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Rich and Tampa

Meet Graduate Rich

Graduate Richard and guide black Lab TampaMay On-Campus Training
Graduate Team
: Richard and Tampa
About the Team: Tampa, a female black Lab, is Rich’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Palm Harbor, Florida
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Shannon McGee

Richard is 62 years young and a retired teacher. He worked at the University of Virginia for the past 18 years, running exercise programs for undergraduate and graduate students. He recently relocated from Charlottesville to Palm Harbor, Florida, west of Tampa, to escape the colder winter weather of Virginia. Rich has an adult daughter, Cassandra, who lives in Virginia.  In 1991 he was diagnosed with retinopathy prematurity (ROP) and only 5% of his vision remains. He notes some interesting coincidences as good omens when receiving his guide dog. Tampa’s name reflects the location of his residence, and she was raised by a family from Maine, where he was born and raised. His hobbies include gym workouts, hiking and daily walks, kayaking, wine tasting, and concerts. Among his favorite concerts attended were Jimmy Buffet playing on a beach in Virginia and James Taylor.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Tampa has a great personality. She is a princess with an attitude, but displays a lot of patience when it is necessary. When her harness is on, she is all work. When she is wearing her leash, she loves to play.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Tampa is my first guide dog. A gentleman from the Department for the Blind in Charlottesville, Virginia introduced me to Guiding Eyes. All post introduction conversations with the school were positive and encouraging.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Tampa is great company when I go for walks. She is very happy knowing she has done her job. Her presence has provided me a more regular daily routine. She gets me up early to get her morning walk in. This turns out to be a blessing in light of the Florida heat. Having Tampa at my side has allowed me to feel safer walking, inside the grocery and other stores. I have an increased sense of being protected.” 

Were there any training highlights? “I trained with a small group of four individuals. All other classmates had received multiple previous dogs. The experience was unique for me as Tampa is my first guide dog. The situation enabled me to sit back and observe the others who had far greater experience with guide dogs. In the evenings, I would sit outside talking with classmates and learn from their experiences. I have stayed in touch with my classmates from across the country and that support has been priceless. My training included trips to FDR Park, the train station, a local Irish pub, and bus rides. One trip into the City of White Plains was particularly memorable because Tampa stopped me as a car ran a red light. I learned early on, the benefits of being blessed with a guide dog. My instructor, Shannon, asked each student how they thought they learned best, and she really tried to incorporate that feedback into her training. The staff from the housekeeping, kitchen, clerical and support staff were amazing; actually phenomenal. I also loved that staff were encouraged to bring their dogs to work.”

Meet Guide Dog Tampa

Tampa was raised on an island near Portland, Maine. The only way off and on the island is by ferry. She immediately showed her strength and focus by learning how to deal with uneven footing, a lot of ferry noise, many other dogs, and of course many people who wanted to show their affection. Being raised on the island allowed her to become familiar with various natural environments. Tampa loved going to the beach, checking out the seagulls, and rolling and resting in seaweed. She also loved going to town, visiting art galleries, museums, restaurants, and other urban spots. We learned so much from Tampa, a joyous, smart, and wonderful pup! We are so proud to have been her raisers.

Marjorie and Steven Moore, Puppy Raisers of Tampa


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