Congratulations Guide Dog Class 292!
Photo description: Bob Waggoner and guide dog Summit, Kenneth Eldridge Hughes and guide dog Buddy, trainer Gabrielle Brown, David Heartline and guide dog Pierce, trainer Lynn Benus, Sue Albury and guide dog Ethan, trainer Marisa Blanco, Shauna English and guide dog Luna, trainer Tony True, Richard Rogaliner and guide dog Banks, Frank Pierce and guide dog Whalen.
The seven extraordinary members of Guide Dog Class #292 graduated with their heads held high and their spirits soaring. Six were first-time handlers and one a returning graduate. All were thrilled to be paired with loving, intelligent, and brave dogs that will transform their lives.
Read more about the new guide dog teams of Class #292 that have now joined the Southeastern Guide Dogs family!
- When Kenneth Eldridge Hughes was in his early 20’s and learned that he had retinitis pigmentosa, he jokes about actually feeling a little relieved. “I always knew something was wrong,” says the stand-up comic who weaves his vision loss into his comedy routines. Getting a diagnosis for his declining vision led him to take better care of himself and avoid dangerous situations. Now his “kindred spirit” guide dog Buddy will be Kenneth’s sidekick in life and comedy.
- Elaine “Sue” Albury retired her paintbrush at age 24 when she lost her central vision to Stargardt’s disease. Forty years later, she rediscovered her neglected passion for art, thanks to a friend that encouraged her to never give up. After daily training with her new guide Ethan, Sue eagerly fills the pages of her sketchpad with the four-legged subject she affectionately refers to as her “new BFF.” Back home, she looks forward to introducing Ethan to her husband, Lonnie, walking stairs with confidence, and taking her first of many solo walks with her new BFF down their quaint country road.
- Macular degeneration caused veteran George “Bob” Waggoner to lose vision in his right eye, then in April 2019, the left. The term ‘legally blind’ was too steep to accept. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Bob admits. Then his VA doctor gave Bob the perfect prescription—a guide dog. Now, Bob has been matched with Summit, a beautiful, shiny black Lab. With Summit within reach, Bob knows his toughest climb is finally behind him.
- David Hartline learned at a young age that he had Senior Loken syndrome, which causes kidney failure and progressive atrophy of the retina. Nevertheless, for decades David worked in the defense industry and as a civil servant, earning dual master’s degrees in engineering and military operations. “I tried to hide the fact that I was blind,” he admits. When night blindness set in, however, he knew it was time for help. David’s now been paired with an intelligent, “rock-solid” yellow Lab named Pierce who is a perfect match.
- Air Force veteran Frank Pierce enjoyed a 25-year career as a produce manager with Publix. He also took care of his grandchildren over a period of six years while his Marine Corps daughter deployed to the Middle East. But as his glaucoma worsened, hobbies like hunting, fishing, and driving a boat gradually became impossible. Enter a four-legged blessing named Whalen who takes loving care of Frank and gives him back his independence.
- Throughout his Navy service and while progressing through a longtime civilian career in high-level engineering, Richard Rogaliner says he was a very visually-oriented person. But he also admits that as his glaucoma progressed, he waited too long to get a guide dog. Now, he’s delighted to be matched with Banks, an affectionate black Lab that he considers a partner and a friend.
- Shauna English has always lived by the motto “Get up, dress up, and show up!” Now that her first guiding light, PJ is retired, she has been paired with a new source of brightness to give her the freedom and independence she craves in her life—the sweet, affectionate, and intelligent guide dog Luna. Shauna is ready to take on her next adventures with Luna, who has earned the nickname, “Moon pie”. (See more of Shauna’s story here, from when she was with her first guide dog.)
Hearty Congratulations, Class #292!