Kira and Ferrari

Meet Graduate Kira

Graduate Kira and black Lab guide dog Ferrari sit in front of a tall potted plantGraduate Team: Kira and Ferrari
About the Team: Ferrari, a male black Lab, is Kira’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Training: October 2022 Home Training

Kira relocated from Nashville, Tennessee to Chicago three years ago, looking for the more accessible, navigable environment that a big city offers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Studies with a focus in Journalism from Middle Tennessee State University. In 2020 Kira began as a Chicago Lighthouse intern, at the call center for their Low Vision Clinic. Through Lighthouse, she’s been working for UI Health Customer Care Center since early 2021, scheduling ophthalmology appointments for the University of Illinois Chicago Hospital. Blind at birth and diagnosed with a genetic condition, Peter’s anomaly, Kira underwent Cornea transplants which enabled her to have some vision, albeit extremely cloudy. Her mother also has been diagnosed with Peter’s anomaly. Kira enjoys singing and has a special interest in gospel and Broadway tunes. Over the years she has sung in several church choirs, and prior to the pandemic, the Triton College Community Choir. In January 2021, Kira learned of “Sing for Serenity”, a virtual choir comprised of visually impaired individuals, and she has been a member ever since. She likes reading sci-fi, as well as fantasy and writing stories. Ferrari is Kira’s first guide dog.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Ferrari is very big and tall. He has endless energy, but in a good way, keeping me safe when harnessed. When he is out of the harness, he is very playful and very sweet; he loves to kiss and lick.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I wanted a guide dog for a very long time. Growing up I knew people with guide dogs in my community.  I looked at different schools but only Guiding Eyes was accommodating, providing in-person interviews.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “With Ferrari by my side, I have become much more social in the community. People perceive me differently, and are friendlier, saying hello as opposed to strangers being worried about me when I relied on a cane.  I am more confident. On Halloween night I decided to go for a walk in my neighborhood with Ferrari. Although I got a little lost, Ferrari was not distracted by the trick or treaters, and he got me home safely.”

Were there any training highlights? “My trainer, James Gardner, made it a joy working with Ferrari. He was very good at explaining everything to me, so I was able understand and follow his directions with confidence. He knew what I was capable of handling each new day of training and I was grateful for his intuition. Before starting, I worried about the possible disadvantages of training at home versus training at Guiding Eyes. It turned out very well because I didn’t have to miss much work during the two weeks of training. I worked my six-hour days and James accommodated my routine, setting up split shifts around my schedule. Guiding Eyes also arranged for me to attend graduation virtually. I was able to meet other guide dog graduates enabling me to share my experiences and hear and learn from other graduate’s experiences. There is one positive training experience I must share. Early on in our training Ferrari was tempted by a waffle I was having, so James used that opportunity to work with Ferrari and me on distractions with food. By having food on the table, as well as dropping it on the floor, I could practice redirecting Ferrari’s attention back to me. By the end of our training, that was no longer an issue.”

Meet Guide Dog Ferrari

DOB:  4/24/2020
Litter ID: 6FF20
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Erin
Stud: Yarmouth
Littermates: Fantasia, Fatima, Fairfax, Faustina, Fender, Francisco
Region:  Eastern MA, Maine
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  The Woltornist Family, Debra Coyman
Facebook: Maine Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raisers…

Ferrari was such a sweet and lovable pup. When he was training, he was amazing at how focused, thoughtful, and in-tune he would be. Some of his favorite outings were exploring new hiking trails, going to the hardware store, and grocery shopping with us. At home, he loved playing fetch in the baseball field and chewing on his hard toys – and giving lots of love and cuddles to us. We hope that he continues to make a positive impact on those around him, just like he did in our life.  ~ John and Anna Woltornist, Puppy Raisers

Ferrari came home with me on his first birthday — 85 pounds of black lab, sweet, goofy, smart and a little unnerved at first by the change in circumstances! We took it slow, easing him into a new location and routine, and one that included CATS! (Ferrari was patient and interested in them, but he never won them over.). He loves walks in the woods, other dogs, his toys, food, other dogs, playing in the snow, his dog bed, playing frisbee, and OTHER DOGS! We had some great trips to my sister’s lake house in the Adirondacks, and he got to visit the beach and the mountains of Maine on some of his extended sits. I hope he loves his guide work and enjoys his new life!  ~ Debra Coyman, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…