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Maria and Elmer

Meet Graduate Maria

Maria sits with black lab guide dog Eve for team portraitGraduate Team: Maria and Elmer
About the Team: Elmer, a male black Lab, is Maria’s 4th guide dog
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Training: August 2023 On-Campus

Maria has come to Guiding Eyes to be paired with a guide dog every 10 years, since the summer of 1993. Right on time, she returns for her fourth guide dog, Elmer, following the retirement of her previous guide who lives with her. Maria came to the United States from Mexico when she was 19 years old and has lived in Kentucky ever since. With her communications degree from the University of Kentucky, she spent 22 years working for the American Printing House for the Blind and is now a freelance Spanish to English translator and accessibility consultant. Maria’s an active traveler who has visited many European countries and has an upcoming trip to Argentina. She also started an Airbnb business out of her family home back in Mexico, which has maintained a consistent 5-star rating. Maria is an outgoing person who enjoys going out with friends to try new restaurants, and she also loves to read, play the saxophone, go on walks with her dogs, and listen to podcasts.

How would you describe your guide dog? “I noticed he was a straightforward worker from the beginning, going from point A to point B. When I say ‘forward,’ I better be ready because he takes off. When he stops, he’s going to stop exactly where you tell him. It’s abrupt, but he’s so accurate with his signaling of the curb, driveway, or steps. He’s also a charismatic dog and everyone seems to be attracted to him. When we go to the park, people stop to look at him and want to approach him because he’s friendly and intelligent.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I applied for my first guide dog from Guiding Eyes in 1993 and received a remarkable dog. We went to college together and lived in so many places; probably about 19 or 20 different places over the years, whether dorms, apartments or going back to Mexico. I had such a good experience that I went back exactly 10 years later in 2003 and got my second guide, which was another great experience, and I traveled a lot for work during that time. In 2013, I got my third guide dog, and I was still at the same job where I traveled a lot as a field rep. My third dog is retired and now I’m back in 2023.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “They give you much more independence and safety. You feel safe with another pair of eyes with you. Of course, we all come to use a cane and that’s perfectly fine, but a dog gives you an additional sense of independence and security. While you do need to be aware of your surroundings, it’s so much easier for me to work with a dog than with my cane. A dog helps you find a door or walk on a path, and it’s definitely an important addition to what you already know how to do. I used to travel to different parts of the country, go to different airports, hotels, and get into cars with a stranger. Especially as a woman, when traveling with a dog, it makes me feel better. I’ve never been afraid to do those things, but it’s added peace of mind when traveling with my guide dog.”

Were there any training highlights? “I like how the classes are shorter and smaller now. We do a lot during the day and go from one place to the next and everything goes quickly. I feel like I got the same results as I used to with the three to four week classes, in two weeks and I like that pace. With my previous guide, I did the Action program, where we go to the school for about 10 days and then someone came to my area to do extra training for about 5 days. It was an excellent training for me, but the two week training is excellent too.”

Meet Guide Dog Elmer

DOB:  6/29/2021
Litter ID: 7EE21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Frannie
Stud: Dasher
Littermates: Echo, Enzo, Ed, Elias, Elroy, Ephram, Elliott
Region:  Eastern MA
Regional Puppy Instructor: Lisa Bumbalo
Puppy Raiser:  The McMains Family
Facebook: Eastern Mass Puppy Raisers

Photos of the Team…