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May 2008 Graduating Class

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated on May 24th.

And many thanks to our instructors:

Many thanks to volunteer Marge Widman for contributing the interviews.

Treasa Ahumada & Geneva

Working grandmother plans trip abroad with second dog

Treasa Ahumada, 42, was born in Kansas, but now claims her residency in North Carolina. Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 1987, Treasa was recommended to Guiding Eyes by her rehabilitation mobility instructor and returned here for Geneva, her second dog from the school. Treasa, a proud grandmother of two, enjoys a busy lifestyle. She works from home as a teleprospector, which entails generating sales leads for medical software. She is an outdoors-woman, and likes to camp and fish.

Treasa quickly found that Geneva brightens her day. She fully expects that Geneva will widen her horizons considerably, enabling her to travel (she has already planned a trip to Costa Rica). She noticed changes at Guiding Eyes since her last class here, specifically “changes in advanced training techniques, as well as having a well-furnished private room.” And Treasa adds, “The food, as always, is tops everyone here is so accommodating.”

June Bruno & Eve

Four-time graduate Broadway-bound with new dog

June Bruno, a die-hard Yankees fan, lost her vision gradually due to retinitis pigmentosa. She resides in lower Westchester County, New York, and came here for Eve, her fourth Guiding Eyes dog. A widow of 15 years and mother of two children, June initially chose Guiding Eyes because of its proximity to her home. She now proclaims, “It is one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

June worked as an accountant for 17 years and is now retired. She enjoys traveling into New York City for concerts and theatre as well as taking computer courses sponsored by Visions. June is a very social person; and leads a busy and satisfying social life. She describes Eve as a sweet little girl who is very affectionate and loves to play and work with equal vigor. June expressed amazement and praise for the number of innovations at Guiding Eyes since her last visit, including the recent construction of additional office and meeting spaces and private bedrooms for all students. She also noted that the quality of training remains superb. June added, “Everyone here goes out of their way to ensure a successful partnership for you and your Guiding Eyes dog.”

Barbara Buchanan & Herbie

Teacher of the blind cherishes independent life with a Guiding Eyes dog

Barbara Buchanan, 68, of Vermont, came to Guiding Eyes for Herbie, her third dog from the school. Barbara enrolled at Guiding Eyes initially following the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend, and believes that her choice was prophetic. A graduate of Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, Barbara was a teacher of blind children in Montreal before becoming blind, and also worked for the federal government. Since moving to Vermont, she recently retired from the Good News Garage.

Barbara enjoys travel, walking and being with friends, but also savors time at home reading, knitting, watching old movies and listening to the “big bands of yesteryear.” Barbara was without a guide dog for five months, and missed her independence. She eagerly looks forward to getting out on the streets again. “My colleagues here are highly motivated, independent achievers who are making a difference in the world. We are all one family. Kudos to Guiding Eyes and their wise selection process in finding the “right match” between each student and dog.”

Mushad Corley & Taurus

Accident victim puts faith in his first Guiding Eyes dog

At the age of 35, Brooklyn resident Mushad Corley lost his sight as the result of a head-on automobile collision. Just one year later, he came to Guiding Eyes for his first dog, Taurus. In search of regaining his once strong sense of self-confidence, he turned to Guiding Eyes because of a very meaningful and encouraging conversation with Becky Barnes, Manager of Outreach and Graduate Support.

Mushad has an Associates degree in Human Services and was engaged in the field of peer advocacy. He is anxious to try something new and different, and with Taurus at his side will explore other options. Mushad is single, likes all types of music, going to the movies, helping others and cooking. He also proudly holds several advanced belts in Akido.

Mushad is optimistic about his life now: Taurus, he says, with his stellar leadership and working qualities will help him to re-develop security and patience as they face new frontiers together. This young man, who exhibits a strong faith in God, is very special. He is eagerly looking forward to moving on with his life, thanks to Guiding Eyes. “This is a terrific facility with a superb faculty and staff working together to secure my future (and that of my fellow students). I would recommend it to everyone.”

Paul Featherson & Snyder

Guiding Eyes dog opens door to public transportation

Paul Featherson lost his sight as a result of retinitis pigmentosa 35 years ago when he was nine years old. Although he is a successful cane user, he came to Guiding Eyes for his first dog through the enthusiastic recommendations of classmates in a recent computer class. A life-long resident of Maine, Paul was employed by Shaw Supermarkets for 23 years, during which time he took classes in computer, mobility and Braille. Paul owns his own house where he lives independently, with his immediate family nearby.

Paul’s obedient and affectionate male black Lab is Snyder, who will be Paul’s new live-in housemate, guide and companion. Paul enjoys people, loves to fresh-water fish, and relishes working around his house. Listening to books on tape, writing and reading Braille occupies him during the dark and snowy winter months. He also modestly admits that he cooks his own meals (but they are very simple). Paul is especially looking forward to Snyder’s valuable contribution to a faster and safer mode of walking and using public transportation. “From the very get-go the phone call, application process, and evaluation – to the training itself, collegiality and food this place is spectacular.”

Angie Giltinan & Essence

Technology specialist travels the country with Guiding Eyes dog

Angie Giltinan, 32, came for her third dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind and returned to Pennsylvania with Essence. Angie has been blind since birth as the result of optic nerve displasia. A graduate of The Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, Angie enjoys a successful career, traveling country-wide as an access technology specialist for the vision impaired.

Her favorite pursuits of relaxation in her rare “down time” include reading, net surfing, walking and nurturing her eight-month-old kitten. Angie knows that the “essence” of her new Guiding Eyes dog is similar to her own, filled with a strong, spirited desire to work and to please; together they share a mutual trust. Noting many new and progressive techniques at Guiding Eyes since her initial visit, Angie is quick to point out her appreciation of the trainers’ recognition of the personality and needs of each student and their open-minded and patient work with the individual. “Guiding Eyes exercises care and excellent judgment in matching each student and dog.”

Iris I. Grant & Audie

Retired career-woman and talented artist returns for second Guiding Eyes dog

Iris I. Grant, 65, came from Michigan for Audie, her second guide dog, but first from Guiding Eyes. Iris lost her vision as the result of a fusion operation when she was 50; she is hearing impaired as well. She says that while at Guiding Eyes, she felt like a sponge, soaking in a rich abundance of knowledge and skills.

Iris was initially interested in the field of museum history, and today is a talented artist in acrylic, watercolor, and macramé. She also is a skilled designer of flower arrangements and creates jewelry and ceramic objects. She works in darkness and paints with light, bright colors, creating inspiring images.

Her career includes employment with a veterinarian, dentist, opthomologist, and vascular surgeon. As a volunteer, Iris produced and directed a cablevision program. Married 42 years to Robert, who is a high school counselor and teacher, they have three children and five grandchildren. Iris has confidence in Audie already. “She will certainly keep me on the right track.

Britt Jefferey & Shelly

Graduate raises funds to “give back” to Guiding Eyes

Britt Jefferey has returned from North Carolina for Shelly, her third Guiding Eyes dog. Britt’s eyesight has diminished considerably since her last visit. Britt is a college graduate and happily married. She is a certified massage therapist, and also enjoys oil painting, water sports, horseback riding and travel.

She describes Shelly as “a diva always on her back being silly but a great leader.” Britt is a “go-getter” by nature and is seriously engaged in raising funds for Guiding Eyes through her community charity organizations. She hopes to raise $50,000 this year.

Citing satisfaction and praise for every aspect of Guiding Eyes’ training program, Britt says she loves the changes in training commands, and the new equipment and facilities at the school. She can’t wait to get home and retrain her retired guide dog Kyra, whom she knows will welcome Shelly with an open heart.

Jule Ann Lieberman & Johann

Innovative business owner leads full life with third Guiding Eyes dog

Jule Ann Lieberman returned to Guiding Eyes from Pennsylvania for her third dog, Johann, a handsome black male Lab. Jule Ann was diagnosed with Conrod dystrophy at the age of 9, and by the age of 16, the disease had claimed all but her peripheral vision. When Jule Ann decided she wanted a guide dog, her husband John reached out to former Guiding Eyes Director of Student Services Steve Kuusisto, who is also author of the best-selling book Planet of the Blind, and that initial contact convinced Jule Ann that Guiding Eyes was the right place for her. She and John have been married 25 years and have three children, ages 17 to 23.

Jule Ann owns a retail business that provides vision aids and magnification systems. She was formerly an assistive teacher and employment counselor. She is also active as a public speaker, sharing her experience and knowledge. Jule Ann says that she appreciates Johann’s playful spirit and respects his serious attitude towards work, which will be key to her maintaining her busy lifestyle. Jule Ann, who is something of a jokester, has affectionately dubbed Johann, “Johann Sebastian Bark.” She stated that Guiding Eyes has yet again given her the gift of “a continuance of a vibrant and wonderful life.”

Don McWilliams & Bill

Mechanic-at-heart keeps pace with third Guiding Eyes dog

Don McWilliams has been without a guide dog since Valentine’s Day and came from Illinois to meet Bill, his third Guiding Eyes dog. Diabetes and surgery claimed Don’s sight when he was 26 years old. While attending a school for the blind in Chicago, he heard about Guiding Eyes’ stellar student training and canine quality.

Don was employed in the building trades and also as a boiler technician. Today he is retired and has found a new, fulfilling life as a homebody. A mechanic at heart, he works on lawn mowers, attends motor cycle races with his friends, and enjoys listening to music and watching movies. Bill’s pace of walking matches Don’s perfectly, and Don appreciates his new dog’s calm and laid back character. With a tone of sincerity and admiration, Don praised the innovative techniques employed by Guiding Eyes to ensure the success of each student-canine team.

David Pattison & Elba

David Pattison lost his sight as the result of diabetic retinopathy 30 years ago at the age of 35 and came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, Elba. He was encouraged to enroll through internet research by his wife, Florence. David earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, followed by a Masters in Business.

Florence and David have been married for 37 years and have one daughter and three grandchildren. He was employed as a design engineer and later an expeditor of heavy rolling mill equipment. He is an avid collector of old tools, and loves to work with wood. He is looking forward to using his brand new band saw, which will soon be installed in his home wood-working shop.

David and his wife used to enjoy tandem bike riding however, now David has switched to a stationery exercise bike and observes a daily walking regimen. David observes that Elba is quiet and laid back with a pleasant, obedient disposition that is evident during work and play. David, as a first timer at Guiding Eyes, is impressed with how much he has learned through our training program. “Everyone here cares and wants nothing more than for you to succeed. I’m glad I came.”