May 2019 Graduating Class
Congratulations to our May 2019 Graduating Class!
In memory of Cindy Chait, Brody’s puppy raiser. Cindy’s family would like to congratulate all the May 2019 graduates and the raisers of these wonderful dogs.
– Monroe Puppy Raising Region
Congratulations to every graduate, guide dog, and puppy raiser. With special recognition to Adonis and his raisers Peggy and Jeff Rouse and Yates and his raisers Stephanie and Neil Myers. We wish you all many miles of fun filled adventures.
– Capital Puppy Raising Region
Dan Bernstein and Jeff Lustick are proud to be a sponsor of this wonderful event. We wish you the best as you begin a wonderful and independent life. Congratulations to the new guide dog teams on your graduation and best wishes as you move forward.
– Dan & Jeff
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.
- Fatima and Brody
- Israel and Floyd
- Jack and Adonis
- Joseph and Yates
- Kay and Fuji
- Matthew and Tanner
- Patricia and Nettie
- Rae-Scott and Zed
- Robert and Anchor
- Rocco and Gidget
- Tomeka and Treble
- Veronika and Apache
Home Training Graduates:
- Andrea and Otis
- Marc and Rowan
- Sarah and Vince
- Sue Ellen and Enya
Many thanks to our Training Staff:
- Class Supervisor: Jolene Hollister
- Class Instructors: Alyssa Tilley, Dan Weesner, Amy Di Palo
- Running Guide Specialist: Nick Speranza
- Instructor Assistant: Kimberly Hansen
- Home Training Instructors: Julie Angle, James Gardner, Susan Kroha, Andrea Martine
Meet the Residential Training Graduates
Graduate Team: Fatima and Brody
About the Team: Brody, a male yellow lab, is Fatima’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Fatima currently volunteers her time, but is interested in pursuing work or furthering her education now that she has been paired with Brody. She enjoys keeping busy by cooking and baking, knitting hats and blankets and judo. Fatima takes pleasure in being very social and is a big fan of the hockey team, Toronto Maple Leafs.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Guiding Eyes has done a great job matching me to what I was looking for in a guide. Brody’s very energetic and keeps me on my toes. He always wants to go when it’s time to work and always wants to play – I love that! He can get really silly when he plays with his bone and runs circles around me.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I wanted more independence. In the past, I’ve had a hard time being sure when a road is safe to cross. I had noticed that with the cane, sometimes I was veering too much. With Brody, I already feel so much more comfortable, even just in these past few weeks.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’m looking forward to going back to my normal routine, but doing it more comfortably with Brody. In August, we’ll be traveling with family to Florida to vacation at a resort. We’ll do a lot of swimming and relaxing.”
Were there any training highlights? “Yes, when we did the night route, I felt so much more comfortable and safe walking with Brody. With my cane, I used to feel pretty scared at night. Also, this group of people has been great and very friendly.”
Congratulations to Brody’s Puppy Raisers, Laura Hamilton and Cindy and Stu Chait!
Graduate Team: Israel and Floyd
About the Team: Floyd, a male black lab, is Israel’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Israel keeps busy working as an Accessibility Coordinator at a non-profit, whose objective is enriching the lives of those who are blind through employment. During his off hours, he enjoys traveling, reading and listening to sports, especially baseball. Israel is also enthusiastic about music, having been a drummer in a band in his “younger” days.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Amazing. Floyd is a great worker – super smart and on-point when in harness. He’s curious and eager to play off harness. He’s just beautiful – a good looking boy.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I lost my sight when I was six so I’ve been a cane user for 25 years. I’ve always been an independent traveler, but my decision is primarily about the ease of travel. My girlfriend has a guide dog from Guiding Eyes and told me how good the program is here. I’ve seen firsthand what having a guide dog does for her. Now that I’m more settled and the timing is right, I’ve thought, I want that.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I look forward to showing Floyd the routes I typically take. I became a homebody after I stopped playing music, so I’d like to get out more; explore the city of Milwaukee. We’ll have a lot of fun.”
Were there any training highlights? “Yes, the moment we were unclipped from the support leash. It was incredible to move through the environment – just the two of us – like we will at home. For a new user, the process can seem overwhelming, but Guiding Eyes does an excellent job of matching dog to student and trainer to student. My trainer is excellent and fits my learning style. We’ve seen massive improvement in such a short time – it’s just unbelievable.”
Congratulations to Floyd’s Puppy Raisers, The Panten Family, Dana Metheny and Anne Annala and The Veras Family!
Graduate Team: Jack and Adonis
About the Team: Adonis, a male yellow lab, is Jack’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Easton, Massachusetts
Jack is an active college student, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He is looking forward to starting his senior year with Adonis as his “side-kick”. Jack likes to fix old cars, spend time with friends and take part in outdoor activities, such as skiing, camping and hiking.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Adonis can be described as a lovable sweetheart – a gentle giant. He’s a very confident guide. He has a strong pull and really ‘dials in’ when he’s working. I feel much more confident walking with him. The dogs here are focused when they need to be, but still playful or settled when the situation calls for it.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “ I have been a cane user since the 6th grade and really became interested after meeting guide dog users at a National Federation for the Blind event. I was doing STEM mentoring in a program geared towards bringing low vision students into the sciences. Guiding Eyes was highly recommended by my O&M Instructor and a former graduate.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’ll feel more confident going to and from my college classes and people will be more likely to come up to us to interact. A dog is more ‘people friendly’ than a cane, which sometimes tends to make people uncomfortable. Also, it’s going to be nice having a little buddy with me.”
Were there any training highlights? “We were out walking with two people ahead of us and two others approaching. Normally, I’d be thinking, ‘How am I going to navigate this?’, but Adonis slowed down, sped up, weaved around them and I was like, “Whoa! I didn’t even have to think about it!”
Congratulations to Adonis’ Puppy Raisers, Peggy and Jeff Rouse!
Graduate Team: Joseph and Yates
About the Team: Yates, a male black lab, is Joe’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Joe is currently working towards becoming the first in his family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. A full time student studying psychology at the University of Houston-Downtown, he hopes to one day be a counselor for children with disabilities. Joe loves to be active and plays on a beep baseball team, a form of baseball using a ball which emits a beep. He is looking forward to participating in triathlons in the future and can’t wait to have Yates join him at the ball field back in Houston.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Yates is always ready. From the moment he gets up to when he goes to bed, he is ready to go. When he works, he is so focused. He works hard and plays hard, and I really enjoy that – the best of both worlds.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I heard how the program worked – that Guiding Eyes works really hard to understand their students and match them as perfectly as possible. Having a guide dog really helps on my college campus and in the city of Houston, where things are always changing. It works so much better for me than a cane.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I am joining a triathlon team, so I am really looking forward to going home and starting the training for that. I’m also graduating from college in December and can’t wait for Yates to walk across the stage with me.”
Were there any training highlights? “The warmth the staff shows us is what always gets me. This is my second time here; for everyone to remember me and be so kind feels very special. It really feels like family. I could never go anywhere else.”
Congratulations to Yates’ Puppy Raisers, The Myers Family!
Graduate Team: Kay and Fuji
About the Team: Fuji, a female black lab, is Kay’s 6th guide dog, 1st from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Kay was once an adaptive technology trainer, who continues to have an interest in technology & beta-testing. In the past, she trained, rehabilitated and rehomed parrots. Kay is the 2nd Vice President for the Southside Lion’s Club of St. Louis. She has a love of reading and a husband and three cats back home looking forward to meeting Fuji.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Fuji is a cool dog – a lot of fun. She has a lot of spunk and initiative. I like that in a dog! She’s a good worker and very serious in harness. Out of harness, she’s such a happy dog who likes to RUN and play – especially with squeaky toys or balls.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “It’s been almost 2 years since my last guide dog. During that time I had surgery, but once I started feeling back to normal, I began saying to myself, I need a guide dog again. I’m a good cane traveler, but I prefer the lifestyle of having a guide dog – the companionship and easier travel. I’ve encountered many with Guiding Eyes dogs and like what I’ve heard about the school, so I decided to give it a shot!”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I’ve traveled more since having a guide dog; gotten out and done more. I’m really looking forward to being able to go out on longer walks with Fuji. We’ve even been talking about traveling to New Zealand in the future. Also, when meeting people, guide dogs have been a conversation starter.”
Were there any training highlights? “The instructors really care about what is happening and how things are happening for you. They make the effort to individualize the program to your own needs. It’s been fun working with a dog that enjoys guide work. When the harness comes out and the dog is excited, it’s really nice to see that.”
Congratulations to Fuji’s Puppy Raisers, Bobbie and Jim Havel!
Graduate Team: Matthew & Tanner
About the Team: Tanner, a male yellow lab, is Matt’s 6th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Jamaica, New York
Matt enjoys an active lifestyle, making his living in New York City as a 7th grade teacher and contributing as a Teacher’s Union Representative. In his off hours, he loves to read and use his culinary skills. Matt is known for his shrimp scampi, BBQ ribs, and mac and cheese, and during the holidays bakes 11 different kinds of cookies – almost 900 cookies in all. He is an avid collector of music and a big fan of R&B.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Tanner’s a big boy! He’s an independent thinker and takes initiative, which I really like. He’s calm and good with taking direction. Tanner can be playful and loves his toys, especially any toy that bounces!”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My last dog retired a couple of years ago, then I had ACL (knee) surgery, which required the following year for recovery. When it came time to reapply for a guide, I knew I was going to Guiding Eyes. I wouldn’t go anywhere else. There are many staff persons here I care a great deal about. They treat you like family, and that is why I come back.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s the feeling of safety and the feeling of freedom. Having a guide dog allows me to walk faster. Walking through crowds, it’s like the red sea – they just part for you! I work as a 7th grade teacher in New York City, with students with behavioral challenges and my guide dogs have really been a positive presence in the classroom.”
Were there any training highlights? “This class is a really good mesh of people. Everyone has been getting along – it’s a great group. It’s really been a lot of fun training with Tanner. We clicked on the first day we walked together.”
Congratulations to Tanner’s Puppy Raisers, Paul and Cindy Swift!
Graduate Team: Patricia and Nettie
About the Team: Nettie, a female yellow lab, is Trish’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: San Diego, California
Trish is enthusiastic about getting her first guide dog and looks forward to “getting back into the world”. She has high hopes of returning to activities she enjoys, such as swimming and playing pool and can’t wait to introduce Nettie to her family back home.
How would you describe your guide dog? “The match is perfect! She has her own personality, mellow and calm, and she listens well. She likes to work and is very focused when in harness. She knows she’s working and she’s concentrated on the mission.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I need to feel safe leaving the house at night and I want my independence back. I’m thankful to my son for his support, but I need to get back into the world and to the things I had given up doing. I am a caregiver for my disabled adult daughter and now I can take what I’ve learned, go home and encourage her to be more independent, too.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’ll be more confident and not afraid, especially at night. I look forward to being me again, out on my own. The concept of knowing, I can go, will be the best thing ever. I’ll be able to walk with my head up, make face to face contact and say good morning to people.”
Were there any training highlights? “The first time we met and went on our very first walk. There was the connection. It felt like, ok, we’re good. The matching, [dog to student], Guiding Eyes does is very impressive.”
Congratulations to Nettie’s Puppy Raiser, Tonya Cole!
Graduate Team: Rae-Scott and Zed
About the Team: Zed, a male black lab, is Scott’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Groton, Connecticut
Scott works as an instructor of skills training classes for those seeking employment. He likes to travel, as well as participate in outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking and camping. He looks forward to safer day to day travel and doing more with Zed by his side.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Zed continues to amaze me with his intelligence. When he is in harness and enters work mode, he’s very attentive and focused. When he is out of his harness, he shows his fun puppy side. I think he could have been a kitten in another life. He’s a big love bug that would curl up in your lap, if he could fit.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Guiding Eyes comes highly recommended by those that have known graduates and the great training the dogs and students received. I love dogs and knew a guide was in my future, so this training has been a 3-week investment worth making.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’ll have the confidence to hike again or walk to the market without the fear of tree roots in the path or obstacles in the sidewalk. I’ll no longer be apprehensive about doing the things I like to do outside, out of fear or embarrassment of what might happen. Having a guide dog will reinstate my confidence.”
Were there any training highlights? “We were walking through a narrow area of sidewalk with outside tables set up on one side, and on the other side a man was opening a set of bulkhead doors to a basement. Zed’s ability to assess the situation, slow his pace and navigate through was amazing to me. Also, when we trained in the grocery store I learned to maneuver the carriage and Zed together. Zed remained focused, even with a slight glance in the meat section. It’s a testament to the excellent trainer Dan, he’s been working with. I’m continually impressed with the staff’s ability to keep the training sessions fun and interesting, while instilling the confidence needed to properly utilize the skills the dogs have learned prior to being matched with a student. I feel very lucky to be a part of this incredible learning experience.”
Congratulations to Zed’s Puppy Raisers, Kevin and Wendy Flynn and Wesley Hutchins!
Graduate Team: Robert & Anchor
About the Team: Anchor, a male black lab, is Bob’s 6th guide dog
Hometown: Frankfort, Kentucky
Bob received his first dog from Guiding Eyes in 1969 during his junior year at the University of Kentucky, where he was very involved in Student Government and his fraternity. He went on to work in State Government before running for County Judge Executive with Colonel, his guide dog at the time, who knocked on every door in the county with Bob during his campaign. Next, he became the Commissioner for the Department for Local Government and following that, spent 10 years as CEO and Exec. Director of the Kentucky Association of Counties. Now retired, Bob travels often as a motivational speaker and is looking forward to introducing Anchor to his two daughters and four grandchildren.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Anchor is a very loving dog. He’s very attuned to me and responsive to commands; we work so well together. We are a unit. With our training together, I think we can be very successful.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Many years ago, a couple from Kentucky recommended I speak to man named Peter Campbell from Guiding Eyes, [the first Director of Student Services and founder of the Graduate Council]. He came out to see me in Kentucky, and that was the start of my relationship with Guiding Eyes for the Blind.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Independence. Blindness might stop me from being able to just get in my car and drive, but with a guide dog I’m free to get out and go where I want to.”
Were there any training highlights? “It is great to come to Guiding Eyes and learn from my classmates about new technologies and what is going on in the blind community. I don’t have much interaction with other blind people back home.”
Congratulations to Anchor’s Puppy Raiser, Marsha Pylick!
Graduate Team Graduate Team: Rocco and Gidget
About the Team: Gidget, a female black lab is Rocco’s 2nd guide dog
Hometown: Voohees, New Jersey
Originally from New Jersey, Rocco is now a full-time student in Nashville, majoring in Audio Engineering, with aspirations of one day becoming a professor of the subject. Although graduation is in 2020, Rocco is already working as a freelance music producer and audio engineer, turning his clients’ vision into reality. Music has always been an important part of Rocco’s life, having started playing piano at 2 yrs. old and singing at 5. He is very much a people-person who loves to spend time with friends and can’t wait to introduce Gidget to them and his family.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Right now, we’re still a brand new team, so I’m just getting to know her, but it’s just been incredible to see her enthusiasm for what we’re doing. She’s an amazing dog and her work has been amazing. I can tell that she loves working with me as a collaborative team, and that makes such a difference in building and nurturing our relationship.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve always loved dogs; they’ve been a big part of my life. I’ve wanted a guide dog since I was 9 or 10 and after some research, I’ve found that Guiding Eyes has a lot of things that other schools don’t. The training philosophy, the instructors, the kitchen staff – we’ve all become a little family here. This class in particular, is a really good group and we’ve gotten along so well. There’s so much that goes into this process – that we see and that we don’t see – and it’s amazing to me how well it all comes together.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I am so much more trusting of using a dog than I am when using a cane or sighted guide. There are places that I felt uncomfortable going to with a cane, but feel confident at when navigating with my guide dog. Also, it’s been a great opportunity to educate people about why the visually impaired do what we do, the training of our dogs and what the harness means, etc. It’s allowed me to build relationships with people, that I may not have been able to create without the dog.”
Were there any training highlights? “Seeing how incredibly impassioned Gidget is by her work has been a touching and empowering thing to watch. She has so much initiative and positive drive in her, and I truly appreciate that. Her strong desire to succeed and her ability to learn things so quickly is an inspiring thing to be a part of. I’m excited to see what traveling adventures we’ll embark on in the future.”
Congratulations to Gidget’s Puppy Raisers, Deb Dik, Anja Zimmerman, Sheri and Dave Lussier, and Raquel Egea!
Graduate Team: Tomeka and Treble
About the Team: Treble, a female yellow lab, is Meka’s 4th guide dog, 3rd from Guiding Eyes
Hometown: Federal Way, Washington
Meka works as a contact center representative at Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc in Seattle and is a member of the Washington Council for the Blind. She enjoys online gaming, creative writing and has a blog, where she writes book reviews of romance novels. Meka has a love of singing and is a fan of karaoke. She once had the honor of singing the National Anthem, with her previous guide dog at her side, at an Allen Jackson concert at the local fair. How appropriate to have a new partner named Treble!
How would you describe your guide dog? “Treble is very solid dog – very steady and focused. She’s just as deliberate when playing, as she is when working. She will get inside the toy box during playtime and sort through the toys until she finds her favorite tennis ball!”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’ve had two previous dogs from Guiding Eyes. The instructors help the handlers be more confident and really tailor their program around their students’ needs. It’s really like one big family!”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s a partnership built on trust. I can move through crowds more easily. I can travel more independently. I work in Seattle at Lighthouse for the Blind and am looking forward to having her for the commute.”
Were there any training highlights? “Watching this bond unfold with Treble has been a true highlight. I feel like we have a deep connection now. Amy, my instructor is a highlight as well! She has been there 100% for me.”
Congratulations to Treble’s Puppy Raiser, Daniella Del Busso!
Graduate Team: Veronika and Apache
About the Team: Apache, a male black lab, is Veronika’s 3rd guide dog
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Veronika, a retired Conservation Biologist, Hypnotherapist and Life Coach, serves as a Guide Dog Ambassador and is on the board for CNIB. She spends much of her time at speaking engagements or Jiu Jitsu lessons. She is working towards becoming an instructor of Jiu-Jitsu based self-defense, for visually impaired students, through the Manitoba Blind Sports Association. She loves to go out for walks with her dog, especially in the paths of the Living Prairie Museum, a beautiful park in her area. Veronika’s family, friends, Jiu-Jitsu training partners and the health care team at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre, cannot wait to meet Apache.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Besides the fact that he is very playful and extremely smart, he is assertive and confident and loves his guide work. I love the pull in the harness; he knows exactly what he is doing. There is no hesitation at all – his confidence takes my breath away.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I was not a cane person, but having a guide dog felt like a natural step. I have always had dogs and it just felt right. It turned everything around for me, taking a negative situation and turning it into a beautiful positive experience.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “I’m looking forward to making it to Jiu Jitsu classes all on our own. No stressful walks down a busy street with my cane, no need for rides or waiting for public transit. I don’t need the bus or a cab – I can just get out and walk.”
Were there any training highlights? “Apache’s confidence, absolutely; the way he just takes off and is ready to go. I can tell when we’re going around an obstacle and it makes me so proud of him. He is affectionate and such a cuddler, too.”
Congratulations to Apache’s Puppy Raisers, Mel Ingalls and Lena Nirk and The Joynt Family!
Meet the Home Training Graduates
Graduate Team: Andrea and Otis
About the Team: Otis, a male black lab, is Andrea’s 2nd guide dog
Hometown: Spokane, Washington
Andrea is a licensed mental health counselor and music lover. She is also a fan of Guiding Eyes, having benefited greatly when matched with her first guide dog O’Shea. Andrea is looking forward to the continued safe travel and loving companionship her second dog, Otis, will provide.
Congratulations to Otis’ Puppy Raisers, The Trapp Family and Cheryl and Don Matczak!
Graduate Team: Marc and Rowan
About the Team: Rowan, a male German Shepherd, is Marc’s 4th guide dog
Hometown: Wells, Maine
Marc has a special appreciation for German Shepherds and is pleased to bring his new guide, Rowan, into his life. They look forward to taking pleasure walks along his usual routes, in this seaside town on the beautiful coast of Maine.
Congratulations to Rowan’s Puppy Raiser, Yvonne Rugg!
Graduate Team: Sarah and Vince
About the Team: Vince, a male yellow lab, is Sarah’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Sarah has retired her beloved guide dog Jax and is happy to have Vince join their household. She is looking forward to all the opportunities for travel, with Vince by her side, that await in the future.
Congratulations to Vince’s Puppy Raiser, Linda Johnson!
Graduate Team: Sue Ellen and Enya
About the Team: Enya, a female black lab, is Sue Ellen’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Sue Ellen is employed as a statistical clerk for the Census Bureau. She is excited to return to guide dog use after many years. Now that the time is right, she is looking forward to the increased independence and ease of travel Enya will provide in her everyday life.
Congratulations to Enya’s Puppy Raiser, Susan A. Dyott!