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Navonne and Praline

Meet Graduate Navonne

Graduate Team:  Navonne and Praline
About the Team:  Praline, a female yellow Lab is Navonne’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:  McDonough, Georgia
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Alyssa David
March On-Campus Training

Navonne is a U.S. Army veteran, who proudly served as an airborne combat medic for 13 years. During her remarkable career, she was deployed five times, including tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, but an explosive IED blast resulted in a serious head injury. Navonne experienced vision loss associated with her injuries, and during her care doctors also discovered Choroideremia (CHM), an inherited retinal disease which causes progressive vision loss. The injuries she suffered have accelerated the progression of her CHM. Navonne is married and the busy mom of 13-year-old twins, a son and daughter. In her down time, her hobbies include reading, writing, painting and jogging.

How would you describe your guide dog? “I describe Praline as both a baby and a blessing.  She is just a joy to be around and lots of fun.  She easily transitions from being an ordinary dog to a working dog.  As soon as she sees the harness, she is ready to get to work, excitedly wagging her tail! My kids love her as a pet and enjoy playing volleyball with her.” 

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Through my involvement in the Wounded Warrior Project, I was referred to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. From my first inquiry phone call, I realized the staff at Guiding Eyes is more family than employees. The person I spoke with answered my questions and listened to my story. She impressed me with her genuine interest and caring regarding my challenges, as well as her follow-up and support during the application process. She even arranged to be the one to notify me that my application had been accepted. While I was in New York for training, she surprised me by joining my trainers and me at dinner one evening. I was so happy and honored to meet her in person. She truly was with me every step of my Guiding Eyes journey.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Praline has restored my independence and sense of security.  Guiding Eyes did an amazing job of matching Praline and me. I consider my vision loss to be a new battle and she is my battle buddy. Throughout the journey of my injury, I realize I am losing sight, but gaining vision. I hope, through my involvement with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Choroideremia Research Foundation, I can share with others what an amazing asset a guide dog from Guiding Eyes is!”

Were there any training highlights? “Since I have no vision at night, it is my most challenging and difficult time of day. That first walk during night training was a highlight! It gave me an appreciation of just how well Praline can guide me and how much I can trust her.  I’m accustomed to leading soldiers. I often told them, ‘Follow me and I’ll lead you home.’  I’m not used to being the follower, but it is as if Praline is giving me the same advice and proved it to me during that first night walk. It was also a joy to connect with Teagan, Praline’s puppy raiser. Teagan did an impressive job, successfully raising Praline, all while being a full-time residential college student. I am so grateful for her effort and commitment to training Praline.”

Meet Guide Dog Praline

I was eighteen when I first got Praline as a puppy, and I was twenty years old when she went in for her IFT eval. While I raised her, Praline completely changed my life and helped make me who I am today. I miss her every day, and saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever done. But, it is all worth it because she is an energetic, affectionate, protective, and silly pup destined to help people and change lives for the better. Good luck to Praline and her new teammate! Be sure to give her lots of peanut butter and belly rubs, (she likes the spot just beneath her ribcage)!

Teagen Kelly, Puppy Raiser of Praline

Enjoy these photos of the team and Praline as a pup on program…