Thursday, July 2, 2015

Newshounds - Guide Dogs for the Blind in the News!

Paws for Independence:

Elko Resident Receives Hearing Dog:

NBC News Channel 3’s “Spirit”: Puppy with a Purpose:

Blind Hiker Trevor Thomas is the Toughest Hiker on The Colorado Trail:

Someone 2 Know – Guide Dog Puppy Raisers:

Portland's KATU News AM Northwest:

Madison High School Students Train Guide Dog Puppies:

National Geographic – Top 5 Service Dogs:

Blind Senior Gets Opportunity of a Lifetime: The Chance to Pursue Her Higher Education Degree:

Puppy Love: FFA Members Train Guide Dogs for the Blind:

Being Blind and Fighting Cancer Didn’t Deter UTSA Graduate:

Guiding Paws in Colfax:

Green Building & Design: Guide Dogs for the Blind New Student Residence:

Texas Today: Meet Malta, Guide Dog in Training:

Paralympic Athletes Celebrate Their Best Friends On International Guide Dog Day:

Woman’s Guide Dog Attacked Inside Convenience Store:

Making Airport Travel a Breeze:

Three New Guide Dog Puppies Join the Local Pack:

GDB Graduate and Perkins School for the Blind teacher Marla Runyan Named 'Hero Among Us' by Boston Celtics:

How to Take the Lead as a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser:

Future Guide Dogs Get Trained at Houston Airport:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Meet GDB Graduate JR Quevedo

When John Ross "JR" Quevedo was in class for the first time to receive his new guide dog, he remembers thinking it was like ballroom dancing. "Working with a guide dog has a lot to do with body positioning and foot work, especially on turns," recalls JR. "As a new handler, I practiced every turn in my room while I was at GDB – I danced every night."

JR smiles while kneeling down with his arm around his guide dog Griff (yellow Lab) in front of a cafe in San Francisco.

JR’s mother had been infected with the Rubella virus while pregnant with him, causing his left eye to be totally blind at birth. At three months old, his right eye was able to be saved through surgery; providing him with minimal vision. "I always enjoyed sketching and doodling as a child, said JR. "I attended a regular public school and in class I was never able to see the notes the teacher wrote on the board, so I would usually copy them during lunch break, where I was inches away from the board. I started sketching on my paper and pretended I was taking notes like the other students during class so I wouldn’t stand out – I guess that helped my path of becoming an artist."

JR's digital illustration of a guide dog team looking out at the moon on top of a hill while under a tree.

JR later attended The Art Institute and Academy of Arts in San Francisco, where he majored in graphic design. He is more of graphic illustrator now, with a passion for typography and visual development through storytelling. "I might be visually impaired, but my imagination and storytelling is very much alive," he said. "I draw on paper where my eye is inches away from where I can literally kiss my artwork. Being a digital artist helps because anything can be zoomed in using a computer. I’m inspired by experiences and what I’m surrounded by - I just love to tell stories through illustrations."

JR holds up a post it with his unique typography that says "Everything is cool when you're part of a team" with his guide dog Griff and the ocean in the background.

While being an artist was a cathartic outlet for JR, he was always searching for something more when it came to his mobility and independence. "I’ve been blessed with great family and friends whom I could always count on to help me get around, but I really wanted to gain my independence," he said. "The cane helped, but I didn't like the stigma I felt with it. After reading examples of how a guide dog team works, that’s when I knew that was the missing piece."

JR's cartoon drawing of a young man with a backpack smiling while walking with his guide dog down a path.

JR came to GDB in January 2015 and said he fondly remembers Dog Day. "Griff was dropped off in my room and that’s when I first saw his energetic and affectionate personality – he jumped and went in for a hug the first time he saw me, that is when I knew we were a perfect match. I missed out getting excited to get my license for the first time and being able to drive a car, but I figure that moment of strolling with my guide at first must be the same. Full of joyous anxiousness!"

Shot looking down at JR's red Puma shoes with Griff's red Ruffwear booties and it between them on the pos-it it reads "We are a match."

Over the course of the two-week training, JR worked primarily with GDB Master Licensed Guide Dog Instructor Paolo Pompanin. "Paolo, was just phenomenal," he said. "He had so much knowledge and patience that helped Griff and me succeed. What I admire most about him and the rest of the team of instructors in my class was the relationship that was built. As class went on it felt like we were all becoming friends that got comfortable with each other through humor. That made learning and being in class a lot of fun. I really bonded with my classmates and gained wisdom from all of them."

JR holds up one of his unique typography notes on a post-it that reads "Who I am with you" - his guide dog Griff sits looking at the camera and behind him overlooks San Francisco.

Upon graduating, JR and Griff returned home to San Francisco as a confident team ready to take on the world. "In the short amount of time having Griff on my left side, I’ve gotten to know San Francisco a lot more, said JR. "That’s weird to say after living in the same city for years, but it shows how much I didn’t really want to be out by myself. I have this new confidence to become more of a risk taker and have more initiative now when I'm outside. There is this sense of security knowing Griff is able to see things that I might have missed. People see how cute and well behaved he is and that has taken the negative annotation out of having a disability.  And the best part – it's just the beginning!"

Sweet photo of Griff looking adoringly at the camera with one of JR's post-its that reads "Can't say love, not without you."

JR said that having Griff has brought so much joy into his life, that sometimes the best ways to express those emotions are through illustrations. Currently a freelance designer and illustrator, he said that all of his social media handle names are URBSTERS (Urban Monsters). "I had a hard time showing my personality when I was younger, because everyone would notice first how my eyes looked," he said. "This is why I love drawing monsters that are bubbly and cute, because normally everyone would just judge them as monster first before getting to know who they really are. I just hope people can see my personality before noticing my disability – Griff and my artwork has been a bridge to that."

Beautiful illustration of a young man sitting next to his guide dog facing the sunset (a large red circle).

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Two Career Girl

When Jim Jordan became a GDB Breeder Custodian for Trinity (raised by Don and Kelli Reiter in Seattle, WA), he knew from the very first moment that she truly was an amazing animal. Trinity retired to be Jim’s family pet after a successful breeder career, which included 23 puppies in five litters, one of which is current GDB male breeder, Jenkins.

Jim is an insulin dependent diabetic and had learned of Dogs4Diabetics when he met a fellow diabetic, Crystal Clearwater, and her medical alert dog, Dela. Knowing what an extraordinarily smart and devoted dog Trinity was, Jim decided that he wanted to try to train Trinity himself! He purchased the book How To Train Your Diabetic Alert Dog by Rita Martinez, CPTD-KA, and immediately began the training process. Trinity learned the basics quickly but when Jim hit some stumbling blocks in the later stages of training, he was able to have a few sessions with the author, Ms. Martinez, who lives in Oakley, Ca. The entire training process took the Jim-Trinity team a total of eight months when Trinity was proudly certified as a medical alert dog in March 2014.

Jim, Trinity (yellow Lab wearing her purple scarf and blue jacket), Don & Kelli from last summer’s Fun Day in CA

Trinity is now constantly at Jim’s side to be able to alert him whether they are awake or asleep if his blood sugar goes either too low or too high. It is a tremendous relief for Jim and his family that his faithful companion is always at his side and on the job. Jim hopes that other diabetics, particularly children, will learn of the Dogs4Diabetics program and the Early Alert Canines program to find a gifted animal like Trinity to help make their lives safer and easier.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

K9 Buddy Dogs and their Families

By: Kathy Featherstone, GDB Dog Placement Coordinator

For the past year, it has been my privilege to coordinate the K9 Buddy Program placements here at Guide Dogs for the Blind. This unique program was established more than a decade ago to partner youth who are visually impaired with a career change dog as a pet companion. I get to spend time with wonderful dogs and match them up with a recipient that may live as far away as Colorado. Unless it’s a local placement, one of our Community Field Representatives (CFRs) will do the home visit and bring the dog to the family when the time arrives. I live vicariously through photographs, emails, and phone calls pre and post adoption. All of our K9 Buddy families are so grateful to the puppy raisers for allowing them the gift of a career change dog with the capacity to enrich the life of their child, their family, and their communities. Katie, whose daughter received K9 Buddy Widget said, “This whole experience with Guide Dogs for the Blind has given us so much joy and hope. When we went to a Puppy Raising class we were overwhelmed at the care and willingness other people had in raising a guide dog puppy. We could not believe the K9 Buddy program was available to us at no cost. The gift of Widget is one that we will never be able to repay all of you for. Just know that whatever part you had in providing this dog for our family, you have made an incredible impact on our lives. We do not take it for granted for one moment and see this as a blessing we will cherish for a long time.”

Here are a few K9 Buddy families who wanted to share their story with all of us:

Bluebell, a four year-old retired guide dog is a calm, sweet natured female black Lab. She was matched with Claire, a young girl in Colorado and her family, consisting of older sister Stella and parents. As mom Marlo explains: “In April of 2014, we met Bluebell for the first time. We felt like we had waited forever for her to arrive. Bluebell makes our family so happy. Claire’s favorite thing about Bluebell is that she is soft, cuddly, cute, and sweet. Claire loves snuggling next to her to read books. Older sister Stella’s favorite thing about Bluebell is that she is playful and always happy. We love that Bluebell greets everyone in the morning. Bluebell walks with us to the bus stop every weekday morning and afternoon; our bus driver always gives her a treat. We love taking her on walks and watching her play in the snow. Even though we don’t think she has ever lived in a snowy place, she just can’t get enough of the snow! Bluebell sleeps calmly every night, well maybe not calmly because she snores. We are so happy that Bluebell is in our lives.”

Young Claire smiles sitting next to Bluebell (black Lab) in the woods with trees in the background.
Claire and Bluebell
Ella, a female Golden Retriever completed a portion of formal guide dog training and was then career changed. She is a very sweet, calm, sensitive-minded girl that loves to please her people and cuddle when the opportunity presents itself. Ella was matched with Sarah, a teenager from Colorado. Sarah’s parents and her younger siblings all wanted a dog in their life. Marianne, Sarah’s mom describes having a K9 Buddy companion: “Owning Ella has really been like adding another kid to our family! It is an adjustment to have another responsibility, but such a blessing to see the love and bonding between the kids and Ella. It is really touching as a mom to see children show love to an animal, and learn to love them by caring for them, and then see that animal show compassion in return! It has really given Sarah a friend that was much needed. Having Ella as Sarah’s K9 Buddy dog has really been so great for teaching Sarah the responsibilities and lifestyle of having a dog. I love that Ella will listen to me when no one else is up to paying attention to me. When I’m lonely, I can talk to her. I love to walk with her; she keeps me company when I go on walks at the park. We all LOVE her. If there is anything our whole family can agree on, it is that our dog is the best and deserves every bit of love we can give her. We LOVE that she is already trained so that all we do is continue to reinforce the training, we did not have to start from scratch. Even if we did, Ella would be more than worth it.”

Sarah and her sister pose with Ella (Golden Retriever) in their yard on the grass.
Sarah and Ella
Gia is a female Golden/Lab cross that also completed a portion of formal guide dog training. Gia is very affectionate, enjoys physical attention, a quiet lifestyle, and staying close to her favorite people. She was matched with Annabelle, an 8 year-old girl who lives in Marin County, CA. It was my pleasure to do the home visit and place Gia with the family. Annabelle says: “My favorite thing about Gia is that she is the cutest dog in the world. She’s very, very nice to me and I just love her. She’s really sweet.” Annabelle’s parents could not be happier with their new addition to the family. Laura, Annabelle’s mom said: “Gia has brought so much love into our family. Annabelle is very proud to have Gia as her K9 Buddy and she became so comfortable with her so quickly. If Annabelle is going through a hard time, she goes to Gia for comfort. Annabelle has expressed interest in having a guide dog when she becomes a teenager, and having Gia is perfect for her now. She enjoys telling people about Guide Dogs for the Blind and about Gia’s special training. Annabelle is outdoors more and exercising more thanks to Gia.” Annabelle agrees, “Gia changed my life, because now we have a dog and now I have much more fun.”

Annabelle poses with Gia on their deck with chairs and beautiful pots in the background.
Annabelle and Gia
Widget, a female yellow Lab completed most of formal guide dog training before becoming career changed. She is sweet, smart, confident and easy going. She was matched with Hallie, an 8 year-old girl living in Colorado. This is an active family that includes two younger brothers ages 6 year-old and 22 months. Katie, Hallie’s mom, writes: “The day we got Widget, Hallie had so much excitement, adrenalin, and anticipation built up on what the experience would be like. After the initial greeting and walk, we gave Widget a tour of our house. Hallie finally got to have a moment to really settle in and sit with Widget. As Widget’s warm body snuggled into Hallie, that’s when she said something like, ‘My anxiety was at 100% but now that Widget is here it’s at 0%. My heart is now 100% full of love instead.’ Widget sleeps on Hallie’s floor each night and will follow Hallie up to her room when she knows it’s getting close to bed time. Hallie drapes her arm over her bed to pet her furry companion as she falls asleep; her room is quiet and calm. Before Widget, this was not the case for bedtime. Hallie has always had a hard time falling asleep and was usually ‘stir-crazy’ at night until about 10:30-11pm. We have tried EVERYTHING to help Hallie; medicine, homeopathic items, music, calming exercises…EVERYTHING.  For the last five nights Hallie has been quiet and sleeping by 8:30. This is a miracle! This extra sleep will only be good for Hallie’s mood and health!!! It is incredible to my husband Adam and I how much work went into this dog. She is so well behaved, listens not only to our commands, but takes direction from both Carter (6 years-old) and Hallie (8 years-old). She’ll seek Hallie out to snuggle. She has seamlessly slid right into our family, only enhancing our lives.”

Hallie lies in Widget's bed with her arm around the adorable yellow Lab (a green plush toy that says "FOREVER" is next to them).
Hallie and Widget
Katie also shared some of Hallie’s comments about Widget, her new best friend:

“Didn’t God make Widget with so much love inside her!?”

“Widget’s heart beams love into mine.”

“When she greets me with her tail wagging it’s like she’s putting fairy sparkles everywhere.”

To Hallie, Widget has filled our home with magic.

Thank you to everyone who contributed some “magic” into these families lives!

To learn more about our K9 Buddy program, please visit: