May On-Campus Training
Graduate Team: Theresa and Neville
About the Team: Neville, a black, male Labrador is Theresa’s 7th Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Miranda Beckmann
Terri was a Braille teacher, and after moving to the Baltimore area with her husband, worked as a receptionist at the Maryland School for the Blind. Music has always been a passion for Terri, who used to sing with the Sweet Adelines and enjoys karaoke, country music, and music in the style of the Carpenters. She is a classically trained pianist who began lessons at age 8. She plays the autoharp with interest in learning the guitar and ukulele. She and her husband have traveled extensively, visiting places from New England and Canada to the Caribbean and British Isles; from Scandinavia to many Asian countries, including Viet Nam, Singapore, Thailand, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. At home she enjoys walking with her dog, reading, cooking and baking, and spending time quilting, knitting, beading keychains, and learning to crochet. Since the pandemic, she has been participating in NFB Crafters Corner Zoom classes, through the American Council of the Blind.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Neville is just awesome. He is such a sweetheart, loveable and affectionate. He has great house manners and enjoys hanging out with me. In harness he is a complete joy to work with. I told the staff, ‘you guys really hit the mark with Neville. He’s perfect for me.’ Our cat, Cheetoh, is working at getting along with the new dog in the house.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had some vision initially – pretty good travel vision, as they say. When I was first interested in getting a guide dog, my mobility instructor gave me the names of the two top schools. Guiding Eyes was one of them. He said they would take me even though I still had some vision, and added that Guiding Eyes does escalator training, which is what I needed given where I lived and worked. I love that they also have great follow-up for the graduate teams, and Regional Guide Dog Mobility Instructor contact you when they are in your area.”
How has a guide dog impacted your life? “I’ve loved the freedom and independence walking with my guide dogs. You feel like you’re like everyone else – lots of joy. Having a dog keeps me walking and moving. It wasn’t much fun to walk without a dog. Guiding Eyes uses a food reward for training, and it gets the attention back on the handler. When I first came home, I named our apartment door ‘home’ for him and gave him a treat. We went out and upon returning, I said ‘home’ and used the clicker, and he found it on the first try…the first try! The clicker training is a very powerful tool.”
Were there any training highlights? “The food and staff were exceptional. It was a joy to have outside play time with the dogs in our class. The training was very individualized and really a calming experience. The training focused on issues we might have at home was amazing. Another student and I live in areas where there are geese, and sometimes deer, so we did some training in an area where there were geese. We also did obedience in several different surroundings, like a park where we had dog and scent distractions. Neville is just so smart, and at the school their training on targeting just makes everything so much easier. It was the best class I’ve ever been in. It was a really great experience. Kudos for Guiding Eyes.”
At 6 months old, Neville was ready to hit the classroom every day. He quickly became famous at school and he had more friends than I did! Neville was incredible sharp and loved playing games. We would hide a toy in a mountain of shoes, put him in a stay in another room, and yell out “Get a toy!” and he would instantly run to the pile of shoes to look for the toy. He would demand snuggles, putting his head on your lap and looking mopey until you would get on the floor to lay with him. The pandemic caused him to stay with us over 6 months longer than we should have, and we couldn’t have been any more lucky.
Kiersten Newtoff, Puppy Raiser of Neville