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Nicole and Hedwig

Meet Graduate Nicole

Graduate Nicole June On-Campus Training
Graduate Team:
Nicole and Hedwig
About the Team: Hedwig, a female black German Shepherd, is Nicole’s 7th guide dog
Hometown: Sonoma, California 
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Kathryn Poallo  

Nicole is a native Californian, who was born in San Francisco and has lived in Sonoma for the past thirty eight years. Her visual acuity issues became more apparent around the age of nine, and at age 15 she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease. Her previous Guiding Eyes dog Jovan, was a yellow Lab she lovingly called Jo-Jo. Nicole has one daughter, Michelle, who is in the midst of obtaining her license to practice law. Needless to say, Nicole is quick to express how proud she is of her daughter. Nicole works for a company that developed and publishes a 24 page, eye-catching and colorful educational tool, where learning is made fun for elementary school children. As an Outbound Marketing Specialist, Nicole’s focus is community outreach, seeking funding to help support each and every child in a classroom, by underwriting the cost of development and distribution. It is currently being distributed at no cost throughout Sonona and Marin counties and the East Bay area. Nicole’s hobbies and interests include exercise, walking and healthy eating.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Hedwig is very affectionate and amazing. She is truly a cuddle bug and has been described as a Labrador in a German Shepherd coat. She works hard and is learning this new location well. She is my third guide dog from Guiding Eyes.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My prior resource for guide dogs decided they were not going to use German Shepherds any longer, so I applied to Guiding Eyes. I prefer this breed because something about them makes me feel more comfortable. Having my third experience with Guiding Eyes, I can honestly say that I love the school and its quaintness. The staff are family oriented and exhibit the highest respect for their students.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Having a guide dog has provided me with greater independence. The key is to trust and listen to your guide dog. This will enable you to feel safe.”

Were there any training highlights? “I loved all my instructors. I want to thank each and every one; it was a pleasure. Kat Poallo was my primary instructor for the 14 days of training. She was very thorough and often made me laugh. For example, I was using my hand gestures to direct Hedwig and one day she said to me, ‘Nicole all you have to do is use your shoulders instead of that windmill of yours.’ She said I didn’t have to be so dramatic. We laughed so hard together. I also want to mention that the accommodations were great and the staff in the kitchen were wonderful and very responsive.”

Meet Guide Dog Hedwig

Hedwig was an amazing puppy to raise! We spent many a walk and outing with her brother Hobie, who was also raised in CNY. We both became Harry Potter fans as she was named after Harry’s Owl. I included a photo of her sitting near a sidewalk painting of Harry’s owl! She was calm, respectful with other dogs, super smart, and gorgeous! Yep, I fell in love with her!

Yvonne Rugg, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the team…