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Spring 2013

John Pimentel & “Victory”

In this Issue

Spring 2013

3 Cover Story: Life is Better Than Ever–John Pimentel and “Victory” 5 A Vision for Veterans 5 Fidelco and Connecticut Lions Clubs: a Long-Time Partnership 7

Joining The Ranks: Fidelco Answers the Call of Duty

8 A Healing Visit 9 Fidelco Staff Give Back 10 Supporter Snapshots 11 Charitable Estate Planning 12 Fidelco Takes the Challenge 13 Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes 14 Annual Open House and 2013 Events FidelcoNews is the newsletter of the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Inc. Editor: Heidi Voight Graphic Designer: Kristine Fletcher Contributing Writer: Chris Gregor

Fidelco is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization based in Bloomfield, CT, that breeds, trains and places its own, unique “breed within a breed” of German Shepherd Guide Dogs with men and women who are blind. Each Fidelco Guide Dog costs $45,000 and takes two years to produce, and they are given to clients at no cost. Fidelco provides 24/7 client support for the entire working life of its guide dogs–typically 10+ years. Fidelco relies solely on the financial support and generosity of individuals, foundations, corporations and civic organizations to help Share the Vision®. Fidelco has placed over 1,300 German Shepherd Guide Dogs throughout North America, in 41 states and five Canadian provinces. Fidelco pioneered “In-community Placement” in the United States—a process that allows guide dog users to be trained in their home communities.

Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Inc. 103 Vision Way Bloomfield, CT 06002 (860) 243-5200

Fidelco also has placed hundreds of its German Shepherd Dogs with law enforcement agencies, first responders, search and rescue, and missing child recovery organizations to help protect our fellow citizens and keep them safe.

© 2013 All rights reserved. Reproduction or other use, in whole or in part, without written permission is prohibited.

Donations to Fidelco are deductible as charitable contributions on a donor’s federal income tax return. Please consult your tax advisor for specific details.

/fidelcoguidedog FidelcoNews Spring 2013

Do you know someone who is blind and is interested in requesting a guide dog? Contact Fidelco at 860-243-5200 or to request information about our guide dog application process.

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A Season for Everything As we enter the warmth and green of spring, having turned the final corner on winter and its short and dark days, I’m reminded that there is a season for everything and a special time for each and every life. Happily, we celebrated the recent birth of the C-26 litter – five females and three males – Fidelco’s 627th litter of German Shepherd Guide Dog puppies. Sadly, we shared the conclusion of another noble working life with the passing of Fidelco Guide Dog “E.T.” Perhaps these souls passed one another on their journey? I believe they did because for every time in life there is a purpose. Fidelco’s life-changing mission would not be possible without the financial support of our donors. As a tribute to you, I’m sharing a very special email that we received from Fidelco client “Jay M.” It is a loving tribute to his Guide Dog and to all of you who helped to make their partnership a reality.

As a consultant for the U.S. government I travel about 75% of the time, and E.T. has visited 35 states. E.T. carried our flowers around her neck at our wedding. She waited patiently outside the delivery room while my son was born, and witnessed his first hours into the world. Despite ten years of firm discussions, she always has enjoyed zipping around the house after our cat, though I think the cat was chasing her most of the time. E.T. mastered the double fist pump; whenever she wanted your attention off-duty, she would pose, double-paw pump the floor and cock her head to one side, tail wagging. It is a memory we will always remember. E.T. has been a blessing to my family and me and with sad, but proud memories, I ask her to go with our deepest love and to keep her puppy spirit bright. Sincerely, Jay M.

Eliot D. Russman CEO and Executive Director Dear Fidelco Family, With deep sadness I am writing to notify Fidelco of the loss of…”E.T.”, my beloved guide dog for the past ten years. I retired E.T…due to medical reasons: diminishing eyesight, hearing, [and] lasting effects of major abdominal surgery to remove a large tumor. E.T. also had a stroke this past summer and never fully recovered from it. At that point in her life she greatly lost her physical stability and ability to make normal physical biomechanical judgments. My wife, our young son and I loved her through it. She held strong and had been doing her best to get through each day. I made a quality of life decision, that is beyond description to articulate here, to enable her to comfortably pass on to her spot beside my other two Fidelco angels, “Tasha” and “Petra.” Fidelco is a remarkable and special organization with a mission that is so liberating for blind people. I will always be grateful and thankful to Fidelco for providing such happiness via the Guide Dogs; these wonderful dogs that enable the freedom and mobility treasured by blind people. Here are a few memories about E.T. and the remarkable gifts she gave to my family and me.

The C-26 pups were our first litter of 2013! Five females and three males were born on Groundhog Day to proud dam Lexus and sire Basil. 2


John Pimentel & “Victory” Life Is Better Than Ever


t’s often said that the most successful people are those who have discovered their true calling in life. At sixty years old, lifelong Portsmouth, Rhode Island resident John Pimentel can certainly be counted among them. His path to a new, rewarding role did come at a cost - his eyesight but John is philosophical as he tells the story of his journey and how Fidelco played a major part in his ongoing success. John knew early on that he was destined to help others. He was drawn to a career in nursing and earned his RN license in 1977, but eventually opted for a restaurant management career to better support his growing family. That all changed in his forties when he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. His vision started fading, and by September of 2004, John was declared legally blind. He left his job one year later. “As everyone who has lost their sight knows, blindness is all about fear. Hopeless, helpless, vulnerable, useless are the words that come to mind. I was afraid that I’d fall down stairs, get mugged, step in front of a bus,” he recalls.

From Fear to Freedom John refused to let fear determine his destiny. Empowered by knowledge gained at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Massachusetts in 2005 and determined to regain his independence, John began thinking about getting a guide dog. “I wanted my life back. I saw the guide dog as one critical piece to getting that to happen,” John remembers. While researching guide dog schools, John was impressed by the quality of Fidelco’s superior dogs and industry-leading client service. “I always thought there was something very special about the German Shepherd Dog breed; the intelligence, focus, and loyalty. I was also happy with Fidelco’s exclusive In-community Placement training.”

FidelcoNews Spring 2013

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The Next Chapter: The Blind Nurse The year 2006 marked a new beginning for John. He was partnered with Fidelco Guide Dog “Gatsby” and felt a renewed sense of purpose. After working for the Rhode Island state government as an advocate for the disabled, John was offered a job at INSIGHT, a Warwick-based nonprofit vision rehab center. As a vision rehab therapist, he taught independent living skills to people at every stage of blindness. One year later, he reactivated his RN license and earned his credentials as a Certified Diabetes Outpatient Educator (CDOE), enabling him to manage an array of education services for recently diagnosed diabetics and the visually impaired. Currently, he is the only practicing blind RN in Rhode Island.

“He Does His Job, So I Can Do Mine” Ironically, John’s greatest challenge in life became the catalyst for his success. “When you lose your vision, it’s overwhelming and you think your life is over, so it is great to be able to help my patients overcome the same fears and obstacles I experienced. Some of them have dealt with sighted counselors who told them ‘you’ll be able to deal with your blindness,’ and in the back of the patient’s mind they’re saying, ‘easy for you to say!’ But with a blind nurse, it rings more true, because I am living it.”

“Blindness is all about fear… I was afraid that I’d fall down stairs, get mugged, step in front of a bus.” John also speaks passionately about Gatsby’s role in shaping his new career. Sadly, Gatsby passed in 2012 from an aggressively acute illness after having been with John for six years. John is now partnered with his new Fidelco Guide Dog, “Victory,” who has been with him since November of 2012. “The dog builds and maintains your confidence. He does his job, so I can do mine. I’m safe and that makes me confident. People can sense my confidence and in a business setting it has been a huge asset.”

A Better, More Fulfilling Life As the Rhode Island Vice President of National Federation for the Blind, John speaks at state conferences about guide dog ownership and always mentions what a great experience he had with Fidelco and his trainers

Becky Cook, Laura DeMaio and Eric Gardell. Looking back on his journey to the present, he’s even more excited for what his future holds. “I can honestly say that I have a better, more fulfilling life now than I did when I was sighted. That may sound radical. But the confidence of the dog has changed my life path and I’m happy… I would not be where I am today without Fidelco, my beloved Gatsby and now Victory. I’m doing good things for people. It’s exactly what I should be doing, and there is no place where I think I would fit in better.”

John Pimentel is one of three clients whose Fidelco German Shepherd Guide Dogs were provided by a generous grant from the Aetna Foundation in 2012.


A Vision for Veterans

Fidelco Client Inspires National Call to Action As reported in the Holiday 2012 issue of FidelcoNews, our September meetings in Washington, DC with many national leaders resulted in great success. Led by Fidelco client Senior Airman (now Staff Sergeant) Michael Malarsie and his Fidelco Guide Dog “Xxon,” and Fidelco’s CEO Eliot Russman and Chairman Steve Matheson, our nation’s leaders were surprised to learn about the long waiting periods and financial hurdles confronting America’s blinded and wounded heroes. On December 18, 2012, Michael’s inspiring story of heroism and determination became a clarion call for national support. Then-Senator John Kerry (D-MA), now U.S. Secretary of State, rose on the Senate floor and introduced S.3869: the Senior Airman Michael Malarsie Act. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide service dogs, including guide dogs, to disabled and blinded veterans. If enacted, the Senior Airman Michael Malarsie Act would change this by creating a federally funded grant program for qualified service dog agencies like Fidelco.

SrA Malarsie met with Senator Kerry in September. The bill was referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, where it currently awaits action in the 113th Congress.

FIDELCO AND CONNECTICUT LIONS CLUBS: A Long-Time Partnership Fidelco participated in the 2013 Connecticut Lions Mid-Winter conference. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was the keynote speaker. We thank the Senator and the Lions and Leo Clubs for their continued support and friendship.

FidelcoNews Spring 2013

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S. 3689. A bill to establish a grant program to encourage the use of assistance dogs by certain members of the Armed Forces and veterans, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today, I am introducing the Senior Airman Michael Malarsie Act to increase the number of assistance dogs available to disabled servicemembers and veterans.

Read the complete floor speech and bill in its entirety at


Joining The Ranks: Fidelco Answers the Call of Duty Fidelco values its partnership with law enforcement as a meaningful way to give back to the citizens and communities that support our mission year-round. On January 17th, two Fidelco-bred German Shepherd Dogs officially began their new careers as K9 officers. Hero and Harper (now Hondo) were among 16 police and canine partners honored during the Connecticut State Police 156th Patrol Dog Graduation. Hero and Hondo are brothers; they were born to Isis and Freddie in May 2011.

TFC Michael Zella and K9 Hero, Connecticut State Police Troop C; Connecticut State Police Canine Instructor Kevin Eklund; Officer Joseph Walsh and K9 Hondo, Hartford Police.

Over the past fifty years, Fidelco has provided more than 300 German Shepherd Dogs to the Connecticut State Police.

Lt. Colonel Robert A. Corona, Commander, Connecticut State Police Field Operations, presented an award of appreciation to Fidelco CEO Eliot Russman, recognizing Fidelco’s 50 years of support of K9 law enforcement.

For such an important job, only the highest quality dogs will do. Fidelco thanks Connecticut State Police Canine Instructor Kevin Eklund for his dedication in selecting and preparing these heroic K9s to serve and protect.

In Memoriam Fidelco recently lost two long-time friends from our Fidelco Family. Our condolences to family and friends of Barbara Kennedy and Bill Podolny. We are grateful to both families for requesting memorial donations to Fidelco. These donations will help us further our work of providing life-changing Fidelco Guide Dog partners to men and women who are blind. Barbara Kennedy visited Fidelco many times, most recently just after her 90th birthday. She enjoyed listening to clients tell their stories and hearing how much their Fidelco Guide Dogs have helped them. “You feel like you have a real connection to the people who are speaking and that your donation really made a difference in their lives.”

Bill and Unique

William “Bill” Podolny was a Fidelco client who was partnered with Fidelco Guide Dogs “Uzef” and “Unique.” Unique received the Animal Rescue Hero award from the American Red Cross Connecticut Chapter in 2010 for leading Bill to safety when his house caught on fire after being struck by lightning.

FidelcoNews Spring 2013

Barbara with her daughter, Sharon

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A Healing Visit

On a Sunday morning in January, Fidelco staff and volunteers loaded up two vans and took nine 8-weekold future guide dog puppies from the Z-25 litter to visit with Newtown, CT children and families at the Newtown Congregational Church. The children were asked to help name one of the pups. The name they chose was “Zoar”– a lake in Sandy Hook, CT.

Renee DiNino from Clear Channel Radio’s

The River 105.9 shares puppy love.

Smiles and laughter all-around!

Fidelco Chairman, Steve Matheson, shared smiles with the kids.

Connecticut State Police TFC Paul Comesanas and Fidelco-bred K9 “Neo” helped brighten Puppy kisses! the day.


Fidelco Staff Give Back Our clients, volunteers and donors inspire us to give back every day. Fidelco employees believe in a culture of caring both in and out of the workplace. “A Little Piece of Me” In addition to her role as Fidelco’s Graphic Designer, Kris Fletcher is also an experienced Volunteer Puppy Raiser. She’s currently raising her seventh puppy, Tonka. “Knowing the tiny puppy I bring home will one day change someone’s life is extremely gratifying. To have a part in something that is so huge– words can’t describe the feeling.”

Kris Fletcher and “Tonka”

Chief Operating Officer Julie Unwin is co-raising Tao, her fifth puppy, with Fidelco Certified Trainer/Instructor Stefanie Corbeil. “Nothing compares to the feeling you get after raising a puppy, knowing that it’s out there helping others,” Julie says. “It’s like a little piece of me is going out there and doing some good.”

Julie Unwin and Stefanie Corbeil with “Tao”

In The Community

Fidelco employees helped fill more than a hundred care packages for our deployed troops and their K9 partners in Afghanistan during the Simsbury Police Department’s third annual “Heroes & Hounds” Military Working Dog Drive. Pictured l-r: Officer Mark Rudewicz, Heroes & Hounds organizer; Senator Richard Blumenthal(D-CT); SSgt Michael Malarsie with “Xxon”; Peter N. Ingvertsen, Simsbury Police Chief; Mary Glassman, Simsbury First Selectman; Eliot Russman; Michael T. Long, Simsbury Police Commissioner; Santa’s helpers, Liz and Stefanie (kneeling) with Santa (aka Fidelco’s Eric).

FidelcoNews Spring 2013

Even our Fidelco guide-dogs-in-training got to spread some holiday cheer during the 10th annual Operation ELF (Embracing Lonely Families) event at the William A. O’Neill Armory in Hartford on December 15th. Children of deployed Connecticut troops had their pictures taken with Fidelco dogs before leaving with goodie bags and presents in tow. Pictured are Certified Trainer/Instructor Lindsay Kababik with “Zee,” Apprentice Trainer Ali Ritchie Parkes with “Cosmo” and Fidelco CEO Eliot Russman.

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Supporter Snapshots The 2012 Neighborhood Assistance Act (NAA) gives businesses tax credit savings and helps Fidelco. Thank you to the businesses below that contributed.

A reception at The Hartford Club to honor SSgt Michael Malarsie’s military service was sponsored by Jim Thayer, People’s United Bank; Ed Sullivan, Whittlesey & Hadley PC; Tom Mullaney, Mullaney Keating & Wright; and Sal Tartaglione, The Aegis Group at Morgan Stanley.

Santa Energy’s Executive Vice President & CFO Kevin Lloyd (c) and Field Sales Manager Thomas Moore (r) presented a generous donation of $35,000 to Fidelco CEO Eliot Russman.

Cigna’s Communications Director Michael Lo Presti (l) and Executive Vice President & Global CIO Mark Boxer (r) presented $10,000 in donations from Cigna’s online employee awareness campaign.

United Illuminating Community Development Specialist Richard LoPresti presented an $8,600 grant.

Bank of America Bloomfield, CT branch Personal Banker Matt Michaels and Assistant Manager Ronna Voyer presented a $2,500 Bank of America Foundation grant.


Charitable Estate Planning – Benefits to Many There are many ways to support Fidelco in your estate plan and create a legacy gift that will live on. Your tax advisor can help with the options that are right for you.

Planned giving benefits:

Ways to Make a Planned Gift

• Increase your fixed income

Gifts that pay you income: Charitable Gift Annuities or Charitable Remainder Trusts

• Enhance your net estate

Gifts you make today: IRA Rollover, Charitable Lead Trusts or Donor Advised Funds Gifts that benefit Fidelco after your lifetime: Bequests or Beneficiary Designations Put Fidelco in Your Will One of the easiest ways to leave a legacy and support Fidelco forever is to include us in your will. Specify “Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation” in your will (Tax ID: 066060478). There is no immediate cost to you and you will be making a significant impact on Fidelco’s mission.

• Supplement your retirement • Create a personal legacy • Receive tax deductions • Address capital gains tax issues • Provide income to your family • Give at the lowest possible cost

For more information contact Judy Hall, Vice President, Director of Development at 860-243-4050 or

Norma F. Pfriem Foundation Grant Fidelco recently received a $1,000,000 grant from the Norma F. Pfriem Foundation. This grant will be added to a permanent endowment established in 2006 in the name of Norma F. Pfriem. “Fidelco is grateful to be an important part of Ms. Pfriem’s living legacy,” said Eliot D. Russman, Fidelco’s CEO and Executive Director. “This gift serves as a continuation of our joint effort to change the lives of men and women who are blind by providing them with a Fidelco German Shepherd Guide Dog.” Since 2007, the monies from Ms. Pfriem’s endowment have provided for the breeding, training and placement of 10 Successor Guide Dogs with Fidelco clients. They will provide a collective 100 years of dedicated service to clients such as Connecticut native Ross Kirk, who received “Zeva,” his second Fidelco Guide Dog. Norma F. Pfriem and a future Fidelco Guide Dog puppy

FidelcoNews Spring 2013

Ross Kirk and “Zeva”

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Fidelco Takes The Challenge

Fidelco was “up for the challenge” when Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation awarded a $10,000 challenge grant to support Fidelco’s highly successful Watch Me Grow education and youth outreach program. Watch Me Grow teaches kids about the disability of blindness, how guide dogs are trained to assist the blind, responsible dog ownership, and the importance of giving back.

Dave Dumais, center right, and fellow members of the MassMutual Employee Resource Group present a check for $6,000 to Eliot Russman, Fidelco CEO.

Thank you to all challenge grant participants: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, J. Walton Bissell Foundation, Inc., MassMutual Employee Resource Group, Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, Inc., The Hartford Community Engagement Committee, Trans Siberian Orchestra, and William and Alice Mortensen Foundation.

Sandra Caucci, Director of ContractingCT, presents Eliot Russman with a $500 Community Spirit 9/11 Mini Grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. Thanks to Sandra for recommending this award for Fidelco’s Watch Me Grow program.

Calling All Kids Ages 8-12!

Dog Days of Summer Our summer program is designed for the dog lover!

2013 Session Dates June 24-28 July 1-5 July 8–12 July 15–19

July 22–26 July 29-August 2 August 5-9 August 12-16

8 a.m. – noon or noon– 4 p.m.

Children learn about guide dogs, their training and the amazing partnership with men and women who are blind, and experience first-hand the everyday challenges these people face. In addition to guide dogs, children learn about different breeds of dogs and their origins, canine development, puppy raising, basic dog training, health care, grooming and first aid. We take daily visits to the puppy house to play with our youngest guide dog candidates. Children assist in our kennel with feeding and cleaning to help them understand that dogs are fun to have but they also require our care. Many special working canine visitors, such as police K9s, tracking dogs and competition dogs, visit during the week to showcase their special skills.

REGISTER TODAY at before the program sells out again! 8 12

Fleas, Ticks and Mosquitoes– A Year-round Problem

We’ve made it through another typical New England winter with shovels, snow blowers and roof rakes. Did you remember to stay on schedule with your monthly heartworm, tick and flea preventatives? Keeping up with these potentially life-saving medications is critical no matter which season we’re in. HEARTWORM Some people mistakenly assume that heartworm is only a threat in warmer months, since it’s transmitted by mosquitoes. However, mosquitoes are wily creatures and can survive winter in any of their four life stages. Additionally, heartworm preventatives also treat other internal parasites that can flourish year-round, such as roundworm. If your pet was infected during a warmer month, a break in medication gives these worms a chance to flourish to a stage beyond what a simple preventative could treat. Remember, some internal parasites are also infectious to people. That’s not a risk worth taking.

Michael J. Bednar, DVM Director of Animal Medicine at Fidelco

FLEAS & TICKS These hardy pests can also survive harsh winters by remaining dormant, hiding in a warm place or finding a host to feed from (wild or domestic animals.) In fact, flea pupae can remain dormant for over a year! Further, if fleas are swallowed, they can spread tapeworm to your pet. Depending on life stage, ticks take refuge in soil, leaves and other vegetation or on animal hosts. They’re active anytime temperatures are high enough for them to be mobile-even if it’s literally freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit! PREVENTION IS AN ONGOING PROCESS Understanding how preventatives work can give you a clearer picture of why their continued use is so important. Monthly heartworm preventatives work by killing internal parasites your pet already

picked up the month before. Flea and tick preventatives work by repelling or quickly killing hop-along pests for a month into the future. That’s why it’s crucial that you continue these treatments even when the mercury drops. If you skipped any winter months, be sure to get your pet tested this spring and resume treatment right away.

Do you have a topic you would like to see featured in a future column? Email your idea to

Toast to Spring with FidelcoNews Spring 2013

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Annual Open House

& Lions Club Appreciation Day

Saturday, May 4, 2013 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.

• Tours of the Fidelco campus • Puppy, guide dog and law enforcement K9 demonstrations • Experience what it means to “trust the dog” by taking a blindfold walk with a Fidelco Guide Dog • Lions Club Hospitality Suite

2013 EVENTS Check for more information!

Saturday, April 20 – Volunteer Appreciation Day Saturday, May 4 – Annual Open House & Lions Club Appreciation Day Sunday, June 9 – Annual Fundraising Dog Walk, Salem, MA Sunday, July 21 – Ride for Independence Motorcycle Fundraiser June 24 – August 16 – Dog Days of Summer Children’s Program September 2013 – Annual Fundraising Dog Walk, Simsbury, CT Saturday, November 23 and December 7 – Holiday Sale Days EVENT SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE Contact Judy Hall at 860-243-4050


103 Vision Way Bloomfield, CT 06002


Dog Days of Summer Our summer program designed for the dog lover! (see page 12)

Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation  

2013 Spring Newsletter