was always behind everyone else, she had a love-hate relationship with using a cane. As she began thinking about her future and looking for colleges, with hopes to major in psychology and English, she knew it was time to get a guide dog. “I’m not going to live the rest of my life in this bubble with this cane.”

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Being able to not think about stuff so much and just go out. If I want to go to NYC, I’m just going to go and I don’t have to question ‘what if this or that happens?’ If Kaylin and I get lost, at least it’s together; we’re a team. A guide dog is always with us and it’s like having a best friend. When I go to college it will also be a huge help to have her with me. And traveling…I love to travel.”
A highlight of training: “The confidence that you get from having a guide dog. After the third day here, you feel so much more confident than with a cane. My head is up and I don’t feel scared. With a cane, you have to be so cautious. But with Kaylin, I can actually enjoy my walk.”
What makes my relationship with Kaylin special: “She’s a real goofball. She’s sweet and funny. I feel like our personalities match that way. She’s cuddly and like a little ball of sunshine. But when Kaylin is working, she is a hard worker. They match the dogs to your needs and personality so well here.”
Impact it will have on me: “Having a guide dog has completely changed my attitude about things. Now, I’m looking forward to trying so many things and going out on my own. Before coming, I was so excited and amped up. And being here, it became everything I wanted and more. I’ve only been together with Kaylin for two weeks but it’s already so amazing and I know the more that we work together, it will only keep getting better and better.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “It’s like a family here. Everyone is welcoming and nice. They make you feel cared about and listen to what you have to say. Everyone is super supportive, even your classmates. Everyone cheers you on because we’re all going through the same process. We all have ups and downs, but we keep each other’s spirits up.”

Congratulations to Kaylin’s puppy raisers, Betsy and Charles Pyne!

Graduation photo of July graduate Cheryl and guide dog Night
Cheryl and Night

Graduate Team: Cheryl and Night
About Night: Night is Cheryl’s second Guiding Eyes guide dog
Hometown: Michigan

“It was nice to have Night be like ‘Hey, I like you!’ right away.” Cheryl, a mother of two, loves the immediate bond she felt with her new guide dog, Night. Her first Guiding Eyes dog Emily recently retired, so she is looking forward to bringing Night home to meet her new playmate and the rest of the family.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “The pace. Being able to walk faster. My other dog slowed down a little so it’s nice to go a little faster. I’m looking forward to my retired guide Emily and Night playing together.”
A highlight of training:“I would say the quick bond. My first dog took longer to bond with because she was so committed to her trainer. It was nice to have Night be like ‘Hey, I like you!’ right away.”
What made me decide to get a guide dog: “I first got a guide dog when I was going to college, and I wanted to get around campus a little faster. I walk really fast and with a cane you can’t really go that fast without getting jabbed in the stomach a lot. I thought it would be better to travel quickly with a dog. I feel like they give you a lot more feedback.”
What makes my relationship with Night special: “He’s really cautious when he walks. He’s always looking back to see if I’m ok, which is really nice. He’s like ‘Is this what you want? Are you with me?’”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “You trust them, so it makes it easier to go into unfamiliar areas because you know that they’re going to look out for your safety and help you. We took Emily to different places like Nashville, and she learned the routes so quickly. Even if we got lost, she somehow knew the way.”
What I would say to someone thinking about getting a guide dog: “First of all, you’ve got to like dogs! If you have the right lifestyle, if you can devote time to them and care for them, and treat them well, then it’s the right choice. And as long as you have enough work for them to do – they like to stay busy.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “At Guiding Eyes they treat you so well and work toward what you need. I do more residential travel, so that’s what we’ve been working on. The instructors give you a lot of ideas and it’s really welcoming. And they have good care afterwards as well – they don’t just send you out on your own. You always have somebody to help if you need it.”

Congrats to Night’s puppy raiser, Jordan Moore!

Graduation photo of July graduate Christine and guide dog Vereen
Christine and Vereen

Graduate Team: Christine and Vereen
About Vereen: Vereen is Christine’s first guide dog, a yellow Lab
Hometown: Roseville, Minnesota

Currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Christine is looking forward to having a companion on her bus rides to campus downtown – her first guide dog Vereen. Not only did Christine form a fast friendship with Vereen; she has also been glad to be part of a tight-knit July class of fellow guide dog users. Though new to guide dogs, Christine calls her experience a “big change that I really welcome and love.”

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m looking forward to jumping into learning routes around my neighborhood and being able to get places a lot faster, more efficiently, and safely. My routes are half suburb, half city, and twice per week I’ll be taking Vereen with me on the bus to go into downtown Minneapolis for class.”
A highlight of training: “Vereen is my first guide dog, so when I came in I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. It’s been fun to see my own progression. Vereen is such a good worker; I just need to get to his level! It’s been a lot of fun being here with such a great group of students – I’m sure we’ll all stay in touch. Being here has been a big change, but a change I really welcome and love.”
What made me decide to get a guide dog: “Being around another Guiding Eyes graduate at home and seeing how much he interacted with his dogs made me decide to apply. I saw how much it helped him to identify curbs, keep him straight on the sidewalk, keep him on the safe side. And I really love how smart these dogs are. They listen so well!”
What makes my relationship with Vereen special: “I noticed pretty quickly the first time I had play time with him, he already was a little resistant to someone other than me telling him to do something. He was so quick to adapt to me, and I was immediately in love with him. He was so quick to like me and he’s so likable himself. It’s really easy to love someone as sweet and adorable as him!”
How has having a guide dog changed your life?  “It’s going to be crazy bringing him home and being able to get around my complex neighborhood more easily! There are some things I don’t do because it’s not safe, but now I can do them. Even something as simple as being able to cross an open parking lot successfully is going to make me so happy. Plus having a little fur buddy to come along with me to class! The bus ride can get boring but I’m looking forward to having him with me to go through that process and get around campus.”
What I would say to someone thinking about getting a guide dog: “Don’t consider, just do.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Everybody at Guiding Eyes is great – fantastic really. The quality of their dogs is phenomenal. You combine the quality of the training the dogs get with the quality of the training you as the handler are given… and you become an unstoppable team. I already feel like we are going to make it through any obstacle we encounter. I am so grateful that I took the leap and decided to come here; my experience here has been absolutely wonderful.”

Congrats to Vereen’s puppy raisers, the Sortore Family!

Graduation photo of July graduate Emma and guide dog Holly
Emma and Holly

Graduate Team: Emma and Holly
About Holly: German Shepard Holly is Emma’s first guide dog
Hometown: Holualoa, Hawaii

Emma has always had a special place in her heart for dogs. Volunteering at a local animal shelter in Hawaii for the past two years, she takes and posts photos of the animal residents on social media to help them find homes. Now with Holly by her side, Emma is looking forward to taking her to the beach and growing together as a team.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m looking forward to getting her familiar with all of my routes at home, including shorelining routes. I also can’t wait to take her to the beach.”
A highlight of training: “The bonding with Holly has been great. I’ve liked seeing her progress and us progress as a team. We are gradually growing together.”
Why a guide dog? “In Hawaii, walking around is hard because the terrain is rough and there are not a lot of sidewalks. There are some in town, but not many. It makes it hard to get around with a cane.”
What makes my relationship with Holly special: “Just her as a dog. She’s really funny; she has funny quirks, like chasing her tail. She’s sassy and wants pets all the time. Holly is sweet but also obedient when she needs to be and is a good worker. I feel like I have a new companion by my side now.”
Impact a guide dog will have on me: “I think having Holly will make me more confident and independent.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Guiding Eyes has been great. It’s educational and everyone has been really helpful with everything. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a guide dog and will definitely come back for another dog down the road.”

Congratulations to Holly’s puppy raisers, the Houghton Family!

Graduation photo of July graduate Jazz and guide dog Pax
Jasmine and Pax

Graduate Team: Jasmine and Pax
About Pax: Pax, a black Lab, is Jasmine’s first guide dog
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Mother of two Jasmine “Jazz” is thrilled about the “perfect match” she found with her guide dog Pax. As she prepares to head home, Jazz is looking forward to applying the many skills she learned during Residential Training at Guiding Eyes, and to the freedom that comes with the partnership with her guide dog. In addition to her admiration for the training staff, Jasmine says she is “in awe of the dedication, commitment and loving hearts and spirits” of the puppy raisers and volunteers that keep Guiding Eyes running. “The love, work and dedication I hear about from these raisers truly touched my heart and further realize I was in the right place, at the right time and had the right dog that was truly meant for me.”

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m looking forward to getting into my daily schedule. I’m starting a new job a week after I go home – and everyone there is excited to meet him. I’m looking forward to learning that new job and spending my time with my boys (two sons and a pet Poodle named Louie). My sons are excited to meet him – we’re all dog people!”
A highlight of training: “Something I’m really thankful for is the way the instructors help you learn. I’m used to learning things on the computer, but not as used to this type of training. There is a lot you have to learn, but the good thing about training is that it’s really hands on. That was so beneficial to me. It let me learn, see what I need to work on, figure out how to improve. There are so many different things you can learn from each instructor, and they are even willing to go after hours to work one on one. I’m really appreciative of that and it made me see this was the right choice to find the right match for me.”
What made me decide to get a guide dog: “I’ve had recent changes in my life, and I’ve been doing a lot more things independently. I was noticing that travel wasn’t as safe with my cane as it could be with a guide dog. I asked around and knew a few people who had been to Guiding Eyes, and they said it was the perfect school and makes the perfect match.”
What makes my relationship with Pax special: “He is a busy boy! It’s a great match. I can feel the pull and everything when we’re working together. He’s excitable but when he’s working he just turns it on. He makes travel smooth – much smoother than with the cane.”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “I noticed it when we went to the mall yesterday. I like to shop! When I was traveling with the cane, I would use as much of my usable vision as I could, but it just wasn’t working as well. With a dog, I still need to know the directions, but I can observe what’s around me more easily. I have a little less anxiety and more freedom to relax.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I can’t say enough about the matches and the training. There are times when you make mistakes and the instructors just make you laugh. Everyone has a passion for what they do and wants to see everybody succeed. The staff and the training; they know everybody learns a different way, has a different style, a different dog, and they accommodate all of that. Oh, and the kitchen, too!”
What I would say to someone thinking about getting a guide dog: “I would say come to Guiding Eyes! Don’t apply anywhere else, don’t think about anywhere else. You not only learn the procedures and methods, but so many different things about your individual dog.”

Congratulations to Pax’s puppy raisers, Jim and Luan Harmeson!

Graduation photo of July graduate Lance and guide dog Saki
Lance and Saki

Graduate Team: Lance and Saki
About Saki: Saki, a black Lab, is Lance’s second Guiding Eyes guide; Alberta was his first
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Lance knows just how special and lifechanging a guide dog can be, which is why he decided to return to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog. He recently retired and adopted his first dog, Alberta, throwing her a retirement party attended by 60 of Lance’s friends and family. She now patiently waits at home with Lance’s wife to meet Saki.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Spending time with my family and meeting the new challenges of working with Saki, like targeting bus stops, garbage cans, etc. I travel twice a year, so I’m looking forward to traveling with her. I went on a lot of hikes with Alberta through the Canadian Shield, so I also can’t wait to see how Saki does hiking and walking on trails.”

A highlight of training: “I liked experiencing the different characteristics Saki has compared to Alberta and learning how to work with her compared to my first dog. Saki is gentle and quick and has a different pull.”
What makes my relationship with Saki special: “We’re still developing trust. I admire the trainers and what they do to pass the dogs on to us and have them lead us through each route we take. I’m constantly impressed by how Saki can effectively navigate me around so many obstacles. She was taking me so quickly around trees and garbage bins and it was so amazing that she could do that. It’s pretty neat.”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “One time I went downtown 10 blocks by cane, and it was so much more difficult. A guide dog enables us to travel quickly and effectively and reduces the stress of getting around with a cane.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I like to call it Club GEB. The whole organization is filled with amazing people with the sole purpose of providing guide dogs to help the visually impaired. And I truly appreciate all of the donors; I can’t thank them enough. It’s incredible and heartwarming.”

Congrats to Saki’s puppy raisers, the Kirkwood Family!

Graduation photo of July graduate Leslie and guide dog Yonnie
Leslie and Yonnie

Graduate Team: Leslie and Yonnie
About Yonnie: Yonnie, a yellow Lab, is Leslie’s first guide dog
Hometown: Rexburg, Idaho

Leslie and her husband have done it all – from owning an alfalfa farm, to running their own dairy operation, working in enforcement, and raising and showing horses for 40 years. But when Leslie was injured in a car accident, she lost her vision and was homebound. Now with Yonnie by her side, she feels she has her independence back. She looks forward to returning home where she enjoys quilting and gardening, gives educational talks for driving schools, and is even considering starting her own cinnamon bun delivery service for local college students.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Walking down the street by myself with my head held high. To have her as a constant companion will be amazing. I just know that it’s going to get better and better; that is what gives me hope and confidence.”
A highlight of training: “Listening to my instructor, being told how to do something, and then accomplishing a task like going to the curb. I’m finally holding my head up and feeling the sun on my face. I know what to do now – for me and for Yonnie. I feel like I am kept safe along my path no matter what the destination is. I also like the comradery of the students here. It’s not just about getting a guide dog; we share ideas and current technology with one another.”
What makes my relationship with Yonnie special: “We’re kind of the same; she’s quiet and deliberate. I love the way she takes care of me and how the dogs use nonverbal skills to communicate with us. Guiding Eyes takes everything into consideration when matching you with a dog – your personality, reflexes, etc.”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “I wanted a more independent life. I wanted to be able to finally look up when I walk. Now I will be walking around the local university, parks, and the botanical gardens. Getting a guide dog has also given me a desire to learn more and develop more skill sets.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Every department — from admissions to nursing to the flight arrangements – is efficient and communicative. When you’re walking the halls of Guiding Eyes, people stop and introduce themselves to you and that means a lot. And my trainer Julie — she is so personal with you and honest. There isn’t anything you can’t ask or disclose to them, and I like that.”
What would you say to someone who is considering Guiding Eyes? “Explore your possibilities with them. I wanted the educational support before, during, and after my training, and Guiding Eyes provided that. Timing matters, too.”

Congrats to Yonnie’s puppy raiser, Denise Barber!
*Leslie graduated from the Special Needs Training program

Graduation photo of July graduate Madeline and guide dog Mercury
Madeline and Mercury

Graduate Team: Madeline and Mercury
About Mercury: Mercury is a yellow Lab and Madeline’s first guide dog
Hometown: Marietta, Georgia

One could describe Madeline’s sunny disposition as contagious. As a college student with big plans, including studying abroad and traveling as often as possible, she’s looking forward to having her new companion Mercury along for the ride. She is currently majoring in clinical psychology, with a minor in general psychology and family development, and has even used her visual impairment to her advantage. “I play intramural sports at school and recently picked up archery. Since I have no peripheral vision because of Retinitis Pigmentosa, it’s easy for me to aim and hit the bullseye. I’m actually pretty good at it.”

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m most looking forward to traveling with Mercury. I have a lot of upcoming plans; I want to study abroad and visit Colorado and California and go hiking. It will be easier doing these things with him and my parents will have more peace of mind than if I was still using a cane. I like being outdoors but I’m also a travel junkie. I take the bus a lot to travel, and you get to meet so many people and it gives you another outlook on life. I think being visually impaired gives you more opportunities, especially with a guide dog. I’d rather be blind and be able to travel anywhere I want than be sighted and living in a bubble.”
A highlight of training: “I think it’s really cool that our class is diverse, not only because of where we’re from, but our visual impairments, too. We all got really close and bonded. It wasn’t guaranteed that we’d all get along so well, but we got so much more out of this experience here than just a guide dog. And that’s not the case for all guide dog schools.”
What makes my relationship with Mercury special: “Mercury and I are complete opposites; I’m laid back and he’s very full of energy. That’s why we’re such a good match – we complement and balance each other out when we’re working. My grandfather was a veterinarian, so I also have experience training dogs and I know how to manage him well.”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “I think it’s nice that Mercury has a job, but he also gives me the same benefits a pet would. I am responsible for taking care of him, but I also have a companion. You’re never really alone. If I’m sad or feeling lonely, they are there for you.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I really like Guiding Eyes. My O&M instructor had always told me I was going to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, that they are the best before, during, and after your training. I’d say it was well worth the plane ride.”

Congratulations to Mercury’s puppy raiser, Brynn Lancey!

Graduation photo of July graduate Shyanne and guide dog Olive
Shyanne and Olive

Graduate Team: Shyanne and Olive
About Olive: Olive, a female black Lab, is Shyanne’s first guide dog
Hometown: Harrisonburg, Virginia

Shyanne, a college student, came to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog, who she calls her “little light, even though she’s a black Lab.” Shyanne is an active goalball player with hopes of competing on the US Paralympic Team; she’s also a part of the Running Guides program and enjoying beginning to run with Olive by her side.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “One of the most exciting things I’m looking forward to is traveling. I play a sport called goalball, and I travel often for tournaments, so I’m hoping to be able to do a lot more of that in the coming years. I’m moving to Indiana soon to train full-time, and hopefully we’ll eventually be traveling internationally for the sport. There are so many places I would like to go – I would really love to go to Paris for the 2024 Olympics!”
A highlight of training: “I think a highlight is when we’re just going on a route downtown and get so in the groove. There are moments where it just clicks and feels so right. This morning was my first time running with her – it was like we were flying! She did so well and really loved it. I love seeing her run and work in harness. She is just so happy and optimistic.”
Why I decided to get a guide dog: “I’ve been around guide dogs a lot with my teammates and a teacher who is a graduate from Guiding Eyes. I fell in love with his two guide dogs, Honey and Irish. Plus, I had heard about the Running Guides program, so I decided to apply to Guiding Eyes for a summer class.”
What makes my relationship with Olive special: “I lost my vision fairly recently – about a year ago. I’ve had visual impairment my entire life and knew I would lose my vision eventually, but I didn’t expect to be so young. I went blind from a detached retina that had nothing to do with my eye condition, which was a huge shock to me and my family. There are still moments when I get sad or angry, but with Olive I’m getting my confidence back. She’s so great when she’s guiding, but even as a companion too. She’s like a little light, even though she’s a black lab!”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “A cane is an obstacle finder, but a guide dog goes around the obstacles. Sometimes she makes errors, but sometimes I do too; it’s a team effort.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I knew this was the school I needed to go to; I never applied to anywhere else. Guiding Eyes is the only school with Running Guides, and they offer so many different training options. Also, I know that there are so many people that touch a guide dog’s life: the puppy raisers, people in the kennels, the trainers, the Instructor Assistants. It’s amazing to see how many people were part of Olive’s life. You can just see and hear the love that everyone has for these dogs and how passionate they are about them. They want the dogs to succeed and to make sure they have the best working life they can have. Hearing all the love and appreciation people have for Olive is great – and knowing she grew up with so much love.”
What I would say to someone thinking about getting a guide dog: “A cane you can just put in a corner, but a guide dog comes with additional responsibility. With a dog you have to really know your environment and have good routes so you can be more confident. You know, it’s a working dog, but you also have to give them love and praise.”

Congratulations to Olive’s puppy raiser, Linda DePuy!
*Shyanne graduated from the Running Guides Training program

Graduation photo of July graduate Tori and guide dog Alfred
Tori and Alfred

Graduate Team: Tori and Alfred
About Alfred: Alfred is a black Lab and Tori’s first guide dog
Hometown: Rosemount, Minnesota

“This is Alfred, but his nickname is Alfi or sometimes Fredo,” Tori says as she excitedly introduces her new guide dog. A junior in high school with many hobbies to keep her busy – from choir to going out with friends to swimming competitively on her school swim team – Tori is looking forward to getting back to Minnesota with Alfred by her side.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Being able to go out with friends to places that I’ve never been and feeling safe. Sure, the cane is applicable for certain environments, but it gets stuck in things or sometimes you run into people with it. With a guide dog, I have that extra set of eyes that will build up my confidence.”
A highlight of training: “It was during our second week here. There was a moment during our night training trip where I realized Alfred was confident and listening to me. It was the best route we have ever done. That moment of realizing he can do it and he’s good at what he does – it was emotional and incredible. I cried and hugged him. I am just so proud of him.”
What makes my relationship with Alfred special: “He is a very observant dog and doesn’t get distracted; he guides me around cracks in the sidewalk and low hanging branches. And he’s such a little gentleman. There was one night I was sad and feeling a bit defeated, and Alfred put his paws on me and gave me the biggest kiss. He’s an emotional dog.”
The impact having a guide dog will have on me: “A cane slows you down. With it, I didn’t walk as fast as I used to. I lost my vision two and a half years ago and I slowed down a lot. I wanted to go, go, go, but I couldn’t. With a guide dog, we can just fly down a sidewalk. Having that extra pair of eyes and another thinking mind, it’s comforting and freeing. I feel like I am finally walking at the pace I used to.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “The training program is really what I was looking for in a guide dog school. I would look at other schools and think that their programs were too long or too short, but Guiding Eyes had what I needed. I love the sense of support and community in class. I also like the different environments and things we work on so the dogs get exposed to many things. We got to train in so many different places: New York City, rural areas, and on trains.”

Congrats to Alfred’s puppy raisers, the Altland Family!

Graduation photo of July graduate Willi and guide dog Kendall
Willi and Kendall

Graduate Team: William and Kendall
About Kendall: Kendall, a male black Lab, is his first guide dog
Hometown: Roxbury, Massachusetts

Originally from Puerto Rico, Will recalls always wanting a guide dog after using a cane for years. As a competitive sailor with a local sailing team for the blind, he has traveled across the country to participate in competitions, receiving notable awards and achievements along the way. Now going into his second season, he’s excited to go home and get his guide dog Kendall involved with the team.

What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Having Kendall will make navigating my daily routes easier. I’m also in my second season of sailing with Boston United Blind Sailing; a few other sailors bring their guide dogs, so I’m looking forward to having Kendall come with me.”
A highlight of training: “The instructors are very good here. They’re friendly and very helpful. The facilities are also great.”
What makes my relationship with Kendall special: “Kendall is calm like I am. When I’m with him, I feel great. He’s a good dog.”
Impact a guide dog will have on me: “Walking with Kendall will be faster. I don’t have to worry about objects and getting stuck while using a cane. It feels different than even walking with a sighted guide. Walking with Kendall is like seeing again; he walks me right around objects. The experience is something else.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “This is my first guide dog and first experience at a guide dog school; everything is well planned and scheduled. The instructors were always there when I needed them, whether it was their night off or not. Their response was quick.”
What would you say to someone who is considering Guiding Eyes? “Don’t think twice, just go.”

Congrats to Kendall’s puppy raiser, Mrs. Michael C. Trapani!

Meet the Home Training Graduates

July graduate Doug and guide dog Kimberly sit in the grass together
Doug and Kimberly

Graduate Team: Doug and Kimberly
About Kimberly: Kimberly is Doug’s second Guiding Eyes guide; his first was Chaz
Hometown:  Westerville, Ohio

When Doug went completely blind, he felt that he had lost all of his independence. He credits his Guiding Eyes guide dogs, Chaz and Kimberly, with giving him the ability to go places and do things he thought he would never do again. Now a successful business owner through the Business Enterprise Program in Ohio, he looks forward to educating his customers about the importance of guide dogs and traveling with his wife.

What I’m most looking forward to about working with Kimberly: “Spending a lot of time working together. I’m also looking forward to visiting New York soon. My wife and I have been wanting to go to New York to see a few Broadway plays and some other sights. We’re a son and daughter of Navy officers and one of my hobbies is shipwrecks, so I’m looking forward to touring the Intrepid while we’re there and bringing Kimberly along.”
A highlight of training: “The main highlight was my trainer, Megan. How she delivered her message to me and communicated with me was great. We really clicked, and my family really clicked with her also. I think having that family bond is important; it helps you all have a strong connection with the dog.”
What makes my relationship with Kimberly special: “Kimberly is my second guide dog, so I feel that I am a better student now and know what I want and need from a guide dog. From day one, she loved me and my family. When I lean down to put her harness on, she always gives me a lick across the face. She does the same to my daughter and wife.”
How has having a guide dog changed your life? “Having a guide dog has given me back the independence I thought I lost. When I went completely blind, I couldn’t safely walk down a sidewalk anymore and I became depressed. But having Chaz and Kimberly gave me back that independence again. I have the ability and guts to go places I would never have gone otherwise. I also have my own retail food business, so Chaz and Kimberly bring customers in; they know the dogs and come to see them. I won’t let anyone interact with Kimberly, but she is a source of education to the public.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Having a guide dog has given me back a piece of my life that I thought I lost. I had no idea I was going to ride a subway in New York while training at Guiding Eyes, or that I would fly on a plane. If anyone is interested in giving independence and security to the blind, then they can’t do much better than donating their dollars to Guiding Eyes for the Blind.”

Congratulations to Kimberly’s puppy raisers, Donna and Steven Derks!