Meet Class #274

Class 274 poses on a side walk with their guide dogs.

Pictured from left to right: trainer Carl Magers, Betsy Halden and guide Hercules, Robert Gladstone and guide Morgan, trainer Marisa Gerlach, Terry Riley and guide Linaugh, Matt Arnold and guide Mastro, trainer Caitlin O’Brien, Theresa Tidwell and guide Gosline, Andrew Perez and guide Juneau, trainer Courtney Fouts, Jon Gartley and guide Marty, trainer Cheryl Herman, Gwen Givens and guide Cadon.

Congratulations Class #274!

Congratulations to our first graduating class of 2019!

Class #274 celebrates commencement today—a new beginning. Each of these guide dog teams is commencing their journey forward to a life of greater independence and freedom.

We celebrate with you, Class #274, and we welcome you to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family.

Betsy Halden and her late husband loved to travel together, explore nature, and learn new things. This retired professor has been matched with an alert, curious, and affectionate black Lab named Hercules, her first guide dog, and now they are ready to explore together.

Living with vision loss from the degenerative effects of retinitis pigmentosa, Robert Gladstone shares that having a guide dog is the key to his independence. His first guide passed away after 10 years of guiding him, and now Robert has embraced freedom once again with Morgan, a friendly, smart yellow Lab.

Linaugh, a lovable black Lab, came along at just the right time for Terry Riley, a medically retired U.S. Navy veteran and retired police chief. Six months ago, his wife, Carol, died unexpectedly. Terry’s vision has deteriorated over the years, and now with Linaugh by his side, there is no end to what he can do.

Matt Arnold attends the University of West Florida where he majors in exceptional student education and has been using a cane to navigate his surroundings. But that’s all changed since he met Mastro, the playful, smart black Lab guide dog that never leaves his side. Matt put down his cane and is enjoying the independence Mastro provides.

Retinitis pigmentosa might be robbing Theresa Tidwell’s vision, yet it hasn’t stopped this active volunteer from doing things she enjoys. But, like many people with low vision, she thought she wasn’t “blind enough” for a guide dog. Now she navigates with a black Lab named Gosline, her first guide, and she’s ready for new adventures.

Now that he’s been matched with his first guide dog, worrying about tripping over curbs is a thing of the past for Andrew Perez. In fact, Juneau, a beautiful yellow Lab, is wowing Andrew with his guiding skills. “Juneau stops me from stepping out in front of cars,” he says.

Veteran Jon Gartley served in the Army for three years as a military police dog handler, followed by a career in construction. For many years, he has been managing his gradual vision loss from macular degeneration, thinking he wasn’t blind enough for a guide dog. Now Jon walks with confidence because of his first guide, an affectionate, intuitive yellow Lab named Marty.

Gwen Givens has made a remarkable transformation. At one time, she wasn’t interested in guide dogs. Now, she believes so strongly in our mission that she’s joined our Cornerstone Society and Heritage Society—all because of the difference a dog makes. She’s been matched with her third guide dog, Cadon, a calm, intuitive dog that “makes good decisions” and likes to snuggle.

Congratulations on all of your hard work, Class #274. Welcome to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family!


Did you miss our live stream of today’s graduation? Don’t worry! You can still view it here. Congratulations Class #274 on your hard work and we can’t wait to see your progress.

Posted on January 24, 2019 | Category: Blog