Graduate Team: William and Trudy
About the Team: Trudy, a female black Lab, is Bill’s first guide dog
Hometown: Ocean City, New Jersey
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Kathryn Poallo
February On-Campus Training
Bill is 69 years young. At the age of 14, he was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, (a hereditary form of macular degeneration), a progressive eye disease which he says left him with about five percent vision. He has been married to his wife Jeanne for 37 years. She is employed as an Occupational Therapist in the Atlantic City school system, and they have two adult daughters who live out of town. Bill and Jeanne own an old Victorian house, located in walking distance to the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. He says life in Ocean City works out well for the visually impaired because the community has a wonderful downtown area with a plethora of beeping traffic lights and a wonderful boardwalk, where he enjoys running. In fact, Bill has recently completed a half-marathon. Bill graduated Cornell University’s School of Hotel Management in 1974. He also has a PhD in Educational Administration. He currently works as a Professor at Stockton University, functioning as a faculty advisor for the school’s Disability Studies curriculum. His life accomplishments include being a trained chef, and in 2005 he was the co-founder of the PBS television show “Cooking Without Looking”. In 2018 he was crowned “Mr. Mature America”. He has also volunteered for 15 years for the United States Department of Homeland Security as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Besides teaching boating safety in his community, he is also an accomplished ukulele player and has authored 26 books on topics that include achieving financial wealth. “Who Will You Be When the Masks Come Off” is his latest publication.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Trudy is a truly great animal and fantastic partner. The first time I held her harness I felt liberated and experienced an instant feeling of newfound independence. In the short time I have had her I have felt greater freedom. When I put her harness on, she is all business, and not just a loving companion.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Through my on-line research I discovered that Guiding Eyes is the only school that trains guide dogs to run with blind runners. It was an easy decision, and as it turns out, the right decision.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “My life was immediately impacted. I have greater freedom and confidence. She comes to work with me at Stockton University. Making my way around work is now safer.”
Were there any training highlights? “I was the only one in my graduating group that never had a guide dog previously. The other students provided me with their experience and guidance. Kat Poallo was my primary trainer. She took me to the City of White Plains, the Mt. Kisco train station, and around and about Yorktown Heights, including the Jefferson Valley Mall where she taught Trudy and I to access the escalators. Trainer Jolene Hollister brought me to the track, located at the town park, to work with us on the running program, utilizing a new harness system called the Unifly harness, developed by Guiding Eyes. In addition to the on-site training, Kat has arranged to travel to my home in Ocean City to review and fine tune my skills in handling Trudy. There is one last thing I want to share. The food prepared at Guiding Eyes during my training was truly outstanding. Chef Rob did a terrific job with menu choices. Special orders weren’t a problem.”
Trudy loved people from Day One. She would trot right along next to me, a little fuzzy ball of energy, and then collapse, spent, in a lap or in a sunny spot on the floor. She charmed everyone who met her. Luckily, we went on a road trip with her for Thanksgiving 2019, where she charmed Alexandria, VA as well. She got to ride a trolley and visit an ice-cream shop, and then Covid brought everything home to just our pod. Since we provide childcare for our grandchildren, our household is really like three households, so although classes and meetings all took place in front of a screen, Trudy did get to go back and forth between two homes, and alternate between the farm setting and the town. We were very glad to have been able to keep her a little longer than usual. She was almost two years old when she went in for training.
Mayada Wadsworth & David Buck, Puppy Raisers of Trudy