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Misty and Penny

Meet Graduate Misty

Then I found non-chocolate treats on my bed, left by a staff member

Graduate Team:   Misty and Penny
About the Team:   Penny is a female Labrador Retriever and Misty’s first Guiding Eyes dog
Location:   Southern Montana
Training:   December 2023 On-Campus

Misty has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and anthropology. This past year she began working with a nonprofit organization who strives to diminish the homeless population among youths in Montana. She works directly with the foster youths, providing support in various areas. Misty is the mother of two adult children, a son and a daughter who live out of state, but she has no problem keeping busy. For fun, she and a friend did a 60-mile canoe trip down the Smith River with many bear sightings along the way. About 4 years ago, she became a content creator, streaming shows on cooking and sewing. She has sewed weighted blankets and is currently creating stuffed animals like cats, dogs, and dragons. Sighted friends help by cutting pattern pieces and dotting puff paint to mark sewing guides. She has also used puff paint to mark dots on items like stove knobs, the microwave and washing machine controls.

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Penny is a spunky little ball of personality. She is energetic and very attentive to me. In harness she is very focused and is learning how to traverse snow.  She walks fast, which is fine with me. We enjoy walking to local stores. When we go to the store, she seems to think the ‘Brawny Man’ on the packaging is looking at her.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I looked into the guide school I previously went to, as well as another guide dog school, which asked if I had looked into Guiding Eyes. I did the research and read about the Guiding Eyes approach and decided to apply. I am very glad I came here.”

How has a guide dog impacted your life? “I feel safer and more confident when I am going out and when I’m walking. I found a social difference between using a cane and having my dog.  With a cane everyone was very polite and got out of my way, but having a dog, people want to talk with me and socially engage, even talking about their own vision issues. The kids I work with don’t necessarily trust everyone or want to talk with another stranger, so being blind and having the dog makes me approachable. The dog gives them a topic to relate to.”  

Were there any training highlights?  “Training was hard for me, learning to let go and give control to Penny. It was sometimes emotional, stressful, and out of my comfort zone. The entire staff went above and beyond. Trainer Chelsea was amazing, and she took me out on a hiking trail. We also worked on shorelining on rural roads, [following the edge of a travel path], traveling in busier urban areas, went into restaurants, the mall and learned how to use the train. I learned the skills I would need when I was back home with Penny. The staff makes it fun and everyone at Guiding Eyes went out of their way to help make your day. I am allergic to chocolate and couldn’t eat some of the baked desserts, so the chef made me things without chocolate. Then I found non-chocolate treats on my bed, left by a staff member. They are amazing and do more than just teach us how to work with the dogs. They make us feel comfortable. I don’t have the words to express my gratitude.”

Meet Guide Dog Penny

DOB:  8/19/2021
Litter ID: 1PP21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Oma
Stud: Dover
Littermates: Pepsi, Pixie, Pepper, Pearl, Parker, Polly, Petey
Region:  NoVA-South, Columbus, Northern NJ
Regional Puppy Instructor: Madeline Bruggeman, Leslie Stephens, Elizabeth Vacchiano
Puppy Raiser:  Gebhardt Hansen Gaggle, Odom Family, Haley Cloyd, The Spelker Family
Facebook: Northern Virginia -South Puppy Raisers
Facebook: Columbus Puppy Raisers
Facebook: Northern New Jersey Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

What a joy Penny was to have in our home. Her energy, curious nature and friendly demeanor made her adapt to any situation. She loved to eagerly great anyone or any creature she met with her inquisitive nose!!! Nothing phased her. In fact, new and or loud sounds would catch her attention but never scared her. She had this unique way of trying to get our attention- she would jump vertically as if she had springs on her feet- bouncing like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. And with a smile as big as Tiggers to boot! Her energy is boundless and she loved running with me. We wish you much success with this special guide dog and hope that she brings you as much love and companionship as she did to our family. I can see how Penny will be a gentle and loyal guide dog. ~ Amy and Scott Spelker, Puppy Raisers

Photos of the Team…