November 2015 Graduating Class
Thank you to the sponsors of this month’s graduating class:
Family and Friends of Jim Guerra
Estate of Pamela Horn
We also thank the Fain Family for their support of our online streaming capabilities. Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.
Richard and Omaha
Richard has just received Omaha, a male yellow Labrador who will soon meet his retired guide dog back home in North Carolina.
Richard lost his vision as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, and has no useable sight. With Omaha, Richard is looking forward to companionship and safe travel. He works at Industries for the Blind as a manufacturer of garments. Richard is married and loves fishing and hunting. He also enjoys bringing his guide dog to the church and school where children can interact. In some cases, these meetings are a child’s first introduction to a dog and it is a wonderful feeling for that first exposure to be such a positive one.
Amy and Dax
Amy is from Texas and has been partnered with a male black Labrador named Dax, her first guide dog.
Amy was born very early – at 6 months – and her vision loss is the result of retinopathy of prematurity. Amy has been working at the Lighthouse for the Blind for a year, and participates in a theater company. Singing is a passion. The decision to get a guide dog was one Amy carefully considered; she wanted, above all, greater independence. She is looking forward to taking Dax to her hometown to visit her family.
Christopher and Finnian
Christopher is from Washington state, and has been matched with a male yellow Labrador named Finnian.
Leiber’s congenital amaurosis is the cause of Chris’ visual impairment. He is married with two children, and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from New Mexico Highlands University. Chris is looking forward to tackling new adventures with Finnian on the hiking trails around his home. He had been looking for a training program that would allow him to travel faster, and Chris is very pleased with Finnian’s pace and ability to keep up with him. He shares, “Having a guide dog does not compare to using a cane. There is a completely different degree of freedom. The cane makes constant contact with the environment. Dogs show you your environment and provide a greater degree of safety.”
James and Hamish
Jim has been matched with a male yellow Labrador named Hamish, his second guide dog.
When Jim suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1995, he was left with only limited vision. Jim worked as an operations specialist aboard the USS Seattle AOE-3 before it was decommissioned, and also worked as a flooring technician specialist, mechanical maintenance engineer, and owned his own roofing company. Since losing his vision, Jim has worked in a show barn for horses and as a tree removal professional. For Jim, music is a hobby and passion. He also loves to fish and hunt. Jim is looking forward to returning to Nashville where he we be able to travel easily with Hamish, especially at night. Jim Jokes, “Nashville calls you, you don’t call Nashville.”
Morgan and Fairest
Morgan has come to Guiding Eyes from Arizona for her first guide dog, Fairest, a female yellow Labrador.
She has limited vision due to a birth defect. Morgan is a mom caring for four children with her fiance. She worked in enrollment at the University of Phoenix, but is now focusing on her education and hopes to become a lawyer. As a busy mom pursuing her degree, Morgan still finds time to volunteer with a student organization and is looking into internships. Fairest has already helped to boost Morgan’s confidence and independence and she is excited about their future together.
Lance and Jagger
A black Labrador named Jagger is Lance’s first guide dog and his new partner.
Lance is from Washington state, has been married for 20 years and has four adult children. Just 15 months ago, a surgery he underwent to repair his spine resulted in one of his vertebral arteries being severed, creating a blood clot that lodged in the back of his brain causing in vision loss. Lance is a United States veteran, having spent seven years as a staff sergeant. He attended Pierce College and the University of Washington where he studied health informatics, database administration and medical database design. Lance currently works as a database administrator and loves to hunt, fish, and camp in his free time. Dr. Wendy Davis, a Guiding Eyes board member, recommended the school to Lance. His decision was also influenced by witnessing some of his friends with guide dogs display the ability to navigate seamlessly. Lance wanted that same ease of travel and companionship and he has found it with Jagger.
Angel Rodriguez and Kilo
Angel is a New Yorker who has just received his fourth guide dog, a male German shepherd named Kilo.
He participated in Guiding Eyes’ ACTION Program, an accelerated program for those with guide dog experience. As a child, Angel lost his sight and regained it briefly only to lose it completely again. He is married and has a daughter; his wife is a graduate of Guiding Eyes as well. Angel received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hunter College and works as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. He travels frequently, delivering presentations on accessibility and spreading the message that everyone, regardless of disability, has the right to work. Angel thinks Kilo is a perfect match and shares, “Graham (Guiding Eyes’ Assistant Director of Training) can think a dog’s thoughts before the dog. He thinks outside the box. He is always calm and relaxed and besides being an incredible instructor, he sends this wave of calm.” Angel is looking forward to continuing his active life with Kilo by his side.
Karen Sorber and Dawson
Karen has come to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog, a male black Labrador named Dawson.
Her visual impairment was caused by retinopathy of prematurity, and Karen can see color in one eye, but is blind in the other. Karen is the mother of four grown children and has been married nearly 40 years. In the last five or six years, her vision has deteriorated considerably. Karen says, “I can use a cane, but it doesn’t have eyes. Dogs give you confidence. A cane can be scary because you don’t know what it is finding. With a dog, you can move efficiently and without worry.” Karen loves to travel, swim, cook and bake. She is eager to begin the next phase of her life with Dawson.
Martha Steele and Alvin
Martha is from Massachusetts. She has come to Guiding Eyes for Alvin, a male yellow Labrador who is her first guide dog.
Ushers Syndrome has caused Martha’s vision and hearing loss. Cochlear implants have dramatically improved her speech understanding. Martha is married and has a master’s in public health from the University of Michigan. She also has a degree from the University of Vermont with a minor in the history of science. Martha is married and just recently retired this past summer; she worked for the state health department in Massachusetts as the deputy director of the bureau of environmental health. Martha volunteers at a number of organizations related to blindness in Massachusetts. Another passion is bird “watching” – now “listening” to birds due to diminished vision. Martha writes a regular column for the Bird Observer called “Musings from the Blind Birder.” She has been so happy with Alvin who is not only her first guide dog, but the first dog she has ever had.
Rhonda Ward and Ferris (not profiled)
Krista Waters and Darrow
Krista is from Florida and is now partnered with a male black Labrador named Darrow, her first guide dog.
Krista’s vision loss is caused by retinopathy of prematurity and secondary glaucoma. She has hearing loss as well. The decision to get a guide dog was one Krista considered carefully, and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to experience greater independence and confidence with Darrow. She is a student at Florida State College in Jacksonville majoring in human services, and her goal is to become a rehabilitation counselor. She is currently working for the National DeafBlind Equipment Distribution Program and is also an assistive technology specialist. Krista plays the piano and spends a good deal of time on the computer, refining her skill set. Krista’s roommate will be coming to Guiding Eyes in January and will be able to witness, first-hand, the positive impact a guide dog brings.