Graduate Team: Zandra & Odyssey
About the Team: Odyssey, a female black Lab, is Zandra’s 1st guide dog
Hometown: Olympia, Washington
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Michael Goehring
Zandra comes to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog. Aside from her years at home with her young family, Zandra worked in Washington State government as an adjudicator of benefit programs, such as Social Security and Unemployment, until her retirement six years ago. To keep her mind busy in retirement, she now works as a private contractor in the field of assistive technology, testing website accessibility using screen magnification. Zandra is excited about taking walks again, now that with Odyssey, she feels comfortable being out by herself. She and her husband love working in their backyard and garden, but are really looking forward to traveling in the comfort of their newly purchased RV. They enjoy traveling and are eager to get back out, in a home away from home, discovering the country again.
How would you describe your guide dog? “She is easy to teach new commands to and retains them so well. It’s pretty impressive; she has it down. Odyssey is active in the morning, showing there’s a lot of puppy in her still, entertaining us by chasing her tail or playing with toys. She’s very affectionate; she loves to come over and put her head on my knee. When she’s tired out later in the day, her crate is her security spot. She’ll quietly take her toys there or take a snooze on her bed under the open staircase.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I had useable vision up until about 5 years ago. The vision loss is advancing more quickly as I get older, and this seemed like a good time for me to transition to my first guide dog. I am active as president of the local chapter of the Washington Council of the Blind, and through my advocacy work, I often meet guide dog users. I have friends with guide dogs from Guiding Eyes, who were pleased with their outcomes. I liked that the school offered Home Training and was impressed with the unique ways the trainers are able to provide services safely during Covid.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s wonderful to feel safe walking in the neighborhood again. When I walk by myself there’s a risk of tripping, but Odyssey’s guidance gets me around cars, tricycles or café tables on the sidewalk. My husband doesn’t always need to go on walks with me now. She has given back the independence I needed and I’m more comfortable being out again. She’s so affectionate; her companionship is great to have. If I get wrapped up in my work, she gets me outside for her needs or to play fetch, which is a good thing, too.”
Were there any training highlights? “She’s great at targeting and patterning. If we walk to my bank she goes right to the door and puts her nose to the door handle. She learned the route quickly, easily finding an alley between two homes I often take, a pedestrian button or my mailbox across the street. I say, ‘go home’ and she brings me right up to the door. She’s pretty amazing. She enjoys what she’s doing and gets excited when I get the harness out. She likes to work.”
Odyssey is extremely intelligent and independent. It took her little time to learn each command, and then she had it down. I have never met a smarter or sweeter dog than Odyssey and her eyes are the most beautiful I have ever seen – a bright amber-brown. She was so well behaved in all public settings, and everyone loved her. She was fun at basketball games and wrestling matches; even though it was loud, she would lay down and sleep unbothered. She was honestly the best puppy ever and rarely had accidents in the house. One of the funniest things as a puppy, was her routine of waking me and offering a toy when she had to get busy during the night. Odyssey was food motivated and we worked on this by lining up treats on a coffee table. She would sniff from afar and slowly inch towards the treats, but learned she was not allowed to eat off the table. She was super motivated to work and more excited to put on her vest than do anything else.
April Moffet, puppy raiser of Odyssey
Finishing raising Odyssey was transformative. She was willing to try anything so long as she was on the move or settled between my feet. Whether we were working in the library, playing in orchestra rehearsals, or relaxing at home or on the trails, Odyssey was my partner in exploring the world. At work, Odyssey was known for her patented groans that punctuated meetings. She had a particular knack for groaning at the exact moments when I would be internally rolling my eyes. Friends would ask how I’d trained her to groan on my behalf, and I could only shrug and tell them that, “She just gets me.” Odyssey taught me what a symbiotic, loving, trusting relationship could look like.
Erin Faulder, puppy raiser of Odyssey (finishing)
Meet our other recent guide dog team graduates. Click here!
Friends and Family: Watch this video to learn more about Working with a Guide Dog Team.