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Laura and Pacer

Meet Home Training Graduate Laura

Graduate Team:  Laura and Pacer
About the Team: Pacer, a male yellow Lab, is Laura’s 5th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:  Mundelein, Illinois
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Miranda Beckmann 

Laura and her guide dog Pacer live in a 55+ community in Illinois, with a cat named Merlot. In 2017, Laura retired from a career in nonprofit fundraising, having been employed at the University of California, Berkeley, for 20 years. She moved back to northern Illinois in 2019, just prior to the COVID pandemic. Laura loves to spend her time outdoors, in summer enjoying swimming, riding a tandem bicycle, hiking, and kayaking, and in the winter months, cross-country skiing. In the 1980’s Laura competed in the Paralympics, winning a silver medal for the U.S. in Skiing. She is a dedicated volunteer for Ski for Light, a nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the lives of visually or mobility impaired individuals through cross-country skiing. Laura also enjoys listening to music, cooking, and going to live music performances and stays involved in her community by serving on the social committee, planning events for the residents. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Pacer is a great worker, very mellow and a really good boy. He dreams a lot and sometimes will even let out a high-pitched bark in his dreams; I’ve never heard him bark outside of that!  Pacer will walk right past other dogs and always does what he needs to do. Pacer and my cat, Merlot, took an immediate liking to each other. My cat didn’t hiss or try to escape – he actually purred, and when Pacer licked his face, he kept purring. They never missed a beat. I think Pacer might have a soft spot for cats.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I got my first dog from another school in my area, but then I started talking to people who had Guiding Eyes dogs. I decided to go there because it sounded like they really cared for and listened to the graduates. I liked my experience there because it was very centered on the person. I came back for the rest of my guides because they knew me and have always matched me really well with my dogs. Guiding Eyes has a special ability to understand and empathize with their students.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “A guide dog has a very positive influence on you. Going to new places or going out at night – you don’t feel nearly as vulnerable when you have a dog. Receiving a guide dog means being able to get out and get more exercise. Also, people seem to give you more credibility when you have a dog and pay more attention to you than when you use a cane.”

Were there any training highlights?  “Pacer and I were part of the Home Training program, and we did a lot of things together. We went to a forest reserve to see how we’d do walking on a gravel path. We went to Downtown Chicago, and he was calm and very good at navigating the traffic. In Chicago, we learned how to navigate within Union Station and how to get from there to Symphony Hall. We’ll be going there soon to watch a show, taking the train in together and then walking to Symphony Hall.”

Meet Guide Dog Pacer

Pacer has been a well behaved pup from the beginning. He was polite in the house and was happy to hang out. He went on many adventures with Keith. He gave their family a lot of joy.

Leslie Stephens, Regional Manager

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