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September 2012 Graduating Class

Thank you to this month’s graduation sponsors:

From Pretty Awesome Unconditional Love to Perfectly Engineered Goodness.  Congratulations on your new partnerships and best wishes for many adventures to come. – Diane Miller


Honoring Stacy Blair – Anita Wilton

Meet our Graduates:
Jennifer Blinsmon & Rawlins
Maria Vives & Vanilla
Ward Dudley & Val
Nancy Feldman & Cubby
Joel Hurtado & Shadow
Carmina Martire & Tipper
Sarah Smith & Deb
Charley Tipps & Hobbs
Maria Vasquez & Fuji
Linda Yacks & Peg
Mercedes Cuadros & Rhonda

Home Training Graduates:
Robert Gold & Nimble
Janet Hunt & Topaz
Carrole Mardis & Beauty

Many thanks to our instructors:
Dell Rodman, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Woody Curry, Class Instructor
Kate Peterson, Class Instructor
Krissy Andersen, Home Training Instructor
Julie Angle, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Dave Hagemann, Home Training Field Representative
Mike Ceglio, Instructor Assistant


Jennifer “Jennie” R. Blinsmon and Rawlins

33-year-old Jennie was matched with Rawlins, a male yellow Labrador.  Retinopathy of prematurity caused her vision impairment.  A homemaker by trade, she holds a bachelors degree from the University of North Dakota.  Jennie is an avid reader, and enjoys singing and talking with people. Her husband is in the navy and currently stationed in California. Unsure of where he will be stationed next, she wanted a dog that was familiar with all climates, making Guiding Eyes the ideal choice.  The experience here is even better than she expected.

Rawlins is extra special for Jennie; he’s the very first dog she’s ever had.  Jennie strives for perfection in everything she does and working with Rawlins is no exception.  His patient and laid-back demeanor is an ideal match for her personality and lifestyle.  Rawlins loves their petting sessions.  Jennie is confident and excited to return home, looking forward to enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks with Rawlins safely guiding her there.

Congratulations to Shaun Gilpin of the Central Vermont region.


Maria Rosa Campaña Vives and Vanilla

Maria traveled from Spain for her first guide dog, a female yellow Labrador named Vanilla.

Maria is entering a new phase in her life; she retired recently after working in a laboratory and with the National Spanish Association for the Blind.  Maria’s children are grown and she wanted the freedom associated with a guide dog. She readily accepted the opportunity to travel to Guiding Eyes after waiting almost two years in Spain, a wait that would continue as there is only one school to satisfy the needs of the blind in her country.  There is one word that comes to mind when asked how she feels having Vanilla – happiness!  “With Vanilla, I have a friend and companion and will be completely independent.” Together they will go to Tai Chi and dance classes, enjoy music and be ready for whatever thrills the future holds.

Congratulations to Victoria & Kathi Smith of the Cleveland West  OH region.


Ward H. Dudley and Val

Ward will return home to Maryland with Val, a yellow Labrador. She is his fourth Guiding Eyes dog since 1992 and his wife, stepson and stepdaughter can’t wait to meet this newest member of the family.

Ward was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at the age of 6.  He could see until he was 26, losing his vision just one month before a kidney and pancreas transplant that made him no longer diabetic.  He raced motorcycles and is currently at work restoring a 1979 Jeep CJ7.  After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in criminal justice, Ward supervised a pretrial release program. Today he sews the nylon linings used in waterproof military jackets. He listens to books while working and sometimes gets caught up in the story and stays awake all night.

Ward is so excited for Val.  It has been almost a year since his last dog who worked faithfully for 11 and half years. “I have a tendency to veer with a cane,” he shares.  “Sighted people coming down the street stop talking when they see me coming with a cane and then I don’t know where they are.” Ward is confident that he will accomplish great things with Val by his side.

Congratulations to the Raposa Family of the Richmond VA region and the Terry Family of the Baltimore region.


Nancy L. Feldman and Cubby

Nancy was matched with male black Labrador Cubby, her fourth guide dog.

Nancy was born with vision loss and had five eye surgeries during the first six weeks of her life. Now completely blind at 45, she used a cane for more than a decade while raising four daughters as a single parent.  She majored in psychology at the University of Oregon but her real love was always computers; today she works as a programmer for the State of Colorado Unemployment Office.  While Nancy is a proficient cane traveler, Cubby gives her more confidence in today’s world of silent cars and multiple intersections. She is looking forward to his companionship as she travels to Sci-Fi conventions and visits her grandchildren in Hawaii.


Joel A. Hurtado and Shadow

Joel made a decision to travel cross country from Oregon for his first guide dog.  He was matched with Shadow, a black female Labrador. They will return home to his wife of 21 years and his two children – an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.

Joel is a 52-year-old biologist working for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.  His vision loss is caused by retinitis pigmentosa and he’s very happy with his choice to come to Guiding Eyes.  “It is a real family atmosphere,” says Joel. “Everybody that works here is so dedicated.”  His hobbies revolve around his family and outdoor activities; they take a month long camping trip each summer and enjoy hiking and fishing.  “I hope Shadow likes boating and crabbing!”  Joel is looking forward to getting out at night without needing a sighted guide.

Congratulations to Derek Gordon & Family of the Prince William VA region.


Carmina Martire and Tipper

Italian student Carmina Martire was matched with her third guide dog – female yellow Labrador Tipper.

Carmina is a married psychotherapist and a teacher at Rome University.  She was born with retinitis pigmentosa and could see a little as a child.  She slowly lost her vision and it was gone completely by college. Her vision loss has not prevented her from running marathons.

It can take more than five years to receive a guide dog in Italy, and Carmina is thrilled to have Tipper.  She is excited to return home with her new dog, who Carmina says has a nice personality, is excellent at solving problems and is warm, loving, emotional and smart. When asked what language she uses to communicate with her dog, she explained, “we work in English and we play in Italian!” 

Congratulations to Belle Douglass of the Eastern Massachusetts region.


Sarah G. Smith and Deb

Maine resident Sarah Smith received black Labrador Deb this month.

Sarah has always enjoyed walking and hiking – both as a young adult and after losing her sight at the age of 30.  She’s found her guide dogs to be hugely helpful in maintaining her freedom and her ability to do things outside.  To celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, Sarah and her husband hiked the Alps.  One of her more famous walks is the subject of a children’s book called Looking out for Sarah; the book depicts the time she walked 300 miles from Boston to New York.

Sarah has a master’s degree in social work and is a clinical therapist specializing in adults with disabilities. She describes Deb as “incredibly friendly and affection.”

Congratulations to Alicia M. Pedersen of the Richmond VA region.


Charley R. Tipps and Hobbs

Charley and yellow Lab Hobbs will return to Oklahoma where he lives with his wife and Guiding Eyes graduate, Ruthie.  They can’t wait to introduce Hobbs to Ivanna, Ruthie’s four-year-old female yellow Lab.

Charley was born with retinopathy of prematurity. He came to Guiding Eyes for his first dog after he had a bad fall while traveling with his cane.  Charley studied broadcasting and did interviews for local cable and radio stations. Computers have eliminated the need for live broadcasts and today he is employed as a counselor and teacher with the state rehab services for the blind.  He is also a practicing minister and a certified vision rehabilitation specialist with a master’s degree in vocational rehab counseling.

Charley enjoys riding horses and raising chickens.  He spends his leisure time writing, recording and producing music and plays piano, organ, accordion, drums and keyboard. His guide dog offers the opportunity to show others the independence blind people can achieve, and he looks forward to their shared future.

Congratulations to Alyssa Denno of the Eastern CT region.


Maria E. Vasquez and Fuji

Maria will return to Texas with female black Labrador Fuji, her first guide dog.

Maria is 63 and was sighted until about three years ago when retinal detachment and failed surgery caused her vision loss. Her mobility instructor agreed that it would be best for her to get a guide dog. Maria studied management productivity at Harvard and managed a multi-million dollar burger franchise.  She also owned her own cleaning service for 27 years.  She enjoys history and criminal television shows like CSI or Law & Order SVU.  Guiding Eyes is very different from what she expected and much better.  “The hands-on training with Fuji has allowed me to trust him to guide me safely, and has made this easier than I anticipated.”

Congratulations to the Cronin Family of the Dutchess region.


Linda J. Yacks and Peg

Linda was matched with her sixth guide dog, a black Labrador named Peg.  They return home to Colorado.

Linda’s optic system never developed properly and she was born visually impaired.  She is married to her high school sweetheart and they will celebrate 43 years together with their two children and six grandchildren.  She came to Guiding Eyes for her first dog in 1980 and was a member of the graduate counsel.  She loves the innovative spirit here and has witnessed firsthand the start of the special needs and cryogenics programs and the evolution of the breeding program.

Linda was a program assistant with the Department of Energy for 15 years and now works part time with the American Council of the Blind of Colorado.  It has been seven years since she retired her last guide.  She was dependent on her husband until a serious accident last year; she now depends on Peg for her independence.  “I need and love my furry friend – the eyes attached to my left hand,” she says.

Congratulations to Briana Monsky of the Central CT region.


Mercedes Zornoza Cuadros and Rhonda

Spanish student Mercedes Zornoza Cuadros was matched with her first guide dog – a female yellow Labrador named Rhonda.

Mercedes was diagnosed with her vision impairment at 14, and at 25-years-old, she’s now totally blind.  She is certified in elementary education and is teaching during the day while attending University at night.  She’ll soon have her dual certification and be able to teach high school students as well.  Her hobbies include music, dancing, playing guitar and working out. She happily discusses her experience with Guiding Eyes. “I was a bit scared at first. The dog is very different from using a cane. I am very happy that I decided not to wait for a dog in Spain and had the opportunity to come here. The training is the best I could ever experience.”

Congratulations to the Boy Family and Barbara Klein of the Monroe NY region.