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Lusi and Utica

Meet Graduate Lusi

Lusi sits with black Lab guide dog Utica for their team portraitGraduate Team:   Lou Ann (Lusi) and Utica
About the Team:   Utica is a female, black Lab and Lusi’s 5th Guiding Eyes dog
Location:   Raleigh, North Carolina
Training:   January 2024 Home Training

Lusi holds a Master of Divinity degree, and she is currently studying to become a lay minister. She is an active member of her church which provides many opportunities for lay ministry. Lusi is keen to obtain certification as a congregational lay caregiver, if that role becomes available. She has a passion for preaching and has also founded an education committee in her church. She is also a substitute teacher for visually impaired students at Governor Morehead School. The school uses the newer UEB or Unified English Braille language and Lusi serves as a proofreader for incoming text. She has written instructional information to assist other teachers. Lusi has a grown daughter, whom she adopted from Russia when she was 2 ½ years old. Her daughter is currently struggling with a difficult illness, but their shared love and support remains an enduring gift.

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Tica Jane is what I call her, and she is wonderful. She’s my 5th dog from Guiding Eyes and she loves to run, play with her toys, and sometimes plays tug with me.  She’s calm and gentle. We love to walk and when the weather is warmer, there is a lake nearby that we will walk to.  She will sit next to me on the sofa while I work on my laptop.  In harness, she does good work -very good work. She’s careful and thorough. There are a few other things we are going to work on with the remote instructor, Nikki.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “A woman I was teaching many years ago happened to be raising a puppy for Guiding Eyes. I wasn’t a big dog person. My resource class followed the dog’s progress, so we saw some of the training, did guide dog reports, and went to the vet with the dog. I also went to the puppy raiser class and got more information, then decided to apply to Guiding Eyes.”

How has a guide dog impacted your life?  “Having guide dogs has given me more freedom and when going out at night or getting in or out of an Uber or cab, I feel much safer. There are times when I may not need a dog, but I’m much happier with a dog.  Tica is still learning about the places I go.  You don’t know what they can do when you first meet them, and it is amazing; by the time they age, they know so many words and commands.  Tica is so dedicated and really watches what is going on around us.  In church, Tica was in the choir loft with me and when I went down for communion I told her to stay.  She did, but she stood up so that she could see me.  She had her eyes on me the whole time.”

Were there any training highlights?  “Home training is great;  being able to go to your church and to walk into work with the dog. Louise was an excellent trainer, and we went to a variety of places, like Walmart, Home Depot, and Olive Garden.  The dog has a ‘leg up’ getting familiar with the places she will be taking me.  You have a trainer helping you sort things out. There is an old street curb crossing near me that Louise helped with. She was great.”

Meet Guide Dog Utica

DOB:  11/10/2020
Litter ID: 8UU20
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Guava
Stud: Wallace
Littermates: Uber, Ulani, Ubanks, Ulla, Una, Unity, Umpire, Utah, Ultra
Region:  Lower Westchester, Dutchess NY
Regional Puppy Instructor: Elizabeth Vacchiano
Puppy Raiser:  Julie & Israel Lowy, The DeCicco Family
Facebook: Westchester Puppy Raisers
Facebook: Dutchess Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raisers…

Utica was a pleasure to raise! She is sweet, smart and a wonderful girl. Utica would let my granddaughter dress her up and loved the attention. She is amazing and has made me very proud. I wish her and Lusi all the best for a long, healthy life together! ~Carol DeCicco

Utica was such a sweet puppy. She has an inquisitive tilt to her head that suggests she is smart and really paying attention. She loved hanging with our kitten and when Arrow was released from program due to allergies Utica learned so fast from him. I am so very proud of Utica!   ~Julie Lowy

Photos of the Team…