Graduate Team Rebecca and Vernon

 In Graduations, News & Events

Meet August Residential Training Graduate Rebecca

Graduate Rebecca and yellow Lab guide VernonGraduate Team:  Rebecca and Vernon
About the Team:  Vernon, a male yellow Lab, is Rebecca’s 1st guide dog
Hometown:  Melbourne, Florida
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Marybeth Heady (August Residential Class) Stephanie Koret (Home Training)

Becky has led an interesting life that now includes her first guide dog, Vernon. She is multilingual and multicultural, having been born in Brazil to U.S. citizens working as missionaries. There were times Becky worked dubbing films from Portuguese to English, or vice versa, and translating as a guide in Brazil. She returned to the states for her senior year, and many years later when in her 40’s, packed up herself and her 5 yr. old daughter, moving from Key West to a beautiful, tropical locale in Guatemala. They bought a boat, met people from around the world, and shared invaluable experiences for 6 years, before returning to Key West where Becky found success as a landscaper.  Artistic pursuits have always been a part of Becky’s life, like weaving and oil painting, and now since her vision loss, she expresses her creativity in other ways around her home. As impressive as her adventures may be, Becky cites her main accomplishment in life as being a mother to Erica, who grew up to be an independent young woman herself, and she adds Vernon is fitting into the family quite well.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Vernon is a big dog, well-trained, young and energetic, but very loving. You can see how loyal he is; he watches me and is close by all the time. He gives me so much comfort with his presence in my quiet life – it’s different having Vernon as a buddy. We both enjoy when I brush or massage him the way they taught us; he loves that.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “While visiting a friend, pre-Covid, we attended a Guiding Eyes graduation and tour. I was blown away and impressed by the facilities, clean kennels with calm dogs, Vet clinic and especially the friendly and open people. I had been told by an eye doctor, having partial sight, I wasn’t eligible to receive a guide dog, but it was when watching the graduate speaker, that I learned that was not true, and it instantly brought me to tears. It was hope. I was stunned speechless by the possibility. I took the forms that day and started the process.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life?  “The companionship is wonderful. Visually impaired people can feel isolated, plus Covid did that to everyone. When you lose your eyesight you lose a lot of control, and with Vernon I have gained more control. I get out in the neighborhood more and I feel safer.  I feel Vernon’s love and protection and that’s very important because it’s easy to feel vulnerable. Emotionally, it’s wonderful, although it’s been a difficult journey. After applying, I injured my wrist and then the pandemic restrictions happened. The school did its best to accommodate students and keep going. I was finally able to be in the August 2021 class on campus, but a respiratory virus in the kennel sent us home early without our dogs. This was a monkey wrench that affected everyone – students, dogs, and staff and it was difficult. Vernon and I were reunited in November for home training. The momentum had been interrupted, but Stephanie was great. She took the time to answer questions and work with us in my home environment. He’s my first guide dog, and since then when I have challenges, I’ve received support whenever I call. I feel it speaks well of Guiding Eyes, because with all they’ve had to deal with, they are still committed to addressing the needs of visually impaired people.”

Were there any training highlights? “I was impressed by the knowledge the trainers had and MaryBeth’s patience, over and over, training me with my first guide dog. They understood that having partial sight is a different dynamic and taught me how to trust the dog and not fight it. When I could feel him taking me around obstacles – it was so awesome. I was so impressed with his training.”

Meet Guide Dog Vernon

  • DOB:  3/26/19
  • Tattoo ID:  3V19
  • Color/Breed: Yellow Labrador Retriever
  • Gender:  Male
  • Brood:  Gloria
  • Stud:  Zinc
  • Littermates:  Voltaire, Verdell, Verdi, Varick
  • Region: Erie NY
  • Regional Manager:  Cassie Houghton
  • Puppy Raiser:  Matthew Nayda
  • Facebook: Guiding Eyes Erie Puppy Raisers
yellow Lab guide Vernon

Vernon was the first puppy I raised and I am so happy that he is graduating. I’m very proud of him. He is a good dog and he likes to be close to you and offer his assistance with whatever you are doing. He also likes lots of cuddles, playing with his toys and when you talk to him (about anything). He is easygoing, adaptable, and will be good at trying new things and going on adventures. He made a difference in my life and I hope he helps you as a guide dog, but also as a friend.

Matthew Nayda, Puppy Raiser of Vernon

Enjoy these photos of the team and Vernon as a pup on program…

Meet our other recent guide dog team graduates. Click here!

Friends and Family:  Watch this video to learn more about  Working with a Guide Dog Team.

Graduate Peter and black Lab guide FredoGraduate Andrew and guide dog Velvet