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May 2018 Graduating Class

May 2018 graduate class photo


Congratulations to Team Beau! May you have many safe and happy adventures together. Many thanks to Eileen and Terry Matro for their commitment to the Guiding Eyes mission. As puppy raiser, teacher, mentor and friend their dedication has touched the entire Guiding Eyes Community.

-Central New York Region

Congratulations to the May 2018 graduating class. We wish you well as you embark upon many fine adventures with your four-legged partners.

-Bob Rollmann and Cindy Sullivan, Fosters for Guiding Eyes Ingot

Congratulations to all the May graduates and puppy raisers. We raised our wonderful boy, Grayson, in memory of Joseph Vacca. “I was blind, but now I see.”

-The Rizopoulos Family

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.

Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Congratulations to our graduating class!

Residential Graduates:

  • Beverly & Qualli
  • Carla & Razzle
  • Chrissy & Ink
  • Deb & Beau
  • Ed & Smithers
  • George & Grayson
  • Eric & Vince
  • Kathryn & Peyton
  • Miguel & Quartz
  • Nancy & Nate
  • Phillip & Hawaii
  • Regina & Pippin

Home Training Graduates:

  • John & Mickey
  • Jennifer & Pearl
  • Ronalda & Crescent
  • Michael & Rufus

Many thanks to our Training Staff:

  • Class Supervisor: Kathryn Poallo
  • Class instructors: Alyssa Tilley, Dan Weesner, Amy Scordato
  • Special Needs Instructor: Andrea Martine
  • Instructor Assistant: Meghan Davis
  • Running Guides Specialist: Nick Speranza

Home Training:

  • Co-Director of Home Training: Jim Gardner
  • Co-Director of Home Training: Graham Buck
  • Special Needs Instructor: Susan Kroha
  • Field Representative: Maureen Mellett

Meet the Graduates: 

May graduates Carla and Razzle
Carla and Razzle

Graduate Team: Carla and Razzle
About Razzle: Razzle is a yellow lab and her first guide dog
Hometown: North Ogden, Utah
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Additional freedom and constant companionship. I raised five children and have grandkids, but I feel that I have a new purpose now with Razzle.”
A highlight of training: “The highlight of my time here was definitely the first playtime we had with all of our dogs. The students let the dogs off the harness and they all just played for 15 minutes. It was great to hear them having so much fun together.”
What makes our team special: “Respect, and the unconditional love the dog gives you from the first moment you meet. I believe life is a mirror – I am able to give Razzle back the same love that he gives me. Before I went blind, I didn’t mind getting lost with someone. But once you do, that changes. Now I know that my dog can help me find my way home if that ever happens – it’s about getting lost with someone I trust.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Heaven sent. Guiding Eyes has been the ultimate gift. I can’t thank everyone enough for the work they do here. And I’m so appreciative of the puppy raisers who raise a dog and then give them back for us.”

Congratulations to Razzle’s puppy raisers, Susan and Wayne Cooper!

May graduates Chrissy and Ink
Chrissy and Ink

Graduate Team: Chrissy and Ink
About Ink: Ink is a male yellow Lab and Chrissy’s second Guiding Eyes guide (who just turned two on May 10!); Chrissy’s first guide dog, Lizzie, a black Lab, retired in 2011
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “That’s hard, because there are so many things I want to do! One of them is malls – I have done cane travel in malls and there are so many obstacles you have to weave between. Ink and I did the mall this morning and he zipped right through! I’m also very interested in how he will handle the DC metro, which I take home from work every day. I’m also looking forward to bringing him to my favorite pub, the Limerick. I told them I was getting a service dog, and they said they can’t wait for me to bring him home!”
A highlight of training: “The first time we did escalators. I did them with Lizzie, but I don’t remember her guiding me right to the railing like he did. Ink is really into escalators, which is great because the DC metro is full of them!”
What makes our team special: “I’m thrilled with how frosty he is – he always keeps his cool. He is extremely precise, and extremely responsive. Whenever I target something like stairs or a door, I can feel him zeroing in on it. Then he speeds up like a magnet, and stops like a race car when he gets there.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “A few things stand out to me. First, the food and the kitchen service. I’m going to cry when I go home – I can cook, but I can’t cook like that! (I am one step above bachelor cooking.) Second, the Instructor Assistants are really good. And third, how the team manages to stay on schedule all the time. No matter what happens – if it’s raining, if it’s super hot, if the schedule changes – we’re busy. Even if we can’t do the original thing on the schedule, the teams whips up another thing for us to do!”

Congratulations to Ink’s puppy raiser, Abhinov Chalasani!

May graduates Deb and Beau
Deb and Beau

Graduate Team: Deborah (Deb) and Beau
About Beau: Beau, a male yellow lab, is her first guide dog
Hometown: Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m most looking forward to my freedom of movement being restored. I also look forward to proudly being an Ontario ambassador for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.”
A highlight of training: “Beau, and how Guiding Eyes matches the perfect dog with you. He has my heart. Going into this, I was trying to keep my expectations low. But Beau has instilled feelings of trust and love and companionship. He is so much more than a dog to me and I can see those same feelings in every one of the students here. And I’m amazed by the span of the training the dogs have.”
What makes our team special: “When you lose your sight, you lose some of your ways. But Beau restores that. For several years, I wasn’t ready to get a guide dog. I wasn’t ready to have a dog lead me, but Guiding Eyes matched me with a strong dog and I feel confident and ready to have Beau by my side. Not only that, but he is able to fulfill my emotional needs, too.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Words cannot express my gratitude for this whole organization. The professionalism and patience – everyone from the trainers to the office staff – is phenomenal. They have genuine concern for everyone under their care. Everyone is so compassionate and it really shows.”

Congratulations to Beau’s puppy raisers, Eileen and Terry Matro!

May graduates Ed and Smithers
Ed and Smithers

Graduate Team: Edward (Ed) and Smithers
About Smithers: Smithers, a male black lab, is Ed’s second dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Hometown: Aberdeen, South Dakota
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m really looking forward to getting back home and working with Smithers – going out for walks, enjoying the retired life, traveling. I am taking a trip to Kentucky soon to visit an art museum, and it will be nice to have the dog by my side. It’s good to have that flexibility and independence.”
A highlight of training: “I’d say a highlight was traffic checks during walks. It’s always amazing to see the amount of training the dogs get to be able to do this. Oh, and going on the escalators. Smithers really liked to ride them.”
What makes our team special: “Smithers is a really affectionate dog. He loves a lot of praise. And I like that he has a quick pace, is full of energy, and is always ready to get up and go.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Guiding Eyes is a great organization. They are really family-oriented and so friendly. I speak to many different people who have guide dogs from different schools, and I can say that Guiding Eyes is one of the best out there. Really top notch. I recommend it to everyone I talk to.”

Congratulations to Smithers’ puppy raisers, Kathleen and Philip McAllister!

May graduates George and Grayson
George and Grayson

Graduate Team: George and Grayson
About Grayson: Grayson is a yellow lab and George’s second guide dog, but the first he has had from Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Hometown: Harrah, Oklahoma
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m looking forward to rowing again – Grayson will get to come to the boathouse with me. I also like to stay in shape, so I’ll get to work out with him alongside me.”
A highlight of training: “The highlight was definitely the day I got Grayson. He is a good match. He walks the right pace for me, is laid back, and is very well behaved.”
What makes our team special: “It just clicked right away. With my first guide dog, that didn’t happen right away. It took time for us to get to know one another. But Grayson and I immediately bonded, and it just feels right with him.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Guiding Eyes for the Blind is the best school. I’m more relaxed here and my experience has been great. It took time for me to get comfortable working with my first guide dog, but Guiding Eyes matched me perfectly with a dog I immediately felt good with.”

Congratulations to Grayson’s puppy raisers, The Rizopoulos Family!

May graduates Eric and Vince
Eric and Vince

Graduate Team: Eric and Vince
About Vince: Vince, a male yellow lab, is Eric’s second from Guiding Eyes; Trooper was his first, in 2009
Hometown: Guthrie, Oklahoma
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Since I’ve already had a guide dog, I’m looking forward to seeing the differences between what I’ll be able to do with this dog versus my first guide.”
A highlight of training: “The people. This class is close – a lot closer than my last class, which is pretty cool.”
What makes our team special: “I think with him it was interesting because I actually matched with Vince during my second week at the school. After just five or six days, we just clicked. We bonded really, really quickly, and everything is working out so well. It’s been as smooth as possible, which is awesome.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “It’s incredible. They start this process months before you even get here – they send someone out to interview you, walk with you, get to know you. Everything is customized to you; it’s first class service.”

Congratulations to Vince’s puppy raiser, Linda Johnson!

*Eric graduated from the Guiding Eyes Special Needs program

May graduate Kathryn and Peyton
Kathryn and Peyton

Graduate Team: Kathryn and Peyton
About Peyton: Peyton, a yellow male lab, is her first guide dog
Hometown: Niskayuna, New York
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m looking forward to being more independent and going out more. I really enjoy going to concerts, plays, the movies and bowling.”
A highlight of training: “Today was definitely a highlight for me. I did the escalator for the first time since going blind when I was around 25 years old. We went to the city mall and I was really scared. I feel very proud of myself.”
What makes our team special: “The first day we were paired together, Peyton gave me a welcome lick on the face and we bonded immediately. He’s very smart and he gives me more independence. I’ve always liked dogs and wanted one, and now I finally have one. Peyton is the perfect match for me – he’s very patient as I learn all the new commands and how to work with him.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “At first, I was scared to come here and didn’t know what to expect. But it’s very comfortable. You get to talk about your different experiences and bond with students who have the same condition you do. The trainers are really supportive and I’ve made a lot of friends. It’s a great family.”

Congratulations to Peyton’s puppy raisers, Richard and Barbara Katz!

*Kathryn graduated from the Guiding Eyes Special Needs program

May graduates Miguel and Quartz
Miguel and Quartz

Graduate Team: Miguel and Quartz
About Quartz: Quartz, a yellow female lab, is Miguel’s second guide dog from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Miguel is originally from northern Spain and currently living in Island Park, New York
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Being able to do my daily routine again of going to and from work. It’s made easier with guide dogs. It was hard walking with a cane, especially using the subways in New York, but having a dog is like having my eyes back. I also travel home to Spain every three to four months and having a guide dog makes traveling easier.”
A highlight of training: “Everyone is amazing here. There isn’t one specific highlight. I love all the work you do here.”
What makes our team special: “She is beautiful, just beautiful. I’m used to having a dog with me at all times now. If my first guide dog wasn’t with me or Quartz is not with me, I feel like I am missing something. It just feels empty not having a dog beside me. My life is full with them.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I love Guiding Eyes for the Blind. My first guide dog was perfect and worked for seven years without any problems before retiring. The work you do here with dogs is really important. All the staff give their life to working here and it helps give us life again. Thank you for helping us and for doing a great job with the dogs.”

Congratulations to Quartz’s puppy raiser, Christine Bohmer!

May graduates Nancy and Nate
Nancy and Nate

Graduate Team: Nancy and Nate
About Nate: Nate, a black lab, is Nancy’s sixth dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Hometown: Colonie, New York
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “I’m looking forward to getting back to my home environment and working with my new dog. I also can’t wait to continue with my church activities and the other two masonic organizations I am involved with.”
A highlight of training: “I was matched with Nate on my birthday! It was the greatest gift.”
What makes our team special: “I used a cane for 15 years and I always hated it. When I got my first guide dog from Guiding Eyes, I asked myself why I had waited so long. Nate is very affectionate and loves me. He is a good worker. I want to rely on a guide dog, too, because I am also losing my hearing and Nate gives me another sense of security.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “I love the support Guiding Eyes gives you both while you are here and once you leave. The students in class with me are great, too. Everyone supports one another.”

Congratulations to Nate’s puppy raisers, Cathy and Tim Hoff!

May graduates Phillip and Hawaii
Phillip and Hawaii

Graduate Team: Phillip and Hawaii
About Hawaii: Hawaii, a female black lab, is his first guide dog
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Not being locked inside all of the time and having another chance. I can cross the street, go to the store, go different places…and with a positive state of mind. Coming to this program and being matched with Hawaii gave me a new point of view on losing my sight. It gave me hope again. I’m looking forward to doing some of the things that I wasn’t able to do before I came.”
A highlight of training: “Everyone is really encouraging here. I lost some of my sight and felt like I needed hope again, and got that. Guiding Eyes gave me a chance to get out of my house and the training has been really helpful.”
What makes our team special: “When I lost my sight, I would just sit in my house and not do many of the things I used to. But I don’t have to do that anymore. Hawaii is my companion, and having someone by my side makes me feel a lot better.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Guiding Eyes is a really helpful organization for people losing their sight. If people seek it out, they wouldn’t feel like they are losing everything. You give people with vision loss hope again.”

Congratulations to Hawaii’s puppy raiser, Spencer Pawlowski!

May graduates Regina and Pippin
Regina and Pippin

Graduate Team: Regina and Pippin
About Pippin: Pippin is a black lab and Regina’s first guide dog
Hometown: Marietta, South Carolina
What I’m most looking forward to about returning home: “Going out walking. Before I lost my vision, I was walking up to six miles a day but then stopped. I’m looking forward to gaining my independence back and being more comfortable walking without a cane.”
A highlight of training: “A highlight of training here has been the escalators and learning the flow of traffic and when to cross. That was a big worry of mine. Where I live is more rural, but we often visit a nearby city so being able to train with Pippin in both types of environments is very helpful.”
What makes our team special: “I was very independent before going blind. So when I did, I didn’t feel like my old self, especially while using a cane. I wanted to get a guide dog because I want my independence back and to be self-reliant again. Pippin and I just clicked right from the start. It was like you hand-picked and bred this dog just for me. My family is very sports-oriented, so I love that he is also active. Pippin just fell into my life perfectly and is the perfect companion. Besides having my children and grandkids, being paired with him was the most emotional thing that has happened to me. I felt like I lost everything when I went blind, but now I am back to myself again. We can conquer the world now.”
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “This organization is amazing. The trainers, the kitchen staff, the veterinarians – everyone is so friendly and helpful. I will definitely come back here when Pippin needs to retire. Some members of my family have the same condition as I do, and I will definitely be referring them to Guiding Eyes.”

Congratulations to Pippin’s puppy raisers, Lauren Steckler, Billy Page, Paul and Cindy Swift, and Andrew K. Rock!

Graduate Michael sits with his guide dog Rufus
Michael and Rufus

Graduate Team: Michael and Rufus
About Rufus: Rufus is Michael’s second guide dog from Guiding Eyes; Yeta was his first
Hometown: Manchester, New Hampshire
What I’m most looking forward to after graduation: “There are lots of people who walk around outside here. Having a guide dog makes doing things like going out to public events or taking my mom out for Mother’s Day a lot easier.”
A highlight of training: “Rufus bonded with me very quickly. We weren’t expecting that, so it was very cool. We didn’t expect him to connect with me so quickly.”
What makes our team special: “I can walk outside for exercise again, and more quickly. Having a dog, your reaction time is quicker than with a cane or sighted guide. It’s been a blast having a dog. I have five or six dog beds all over the house. They’re spoiled. 
How I feel about Guiding Eyes: “Guiding Eyes tailors everything possible to your specific needs and they are always there for any questions I have. I can always send an email. It’s a great resource for any questions I have.”

Congratulations to Rufus’ puppy raisers, Mr. and Mrs. McCauley!

*Michael graduated from the Guiding Eyes Home Training program


May graduate teams training out in the field