November 2016 Graduating Class
In Loving Remembrance of Kenneth M. Gleszer and his wife, Ann Griffin Gleszer.
The Doolittle Foundation is proud to sponsor the November 2016
Guiding Eyes graduating class.
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our
video streaming capabilities.
Amber & Elroy
Douglas & Ives
Gail & Tatum
Jalys & Kinley (P)
J. David & Deacon
Jose & Ace
William & Ed
Daniella & Hadley
Mike & Lola (S)
Daniel & Boone (S)
Gladys & Krista
P: A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes for the Blind in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.
S: The donors listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dogs:
• Lola was special named in honor of their “Lola” by Gary and Shelli Bettman.
• Boone was special-named by Dale V. Holland.
Congratulations to our graduating class!
Many thanks to our instructors:
Class Supervisor: Miranda Beckman
Class Instructors: Alyssa Tilley, Michael Ceglio
Instructor Assistant: Deanna Lentini
Apprentice Instructor: Amy Scordato
ACTION Instructor: Graham Buck, Assistant Director of Training
Megan Crowley, Home Training Instructor
Caryn Fellows, Guide Dog Instructor
Andrea Martine, Special Needs Instructor
Eleven years ago Amber was a newlywed. Eight months later she was diagnosed with Usher syndrome type 2. As a result, she says, “I see things through the equivalent of a smoothie straw, and I wear hearing aids.”
Initially Amber was upset about her loss of independence. Rather than dwell on life’s hardships, she says she grieved and moved forward. She earned her bachelor’s degree in digital media production from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and worked briefly as an elementary school librarian. She gave up driving and became a stay-at-home mom to help her son who is on the autism spectrum. In addition, she manages her in-laws’ rental property.
Realizing that it has been difficult on her husband having to take care of two people with disabilities, Amber decided she was ready to travel from Arizona to meet Elroy, a yellow Labrador. “The Guiding Eyes program is phenomenal,” says Amber. “The staff goes beyond the call of duty to not only train us to work with our dogs but to accommodate our unique needs. Thanks to your generous donors, I will be able to walk to the bakery, the grocery store, cafes, and hardware store. Just me and Elroy.”
Congratulations to Elroy’s puppy raisers, The Meler Family!
Ives, a black male Labrador, is Doug’s first Guiding Eyes guide dog, although he is a veteran guide dog user. “I like the training style here, and Guiding Eyes takes care of its students,” he says.
Doug’s vision loss began when he was 11 with choroideremia, a rare progressive genetic disorder. At 38, he was diagnosed with acute angle-closure glaucoma. His vision loss deteriorated quickly from then on, ultimately leaving him with only light perception.
After a year in the Canadian Reserves, Doug worked as a cook and janitor. These days he works part-time at the Canadian Helen Keller Centre. What he enjoys most is writing. “It’s my outlet,” he says. He writes poetry and short stories and is currently working on his autobiography. He is proud to say he is a published author.
“Ives means freedom to me,” he says. “If I want to go to the store or eat in a restaurant on my own, I can load up a backpack and head out. I don’t have to wait on a sighted person to take me. I can’t wait to take long walks with Ives.” Doug pauses before continuing. “I was worried I wouldn’t qualify for a Guiding Eyes guide dog because of my age. I want your donors to know they have given me my life back. Thank you!”
Congratulations to Ives’s puppy raisers, Jo Ann & David Schindler!
Gail was 14 when she lost her sight. Doctors suspected a cerebral fluid infection destroyed her optic nerves. “I decided a long time ago to remain positive,” she says. “Everyone has something to deal with.”
Gail came from Alabama for Tatum, a black Labrador and her second Guiding Eyes guide dog. “These dogs are outstanding and so are the trainers,” she says. “Thanks to the puppy raisers, they know their house manners and their social skills.”
Gail owns her own business, called BrailleSmith. By Brailling greeting cards, menus, and business cards, she makes the written word accessible to people with vision loss. She volunteers with the National Federation of the Blind and serves as secretary of the Alabama State Board. For nine years she’s worked with V.I.P., Visually Impaired People, a group that helps seniors adapt to vision loss. She has been married to her husband Don for 21 years.
“Guiding Eyes dogs are my eyes,” says Gail. “I know where I’m going but I get there safer with a dog by my side. I depend on them to look for things I can’t see, like overhangs or pedestrians who aren’t looking where they’re going. Tatum is real spunky and so ambitious to work. I can’t wait to walk the hiking trails at Clear Creek Recreation Area near my home. I also travel a lot to conventions. She’ll be so awesome getting through crowds.” The Guiding Eyes dogs represent an opportunity of a lifetime for Gail. “I can’t tell you how much they’ve changed my life,” she says. “Such a freedom to have a Guiding Eyes guide dog.”
Congratulations to Tatum’s puppy raiser, Honey Weiss!
“Having a Guiding Eyes guide dog is like having two brains concentrating on one task,” says Jalys (pronounced Ja-LEASE) matter-of-factly. “A white cane can’t help with that.”
Jalys was born in Puerto Rico with retinopathy of prematurity. Her parents never restricted her activities even though she was totally blind. “Their attitude was ‘you’re blind, so what.’ It doesn’t mean you can’t ride a bike or roller skate. It just means you’ll have to be creative.”
Jalys attended regular K-12 school and graduated with honors. She is working on her bachelor’s degree and wants to do mental health counseling for adolescents. “I’ve been through so much that I want to make sure young people get on their best possible path. I want them to know that someone cares,” she says. “Kinley, my yellow Guiding Eyes Labrador, can help make that process much more fluid since people tend to open up when they’re around dogs.”
Currently Jalys works at Lighthouse Central Florida as an assistant technology instructor for visually impaired adults. She is writing a book, enjoys dinners with friends, and wants to learn to play the guitar. “Kinley will give me much more confidence to travel on own, to go to the mall more, and to do things that have been inconvenient or cumbersome. And I will have a wonderful companion in Kinley, all thanks to Guiding Eyes for the Blind.”
Congratulations to Kinley’s puppy raiser, Elizabeth Williams!
David traveled from Utah for Deacon, a yellow Guiding Eyes Labrador. Born in Ecuador, David’s parents moved to the States seeking medical care for their newborn who was born blind because of glaucoma. After receiving a blessing at a church, David was able to see, something a doctor called a medical miracle. Over the course of many years and multiple surgeries David lost and regained his sight. “I was always hoping for the light to come back–and three times it did–but shortly after high school my problems began again,” he says.
“As a teen, I was angry,” says David. “Why me, I kept wondering. I didn’t want to live this way all of my live. Eventually the day came when I decided to embrace what God has dealt me and do the best with what I have. I call it my liberation day.”
David earned his associate’s degree in criminal justice. As a stay-at-home dad, he cares for his two young daughters, and he and his wife Sadie have a third child on the way. They enjoy going out to dinner and the movies (he uses the descriptive video services). And every month David plays Risk with his friends (“I’ve memorized the entire board”).
“Deacon will change my life,” says David. “He will open up possibilities for me, and I won’t have to rely so much on my seeing-eye wife! I will be able to walk my girls to school. I will be able to go back to work. Deacon will mean independence. I can be me again.”
Congratulations to Deacon’s puppy raisers, Linda DePuy and Jacqueline Denson!
Jose describes Ace, a black male Labrador and his third Guiding Eyes dog, as the perfect match. “He’s laid back when out of his harness and a great worker in harness. We work well together. And when I’m exhausted, he gives me lots of kisses and unconditional love.”
At 19, Jose started to lose his vision because of retinitis pigmentosa and Usher syndrome. He has some light perception and describes his hearing as fuzzy. “Guiding Eyes,” he says, “has trained me to function in the world so I can work, shop, and be independent. Ace and me—we’re a team.”
Jose likes to stay active. He bowls, runs, exercises with weights, and listens to all kinds of music–except classical. He watches movies and plays cards, dominoes, and bingo with friends.
“When I’m out with Ace or any of my previous Guiding Eyes dogs, I find people are amazed at what these dogs can do,” says Jose. “They have even pulled me back from stepping into traffic. They motivate me, and I am more confident. They make my life easier and more comfortable every day.”
Congratulations to Ace’s puppy raiser, Zachary St. Jean!
Even though both his mother and grandmother had glaucoma, Bill still wasn’t prepared for his own diagnosis at 13. His vision loss was gradual enough that he was able to serve in the Army National Guard as a cook, then worked as a butcher for 22 years until his doctor told him it was time to put away the knives and stop driving. “Hearing that was rough,” Bill recalls.
Bill still has some vision although, he says, “It’s like looking through a straw.” He decided he wanted a guide dog for safety reasons and the freedom he could regain. “I’m a stay-at-home dad–the best job in the world! But I was putting a lot of pressure on my wife Lisa and our five daughters. I want to be able to go to the store by myself.” His smile brightens when he speaks of getting the kids off to school, cooking dinner, going to soccer and lacrosse games, track meets, and school plays.
Bill plans to go back to school to become a drug and alcohol abuse counselor. His main goal is to talk to young people about his vision loss and how Ed, his yellow Guiding Eyes Labrador, enables him to lead a full life. “The first time I walked with Ed, it felt so comfortable,” he says. “Everyone has been so supportive, especially my in-laws, but I got a little emotional, thinking about what I will be able to do thanks to this dog.”
Bill is certain that Ed will fit right into his big, chaotic family. “But when Ed’s had enough, he can go right into his crate, although I call it his man cave.”
Congratulations to Ed’s puppy raiser, Mrs. Michael C. Trapani!
“I still remember the first time I said ‘forward’ to my guide dog, which way I was facing, the way it felt as he leaned into the harness,” recalls Daniella, who is totally blind. “So liberating.”
Daniella was eight months old when doctors determined she had congenital glaucoma. “My mom told me about guide dogs. I was four, but I knew I would get my own guide dog someday.”
Daniella was partnered with Hadley, a male Guiding Eyes black and tan German Shepherd. “I love his responsiveness and his ability to problem-solve.” Daniella participated in our ACTION program for experienced handlers as she has had guide dogs from other schools.
Daniella is a telephone operator at a veterans hospital, and she is very active in the Times Square Church where she volunteers in several ministries—counseling, prayer, and one for women. She also helps facilitate Bible study groups.
“I love the process of working a dog, watching that dog grow and own his career as a guide dog,” says Daniella. “That confidence and assertiveness comes from experience—in the dog and in the bonding of our team. To say ‘thank you’ to the donors seems so small for such generosity. These dogs really do change lives. Our confidence improves. Our self-perception changes. My words are simply inadequate to express my gratitude.”
Congratulations to Hadley’s puppy raisers, Kenneth and Patricia Rounds!
Mike was born with retinitis pigmentosa. Gradually he lost more and more of his vision until he sees only basic shapes. He traveled recently from Pittsburgh to be partnered with Lola, a yellow Labrador and his second Guiding Eyes guide dog. Mike participated in our abbreviated ACTION program for experienced handlers.
Mike hasn’t let his sight loss get in the way of his dreams and goals. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Virginia’s Longwood University, then went to work for Bender Consulting Services as a contract employee with Bayer in the communications technology division where he is the on-site manager. He edits and posts the audio for weekly services at his church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of the South Hills. (The church has done two fundraisers for Guiding Eyes.) And he serves on the board of the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind.
Mike is a big Bruce Springsteen fan. He loves to travel, try different restaurants, and he reads audio books with his wife Johna, also a Guiding Eyes graduate. Their guide dogs, decked out in bow ties, served as ring bearers at their wedding.
“Lola is the best gift I could have received,” says Mike. “She means freedom and independence, something we all deserve. Some of us have to achieve our freedom and independence in a non-traditional way. Those who donate to Guiding Eyes make this happen. Thank goodness this option to have a guide dog exists.”
Congratulations to Lola’s puppy raisers, The Holmes Family and Kathy and Alex Piwowar!
Boone, a black Labrador, is Dan’s fifth Guiding Eyes guide dog. He is really good traveling on public transportation and yet he doesn’t need a lot of attention when Dan requires some quiet time. “He’s exactly what I need in a guide,” says Dan, who participated in our Home Training program. “The trainers are exceptional. They were so certain that Boone would be my best match that they continued to train him until I could recuperate from surgery.”
Dan and his twin brother Dave were born blind, with some light perception. Doctors thought it might have been chorioretinitis, an inflammation of the retina and choroid. “I haven’t worried much about the reason,” says Dan. “Blind is blind.”
Dan has a full life. He spends his mornings on his first love—writing poetry, personal essays, and a memoir. The New York Times published one of his essays recently. Dan works part-time doing tech support at BARD: Braille and Audio Reading Download, and he plays the piano and sings baritone with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. He is married to Ona, who has a son.
“I’ve had Guiding Eyes guide dogs for 35 years,” says Dan, “and not a day goes by that I am not amazed by what they do or the joy I get from working with an animal that is so well trained and loves its work. I love the independence a guide dog gives me. I love the internal life of writing, but I also love getting out in the world, exercising, organizing a trip, or meeting friends. My dog is my “car”—except it’s a car with humanity. Donors make that possible.”
Congratulations to Boone’s puppy raisers, The Paszul Family!
Gladys returned to Guiding Eyes for Krista, a German Shepherd and her fourth guide dog with us. “I keep returning to the school,” she says, “because I am more independent with these dogs, and they become my companions.”
Gladys has been totally blind since she was four years old and her retinas detached. She graduated from mainstream schools and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s in school counseling at Hunter College in New York City. She is married to a Guiding Eyes graduate and they have a nine-year-old daughter. Gladys worked as a teacher’s assistant in a child-care facility before becoming a stay-at- home “mom engineer.” She volunteers with the Catholic Guild for the Blind, teaching young adults Braille. She enjoys listening to music, movies, reading detective stories, and long walks with Krista.
“I was getting around with a white cane,” says Gladys, “but I decided to get a guide dog because I wanted to feel more secure on subways. I no longer have to worry about tripping up the stairs or falling on train tracks. A Guiding Eyes guide dog changes the lives of people, like me, who are blind or visually impaired. I have been very happy with all of my Guiding Eyes dogs. Krista is very energetic, very sweet—and very vocal about expressing her opinions,” she says, with a laugh.
Congratulations to Krista’s puppy raiser, Susan Porteous!