MARCH 2018 GRADUATING CLASS
Congratulations to Jules and Josie and the March 2018 graduating class.
– Bob Rollmann and Cindy Sullivan, fosters for proud Dad, GEB Ingot.
Congratulations to all the graduates!
We wish you all the best in your new life with your four-legged partners.
– Cornell Puppy Raising Club, Central New York Region
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.
Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.
- Alexandra & Jimmy (S)
- Lyal & Frisco
- Cecil & Flynn
- Austin & Newton
- Mark & Josie
- Osman & Gadget
- Nataly (cicely) & Jules
- Lora Ann & Patrol
- Isabella & O’Hara
- Helen (Georgie) & Loki
- Madalena & Inez
- David (Dave) & Kagan (S)
- Sheila Strong & Pumpkin
- Tena Witherspoon & Ronnie
P: A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.
S: The donors listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dogs:
- Jimmy was Special Named by Barbara Schwartz in memory of Jim Ganz.
- Kagan was Special Named in memory of Valerie Kagan.
Congratulations to our graduating class!
Many thanks to our Training Staff:
- Class Supervisor: Kathryn Poallo
- Class instructors: Michelle Tang, Katherine Russell, Stephanie Koret
- Instructor Assistant: Kimberly Hansen
- Running Guides Specialist: Nick Speranza
- Director of Home Training: James Gardner
- Special Needs Instructor: Susan Kroha
- Home Training Instructor: Christina Vetrano
- Home Training Instructor: Megan Baker
Meet the Graduates:
Alexandra (Alex) & Jimmy
Alex lives with her parents and one younger sister in North Carolina. The family lives on a small farm with a horse and two donkeys.
Jimmy, a male yellow Lab, is Alex’s first guide dog. She is also participating in the Running Guide program, which is one of the reasons she chose to come to Guiding Eyes. In addition to running Alex enjoys biking and swimming and she hopes to do her first triathlon in June.
Alex has been dealing with vision loss at various points since age five. At this point she has a little residual vision but it’s “not useful for travel.” She has an undergraduate degree in clinical research and hopes to pursue a master’s in molecular biology. She is currently working on a Master’s degree in Apologetics at a seminary in NC. But, she says, her first love is science and research. She also plays guitar and cello.
About her experience at Guiding Eyes she says that things are going “a lot better than I expected.” She says her relationship with Jimmy is “coming along.” She she sees his loyalty, plus he loves to play. She finds everyone at Guiding Eyes to be very caring about both physical and emotional needs of the students. She is looking forward to walking and running with Jimmy by her side.
Congratulations to Jimmy’s puppy raisers Megan Banfield, and Paul and Cindy Swift.
Lyal & Frisco
Indiana native Lyal came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide, Frisco, a male black Lab. He has an Associate’s Degree in Mechanical Design from Ivy Tech and currently works doing marketing for an industrial packaging firm.
Lyal’s vision loss was sudden, occurring in October, 2016 due to Liebers Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. He has some remaining light perception.
Lyal has taken up power lifting and hopes to compete at some point in the future. He enjoys many types of music and plays percussion. He enjoys the outdoors, likes hiking, camping, and fishing.
Of Frisco Lyal says: “He’s the dog version of me. He’s quiet, likes being in groups but only for a short time.” He adds that Frisco “has great taste in music.” He is really enjoying and appreciating the freedom he feels walking with Frisco.
“Amazing” is the word he used to describe his Guiding Eyes experience. In addition to the training he and Frisco have received, Lyal comments that he’s learned a lot in other ways. “I’ve never really been around a group of blind people before,” adding that he’s learned a great deal from his classmates, as well.
Now Lyal is looking forward to returning to Indiana with Frisco and enjoying the freedom he feels walking with his guide dog in one of his favorite spots, a local nature park.
Congratulations to Frisco’s puppy raisers Alfred and Diana Traegler, and Dan and Aimee Muller.
Cecil & Flynn
Cecil, a resident of Kentucky, has returned to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog. He currently works as a Customer Service Rep at the Census Bureau. Prior to that, he ran vending stands for 22 years. He is the father of two and grandfather of three.
Cecil loves sports and states the he’s a “big KY Wildcats fan!” He likes to walk, play cards and socialize with friends.
Cecil’s vision loss is due to Retinitis Pigmentosa and he has been totally blind since 2005. He came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide, Luke, in 2012.
Cecil says that when he came into class, he was still grieving some for Luke. But, he adds, Flynn, a male black Lab is “a completely different personality.” He says he loves him and feels that everything is going well. “It’s a treat to have a service animal!” He says further: “Luke taught me the meaning of unconditional love and made me a better traveler and a better person. I’m already seeing the same impact with Flynn and looking forward to what’s to come!”
When Cecil was at Guiding Eyes the first time, he truly felt like part of the family. Now he says, it feels the same, but with new trainers, staff and fellow students “the family’s gotten bigger!”
Congratulations to Flynn’s puppy raisers Miss Cora Ciarcia, and Cathyann Burns.
Austin & Newton
Austin, age 20, came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, Newton, a male black Lab. He was born in Hawaii and grew up in California, where he still lives with his dad, stepmother, and sister. He is currently a college student, taking prerequisite courses while deciding exactly what direction he would like to take.
Austin’s vision loss is due to retinopathy of prematurity leaving him with just light perception. He enjoys traveling, walking, reading, and hanging out with friends. His passion though, is playing bagpipes. He is currently in a pipe band and has traveled around the US and internationally to participate in competitions.
Austin says that training with Newton is going well. He comments that there’s “much to learn” but he loves to learn anyway. He says it’s “remarkable how much goes into the process of training and learning to work with a guide dog. He feels he and Newton are doing well, learning about each other all the time and bonding more each day. He also says it’s remarkable how much he felt like part of the group right from the start. “Never a dull moment!”
Congratulations to Newton’s puppy raiser Willow Parker.
Mark & Josie
A resident of the Bronx, Mark came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, Josie, a female yellow Lab. He has been blind since birth as a result of retinopathy of prematurity though has some remaining vision in one eye.
Mark works in customer service for a cable company. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to music and likes to sing. He also enjoys “hanging out” on social media. Mark lives alone but visits family around the NYC area.
Mark chose to come to Guiding Eyes after doing internet research. He said he “got lots of advice that ultimately made me anxious.” But, he adds, things are going well. He describes Josie as “a sweetheart, kind, and gentle, but can be a little firecracker. He is very happy!”
Congratulations to Josie’s puppy raisers Carla Coelho, and Patricia Noel.
Osman & Gadget
Osman, who lives in Michigan, came to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog, Gadget, a male yellow Lab. He is currently a college student studying English and secondary education with plans to become a vision teacher. He volunteers at camps for the blind and he enjoys writing poetry and “realistic fiction.”
Osman came to the US in 2005 at age 15. He lived most of his life as a refugee from his native Liberia, which was torn apart by civil war. He was born with partial vision due to cataracts but ultimately developed glaucoma and lost all remaining vision at around age 14.
Due to a tragic accident in 2014, Osman sustained serious injuries that put him out of commission for nearly a year. The accident also took the life of his first guide dog, Gala. He says: “Gala taught me loyalty, friendship, responsibility, and generally transformed my life.”
Gadget, he says, is a totally different personality. He’s patient and content and “is teaching me those qualities.” He states that the work is “fantastic” and that Gadget is “bringing me back to life.”
Osman says that he loves Guiding Eyes and has always felt like part of the family. On his return he says, “I was embraced with love and kindness.”
Congratulations to Gadget’s puppy raisers Daryl M. Gordon with Walter Lustberg.
Nataly (Cicely) & Jules
Cicely, a native of southern California, came to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog, Jules, a female yellow Lab. She also experienced her first major snow! As an avid runner and hiker, she was attracted to Guiding Eyes by the Running Guides program. She ran a half marathon last fall and is training for a full marathon in October. This summer she hopes to hike the “6 peak challenge” in California as well.
Cicely plans to return to school to complete the course hours she needs in order to qualify to take the national exam for massage therapy. She also plans to complete an Associate’s degree in child development and become a teaching assistant working with young children.
Cicely is the oldest of seven children. Her vision loss is a result of retinal blastoma at age five which left her with no remaining vision.
Cicely says that she and Jules are “solid”. She adds that they both have similar “independent streaks” so they love being together but also respect each other’s space. “I feel safe in her capable paws”.
Of Guiding Eyes she says that all the trainers are on top of things and it’s a great learning environment. She is looking forward to working with her new partner and especially to being able to train independently for the upcoming marathon!
Congratulations to Jules’ puppy raiser Marcy Gray.
Lora Ann & Patrol
Lora Ann has returned to Guiding Eyes for her second dog, Patrol, a male black Lab. A native Hawaiian she now resides in California with her daughter and a son-in-law, her retired guide dog, Garvey, three additional dogs and a cat.
Lora Ann is a semi-retired psychologist who still likes to stay involved working with the visually impaired community, especially through the process of the impact of vision loss. Her own vision loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa which was not diagnosed until after a car accident in 2010.
Lora Ann enjoys crafts including knitting, crocheting, sewing, and scrapbooking. She also enjoys and appreciates her friendship with retired guide Garvey’s puppy-raisers. She says that they have enjoyed watching Garvey “move through his life” and encourages fellow graduates to “look for that opportunity.”
Lora Ann states that she has “fallen in love” with Patrol, who, she says, has many similarities to Garvey. She says further that training is going very well, and that she’s adjusting to the changes in training that always come when working with a new guide. She appreciates the patience, support, and the expertise of the trainers. Lora Ann expresses her gratitude to all the Guiding Eyes Staff, extended staff, volunteers, puppy-raisers, and everyone else who is part of this family in making this all possible. “Thank you so much for Patrol and making this a wonderful and memorable experience.”
Congratulations to Patrol’s puppy raiser Connie J. Terry.
Isabella Scott & O’Hara
Eighteen-year-old Isabella came to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog, O’Hara, a female yellow Lab. Her vision loss is a result of Stargardt disease which developed when she was around nine.
Isabella will be starting college in the fall and is interested in criminal and forensic psychology. She is also a musician; she sings and plays guitar, drums and piano. She also enjoys horseback riding.
Of O’Hara she says, “I love my dog so much it can bring me to tears.” She says she already feels more independent. She appreciates having “the focus of the dog.”
She feels that training is going well and she says that she’s actually finding it easier than expected.
Congratulations to O’Hara’s puppy raisers The Strait Family.
Helen (Georgie) & Loki
Originally from the state of Virginia, Georgie now calls Massachusetts home. She is partnered with her first guide dog, Loki, a male black-and-tan Lab.
Georgie has been visually impaired since birth with a little remaining vision in one eye. She currently works as a proofreader for the National Braille Press, reading everything from novels to math tests. She is a graduate student studying social work at Simmons College and has an undergraduate degree in English and Psychology from the College of William and Mary.
After doing volunteer work in schools, Georgie participated for a year with the Americorps program where she worked with middle school kids.
Georgie loves to run and the Guiding Eyes Running Guide program is one of the reasons she chose to come to the school. She also enjoys reading both fiction and nonfiction, and loves to cook.
Georgie says she’s loving getting to know and work with Loki who she describes as “gorgeous!” She says she’d expected things to be “really difficult on several levels” but that Loki is so responsive and she loves walking with him at their fast pace. She’s really excited about running with him.
Though Georgie came to Guiding Eyes for the Running Guides program, she also appreciates their willingness to accommodate her fast walking speed. The quote one will often hear from her when talking about Guiding Eyes is “they keep it real!”
Congratulations to Loki’s puppy raiser Amy Sander.
Madalena & Inez
Madalena and black Lab Inez are graduates of the Guiding Eyes Special Needs and Home Training programs. Madalena chose Guiding Eyes on the strong recommendation of a Field Trainer with the Connecticut Department of the Blind, and after she and her husband visited a Guiding Eyes graduation, she never looked back after that!
Madalena and her husband live in Connecticut with their two sons, daughter-in-law and two wonderful grandchildren close by. She holds an Associate’s Degree and is now retired from a career as a legal secretary with a phone company. She also enjoys playing guitar, listening to music, crocheting and getting out and walking with her new partner, Inez.
Madalena’s vision loss is a result of severe glaucoma, diagnosed several years ago, leaving her with very limited vision. This, along with some mobility issues slowed her down, but now with first guide dog Inez by her side, she is back in the swing of things. “Inez has given me back my liberty, my independence,” she says. “I feel like a person again!” She says her friends and family have noticed a change in her, saying she’s back to being the “old Madalena, laughing and happy.” She says laughingly that picking up Inez’s harness handle and going out is like “pushing the gas pedal on a car and going where I want to go”!
Of Guiding Eyes, Madalena says: “I’m so proud of the school and what they did for me and for everybody! It is truly a five-star organization!”
Sheila & Pumpkin
Sheila calls Maine home. Pumpkin, a female yellow Lab, is her third guide dog, and her first from Guiding Eyes. They graduated from the home training program, which was one of the reasons that Sheila was attracted to Guiding Eyes.
Sheila lost much of her vision in 2012, leaving her with no peripheral vision and limited central vision in one eye. She is taking online classes and is learning Braille which, she says, is a slow process. She enjoys reading and checking out social media, as well as giving presentations to children about guide dogs.
When asked about Pumpkin, Sheila exclaims: “she’s an amazing dog!” She adds that they are out walking at least twice a day and learning new routes often. “I can feel the bounce in Pumpkin’s step each time we go someplace new!” She adds that Pumpkin is great in the house and a joy to be around. “I feel really relaxed with her.” Sheila’s first two dogs were German Shepherds, so she’s enjoying learning about Labs and says her bond with her Pumpkin is very strong.
Sheila says that she already feels like part of the Guiding Eyes family and also really appreciates the opportunity to meet and get to know Pumpkin’s raisers. “I got that family feeling right from the start”!