Meet Class #277

Class 277 poses on a side walk with their guide dogs

Pictured left to right: Mayra Tapia and guide Penelope, trainer Stefanie Spence, Josh Burch and guide Sweet Lou, Howard Gross and guide Champagne, trainer Cheryl Herman, Toni King and guide Frances, trainer Megan Nydstrom, Rob Chapman and guide Oscar, Dave Price and guide Rocky, trainer Karin Watson, Steve Perryman and guide Coco

Congratulations Class #277!

Southeastern Guide Dogs celebrates the commencement of Class #277. Each graduate formed a powerful partnership with their guide dog, and now they are ready to step forward into their future, excited by the freedom and possibilities waiting for them. Congratulations Class #277, and welcome to the Southeastern Guide Dogs family!

  • As a child in Mexico, Mayra Tapia’s headaches and nausea got the attention of her teacher, but her mom thought she was trying to avoid school. Her parents eventually sought medical treatment in Florida, and Mayra was diagnosed with the brain tumors that damaged her vision. Now she is cancer free, has earned her AA degree, and has been matched with Penelope, an energetic yellow Lab that gives her new independence.
  • “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” Josh Burch Four months ago, he lost his former guide dog, Wayne. Two months before that, he lost his brother. But the sun rises again, and this time it came up through a calm, talented yellow Lab named Sweet Lou. Now Josh can’t wait to introduce Lou to his friends, and he’s already planning trips to Maine and North Carolina with his new guide dog. “Good things come to those who wait,” he quips, smiling.
  • Hearing loss may have prevented Howard Gross from joining the military, but he is every inch a warrior. When Howard was 4 years old, he fell into his grandparent’s fishing pond and contracted an ear infection that required 13 operations and left him with hearing loss. He was later diagnosed with Lupus, which damaged his optic nerve resulting in vision loss. But nothing destroyed Howard’s spirit. His guide dog, a fun golden retriever named Champagne, helps him walk faster than ever before—perfect for keeping up with his wife and children and participating in community activities.
  • Toni King is an experienced handler, having had three previous guide dogs. After retiring her beloved guide dog, Schepis, she waited for just the right match as her next partner. And Frances, a playful, lovable yellow Labrador, is the perfect match. Toni couldn’t be happier with Frances by her side. “I always say that having a guide dog means freedom,” she says.
  • Robert Chapman is excited about his newest family member, his first guide dog, Oscar. This focused and instinctive yellow Labrador will assist him in navigating the warehouse aisles at the marine supply business where Robert, a Stetson University graduate, works in sales and purchasing. But it won’t be all work for Oscar. Robert plans on taking a lot of walks around his neighborhood. “He’s getting me from place to place so much easier,” Robert says.
  • Dave Price, a retired corporate operations manager for KFC, knew that the more his vision deteriorated from choroideremia, a rare inherited disorder, the more he would need to rely on others. He determined to learn to walk with a guide dog to give him greater independence. Now he’s met Rocky, a reserved, intelligent yellow Lab. “We’re matched up pretty well, and I’m able to go out to do the things I like to do with him,” he says.
  • For Steve Perryman, retiring his first guide dog, Coaster, wasn’t an easy decision. But with the hot summer coming and Coaster’s stamina waning, Steve needed a dog that could keep up with his active lifestyle. Now he’s been matched with Coco, a fast-paced, well-mannered, playful yellow Labrador. Coco will join Steve’s adventures as he goes out with friends, attends ball games, and travels.

Class #277, welcome 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 #277 on your hard work and we can’t wait to see your progress.

Posted on April 18, 2019 | Category: Blog, Graduates, Our Dogs