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Marie and Charles

Meet Graduate Marie

Marie sits with yellow guide Charles whose head looms large above her shoulder in team portraitGraduate Team: Marie and Charles
About the Team: Charles, a male yellow Lab, is Marie’s 1st guide dog
Location: Fairfax, Virginia
Training: March 2023 Home Training

Marie is involved in several organizations, often participating within leadership positions. She’s the current treasurer, and former president, of the state affiliate of the American Council of the Blind of Virginia. She’s also the treasurer of IVIE, (Independent Visually Impaired Entrepreneurs), a non-geographical affiliate of ACB, and the chair of the advisory group for Access Services, her local talking library. Marie has many friends who are fellow graduates of Guiding Eyes and recently joined a local group, Capital Area Guide Dog Users, to meet other guide dog handlers and get tips along the way. Marie enjoys varied activities like walking, listening to music, going to concerts, shopping, dinner with friends, and participating in church events. Over the summer, Marie saw New Kids on the Block, Salt-n-Pepa, Rick Astley, and En Vogue in concert with her mom and sister. She also enjoys audiobooks, particularly fantasy, mystery, and suspense, and Stephen King is one of her favorite authors. A fan of Star Trek, she recently read the TekWars series by William Shatner.

How would you describe your guide dog? “My sister and I bought him a huge pillow that he loves, and he’ll lay in it even when it’s not bedtime. My mom and I will look around, ‘where’s Charles?’, and he’s put himself to bed on his pillow. When he’s in harness, he’s focused, and his head is always on a swivel. He’s looking right, left, and front, and when I was working with Susan, she was describing that for me. He’s playful when he’s out of his harness. First thing in the morning, he’ll grab his rainbow stuffed unicorn like ‘let’s play’ or I’ll catch him sunbathing in front of the sliding glass door with his unicorn.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I had been thinking about it for a long time and finally applied in 2019. I put my application in because I learned a guide can help you if you have balance issues. I have three autoimmune diseases and my balance is not great, so when I heard that I asked my friend which school would be best. Before I could even finish the question, he said Guiding Eyes. Once I knew my balance issue wouldn’t be a hindrance to applying for a guide dog, it made me do it instead of just thinking about it. I use a special harness so if I have to lean on it, it distributes the weight evenly.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Susan took a picture of me walking on a train platform, and I sent it to a friend who said that it was the straightest they’d seen me walk. They said I was standing taller, and my knees weren’t bent like they usually are. My walker helps me walk straight but can be dangerous since I’m totally blind. With Charles, there’s more flexibility. Once I was in the business area of a hotel at 10 p.m. with no one else around. All of the sudden while walking, I heard this audible voice that warned ‘approaching stairs.’ Luckily, they had that or else I would’ve gone down them. Even though a walker helps me walk straight, it’s not helpful with curbs and steps, so it’s a lot better with Charles and I’m faster too. When we practiced going to the doctor’s office, I was like ‘Wow, that’s much faster!’ When I’m by myself, I have to stay close to the walls and doing that takes a lot of time.”

Were there any training highlights?  “During home training, my instructor asked me which areas I would like to go to and places that I routinely go. From there I listed places, such as church, the hospital, shopping centers, and Walmart, and then we made a plan about which places to hit. It was helpful being able to cover the places I normally travel to and familiarize myself with the ones I knew I would be taking Charles to on a regular basis.”

Meet Guide Dog Charles

DOB:  7/16/2019
Litter ID: 1C319
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Male
Brood: Emerald
Stud: Octane
Littermates: Colonel, Cashew, Caeser, Clay, Clinton, Colt, Colleen, Clooney, Clyde, Cam
Region:  Lower Westchester
Regional Puppy Instructor: Elizabeth Vacchiano
Puppy Raiser:  Elizabeth Rengiifo & Family, Karen Elliot
Facebook: Westchester NY Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Charles was the first dog I raised and responsible for my falling in doggie love, by filling our home with so much joy and fun. Charles was such an easy going dog that enjoyed snuggling on the floor with his puppy and kitty siblings as well as with all of his humans. He loved his buddy Bruce and the two of them were often snuggled together or chasing each other around the house. Charles enjoyed sleeping on his back, getting toasty in front of the fire, going on hikes, fetching lacrosse balls and playing with Cody next door who is a released GEB pup. Charles and I did everything together and it was wonderful to be able to see him learn and experience many firsts as we ventured out into the world. We miss Charles and know that whoever gets him is so lucky to have such a special dog. 🐾 💕  ~ Karen Elliott, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…