Summerlin resident Skye Dunfield and her guide dog, Cindi, are going places – literally and figuratively! The inseparable duo loves to travel all over the country, hike at Mt. Charleston, and they have a summer camping trip in the works.
Dunfield, who just graduated from UNLV with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, was the recipient of the Edwin Sutherland Award for most outstanding undergraduate student in the Criminal Justice program. This fall, she will start working on her master’s degree of Emergency and Crisis Management at UNLV, with the goal of developing emergency response plans for communities, companies, and individuals – with special focus on plans for special populations that require adaptations – special populations like those who are legally blind like Skye. Never one to rest on her laurels, Dunfield is working on a series of Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) certificates through independent study this summer.
Dunfield, a native of Canada, has lived in Las Vegas most of her life. She and her family moved to Summerlin in 2021 and have since fallen in love with the community. Dunfield especially appreciates the easy access to buses and the community’s beautiful, well-kept parks. “Cindi and I love walking around Downtown Summerlin. In Summerlin, I feel safe. As a blind young woman, I have to be careful where I walk by myself, and I feel comfortable here.”
Dunfield was born legally blind and was diagnosed with Achromatopsia when she was 14. “I actually feel very fortunate that I was born blind,” said Dunfield, explaining that it can be very difficult to lose vision over time. “In my case, I grew up learning how to adapt and live comfortably with my visual impairment. I feel like my blindness has really helped me to grow into the person I am today. Blindness is just another factor of a normal life to me.”
Cindi is a seven-year-old silver standard poodle trained by a nonprofit in Palm Desert called Guide Dogs of the Desert. According to Dunfield, Cindi takes her job very seriously, stopping at curbs, steps and weaving her around people and obstacles – ensuring she gets safely from Point A to Point B.
“Cindi’s most important task, however, is called intelligent disobedience,” she said. This is where a guide dog refuses a command because the dog knows it would be unsafe to follow. “Cindi has saved me several times from cars making illegal turns or running red lights,” said Dunfield. “When I tell Cindi to cross the street, she will refuse if she sees a car coming. I owe a lot to this special dog. She has been with me through my entire undergrad career and walked the UNLV stage with me this May.”
Dunfield emphasized that Cindi gets plenty of down time to just be a dog. “She truly loves her job, but I make sure she has plenty of time to nap, bask in the sun, play with squeaky toys and enjoy belly rubs.”
So next time you see Dunfield and Cindi walking through Downtown Summerlin, be sure to say hi to this remarkable and accomplished young woman and her hard-working partner!