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Phuong and Florie

Meet Graduate Phuong

Phuong and Florie sit side by side for their formal team portraitGraduate Team: Phuong and Florie
About the Team: Florie, a female black Lab, is Phuong’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Training: July 2023 On-Campus

Phuong was born and raised in Vietnam, but at age fourteen she emigrated to the United States with her father, aunt, and uncle. She was born with a congenital vision defect and sees only shadows with minimal color. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in social work at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she still resides. She is eager to learn where her career and life will take her. She is currently in the process of becoming licensed in her field, and once licensed, Phuong is interested in pursuing a career as a school social worker, assisting teenagers and young adults. In the interim, she has worked part time for the past six years for REI, an outdoor recreation equipment store. When not studying for her professional license or working, she enjoys spending time with good friends and hiking. She also likes cooking and learning to prepare all types of food. Phuong enjoys vacationing and recently visited Las Vegas with Florie, her first guide dog and new traveling companion.   

How would you describe your guide dog? “Florie is laid-back and very funny. She can be a drama queen at times, letting out a little whine when she sees other dogs, but knowing she can’t leave my side. She is a huge fan of all birds, big and small. She wags her tail wildly when she sees birds. Florie is sixty-three pounds, very muscular, yet fluffier than most retrievers.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I heard about Guiding Eyes from friends. One has a traumatic brain injury and, as a result, a significant visual injury, but nevertheless had great success with Guiding Eyes. Although I applied for a guide dog from several schools, Guiding Eyes was the first to get back to me. As a result, I was easily sold on their school.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I definitely feel more freedom getting around, although I liked my cane. Florie takes me through safe walkways and hiking paths, and she performs her job very well. When harnessed, she is all business and professional.”

Were there any training highlights? “We visited a Starbucks as part of our training, but there were quite a bit of goose and duck droppings scattered on the sidewalk leading up to the coffee shop. Florie navigated herself and me safely and without incident the entire way. Very much appreciated and memorable. The food served at the school was awesome. My favorite dishes included the potato salad, and the rice and lemon salmon dish. Deanna was my instructor, and she was very good. She took the six members in my class on local buses and trains to various towns around the area.”

Meet Guide Dog Florie

DOB:  12/22/2020
Litter ID: 4F320
Color/Breed:  Black/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Mercy
Stud: Dasher
Littermates: Fairlee, Forest, Flower, Fanta, Fulton, Fay
Region:  Central CT
Regional Puppy Instructor: Maureen Hollis
Puppy Raiser:  David & Sandra Heller
Facebook: Central CT Puppy Raisers


From the Puppy Raiser…

Florie was always fun loving, playful and had few fears. Her biggest strengths were her tenacity and tail wagging enthusiasm to try new things. Florie seemed to enjoy being in loud places. She went to events in NYC as a pup and really blew us away as she weaved around people in crowded places. She also attended the theatre often as we had season tickets to 2 theatre companies. We enjoyed raising Florie because she was always game and as she grew she would rise to occasions that really made us proud. She was amazing with our very young toddler grandchildren, gentle as could be despite her tenacious personality. It has been an absolute honor to raise this special little girl Florie. We wish her and her new partner a wonderful life together. ~ Sandra and David Heller 

Photos of the Team…