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Tony and Norris

Meet Graduate Tony

Tony holds yellow Lab guide dog Norris' head close to his with arms around him

Graduate Team:   Tony and Norris
About the Team:   Norris is a yellow, male Labrador Retriever and Tony’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Location:   Anchorage, Alaska                           
Training:  November 2023 Home-Training

Tony has been an Assistive Technology Instructor and Youth Transition Coordinator for the Alaska Center for the Blind for 4 years. He attended Bureau Services for Blind Persons in Michigan, then obtained AT certification at World Services for the Blind in Arkansas. Tony has an extraordinary love of music that goes back to his childhood. By age 10 he was playing piano, guitar and bass guitar and sang in a choir at 11. Now, he is an accomplished musician whose talents also include the drums, and he is a jazz and classically trained vocalist. He has produced seven albums, and his work is available on Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music.  Tony’s philosophy is, “Music is a universal language that holds no bias. It allows everyone to speak freely without judgement and provides safety and security when our voices cannot speak the words that we want to.”  Tony’s online presence is vast, with a YouTube channel that includes music, motivational content, videos and more. His goal is to bring people together in a space that is safe and inclusive while keeping the environment positive. He enjoys rock, heavy metal and classical music, auditioned for NBC’s “The Voice” in 2019, hosts a podcast on Spotify, and has traveled in England, Iceland and across 25 states.  In early 2024, Tony and his wife, also a guide dog user, are relocating to Oregon, where he will work for the Oregon Commission for the Blind in Assistive Technology. Tony lives by always ending any interaction on a positive note. His most important value is to know that you are loved and always remember that there is value in humility.

How would you describe your guide dog?  “Norris has a sensitive heart and will nudge me with his nose because he likes me to hold his paw. He can be silly. He is exactly what I needed.  He has the ability to love and be kind.  In harness he is ready to go, and likes to show me everything, and he can maneuver around crowded situations.  He wants to be loved, and I couldn’t have asked for a better dog.”

What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes?  “I had no information about any guide dog school so had no bias. I was looking at a couple of schools, and the first one had a longer wait time for a dog. When I reached out to Guiding Eyes, I was contacted by phone within a week and had my home interview with a trainer within 4 months.”

How has a guide dog impacted your life?  “Companionship, proficiency, and moving faster.  Having a best friend is so crucial.  Having Norris is a Godsend. He is such a good boy. He knows my heart.”

Were there any training highlights?  “With my remote instructor Mike here, we targeted the bus stop near my house.  Norris nailed it after 3 tries, even with the ice and snow. We went to Walmart and that was fun, and at a mall there was a bench, and Norris hopped up on it like, ‘look, I found a bench.’ With traveling, he is very content. I use Paratransit, rideshares like Uber and Lyft, and public transit. Norris does well with all of them; he’s very content being concealed under the seats. It was great when we got together at the Moose’s Tooth for lunch with 7 others here in Alaska who have Guiding Eyes guide dogs.”

Meet Guide Dog Norris

DOB:  12/2/2021
Litter ID: 5N321
Color/Breed:  Yellow/Labrador
Gender: Male
Brood: Goldie
Stud: Eduardo
Littermates: Natasha, Noodle, Nitro, Nemo, Noel
Region: Cleveland East
Regional Puppy Instructor: Macy Nauman
Puppy Raiser:  Suzanne & Lorenzo Bocciarelli, Jake & Bri Austin
Facebook: Ohio Puppy Raisers

From the Puppy Raiser…

Norris is incredibly loveable and lives to please and play. He is endlessly attentive, looking for direction and any way to be a part of the team. Our best outings always involved exploring new places and lots of people. Norris is courageous and up for anything, especially meeting new people. His goofy personality and loving nature made him an absolute joy in our home. ~ Jacob Austin, Puppy Raiser

Photos of the Team…