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Pamela and Mary

Meet Graduate Pamela

Pamela leans close to black Lab guide dog Mary for their team portraitGraduate Team: Pamela and Mary
About the Team: Mary, a female black Lab, is Pamela’s 3rd guide dog
Location: Ardmore, Pennsylvania
Training: April 2023 On-Campus

Pamela, a four-time Paralympian, and middle-distance runner returns to Guiding Eyes’ Running Guide Program. After serving in development and fundraising in the non-profit sector, she now works as the Director of Development and Communications at the Overlook School for the Blind. Pamela received her undergraduate degree in health and physical education from Slippery Rock University and her master’s degree in sports administration from the University of Northern Colorado. Pamela has volunteered with a variety of organizations, including the National Organization for Albinism and Hyperpigmentation, (NOAH), and the Blind Sports Organization, (BSO). She and her husband have a 20-year-old son and her retired guide, German Shepherd Maida. In addition to running, Pamela enjoys hiking, playdates with the dogs, and fitness-related activities.

How would you describe your guide dog? “We are alike in that we both like to be active. Mary’s adaptable and can adjust to whatever’s thrown her way. It helps that she can adjust quickly because my world is ever-changing and fast-paced. One moment we’re in an office in front of a computer, the next we’re in front of prospective donors, in corporate meetings, or in a classroom with students who have complex disabilities, and there’s a lot of noise, movement, and equipment. She goes with the flow and she’s very sweet.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “Initially in 2006, it was because of their national reputation for producing some of the best guide dogs. The trainers are exceptional and it’s a great environment, so when you find something that works, I see no need to change it. The Running Guide Program was phenomenal for me as a  competitive athlete. I retired in 2005 and figured that my running career was done because of my work and family commitments. I didn’t have time to coordinate with guide runners. With Maida, I was able to get back into running. To be able to independently go out for a run was something unimaginable until Maida came into my life. That was a phenomenal experience. I will fondly remember the first time we ran for the rest of my life. I believe Mary will also be a good running guide and look forward to developing that skill set, as well as the connection that comes from running with your dog.  I believe it strengthens a team.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “A guide dog offers a level of independence that can’t be found with a sighted guide or traditional cane. The independence that a guide dog permits me is not to be matched. Independence is critically important and gives me the confidence and mobility I need to reach my goals. Using a guide dog is based on individual interests and one method isn’t right or wrong, but a guide dog offers a level of comfort in the community and with the people around you, breaking down barriers and opening doors for the future.”

Were there any training highlights? “I have always done home training but was placed in on-campus training and ended up being matched sooner than I might’ve been otherwise. The training is always good, and the trainers are phenomenal. I worked specifically with Dan, and we had a great time. He totally understands my capacity as a handler and therefore optimized the work we were able to get done in a short period of time. The other trainers and class leaders were great, and the partnership between them was incredible. It’s always a good experience being on campus within a positive environment. I’m grateful to Guiding Eyes for their continued contribution to facilitating me to be the best that I can be in all aspects of my life.” 

Meet Guide Dog Mary

DOB:  5/6/2021
Litter ID: S-2M21
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador Retriever
Gender: Female
Brood: Dior
Stud: Yarmouth
Littermates: Mimi, Margaret, Major, Mabel, Meg
Region:  Baltimore, Catoctin
Regional Puppy Instructor: Jeanyne Gembarski
Puppy Raiser:  Eduardo Sandoval, Jeanyne Gembarski, Audrey Dmello, Schwam Family
Facebook: Baltimore Puppy Raisers
Facebook: Catoctin Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Mary impressed us with her overall versatility. She blended into our family well and was always ready for our next adventure. After meeting Pam, we know Mary is with whom she was meant to be. They are a dynamic pair and we know together their future is unlimited. So happy for the new team! ~ Schwam Family

Mary is compassionate and loving. She provided companionship for me and my two daughters as we all grew and learned in training her and her us. The greatest challenge for Mary was wanting to smell everyone’s shoes, especially riding the shuttle bus to and from work. I often joked when boarding the bus to riders to excuse her because she loved shoes. Our fun outings were going to daycare to pick up the girls, the playground, work everyday and our daily runs to Starbucks . Raising Mary was an opportunity to pay it forward for a friend who received a service dog. Everyone that Mary met contributed to her success and she touched so many lives. Forever grateful for this experience. ~ Audrey Dmello

Photos of the Team…