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Michele and Aladdin

Meet Graduate Michele

Michele is on one knee with Aladdin in front of a wall of pink rosesGraduate Team: Michele and Aladdin
About the Team: Aladdin, a male yellow Lab, is Michele’s 1st guide dog
Location: Conklin, New York
Training: March 2024 On-Campus

Michele and her husband Stanley live in a rural area near Binghamton, New York. They have been married for thirty-nine years and are both retired. Michele was employed by the utility company, NYSEG, for eight years before becoming a stay-at-home mom for their two children, Jennifer and Jeff, who are now adults. Michele was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at 34 years old.  She has limited vision, that she describes as looking through a narrow tube with haziness at the end. She also lives with hearing loss from Usher’s Syndrome. She returned to the workforce when her children were older, working as a team leader in manufacturing, arranged through the not-for-profit, AVRE (Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment). Before losing her vision, Michele enjoyed expressing her artistic skills in realism through painting and drawing, a passion she fervently resumed after the RP diagnosis. Distinguishing colors was difficult, so she moved to mixed mediums, taking art-related courses to further those skills. Michele’s artwork has been accepted by National Exhibits by Blind Artists and displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She initiated a program for a local elementary school called Reflections, encouraging student participation in the arts. As V.P. for the Fine Arts Society of Southern Tier, she coordinated monthly programs and pursued grants for art-related events for the society.  She currently enjoys art journaling, creating, and painting every day. She also enjoys long walks, an activity Aladdin, her first guide dog, also enjoys.

How would you describe your guide dog? “The first thing that comes to mind is how sweet Aladdin is. He is a quick learner and very perceptive.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “The CEO at the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment has a guide dog from Guiding Eyes. I learned about Guiding Eyes from him. Everything he shared, plus my own research online, led me to them.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “I enjoy walking with Aladdin. He provides me with an amazing feeling of independence. I can walk faster with him by my side, which is exhilarating. I don’t have to rely on my husband now to go out for a walk. I am more confident now and can be on my own. I love the feeling.”

Were there any training highlights? “My training at Guiding Eyes was an awesome experience. Although it could be intense, it was also very rewarding. I gained a lot of confidence during the training. Every day had its highlights. We went to the mall, and restaurants, experienced the City of White Plains, which is similar in size to Binghamton, and we even did training at night. I don’t remember the last time I walked outside at night. The new chef is awesome, and the meals served were excellent. My trainer, Dan Weesner was experienced in working with people who also have hearing loss. He was a good match for me and others in my group, because I and two of the other women have hearing loss. He accommodated our hearing needs and carefully explained everything.”

Meet Guide Dog Aladdin

DOB:  5/1/2022
Litter ID: 4AA22
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Vanna
Stud: Elton
Littermates: Angus, Ambie, Ada, Avril, Arthur, Albert
Region:  Adirondack
Regional Puppy Instructor: Kate Gardner
Puppy Raiser:  Barb & Garry Paszul
Facebook: Adirondack Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

From day one, Aladdin had the sweetest personality. He was easy going, but also fun loving with the perfect amount of feistiness mixed in. He loved to swim, loved to play with both humans and his canine buddies, and especially loved hiking year round. Aladdin also loved to work and was up for any challenge. Aladdin came to school with me every day and was the most popular “kid” in the middle school, equally loved by both the adults and students. He was the perfect gentleman in restaurants and stores. We were always proud to show him off! We are so happy for Aladdin and his new partner. We wish them all the best of luck as they embark on their new life together. ~Barb Paszul

Photos of the Team…