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John Pimentel & "Victory"

John Pimentel 2

It’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


Life is Better than Ever

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 theCarroll 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.”

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.”

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.”

"I can honestly say that I have a better, more fulfilling life now than I did when I was sighted...I would not be where I am today without Fidelco."