Meet the members of our most recent training class who graduated successfully on June 19, 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.
Sarah Alawami and Gatsby
Sarah Alawami is a multi-talented, vivacious 21 year old from Las Vegas, Nevada. She has been blind since her premature birth. Sarah learned about Guiding Eyes from a former graduate and, upon further inquiry, knew instantly that this was the place for her. Sarah has an impressive list of interests and activities including being an accomplished vocalist, cellist and pianist. She is presently a student of the Community College of South Nevada, and hopes someday to become a high school choir teacher. Sarah is looking forward to Gatsby’s help as she makes her way among the buildings and through the hallways at school. Although awakened every morning at 5:30 by a gentle but persistent “nose nudge,” Sarah says she has a lot of fun with Gatsby as every day brings more and more confidence in her new companion’s ability to love and to lead.
Julaine Arient-Rollman and Sable
It’s somewhat unusual when a married couple comes together to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, but such is the case with Julaine Arient-Rollman and her husband Ken Rollman (see below), both left-handers who are enrolled in the June class. Julaine and Ken met in January, 1965 at an NCASB wrestling tournament held at the Braille and Sight Saving School (IBSSS) in Jacksonville, IL. Athletic and muscular, Ken was on the South Dakota School for the Blind wrestling team; pretty, petite and blond, Julaine was a cheer leader for IBSSS. Wow. The two courted, became engaged, married and ultimately settled in Rapid City, South Dakota which is now their home. Julaine and Ken put their personal partnership to work for others, forming an embossing business, called J & K Gatorbumps ( inspired by Florida’s alligators). Neither Julaine nor Ken has had a guide dog before. They both agree that their new companions, Sable and Hoover, will enhance their daily lives with more freedom and independence. Julaine was born congenitally blind and an Albino and her hearing has substantially lessened as the years have gone by. She is an outgoing, perfectionist-type whose personality suits her well in her work as a Rehabilitation Counselor. Julaine earned her Masters Degree from the University of Florida in Vocational Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling. Julaine describes Sable as patient, precious and a well-behaved “good girl.” She says her new companion will be especially helpful in enabling her to cross busy streets and to carry on her professional life more effectively. During her Guiding Eyes training, she especially treasured her experiences at the Jefferson Valley Mall where Sable seemed to enjoy window shopping (as did she) – the Pet Shop in particular.
Ken Rollman and Hoover
Ken Rollman has been blind since his premature birth. Ken describes Hoover’s personality as a bit of a “couch potato,” but says he is always ready to obediently support his master and to get to work. Hoover has a truncated tail, which he uses to express joy and ecstasy with all the more exuberance. Ken is a Braille instructor in the South Dakota Public School system, and has attended many classes in order to translate notes into Braille for his students. Ken described the dynamics of the June class at Guiding Eyes, as “ great” and applauded the tone set by the instructors and trainers.
Joey Lee Couch and Iroquois
Joey Lee Couch hails from Busy, Kentucky. Despite its name, Joey admits that “Busy” is just a post office designation not even a town. Joey is a recent graduate of the Kentucky School for the Blind. He said Guiding Eyes received excellent recommendations from his school and his research of our website and conversations with friends reinforced everything they said. Joey has been blind since birth. He describes himself as a happy and willing helper. Joey has a 14 year old brother and also volunteered at his school as a “Big Brother.” Speaking, with obvious affection for his new Guiding Eyes companion, Joey describes Iroquois as a “sniffer and licker” who loves to play and check everything out and is a stick-to-it dog when it comes to a task. Joey is a computer whiz and hopes to enter Hazard Community College and major in Business Management. Waking up with Iroquois’s cold nose on his face at 5:30 every morning remains a minor issue for Joey, but it’s worth it given the love and trust that he gets as well.
Jana Duncan and Beatrice
As a mother of three young boys, Jana Duncan admits that her training at Guiding Eyes have been more like a vacation for her. Her sons, each named for a Bible character, John (14), David (8) and Timothy (5) are upright and well-behaved young men, but do give her “a run for the money” once in a while. Jana wanted to get a guide dog to increase her personal independence and to make herself more available and helpful to her boys. She did some research and was attracted to Guiding Eyes because she believed that it was an excellent school and supplied great dogs. Jana describes herself as a devotee of the Scriptures, who cares about other people; she admits to being “not too organized,” but quite artistic which leads her to productive indulgences such as needlepoint, creating scrapbooks and table centerpieces. Beatrice has proven her mettle. She is obedient. When wanting attention, she shakes her paw at Jana – and uses a big sloppy lick in the face and a firm tail thump to wake her new mistress up in the morning – hopefully, not before 6 o’clock. Describing the June class as “great,” Jana will return home a happier and satisfied woman with her new helpmate, Beatrice.
Jim Flanagan and Easter
James (Jim) Flanagan was an ACTION (Accelerated Client Training Option) student from Hamburg, New York. Easter is Jim’s third guide dog from Guiding Eyes. His decision to come to the school was influenced by the Buffalo Commission for the Blind. Jim, now a youthful 47, became blind at the age of 25 from diabetes. One of twelve children, Jim has been happily married five years after a “courtship” of 15. Jim loves music (especially Blue Grass), and most sports like football, basketball and hockey. He describes Easter as quiet, obedient and very well trained. She confirmed her devotion to him when they first met, licking him from head to toe (well, almost). Jim said that the June Class and Instructors were the best yet! He was sorry that he was only with the Class for the one week scheduled in the ACTION program.
John Murphy and Fairbanks
John Murphy lives in lovely Newport, Rhode Island. He was advised by his mobility instructor to come to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. At the age of 56, John has a jolly, swarthy look about him, is sociable, enjoys talking with folks and tries to view life on the bright side. At present, he lives by himself and is a self- described “homemaker, dishwasher, and dedicated worker.” He gathered a bit of experience during his early years with five siblings. At home, he enjoys weekends with his girlfriend, visiting local restaurants and attending church. An avid consumer of food, John describes the food at the Yorktown Heights campus as “great“ – often worthy of second helpings. Fairbanks is John’s first guide dog. John describes him as “having a mind of his own, stubborn, but very loveable.” Fairbanks wakes his master by nudging his feet with his wet nose. It does the trick. Fairbanks will be a welcome companion and guide as John takes his frequent walks on the beaches of Newport.
Summer Salz and Lark
Pomona, New York – just across the Hudson River from Yorktown Heights is presently the home of Summer Bourne Salz. Summer is enjoying her first experience at Guiding Eyes for the Blind and her new companion, Lark – a bubbly, energetic, smart, intuitive dog. Legally blind since birth, Summer is a cool, calm, collected young woman who has an earnest interest in people and their “stories.” She is a graduate of Vassar and Harvard, and just spent nine months in France. Summer is aiming toward a career in elementary (arts) education and longs to be involved with children and to touch their young lives in a meaningful way. In speaking about the June class, Summer found the camaraderie great, the instructors incredible and the dogs amazing! She said, with sincerity and great enthusiasm, that her training period at the Yorktown Heights facility was not only valuable, but extraordinaire!!! Oui, Oui, mademoiselle!
Steven Slatter and Kaiser
Steven Slatter, a handsome recent high school grad is a man of few words, but strong convictions. He came to Guiding Eyes for the Blind from Hitchcock, Texas, following the advice of his friends, who described the Yorktown Heights school as being “the very best.” Born with Usher Syndrome, which rendered him deaf and blind, Steven is today a very happy, ebullient and positive young man. Modern medicine and technology have modified Steven’s hearing loss so that he is able to interact well socially. He describes Kaiser as “wonderful” and actually loves his lick-on-the-face wakeup call every morning. Steven describes his class colleagues as being a humorous, communicative, inside-joke-kind of group – who take the time to talk problems out. Instructors? Awesome!! Steven will attend his area’s Community College, and hopes to further his education to some day to become an Assembly of God, Pentecostal or Baptist minister.
Martha Tersero and Fan
Martha Tersero, from Waldorf, Maryland now has a devoted Fan all of her own! That’s right. After a three-year hiatus, Martha now has her second dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Fan. Martha first learned about Guiding Eyes from the Buffalo Commission for the Blind. She is presently a Music Education major at the University of Maryland and, someday, would like to teach at the elementary school level. She is the mother of a 14-year old and assesses her own persona as family-oriented, helpful, interested in others, a good listener, opinionated and spiritually, God-centered. She describes Fan’s personality as extremely eager to work, combined with a total abandon to play and frolic – a great mix. Martha said she never heard Fan bark . . . . that is until the night pizza was delivered. Fan got a WHIFF of it and responded with a strong and loud WOOF! The first time Martha left Fan alone in their room, she was met with an active and noisy “Where in the world did you go – I missed you!” greeting upon her return. It was endearing. The June class, Martha says, is really “connected.” She especially appreciates the current training: its increased breadth of commands, innovative methods, thoroughness and of course, the wonderful instructors.
Paul Trebilcock and Nugget
Paul Trebilcock is a young man, determined to enjoy a happy and productive life amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City, despite his advancing blindness and other physical problems. After thorough research, Paul came to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for his first guide dog. He feels that Nugget will indeed be worth her weight in gold in every way – as guide, street companion and close buddy. Paul was born with a condition diagnosed as Laurence-Moom-Biedl Syndrome and he well remembers a childhood filled with his earnest efforts to cope with related learning challenges. Paul was also a born heir to a recognized artistic heritage and so was a “natural” at singing, dancing and playing instruments, which included the dulcimer, violin, cello, and piano; Paul also reads Braille. Nugget, although not a musician, will accompany her new master on his piano-tuning appointments in New York City, traveling on the city’s above-ground transit. One of Paul’s favorite winter pastimes is skiing in Colorado. (You’ve got your work cut out for you, Nugget.) Paul said he learned a lot about getting along with people during his stay at Guiding Eyes where he was surrounded by a friendly and supportive class and skilled, compassionate and patient instructors.
Richard Walker and Jared
Richard Walker came to Guiding Eyes from Elyria, Ohio. Acclaimed as “the elder statesman” of his June class, Dick boasts of his wife of 40 years, two children and six grandchildren. He first heard of Guiding Eyes through Mrs. See, who works in the Yorktown Heights campus kitchen, and whom he had met on frequent camping trips. Diagnosed with RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa) at the age of 28, Dick describes himself as being outgoing, a “kidder,” and a people person. Jared is a good complement to his master: he is smart, intelligent, and loves to play. Formerly a machine operator, Dick has now committed himself to walking five miles per day. He knows that Jared will keep him from tripping into strollers, stumbling over children’s playthings, downed branches, and other obstacles in the small city’s sidewalks. “Overwhelming, nice people, non flustered, outstanding” were words that tumbled out as Dick’s descriptions of the June class and its instructors. . and oh yes – the volunteers! “That someone would take me shopping at night to fulfill my own personal needs is absolutely incredible!”
Toni Whaley and Quincy
Toni Whaley came to Guiding Eyes from Ardmore, PA and, as a highly experienced Guide Dog user, attended the school’s ACTION (Accelerated Client Training Option) program. Quincy is Toni’s fifth dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind and was the only Golden Retriever in the June class. Toni, sightless since birth, has been married for 32 years and has a 28-year-old daughter. Self-described as “shy in a big group, but friendly one-on-one,” Toni is most straightforward. She majored in Psychology in college, but now enjoys her job as an independent computer consultant. Describing her life without a guide dog, then with one, she said “it was like moving from a stick shift to cruise control.” Among her favorite activities, she lists boating, knitting, camping, travel, watching baseball and football games and attending the Philadelphia Symphony. (Did I leave anything out?) Toni says that each one of her former guide dogs has displayed a distinct personality. While still getting to know Quincy, she has determined that he likes to work, is very calm and dependably obedient and alert. When Quincy wants her attention, he puts his paw on her arm. Toni is looking forward to meeting Quincy’s puppy raisers in Buffalo soon.
Thanks June Graduates Martha Tersero, Sarah Alawami and Summer Bourne Salz somehow found time between training sessions to produce a remarkable musical tribute to the Puppy Raisers who raised their Guiding Eyes dogs. Remarkably, the three women had never met before the class. They quickly discovered their shared love of music and began working together to produce the tribute which you can enjoy by using the audio link below. Special thanks to Moon Rocks Entertainment LLC which volunteered their recording studio and production expertise in creating this recording. Visit their website at http://www.moonrocksentertainment.com/.