LAFAYETTE, Ind. — After seven years of dedicated work, Nacho, a 9-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, is retiring.
Nacho has served as a guide dog for 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year winner, Kathy Nimmer.
Nimmer, diagnosed as a child with a degenerative eye disease, was recently recognized for her 30 years of teaching, most of which she spent at Harrison High School in her English classroom.
Even though Nacho is retiring, Nimmer still has future plans with TSC.
“Now, I am the director of a new program that TSC rolled out this year called SEEDS,” Nimmer said. “…It’s a program to help new teachers support new teachers so that they have a good beginning to their career.”
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Nacho and Nimmer were first united in 2015, and Nacho has since accomplished more than the average guide dog.
“Literally, we did 370 presentations in (2015),” Nimmer said. “And he was with me on most of those. So he, in his first year, did more work than most guide dogs would do in, really, a whole career.”
One of the events Nacho accompanied Nimmer to was her acceptance of an award by presenter Dolly Parton. Nacho left a memorable impression on the legendary country music star and philanthropist.
“In 2016, I won an award from the Dollywood Foundation,” Nimmer said, “and we flew down to Dollywood and I was presented with an award by Dolly Parton on the ‘Home & Family’ TV show on the (Hallmark) channel…(Nacho) walked toward Dolly Parton and Dolly had a mini-skirt on.
“And Nacho’s nose was exactly at the height of the bottom of her skirt… She said, ‘Now, don’t get fresh with me, Nacho.’ That was both hysterical and mortifying.”
Now that he’s retired at the age of 9, Nacho is going to live with Nimmer’s parents; keeping him in the family.
“Every blind guide dog handler wants, one time in her life, to have what we think of as the soulmate dog,” Nimmer said. “The dog who is not just competent at the job, but goes deep into a place in our hearts where we are one…Nacho has been that dog for me.
“I knew the minute that I met him that he would be that dog. And, I think going through Teacher of the Year and all of the extras that came in the last seven years of my life – going through those intense experiences with the best dog, not just the best dog that I’ve ever worked with but the best dog I’ve ever met – has been a gift beyond words… I will always carry a part of him with me.”
Beginning on Monday, Nimmer will start training with a new puppy.
“(I’ll be) matched with my fifth dog,” Nimmer said, “and I’ll be out there for two weeks training. On the first day you’re there, you actually do a test-walk with the dog that they have selected so that the trainers can make sure that it is right for you. There’s a whole pre-process of application and evaluation.
“…It’ll be a two-week intensive small class, four students only. I will be the only one who’s returning for a successor dog…We’ll do a lot of walking in neighborhoods, cities, escalators, revolving doors, buildings, just everything that is possible.”
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.