Syracuse woman living with cerebral palsy credits guide dog for changing her life

Local News

Guiding Eyes for the Blind has been helping people who are visually impaired or blind since 1954 when it first began training and pairing dogs with their owners.

Since then, more than 7,000 dogs have been trained and graduated from the extensive program.

One Syracuse woman who has just been paired with her third guide dog says the non-profit’s program has been life-changing.

“Guiding Eyes gives me my freedom,” said Tonya Corujo, who has cerebral palsy.

Corujo was nearly mugged about 10 years ago — an incident she says happened because her walking cane made her appear as a target to people who were up to no good.

She was walking along East Adams Street near Crouse Avenue when she says a man grabbed her by the shoulders from behind claiming he was going to help her cross the street.

“I realized they’re not going to just help me across the street, but they’re going to roll me for any money I have,” Corujo said. “I’ve always been very scared that that might happen again.”

Before being paired with Caffrey, a two-year-old black Labrador, last month — Corujo had two other guide dogs before him — Mozart and Sanford.

Each time she’s waited to be paired between her dogs’ retirements — Corujo says she felt unsafe.

“A lot of people will you know, not mess with somebody with a dog,” she said.

There’s also something special about Caffrey since guide dogs are typically trained to walk on someone’s left side.

“He was trained specifically for my right side because I have cerebral palsy on my left side. It affects my hand and my leg and my left eye,” Corujo said.

Caffrey helps Corujo go anywhere and helps her feel safe while getting there.

“He’ll stop you if a car is coming out into traffic, so he’ll make it a lot safer for you,” Corujo said. Caffrey can even sense if a hybrid vehicle is on the road.

When he’s not in his harness working, Corujo says Caffrey is just like any other dog. Caffrey loves to fetch his ball and be silly.

“When he gets all excited he makes this noise that sounds just like Chewbacca and it’s so funny,” Corujo shared.

It’s because of Caffrey that Corujo and thousands of other people enjoy their daily freedom. 

“The Guiding Eyes community is incredibly proud of the hard work and determination of our November graduates,” said Thomas Panek, President and CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “We can say, with confidence, that the personalized training each guide dog team received has prepared them to head home to start a new chapter of their lives.” 

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization funded solely by voluntary contributions from friends and supporters. 

It costs approximately $50,000 to prepare students and dogs to become a Guiding Eyes team and support them throughout the lifetime of their partnership.

Guiding Eyes never charge a person who needs one of our dogs, and that’s only possible because of the immense support it receives from donors.

To learn more about Guiding Eyes or to donate, visit their website by clicking here.

Some donors may even choose to receive the annual Guiding Eyes calendar. If you flip to the month of July, Caffrey is featured alongside a puppy also training to become a guide dog.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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