Meet the Staff

Guide Dogs of APH
By Jessica Minneci

Guide dogs are known to be smart, loyal, and pretty darn cute. Here at the American Printing House for the Blind, we believe in creating an accessible work environment for everyone. This includes employees that utilize service animals for mobility. We’ve interviewed a few APH’ers about what’s its like navigating through life with a guide dog.

Maria Delgado & her black lab Carlton
(team for 5 years)

Maria and Carlton outside APH
Q: Do you have any nicknames for your dog?
A: Carlie

Q: What is your dog's most impressive trick/talent?
A: He can get a beer out of the refrigerator and bring it to the breakfast bar.

Q: Do you have a favorite embarrassing or funny story about you and your dog?
Carlton lays at Maria's feet
A: I am taking a dance class. The first time I went to the class, I attached Carlton’s leash to a chair, where he could be  out of the way. The class started with group exercises and he was perfectly content lying down. After a while, we started dancing as couples. All of a sudden, here comes Carlton dragging a big chair all the way to the dance floor. It was embarrassing!

Q: What has been your experience having a guide dog in the workplace?
A: APH is a very accessible place. There are many places to take the dogs for a walk. In my job, I have many meetings in different parts of the building. Carlton helps me navigate with ease.

Q: Carlton, how would you describe Maria?
A: I love my owner, I think I’ve gotten her trained by now!

Jessica Minneci & her yellow lab Joyce
(team for 1 year)

Jess and Joyce smiling on the lawn at APH
Q: Do you have any nicknames for your dog?
A: Joycey, the Joycinator, Joycers, Blondie, and Ms. Nose

Q: What is your dog's most impressive trick/talent?
A: I recently taught Joyce the “Kiss” command. I have her sit and I put my cheek up against her nose and say, “Give me a kiss” and she licks my cheek. It’s pretty cute. She likes kissing people goodnight.

Q: Do you have a favorite embarrassing or funny story about you and your dog?
A: Joyce sometimes gets a little too up close and personal with people while we are out and about. For some reason, she occasionally sniffs up women’s dresses and skirts. I don’t think she understands the concept of people wearing “open pants.”

Q: How do you balance what you are doing with your dog's needs?
A: At work and at home, Joyce and I follow a specific schedule of feeding, relieving, and playing. When we are out and about, I check in with her from time to time and make sure that she is accounted for. Depending on our type of outing and weather conditions, I usually have a combination of the following items with me: a reward pouch filled with kibble, her booties for hot or cold temperatures, her raincoat, her winter coat, a towel, a collapsable water bowl, and extra food, a bone, bed, and blanket for longer trips.
Joyce sits wearing a pink flower

Q: Joyce, how would you describe Jess?
A: My human is very happy and lives to make me happy, too. She loves to see me and give me hugs and kisses. She wakes up when I need to go out in the morning and plays with me every day. When I am working, I get tons of kibble and it is the best. My cuteness also prompts her to give me peanut butter and ice cubes sometimes. The only time she is unhappy with me is when I throw up, eat grass, and break my toys. Otherwise, she lives to love, reward, and spoil me with new bandanas, flowers for my collar, toys, beds, blankets, and many pretty pictures that feature my Adorableness. Plus, she has helped me create a Twitter account where I Tweet about my life and other dogs. I enjoy Twitter very much and am excited to have so many fans @dog_Joyce.

Vikki Pagan & her black lab Romeo
(team for 10 months)

Vikki and Romeo outside of APH
Q: Do you have any nicknames for your dog?
A: Romeo-yo, Butterbean, Rome, Yo-Yo, Lover Boy, Buddy Dog

Q: What is your dog's personality like while on the job vs during free time?
A: Romeo’s attention span is somewhat short, but this is age-related. He’s all business when the harness goes on, but he’s a clown, a wild child, when out of harness. He’s a natural flirt, generous with the kisses and wags. He’s very playful.

Q: What has been your experience having a guide dog in the workplace?
A: Everyone in my workplaces and/or school environments has fallen helplessly in love with my dogs. They have taken me through vocational rehabilitation training, accompanied me to technical college classes, had a special part in my weddings. We’ve gone camping together, hiked whenever and wherever we could, and made countless memories. The hospital I previously worked at in Wisconsin was okay as far as being easy and accessible to get around, but the staff was not open to having a dog present in the hospital environment. Here at APH, on the other hand, my dogs are considered part of the staff. My colleagues here at APH treat Romeo as an equal. I sometimes even have to take a backseat to him. (laughing) I wouldn’t have it any other way, however. My dogs escort me to the cafeteria or bathroom and to meetings. Here at APH, there are safety hazards to a blind person walking unassisted, such as machinery or carts. My dogs flawlessly avoid these obstacles. They do indeed give me confidence. They make me look smarter and more graceful than I actually am! (smile)

Q: How do you balance what you are doing with your dog's needs?
A: I also have a pet beagle, Joey, at home. He and Romeo act like a couple of kids. Romeo is on a feeding and relieving schedule, so I gradually incorporated Joey’s needs into that schedule. We get up at about 3:15 to 3:30 on work mornings. This gives me time to shower and dress, eat breakfast with the boys, as I call the dogs. They then go outdoors for relief and a bit of fresh air and exercise. Romeo and I try to squeeze exercise in during breaks, and my neighbor walks Joey while Romeo and I are at work. Romeo relaxes during work, so he’s ready for some serious playtime in the evenings and on weekends.

Q: Romeo, how would you descrive Vikki?
Romeo strikes a pose for the camera
A: Vikki’s an awesome doggie momma. She’s generous with the smooches and cuddles, but man, she’s a tough cookie. I mean, I thought I was supposed to see for her, but she can fool me. If I decide to have fun chasing other dogs or squirrels during work, she’s onto me way too fast. Blast it all. When’s a dog gonna catch a break? And some of the stuff humans eat smells and tastes way better than their idea of dog food. Toast, cookies, French fries, shoes, socks, dog and kitty tootsie rolls—yummy yum yum!!! But Momma says I have to watch my waistline. Big deal!!! Who cares if I get a little chunky? I’m not out to impress nobody. Well, actually, maybe the ladies, with both two legs and four. But there ain’t nobody around who loves doggies more than Momma does. She teases us, sings to us (man, what a voice!). She can break my heart if I’m naughty, but when she sings out: “Good boy, Romeo! What a good, good job, sweetie boy,” I feel like a king. Life is good and I love my work. Kisses, praise, and treats are better than paychecks, don’t y’all agree?

Larry Skutchan & his black lab Nina
(team for 6 years)

Larry and Nina standing in the shade
Q: Do you have any nicknames for your dog?
A: Sweet Pea

Q: What is your dog's personality like while on the job vs during free time?
A: Professional but opportunistic at work, a complete goofball at home. 

Q: What is your dog's most impressive trick/talent?
Close up of Nina looking at the camera
A: Every dog is different, but this one does not drink or empty at work, and I am fine with that. Previous dogs would and could drink gallons of water upon arrival at work on hot August mornings.

Q: Nina, how would you describe Larry?
A: I do not like it when the jerk makes me walk home in very hot weather. Cold is OK.

Jess Minneci is a senior at Seton Hill University and an intern at APH. She is a three-time National Braille Challenge participant and has previously volunteered with ACB. She is a poet and aspiring novelist who enjoys filming youtube videos about young adult novels and spending time with her guide dog Joyce.


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