Meet Graduate Susan
Graduate Team: Susan and Nixie
About the Team: Nixie, a female black Lab, is Susan’s 4th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Arlington, Virginia
Training: September 2022 On-Campus
Susan is 41 years old and living in Virginia with her 4th Guiding Eyes dog, Nixie. Her educational background includes a master’s degree in International Studies. Early in her career, Susan participated in summer internships in Canada and France and subsequently worked for many years in public service in Washington, D.C. Remaining active and healthy is important to Susan, who has competed in both triathlons and marathons and enjoys tandem bicycling.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Nixie is a great dog who is eager to please. She travelled well in New York City during training and is doing well now in Washington. She can make quick decisions and is very aware of our surroundings. She is very smart and walks fast; so glad we were matched for gait. That works really well for me, and I enjoy using the Unifly harness. Out of harness, she is great, and at times likes to get kind of squirrelly and fun. She is very sweet. I learned at Guiding Eyes that Nixie is strong, has lots of energy, and loved playing in Alumni Hall, where she would get 3 balls at once to toss and play with before she’d rest and recharge.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Before my senior year in high school, I was referred to Guiding Eyes for the Blind by my vocational rehabilitation specialist from the Department of Blind Services. Many people there had already received dogs from Guiding Eyes.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I can travel more confidently and feel reassured that I will be safe and able to reach my destination. Nixie is great when we go grocery shopping, and this afternoon we are going furniture shopping. In Arlington, it is a 10 minute walk to the Metro to Washington. I am so pleased to learn more about targeting, which is especially helpful at the Metro. She knows and responds to me telling her ‘to the stairs’ or ‘to the wall,’ to move us away from the platform edge and the crowds. She is very focused and responsive to the harness and to verbal instructions. It is very reassuring.”
Were there any training highlights? “Shannon, Chrissy, and Kat worked with our group. I was impressed with how giving and professional all the staff were at imparting information, while at the same time making it enjoyable. I’m grateful for the trainers, the kennel staff, medical staff, dining staff, volunteers, and so many more.”
Meet Guide Dog Nixie
Litter ID: 2NN20
Color/Breed: Black Lab
Region: Westchester County
Regional Puppy Instructor: Elizabeth Vacchiano
Puppy Raiser: Karen Vandendeuvel and Julie Knitter
Facebook: Westchester Puppy Raisers
Special Recognition: Nixie was special named in memory of Herbert Wienkoop and his beloved dog, Nixie.
From the Puppy Raisers…
Nixie arrived just in time, on Nov 4, 2020, as she skillfully and playfully guided us through the many stressors of the pandemic. Her love was contagious, as she immediately connected with both humans and canines in our pack, keeping us all focused on the true priority of life: love. From a very small pup, her eagerness to learn and confidence gave us strength to re-enter public spaces, to be sure she would fulfill what was apparently and inherently her life’s mission. We are thrilled that her enthusiastic love will now transform and guide her team.
With all our love, Karen, Julie and Jack Jack ~Julie Knitter and Karen Van Den Heuvel, Raisers