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Karlee and Pancho

Meet November Residential Training Graduate Karlee

Graduate Karlee and black Lab guide dog PanchoGraduate Team: Karlee and Pancho
About the Team: Pancho, a male black Lab, is Karlee’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Michelle Tang

Karlee is a senior in an Early College High School dual credit program in El Paso, Texas. In June of 2022 Karlee will graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree. She aspires to work professionally with veterans through the VA after college. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, writing fictional short stories, and spending time outdoors, and she hopes to get an amateur radio license soon. Karlee lives with her mom and sister and volunteers her time as a client care companion for elderly people living in hospice. In this role she plays games with, talks to, and provides companionship for hospice residents. Karlee’s generosity and caring helps them feel a sense of comfort during a difficult time.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Pancho has so much life in him! He’s so ready to work and he’s the kind of dog that’s up for anything. Nothing phases him. He’s so calm and stoic, yet he’s very curious! I think that’s what makes him such a good working dog. He has so much personality and a great ‘off’ switch. He knows when to settle down and can read the room and match your energy. If I’m having a low day, he can feel it. He’s so in tune with my emotions and anticipates what I need even before I tell him. He’s such a sweet and loving dog. He likes to cuddle and loves to lay on my feet and be in contact with me all the time.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I was researching guide dog schools and reading up on Guiding Eyes, something about it felt right; like that school would click with me. And it did. When I applied, a friend of mine was graduating from Guiding Eyes. Guiding Eyes felt like a school that fit my needs and watching him with his dog helped me make my decision. It helped me see how awesome guide dogs are and I can personally attest to that now.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel a lot more confident in my home area. I live in a very busy, urban area with a lot of cars driving by and active driveways on my route. I feel very confident with him and know he will keep me safe. Also, there’s the companionship; I’m an introverted person, but Pancho encourages me to go out and talk to people. Considering his needs means having to work him every day. It encourages me to get out.”

Were there any training highlights? “During training, we were at the movie theater watching ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ and I don’t know if he’d ever been to a theater. I was having trouble getting him to settle, but in the moment, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or any pressure. After the movie, my instructor Michelle told me I did a great job keeping him calm and cool. I don’t get emotional – it’s not me, but when we went outside, I lost it. For me it was a highlight because I was learning to love myself and I knew that I was doing the best for him and that was all I could do. Training is intense, but it was such a beautiful, bittersweet moment to hear we were doing okay and learning together.”

Meet Guide Dog Pancho

Pancho’s greatest strengths are his enthusiasm and friendliness. No matter what the situation or how challenging, he was awesome in all of them. Pancho enjoyed hiking in the mountains with the family. One of the things that made raising Pancho so enjoyable was that he was a great companion and always ready to please. Good job Pancho, and good luck to you and Karlee!

Zurakhinsky Family, Puppy Raisers of Pancho

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