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November 2019 Graduating Class

Congratulations to our November 2019 Graduating Class!

We thank this month’s sponsors for their generosity…

“Congratulations to my good friend and fellow Board member, Curt Landtroop, and guide dog Quincy.  Thanks for all you have done for Guiding Eyes for so many years. Wishing you and the Class of November 2019 happy trails and wagging tails.”

                                                                – Nancy & John Donnelly

“Sponsorship of this graduation ceremony is to celebrate Cynthia Chiarello’s 80th birthday.”

– From Her Family

“We are pleased to sponsor today’s graduation. Congratulations to the graduates and their wonderful dogs. Many thanks to the trainers, volunteers and puppy raisers who made today possible.”

– Betsy & Charlie Pyne

Residential Graduates
Crystal and Harry
Curt and Quincy
Cynthia and Delta
Jasmine and Ben
Karen and Marco
Leslie and Neil
LucyAnna and Haskell
Ralph and Destiny
Tava and Quentin

Home Training Graduates
Douglass and Beatrice
Kayla and Geoffrey

Many Thanks to Our Training Staff
Class Supervisor:
Miranda Beckmann
Class Instructors:
Dan Weesner and Amy Di Palo
Action Instructor:
Kathryn Poallo
Running Guide Specialist:
Nick Speranza
Instructor Assistant:
Meghan Davis
Home Training Instructor:
Nikki Wentz

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

Meet Our Residential Training Graduates

Graduate Crystal and guide Harry

Graduate Team:   Crystal and Harry
About the Team:  Harry, a male black Lab, is Crystal’s 1st guide dog
Bowling Green, Kentucky

Crystal comes to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog. She is fond of outdoor activities, such as taking nature walks in the woods or horseback riding. She also enjoys volunteering, singing karaoke and doing latch-hooking projects, creating large decorative wall hangings like the woodland scene she’s currently working on. Crystal and her husband are motorcycle enthusiasts and participate in BACA – Bikers Against Child Abuse. Crystal enjoys being with family and friends and looks forward to getting out more when she returns home with Harry. 

How would you describe your guide dog?   “I love Harry – he’s a really good dog and works well with me. He is very calm and laid back. When he’s in the harness he knows he’s working, but he’s very playful otherwise and affectionate;  he likes to sit between my feet and quietly rest his head against my leg. I’m looking forward to Harry being with me for a long time.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My husband has always been there for me, encouraging my independence and confidence. When my eyesight was declining, we began researching guide dog schools because we felt a guide dog would help me have more independence and security. I became interested in coming here as I learned more about Guiding Eyes’ training program.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?  “I’m looking forward to being more social and getting out more. Having Harry as my guide will be helpful when running errands, because I’ll be able to safely cross busy streets. I get emotional when I imagine how Harry can help me when we get back home.”

Were there any training highlights? “It was a nice feeling to have so much more confidence when walking with Harry, whether down a sidewalk or an indoor hallway.”

Congratulations Harry’s raisers, the Altland Family, SW Vermont Region

Graduate Team: Curt & Quincy
About the Team: Quincy, a male black Lab, is Curt’s 7th guide dog
Cold Spring, New York

Curt grew up in a military family with two brothers, (one his twin), and was a wrestler in high school and college. In the 1970’s, he began working in money management for GM in New York City and at that time began his journey with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, receiving his first guide dog in 1973. Curt is on the Guiding Eyes for the Blind Board of Directors and returns to us for his 7th guide dog. He has also been involved with several charity organizations, including Puppies Behind Bars and the Lions Club. Curt lives in Cold Spring with his wife, Diane, and has a 26-year-old son, Zach. He’s looking forward to immersing Quincy into his and Diane’s life, introducing him to friends and enjoying the outdoors!

How would you describe your guide dog? “Quincy is a very happy dog and he is always alert and eager to please. He really enjoys his work, which is important!”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Back in 1973 I was living in Maryland, and while I had good travel skills, I never really enjoyed using the cane. When I was offered the job in New York City, I felt that a guide dog might be a better fit in a big city. I had worked with a woman briefly who had gotten a guide dog from Guiding Eyes in the late 60’s. I saw that they were a great team, so I felt confident about coming to Guiding Eyes.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Just to be able to pick up the harness and walk quickly and confidently; that’s the best part, I think. Staying fit is important to me and Cold Spring has a ton of trails and great places to walk, but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun with a cane. Being able to travel easily and seamlessly with a guide dog is much more fulfilling and it all builds on itself; it gives you the confidence to get out and try things you might not have otherwise.”

Were there any training highlights? “Coming to the point where I see that we are going to work together really well as a team; that’s an important moment. Having worked with seven dogs, when you retire a dog you always think the next one can’t possibly be as good as the last. But over time you come to learn that they all step up to the challenge. This process – between the dog, trainers, staff, etc., is something that not everybody gets to experience, and for that I consider myself a lucky guy.”

Congratulations Quincy’s raisers, Christy Gaitten and the Blomshield Family, Dominion Region

Graduate Cynthia and guide Delta

Graduate Team:  Cynthia and Delta
About the Team:  Delta, a female yellow Lab, is Cindy’s 1st guide dog
Pendleton, South Carolina

Cindy has devoted much of her life to being a mom, but is now taking online certification courses in pursuit of employment as a medical administrative assistant. For relaxation, Cindy takes great pleasure in the art of quilting and also enjoys doing pen and ink drawings, using her remaining central vision. She likes to take long walks and looks forward to Delta accompanying with her when she returns home.

How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s a little firecracker! She’s got all this energy. Delta is just beautiful and sweet and I absolutely love her. She is so good at helping me and I’m really looking forward to my time with her.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I know what a miraculous change these dogs can make, not only to an individual’s life, but how it affects the whole family. It can open so many doors and create opportunities where you had  been limited in daily life.  My family had a service dog to assist with our son with special needs.  When Guiding Eyes was recommended, I called here and the staff was very helpful and nice to speak with.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “The independence and the companionship. I go to the local library to work on my online classes and I’m really looking forward to walking to the nearby café or the town square and the shops. I’ll be a lot more confident with Delta with me.”

Were there any training highlights? “The instructors are wonderful cheerleaders when we get things right and they correct us in such a constructive way. They are so clear in their instructions and give us the tools we need for success. I have some remaining vision and was given dark glasses to encourage me to learn the feel of the harness. I was so amazed when I realized how much Delta communicates with me through the harness.”

Congratulations Delta’s raiser, Karin Hauschild, Montgomery Region

Graduate Jasmine and guide Ben

Graduate Team:   Jasmine and Ben
About the Team:  Ben, a male yellow Lab, is Jasmine’s 1st guide dog
Plainfield, New Jersey

Jasmine is a Rehabilitation Counselor at the New Jersey Commission for the Blind. Through fitness and yoga classes, she encourages clients’ physical health, as well as providing vocational and academic support to ensure success upon leaving the program. Jasmine is an avid runner and athlete, often traveling to participate in various sporting competitions. She is looking forward to experiencing travel with Ben by her side.

How would you describe your guide dog?   “He’s very playful, but very focused in harness when he needs to be. Ben is smart and able to switch back and forth between the two. When he’s taken out of harness, he knows ‘OK it’s play time’ and he’ll bring me his toy. He likes to fetch, so it’s fun to play with him.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Before, I was content with the cane, but once I learned of Guiding Eyes’ Running Guide Program – that I’d have a dog that could be a guide for me running, as well as walking – it made the thought more alluring. When I run, I rely on others on their schedule. I’m very appreciative, but sometimes I’d like that independence of going out when I want. It provides another sense of freedom that wasn’t there before.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?  “I’m excited to run in the park, especially an early run close to home. I look forward to getting to work because traveling with him feels like he’s protecting me now. I won’t have to cautiously divert my attention, because he looks out for things for me.”

Were there any training highlights?  “Normally after it gets dark, my vision is worse and at home I’m familiar with my street – I know every crack or crevice, but I have to be so cautious. I’ve looked forward to night training with him. At night it will be totally all Ben.”

Congratulations Ben’s raisers, The Russell Family and Alexandra Maimone, New Hampshire Region

Graduate Karen and guide Marco

Graduate Team:   Karen and Marco
About the Team:  Marco, a male yellow Lab, is Karen’s 1st Guide dog
Wilmington, Delaware

Karen is a retired school teacher, having taught for over 33 years in Delaware, including time spent in a 31ft RV that served as a mobile classroom bringing Reading and Math to private schools. Her favorite activity is taking pleasure walks, something she will be able to enjoy more of with Marco by her side. Karen also loves reading, computer time and getting together with friends.

How would you describe your guide dog?   “Oh, he’s a handsome sweet boy. So smart.  They made the perfect match.  As we continue to train together it’s all coming more naturally and I’m feeling increasingly confident.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “A neighbor, an aunt and a cousin have had guide dogs from Guiding Eyes, so I was familiar with the organization. Through them I was aware of the quality of the dogs from this school and also the support that continues for the team afterward.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?  “Feeling more comfortable and confident getting out and about; doing the things I want to do. Where I’m living now, many of the places I need to go are within walking distance. Marco will know where the bank, drugstore, hair salon and really good restaurants are! Also, I go to Maine to visit family each summer and it will be much easier with Marco. I’ll be able to more without depending on the help of others while I’m there.”

Were there any training highlights?  “I’ve seen others working with their dogs in the past, but to be experiencing that myself; seeing how much smoother walking is and how confident I’m feeling. It’s so much more pleasant and convenient to be out with a guide dog and it’s someone to talk to!”

Congratulations Marco’s raisers, the Erickson Family, Westchester Region

Graduate Leslie and guide Neil

Graduate Team: Leslie and Neil
About the Team: Neil, a male black & tan German Shepherd, is Leslie’s 3rd guide dog
Bellingham, Washington

Leslie works in the Public School System as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment. Her students range in age from Preschool to 21 years old and benefit from her instruction in areas including Assistive Technology, Braille, Orientation & Mobility and Independent Living skills. Leslie also gives back by volunteering with a service dog program in her area and the Girl Scouts. In her free time, she likes to knit, read, take walks and hikes or go tandem bike riding.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Neil’s very sweet and funny.  He is very smart, picking up on things quickly.  And he’s big! My first two guides were petite female labs so there’s an adjustment, but not in a negative way; just figuring out how well he is fitting under a table and how far is he sticking out!”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My 2nd dog came from Guiding Eyes 7 years ago and she was an excellent guide. Just spot on. The follow up I received was excellent and I felt very supported, so I came back here for my 3rd guide dog.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I’ve had guide dogs since I was 18 years old. They are part of my lifestyle, helping me move more smoothly through the world; more purposefully and confidently. I knew what I wanted to do in life, but the support of a guide dog helps me achieve that. They are the avenue to get there. They delineate the path.”

Were there any training highlights? “When getting a new guide dog, there’s that first walk together when you really clicked. That’s the defining moment, right there.”

Congratulations Neil’s raisers, Dan & Aimee Muller and Tara & Eric Schatz, Capital NY Region

Graduate LucyAnna and guide Haskell

Graduate Team: LucyAnna & Haskell
About the Team: Haskell, a male black Lab, is Anne’s 1st guide dog
Franklin, New Jersey

Anne is a retired Special Ed teacher from Franklin, NJ. Over the last 24 years, Anne has raised four wonderful children as a stay-at-home mom. She has two boys, ages 24 and 22, and two 17-year-old twin girls. All four have always been very involved in activities, whether soccer, track and field, art or music, so Anne has always been on the go. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, kayaking, hiking, or listening to audiobooks with a nice piece of chocolate. She is looking forward to Haskell settling in and becoming another member of their family.

How would you describe your guide dog? “I just cannot get over how sweet Haskell is; I’m amazed by it. He’s very affectionate and definitely loves his Charlee Bear treats. He’s very, very smart and catches on to new skills so fast!”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My vision has been declining, so I began using a white cane. It was okay and does the job, but I’ve never found it enjoyable. Heading out for a walk during the day just didn’t hold the joy that it used to. I’m very busy; with four kids I am always on the go, so a guide dog seemed like a better fit for me.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “The biggest impact for me is the confidence. Losing your vision can cause you to lose your self-confidence too, and he’s given a lot of that back to me. Haskell will also bring a lot of freedom to my life. It will be good to be able to just get up and go and be a part of everything.”

Were there any training highlights? “The highlight for me was definitely my first walk with Haskell; it was life-changing. I went back to my room and just cried because it was just so freeing. It was an amazing moment.”

Congratulations Haskell’s raisers, the Flint Family, Southern Tier Region

Graduate Ralph and guide Destiny

Graduate Team: Ralph & Destiny
About the Team: Destiny, a female yellow Lab, is Ralph’s 3rd guide dog
Temple, Texas

Ralph truly loves to serve the community and bring awareness about blindness whenever he can. He is part of a group that gets together once a month and every October they hold an event called “Come Walk in my Shoes”. This event allows others to experience the world of a visually impaired person and Ralph always sets up a table about guide dogs and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Ralph has a degree in telecommunications and has previously worked as a radio announcer on his own radio show. He is considering making a switch to sound production work in the television industry. He is looking forward to returning with Destiny and introducing her to all those back home.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Destiny is so great. She loves to give kisses and is very loving and happy. We’re bonding really well. She’s always excited to work and always responds really well.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “When I got my first guide dog 24 years ago, I was in college and felt the cane was just not doing enough for me. Having a guide dog made a huge difference; he just made life so much easier. At the time, I did a lot of research on schools and the response from Guiding Eyes was what made me decide to train there. I really believe in what they do, and I’ve kept coming back; now I’m here for my third dog.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “These dogs bring so much freedom, independence, joy, and companionship. The work they do and the change it has on your life is huge. When people see these beautiful dogs out in the world, they bring so much awareness about blindness and guide dogs. It shows people how capable they are and that gives me such joy.”

Were there any training highlights? “There was a moment when an instructor was giving advice about working with Destiny and it just sparked a memory from the last time I was here in training. It’s almost like breaking in a new pair of shoes. I’ve been working with guide dogs for many years, but there’s always something new to learn when working with a new dog.”

Congratulations Destiny’s raisers, the Cromwell Reed Family and the Birks Family, Montgomery Region

Graduate Tava and guide Quentin

Graduate Team: Tava and Quentin
About the Team: Quentin, a male yellow Lab is Tava’s 1st guide dog
Hendersonville, North Carolina

Tava previously made her living as a Paramedic and Registered Nurse. After becoming visually impaired, she began teaching courses in the Emergency Medical Sciences Department of a local community college and became involved in volunteering for her church. Tava likes doing various crafts, but spends much of her time enjoying the outdoors, which she is sure Quentin will love! Tava has two sons who live nearby and they are looking forward to her returning home with Quentin by her side.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Quentin is so smart and very loyal. When the harness comes off, he loves to play. Quentin definitely loves to cuddle; he may be a lap dog at heart.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My husband had always been my eyes, but when he passed there was a void in my life and it was very difficult for me. A friend of mine encouraged me to look into getting a guide dog, so I asked my ophthalmologist at Duke Eye Center. They suggested that I look into Guiding Eyes for the Blind.”

What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog?   “Having a guide dog – a living being – serving as my mobility tool rather than the cane, is a huge change. He is a companion as well and it is much more rewarding for me.”

Were there any training highlights? “The experience here is almost indescribable. Everyone is so compassionate and understanding. The kitchen staff, the trainers; everyone is so encouraging. And Quentin is amazing. While out training together, he stopped me from walking into an open cellar door and it really helped me to realize that I could trust him.”

Congratulations Quentin’s raisers, Robert Hart and Lou Moseley, Dutchess NY Region

Meet Our Home Training Graduates

Graduate Team: Douglass and Beatrice
About the Team: Beatrice, a female yellow Lab, is Douglass’  6th guide dog
Homer City, Pennsylvania

Doug is an experienced guide dog user, returning to us for his 5th Guiding Eyes dog. He is enjoying retirement, after working for many years in the field of Information Technology as an IT Manager. Doug is the president of a local Ham radio club and attends various events with other Ham enthusiasts. He and his wife Vicki are happy to have Beatrice joining them in their home and guiding Doug in his daily life.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Beatrice is a totally sweet little girl. She’s actually the first female guide I’ve ever had and the first yellow lab. She’s wonderfully confident and things just couldn’t be better at this stage.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I wanted to maintain my independence and mobility. From the start, I felt Guiding Eyes’ program was quality oriented and the training was superior.  When I’ve applied for each successive dog, it’s been a wonderful process.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “It’s enabled me to be highly mobile. The freedom, mobility and independence you achieve with a guide dog is the closest to feeling sighted a visually impaired person could be. During the 25 years I worked at a community hospital, I was able to get around the building effortlessly; walking down hallways often littered with medical equipment. Making a professional and confident impression was important. It’s that ease of travel.”

Were there any training highlights? “I don’t know that I can point out a single event, but I can say I was impressed right from the get-go. Beatrice is so confident and so well matched. Really, the entire home training experience was very positive, and the bonding and adjustment has been really quick with her. I can honestly say the whole training was a highlight.”

Congratulations Beatrice’s raisers, the Moore-Cicchino Family and Lee Anne Leverone, Maine Region

Graduate Kayla and guide Geoffrey

Graduate Team: Kayla and Geoffrey
About the Team: Geoffrey, a male black Lab, is Kayla’s 4th guide dog
East Helena, Montana

Kayla manages multiple jobs working from home, including web accessibility testing, braille transcription and childcare for friends, as well as running a wellness clinic with her husband.  She is also the busy mother of two young children, incorporating trips to school, shopping, the library, kids’ events and volunteering for a local Mothers of Preschoolers group, into her busy day. She enjoys outdoor pursuits such as camping and hiking and is happy to have Geoffrey joining their busy and active family.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Geoffrey is a great dog! He takes his work very seriously, but outside of guide work, he has such a silly personality and is always making me laugh.  He is also very expressive and has a great sense of fun and adventure.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I loved the fact that there was a Home Training department, but as I continued researching the school and talking to the people who work there, I became certain that it was the perfect school for me. There is such a great sense of community and family and everyone has been absolutely great! I feel that Guiding Eyes really cares about their clients and takes into consideration their needs and their life. They’re more than willing to meet the client half way.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “I honestly can’t even imagine my life without a guide dog.  A guide dog brings me so much confidence, grace, independence and happiness. Words really can’t describe the impact a guide dog makes in your life.”

Were there any training highlights? “Every time we would finish with a training session and I loaded Geoffrey into the car’s foot well, he would wait until I was situated and then he would literally crawl into my lap and smother me with kisses. It was as if he was saying ‘thank you so much; wasn’t that so much fun?’ Once I’d get him situated back onto the floor, he would basically roll over onto his back in the foot well to get comfortable. I honestly don’t even know how he accomplished it.”

Congratulations Geoffrey’s raisers, Rachel McQuay and Gabriella Bonofiglio, Eastern CT Region