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November 2017 Graduating Class



 Congratulations to the puppy raisers, trainers, and the graduates of the November class.
Your new canine partners will be tremendous additions to your lives. Kudos as well to the dedicated and tireless kennel staff.           –Larry Kaiser

In loving memory of devoted puppy raiser, Paul Cross, and in honor of Ito and his partner. Congratulations to the November graduating class.
–Baltimore Puppy Raising Region Volunteers

Our best wishes to our graduating pup REGAL and her new life partner Rebekah. Many thanks to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind trainers that transform these puppies into gifts of sight.
–Barbara & David Katz

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our
video streaming capabilities.

Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates:
Anthony (Tony) & Elite
Beth & Leila
Franklin (Scott) & Roger
Glenda & Fanta
La’Teia & Della (S)
Lori & Ito
Rebekah & Regal
Thomas (Tommy) & Argo

Home Training
Tonya & Caffrey
Matthew & Yoli

(P): A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.

(S):  The donor listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dog:
•    Della was Special Named by Dorothy Prouty.

Congratulations to our graduating class!

Many thanks to our Training Staff:
Class Supervisor: Miranda Beckmann
Class Instructors: Alyssa Tilley, Mike Ceglio
Apprentice Instructor: Laurel Sheets
Instructor Assistant: Kelly Magrath

Home Training:
James Gardner, Director, Home Training
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Instructor


Anthony & Elite

A. Norton & Elite
A former farmer and carpenter and self-professed “country boy,” Anthony has been legally blind since 1988, due to retinitis pigmentosa.  After his diagnosis he spent several years in Tennessee, where he worked as a vendor and caterer. Now he lives with his wife Pam and stepson Jonathan on a family compound in rural Tennessee, complete with dogs and free-range chickens.

A longtime white-cane user, Anthony—who’s called Tony by friends and family—welcomes his first guide dog with Elite, a female yellow Labrador.  “Elite will literally be my left arm and an extension of my eyes,” Anthony says.  “She and I are connected.  She loves me, and I love her.”  A Marine veteran and musician, Anthony plays guitar, mandolin, violin, harmonica, and flute. “I can play the clarinet,” he says modestly, “but I just don’t have one.”

Anthony can’t wait to travel without the dizzying process of constantly looking down for obstacles, which was his experience with the white cane. But whether he’s walking around town or hiking with Pam, it will be a totally different experience with Elite by his side.

Congratulations to Elite’s puppy raiser, Clare M. Anderson!


Beth & LeilaE. Brassel & Leila
Living in a small Massachusetts city, Beth is a young adult librarian at her local branch, only two blocks from her home. After a diagnosis of retinoblastoma, she was declared legally blind in 2010 and initially resisted using a white cane. “I did a lot of tripping and crashing,” she says, “before I started to use it more consistently.”

The process of getting a dog was gradual too. “As soon as you lose your vision, all the sighted people around you say ‘Get a dog!” she says. “But I needed to get really adept and comfortable with the cane.”  While considering a guide dog, she connected with fellow rowers at the adaptive rowing camp hosted by Community Rowing in Boston, and learned how they lived with their four-legged partners.  “It’s a huge commitment of work,” Beth says.  “Learning what to expect from the dog, and what the dog expects from you–it’s good work, but it’s work.  I don’t want to break the dog,” she adds with a laugh.

The first training walk was a revelation. “When you have a cane, every day is a series of adrenaline shots when you encounter traffic and other obstacles.”  Not so when guided by Leila, a female yellow Labrador. “She’s a little dynamo,” Beth says. “When the harness and leash are off, she’s leaping at me, kissing my face, rolling on the floor.  Like ‘I am just freewheeling and fun.’  And then I put the harness on her and she is all business.”  A former runner, Beth hopes to compete in 5K races again.  In the meantime, rowing is her passion. She heads to a local pond after work two to three times per week. When she’s not working or rowing, she enjoys movies, hanging out with friends, hiking, and listening to audio books.

Congratulations to Leila’s puppy raisers, Emmaline Putnam, Etta Eskridge, and Barbara Infarinato!


Glenda & FantaG. Born & Fanta
For Glenda, improving the lives of the visually impaired has been a decades-long calling, impacting her life both personally and professionally. Legally blind since birth due to congenital cataracts, the Texas native retired this year after spending 33 years working for her home state, primarily in rehabilitation services with blind and visually impaired adults. “I’m glad I stayed as long as I did,” she says, “and I’m glad I had the opportunity to retire when I did.”

Glenda, who has a master’s degree in guidance and counseling, first learned to use a white cane when she attended the Texas School for the Blind. She continued with the cane until the age of 45, when she had a life-changing realization.  “I was on the University of Texas campus with a white cane in my hand.  I was waiting for a bus, and I stepped out….  It was just too close for comfort.”  Glenda thought the bus was going to hit her and knew in that moment that she wanted a guide dog.  Fanta, a female yellow Labrador, is her third Guiding Eyes guide dog.

Once back in Texas, Fanta will accompany Glenda on trips to Dallas to visit dear friends, to visit family in the Gulf Coast of Texas, to church, on shopping excursions, and in the annual “White Cane Day” walk. Glenda is also an active member of the state chapter of the American Council of the Blind.  “Fanta is a wild child,” Glenda says of her new partner.  “She’s up and down, she’s got to sniff, got to check everything out. But she’s a good worker.  I’m really looking forward to working with her at home because she’s got the ability to work with a variable pace.  She’s funny, and she makes me laugh.  She’s just a great dog.”

Congratulations to Fanta’s puppy raisers, Abby Davenport and Frances Chen!


La’Teia & DellaL. Randolph & Della
For La’Teia, a college student who plans to pursue a career as a therapist, the hardest part of Guiding Eyes training was overcoming her own perfectionist tendencies. “It has been wonderful, and mind-blowing, and kind of frustrating all at the same time.  I want to get it right, I want to be ahead, I’m the A+ student. So I make it harder on myself.”  A yoga class during training helped her relax a bit, as did the realization that she needed to put her “pride to the side.”

The first time she walked with Della, her female yellow Labrador partner, her eyes filled with tears. It had been so long, she says, since she had “walked normally.” A resident of Virginia, La’Teia suffered a car accident in 2012, followed by six months of perplexing symptoms and the gradual loss of her sight.  She was inspired to get a guide dog after encountering a woman at rehab who got around so quickly and so quietly with her guide dog.  Plus, La T’eia had her own rising frustration with the white cane:  the constant replacement of cane tips, the veering off course, running into walls, getting “sucked into” parking lots and alleys without realizing it.  La’Teia jokes, “I’ve always wanted a dog, and I’ve never wanted to run into a wall, so why not give it a try?”  She describes Della with one simple word:  silly.  “If she were a cartoon character,” she says, “she would definitely be Garfield.”  A Garfield—er, Della—who is now, of course, the perfect, laid-back foil for her perfectionist partner.

Congratulations to Della’s puppy raisers, Ana Maria Arroyo and Mr. & Mrs. Jim Milbaugh!


Lori & ItoL. Truitt & Ito
Lori has always had a soft spot for Labrador Retrievers—her last pet was a chocolate Lab—but she’s never had a guide dog.  Born with aniridia, the Maryland native is a lifelong white-cane user. One of her goals for this year was to get a guide dog. “I really think it would make me much more independent,” she explains. “I wouldn’t have to lean on other people so much.”

Lori is clearly someone who often puts others first.  Living with her sister on an old chicken farm, the country music fan is a home health care provider who cares full-time for a disabled uncle.  She says the arrival of Ito, a male yellow Labrador, will benefit her and her entire circle of family and friends.  Whether Lori is camping, going to church, having dinner at a restaurant, or simply doing water aerobics at the local YMCA, Ito will give his partner a new feeling of liberation.  “I said to my trainer, ‘You probably get so sick of hearing it, but it’s just so freeing to be able to walk without the cane.’ Normal is the wrong word, but it’s sort of…well, normal.  To feel like a person without a disability, a person without blindness. You have your eyes.”

For Lori, the feeling that Ito would be life-changing was instantaneous.  “I walked with two dogs the first day of training.  Everybody kept telling me, ‘You’ll know when it’s the right dog for you.’  As soon as I picked up the harness that first time, I made that connection with Ito.  And I thought, “Oh, please, let it be him!’  Not that the other dog wasn’t wonderful, but I just felt an instant click with Ito.  And from then on, we’ve been a pair.”

Congratulations to Ito’s puppy raisers, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Cross, Sr.!


Rebekah & RegalR. Cross & Regal
“With a cane I do what I have to do,” says Rebekah. “With a guide dog I do what I want to do.”  That’s the difference Regal, a female black Labrador, has already made in the life of Rebekah, a Brooklyn resident and development manager for the non-profit Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow. Rebekah was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 15.  Five years ago she moved from West Virginia to New York, where she lives with her husband Adam.

While awaiting the arrival of Regal, her second Guiding Eyes guide dog, she had been using a white cane for four months. And? “I hated it,” she exclaims. “I like to walk fast and walk smoothly,” Rebekah explains, “and mostly on foot and by subway through the city. A cane is a great tool, but the way you find your way—it’s like being a human pinball.” Rebekah’s coworkers are all anxious to meet Regal, who Rebekah describes as ”hilarious, with a huge personality.”

Regal will spend her days commuting with her partner and relaxing on her office dog bed when she gets a chance.  As someone who works in the nonprofit world, Rebekah has nothing but praise for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and everyone connected to it.  Simply put, she says, “I love this organization.”

Congratulations to Regal’s puppy raisers, Barbara & David Katz!


Scott & RogerF. Sheerer & Roger
What a difference a few years makes. In 2013, Scott had lost his sight to diabetes and was living in Florida, homeless. But after moving up to New York to join his two brothers and their extended family, this Navy veteran has his own apartment with the help of the Veterans Administration. And that’s where he will live with his Guiding Eyes partner, Roger.  Roger, a male yellow Labrador, will help Scott as he pursues a new life, in better health. After gastric bypass surgery, the former restaurant owner, EMT, and firefighter has lost 120 pounds. “I’m half the man I used to be,” Scott jokes.

“I came to Guiding Eyes because I’m an active person.  I like going to the mall, just walking around, talking to people.  I’m a social butterfly.  Roger will keep me safe,” he says, “and help me get around to do the things I need to do.” Roger will likely be a water dog, Scott adds, since he spends his free hours boating and fishing with his brothers.

As a first-time guide dog user, Scott says one of the biggest challenges has been to let the dog do his job. Scott knew he could trust Roger the day he kept him from stepping out into traffic during training.  “Guiding Eyes starts you off with all the tools and knowledge you need,” he says, “and if you have a question later, you’re only a phone call away.”

Congratulations to Roger’s puppy raisers, John & Nancy Maschmeier!


Tommy & ArgoT. Gibson & Argo
It was July 1995 and Tommy had three months to live. At least that’s what his doctor told him after the New York City data network manager was diagnosed with AIDS.  And so, he recalls, “I moved to Delaware to die.”

But the universe had other plans for Tommy. Although cytomegalovirus resulted in the loss of his sight—he had multiple retinal detachments and 26 surgeries in 13 months—the right drug protocol meant Tommy was disease-free within a decade. He now lives with his partner in a busy beach community and works as a licensed massage therapist and Reiki master. “I had to find something to do that I don’t need my sight for,” Tommy explains. He began doing energy work in 2013 after being inspired by his first Guiding Eyes guide dog.

Tommy now welcomes his second Guiding Eyes dog with male black Labrador Argo.  For Tommy, the name is no accident:  “Argo in Greek means swift, but it’s also the boat that Jason and the Argonauts sailed on in search of the Golden Fleece.”  And after training with his new canine partner for a short time, Tommy realized that Argo had the best skills of any dog he’s known.  He describes life with Argo as “Project Pegasus.”  Before Argo’s arrival, he says, “I got my wings clipped.  With Argo I’ve got my wings back.”

Congratulations to Argo’s puppy raisers, Ken & Barbara Martin!



Tonya & Caffreytonya-caffrey

The fourth child in a family of seven, Tonya lives in upstate New York and is such a fan of Syracuse University sports that she jokes, “I bleed orange.” When she’s not rooting for Syracuse or working part-time at the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Tonya loves to visit with friends, travel by bus around town, or walk to local stores with her guide dog. She also hopes to resume educating elementary school children about guide dogs.

Caffrey, a male black Lab and her third Guiding Eyes guide, is her new partner. They participated in our Home Training program. In addition to helping Tonya navigate her daily routine, Caffrey has assumed the role of entertainer. “He is just a goofy boy,” she says. “He’ll get a bone in his mouth and he sounds just like Chewbacca from Star Wars.”

Most important, Tonya knows Caffrey will keep her safe, both from obstacles and from crime. She tells a terrifying story of the time she was nearly mugged while walking with her white cane. “I hate the cane because I feel like I have a bullseye on my back,” she says. Caffrey will also help her deal with the challenge hybrid cars pose. Although Tonya knows they’re great for the environment, she points out that they’re so quiet people who are visually impaired will not hear the sound of an oncoming hybrid. Knowing that Caffrey has been trained to help with that, she feels more confident about crossing streets, even if a hybrid is on the road.

Congratulations to Caffrey’s puppy raisers, The Paszul Ramily!



Matthew & Yoli MatthewYoli

Matthew & Yoli

After his ophthalmologist told him that he was likely to lose his vision, Matthew knew he would need a guide dog. Why?  As he explains, “I’m not going to sit here and listen to music all day.”

A retired engineer who worked on the construction of the AirTrain JFK and the Amtrak Acela, Matthew was declared legally blind in 2008. The cause of his vision loss is still unknown.  Yoli, a female black Labrador, is his first guide dog and, in Matthew’s estimation, “such a doll.”  They participated in our Home Training program. While Matthew admits that there’s much more to working with a dog than he ever imagined, he describes his new partner as a quick study. “I swear she can tell time,” he says.

Yoli has settled into the early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule that Matthew shares with Karen, his wife of 38 years. A New Jersey native, Matthew lives four miles from the beach and enjoys walking on the boardwalk with Karen and Yoli, working out twice a week, going to restaurants, walking around the neighborhood, and attending church.  Yoli enjoys church as well. In fact, Matthew says with a chuckle, “She is now a Catholic. We had her converted!”

Congratulations to Yoli’s puppy raisers, Ann, Julie & Caroline Halburian!