Graduate Team: Sue Ellen and Twig
About the Team: Twig, a female yellow Lab, is Sue Ellen’s 4th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Melinda Angstrom
Sue Ellen returns for her fourth Guiding Eyes guide dog, Twig. Currently employed at a manufacturing plant, she participates in their Positive Vibes Employee Resource Group, which focuses on improving company morale. Sue Ellen is active in two theater groups, which feature performances by blind or visually impaired actors exclusively, the American Printing House Braille Readers Theater and the Imagine Blind Players. She also entertains by writing fan fiction based on Criminal Minds, on an online forum where writers create their own stories around existing characters. Although the story of Sue Ellen and Twig is just beginning, many wonderful adventures are waiting up ahead for this new team.
How would you describe your guide dog? “I describe Twig as a split personality dog; in harness she’s all business and out of harness she is a snuggly goofball. She’s just adorable. I love that after work she likes to sit out on the patio with me and play fetch. All I have to do is tell her to bring me a toy and she’s off to the races.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I love the inclusive nature of the Training and Admissions departments at Guiding Eyes. In my experience, they won’t say no just because you may not be a ‘certain type’ of blind person. They try to find a way to work with you, if you have a sincere desire for a dog. I think that’s the best part of the Specialized Training program – they have found a way to help people with other issues. I have motor skills dysfunction and hearing loss along with my loss of sight, but no problem, I can get a dog from Guiding Eyes. It’s a team. The instructors become like good friends. It’s really the three of you working together as a team.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I like the freedom and comfort of knowing that there is someone looking out for me when I’m out in the neighborhood or in open spaces. You can just move more freely and with more grace with a dog. During this time of the pandemic, I am not able to be around family who live in Massachusetts, and a lot of my activities, like the theater groups, have been put on hold. So, a guide dog is also wonderful company; someone to talk to or do things with.”
Were there any training highlights? “This training was especially interesting because the snow and ice arrived right smack in the middle of it. One day we went into the mall to do indoor work and we walked from one end to the other and back, something I have not been able to do comfortably or confidently with a cane. We were moving as smooth as you please; walking around fountains and gliding around jewelry and perfume displays. It was graceful and felt normal. Twig knew the exact clearances, so nothing would get knocked down by a Labrador tail. This is a dog I can take anywhere and feel confident.”
Twig tugged at my heart the moment I saw her and I was thrilled to become her puppy raiser. I was fortunate to be able to bring her to work with me at The City of Oneonta Police Department from the first day I had her, with officers enjoying “puppy breaks” with her. Twig loved water and swimming. We regularly went to the ocean, lakes, and rivers. Twig loved playing fetch, both in and out of water. Twig became proficient at catching frisbees, as well as balls. Twig had boundless energy on our many hikes in the woods.
Clare Anderson, Puppy Raiser of Twig
Meet our other recent guide dog team graduates. Click here!
Friends and Family: Watch this video to learn more about Working with a Guide Dog Team.