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Steven and Dougan

Meet July Residential Training Graduate Steven

Graduate Steven and guide DouganGraduate Team:  Steven and Dougan
About the Team:  Dougan, a male German Shepherd, is Steven’s 3rd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown:  Hartford, Connecticut
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Shanon Walsh  (July Residential Class)

Steve has been employed for almost 15 years, at a private school which provides a full range of services to people with disabilities. He provides assistive technology solutions for the blind and teaches others how to make their digital content accessible to those using that assistive technology.  Each year Steven participates in a unique vacation experience – a tornado chasing tour. He flies to a location to meet up with storm chasers and others seeking the thrill of the chase, traveling in a passenger van in search of extreme weather targets. Safety is a number one priority, but Steve assures that guide dogs are never included in this activity.   Steve is also a collector of cuckoo clocks, whose songs can be heard in the background by anyone on a call with him.  Soon Steve will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of a guide dog users support group he and a friend created, providing a resource not only for handlers, but for puppy raisers and those who take retired guides, as well.

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Dougan definitely likes to work. He’s very focused on his work and motivated, yet at the same time he likes to play, chase his ball, and chews his dog toys. He’s also a bit of a talker. He’s a shepherd so he tends to be vocal, especially out of the crate first thing in the morning. He loves to twist around and rub up against me, and oh my goodness, does he love to stretch! I can’t believe how far he stretches those back legs.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “Initially, my first guide dog had come from another school, but I had friends who were very happy with the Guiding Eyes program and their dogs. I was concerned I might compare dogs and thought maybe I’d be less likely to if my second came from a different program.  I had also met the regional GDMI Kathy, through my work and learned about the school. I came here for my second dog and class was so much fun. Unfortunately, issues arose with my guide, but Guiding Eyes bent over backwards with support on so many levels. They were clear throughout the process; just wonderful. The amount of care, from a training and emotional perspective, way exceeded my expectations.”

How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “When I was a cane user, I would not do independent travel; I was afraid. Now I go for walks all the time and I don’t think about it. I do believe though, that it’s easy to do something over and over and start to feel almost invincible, so I remind myself to take my time and pay attention when crossing the street. It feels rather amazing to go from being so afraid to so confident – that’s a pretty extreme change. Now I have no problem even flying with my dogs, having gone to multiple conferences and Disney. I’ve done so much with my guide dogs.  They have all given something to me in my life that I wouldn’t have had without them.”

Were there any training highlights? “I thought Shanon was a phenomenal trainer. Sometimes it was challenging, transitioning from one guide to another and she understood what I was going through. If I had a moment and said, ‘I’m not sure I can do this’, she would calmly tell me, ‘I’m not worried about you at all – you’re going to be fine’. She put us at the forefront of everything.  I am very pleased with the experience.”

Meet Guide Dog Dougan

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