Graduate Team: Kimberly and Dahlia
About the Team: Dahlia, a yellow female Lab, is Kimberly’s 4th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Training: October 2022 Home Training
Kimberly received her first guide dog from Guiding Eyes twenty years ago when she was eighteen. Kimberly grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended Wake Forest University as an undergraduate student and earned two master’s degrees in both public health and cultural anthropology from George Washington University. She has also earned a number of certifications in her professional field. She runs her own business, teaching new parents holistic sleep and early parenting skills. She has been married for thirteen years to her husband, Bennett and they live in Washington, DC with their children, Ian, 9 years old, and Ella, who is 4 years old, as well as a cat named Truffle. Kimberly is an avid runner, as evidenced by her completion of four half and five full marathons in the D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania areas. Her other interests include reading and traveling, although she admits there sometimes is not enough time to do everything. Her visual impairment is due to a genetic disorder that impacts her vision differently depending on her environmental surroundings.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Dahlia is silly and playful when out of her harness. She loves to play with her toys and new family. Whether working or playing she is very energetic. When harnessed and working she is amazingly focused. Our neighborhood is home to countless dogs, but she is not distracted by them.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “When I was 18 years old, I was preparing to go away to college at Wake Forest. I learned about Guiding Eyes as a teenager. Someone I knew received a guide dog from Guiding Eyes. I didn’t want to rely on a cane to get around campus and the community, so I applied. Needless to say, my first experience was positive and each subsequent time that I received a guide dog was also terrific.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I began utilizing a cane as a child, but my guide dogs have provided me with greater confidence and freedom. Guiding Eyes matched me with Dahlia, who is a fast walking, city trained guide dog. My work schedule and home activities made her a perfect fit. She is an amazing companion in unknown surroundings and new situations. After my previous guide dog was retired and prior to receiving Dahlia, there was a span of time I was without a guide dog, because of the impact of the Covid pandemic. That period of time was a reminder to me of the benefits of having a guide dog. Dahlia is my first guide dog coming straight into the hectic family schedule of kids and a full-time job. I have greater demands on my time at this phase of my life, and Dahlia handles the high expectations well.”
Were there any training highlights? “I received home training with Dahlia. It was lovely and comforting to have had a past experience and connection with Guiding Eyes. My trainer Melinda Angstrom helped me troubleshoot the more difficult areas of my regular work route. It was the first time in the metro since the beginning of the pandemic. Melinda gave me the confidence to travel mass transit again.”
Litter ID: 3DD20
Color/Breed: Yellow/Labrador Retriever
Littermates: Dawn, Durango, Dora, Derek, Dennis, Dante
Region: Southwestern CT
Regional Puppy Instructor: Maureen Hollis
Puppy Raiser: Lena Gjonaj & Paska Nayden
Dahlia was a pleasure and a delight to raise. We had also raised Dahlia’s mother Quail so it was an added delight to raise Dahlia and for her mother to assist in the raising. Dahlia was driven and always ready to get to work. She enjoyed playing with Quail inside and outside and taking long walks. She enjoyed outings and all those that meet her fell in love with Dahlia. She has a let’s go personality and loved keeping a fast pace. She will always hold a very special place in our hearts. She will bring great guidance and joy to her new family. We wish the new guide team of Kim and Dahlia the best of luck and look forward to hearing of all their new adventures together. ~ Lena Gjonaj and Paska Nayden, Puppy Raisers