June On-Campus Training
Graduate Team: Sydney and Vaughn
About the Team: Vaughn, a black male Lab, is Sydney’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Larchmont, New York
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Allie Greenberg
Sydney is a 19 year old college student who has recently received her first guide dog. Following a freshman year at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, Sydney transferred to UCONN where she will soon begin her sophomore year, focusing on Psychology and Sociology. Sydney has an interest in social work, her mother’s profession, and has considered majoring in art therapy in response to her love of studio art, drawing, and music. Vaughn is making new friends with Sydney’s British Cream Golden Retriever and her father’s Chihuahua/Yorkie mix.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Vaughn is super sweet, very loyal, follows me everywhere and enjoys nuzzling and giving kisses. He is loveable and playful, and if I go into the bathroom, he waits outside the door until he sees me again. In harness, Vaughn is super smart and serious. He always checks in and shows that he is concerned about me. Once, walking around my neighborhood, three Golden Retrievers were nearby barking at us, and he just ignored them. Good Vaughn.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I guess I’ve always known about Guiding Eyes because I only live an hour away. I applied to Guiding Eyes and another school, but the other school didn’t get in touch with me. I’m really glad I came to Guiding Eyes.”
How has a guide dog impacted your life? “When I was paired with Vaughn, our initial time together was with the other students, and the trainers watching to see that we all had the best dogs for each of us. On the second night the trainer brought Vaughn to my room so I could bond with him. I put a blanket on the floor and laid down next to him, and we cuddled and quickly bonded. I have some central vision remaining but no peripheral vision, so having Vaughn makes walking and getting around much easier. I feel like I’ve aged 10 years, in the best possible way. I used to sleep until noon and now I’m up at 6:30am, taking Vaughn out, and getting his food ready. Learning to care for another living thing helps me feel more productive with my days instead of wasting time. Having him is also liberating for me. I can walk around by myself. I’m able to go out and know I’ll be safe.”
Were there any training highlights? “Guiding Eyes was great. They had a dog picked for me, and when walking together, our pace together was just right. We are both fast walkers. We went to malls, stores, and Starbucks. On campus, we ate in the dining room and Vaughn, just like he was taught, laid down next to me or under the table and was very quiet. When the class went into the city, I was not feeling well and went home the next day. When I was feeling better, Allie came to my house in Larchmont, and we went into to NYC on the train and Vaughn sat quietly next to me. In the city, there were a lot of people and distractions, and Vaughn was so good. Going to the city and experiencing him working there was really good.”
Vaughn was the eighth dog we raised and we lovingly referred to him as our “pandemic pup”. He came for a sit when he was 4 months old and decided to stay! Vaughn came to us with a barking problem but after a year of seeing very few people in public, he overcame that. He was very enthusiastic and loved life! Vaughn has eyes that can look straight into your soul when he wants a cookie! Every new toy Vaughn got would immediately get a zoom around our fenced in backyard! We did many walks in the woods and he never passed up a trip to Home Depot. He loved water! Either going to the lake for a boat ride or swim or the special Spring Break trip to the ocean. Our Sunday morning coffee snuggles were always special. Vaughn is such a loving, fun dog and we wish all the best for him and his handler!
Charlene Kirkwood, Puppy Raiser of Vaughn