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Michael and Diego

Meet Graduate Michael

Mike leans into a hug around black Lab guide Diego sitting on an outdoor bench

Graduate Team:    Michael and Diego
About the Team:   Diego, a male black Lab, is Mike’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Location:   Enfield, Connecticut
Training:   March 2024 Home Training

Mike received a degree in Information Technology from Western New England University in 2018 and currently works in the IT department of the Springfield Housing Authority. Mike and his wife, Mikayla, have a young child who was greeted gently by Mike’s new guide dog, Diego, as he arrived in his new home. The family also includes Mike’s retired guide dog, Daquiri. Mike and his family enjoy spending time outdoors, strolling through the historical district of their town, and exploring local hiking trails. Their extended family lives nearby, and Diego enjoys visiting and playing in their yards with his new friend, Daquiri.  

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Diego is a nearly 75lb dog, loyal, obedient, and a very good boy.  He is ‘happy-go-lucky’ and his personality is a lot of fun. He enjoys spending time with the family and gets along well with Daquiri.  In harness, his demeanor is serious and on point. He loves to work and wants to please.  Diego wants to do everything right for you. These dogs do some amazing things. They learn commands, do their work, and enjoy it. During training with Diego, I realized every dog is different and, as a guide dog user, I learned how to adapt and work with a different dog.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “When I was in college, I had always heard good things about Guiding Eyes. Then my O&M instructor recommended them, so I put in my application, and have always had a great experience with them.  With the support and communication with Guiding Eyes after getting Daquiri, there was no question that I would get my second dog from them.  My dogs have been great matches. When I applied for my second dog, I was told there could be a 2-year wait, then several months later Kathy, an instructor, came to do a test walk. I learned I was a perfect match for my new dog, Diego. I am fortunate that my guides can see the Guiding Eyes veterinarians for annual physicals and vaccines since I live not far from the Yorktown campus. The support from Guiding Eyes has been great and very much appreciated.”

How has a guide dog impacted your life? “I’ve had Guiding Eyes dogs since 2015 and the independence and companionship have been great. I can get up in the morning, and if I want to go for a walk, I have the freedom to do that independently. I can explore different places with a sense of confidence, whether walking on paved paths or hiking trails. When I was in college, I went to Boston for an internship, and if I hadn’t had a guide dog, I couldn’t imagine doing that. Regarding my retired dog Daquiri, I’ve always felt that I don’t want to work a dog into their last days. I want them to have time to enjoy their retirement. They work so hard for you; they deserve it. Now I have Diego, the type of dog that anyone would want to have.”

Were there any training highlights? “I got to know Kathy when she came to interview and test my gait before she matched me with Diego. With Daquiri, I went for on-campus training and learned all the details of having a guide dog. This time in Home Training, Kathy was able to see my neighborhood, and how Diego and I worked together when going to my office, or stores, or eating in restaurants. Those trips were excellent, and his manners and obedience were great. Kathy went above and beyond with her guidance and support. The staff at Guiding Eyes works extremely hard for you throughout your time with your guide dog.”

Meet Guide Dog Diego

DOB:  1/13/2021

Litter ID: 9D21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Lizzie
Stud: Odin
Littermates: Kemp, Douglas, Dalton, Dan, Kozy, Dot, Donna, Denny
Region:  Southern CT
Regional Puppy Instructor: Maureen Hollis
Puppy Raiser:  Lydia Tran
Facebook: Southern CT Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Diego started with wide-eyed curiosity and ball of energy. With each outing, he gained confidence and grew exponentially into the “friendly giant.” He loves working and up for new environments as an opportunity to analyze the world, yet enjoyed settling during meetings and sun-bathing by the pool. Before IFT, we had flown to Texas; he handled the busy airport and took the plane ride in stride without hesitation. Diego has become a calm, motivated companion always ready to work and a laid-back goofball when off-duty. Watching Diego choose his career and match is incredibly rewarding and I’m grateful to be a part of his journey. I wish Diego and his partner Mike many years of safe travels and adventures as they embark on their journey together! ~ Lydia Tran 

Photos of the Team…