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Four Leader Dog instructors, three women and one man, sit with legs outstretched on the floor in a hallway. Beside each one of them is a lab or golden retriever in harness

Meet the Guide Dog Team

Our guide dog mobility instructors (GDMI) are committed to helping each of our dogs reach their potential and finding the best match for each client. Their years of experience and passion for what they do mean that each guide dog client will receive thorough training that is personalized to your environment, experience and future plans. Here are some of the dedicated individuals who make our guide dog program a success.

Meredith smiles while kneeling next to a chocolate lab in a black bandanna. Meredith has shoulder-length brown hair and is wearing a purple jacket with the Leader Dog logo.

Meredith received her bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in animal sciences and her master's degree in orientation and mobility from University of Kentucky. After helping her friend raise a puppy in college, she decided to pursue working at Leader Dog as a career. During her time working here, she has learned far more than she could have imagined and still loves seeing clients get excited about their new form of mobility. At home, she has a chocolate lab named Emmit, who is a Leader Dog Ambassador Dog, a career changed dog, Merlin, and two cats, Norbert and Grindelwald (named after Harry Potter characters). She loves hiking, camping and reading when she isn’t busy at work.

Smiling woman with long brown hair kneels outdoors on sidewalk, hugging golden retriever seated next to her.Beth started working at Leader Dog in 2019 as a vet tech assistant. She began her GDMI apprenticeship in fall of 2021. Her dad was a guide dog client in 1991 and received Leader Dog Remmington. That was her first Leader Dog experience and the reason she found herself wanting to be a part of this organization. Walking with her dad and Remmington in downtown Chicago on his way to work every day was an experience she’ll never forget. She graduated from Central Michigan University in 2015 for therapeutic recreation with a minor in American Sign Language and then from Oakland Community College in 2018 for sign language interpreting. When she’s not at work, Beth is usually watching movies, playing video games or hunting down a new board game to add to her collection.

Sarah, a woman with shoulder length brown hair, smiles and crouches next to a golden retriever sitting with its mouth openSarah Duyck is a guide dog mobility instructor on the DeafBlind and Adaptive Services team at Leader Dogs for the Blind. Sarah has been involved with Leader Dog since high school, raising five Future Leader Dogs with her family. She has worked at Leader Dog in the role of GDMI since 2013. She also hosts Ambassador Dog Vader. Sarah has a bachelor's degree in sign language studies from Madonna University, a master's degree in orientation and mobility from the University of Kentucky, and she is a certified American Sign Language interpreter. Sarah enjoys taking advantage of the many hiking trails, rivers and lakes in her community and loves getting to experience many different parts of the world when traveling to visit Leader Dog clients.

Dark-haired woman smiles while kneeling next to a yellow lab in Leader Dog harness sitting next to her. She is wearing a teal shirt with the Leader Dog logo and jeans.

Tina started her career working with animals at an animal shelter for 10 years before starting her career path at Leader Dogs for the Blind in 2008 in the canine center. In 2014, Tina began her journey to become a guide dog mobility instructor, then became a training team supervisor and is now manager of training. Tina has a strong passion for helping both people and dogs. She always says, “Working at Leader Dogs is the best of both worlds!” Tina lives with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, along with their two cats and black lab, Violet, who is a career changed Leader Dog. In her free time, Tina enjoys camping and vacationing with her family and friends, doing yoga, and spending time outside in nature.

Headshot of Phil Griffin

During a summer of 1990, Phil Griffin found himself applying to be a member of the dog care team here at Leader Dog while finishing school. What started out as “just a job” became a 30-year-long career. It all just happened by chance when he was approached with a GDMI apprenticeship opportunity. By 1994 things were official and Phil had fallen in love with the job. Seeing the clients get paired with their dogs and watching their success inspires him as an instructor. When he’s not working, Phil likes to spend his time in nature, camping, fishing and hunting along with motorcycle trail riding.

Smiling dark-haired woman holding black lab puppy close to her face.Anu has been a longtime volunteer and puppy raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind. Prior to joining the organization as an apprentice GDMI, she was a nonprofit program coordinator specializing in social emotional learning for youth in Detroit. In her spare time you can find her at the barn with her horses and dogs.

Alyssa, a woman with long dark brown hair, smiles and kneels next to a yellow lab in a green vest that says leaderdog.org on the frost. Alyssa is wearing a maroon blouse and black pants.Alyssa Otis has been with Leader Dog since 2012 after graduating from Central Michigan University with a major in psychology and minor in American Sign Language. Alyssa had known that she wanted to work at Leader Dog since middle school, when she was given an impromptu tour of the facility. She began her time at Leader Dog in the training department as an apprentice guide dog mobility instructor. She worked in the training department for 10 years before moving to the marketing department as an outreach specialist. She loves that she is now able to use all the knowledge and skills learned as a GDMI to help her in her current role.

In her spare time, Alyssa and her husband enjoy going camping, spending time outdoors and playing with their 12 pound shih tzu Bella.

Carrie Pryce was driving home from work one day when she heard a public service announcement for Leader Dog's puppy raisers. She went home and told her husband about the opportunity and a week later they had a puppy in their home. Together they have raised six dogs, hosted two female breeding stock moms and are currently hosting a male breeding stock dog. In 1998, Carrie became more than a volunteer when she began working in the puppy development department here at Leader Dog. Not long after, she decided to become a GDMI. She learns something new every day from each dog and client. Born and raised in Michigan, Carrie lives in the area with her husband, their two retired Leader Dogs, and their cat.

Kate stands outdoors in front of a fence holding a yellow Labrador/golden retriever cross puppy. She is smiling
GDMI Kate with Future Leader Dog Legacy, who she helped to raise.

Kate Roberts has been with Leader Dogs for the Blind since 2012. She is originally from Iowa and moved to Michigan when she received the guide dog mobility apprenticeship position. Kate is now a guide dog mobility instructor and the supervisor of the DeafBlind and Adaptive Services team. She has a master's degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling from the University of Iowa. Throughout her college education, Kate worked at a dog daycare and boarding facility, and she was seeking a way to combine her passions for working with canines and humans. Working for Leader Dog has allowed her to explore both these passions. When not working, Kate likes to cook, do CrossFit, and puppy raise for Leader Dogs. Her first two puppies that she raised are working with clients in Michigan.

Emily, a woman with blond hair in a ponytail, wearing a blue jacket with the Leader Dog logo, red pants, and a winter hat, smiles while sitting on a trolley next to a golden retriever sitting between her legs.

Emily Sharp received her bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University in English. She is a guide dog mobility instructor and a certified service dog trainer. Emily has a passion for working with both people and animals, and her work at Leader Dog perfectly combines the two. Emily most enjoys getting to be creative and adapting our training to meet the needs of each client and dog team. Outside of work, Emily and her husband own and operate a small construction company. Emily is also an avid equestrian, loves tending to her gardens, and enjoys bird watching. Most of Emily's time nowadays is spent chasing around her 3-year old son and entertaining her dog, Waylon.   

A smiling woman with brown hair kneels next to a yellow lab in a Leader Dog harness. Lauren is wearing a black sleeveless shirt with the Leader Dog logo.

Lauren's degree is in animal science from Ohio State. She grew up with pet dogs and wanted to pursue a career connecting with people through animals. Throughout college, she worked with wildlife and exotic animals, providing everything from husbandry to medical care. 

After college Lauren worked with individuals with autism, developing their independence, and then at a veterinary clinic. While working in the vet clinic, she realized she loved discussing training with new pet owners and decided to finally pursue a career in guide dogs. 

Lauren and her husband have two dogs, Lilly and Moose, a turtle named Max and occasionally a rehome Leader Dog in training. When not working, Lauren enjoys hammocking with a book, plants, making ceramics and travel.

Mara, a woman with long brown hair, smiles while holding a yellow lab puppy close to her faceMara began working at Leader Dog in 2022 as an apprentice GDMI. With a passion for nonprofit work and a bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language Interpreting Studies from Madonna University, she found her fit on the DeafBlind and Adaptive Services Team here at Leader Dog. Since 2005, Mara and her family have hosted two Leader Dog breeding moms (Sami [’18 deceased] and Yoshi [’23 retiree]), thus establishing her connection to the organization. Outside of Leader Dog, Mara enjoys time with loved ones, reading, writing, listening to music, physical activities and exploring nature. She also volunteers her time interpreting at various churches on the weekends.

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