Meet Class #278

Class 278 poses on a side walk with their guide dogs

Pictured left to right: Arnold O’Neal and guide Rizzo, trainer Gabrielle Brown, Ronda Shore and guide Giovanni, trainer Lynn Benus, Tommy Gagen and guide Isaac, trainer Karen Mersereau, Lisa Murphy and guide Snoopy, trainer Tony True, Gloria Miller and guide Dougie

Congratulations Class #278!

As Class #278 graduates today, we are excited about their futures and are filled with admiration of all that they accomplished together with their new guide dogs. These students formed strong bonds with their loyal guide dogs and also started lifelong friendships with their fellow students. Read here about the driven and committed guide dog teams of Class #278.

As a child, Arnold O’ Neal recalls his mother telling him that one day he would lose his vision because he inherited retinitis pigmentosa from her. But it wasn’t until he was in his mid-30s that his vision loss began. When Arnold approached people using his cane, everyone seemed to scatter, but a dog makes him more approachable. His first guide dog, Brody, retired and lives at home, and now Brody is getting a new friend—a fun-loving, energetic goldador guide dog named Rizzo. Rizzo fits in perfectly as he helps Arnold navigate his active lifestyle.

Since her late teens, Ronda Shore’s vision has been deteriorating from the effects of living with a congenital disability, and for nearly 15 years, she has relied on her guide dogs. She’s been a friend of Southeastern Guide Dogs since 2005 when she received Duchess, followed by C.C. and then Oscar, who retired over a year ago. Now she’s been matched with Giovanni, her fourth guide dog. This attentive, affectionate Labrador works well and catches on quickly. Once home, Giovanni will enjoy meeting Ronda’s family, including her husband, teenage daughter, and two rescued cats.

Tommy Gagen’s vision loss started with a tick bite, but the tick wasn’t the big problem. Instead, medication caused a severe “one-in-a-million” reaction and damaged his retinas. His vision “crashes” from limited sight to total blindness, but now Tommy is ready to enjoy his retirement and community with his “awesome, highly intelligent” new guide, Isaac, by his side.

A year and a half ago, Lisa Murphy decided she’d had enough, and that she’d walked into a trashcan or a parked car for the final time. “I didn’t like the cane that much,” she says. “I felt like it only protected my feet.” Now Lisa and Snoopy, her first guide dog, are ready for adventure and freedom. “I don’t feel that sense of anxiety that I’m going to run into anything anymore,” she says.

Gloria Miller, an ordained minister, traveled the world on mission trips. But over time, retinitis pigmentosa meant a lifelong progression of vision loss and decreasing independence. Determined to regain her independence, she now has her first guide dog, Dougie, a calm, intelligent Labrador. Previously, Gloria felt anxiety when going out in public, but not anymore. “This is major,” she says of Dougie. “I can get out and not be afraid!”

Class #278, 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 #277 on your hard work and we can’t wait to see your progress.

Posted on May 23, 2019 | Category: Blog