MMeunier

Michaela and Eleanor

Meet Graduate Michaela

Michaela sits by a Christmas tree with black Lab guide EleanorGraduate Team:  Michaela and Eleanor
About the Team:  Eleanor, a female black Lab, is Michaela’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:  Green Island, New York
Training: December 2022 Home Training

Michaela attends the University at Albany (SUNY), pursuing a master’s degree in forensic accounting. She received her bachelor’s in accounting from Emmanuel College in 2022 and will start at Ernst & Young as a staff accountant in their Assurance – Forensic Integrity Services unit upon graduating. While an undergrad, she volunteered with the local food bank and a low-income school system. Now she is a member of the Institute of Management Accountants, volunteers in her community and is participating in her former high school’s craft fair, making wooden bookmarks in support, since she enjoys crafting. She also does guest speaker events in NYS for visually impaired and blind students to talk about self-advocacy. Michaela is an avid reader, especially of YA fantasy, with her favorite author being V.E. Schwab. She’s an excellent multitasker, often watching TV like Game of Thrones, while playing modded Minecraft or knitting a large blanket for her younger sister. Michaela enjoys participating in game nights with friends and finds Hues and Cues highly entertaining. She shares an apartment in Green Island, NY with her boyfriend, guide Eleanor, and a pitbull she rescued at six weeks old, Otis. She’s one of six siblings in a blended family and has four nieces and nephews.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She is the definition of sass, and I love it. If you could take one of the ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ kids and put their sass into a dog, that’d be Eleanor. She works well and loves her job, but if there’s snow, she’s eating it if given the chance. She’s the best, and my instructor Dan said there wouldn’t have been a better match for Eleanor than me.  She fits right in with Otis, because she needs to get a lot of energy out and he has the perpetual zoomies. They work great together – I put them in the backyard and they just run laps.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I applied during my senior year of undergrad, and I was working for residence life as a Team Lead. I was doing a lot of walking around and traveling, and I was like, ‘I really can’t see. Hmm, this is a problem.’ I talked to my O&M instructor, and I also have friends who have Guiding Eyes dogs, so I asked what their experiences were. They all said that a guide dog would be good for me. They give you the support you need and independence you want. Miss Eleanor and me, we’re speeding.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I absolutely love having a guide dog. She gives me a kind of independence I don’t think I could’ve gotten from my cane. I have no depth perception, which is a real big blast, with stairs, curbs, cracks in the sidewalk; I was tripping and smacking my face into everything. Your cane tells you what’s on the ground, but Eleanor sees everything. As somebody who does speaker events on accessibility and advocacy, she gives me a new perspective, because you have a service animal and you think people know what the harness means, but I’ve had to explain that she’s a service dog. You learn, you live, you move yourself along, and educate where you can.”

Were there any training highlights? “I home trained with Dan, and I love Dan. I’m going to have to travel a lot with Eleanor for the job I accepted. The home base is in Boston, so I’ll definitely be taking Amtrak to and from Boston for a while. Dan tried to help prepare us for that, by going to the nearby Amtrak station. The employees at Amtrak were so accommodating. The rail master took us down onto the platform near a running train to practice getting on a train platform with Eleanor, getting on and off a train, etc. That’s something they didn’t have to do; it was purely because they thought it would be good experience for me and wanted to make sure I was safe. I think that’s incredible and restores my faith in the world a little bit. Dan was so innovative. Running through airport security is going to be hectic and we were able to go to the Capitol building in Albany, where they have a similar security setup to the airport. They let us use their security checkpoint for, like 20 minutes, to train for getting through airport security.”

Meet Guide Dog Eleanor

DOB:  12/17/2020
Litter ID: 1E320
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Nell
Stud: Oreo
Littermates: Elijah, Epic, Edsel, Ensign, Elmo, Emmylou, Everley
Region:  Leatherstocking, NY
Regional Puppy Instructor: MeKalea Chambliss
Puppy Raiser:  Erin McRee
Facebook: Leatherstocking Puppy Raisers

Special Recognition: Eleanor was special named in memory of Eleanor Sonn by Mitch and Pat Sonn, and was also a Pathfinder Pup. A Pathfinder Society member – an individual who has made a future legacy gift to Guiding Eyes – received reports and photos of Eleanor’s progress from puppyhood to graduation.

From the Puppy Raiser…

Eleanor’s extreme love for mud and jumping in puddles made her pretty interesting to raise at times! Eleanor has a big personality and a heart of gold. The best part of raising her was watching everyone in the room light up as soon as they looked down and saw her. She loves to go anywhere where she can see other dogs or people, so I know she’ll be a great guide dog out there in the world. She’ll do anything for a treat after all! ~ Erin McRee, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…