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Kailey and Phoebe

Thank you to our generous May Graduates Sponsor…

“The University of Rhode Island Puppy Raisers Club wishes the graduate teams good luck in their new partnerships!”

Meet Home Training Graduate Kailey

A strong connection between guide dog Phoebe and partner KaileyGraduate Team: Kailey and Phoebe
About the Team:  Phoebe, a female yellow Lab, is Kailey’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:  Willimantic, Connecticut
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Kathy Rooney

Kailey is entering her senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University where she’s working towards a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Following graduation in May 2022, she plans to pursue her masters. Kailey is currently working as a restaurant hostess and this fall will be starting an internship at an addiction recovery center. Kailey is an avid reader who is very enthusiastic about audiobooks, and she enjoys hanging out with her friends. She frequently flies to Florida to visit family, but says she finds the twists and turns of the airports rather terrifying. Kailey is looking forward to her next trip as a more confident traveler, with Phoebe leading the way.  

How would you describe your guide dog? “Phoebe is the sweetest girl on planet Earth. Out of harness, she’s extremely snuggly, wagging her tail when people come in, but turning to confirm she can greet them. Her listening skills are fantastic. Somewhere along the way, someone taught her to hug, so if you tap your chest as you say it, she’ll gently put her paws on your shoulders. It’s so cute. In harness she’s a completely different dog; very focused and responsive to everything around us. She’s great at centering herself, based on my actions or voice. As we walk, she’s always looking back to check on me.  If I say forward when she knows we go left, she’ll look at me like, ‘are you sure?’ Sometimes I think she knows the routes better than I do.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I’ve been concerned about the increase in my vision loss over the past few years, since the end of high school and throughout college. I thought of the independence a guide dog would give me. As someone with partial vision, I have had unpleasant comments from strangers who see me looking closely at my phone, but using a cane. Now people see a dog in harness, and they completely understand. Phoebe is a clear sign that I’m actually blind. Not every blind person is the same and neither is their vision loss.  As another Guiding Eyes graduate once told me, blindness is a spectrum.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I am a lot more independent – and I know everyone has that answer, but they say it for a reason. They give you a new sense of freedom. I can walk to the store without being in fear of a garbage can that wasn’t there before or a stick in the sidewalk. I’m more confident and comfortable when I travel. It’s also helpful that now, people can see my invisible disability.”

Were there any training highlights? “I really have to praise the Home Training Program. Being able to train in my home area was very informative and extremely helpful, especially as a first-time guide dog user. My instructor Kathy was a godsend – just wonderful. I don’t know what I would have done without her. We were training on a route I normally take to school and a dog ran through its yard, aggressively and towards us. It was very scary, but Kathy handled it immediately. I never knew the dog lived there, because not having a dog with me, it had never run out before.  Now I know not to take that route anymore because it’s too much of a risk. I was able to get to know routes that I’ll use on a regular basis; having that kind of knowledge under my belt is just awesome.”

Meet Guide Dog Phoebe

Special Recognition:  Phoebe was named through contribution of a special gift by John Donnelly.Phoebe’s greatest strengths are her sweet nature and her listening skills. When working at a craft fair with booths and crowds, she was awesome despite such a challenging situation. Our favorite activities together involved time spent hiking and snuggling. What I enjoyed the most about her, was that she was the sweetest and most gentle puppy I’ve ever seen.

Nickie Oler, Puppy Raiser of Phoebe

Enjoy these photos of the team and Phoebe as a pup on program…