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Mari and Betty

Meet Graduate Mari

Mari leans into black Lab guide dog Betty for their team portrait

Graduate Team: Mari and Betty
About the Team: Betty is a female black Lab and Mari’s 1st guide dog
Location: College Station, Texas
Training: December 2023 On-Campus

Mari was born in Mexico, and as an infant was brought to the United States for medical care. She subsequently remained in Texas and was raised in Houston. As an adult, Mari now makes her home in College Station, Texas, a city located northwest of Houston. She is totally blind, resulting from her diagnosis of a childhood cancer known as retinoblastoma. Mari is a junior at Stephen F. Austin State University, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in special education online and hopes to become a teacher for the visually impaired. In her spare time, Mari enjoys playing music, going to the gym and the movies, cooking, and shopping. She also loves playing with Betty, and although she had several dogs growing up, Betty is Mari’s first guide dog.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Betty has changed my life. She is the sweetest, smartest, sassiest dog you will ever meet. She has this super happy wagging tail! She loves to play with her toys, but when I get out the harness she loves to work. If we get a little off track and I get a bit anxious, she lets me do what I need to do, and is very reassuring that we will get back on track. She’s really smart and gives me the confidence to travel fully independently, especially when crossing the street.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I knew for a very long time that I wanted a guide dog, but I also had a lot of anxiety about it. I felt I might not qualify or deserve a guide dog. My orientation and mobility instructor was very encouraging and shared a lot of information on guide dogs. She knew the benefit a guide dog would bring to me and my anxiety. She gave me a list of guide dog schools, and based on the feedback, her experience with these schools, and my own research, I knew Guiding Eyes was the best school to apply to. After being interviewed by Guiding Eyes, I knew I was in the right place.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I was matched with Betty in November, and she has been the best Christmas gift I have ever received. At times I have struggled with my anxiety and mood. I learned almost immediately that Betty’s presence helps to alleviate my anxieties. Having to care for her distracts me and this brings me happiness, and when she is working, I travel with so much more confidence.”

Were there any training highlights? “I received a call from Guiding Eyes sooner than I expected. I always wanted to travel to New York and to be honest, it was my first time traveling alone and I was anxious. I spoke to my trainer Michelle a week before training, sharing my concerns about being a good match for a guide dog, and she talked me through the process. When I arrived, staff met me at the airport in New York City and escorted me to the Guiding Eyes campus. They took me directly to my assigned room, which was nicely equipped, and Michelle took me to the dining room so I could eat after my long day of travel before we took a tour of the school’s campus. There were only four students in my class, including me, so we received a lot of individualized instruction. During training, we traveled to the City of White Plains and local towns, and a mall in Connecticut and an Italian restaurant. It was a great experience and Betty turned out to be a perfect match.”

Meet Guide Dog Betty

DOB:  10/2/2021
Litter ID: 6B321
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Dusk
Stud: Everett
Littermates: Breeze, Benny, Beauty, Bexley, Bagel, Barry, Bob
Region:  Montgomery
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jeanyne Gembarski
Puppy Raiser:  The Kolodziejczyk Family
Facebook: Montgomery Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Betty came to us as a pup with boundless energy, springing several feet straight into the air as a regular morning greeting – a rabbit masquerading as a dog. Always eager to please, she even sat with flair. Her goofy smile was a bright spot in the last months of pandemic isolation. Always happy to be busy, Betty could endlessly play follow the leader with our pet dog, but when grandma broke her hip Betty took in stride the long boring car rides, crowded new spaces and weird smells. Even as she matured into a more restful pup, Betty would jump to the ready if there seemed a chance at some walking or practicing. She is sure to brighten the days of her new family. ~ Susan Kolodziejczyk, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…