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MMeunier

Sofia and Kay

Meet Graduate Sofia

Sofia and yellow Lab guide Kay sit for their team portrait

Graduate Team: Sofia and Kay
About the Team: Kay, a female yellow lab, is Sofia’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Location: Seattle, Washington
Training: April 2024 On-Campus

Sofia graduated from Princeton University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Sofia is perfectly suited to her volunteer position as an admissions interviewer for her alma mater, as she loves meeting and getting to know new people. She also volunteers as a connection agent for her church, dedicating time to answering any questions that new members may have. Sofia is a User Experience Researcher at Meta. She is responsible for monitoring the user experience to ensure that any changes made are effective and beneficial. Sofia gathers user feedback through surveys, interviews, and focus groups, then makes recommendations to the product team based on her findings. In addition to her volunteer work, Sofia enjoys reading realistic fiction and nonfiction, listening to music, being involved in her church, and participating in adrenaline-fueled activities like skydiving. Sofia likes to socialize and dine out with friends and family at restaurants. Despite her move across the country to Seattle, she maintains a close relationship with her mom and sister who live in New York City.

How would you describe your guide dog? “When she plays she gets crazy, jumping in circles, running around, and going absolutely nuts in the best way. It’s a lot of fun. She’s a goofball who loves massages, or when I hold her Nyla bone for her while she chews. In harness, Kay is smart and learns new targets a time or two after I teach them. Seattle is dog central, on top of being a city, so there are a lot of distractions. Navigating with Kay is awesome.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My mobility instructor in high school thought I should get a dog. I wasn’t really convinced because I wasn’t a dog person growing up, but now I cringe at myself because it’s been a whole 180. She called several schools and suggested I take a tour. An instructor from Guiding Eyes talked to me one-on-one and they had me walk with a dog and talk through what I was thinking. That personal touch was special. I got my first guide Karleen back in 2013, and she went through all four years of college with me, and to DC for my last job. She was an amazing dog but unfortunately became ill and had to retire. I wasn’t sure I was going to reapply because I couldn’t imagine loving another dog that much. I’m grateful to my friends and family who encouraged me to get on the waitlist, while I decided whether I wanted to get another guide.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Four months after sweet Karleen retired, I was hit by a turning car while crossing the street. I was physically fine, aside from sprained ankles, but I lost a lot of confidence. I went from moving to a new city knowing I could figure it out, to being constantly on edge and only willing to take short easy walks, within 5 blocks, on my own. When walking with Kay and doing traffic training with her, I saw how she reacted to different scenarios with cars, and it was the first time I felt truly safe in over a year. I don’t need to Uber as much now. Now I’m like, wow, there are so many things within a 15-20 minute walk, so let’s do that! I have a good community, but when you live by yourself, it gets a bit lonely, and I have a friend now.”

Were there any training highlights? “We were out on the second day of training, and it started pouring. And this was not silly Seattle mist rain, but rather a ‘you’re taking a second shower’ kind of downpour. I was walking with Kay, and it felt like flying. I was so deliriously happy, and my instructor Dan teased, ‘Why are you happy? It’s pouring and miserable.’ Kay was also completely unfazed, and we walked back for 10 minutes in a world-ending deluge. After walking with a cane for a year and a half, it’s so different flying around things where nothing can get me now. The other highlight would be the massage class because she had been slow to warm up, but curled up in my lap.”

Meet Guide Dog Kay

DOB:  2/25/2022
Litter ID: 5K22
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador
Gender: Female
Brood: Hetty
Stud: Baron
Littermates: Kendall, Keanu, Klondike, Kathy, Kismet, Kokomo, Kansa, Kirk
Region:  Cleveland West, Delmarva
Regional Puppy Instructor: Macy Nauman, Cindy Tait
Puppy Raiser:  Amanda Solak, Alyssa Corr, Beverly Camalier & Keith Wilson, The Woltomist Family
Facebook: Ohio Puppy Raisers
Facebook: Delmarva Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

“Sweet Smart Sassy”: Kay, she’s been a joyful and eager to learn girl since arriving from her Ohio family, Amanda, Connie and Alyssa, at 4.5 months with a solid foundation. It’s been our honor to love, guide and nurture this young lady to the best she can be with the support and guidance of the GEB professional community and loyal friends (Anna, John and Terry). It’s always an emotional time, so joyful for Kay that she’s found her place. Dear Kay, thank you for your determination and dedication in teaching us too. Much love – have a blast in your new life. ~ Beverly Camalier & Keith Wilson 

Although we only raised Kay as co-raisers for a short time, she was an extremely smart, talented, and sweet pup. We are so proud of her, and wish her and her team all the best for next part of journey! ~ John & Anna Woltornist 

Photos of the Team…