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Tara and Blanco

Meet Graduate Tara

Tara and yellow Lab guide dog Blanco sit on a front step for team portrait

Graduate Team: Tara and Blanco
About the Team:  Blanco, a male yellow Lab, is Tara’s 7th Guiding Eyes dog
Location:  Schenectady, New York
Training:  June 2023 Home training

Tara was a special education teacher for many years. She has since retired from her position as Director of Talent Development and Training in the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, where she did curriculum development and training. Upon retirement, she volunteered her time in support of veterans, and she is a passionate volunteer foster for rescued puppies awaiting placement. Having been blind since age 4, at a young age Tara went to the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia, NY.  In addition to her schoolwork, her activities included being a track athlete, learning to sew clothes, and cheerleading, and upon her graduation she entered and graduated from SUNY Geneseo College.  Tara and Blanco live in an Upstate New York urban area near family.  Her 21 month and 4 year old grandchildren bring her great joy, and she cares for them several times a week.  Tara also enjoys a great love of reading in her down time.  She says, “I’ve had a great life and a full life and I’m very grateful.  Guiding Eyes has had a lot to do with that.”

How would you describe your guide dog? “Blanco is the kindest soul.  He’s sweet around my grandkids.  He is gentle, kind, and quiet, and so handsome. He still likes to run and play and have fun.  In harness, he is doing very well. It is very important to him to please and know he’s doing a good job. There are no sidewalks where we live, so we do country walks and walk to the park with the kids.  He is attentive and pays close attention to his work, watches everyone, and has very good manners. From the minute I picked up the harness, he hasn’t missed a mark, a corner, a curb.  He learns so quickly.  He’s doing great.” 

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “One evening in my second semester of college, I got disoriented and lost in a snowstorm for two hours, until my suite mates came looking for me.  I decided that a guide dog would be a better alternative for getting around.  There was another blind woman on campus who had gotten her guide dog from Guiding Eyes, so I got information from her and applied.  The impact was great, and all my guides have been from Guiding Eyes since 1980.  I was on the GEB Grad Council from 2015 – 2018, and we were like liaisons between the graduate community and the school.”

How has a guide dog impacted your life?  “I move through the town and the stores with confidence, and I can do it safely.  The freedom of movement is fulfilling and makes me feel more independent. You’re not on your own, there is companionship and a relationship, a confident trust and bond with your dog.  When I was working and had to travel around the state, it was the freedom of access. You feel super safe.  With Blanco, we can problem solve together.  You’re not alone.”

Were there any training highlights?  “I was in home training with Kathy Rooney for 10 days. She is phenomenal, amazing, and so good at what she does.  She knows the dogs really well, and the people.”

Meet Guide Dog Blanco

Photos of the Team…