Graduate Team: Larry and Hazel
About the Team: Hazel, a female black and tan German Shepherd, is Larry’s 1st Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Melissa Smith
Larry is originally from Ohio, where he attended Ohio State University. His career in Marketing and TV Advertising began with General Foods in Chicago, where he earned his MBA at the University of Chicago. He transferred to General Foods in White Plains, NY, where he lived for 18 years. Larry now lives in Seattle with his wife Wendi and has two grown children. Since retiring, Larry’s life has been about family and non-profit work. Larry and Wendi met cross country skiing and they’ve since been to Norway six times to attend the Ridderrenn – the largest gathering of blind cross-country skiers in the world. They love to take cruises and travel around the world; Larry is very much looking forward to Hazel accompanying them on their adventures!
How would you describe your guide dog? “She is smart, loves to work, and is well mannered. We are working better together every day and she’s extremely good at patterning. If we’ve been somewhere before, she’ll forever remember that place. Hazel’s really quite good and has been a good match for our family; she really gets along well with my wife’s guide dog Okra.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I have had six dogs from another school that I was pleased with overall, but for the last 25 years I’ve lived with a woman who gets her guide dogs from Guiding Eyes. I’ve observed over the years how well Guiding Eyes dogs work and how well behaved they are. I was ready for a change and she’s converted me.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “The biggest impact guide dogs have had on my life is the independence and mobility they’ve provided. My wife is also blind and a guide dog user and we’re very independent people. We love to travel, whether to Hawaii or Europe or enjoying a cruise. Guide dogs make cruise ships quite enjoyable for a blind person. Navigating with a cane would be tough; outdoor decks and railings would be difficult. With our guide dogs, we shop, walk to restaurants and do pretty much anything anyone else does.”
Were there any training highlights? “The first time I put the harness on Hazel, it just felt so natural. The pace and pull felt just so right. She was happy being with me and we were really able to work well together, right from the beginning. We did a mile-long route and my neighborhood has irregular sidewalks and crossings, but she didn’t miss a single down or up curb. We’re improving every day and it’s been great.”
Hazel’s language is definitely kindness. A simple “hello” from her would always get a smile and I would often hear, “you don’t know how much I needed that.” Besides bringing pure joy to the people around her, Hazel is so smart with such a drive to learn; when presented with a new skill or situation that she might not get immediately, she works to figure it out the second time. I am beyond proud that Hazel has succeeded in this journey and is starting her career, and excited for her to bring kindness, love and support to her graduate.
The Hostacky Family, Raisers of Hazel
Meet our other recent guide dog team graduates. Click here!
Friends and Family: Watch this video to learn more about Working with a Guide Dog Team.