Meet Class #280

class 280 - guide dog class

Pictured left to right: Ellen Veatch and guide Ella, trainer Carl Magers, Joanie Dorfman and guide Stew, trainer Jennifer Johnson, Debbie Ciepiela and guide Victoria, Evin Bodle and guide Zipper, Cicely Sheffield and guide Arthur, Pamela Kennedy and guide Jordy, trainer Caitlin O’Brien, Cathy Keller and guide Cosmo *Not Pictured: Trainer Courtney Fouts

Congratulations Class #280!

We are thrilled to celebrate with Class 280 as they graduate today. We recognize this outstanding class and the hard work and commitment they displayed during their three weeks on campus. As students, they supported and encouraged each other, resolved to embrace the good whenever training felt challenging. We are proud of their impressive achievements, and we are so glad they are a part of the Southeastern Guide Dogs family.

As an enrolled agent for tax accounting, the highest credential awarded by the IRS, Ellen Veatch spent her career helping clients navigate IRS audits. But when she began to take longer to recover from regular eye surgeries, she decided to retire. When Ellen’s field of vision narrowed, she started tripping and falling more often, which caused her to become more reclusive. Now she’s finding freedom with her first guide dog Ella, a sweet, intuitive black Lab, and she’s again ready to go on long walks and weekend trips.

Joanie Dorfman knew that one day she’d apply for a guide dog. And that day arrived when she found out she was accepted to Oxford College of Emory University for the fall of 2019. Born with Usher Syndrome Type 1, Joanie lives with hearing loss and vision loss from retinitis pigmentosa. Her new guide dog, Stew, guides her safely around obstacles both overhead and on the ground, perfect for navigating her new school. Stew will make it easier for this aspiring film major to make friends at college, and he’ll be the perfect college roommate!

As a teen, before her eyesight worsened, Debbie Ciepiela worked in a dog kennel then, in public relations at her alma mater, Winthrop University, and finally as a pharmacy technician for 17 years, a job she gave up when her degenerative myopia reduced her vision even more. Now that she has Victoria, a loveable, energetic yellow goldador and her first guide dog, Debbie is ready for adventure. She can’t wait to go shopping, as she hasn’t shopped independently in the last ten years.

Just 34 days after being deployed to Afghanistan, Marine Lance Corporal Evin Bodle was blown up by two anti-armor mortars and shot in the abdomen. Evin came to Southeastern Guide Dogs in 2015 and was matched with his first guide dog, Zak. Since then, Evin and Zak have traveled the world. But sadly, Zak passed away several months ago. Evin grieved the loss of his best friend and his independence, then returned to our school and met Zipper, an affectionate, quick-on-her-feet black goldador who is ready to be his travel buddy.

Diagnosed in seventh grade with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, Cicely Sheffield continues to lose vision over time. In 2010, while still a college student, Cicely received her first guide dog, Dorothy. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from Beacon College, but recently, she retired Dorothy. Cicely loves her new guide dog, Arthur, whose cheerful personality and energetic pace restore the smile to her face. Cicely plans to move to a new city, and Arthur will help her explore her new surroundings with confidence.

At just 13 years old, Pam Kennedy began raising a newborn quarter horse named Dynamite. Not a small feat for a young girl, but not surprising for Pam, who was born with retinitis pigmentosa and whose parents told her she could do anything if she tried her best. Pam began using a guide dog as soon as she was able, but this is her first time at Southeastern Guide Dogs, where she met Jordy, her seventh guide dog.  Jordy’s pace and energy are a perfect match with Pam, and this beautiful, loving yellow goldador will be going on lots of adventures.

Cathy Keller remembers the day she found out that her Usher Syndrome had progressed from hearing loss to vision loss. She was 22 and a college senior when her eye doctor said she had retinitis pigmentosa, but she gathered her resolve and graduated with a degree in legal studies. Cathy laughs when she recalls training with a cane and navigating right into a neighbor’s mailbox.  Now she’s been matched with her first guide dog, Cosmo, a sweet and spunky black Lab that is already restoring her sense of independence.

Class #280, we congratulate each of you on all of your hard work and welcome you to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family!

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Did you miss our live stream of today’s graduation? Don’t worry! You can still view it here. Congratulations Class #280 on your hard work and we can’t wait to see your progress.

Posted on July 12, 2019 | Category: Blog