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March 2012 Graduating Class

Our Graduates:
Eric Brinkman & Chester
Suzanne Brown & Kerry
David Carter & Michael
Cheryl Hornsby & Becka
Sharon Howerton & Cameo
Barbara James & Tessa
William Packee & Narita
Karen Robinson & Ansel
Shelley Stewart & Reese

Home Training Graduates
Deanna Char & Rawlins
Arthur Krieck & Jillian
Judy Seid & Candy

Many thanks to our instructors:
Dell Rodman, Class Supervisor
Woody Curry, Class Instructor
Kate Peterson, Class Instructor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor

James Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Andrea Martine, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Krissy Andersen, Home Training Instructor
Vanessa Vinci, Instructor Assistant

Eric Brinkman and Chester

Eric Brinkman lives in New York and has been partnered with Chester, a male yellow Labrador and his first guide dog.

Eric’s limited vision is the result of Leber’s congenital amaurosis. He had planned on coming to Guiding Eyes after earning his degree in computer science, but had to delay that goal after obtaining a job with New York Life. Thrilled to have finally reached his goal, Eric is looking forward to integrating Chester into his work routine and sharing his hobbies which include listening to music and science fiction.

Eric remarks, “Working with a guide dog is faster and more natural. The transition of having to care for a dog takes a bit of time to get used to, but I am happy to do it.”


Suzanne Brown and Kerry

Suzanne H. Brown is from Georgia, and female black Labrador Kerry, is her third guide dog.

Suzanne has never let her vision loss, caused by retinitis pigmentosa, limit her abilities. Holding a master’s in educational psychology and guidance, she has worked as a counselor at an independent living center, a large community college, and part-time at the Army Education Center when her husband was stationed in Hawaii. They are both retired now and enjoying a very active life, taking destination vacations, skiing, swimming, tandem bike
riding and reading. Suzanne loves to cook and is an active member of Ski for Life. It was her early involvement with this ski club that motivated her to get a guide dog; she watched a friend work effortlessly with his dog and yearned for the same sense of independence.

Suzanne’s plans for retirement will include helping others. She comments, “Kerry is a playful dog. I look forward to working with her unique personality.”


David Carter and Michael

David H. Carter will return to New Mexico with a black Labrador named Michael.

David first came to Guiding Eyes in 1975. He has seen positive changes in the dog training and handling techniques.  His new guide dog, Michael, is goal-oriented, engaged in the process of acclimating to a new handler and having fun getting there. David is excited to return home and apply these techniques while taking long walks, hiking, working out and enjoying time with his wife. Michael will have the companionship of David’s retired dog when he is not working.

David remarks, “I want to thank everybody who, through their generous contributions of time and money, made Michael, my fifth guide dog, possible. Guide dogs make my world a much larger and more interesting place.”


Cheryl Hornsby & Becka

Cheryl L. Hornsby was born and raised in New York. Becka, a female yellow Labrador, is her second guide dog and first from Guiding Eyes.

Cheryl raised two children and now has a granddaughter. Myopic degeneration is the cause of her vision loss.  She retains a small amount of peripheral vision. Cheryl volunteers at a pregnancy center and does secretarial work for the church. The community she lives in is very supportive; the local Commission for the Blind recommended Guiding Eyes and her experience was even more rewarding than she had anticipated.

Cheryl feels completely at ease with Becka: “It is amazing how excited she gets, how affectionate and playful she is. When the harness goes on, we’re ready to go to work. It takes courage, but it is all worth it.”


Sharon Howerton & Cameo

Sharon Howerton is an ACTION student who will finish her training in Illinois with Cameo, a female black Labrador.

Sharon has retinitis pigmentosa and has been blind since birth. She earned her master’s in rehabilitation counseling and worked with the State of Illinois. Sharon took advantage of an early retirement opportunity to work at the Hadley School for the Blind teaching early Braille and early parenting classes. Music is a big part of her life. With her dog by her side, singing with the choir has taken her on world tours.

Cameo is similar to her retired dog in that she likes to cuddle, is not easily distracted, and is a serious worker.  She comments, “Retiring my first dog was difficult.  As it turns out, Cameo’s puppy raiser and I share the same birthday — a bond that was meant to be.”


Barbara James & Tessa

Barbara James lives inWest Virginia.  Tessa, a yellow Labrador, is her first guide dog.

Barbara’s blindness stems from her mother contracting German measles while pregnant. She recalls growing up with her grandmother, playing the banjo and telling Native American legends. This began her love of music. Today, she sings and plays piano and harmonica. Barbara also loves to read.

She is looking forward to more mobility. She has found that using a white cane causes others to react to her with sympathy.  Working with Tessa, on the other hand, is more fluid and natural. She shares, “I was afraid to trust at first but my confidence in Tessa has grown. I am looking forward to walking with her.”



William Packee & Narita

William “Bill” R. Packee traveled from Alaska for Narita a female yellow Labrador.

Bill was sighted until his third stroke, which left him totally blind. He holds an assistive technology degree from California State and consults on the software side of assistive technology. He believes that through using technology, everyone with a disability can live life to the fullest. He also runs his own espresso deli and catering business. Bill is married with six children and a grandson, and he enjoys sports, the driving range, bowling with his dog, cooking and travel.

One of Bill’s responsibilities as president for the Alaska NFB is to set goals for independence; he is a living example, as a guide dog offers this. Bill is eager to introduce Narita to his retired dog and continue his work with NFB.


Karen Robinson & Ansel

Karen C. Robinson will return to Illinois with a male yellow Labrador named Ansel.

At the age of 27, Karen was told she had glaucoma and would eventually become completely blind. She had to keep a positive attitude and use ingenuity to help raise her three young daughters while assisting her handicapped husband. She loves modern art and worked as an audio tour guide at the Chicago Art Institute. She is currently advocating for disability rights, working with the mayor’s office on housing for the disabled and correcting unfair practices against service animals. She makes presentations with her guide dog to children in Pre-K through 2nd grade.

Ansel shares many of the traits her first dog, Hampton, possesses. Hampton will enjoy his retirement in Karen’s home and will keep Ansel company when he is not working.   Karen remarks, “I am looking forward to enjoying my work and my family. I never knew life had so much adventure to it.”


Shelley Stewart & Reese

Shelley Stewart came to Guiding Eyes from Canada. She is matched with a female yellow Labrador named Reese.

Diabetes caused Shelley’s blindness. She went through a grieving process when she lost her sight and for her, being alone in the dark all the time is not an option. She says, “It is exhausting to be angry and bitter when there are  many teachable moments and opportunities to put a smile on someone’s face when they see you working with your dog.” She holds a degree in recreational and leisure studies and is working on her master’s in education. Shelley is co-chair of the mayor’s advisory committee on people with disabilities and a volunteer with CNIB. She loves sports, nature, reading, music and gardening.

Reese is a hard worker who is patient and steadfast. Shelley is looking forward to “walking the walk and talking the talk. It’s the most effective way to achieve change.”