Bachelor's Degree, Master's Degree—Doctorate?
"My dog gives me the means to get where I want to go. It's all about the confidence," says Sindy Puckett with a wide smile. It was with confidence and her head held high that Sindy crossed the stage at Southeast Missouri State University to receive her diploma and become the first legally blind person to earn a master's degree from the university. But she shares credit for her accomplishment with her first Leader Dog, Eleanor. "Without Eleanor I wouldn't have gone for my master's degree. There were many street crossings that I wouldn't want to do alone at night on campus."
Shortly after graduation Sindy faced the hard task of deciding if it was time for Eleanor to retire, a decision that was made easier because Leader Dog was there to help. "Barb [my coordinator] was there with me step-by-step through my decision to retire Eleanor." Before returning to Michigan to train with a new dog, Sindy took great care to find a good home for Eleanor with people who would love and care for her. The fact that there were other dogs for Eleanor to play with was a bonus.
Sindy readily admits that she wasn't the only family member anxious for her to return to Leader Dog. "My mom couldn't wait for me to get my second dog," she laughs, "She even said, 'Now I can get my freedom back.' With my dog I don't have to ask for much assistance. My family says they often forget that I can't see." However, after Eleanor's retirement and before her return to Leader Dog, Sindy was more dependent on her mother than she had been in years.
Having already earned an undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism and her master's in English, Sindy has set a goal of earning a doctorate degree and becoming a teacher, a goal that she has had for many years. "My second grade teacher wouldn't let me quit. That's why I want to be a teacher. I can do more than teach English; I can show the students how to empower themselves."