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September 2010 Graduating Class

Picture of the September 2010 graduating class

Amanda Frost & Pepper
Howard Geltman & Valor
James (J.R.) Westmoreland & Salsa
Joan Swift & Bob
Lisa Irving & Bernie
Michael De Matteo & Crockett
Tim Lindbo & Casey
Walt Hettinga & Matt

Home Training Graduates

Tracey Garbutt & Kurt

And many thanks to our instructors…

Miranda Beckmann, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Justine DiNapoli, Class Instructor
Kate Schroer-Shepord, Class Instructor
Krissy Andersen, Home Training Instructor
John Detloff, Field Home Training Instructor
Shane Chadbourne, Instructor’s Assistant

Michael G. De Matteo and Crockett Picture of Michael DeMatteo & Crockett
Michael “Mike” G. De Matteo comes to Guiding Eyes from Louisiana.  He returns home with Crockett, a yellow male Labrador.

Mike is a Purchasing Agent for a state municipality in LA.  He has a wife, three stepdaughters and ten grandchildren. Mike enjoys time with the kids, particularly visiting the zoo and the aquarium.  He loves sports and has a black belt Tae Kwon Do.

This is Mike’s second dog from Guiding Eyes. In 1995, he developed sarcoidosis which affected his lungs and eyes. He can see movement and color but everything is blurry.

It was love at first sight when Mike met Crockett.  He is happy to be matched with a very affectionate, very attentive and very driven dog who loves to work.  Mike asks Crockett, “Ready to go to work?” and Crockett pops up, tail wagging, ready to go.  Crockett is a great guide.  Mike is looking forward to introducing Crockett to the family and familiarizing him with the city.

Congratulations to Crockett’s puppy raisers: Janet Newcity and family

Picture of Amanda Frost and PepperAmanda Frost and Pepper

Amanda Frost and Pepper, a female black Labrador, will return to Amanda’s home in Maine.

Amanda has two children.  They enjoy walks to the park, indoor playgrounds, and family time together.  Amanda loves listening to music and writing short stories.

At eight years old, Amanda had difficulty in school and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa with rod cone dystrophy.  Her sight would continue to deteriorate.  She went to Mount View High School and is attending college at the University of Maine.  She is studying mental health and human services and wants to be a social worker with children in an elementary school.

Pepper is her first Guiding Eyes dog, and Amanda knows she is the perfect dog for her. She is looking forward to introducing Pepper to her children and cats, and is excited to show Pepper off to her friends. Pepper’s favorite toy is the squeaky ball. She loves tummy rubs and asks for them by doing a lap somersault in Amanda’s lap.

Congratulations to Peppers  puppy raiser: Megan Beedy

Howard Geltman and ValorPicture of Howard Geltman and Valor

Howard Geltman from Connecticut is receiving his first Guiding Eyes dog, Valor, a yellow male Labrador.  Premature birth caused Howard’s blindness.

Howard is a writer and is in the process of trying to get his first book, A Few Moments in Time, published.  He graduated from the Connecticut Institute for the Blind and the University of New Haven.  At the latter, he opened a snack bar, helped build the college radio station, and received a First Class Engineer License.  He is now going into computer programming and his company writes special education software customized for disabled kids and teachers.

Valor is a big guy, but Howard calls him a “gentle giant.”   He is looking forward to bringing Valor home to meet his family and Emma, the 35 pound pet dog at home.

Congratulations to Valor’s puppy raisers: The Buchnowski Family and The Yerkovich Family

Picture of Walter Hettinga and MattWalter Hettinga and Matt

Walter “Walt” Hettinga and Matt, a black male Labrador, will travel across the country together when they return to Walt’s home in California.

A motor vehicle accident took Walt’s sight in 1997.  Additionally, he has a hearing impairment called acoustic neuroma.  This is Walt’s third dog from Guiding Eyes. His second dog, Freddie has been working for 9.5 years and will be 12 in January.

Walt is a graduate of CSU Fresno with a BS in Plant Science and worked as a farmer for many years.  His hobbies include reading and car racing, and for 12 years he worked on a pit crew.

Matt, at 85 pounds, is the largest dog in the class.  Walt sends a special thank you to all the puppy raisers for all their hard work. “Without them, these dogs wouldn’t be available to us. Their socialization and love is an invaluable contribution.”

“What sets Guiding Eyes apart is the compassion of the trainers, supervisors, staff – really everyone.  They want you to understand how to use a guide and how to be successful.  They truly care about you as an individual.”

Congratulations to Matt’s puppy raisers: Teresa and Stephanie Keller

Lisa Irving and Bernie Picture of Lisa Irving and Bernie

Lisa Irving returns to Guiding Eyes from California and will be heading home with Bernie, a yellow male Labrador and her third dog from Guiding Eyes.  Her vision loss is due to glaucoma and cornea dystrophy.

Originally from New York, she holds an Associates Degree in Human Services and a BS in Recreation and Leisure Studies from the State University of NY at Cortland. Marriage brought Lisa to California where she helped run after-school and mobile recreation programs.  Lisa enjoys teaching parenting and life skills to adults and teens involved with her church.  For fun, she is learning martial arts and loves to boogie board.

Lisa is looking forward to the freedom and confidence Bernie will bring to her life. “There is more fluidity walking with a dog. You go around and pass by so many obstacles. The puppy raisers did a phenomenal job with Bernie. He automatically knows how to play fetch.  He loves to rest his head on my shoulder – his way of hugging.”

As for her experience at Guiding Eyes, Lisa appreciates the camaraderie of the class and the inner strength of the women and the trainers who are kind, patient, encouraging, and consistent.

Curt  Landtroop and Windsor (Not profiled)

Picture of Curt Landtroop and Windsor

Curt Landtroop and Windsor, a black male Labrador, make their home in New York.

Congratulations to Windsor’s puppy raisers: The Burkett Family

Timothy Lindbo and Casey Picture of Timothy Lindbo and Casey

Timothy “Tim” Lindbo travelled to Guiding Eyes from Minnesota. Casey, a yellow female Labrador, will be going back home with Timothy, his third guide dog and first from Guiding Eyes.

Tim owns over 80 acres of property in Minnesota where he lives with his mom and dad, has two sisters and a brother and six nieces and nephews. A graduate of Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and Farbluat High School, Tim works as a phone operator.

A Minnesota Twins fan, Tim loves sports, hunting and fishing, particularly ice fishing. Diagnosed at 2 with retina pigmatosis, he could read until 3rd grade.

Tim came to Guiding Eyes because of their special needs programs, particularly the traffic training for the hearing impaired. Also the small class size offers more one-on-one training and the ongoing support and follow up is very important. Having their own breeding program combined with the socialization and puppy raiser program sets Guiding Eyes guide dogs apart.

When Tim met Casey, he couldn’t believe how small she was. He is looking forward to working with the dog and not using the cane. She will protect him from the traffic and he won’t have to rely on other pedestrians.

Congratulations to Casey’s puppy raiser: Nancy Shoemaker

Dorothy Joan Moorcroft and Adler (Not profiled)

Picture of Dorothy Joan Moorcroft and Adler

Dorothy “Joan” Moorcroft and Adler, a black male Labrador, will travel back across the border to Canada to continue their new journey together.

Congratulations to Adler’s puppy raisers: The Payne Family

Bonnie  Robb and Lilac (Not profiled)

Picture of Bonnie Robb and Lilac

Bonnie Robb from Hawaii welcomes Lilac, a yellow female Labrador into her life.

Congratulations to Lilac’s puppy raiser: Jessica Baur

Joan (Bechtold)  Swift and BobPicture of Joan (Bechtold) Swift and Bob

Joan (Bechtold) Swift has come to Guiding Eyes from Massachusetts and is pairing up with Bob, a black male Labrador.  Diagnosed at 65 with retinitis pigmentosa, Joan was declared legally blind three years ago and started using a cane.

Holding a Masters Plus in Psychology Counseling and Guidance, Joan has worked as a child family therapist and school counselor. She has three children, four grandchildren and one step-great-grandchild. Her hobbies are gardening, reading, knitting, crochet, talking and interacting with people.  Joan still works a few days a week as an administrative assistant.

Joan was delighted to meet Bob.  He is just the perfect size for Joan.  She is amazed how well the dog is prepared to do the work required, yet how silly he can be when playing with his favorite squeaky toy.  “I trust him with my life and my heart.  At almost 80, I have a choice to stay alive and vibrant and that’s what Bob is going to do for me.  I can’t wait to meet the puppy raisers. They did a magnificent job.”

Joan is relieved to once again walk quickly and without looking down.  She is overjoyed at the thought of what life will be like with Bob.

Congratulations to Bob’s puppy raisers: Cindy and James Johnson

Picture of James (J.R.) Westmoreland and SalsaJames (J.R.) Westmoreland and Salsa

James “J. R.” Westmoreland and Salsa, a yellow female Labrador will be returning home to Utah.  J.R. was born with retinoblastoma and has had no vision since he was one.

J. R. was an IT employee at Pacific Corporation for over 28 years.  Not quite ready to retire, he finds a lot to keep busy. A graduate of the Utah School for the Blind, he is currently working on finishing his Computer Science Degree at Weaver State University.

J. R. has a wife and two 16 year old daughters.  He is a ham radio operator and belongs to the Citizens Core Council communications group.  J. R. hosts a weekly internet radio show at and has been blogging about his experience at Guiding Eyes.

At the suggestion of graduate Nolan Crabb, J.R. came to Guiding Eyes.  Salsa is “a firecracker who never does anything by halves and does everything with gusto.  She’s 55 pounds of energy and she loves to work and loves praise.”  Salsa will share the family home with Ranger, a German Shorthair.

Congratulations to Salsa’s puppy raisers: The Sampson Family

Guiding Eyes thanks volunteer Cathy Capasso for compiling these student biographies.