Meet Class #286
Pictured left to right: trainer Carl Magers, Robert Helms and guide Aramis, Alice Boose and guide Farwell, trainer Caitlin O’Brien, Martin Bailey and guide Summit, Dannon Wright and guide Corty, trainer Courtney Fouts, Kathy Tappero and guide Maka, Jackie Cook and guide Coty, trainer Jennifer Johnson, Barbara Denslow and guide Jack, Dr. Tom Weidner and guide Josie
Congratulations Class #286!
As Class #286 graduates today, we are excited for these guide dog teams to step out into their futures. These students not only formed bonds and friendships with their dogs, but they supported and cheered each other on throughout their time here. We congratulate each of them on all of their hard work and welcome them to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family!
Read more about the accomplished and dedicated guide dog teams of Class #286.
Meet the class!
After serving 20 years in the Army in Special Operations, Marty Bailey worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense. During an assignment in Afghanistan, Marty was blinded by a grenade explosion on Easter Sunday in April 2011. Marty recently retired his first guide, Kenny, his 10-year-old goldador. Now a beloved pet, Kenny will soon meet Marty’s successor guide, a “young and eager to please” black Lab named Summit.
When Jackie Cook puts her mind to something, she does it. So when her macular degeneration sped up and took the central vision from both eyes, Jackie did not want to give up her ability to travel or take extended walks in her neighborhood, and she applied for a guide dog. With her new guide dog Coty by her side, Jackie will enjoy greater freedom and will feel safe tackling the sidewalks and crosswalks in her community.
Alice Boose has had a special relationship with Southeastern Guide Dogs for over 25 years. She began hugging puppies in 1992. She then raised seven puppies, finished raising four more for other raisers, sponsored 18 puppies, and became a volunteer. She also adopted a retired guide dog, a collie named Linny that she raised as a puppy. She even wrote a book about her puppy raising adventures called “Hello. I love you. Goodbye.” But, deteriorating macular degeneration has finally changed Alice’s status from volunteer and supporter to a graduate. She’s been paired with a golden retriever named Farwell, who is ready to guide Alice into her future.
Barb Denslow is a former snowbird from Minnesota who stays active teaching water aerobics at the Rolling Green Golf Village pool. Swimming is one of her fortes, as is tennis and anything having to do with ice skating: figure or hockey. She achieved gold-level status as a figure skater and trained for the Olympics in 1962. When she was forced to hang up her skates after 40 years and deal with worsening macular degeneration, Barb got her first guide, Sarge, who passed away in February at the age of 13. Now she has bonded with Jack, a calm, gentle, and obedient black Lab who licks her face with affection and has just the right pace—not too fast and not too slow.
Each passing year since 2008 brings Dannon Wright new vision challenges and losses. Cone and rod dystrophy, along with glaucoma, progressively destroyed the majority of his central vision and incrementally changed his life. Tiring of using a cane to navigate, Dannon decided that a guide dog might be a good alternative. Now he’s been matched with a gorgeous yellow Lab named Corty, whose confidence and bouncy energy is just what Dannon needed.
After fostering dog rescues for nearly 22 years, Kathy Tappero walked away from hands-on training of dogs to fundraising for their wellbeing. Diagnosed at age 10 with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a degenerative disorder brought on by the side effect of medications, Kathy experienced extensive tissue damage and scarring of her eyes resulting in progressive vision loss. Kathy gushes about her new guide dog, a beautiful black Lab named Maka. Maka expertly guides her around cracks in sidewalks and other obstacles, much to Kathy’s delight, and she looks forward to walking her neighborhood with Maka.
Rob Helms’ first guide dog, a goldador named Sailor, saved his life twice in the ten years they worked together by keeping him out of the path of cars that blew through crosswalks. Turning to Southeastern Guide Dogs for his successor dog wasn’t even a question. Now he has Aramis, a smart, sweet-natured black Lab. Rob, who is working toward becoming an evangelist, believes that Aramis will help him encourage more people through his volunteer counseling work at his church.
Years ago, when Dr. Tom Weidner’s dad retired and moved to Bradenton, Florida, he volunteered at Southeastern Guide Dogs. Tom recalls one of his visits when his dad brought him to our campus for a tour. Now, on January 6, 2020, Tom arrived on campus exactly 29 years to the day that he received his first guide dog from our school. Diagnosed at age 13 with retinitis pigmentosa, this department chair of the school of kinesiology and distinguished professor of athletic training at Ball State University has lived with blindness for most of his life. His newest guide dog, a sweet yellow Lab named Josie, exceeds his expectations and is not going to let Tom slow down one bit. She’s silly and playful, with an exuberant personality and a drive to work.
Did you miss our live stream of today’s graduation? Don’t worry! You can still view it here. Congratulations Class #286 on your hard work and we can’t wait to see your progress.