June 2018 Graduating Class
JUNE 2018 GRADUATING CLASS
Wishing many years of safe and happy travels to Carleton and Rasha and all the graduating teams of the June 2018 class.
-Mary Lee and Tom Walton
Congratulations to Pat and Hogan and the June 2018 graduating class. May you have many safe steps and successful journeys and adventures together.
-Larry, Vicki Dean & Jeanne Dregalla
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.
Congratulations to our graduating class!
- Carleton & Rasha (P)
- Chaz & Tricia
- Dave & Denver
- Dee Dee & Flash
- Mackenzie & Felix
- Maryann & Lopey (S)
- Ta’Lia & Kirby (P)
- Tony & Walter
ACTION Training Graduates:
- Patrick & Hogan
- Tanner & Wes
Home Training Graduates:
- Cheyenne & Wendy
- Donna & Eldon
- MaryAnn & Delilah
Many thanks to our Training Staff:
- Class Supervisor: Jolene Hollister
- Class Instructors: Nikki Went, Shannon McGee
- ACTION Instructor: Chrissy Vetrano
- Apprentice Instructor: Marybeth Heady
- Instructor Assistant: Amy Sander
- Running Guides Specialist: Nick Speranza
- Special Needs Instructor: Jessy DiNapoli
- Field Representative: Michael Goehring
- Field Representative: Dave Hagemann
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: Lopey was Special Named by Andrea Conner
Meet the Residential Graduates:
Graduate Team: Carleton and Rasha
About Rasha: Rasha is a female black lab and Carleton’s first guide dog
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Carleton, a recently retired Foreign Service Officer, spent his career serving overseas and in Washington, DC, learning several languages and cultures along the way. He now makes his home in Seattle, where family and friends are nearby, the scenery is rich, and dogs are welcome. Carleton looks forward to taking the city by storm with Rasha, exploring the wider region, perfecting his guitar skills, and volunteering his time with a citizenship class and other efforts.
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Now that I’ve retired, I get to settle down in Seattle. I’m really looking forward to uncovering new layers of the city with Rasha. She’ll experience it differently than I will, and that will help me experience it in new ways as well. I’m also looking forward to visiting friends around the country with her.”
A highlight of training: “Meeting Rasha and getting to work with her. She’s a wonderful match. I’m over the moon and can’t wait to explore more of Seattle together. She and I are going to go everywhere.”
What makes my relationship with Rasha special: “Rasha and I just click in terms of our energy. Guiding Eyes did a great job in matching us. We’re learning how to read each other, and we walk and play well together. When she’s working, she’s focused on the job, and when she’s not working, she’s just easy to hang out with. I’ve already discovered that she likes classical guitar better than harmonica, which is good because I play guitar! It’s serendipity.”
How would you say having a guide dog has changed your life? “I’m not much of a couch potato, so I expect to be really active with her. Seattle is an inviting place for that, so we will be out there taking on the streets and trails. Going out with her will also make us more approachable. With a cane, people who don’t know me have a range of reactions; they’re wary and distant. Having Rasha will open up doors for me to meet neighbors and make new friends. I feel like I’ve only just begun.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Guiding Eyes is very careful in preparing our guides, from breeding through the puppy raising to the training of the dogs. I think they put real thought into matching the right dog with the right student. The training has also been practical and focused on ensuring our dogs can work together in the environments we’re going home to, which differ for each student. I feel confident about the ongoing support that’s been promised to help keep our dogs healthy and in tune with us after we leave. I respect that the school provides support toward vet services and the like. It’s also great that you have a good donor base that allows you to continue your mission in this way.”
Congratulations to Rasha’s puppy raisers, Barbara and Dick Lippert!
Graduate Team: Chaz and Tricia
About Tricia: Tricia is a black Labrador Retriever and Chaz’s first guide dog
Hometown: Littleton, Colorado
An avid runner for 10 years, Chaz became involved in the Paralympic Games in 2015 after he started losing his sight. He has since traveled across the country to compete, holding three American records and, most recently, was named the 2018 United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) Men’s Marathon Champion. Chaz graduated from the Guiding Eyes Running Guides program and looks forward to this new chapter in his life with Tricia as he pursues his master’s degree in social work to help people with disabilities. “Incorporating [Tricia] into my everyday life will give me motivation to keep pursuing higher goals.”
What makes my relationship with Tricia special: “The first day Tricia and I met each other we immediately bonded, so much so that we’re inseparable now. She’s a smart girl and willing to do anything at the drop of a hat. She never shows opposition to anything. I’m very active and she’s active, too.”
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I don’t like the stigma of using a cane. I previously used one, and I’m looking forward to doing my own thing and having people pay more attention to her and not me. Also, when I run, I don’t feel as independent. Running with someone is cool, but when I’m running with Tricia, I feel more independent and that I am in control.”
A highlight of training: “The whole experience has been awesome. I ran six miles with Tricia yesterday on a trail and we had to navigate a lot of people. They’re only looking out for themselves. A biker came directly at us and she knew exactly what to do. It’s been interesting watching Tricia navigate through difficult areas, especially while having hard decisions to make.”
How would you say having a guide dog has changed your life so far? “I see Tricia as a companion. I can bring her anywhere with me, and she wants to go everywhere. Being able to take care of her and offer her as much as she offers me will be a great thing. We’ll both go through difficult days and have days that are good, as well. It’ll be awesome to be there for one another.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “It’s wonderful. The fact that it runs exclusively on donations speaks to the quality of the organization. Everyone is committed to its success and the goal of matching us with a dog so we can live more independent and productive lives. It’s so organized and clean and welcoming.”
What would you say to someone who is considering Guiding Eyes? “It’s a big commitment and a lot to consider. But once you make the jump, it can be one of the most rewarding parts of your life journey. In just the two weeks I have been here, I’ve felt happier. There aren’t many creatures out there that have unconditional love for a human like these dogs do and I think it’s just wonderful. With responsibility comes great reward.”
Anything else you’d like to add? “I’d like to add how friendly the staff is and how welcoming they are. They do a lot, and they approach everything with poise. It speaks to their character. We get to come here for free and get world-class services.”
Congratulations to Tricia’s puppy raiser, Leslie Huppke!
*Chaz graduated from the Guiding Eyes Running Guides program
Graduate Team: Dave and Denver
About Denver: Denver, a male Labrador Retriever, is Dave’s first guide dog
Hometown: Langley, British Columbia
As a retired truck driver, Dave spent much of his career traveling across North America, having had many unique experiences and having met many different people. But after training at Guiding Eyes and being matched with his guide dog, Denver, he feels as though his life has been changed in ways he never thought. “He’s a continuation of [my last dog] EZZ. I’m a better person and a better human being with this dog. This sounds strange, but it’s true. I feel that closeness with him already. He calms me and soothes me. I can feel the change in me.”
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Now that I have a guide dog, I want to help other people who are newly blind. I want to do volunteer work through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. I love children, so I want talk to them, show them Denver, and teach them the right way to approach a working dog. I’m also looking forward to getting around more and being more secure in doing it. I can expand my horizons. I’ve always been independent, and I missed that when I lost my vision. Even when taking the bus, I can go further now and into Vancouver. Denver will be my best friend and also my independence. Once I take the harness out, his tail is wagging and he’s ready to rock!”
A highlight of training: “The people, and my dog of course. My favorite thing about being here was all of the staff. To see this many kind and genuine people all in one place, it’s like I’m on another planet.”
What makes my relationship with Denver special: “It’s unbelievable how smart the dogs are. I’ve been alone all my life. I used to have a pet Rottweiler, EZZ, and it was like we used to share a brain. Well, I think that got passed on to Denver. He is so loving and caring. I really think EZZ came back as Denver. Our relationship is symbiotic. It’s not just that I feed him and he helps me out. He wants affection and touch and friendship and companionship. I can’t believe how close we are in such a short amount of time. Everyone at home is looking forward to meeting him – the staff at the restaurants I go to, my doctors, my neighbors.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I would do anything to help the growth of this school. The experience, the dogs, the people – it blows me away. ‘Recommend’ isn’t an adjective that even comes close to describing how I feel. The staff are so dedicated and so much goes into the dogs. Everyone is so nice and the trainers genuinely care about you.”
What would you say to someone who is considering Guiding Eyes? “Get on a plane and come here. I talked to other schools and none of them presented themselves as professionally and genuinely nice as Guiding Eyes did. They’re angels. It astounds me how the staff understands exactly what I need. Every student has a dog that exactly matches their mentality and needs. Everyone that works here is here because they want to be and you’re met with open arms when you arrive.”
Congratulations to Denver’s puppy raisers, Liz and Maggie Beller!
Graduate Team: Dee Dee and Flash
About Flash: Flash, a German Shepherd, is her first guide dog
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
When Dee Dee heads to Texas Women’s University to study social work this fall, she already knows she’ll love her roommate: her first guide dog Flash. She’s looking forward to the connections that come with having a guide dog: “With a cane people just think: ‘she’s blind,’ and there are no emotions attached. With a dog, it will be easier to start a conversation with ‘oh that’s a cute dog!’”
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m really excited to introduce Flash to my family and friends, and to the independence that I can have when I get home. I’m so used to going places with my mom and my sister because I’m not comfortable. With him it’s different – there’s just an emotional factor here.”
Why a guide dog? “My mom first brought it to my attention, but I kept putting it off since I still have some vision. When I was about to graduate, I started to look into it, and a friend of mine was applying to guide dog schools so I decided to do the same. I thought I wouldn’t be accepted because I am not fully blind, so I was really excited when I heard I was accepted to Guiding Eyes.”
A highlight of training: “When we started to trust each other. At first, I wanted to use my cane (I keep it in my backpack because I’m so used to it), but when we went on a night travel I realized I can really trust this dog. He wants to protect me. When I first heard we were going out at night, I was really nervous because I can’t see at all at night. He did great and by the end of it I thought, ‘Ok, I can do another round!’ Now I’m not worried anymore, and when I’m home I’ll actually be able to go out at night!”
What makes my relationship with my dog special: “I love saying ‘Flash, forward!’ I think the fact that he is my first guide dog is a big deal, because we’re both building this relationship together for the first time. I’ve never dealt with a guide dog and I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone. We both look out for each other – I have to feed him, groom him, make sure he’s healthy – and in return I get guided and protected. It’s a real give and take.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I love Guiding Eyes. The application process was really quick and easy, and never confusing. It’s such an easy process and the staff are so genuinely nice. You can tell they care about the dogs and the people. They take really good care of us and I can’t believe it’s free! From the kitchen staff to the nurse to the trainers – everybody is just so great.”
What made you choose Guiding Eyes? “First the location – it’s nice to get out of Texas! Also, the option of getting a German shepherd. And the school has such good reviews – I haven’t heard anything bad about it. Even just calling the front desk, everyone is so nice and answered all of my questions. The customer service is so good, and that’s a big factor for me.”
Impact Flash will have on me: “Having a guide dog will make me more willing to go to new places. And of course, the independence factor. Even for my mom, I feel like it will make her more comfortable with me going out and doing things. It’s important to help her think: ‘she’s visually impaired, but she’s alright.’”
Congratulations to Flash’s puppy raisers, The Schatz Family!
Graduate Team: Mackenzie and Felix
About Felix: Felix is a male German Shepard and his third guide dog, but first from Guiding Eyes.
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
“I’m just a guy who is very happy to have a Guiding Eyes dog.” Mackenzie credits Felix with having made him more independent, confident, and at ease. An accomplished student with degrees in art and criminal justice, Mackenzie plans to follow his passion and start his own business of flipping houses. He looks forward to returning home so Felix can help him travel better at night and keep him safe as he takes real estate seminars and works at achieving his goals.
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Felix being able to do his job and keep me safe. I can’t wait to get back into my routine and having Felix learn my city and routes. I’m also hoping to be a better handler this time around than with my previous guide dogs.”
A highlight of training: “A highlight of training has been taking what I already knew from my last guide dog school and combining that with new information and training techniques here. Another highlight was riding the escalators. Felix was wonderful with the escalator training compared to my previous dogs. I feel safe enough to take him on escalators now without either of us getting injured.”
What makes my relationship with Felix special: “I can make the slightest move and Felix is right there. He lets me know when he really wants to be near me and also when he wants to play. We immediately bonded on the first day we met. He got right up in my business and was really happy!”
How would you say having a guide dog has changed your life? “Getting a guide dog has made my life more independent. Walking with a cane, you walk a lot slower and you’re not as sure of yourself. You can run into overhangs. But with a dog, he sees everything. He keeps you out of trouble and safe. I became more independent.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “It’s a well-run organization and everyone really cares for you — from the nursing department to admissions to the vet. Speaking of, I’ve never seen a dog so willing to go to the vet! Felix was like: ‘Hurry up! Come on, let’s go!’ He didn’t whine or anything. It was overall a wonderful experience. If I ever need another guide dog, this is the first place I will come. I know that if something is going on with my dog down the road, I can call a trainer and know they will take care of me.”
Congratulations to Felix’s puppy raisers, Janelle James and Becky Little!
Graduate Team: Maryann and Lopey
About Lopey: Lopey is a female black lab and Maryann’s first guide dog
Hometown: Gardiner, New York
Since Maryann was 13 years old, she had always thought about getting a guide dog. It wasn’t until her three-year-old brother told her that a car was about to hit them as they walked through a parking lot that she finally decided to get a guide dog. Now paired with Lopey, she feels that she’s finally looking up again and seeing the world. “I know her job is to look at the ground for me. It’s like a weight is lifted off of my shoulders.”
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m a current college student, so traveling around campus and not having to worry about falling down stairs, running into police dogs or pedestrians, or getting hit by cars. I get around a lot by my parents, but I’m looking forward to more freedom and going out with my friends. I also have no vision in the dark, so traveling at night and going to restaurants will be easier. I can’t wait to move forward with my degree once I graduate and start new chapters in life together with Lopey. This summer I’ll also be working at a day camp as a counselor and she will be coming with me. I even bought her a travel water bottle and freezy toy to keep cool!”
A highlight of training: “The trainers, for sure. Nikki and Jolene are excellent. They always make us laugh and it’s always a new surprise every day. I like knowing that there are no right or wrong questions here. Any question I have is okay to ask, even something simple like if my dog’s collar is on backwards or not. And everyone from the kitchen staff to the nursing staff is excellent. I wouldn’t imagine going anywhere else for my future guide dogs.”
What makes my relationship with my dog special: “There is an entrance going into my campus that is difficult to navigate and I would bump into every time. But the first time I grabbed onto Lopey’s harness and she passed the entrance without bumping into it at all, and then got me successfully around a building, I was like ‘Wow. Okay, this is my life now.’ I had tears coming down my face. She is just so sweet and calm like I am. She’s conscious like I am, too, and always checks in with me. Every morning when she gets up, she grabs her bone and brings it right over to me. She’s a big lap dog.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “They’re wonderful. Amazing. The trainers are excellent. Nikki did a phenomenal job training Lopey, and Jolene is always keeping us on our toes. When I was nervous, especially about night travel, the trainers would make me feel at ease by making us laugh. Even the kitchen staff — no matter how much of a stubborn eater you are, and I’m the most stubborn eater — they made sure you ate and took care of you.”
What would you say to someone who is considering a guide dog? “Do your research. There are so many guide dog schools out there. Look for the ones that do not make you pay for their services and run on donations and volunteers. You will walk away with great training and so many supplies from Guiding Eyes at no cost.”
Congratulations to Lopey’s puppy raisers, The Sander Family!
Graduate Team: Ta’Lia and Kirby
About Kirby: Kirby is Ta’Lia’s first guide dog
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Ta’Lia, originally from a small town outside of Houston, Texas, recalls how tough it was relying on a cane since a very young age. Now paired with her first guide dog, Kirby, she looks forward to having a new companion as she pursues a license in massage therapy and eventually, going on to law school. “My independence will grow now that I have Kirby. I used to be embarrassed about being blind, but having Kirby will help me open up and get out more.”
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m looking forward to having a good experience with Kirby, not just as a guide dog but as a companion. I’ve always been a closed person and don’t really talk to people. I’m hoping he’ll help me open up, start conversations, and make new friends. Even if Kirby has his harness on, people will come up to me and ask me about him rather than thinking, ‘oh, she’s blind’ and avoiding me.”
A highlight of training: “The first day we got our dogs. It wasn’t even training, it was more of a bonding session. Once they brought the dog to your room, it made this whole experience real. It was the happiest I’ve been so far. All I could think was, ‘This is real. This is really happening!’”
What makes my relationship with my dog special: “I feel like Kirby is a lot like me. He has his moments where he can be lazy, but then he wants to be social and play. We relate and we’re very similar. If I’m laying down, he is. If he’s playing, so am I. I feel like we’re well connected even though we’ve only been together for three weeks.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I love Guiding Eyes. I saw great reviews when I was doing my research and read great things on their website. I also like that they have a trainer that will come out and check on you and your dog after you graduate.”
Congratulations to Kirby’s puppy raiser, Katie Maley!
Graduate Team: Tony and Walter
About Walter: Walter, a male black Labrador Retriever, is Tony’s first guide dog
Hometown: Chatham, Virginia
When Tony went blind 24 years ago, he felt that he had lost the ability to do some of the things he once loved, like working out and playing sports. It was his strong desire to exercise more that made him decide to make the switch from using a cane to getting a guide dog. After being paired and training with Walter, Tony feels they were meant to be together since the day he left to come to Guiding Eyes.
What makes my relationship with Walter special: “Walter has the same name as my grandfather. Then it turned out that the man who picked me up to come here — his name was Walter, too. We’re meant to be together. The first day we went to train in White Plains, he got right in my lap while we were in the van on our way there. Walter twisted around toward me and put his head right on my chest. It meant a lot.”
What are you most looking forward to about returning home? “Seeing my lovely wife. We got married nine years ago and haven’t really been apart more than four days, so I’m definitely looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to exercising with Walter and getting to do more walking with him.”
What was a highlight of your training here? “How kind all the trainers, assistants, and kitchen staff are. Also, how nice the accommodations are! It’s like you come here to get a dog and end up getting a nice vacation out of it while you’re here. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
What would you say to someone who is considering coming to Guiding Eyes for the Blind? “Make sure you go on a diet before you arrive. You are VERY well fed here! All joking aside, it’s just so wonderful here. Everyone is kind and it’s a nice place to come to. I’m so impressed with how much they care for everyone. Any problem or issue that you have, the staff works directly with you and your specific needs.”
Congratulations to Walter’s puppy raisers, Alice Wheelock, Tiffany Tomaselli and Eric Charnley!
Meet the ACTION Training Graduates:
Graduate Team: Patrick and Hogan
About Hogan: Hogan, a yellow Lab, is Pat’s fourth Guiding Eyes guide dog. His previous dogs were Nina (9 years), Pepe (7 years), and Galahad (just retired)
Hometown: Washington, DC
This DC resident with an established career in public policy knows that having a guide dog isn’t all work and no play; in fact, his adventures with his previous guide dog have become fodder for his amateur stand-up comedy routine with DC Improv! Whether he’s headed to work on Capitol Hill, taking the stage at an open-mic night, or pursuing his interests in amateur bodybuilding, Patrick is always in search of another great story to tell with his guide dog in tow.
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I really like the way Hogan works; he’s very precise and confident, and I like his pace. I’m excited to see how that adapts to my environment – living on Capitol Hill I have a mix of suburban areas with busy spots like Pennsylvania Avenue. I’m excited to see him mix into the community, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he melds into my life.”
A highlight of training: “After Hogan himself, the highlight would be the people. Chrissy, my trainer, has been great. I’ve had a long-time friendship with Tom [Panek] as well as other trainers like Graham, Dell, Nick, Shanon, and Jolene. I did one home training with my second dog, but if I can make it back here I always try to. It’s all about the people and the dogs.”
What makes my relationship with Hogan special: “He’s Mr. Good-Time! When you transition from one dog to the other, it’s really hard. So his fun side makes it a little easier. I really like his energy. I tell him ‘I applaud your enthusiasm!’”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Guiding Eyes for the Blind is an amazing organization. I am always impressed at how they are on the cutting edge of guide dog training. Their leadership, dog trainers and instructors, and the entire staff are focused on empowering the successful guide dog team.”
Anything else you’d like to add? “The level of service from top to bottom – whether it be getting here, getting matched, getting trained, eating here, making sure you have what you need to get some work done here. And then when you leave, the trainers are still so accessible and willing to help. You have this service from right at the beginning to all the way to the end. I just think that it’s extraordinary to have that kind of service at a school.”
Congratulations to Hogan’s puppy raisers, The Larry Dean Family and Jeanne Dregalla!
Graduate Team: Tanner and Wes
About Wes: Wes, a yellow Lab, is Tanner’s third guide dog, and his first from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Tanner, who is the executive director of a non-profit focused on digital accessibility, came to Guiding Eyes for the accelerated ACTION program as an experienced guide dog user. This soon-to-be-dad who plans to go through Running Guides training in the coming months, says he knows the impact of a guide dog in “establishing common ground that allows two people to be on the same plane, rather than one person wondering, worrying, or observing and not really being able to connect because of this thing they call the ‘white cane.’”
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “With a guide dog, the social stigmas and antiquated beliefs seem to get forgotten. The difference between a white cane and a guide is a guide dog instantly creates common ground with public, which reduces fear and anxiety about engagement. This being my third guide dog, I’ve seen the before, after, and in between of what happens when you have a dog and when you don’t. That also translates to the professional environment. Whether people are in a suit or on the sidewalk, a dog is an ice breaker. It creates a sense of unity.”
A highlight of training: “The trainers are next level. The experience, the accommodations, the entire staff. They really make you feel at home and that your needs are attended to. It’s incredible how supportive everybody is and how they want your dog and your relationship with the dog to be the best fit possible.”
What makes my relationship with my dog special: “He’s a gentle giant, and very, very loving. I think like other relationships between handlers and dogs, it’s all about the trust. It’s something that develops organically and really quickly. At the end of the day, the dogs are making decisions on a routine basis that our lives depend on. So for us to bond so quickly and organically, plus the fact that he’s such a care bear, makes me feel better.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I’m having my first baby later this summer, and what’s made Guiding Eyes so special is that they’ve really been attentive to my needs and the things that make my life unique. They’ve found the right animal and the right training to accommodate that. All guide dog schools have the same goal for a guide dog to support you in a more independent life, but not everyone’s life is the same, and Guiding Eyes gave that a lot of care, attention, and accommodation. I’m a jokester and I like to have fun – comedy and laughing has been so therapeutic since losing my vision. It’s been nice to be welcomed for who I am and to come out of my shell a little more. It’s such a diverse group, and it’s just been nice to feel comfortable being myself here.”
The impact of a guide dog: “In July 2005, I got my first guide dog; I had just been blind over a year at that point, and I decided to get a guide dog because the rate at which I was trying to accelerate as a blind person was faster than my mobility skills could accommodate. A dog provides more independence and confidence in my ability to mobilize through work, school, and life.”
Congratulations to Wes’ puppy raiser, Megumi Murao!
Meet the Home Training Graduates:
Graduate Team: Cheyenne and Wendy
About Wendy: Wendy is a female black lab and Cheyenne’s first guide dog
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Cheyenne, a husband and father to two sons, is no fan of flying, so he was thrilled to learn that Guiding Eyes offers Home Training. Cheyenne fondly talks of Guiding Eyes as matching him with the perfect dog. Wendy not only provides him with companionship, but is even getting along with their cat, Lelo. She recently was given the nickname “Winni” after Winnie the Pooh, who also happened to hail from Winnipeg!
What I’m most looking forward to about working with my guide dog: “Definitely the mobility aspect of being able to just throw on my shoes and go out on my own now. I was comfortable with using a cane, but I didn’t like having to feel around with it and the possibility of hitting others with it. Wendy lets me know when someone is there and helps me safely get around construction sites when I’m walking on sidewalks. I’m also more comfortable riding a bus now.”
A highlight of training: “The highlight of my training was getting to know Wendy. We bonded within five minutes of her being here. She walked in the door, came over to me, and hasn’t left my side since. We go everywhere together. The bond and the friendship that we have is unbelievable. It’s really rewarding.”
What makes my relationship with Wendy special: “Absolutely everything. I was feeling a bit down from going blind recently. One of my sons just bought a house and will be moving out soon, and my other son and my wife are usually busy with work. I’m home by myself a lot, but Wendy is good at keeping me company and taking care of me. She perks me right up in the morning and it feels nice to get up and take care of her, too. My sons have noticed a complete night and day difference in me since getting her.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “The work they do to help people like me is unbelievable. Guiding Eyes has been amazing from the day I filled out my application to the day they brought Wendy to my door. I was scared to fly so they offered to come to me instead; they are so accommodating and helped ease everything I was worried about. Even the process of getting a guide dog was quick — I applied in November and got Wendy in May.”
Anything else you’d like to add? “I’d like to give a special thanks to my trainer Mike for coming out here for 15 days. He is patient, great at his job, and showed me everything I need to know about working with Wendy. I’d also like to thank Guiding Eyes for matching me with the perfect dog.”
Congratulations to Wendy’s puppy raisers, Caroline Costello and Diane Sugarman!
Graduate Team: Donna and Eldon
About Eldon: Eldon is Donna’s second guide dog, and her first from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Salem, Oregon
What I’m most looking forward to about working with my guide dog: “All dogs are different; they all have different personalities. But when I retired my last dog and had to learn how to use the cane again, I missed having a partner. It’ll be baby steps towards building a strong connection with another dog, but I really enjoy Eldon’s personality. He makes me smile and laugh.”
A highlight of training: “One thing that I really liked was the Home Training program. I was working at a new job so traveling by bus and plane to New York would have been difficult. This was my first home training experience. It was very positive and I enjoyed being able to train close to home. I thought that was very important.”
What makes my relationship with Eldon special: “I think the cool thing is his personality. He’s wonderful with people and brings out the best in them. When I am socializing with others, I enjoy seeing him socialize with them, too. We communicate very well with one another; I’m teaching him some sign language and he’s doing great. He’s very observant and our connection is strong. And he loves water! When he gets home from running, he’ll jump right in the pool. I’ve never had a dog love water like he does!”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I was very fortunate to work with them. I had a very positive experience, from the application process to the start of the home training program. I like that there is downtime for the dogs, too. I share information about Guiding Eyes with everyone I meet.”
What would you say to someone who is considering coming to Guiding Eyes? “I would tell them I really enjoyed my training. It’s great that they are able to work with deaf and blind people using different ways of communication. I hope that continues, because we need more of that. My trainer was so wonderful to work with; I tell people all the time. They have positive attitudes and are really encouraging. If something doesn’t work, they try something different and will always find a way to accommodate you and make it work.”
Congratulations to Eldon’s puppy raiser, Malina Carroll!
June graduate teams training out in the field