September 2016 Graduating Class
Congratulations to the September 2016 class from Audie Marks and Team Oliver U.K.
Team Oliver is a group that works to raise awareness about guide and service dogs
and are so pleased to sponsor today’s graduation and continue our ongoing support
of the great work of Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our
video streaming capabilities.
Anna & Judy
Anthony & Mojave
Gwendolyn & Yardley
Millad & Bev
Myrna & Spring
Stanley & Bethany
Bill & Wrangler
Rita & Liza
Thomas (Randy) & Casper
Congratulations to our graduating class!
Many thanks to our instructors:
Class Supervisor: Jolene Hollister
Class Instructors: Stephanie Koret, Kate Gardner
Instructor Assistant: Allison Greenberg
Graham Buck, Assistant Director, Training
Christina Vetrano, Home Training Instructor
Michael Goehring, Field Representative
As a diabetic, Anna knew she might lose her sight one day. Her first clue came a few years ago when she noticed her vision was blurry. Over the course of several weeks, her doctors were unable to reattach her retinas. By then they had discovered she had chronic leukemia and Bell’s palsy. Although she is totally blind with just a bit of light perception in one eye, her attitude is admirable: “Stuff happens,” she says.
It was her orientation and mobility instructor who suggested Anna apply to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She traveled from Quebec to meet Judy, a sweet, bubbly, quirky yellow Lab and her second guide dog.
Most recently Anna worked at Herzing College in admissions. She is married, and these days she is a stay-at-home “kitty mama” to two cats. She is a Jehovah’s Witness and is looking forward to preaching door to door with Judy by her side.
“My dogs have given me more confidence,” she says. “My blindness is part of me, but it’s not going to win. People don’t realize what these dogs do for us, and it’s different for each one of us. I can’t thank the puppy raisers, the trainers, and the donors enough for their support.”
Congratulations to Judy’s puppy raiser, Miss Kyle E. Meade!
Tony has no functional vision due to high blood pressure, diabetes, and glaucoma. For 25 years he worked on computers for a direct mail services company. “When I realized I would have to leave my job, I was petrified. I wondered, ‘What am I going to do? Who will hire me? How will I get around?”’
He learned to use a white cane but remained on the fence about having a guide dog—until he saw Wrangler, a Guiding Eyes guide dog on the TODAY Show. Tony called our school, asked a lot of questions, and ultimately decided to apply. “I am so blessed to go home with Mojave. What a great dog!”
Tony works part-time at the Goodwill Job Connection as a receptionist. He and his wife live in Florida with two birds, a cockatoo and a green-winged macaw who can mimic a dog barking so precisely that Tony is completely fooled much of the time. There’s also Majesty, a miniature Schnauzer-Jack Russell mix.
“I was surprised at how quickly I learned to trust Mojave,” says Tony. “He will make my life much easier. I really admire the entire Guiding Eyes staff. I worked in professional settings for my entire career, and I’ve never seen a group of people work together as a team like this group. They like what they’re doing. And the best part is it’s for my benefit!”
Congratulations to Mojave’s puppy raiser, Janet Newcity!
Gwendolyn traveled from Vermont to meet Yardley, her third Guiding Eyes guide dog. Each dog, she says, has heralded a new phase of her life—divorce, a death in the family, buying her own condo. She describes Yardley as a very good worker with a “mellow” pace which is what she needs.
Gwendolyn was born with congenital glaucoma. She had limited vision until her early 20s. Her senior year of college she developed cataracts, and her retinas detached. She earned a degree in social work, and for nine years worked at the Vermont Center for Independent Living. She moved on to Voices Against Violence, a crisis services agency, where she did advocacy work for people with disabilities who were victims and survivors of violence.
When she started dreaming of painting, friends encouraged her to try it. Although Gwendolyn is totally blind, she is now a self-employed artist, working in paper, paint, and various kinds of clay. Her business card reads: “Artist & Muse who happens to be blind. Inspired by Nature and Spirit.” She is an arts accessibility consultant for the Shelburne Museum. She is studying and practicing the art of non-violent communication. And she has her own public access TV show on all things positive called “Abundant Living.” In her spare time she talks to schools, church groups, and community organizations about blindness and Guiding Eyes. “I can’t say enough good things about the Guiding Eyes experience. My dog matches have been exquisite. What this outfit does is pretty miraculous.”
Congratulations to Yardley’s puppy raisers, Haley Argersinger and Megan Szczerba!
Congratulations to Bev’s puppy raiser, Carol Donnelly!
Myrna was just three months old when her mother noticed she wasn’t reacting to things appropriately. Doctors determined she was born blind but never settled on the definitive cause.
She attended regular schools, learned Braille, and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. She taught music in public schools for 11 years, only the second blind person in New York State to do so, then joined Lighthouse for the Blind where she taught assistive technology for 34 years before retiring. As a self-employed instructor, she teaches assistive technology to private students.
Myrna and her husband, who is also blind, live in Brooklyn, NY. She recently trained with Spring, her 10th Guiding Eyes guide dog! “I prefer a guide dog to a white cane,” she says. “A dog is faster, safer, and I don’t have to think about every step I take. When I’m out with my dog, we own the streets!”
Myrna is a great cook, likes her gadgets, reads a wide variety of books, and loves to teach people to use computers and new technology. “My husband jokes that I am a computer!”
When asked why she keeps returning to Guiding Eyes, she says, “The staff and how they work with students sets Guiding Eyes apart from other schools. If we have a problem, they are there for us.”
Congratulations to Spring’s puppy raiser, Carlisle Wildeman!
When people ask Stanley what is the difference between using a white cane and having a Guiding Eyes guide dog, he tells them, “That’s easy. I can’t tell a cane to find the door.” He was 22 when he was diagnosed with keratoconus, a complex degenerative condition in which the cornea thins and bulges until it is cone-shaped. Hard contacts worked for a while, but after 17 surgeries and corneal transplants he was declared legally blind. It was clear he couldn’t continue to work as a material handler, driving heavy equipment at a factory.
Stanley traveled from Wisconsin to receive Bethany, his third Guiding Eyes dog. When I first applied, I was asked to navigate, with a dog, a street lined with flower urns, light posts, trees, steel grates, and other obstacles. The dog went right through it all, and I thought, If this is how it’s going to be, I’m going to be in heaven! What a difference these dogs have made in my life. I live in a village where everything’s in walking distance so I am able to help my wife Susie with her day care business, and I can run errands. My previous dogs even saved my life—twice—from truck drivers who didn’t see me.”
Stanley and Susie have three children and three grandchildren. He listens to “talking” books, walks two miles every day, and volunteers with a Visually Impaired Persons support group. His biggest hobby is eating out. Of Bethany, he says, “This dog represents freedom to me.”
Congratulations to Bethany’s puppy raiser, Brenda Vick!
Bill has been legally blind since birth. He retained some of his vision until he was 14 when he lost his sight completely due to retinal detachments. “This was quite a change,” he says. “I quickly learned who were my allies and who were my fair-weather friends. My mom spent hours each day slogging with me through my advanced trigonometry homework. By the time I graduated from high school I’d completed three semesters of college level calculus, was a drum major in the marching band, and was invited to meet the President and conduct an original composition at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.”
Bill is a jazz pianist, band leader, and instructor of musicianship at Santa Clara University in California. He loves to body surf and dance Open Floor Movement.
For years Bill was frustrated with white cane travel (he calls it a contact sport with a five-foot stick that has blind spots). He returned to Guiding Eyes to meet Wrangler, his new partner, and his third guide dog. Wrangler appeared daily on the TODAY Show for a year, helping to raise awareness about what guide dogs do and the increasing need for their services. Bill participated in our ACTION Training, an accelerated program for experienced handlers.
‘In my 17 years as a handler,” says Bill, “my Guiding Eyes dogs have taken me to work, to class, to the library, to the pool, to concerts, hiking in the woods of New Hampshire, walking by the ocean in North Carolina, trekking around Manhattan during rush hour, and safely home during a blizzard at one in the morning when the bus driver dropped me off an hour late and the taxi stand was already closed. I can tell you that guide dogs really do change lives.”
Congratulations to Wrangler’s puppy raisers, Saxon Eastman and NBC’s TODAY team!
Rita was born with retinopathy of prematurity. She had some usable vision until she was 20 when she lost the rest of her sight, rendering her totally blind. “I was in college and was just starting out as a young woman. I wanted to get married, have children. How would I manage? I wondered. Fortunately I knew people who were blind so I had some comfort in knowing I’d be okay.”
Rita got her bachelor’s degree in communications and management. She married (her spouse in visually impaired too) and had two sons and two grandsons. She worked for 15 years at several not-for-profits as a program coordinator for high-risk individuals and families. She is currently looking for work and keeps active knitting gifts for family; reading; writing short stories, poetry, and a novel; and gardening. She is also on the board of directors at her church where she leads the women’s Bible study group.
A resident of Albany, NY, Rita opted for our HOME Training program. Liza, her fourth Guiding Eyes dog, is a joy, she says. “She’s very responsive and loving. I was always subconscious about using a white cane and traveling alone. My guide dogs gave me greater confidence. I could travel throughout the city, go in and out of schools and day care centers, and attend conferences. I am very shy, so my guide dogs have been conversation-starters. I encourage people to consider raising Guiding Eyes puppies or adopting the retired dogs.”
Congratulations to Liza’s puppy raisers, the Mike & Sharon Walker Family and Amy Sodus!
Randy, as he prefers to be called, had just been named Driver of the Year at UPS, a very big deal. But when he found himself driving over curbs, he went for tests. He had been born with some hearing loss in both ears. By the time he was three he was wearing hearing aides which he traded in for cochlear implants in later years. Randy had Usher Syndrome Type II which eventually leads to retinitis pigmentosa. He was legally blind and could no longer drive.
This Texas resident chose our HOME Training program. Casper, his third Guiding Eyes guide dog, trained with Stanley in his home area. “He is amazing and very intelligent!” says Randy. “When I go to new places, he picks up on that and redirects me if I get turned around. He finds the empty seat on the subway. And since he prefers elevators to escalators, I can feel his head scanning for the nearest elevator.”
After UPS, Randy became a certified assistant technology trainer and an ordained minister at The Foursquare Church. He wrote and self-published a book, How to See When You Can’t See, that is available on Amazon. He works out at the gym and listens to audio books, ranging from Westerns to the spiritual/inspirational. He’s been married 37 years to Alisa, and they have two children and two grandchildren. “With Casper by my side, I’m not afraid to tackle anything new. He brings a lot of security and independence to my life.”
Congratulations to Casper’s puppy raisers, Marilyn & Scott Evey!