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Justine and Iris

Meet Graduate Justine

Grad Justine and black Lab guide dog IrisGraduate Team: Justine and Iris
About the Team: Iris, a female black Lab, is Justine’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Training: October 2022 On-Campus Training

Justine is a junior and International Studies major at DePaul University with a minor in Economics. She is interested in pursuing a career in the humanities post-graduation, ideally at an organization like American Red Cross or the U.S. National Park Service in International Affairs. She enjoys volunteering on campus and has participated in DePaul’s service days. Justine is a huge outdoors person who spends most of her time hiking, camping, and doing outdoor sports in the spring and summer. She’s always looking for a new outdoorsy thing to do and would love to try skiing in the future. She also enjoys city living, and one of the reasons she decided to attend DePaul University in Chicago, was to be able to experience new things, new places, and new shows. In her spare time, she also enjoys painting. When Justine isn’t at DePaul, she lives at home with her parents and an older sister who is pre-law at Villanova, and the family cat named Pebbles, affectionally nicknamed Kitty.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s super snuggly and she’s playful. I talked to her trainer, and she said the same thing. She can be like a cat, but not, because she wants to play with you, but then when she’s done, she’s like, ‘I’ll still play with you, but I’m kind of over it.’ It’s funny because when she’s in harness, she’s very serious, so it’s a complete light switch change –serious, and then the moment she’s out of harness she’ll roll over for a belly rub and is still wanting more even when I’m done.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “A plethora of things. I’ve been blind for a long time, and I liked my cane, but a lot of people were telling me that there are also guide dogs, so I started looking into that. I liked the idea of it better than a cane, and when I looked into how guide dogs are trained, I thought this sounds like a pretty good plan. Another thing that stood out to me was how guide dogs are aware of cars, because cars are getting quieter. I applied and thought, we’ll see what happens. I waited it out and got the call. I’ve been waiting a long time and I’m doing it for my safety -I knew I was going to be moving to a city.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I’ve been telling people I’m a lot less tired. I think it’s because at the end of streets I was super worried. Now it’s helped me relax because I feel more in control. When my brain is like, ‘is it fine?’ Iris is there to make sure it’s fine.”

Were there any training highlights? “I’d have to say probably the first time I walked with her. It was super weird because they recorded my pace, and I didn’t realize that’s how fast I walked with the harness without a dog. When I got Iris, it was a surreal moment because I was like -wow, this is the fastest I’ve ever walked down a street. I’d never moved this fast with a cane around my house or other places. That was an interesting moment for me.”

Meet Guide Dog Iris

DOB:  5/4/2020
Litter ID: S-1II20
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Minka
Stud: Flanders
Littermates: Indigo, Igloo, Irma, Imari, Irene, Irwin, Irie
Region:  Fingerlakes
Regional Puppy Instructor: Cassie Houghton
Puppy Raiser:  Nikole Herndon, The Doubet Family
Facebook: Fingerlakes Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Iris was special named by the University of Waterloo Association for Guide Dogs (UWAGD). She was also a Pathfinder pup. Her progress was followed by a Pathfinder Society Member – someone who remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans received reports and photos of her from puppyhood.

From the Puppy Raiser…

Iris joined our family a little later in her journey, but this didn’t mean we loved her any less. We had Iris for 4 months and were able to watch her mature into a sweet, loving young pup. She was always so happy and loved to be pet and snuggled. We had two black labs at the time, and you could always tell who was who because Iris was always wagging her butt. She would waltz right over and make sure to get in your business to get her required attention. We loved being able to share in her guide dog journey and are so grateful for all the love she brought into our home. We can’t wait to see what great things she does with her new person.  ~ Shannon Doubet, puppy raiser

Photos of the Team…