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March 2016 Graduating Class

March 2016 Graduating Class
March 2016 Graduating Class

Congratulations to all the graduates!  We wish you the very best in your new partnerships as you move into the expanding adventure of life together!
Alan and Jean Hammond

Congratulations graduates, trainers, volunteers, and guide dogs!  The meaning of the word trust is indescribable when referring to what you have all accomplished.  I wish all of the graduates and guides a smooth, bright, and beautiful road ahead.
Nancy Kern

You are all amazing!
Larry, Charlene & Kristin Kaiser

We also thank the Fain Family for their support of our online streaming capabilities.

Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates:
Angel and Pita
Eva and Twilight
Heather and Cherish
Jessica and Giada
Patricia and Bach
Samuel and Estelle
Wayne and Libra

ACTION Training
Andrew and Marsh
Jessica and Schubert

HOME Training
Marianne and Wilkie
Virginia and Eva

Many thanks to our instructors:
Class Supervisor:  Shanon Walsh
Instructors:  Stephanie Koret, Kate Gardner
Instructor Assistant:  Katherine Russell
Apprentice Instructor:  Dan Weesner
ACTION Training:  Jolene Hollister
HOME Training:
Megan Crowley, Home Training Instructor
Dave Hagemann, Field Representative


Angel and Pita

A. Adorno & Pita
When Angel was born prematurely with retinal degeneration, doctors accurately predicted that he would lose his sight in his teens. Pita, a black female Lab, is his sixth Guiding Eyes dog. “The difference between working with a dog as opposed to a cane,” says Angel, “is like the difference between having a car instead of a bicycle. It means greater mobility—and freedom.”

Both are necessary given the busy schedule that Angel keeps, even for a New Yorker. He’s a transcriber for the Department of Immigration, and he’s working on his Masters in Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Disabled Vets. To get to the office from his home in Queens, he takes two trains, a bus, and then walks half a mile. In his spare time he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and performs all over the city as a stand-up comic who writes his own material. Pita, he says, will need to learn one more lesson: how to work a stage.

Congratulations to Pita’s puppy raiser: Joan Morehouse!

Heather and Cherish

H. Berg & Cherish
Heather was born with uveal coloboma which affected her retinas and optic nerves. She recalls the support of a faculty member at the University of Vermont who understood that her visual impairment was not enough to interfere with her being a highly effective physical therapist. Proving the point, Heather earned her degree and practiced physical therapy for 22 years.

Realizing it was time for a transition, Heather is now working on a certificate that will qualify her to help people who are blind and visually impaired find employment.  Heather has high praise for Cherish, a black female Lab and her fourth Guiding Eyes dog. “Cherish is serious about her work and does everything with great enthusiasm,” she says. “I can hold my head up and walk with confidence, thanks to Cherish.”

Congratulations to Cherish’s puppy raisers: Kathleen Collins and Alyssa Wetterau!


Jessica and Giada

J. Welch & Giada
Jessica traveled from Delaware to meet Giada, a black female Lab and her third Guiding Eyes guide dog. Jessica was born with optic neuromyopathy, a disease that damages the optic nerve.  She was already blind in one eye and lost sight in the other eye when her daughter was eight. Jessica was extremely depressed. Her daughter said, “Mommy, why don’t you get one of those dogs that takes you around places?”

“I would never have thought of it,” says Jessica.  “First, I did a whole lot of research. Then I called Guiding Eyes. When I walked with my first dog, everything changed. Like “Amazing Grace”—blind but yet I see. I credit my daughter with saving my life. And I credit Guiding Eyes for getting me out of my isolation and into the community. Now I do counseling with people who are blind and visually impaired for the state of Delaware and as much outreach as time allows. Connecting is real important to me. When I lost my sight, friends walked away from me. But the people at Guiding Eyes walked straight towards me–and remain family to this day.”

Congratulations to Giada’s puppy raisers: John & Anne Zipperian and Teresa Woods!


Patricia and Bach

P. Simms & Bach
Pat Simms worked for many years as a Certified Nurses Aide but had to retire when her glaucoma worsened. Concerned about his mother’s vision loss and his father’s Alzheimer’s, Pat’s son moved in with them to help out. Life got easier for Pat when she was paired with Bach, a black male Guiding Eyes Lab. Asked when she knew that she and Bach would be a good match, she smiles and says, “The minute I put my hand on him.”

At 71, Pat takes a high-energy approach to life: caring for her husband, babysitting her 28 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren, even joining in the kids’ baseball games. But being out on the street alone, trying to make her way to the grocery store, made her fearful. “People bumped into me like I wasn’t even there,” she says. “But with Bach, the street seems a whole lot less scary.” She pauses to reflect, then offers, “I think my son will be able to move back to his own home very soon.”

Congratulations to Bach’s puppy raisers: Cheryl Lawyer, Julie & Ross Gann, and Judy Wolf!


Jessica and Schubert  

J. Snyder & Schubert
Jessica loves to travel, and her trip from Ohio to New York was a special one. She had come to meet Schubert, a black male Lab and her third Guiding Eyes guide dog. They participated in the accelerated ACTION program for experienced guide dog users on campus and will complete their training at home. Though diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity at age eight, she still has some residual vision. Jessica is a customer service representative for the IRS call center in Cleveland. In addition, she travels a good deal as a volunteer for the National Federation of the Blind and other sight-related organizations.

What makes Schubert such a good match for her? He’s both mellow and hardworking, says Jessica. He’s able to keep up with her very fast pace, and he easily transitions to a fairly quiet work environment where there are many people. If Jessica is traveling, they might take on a 17-hour day. “For a long time,” Jessica says, “I resisted using a cane or asking for a dog because I didn’t want people to know I was blind. Now, thanks to my Guiding Eyes guide dogs, I can’t imagine my life any other way.”

Congratulations to Schubert’s puppy raisers: The Newman Family!


Samuel and Estelle

S. Rossier & Estelle
A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sam is an Administrator for the Unitarian Church in Montpelier, where he’s worked for 21 years. Sam was born with glaucoma and lost his sight in his 30s.  Estelle, a black female Lab, is his fifth Guiding Eyes dog. “A guide dog brings independence and fluidity of movement,” Sam says. “Getting around is completely different than using a cane.” Sam’s family loves their pets—dogs and cats—and welcomes the addition of Estelle.

Recently Sam retired one of his guide dogs to a home in Florida. Sam and his daughter talked in practical terms about what a good arrangement it was going to be for the dog, how the Florida warmth would be a welcome change from winters in Vermont. Then, unexpectedly, they both started to cry. They realized that, practical issues aside, a guide dog is all about bonding and life-changing connections.

Congratulations to Estelle’s puppy raisers: Ayumu, Azusa, and Azumo Nishimura and Bobbie & Jim Havel!


Eva and TwilightE. Easton & Twilight

Not profiled.
Congratulations to Twilight’s puppy raisers: The Megan & John Flynn Family and The Scheinkoenig Family









Wayne and Libra

W. Sheer & Libra
Wayne came from North Carolina to meet Libra, a black female Lab and his third Guiding Eyes dog in 25 years. Though diagnosed at a young age with retinitis pigmentosis, Wayne was still able to serve his country as a Marine. When he lost his sight in his 30s, he enrolled at Wilkes Community College where he studied social work. But he soon realized it wasn’t what he was meant to do.

These days Wayne loves nothing more than writing code (in fact, some of his ideas have been picked up by the pros). He teaches veterans who are blind and disabled about computers. Helping others matters to him greatly, he says. He remembers college classmates who bullied him about being blind and even barked at his guide dog. Now he’s reaching out, meeting people, and going places he wouldn’t have gone on his own before his Guiding Eyes guide dogs: to a restaurant, to church, the Lion’s Club, a pizza party. He places his hand on Libra. “I don’t call them dogs,” he says.  “I call them friends.”

Congratulations to Libra’s puppy raisers: The Russell Family!



Andrew and Marsh

G. McCreath & Marsh
Andrew is from Victoria, British Columbia. He and Marsh, a male German Shepherd and his second Guiding Eyes dog, participated in the accelerated ACTION program for experienced guide dog users on campus; they will complete their training at home. Andrew was just nine when he began to lose his vision due to infantile glaucoma. With his mother encouraging him, he received excellent schooling in his native Great Britain and learned Braille shorthand. At British Aerospace he wrote test pilot reports on supersonic planes. But it was the North London School of Physical Therapy for the Visually Impaired that introduced him to a life-long career.

In 1980 Andrew moved to Canada where he met his wife, also a physical therapist. Together, they started a private clinic which is still thriving, although Andrew retired in 2014. They have three grown children and are a very close family. A power lifter at age 70 who continues to set Canadian records, Andrew clearly disregards the concept of limitations, especially with Marsh by his side. “Guiding is a hard job, and these wonderful dogs are so focused. They have this drive, like, ‘I’m going to get it right, buddy. Don’t you worry about that!’ ”

Congratulations to Marsh’s puppy raiser: Jackie Denson!