October 2007 Graduating Class

 In Graduations

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated on November 3rd

Class picture 10/2007

  • Barbara Buchanan and Virginia
  • Timothy Costa and Winona
  • Ronald Davidson and Cory
  • Andrea Goddard and O’Shea
  • Douglas Jarman and Patch
  • Jule Ann Lieberman and Ariel
  • Dana Metcalf and Wadsworth
  • Karen Mitchell and Wade
  • Richard Pomo and Tanya
  • Amy Salmon and Wilbur
  • Philip Sass and Errol
  • Jeffrey Shiffer and Louie
  • Leslie Underwood and Biscuit

And many thanks to our instructors:

  • Julie Angle, Special Needs Instructor
  • Kate Bledsoe, Special Needs Instructor
  • Gerald Brenninkmeyer, Class Supervisor
  • Lori Busse, Instructor Assistant
  • Stephanie Ellias, Instructor
  • Kathryn Klaus, Instructor

Many thanks to volunteer Marge Widman for contributing the interviews.

Barbara Buchanan and VirginiaBarbara Buchanan and Virginia

A New Retiree Lives a Full Life with Second Guiding Eyes Dog

Barbara Buchanan, 68, lives in Vermont and came to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for her second guide dog from the school. She earned her undergraduate degree in English and French with a minor in education from Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. She has taught blind children in Montreal, worked for the government, and since moving to Vermont, was employed by and recently retired from the Good News Garage. Barbara admits that although she enjoys travel and being with friends, she especially savors time at home, reading, knitting, watching old movies, listening to the “big bands” of yesteryear, and walking. Barbara declares that her new dog Virginia and she make a perfect team and have already bonded in the manner in which they both think and work. Without a guide dog since August, Barbara has missed her independence and looks forward to getting out on the streets again. Speaking of both students and instructors at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Barbara stated: “People here are highly motivated, independent achievers who are making a difference in the world. We are all one family. Coming here, you learn so much; it is most certainly a positive experience.”

Timothy Costa and WinonaTimothy Costa and Winona

A Behind the Scenes Guy Returns for Second Dog

Tim Costa of Maine returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for his second dog, Winona. Tim lost total sight approximately ten years ago. His first guide dog retired with Tim’s father. Tim is a quiet, thoughtful, introspective, single gentleman who prefers an existence “behind the scenes” in his everyday life. He presently works for an employment service as an administrative assistant. Tim found Winona to be a loveable, affectionate companion, as well as a good worker that seems to always know exactly what Tim wants and needs. Tim is confident that Winona will give him the independence and ability to move about freely without fear. In speaking about Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Tim asserts that he would never recommend another school. “I love it here. The students and instructors are so easy to be with, and the learning process is actually fun.”

Ronald Davidson and CoryRonald Davidson and Cory

Guiding Eyes Adept at Training Dually Disabled Canadian

Ronald Davidson, a grandfather of three, has returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind from Canada for Cory, his second guide dog. Ron was born with Ushers syndrome, and is legally blind and hard of hearing. He wears an earphone that is connected to a small hand microphone (held by the listener) that facilitates his communication with others. Because of his dual disabilities, another school to which he applied advised Ron that he was not eligible for enrollment; however, Guiding Eyes readily accepted him. Ron is a knowledgeable and multi-talented man. He is a Braillist, adept at computer software, implements a two-handed manual (finger) method of communication when needed, and bowls a 130 average. He modestly shared that in team play, has (just once) bowled a high of 212. On the home front, Ron loves to read novels in Braille, boasts of cutting his own lawn, the result of which, he is told, looks like a “bad haircut,” and shovels away the winter snow. Ron says, “Cory is always happy to see me and is alert to my needs. I look forward to introducing him to my retired dog (Oregon) at home. I also appreciate the new techniques that have been implemented here at Guiding Eyes; they are more thorough, exact and effective than ever before.”

Andrea Goddard and O'SheaAndrea Goddard and O’Shea

Renaissance Woman with Dual Disabilities Embraces First Guiding Eyes Dog

Twenty-seven year old Andrea Goddard was born with retinopathy of prematurity and cerebral palsy. She will return to Washington State with O’Shea, her first guide dog, from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Andrea is petite and well educated, with a Masters in Counseling/Psychology. She presently works only 14-hours per week in the field of mental health. She does, however, seek more clients. Trained as an accomplished vocalist and pianist, she enjoys all kinds of music from the blues to classics and she is learning to play the “dobro” guitar. O’Shea complements Andrea’s nature with his sweet, cute, mellow, energetic, but affectionate and engaging personality. “I will be so happy to experience a new feeling of independence: a reason to get out more and to go new places. Coming to Guiding Eyes for the Blind has not only broadened my life, but is a real mood-raiser as well.” Andrea further exclaimed how great her experience at Guiding Eyes has been: “How I needed this! It’s been really cool – being among peers who understand how I feel, my life has indeed taken on new meaning.”

Douglas Jarman and PatchDouglas Jarman and Patch

On the Road Again: From 18-Wheeler to Guiding Eyes Dog

Another Canadian in this class, 65 year-old Doug Jarman has returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for his second dog, Patch. After driving an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer for many years, his sight loss, due to retinitis pigmentosa, ended that career 14 years ago. Doug came to Guiding Eyes for the Blind after two years of a futile search for a school in Canada that would fulfill his needs. His wife passed away three months ago, just 14 days short of their 44th wedding anniversary. Doug loves walking with his canine guide, reading books, shoveling snow and cooking (he’s a true “meat and potatoes” man). Patch will enable Doug to resume a life of independence: having tea with friends, enjoying good food, music, conversation and companionship. His praise for Guiding Eyes for the Blind was frank and effusive: “The new facilities here are nothing less than fantastic and the staff and instructors are extraordinary; they do everything within their power to make you feel at home and help you to achieve success in the process.”

Jule Ann Lieberman and ArielJule Ann Lieberman and Ariel

Planet of the Blind Brings Retailer to Guiding Eyes

Jule Ann Lieberman says her primary purpose in life is “to find ways to make the lives of others more manageable.” Jule Ann had perfect vision until the age of nine, when she was diagnosed with Cone-rod dystrophy. By age 16 she was left with only peripheral vision. Jule Ann had read “Planet of the Blind” which was authored by former Guiding Eyes for the Blind Director of Student Services, Stephen Kuusisto. Jule Ann’s husband contacted the author and thus his wife’s introduction and close relationship with Guiding Eyes began. Married for 25 years and mother of three children, ages 16 to 22, she has now returned to the school from Pennsylvania, for her second guide dog, Ariel. Jule Ann, always an avid reader readily turns to books on tape to fill her voracious appetite for pleasure and information. Her first career was as an assistive teacher and employment counselor (or, affectionately referred to by her family as “the gadget queen”). Today Jule Ann runs a retail business that features vision aids and magnification systems. She also speaks publicly, sharing her experience and knowledge on what is most effective in that field. Jule Ann appreciates Ariel’s fun loving and playful spirit but especially respects her serious work demeanor. She stated that coming back to the school, following even just a short period of time without a dog, was like being given “new life.”

Dana Metcalf and WadsworthDana Metcalf and Wadsworth

A Special Man with Special Needs

Ohio is the home of Special Needs graduate Dana Metcalf, age 40. Dana has been without a dog for four years, and returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for his second dog, Wadsworth. Legally blind since childhood from a form of macular degeneration, Dana also experiences poor balance as a result of cerebral palsy. He was married five years ago, and not only acquired a wife, but also a Korean stepdaughter who is today ten years old. Dana is employed by Clovernook Center for the Blind in its paper products department. His favorite activities are doing fun things with his family, and also using his computer, watching TV, reading, swimming and riding horses. Wadsworth is quiet and cautious and takes his responsibilities to Dana seriously. In speaking of his training and experience at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Dana uses only superlatives. “It is wonderful here. The staff, in every way, could not be better. They do whatever it takes to ensure your happiness and success.”

Karin Mitchell and WadeKarin Mitchell and Wade

Busy Texan Finds Her Canine Soul Mate

Karin Mitchell, a diminutive Texan with a big heart, returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for her second dog, Wade. Karin lost her sight at age four because of a pituitary tumor on the optic nerve. With an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and working now for her Masters in Counseling, Karin is currently employed as a counselor for the Division for Blind Services in Texas. Karin lives at home with her parents and says she enjoys reading, swimming, watching movies and socializing with her friends over a cup of green jasmine tea. It was the advice of those friends who have guide dogs that convinced her to apply to Guiding Eyes. Karin’s new dog Wade plays and works with equal vigor; the new team is truly in love. After three years without a dog, Karin is more than ready to reclaim her independence. “There have been some great changes since I was here last: the private bedrooms, improvement in training techniques, the use of doggie treats as a motivational tool and the one-on-one training.”

Richard Pomo and TanyaRichard Pomo and Tanya

A New “Coach” for a Beloved Blind Golfer

Dick Pomo is well-known here at Guiding Eyes as well as in the world of blind golf. This 66-year old golfer plays in the United States Blind Golf Association Corcoran Cup, which for 30 years has been sponsored by Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It was this relationship that brought Dick to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, Tanya. Born with partial sight from retinopathy of prematurity, Dick did not become totally blind until six years ago. By that time, he had earned his Master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut. Until he retired years later, Dick worked in the field of child welfare and ended his career as Executive Director of The Wisconsin’s Council of the Blind. Dick, who is married, likes to read, play cards and be with friends, but also enjoys travel, and is an avid sports (especially football) fan. Dick was truly astonished at how quickly Tanya – with her affectionate, attentive personality and excellent work ethic – found her way into his heart. He has great expectations of an increased sense of freedom when he and Tanya get back to his home in Arizona.

Amy Salmon and WilburAmy Salmon and Wilbur

City Training Key for Wife, Mother, and Teacher

Amy Salmon, from Oklahoma, has returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind for her second dog, Wilbur. She was declared legally blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 24. Amy has been married for 14 years is a very proud mom of two youngsters, ages six and three. Amy investigated various programs for the blind through the “grapevine,” and was specifically looking for a school that offered city training. Guiding Eyes was recommended to her by a consultant from the American Foundation for the Blind. Amy taught at the Hadley School for the Blind and now works from home instructing Microsoft Excel, Internet and business communication courses. Amy admits that there are not many things that once she sets her mind to, she cannot do. She enjoys swimming, water skiing, reading, writing and loves making ‘no bake’ chocolate chip peanut butter cookies with her son. She is especially grateful that with Wilbur at her side she will be able to walk her young son to school. Wilbur is an extremely friendly and perceptive Lab that can go from zero to six miles an hour in no time. Amy is enthusiastic about her return to Guiding Eyes: “It’s the very best school there is. The firm and important instruction is always administered with knowledge and care. Every student is made to feel special and we each have a private bedroom besides. What a luxury.”

Philip Sass and ErrolPhilip Sass and Errol

Federal Reserve Executive Banks on Fourth Dog

“I was hit in the face with a basketball 21 years ago in a street game.” So stated 59-year-old Philip Sass from New York in explaining the reason for his sight loss. Philip was recommended to Guiding Eyes by a school representative in 1988 and has now returned for Errol, his fourth dog. Philip studied Political Science at the University of Buffalo and has been employed at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for 20 years. He has been married for 20 years and has three sons. Philip’s favorite activities are gym exercise and other sports, and he also enjoys working on the computer and reading. Errol is laid back and quite controlled, and is very sure of himself when on the job. Philip noted with a sense of pride that he gave his last retired dog to the Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank.

Jeffrey Shiffer and LouieJeffrey Shiffer and Louie

A Dog To Provide Balance to a Businessman’s Life

Fifty-two year old Jeff Shiffer came to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, for Louie, his second dog from the school. He is a survivor of brain surgery when he was three years old. Jeff searched for a school that would accommodate both his loss of sight and equilibrium. He needed a dog not only to guide, but to respond to his sporadic lack of balance as well. His acceptance at Guiding Eyes, Jeff said, was immediate and most reassuring. Jeff initially wanted to be a clinical psychologist and attended Edinboro State University towards that goal. Time and circumstances changed his plans. He has been happily married now for seven years and he, along with his wife (who is an artist), operate a successful furniture-finishing business in the basement of their home in Pennsylvania. He also enjoys walking two to three miles a day. Louie is young and laid back, and enjoys work as much as play. Waiting at home for Louis is Ink, Jeff’s retired dog. Jeff is effusive in his praise for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “This is a great school, where you train hard and have a lot of fun in the process. The staff members are friendly and go above and beyond to listen to each student and respond with gentle patience, understanding and educated expertise.”

Leslie Underwood and BiscuitLeslie Underwood and Biscuit

Social Worker and Grandmother Survives Cancer and Trains with Dog #6

Leslie Underwood, age 60, was born with retinopathy of prematurity but did not experience total blindness until her early 20s. Leslie has now returned for Biscuit, her sixth dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Her eye doctor in upstate New York made the initial recommendation. Leslie received her Masters degree in social work from Florida State University and is a social worker and peer advocate at the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, in New York State. She speaks with pride of her daughter and two grandsons, ages 9 and 12. Leslie’s life was most recently interrupted by a two-year battle with cancer during which time she was without a guide dog. She credits Gus, her former guide dog, for sensing and alerting her to the malignant tumor, diagnosed as non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Leslie is an old movie buff and a devotee of “movie-oke”; she retains her appreciation and enjoyment of the films and stars of “yesteryear.” Dog number six Biscuit is bubbly, affectionate and obedient and will be a wonderful guide and companion for his new owner. “I will be able to get out on my own again; it is very important for me to ‘keep alive by being connected with people.’ Biscuit will enable me to do that. Thank you Guiding Eyes for the Blind for your understanding, empathy and action on my behalf.”

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