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Melissa and Catalina

Meet Graduate Melissa

Melissa sits with black Lab guide dog Catalina for their team portraitGraduate Team:  Melissa and Catalina  
About the Team:  Catalina, a female black Labrador, is Melissa’s first guide dog
Location:  Raleigh, North Carolina
Training: January 2024 On-Campus

Melissa graduated from a Kentucky high school, followed by a summer program at the Kentucky School for the Blind. She attended college at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. Since moving to North Carolina in 2008, Melissa has worked in childcare and in an industrial setting. She is looking forward to training for a new opportunity in the future. She enjoys spending time with friends, playing video games, and caring for her friends’ children. 

How would you describe your guide dog? “Catalina and I bonded instantly! She is very affectionate and playful.  I know when she wants to play, because she will bring me her favorite tug toy, or a ball so we can play fetch.  She and my pet dog, an 8 year old Shepherd mix, get along great!  As a guide, Catalina is confident and hardworking.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I want to maintain my independence. Due to my vision impairment, I was becoming increasingly susceptible to falling.  Another family member has a guide dog, so I was familiar with the benefits, and I knew it was the right time for me. While applying to guide dog schools, Guiding Eyes quickly stood out to me. Guiding Eyes was very responsive from my initial inquiry and throughout the application process.  After returning home from training at the Guiding Eyes campus, I needed some follow up support in working through a situation with Catalina. A Guiding Eyes trainer was in the area and came to my home and we resolved the challenge together.  I knew all along it was the right school for me!”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I walk much more quickly and confidently with Catalina! Since arriving home together in January, she and I have successfully navigated stores and trips to the doctor’s office. We are learning so much together. I love that she tells me where the curbs are and guides me around obstacles! I have noticed how curious children are when they see me working with Catalina.  I like to take the time to engage with and educate them about the role of a guide dog. I hope together Catalina and I can make others aware and respectful of guide dog teams.” 

Were there any training highlights? “Going to Guiding Eyes was my first time traveling to New York. The entire staff at the school was so friendly and helpful, I immediately felt comfortable.  Everyone at Guiding Eyes works to ensure each student and their guide dog succeed together as a team. The night walk with Catalina was a real highlight for me.  At night, I cannot rely on my remaining vision, so I must completely trust Catalina.  During that night walk, Catalina guided me so well and with such confidence, she made me more confident too! I know I can travel at night safely with Catalina as my guide.”

Meet Guide Dog Catalina

DOB:  12/12/2020
Litter ID: 1C320-S
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Adrienne
Stud: Dover
Region:  Cleveland East
Regional Puppy Instructor: Macy Nauman
Puppy Raiser:  Karen Skinder
Facebook: Ohio Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Catalina was special named by the Marshall Family in honor of their granddaughter, Catalina. Catalina’s progress was also followed by a Pathfinder Society Member. 

Photos of the Team…