Congratulations to our July 2019 Graduating Class!
Congratulations to Ohio pups and graduating guide dogs Hilda, Chance, Nectar and Ariel and their partners. We wish you, and all the teams of the Class of July 2019, wonderful adventures together!
– The Cleveland East and Cleveland West Puppy Raising Regions
Admiration and congratulations to the graduates from Guiding Eyes board member Wendy Aglietti and The NM Morris Family Foundation. I encourage that you go confidently everywhere in your world with your skilled, warm, and cuddly best friend. And remember that Guiding Eyes’ caring, skilled staff is always here for you.
Andrea and Hilda
Jose and Nitro
Kamela and Nectar
Kate and Bernard
Kelsy and Ariel
Lauren and Bach
Phyllis and Leonard
Rachel and Nemo
Home Training Graduate:
Christian and Chance
Many thanks to our Training Staff:
Class Supervisor: Kathryn Poallo
Class Instructors: Chrissy Vetrano, Marybeth Heady
Running Guide Specialist: Nick Speranza
Instructor Assistant: Taylor Cummings
Home Training: Susan Kroha, GDMI Specialized Training
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.
Meet the Residential Training Graduates
Graduate Team: Andrea and Hilda
About the Team: Hilda, a female black Lab, is Andrea’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Pelican Rapids, Manitoba, Canada
Andrea is entering her Sophomore year of college, where she is majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. She loves to crochet and started a home business creating and selling stuffed animals, such as bunnies and puppies. She is looking forward to getting out and going places more often – safely and independently.
How would you describe your guide dog? “When Hilda is working, she does a really good job. She’s my first guide dog and I’m just amazed by how well she works. It’s really cute, but she likes to make little noises to let you know how she feels about things, whether she’s bored at a lecture or excited when playing.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve wanted to get a guide dog since I lost my sight 4½ years ago, to regain that feeling of walking around freely. I started doing research and networking with other guide dog users and got to know a handler from my area who graduated from here. She was a great resource.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’m looking forward to getting places quicker and not bumping into people and things. Working her on my college campus will be SO much easier because there are so many obstacles I encounter daily. A dog makes you feel like you’re just zooming through everything!”
Were there any training highlights? “Seeing how excited she gets during clicker training when targeting doors and chairs, was really great. That will be very helpful on campus.”
Congratulations to Hilda’s Puppy Raisers, The Hostacky Family and Tom & Janet Rice!
Graduate Team: Jose and Nitro
About the Team: Nitro, a black male Lab, is Jose’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Jose returns to Guiding Eyes for his 3rd dog. When he is not working at his local Good Will store, he likes bowling, walking and getting exercise. He is particularly enthusiastic about listening to music, which he enjoys very much. He is happy to be receiving Nitro and looks forward to the improved mobility he will provide to his everyday life.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Nitro’s a hard worker, calm and very loving – he gives me a lot of kisses. I like brushing his coat and he enjoys that, too. We were matched very well together.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Having a guide dog helps to make me more independent and have more freedom.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I look forward to doing more things and being able to be more business-like when I’m at work. Also, it will be easier walking into town because I will be more independent with him. He’s a good companion who watches out for me, gives a lot of love, and I give it back to him in return. He’s going to be very helpful to me.”
Were there any training highlights? “I haven’t been bumping into things! That’s a good thing! Nitro’s just a nice boy and very good about passing by any food he might notice on the floor. He knows to keep going.”
Congratulations to Nitro’s Puppy Raisers, Ken & Barbara Martin!
Graduate Team: Kamela and Nectar
About the Team: Nectar, a female yellow Lab, is Kami’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Kami is a senior in high school with future plans for college and eventually medical school. She loves outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, walking and hanging out by the water, but she also enjoys crafting, embroidery, painting and using her tactile drawing board. She’s been happily sending her parents daily “highlight emails” with photos of Nectar in various situations.
How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s like my perfect soulmate. She’s there for me. Nectar’s super affectionate and enjoys burying her head against me, but when I put on her harness she’s ready to go and heads toward the door. She has two personalities just like me – I have my up time and my down time and she matches both perfectly.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve met other Guiding Eyes graduates from Alaska that encouraged me and I could see they had such great dogs. I had never seen a Guiding Eyes dog misbehaving and that was really impressive.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “Freedom and independence, and it will be nice to blend in more. High School can be tough sometimes, but I think others will be like, you have a dog – that’s super nice! It will be good to have someone who’s there for me, and keeping me from walking into things, too!”
Were there any training highlights? “Escalators is something I never really learned to master, so I found them terrifying. But with Nectar, it felt very graceful and natural, so it took all the scariness out of it. We worked on two different escalators and she took to both of them like a pro!”
Congratulations to Nectar’s Puppy Raiser, Kayln Moore!
Graduate Team: Kate and Bernard
About the Team: Bernard, a male yellow Lab, is Kate’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Hillsborough, North Carolina
Kate is excited to be starting her freshman year in college this fall with Bernard as her partner. Back home, her family has three dogs that Kate has enjoyed teaching obedience and other skills. As a lover of dogs and creative hobbies, she combined the two and started her own business sewing pet accessories. That’s a perk for Bernard, who will never be lacking for cool dog items!
How would you describe your guide dog? “He’s basically Mr. Personality. Bernard is super eager to work, but he loves to play and act goofy, as well. He has a nice ‘off switch’ so when I want to rest, he does too. He’s pretty awesome. I love him. I feel like I’ve known him for years.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I was going down an irregular set of stairs and fell. A friend asked if I had ever considered a guide dog and suggested looking into getting one. That’s when I started researching and found Guiding Eyes. Just the possibility of getting a guide dog made me very emotional, so I went to my parents. I got emotional again when I found out I was accepted at Guiding Eyes!”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “To be able to be confident and travel. Also the independence. I’m really excited to have him with me, not only to help me learn campus, but also…comforting, to just be there for me, you know?”
Were there any training highlights? “I got to experience him actually taking me around a bunch of obstacles at once, that I wasn’t even aware of. Just being able to move to that degree – I don’t know – it just blew me away. But then again, our first walk together was pretty special because I was like, oh my gosh, I have a guide dog in my hands! I’m so thankful for him.”
Congratulations to Bernard’s Puppy Raisers, Lynn Stas and Nicole McGovern & Jennifer Ewing!
Graduate Team: Kelsy and Ariel
About the Team: Ariel, a female black Lab, is Kelsy’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Kelsy became interested in Travel and Tourism during a vocational year in high school, and for a time, worked in the Hospitality Industry. Currently in college pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Kelsy is a member of a Sorority on campus and works as a Student Resource Assistant. Kelsy hopes to one day pursue a master’s degree in Education. She is looking forward to bringing Ariel home and the increased confidence to get out there and explore.
How would you describe your guide dog? “She is really chill and so loving. Ariel has just the perfect amount of spunk. We’re doing great, learning and getting to know each other. She really is such a perfect match to me.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve dabbled with the idea of getting a guide dog for a few years and my TVI encouraged me to get one. I reached out to some graduates from Guiding Eyes and also met many guide dog handlers at an NFB conference. Meeting one of the Field Representatives from Guiding Eyes, Mike Goehring, in my home area, made me realize all of the support I’d have, even after training. That helped me make the decision to apply to Guiding Eyes.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “Ariel and I really started to bond on the second day of training and it builds more every day. As we work together, I become more comfortable with the adjustments to be made when we return home.”
Were there any training highlights? “Our street crossings have been awesome. I’ve always had to work really hard to judge traffic, which can be stressful. Being able to have the confidence to give a ‘Forward’ command and trust her when we are crossing a street has been great.”
Congratulations to Ariel’s Puppy Raisers, Maureen Dinner and Claudia Holliday!
Graduate Team: Phyllis and Leonard
About the Team: Leonard, a male yellow Lab, is Phyllis’ 6th guide dog (3rd from GEB)
Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Phyllis lived in New York for many years, but now resides Wilkes-Barre, PA, an area she loves for its accessibility. Phyllis is an avid bowler, bringing home Silver and Gold trophies from tournaments up and down the East Coast. Currently ranked as a Green Belt, she enjoys Seido Karate, but also enjoys her down time listening to music or attending Bingo or Book Club at her local Association for the Blind. Phyllis has one son, 4 grandchildren, and is very excited to say she has one great-grandchild on the way!
How would you describe your guide dog? “He is a great dog. When he is off-harness he loves to play, but when he’s working he means business. When I pick up the harness, he gets really focused, which I like. When Leonard’s in the harness, wagging his tail and looking up at me, I think that’s so cute.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Before I got my first dog from here, I attended a Guiding Eyes graduation when my cousin got his first guide dog and I really liked the atmosphere. I met some of the Instructors and they were really great, and that’s what made me decide to apply.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “Just the freedom of being able to get up and go without having to worry about poles or mailboxes or tripping over the sidewalk. I’m looking forward to bringing him home, having him learn the area and play in the backyard. I want Leonard to just be Leonard.”
Were there any training highlights? “Leonard is so loving and he makes me laugh. He loves to wag his tail and be affectionate. I can tell that he really loves me. When I call him, he runs right to me and puts his nose in my hand.”
Congratulations to Leonard’s Puppy Raisers, Lee Dillon and Family!
Graduate Team: Rachel and Nemo
About the Team: Nemo, a male black Lab, is Rachel’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Monrovia, Maryland
Rachel serves as Drum Major in a competitive marching band, which travels far and wide for competitions including the Grand National Championships. Although this takes up much of her time, Rachel also enjoys Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo and is a bronze and silver medalist. Entering her senior year of high school in the fall, Rachel hopes to study science, and possibly minor in music, when she heads off to college. She can’t wait to take Nemo back home to start learning his new environment.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Nemo is the best. He has this awesome, quirky way of sitting under a chair, so sometimes I jokingly call him my frog boy – he’s so adorable. He is such a spitfire too, so happy to see me every morning, and I love that. We both walk really fast, so we’re good for each other.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve loved dogs ever since I was three years old. I’ve had a cane in my hand since I could walk and wanted to look into trying something else. I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of friends with guide dogs before starting this process, so I was really sure that this was the right path for me.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I remember the first route we did off the support leash. I gave the command to cross and there was a car turning onto our street I wasn’t aware of. Nemo did not let me cross and that just confirmed that he knows his stuff and he was looking out for me. Our connection gets stronger every time we put the harness on and he loves it. He can’t wait to put his nose in the harness.”
Were there any training highlights? “Nemo is one of those dogs that understands a concept the first time you show it to him. We were targeting a chair in the lobby one day and when I turned around to put him in a heel, he immediately started targeting another chair. It was so funny. He knew I wanted to target a chair, and he was going to keep doing that until he made me happy!”
Congratulations to Nemo’s Puppy Raisers, Tamra and Jim Mooney!
Meet the Home Training Graduates
Graduate Team: Christian and Chance
About the Team: Chance, a male yellow Lab, is Christian’s 2nd guide dog
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Christian comes to our school for his first Guiding Eyes dog, Chance. Having retired his first dog, he is happy to have the assistance and companionship of a guide dog once again. A former marathon runner, Christian loves to go for walks with his dog. He has been looking forward to regaining the independence that comes with improved mobility and ease of travel in everyday life.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Chance is a really good dog with a good memory. He likes to work.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had a guide dog before, but when it was time to get my next dog I needed a school that could help me with my special needs. I have balance and other issues besides being blind, so I was told Guiding Eyes’ program would be good for me.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I like to go for walks and now I can do more of them. I feel like I have more independence walking with a dog.”
Were there any training highlights? “There is a place near me that I wanted to go to, but it had many obstacles in the way leading to the door. I didn’t know if we could do it, but I told him to take me to the door and he took me right to it.”
Congratulations to Chance’s Puppy Raiser, Gayle A. Papesh!