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Thomas and Holiday

Meet Graduate Thomas

May On-Campus Training
Graduate Team: 
Thomas and Holiday
About the Team:  Holiday, a female yellow Lab, is Tom’s 8th guide dog, 6th from Guiding Eyes
Hometown:  Edmond, Oklahoma
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor:  Katherine Russell

Tom is an Assistant District Attorney for Oklahoma County. He attended law school at the University of Oklahoma and early in his career worked for the Oklahoma Disability Law Center and for Legal Aide. Tom lives with his wife and their three teenage children in Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City. He was the youngest of nine siblings, and having grown up in Yorktown, New York, was very familiar with Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Tom likes being active, working out, and is a member of a rowing team. He attends the various activities that his children participate in, and enjoys going with friends to concerts, baseball games, and OU football games.

How would you describe your guide dog? “Holiday has a brisk pace which easily matches my stride.  I have a little residual vision, so a yellow lab is easier for me to see. In harness, Holiday is well-behaved, focused, and one of the smartest dogs I’ve had. I travel a lot and I wanted to make sure Holiday could handle places like New York City, so my trainer, Katherine and I made a trip to lower Manhattan, to experience the narrow sidewalks, offset crossings, noises, and distractions.  Holiday provided reassurance that I could do everything safely.  It was a great day, and it was a gift of independence for me. Out of harness, Holiday is fun, well-behaved, has lots of energy and enjoys playing in our fenced in back yard with my two retired guides, Ireland and Quincy.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “My goal was to be like everyone else, so after law school I decided to apply to Guiding Eyes, in my hometown, for my first guide. It is a satisfying feeling to be more self-reliant and not have to ask for help so often. A guide dog makes everyone more aware of your lack of vision. For me, guide dogs opened a new world.”

How has a guide dog impacted your life? “My guide dogs have all been excellent, smart, and they get attention.  I became the guy with the dog.  You put your safety in their hands, and their life’s mission is to assure that. While walking down Park Avenue with my first guide dog, she stopped, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I felt the thin yellow emergency tape stretched across in front of us that kept us from walking into an open subway grate.  Intelligent disobedience is an amazing skill the dogs learn, and she saved me from potential harm. When some people see a visually impaired person on the street they get out of the way, become quiet, and don’t interact. Having a beautiful guide dog draws more attention and elicits conversation and makes you feel more a part of society.”

Were there any training highlights?  “Katherine Russell, my trainer, was excellent and we worked really well together. Our trip to New York City was good, going to 30 Rock, and visiting my nieces and a nephew. We had taken an escalator to a lower floor and when we were ready to leave, I told Holiday to take us to the up escalator.  Katherine and I began walking down a hall past a side hallway, and Holiday began turning down that hallway. We encouraged her to go straight as she was trying to turn us. We soon discovered that the up escalator was recessed in that hallway.  These guides are remarkable and use their brains.  They are the cream of the crop of service animals. Their life’s mission is to see that you are safe.”

Meet Guide Dog Holiday

Enjoy these photos of the team and Holiday as a pup on program…