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Xavier Magazine | June 26, 2017

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Profile: Cynthia J. Alby

Profile: Cynthia J. Alby
By France Griggs Sloat

Old Times | She was previously chair of the department of education at Macon State College, while simultaneously teaching Latin and Greek culture and supervising student teachers at the University of Georgia.

Fun Times | “I think I’m just an extremely curious person. Learning is so enjoyable to me that anything involving learning more about something is my idea of fun. I wasn’t at the top of my high school class, and I’m not sure I had a real passion for learning back then. I give most of the credit to my professors at Xavier.”

Spare Times | She also raises guide dogs for the blind.

Going To The Dogs | Some friends who work with blind people told her she would be good at training the dogs. “I thought, ‘I could have a dog at work with me.’ So I applied. They checked me out, taught me what I need to know and soon I had a dog at the office.”

Pricey Pooch | The dogs, all Labrador retrievers, are worth about $10,000 each after they’re trained.

The Dogfather | Her first dog carried a classic Italian Mafia name: Don Ciccio. “He was just the sweetest thing ever,” she says. When she taught, he went into classrooms and would lie on the floor and sleep or chew on a bone.

Double Exposure | Taking the dog to work and having it around students, she says, not only helps the dog, but promotes the concept of inclusion of all people, even those with disabilities.

Educating Rover | She works with the dog about 10 minutes a day, teaching it commands. The dog goes with her everywhere, though, and she exposes it to as many different, and scary, situations as possible: airports, buses, crowds.

No Dogs Allowed | Sometimes, business owners object, but most people are helpful. The dogs wear a vest identifying the organization, and she carries a card to show nervous owners.

Dog Day | The hardest part is ending the training after 18 months. “Saying goodbye to Don Ciccio was really hard. When I saw that van coming, I burst into tears. But he’s just a happy dog. I told him to get into the van. He had no idea. He’s a dog that loves to serve. I picture him changing someone’s life, leading a blind person, and I feel so much pride.”

New Pup | She recently got a new 8-week-old puppy, a female yellow lab named Fiesta.

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