Ingrid Sweeney

Growing up on a farm in Canada where my parents raised cattle on a small organic scale, animals were always part of my immediate environment. Playing piano and violin became part of the fabric when I was 4 years old.

A few years later I was fortunate enough to come to live in Salzburg, Austria, where I attended high school and simultaneously the Mozarteum University of Music. There I studied with some of the great artists of our time such as Sandor Vegh and Ruggiero Ricci. After my Master studies in Vienna I was awarded a two year Fulbright scholarship at Yale University in Connecticut, USA, where successes came as founding member of a piano-clarinet quartet, winning national and international competitions. I’ve always played chamber music, a musical discipline in which cooperation and the give and take of teamwork are essential.

Many years later I ended up in Vienna. I lived the dream of traveling all over the world with great musicians for many years. At some point I developed a chronic condition that ended my concert career.

Thinking about my future trajectory, I was strongly attracted to Service Dog- and Guide Dog training. I had experience as a puppy raiser for the IGDF school “Guiding Eyes for the Blind” in New York. I connected with Maria Gerstmann, an iconic figure in the field and also the proprietor of the only International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) certified training school in Austria, who accepted me into her three year apprentice program. Under her mentorship, I was able to train my own two dogs to become fully government certified service dogs.

Subsequently Maria and I formed „Independence Dogs Austria“ in 2020, in order to carry forward her legacy, to give support to assistance dog teams and to provide an open space offering support, collaboration and learning for everyone in the service dog community.

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