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Mandy and Reina

Meet Graduate Mandy

Mandy and black lab guide dog Reina sit for graduate portrait

Graduate Team:  Mandy and Reina
About the Team:  Reina, a female black Lab, is Mandy’s 1st guide dog
Location:  Sour Lake, Texas
Training:  July 2023 On-Campus

Mandy is a lifelong resident of the Beaumont/Sour Lake, Texas area and graduated from Hardin-Jefferson High School. She retired from a career as an elementary school paraprofessional after 14 years, as her vision loss increased. Mandy worked primarily with special needs students in the Pre-K program. Mandy is married and she and her husband recently celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary.  They have a son and a daughter, who are now both young adults.  Mandy enjoys going out, shopping, and socializing, especially now that Reina has brought her renewed independence and confidence to do the things she loves. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Reina is fantastic! She has such a loving personality and we have gotten very close. She has changed my life. Reina motivates me to keep doing the things I enjoy.  Before I got Reina, I would occasionally and reluctantly walk on my own, but I often felt uncomfortable and anxious. Now I look forward to my morning walk each day!  We often see my parents while walking and Reina recognizes them. She has quickly become a member of the family and is always so excited to see my husband and kids when they return home.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “As my vision worsened, I retired from the job I loved and felt myself losing my independence.  As a cane user, I often felt slow and like others were dragging me along. I knew I wanted a better option for remaining independent and active. My husband was volunteering at Beep Softball Tournament and learned about Guiding Eyes, so I decided to apply. I am so glad I did! I have been legally blind since I was 21; I only wish I had applied for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes sooner!  A cane always felt like a foreign object to me, but Reina is so smart, working with her is a pleasure and so natural.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “Guiding Eyes and Reina have changed my life. My whole outlook and energy level have improved!  Once again, I want to go places and get together with people. I have noticed the difference in myself, and others have as well.  We were recently on a beach vacation and Reina and I walked all over the little island and its shops—no one needed to pull me along.”

Were there any training highlights? “I trained at the Guiding Eyes campus in Yorktown Heights. The experience was indescribable and life changing!  Although I had been to NYC once prior, this was my first time traveling and flying by myself. From the beginning, my Guiding Eyes journey has shown me how capable, strong, and brave I am.  The first time I walked with Reina was the freest I have felt in a long time.  My trainer Shannon encouraged and reminded me to walk with my shoulders back and head up. I no longer stare at the ground or my feet! I took advantage of all the challenging training opportunities.  Reina and I traveled by train, subway, and city bus.  We walked Park Avenue to a bakery where Reina was able to rest, and I was able to enjoy a genuine New York Black & White cookie!  Reina handled the city like a professional.  She did not allow chaotic construction and work crews to distract her from guiding me.  Another highlight of the training was the wonderful people I met. The trainers and Reina’s puppy raisers were all so kind and dedicated.  The four others in my class are all experienced guide dog users and were very encouraging.  I enjoy keeping in touch with them.”

Meet Guide Dog Reina

DOB:  5/21/2021
Litter ID: 4R21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Lace
Stud: Joe
Littermates: Rusty, Rossi, Roman, Rodeo, Rodrigo, Reagan, Rockford, Racer
Region:  Rhode Island
Regional Puppy Instructor: Maureen Hollis
Puppy Raiser:  Becca & Gemma Hunsicker, Loring Holden

From the Puppy Raiser…

Reina is a smart and affectionate dog who was a joy to raise. We loved teaching her new skills, playing with her and watching her romp during playdates with fellow GEB puppies. We enjoyed taking Reina to the beach where she played in the waves and sped across the sand. One of our favorite activities was when Reina cuddled in our laps and fell asleep in the evenings. It was a treat to watch Reina grow from a sweet, sensitive young pup into a confident, wonderful dog. We hope that Reina and her new person enjoy a long and happy life together with many adventures and play sessions. Reina has a big heart and she has a lot of love to share. ~ Becca Hunsicker, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…