Tuesday, July 15, 2014

20th Annual Guide Dog Puppy Travel Day!

By: GDB Puppy Raising Leader Pat Whitehead

What began 20 years ago when a GDB Teen Leader wanted to do "something different and invite everybody" has evolved into an annual excursion for the Pacific Southwest area. With the sincerely appreciated cooperation of both MetroLink and MetroRail as well as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, guide dog puppy raisers, their families, and potential raiser families enjoyed a day "riding the rails" to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Then, a short walk took everyone to the El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, otherwise known as Olvera Street. After a welcome and group photo, participants enjoyed visiting friends, finding littermates, sightseeing, shopping, enjoying the native dancers, and a delicious lunch before making the return trip home. All appreciated the work of L. A. Southwest Guide Dog raisers in facilitating this annual event. People also looked forward to having time for those special tips from GDB Community Field Representative (CFR) Rick Wilcox.

Participating groups this year included: Antelope Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers; BAARK; Diamonds in the Ruff; Glendale Pups to Partners; High Desert Guide Dog Puppy Raisers; Los Angeles Southwest Guide Dog Raisers; North Orange County Puppies to Partners; PRIDE; South Bay Guide Dog Puppy Raisers; South Orange County Paws for Independence; VIP3; Yuma Guide Dog Puppy Raisers. Thank you, all!

Puppy raisers pose on the sidewalk with their guide dogs puppies (one yellow and three black Lab).

A puppy raiser gives one of her cards to someone interested in GDB as her yellow Lab sits calmly at her side.

Two puppy raisers kneel down posing with their yellow Lab guide dog puppy.

Puppy raisers with a black Lab and golden Retriever puppy stand near the signs that say "To Union Station West" the floor is a colorful intricate pattern and the mural above is of children of different ethnicities.

Big group photos of puppy raisers with their guide dog puppies on steps - beautiful sunny day with palms in the background.

Puppy raisers pose in front of the MetroLink train.

A yellow Lab puppy looks up at the camera while tucked under the seat on the train.

Two Golden Retriever guide dog puppies and one Yellow Lab on an elevator.

Puppy raisers with a black Lab and golden Retriever puppy stand near the signs that say "To Union Station West" the floor is a colorful intricate pattern and the mural above is of children of different ethnicities.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


The Greatest Paws on Earth (Utah Alumni Chapter) recently hosted an appreciation breakfast for all the awesome GDB puppy raisers in northern Utah. The event was held at the home of Chapter President, Scott Wilcock and his guide, Senator in Harrisville, Utah. There were nearly 30 dogs and more than 50 people in attendance. 

It was a beautiful and cool summer morning in northern Utah when all the two and four-legged invitees began arriving for the breakfast. A distinct aroma of blueberry pancakes and sausage permeated the entire house as steam billowed from the camp-chef griddle in the backyard. The guests made their way through the house to open back doors where the savory odor was coming from. 
To complement the pancakes and sausage which were donated by the Harrisville Walmart; the buffet table also offered bacon, egg & cheese bagel sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, blueberry and chocolate chip muffins, bananas and fresh fruit kabobs. With plates full of goodies in one hand and leashes in the other, attendees made their way to one of eight tables that were covered with bright blue tablecloths. The group enjoyed the good food and good conversation while the canines enjoyed being together and chillaxing in the shade provided by several canopies which were set up over the tables. The inviting, cool, green grass was a welcome reprieve for the working dogs and guide dog puppies in training. There were also a few retired guides and career change dogs in attendance and they all seemed to enjoy the companionship of other animals that devote their lives to helping and serving humans who need their help.

Tables and tents set up in a beautiful green backyard on a sunny day with people and dogs hanging out in the shade.
After breakfast and while some were working on seconds and thirds, GDB instructor Danielle Alvarado shared a few words with the group and focused on important training elements for the puppy raisers to work on. She answered questions from both the handlers and the puppy raisers.  Before and after her talk, she spent a lot of time, one-on-on, with many of the attendees addressing individual questions and offering suggestions. Danielle’s participation was a key component of the over-all success of the event.

After Danielle’s presentation, eight names of puppy raisers were drawn and door prizes were awarded. Thanks to GDB for the logo items they provided and the guide dog handlers who provided several $20 and $30 gift cards to Petco. After the door prizes, Scott Wilcock presented each of the puppy raiser groups with 30 custom made tee shirts, which were donated by the Utah alumni of GDB, for each of the puppy raisers who provide countless hours and resources of their own to raise these amazing dogs! The shirts were lime green with dark purple print on the front left chest – a block that read “GDB UTAH” and on the back a large GDB logo illustrated by the guide dog team walking and a large bold statement underneath the logo which reads “PRIDE IN PAWS” with the word “in” reversed out inside of a dog paw print. Everyone loved the shirts and Scott also presented a shirt to Danielle for her to take back to San Rafael.

One of the blue tents in the backyard with people eating their food and dogs lying under the tables.

The entire morning was a lot of fun for all who participated and no one left the event feeling hungry. Good information was shared and extreme gratitude was expressed to the puppy raisers for the awesome labor of love provided each and every day. There were even a couple of romances that seemed to blossom during the event; Butch, a yellow Lab and Daniel, a black Lab seemed to take a keen interest in each other and can’t wait for the next get-together!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Five Reasons to Take a Guide Dog to College with You

By: Jake Koch, GDB graduate and alumni representative

There are many reasons why a guide dog makes a great travel companion both in college and in life. Here are five good reasons:

1. Travel benefits
Most colleges and universities are relatively large, sprawling and beautiful places; complete with winding sidewalks and often unidentifiable tactual landmarks. The physical layout of the modern campus is spreading outside the box. A guide dog is trained to assist a blind or visually impaired person in achieving safe and efficient travel. Guide dogs can be taught to stop at specific entrances to buildings, or intersections of sidewalks. In addition, guide dogs, by virtue of their training lead a blind or visually impaired person in a straight line. These two important attributes increase efficiency in travel, and reduce confusion for a person who is blind or visually impaired.

2. You will soon become one of the most popular and easily recognized students on campus 
It is hard to stand out amongst 10,000 plus students. However, a person traveling with a guide dog has a significant positive advantage. Many people love dogs, and guide dogs are no exception. Embrace the attention; a guide dog is a great icebreaker! I suggest answering 2-3 guide dog specific questions, then say something like “do you have dogs at home?” People really enjoy talking about their lives, and are often happy to tell you about their animals or experiences. Giving the other person an opportunity to talk about a common subject with a blind or visually impaired guide dog handler will reduce their reservations about talking with that person.

Jake wears his backpack and walks on campus with his guide Angelina (yellow Lab)

3. Confidence breeds confidence
Many of our graduates tell us that a guide dog increases their confidence significantly. If a guide dog brings confidence in travel, it’s likely that a person who is blind or visually impaired will be more confident as well.

4. A guide dog is the best roommate ever 
Most college students either live in a dorm room, or an apartment close to campus. Both options usually contain roommates that you may or may not see eye-to-eye with. Simply put, a guide dog is the best roommate ever! A guide dog won’t steal your food, make a mess of your living space or bring a bunch of crazy friends over to hang out at 3 A.M.

5. Your guide dog can help you get involved with student activities both on and off campus
You as a blind or visually impaired person have learned to get around campus and have met a few of your classmates. Now you want to get involved with some student activities. If you can navigate your college campus, you can get around just about anywhere, and that is exciting! You are free to come and go as you please, and your guide dog will help you get to and from your destination. Everybody wants to hang out with the awesome student with the cool dog; so round up some of your new found friends and go on an adventure.

Jake smiles and puts his arm around his guide Angelina (yellow Lab) with rocks and green plants in the background.

Even though the challenge of college/university life may be daunting, having a guide dog by your side makes the experience that much better. One thing is for certain, a guide dog may not be able to do your homework for you, but he or she certainly won’t eat it either! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

GDB Fun Day in San Diego!

By: Juliet Cody, San Diego Surf Dogs Alumni Chapter President

Finally the weather report said we are going to get rain – something we have been longing for in Southern California for a while. However, GDB Fun Day in San Diego was going to take place that Saturday, so I’m sure the GDB puppy raisers, guide-dog/ handler teams, and all the new little puppies were hoping the rain would stop before then.

It rained hard all night, but when my guide-dog Jura woke me up early to eat her breakfast, the rain had stopped. “Good,” I thought to myself…but, when I opened the back door to relieve her, I felt a blast of cold wind and the yard was soaked. As I was getting ready and sipping my coffee I thought, “I hope it warms up and it doesn’t rain” – the puppy raisers had worked so hard on the preparations for this special day.

By the time everyone got to The South Oceanside Elementary School, where the event was held, the day began to blossom. The Fun Day kicked off with Starbucks’ coffee and breakfast snacks as another beautiful day in paradise had begun. The sun came out, and more folks and puppies were popping in – puppy raisers had wasted no time in getting the word out! Some had their guide dog puppies, while others had career change dogs. Pat Salzarulo, a puppy raiser from San Diego, was there with her career change dog Cabo who is now a therapy dog. He works at the court houses in San Diego and his job is to sit at the stand with the children who are testifying in front of the judge and jury. Cabo’s presence helps to calm the children, so that they can give their testimony. Along with Cabo, Pat brought her new yellow Lab puppy in training, Sabrina. Guide-dog/handler teams from our GDB Alumni Chapter – San Diego Surf Dogs were there: showing off their beautiful guides, displaying electronics for the blind, and making braille name tags for donations to help the clubs. The Oceanside Police were also there with their rescue dog, an intelligent German Sheppard who was demonstrating his important job.

The Puppy Clubs from San Diego, Temecula, and Orange County held an auction and brought an array of gorgeous baskets, ceramics, paintings and homemade doggy beds! After a yummy lunch, it was the main event – the distribution of the new guide dog puppies. The GDB Puppy Truck with seven puppies arrived and everyone gathered. GDB Community Field Representative Rick Wilcox began announcing the puppy raisers’ names and introduced the puppy they would be receiving. And yes, the puppies were adorable and it was so exciting! I saw at first hand the joy, instant love, strong dedication, and the solid bond between the raisers and the puppies. 

Big group photo of everyone and their puppies/dogs in front of the GDB Puppy Truck
Big group photo of everyone and their puppies/dogs in front of the GDB Puppy Truck
Sharing this time with our puppy raisers exposed me to a clearer vision of what GDB is all about: the giving and taking, the donations that run the program, the puppy raisers that play such a major role, and the guide dog handlers who are able to expand their life to new challenges – we are all playing an important role in crucial situations and the rewards are endless.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Newshounds: Guide Dogs for the Blind in the News!

Real Simple Feature: The Intrepid (Mommies with Guides)  – http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/life-strategies/seeing-impaired-mothers-group-00100000119851/

The BARk magazine: Guide Dogs for the Blind's Training Methods –  http://thebark.com/content/guide-dogs-blind

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences/The Oscars Video "There's Not Much To See: How Blind People Enjoy Movies" Featuring GDB Graduate Melissa Hudson – https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/photo.php?v=10152174401071406&fref=nf

Bay Area Guide Dog Puppy Raisers Club: Information Video – http://vimeo.com/89060824

GDB graduate and U.S. Paralympic Skier Danelle Umstead – http://www.ksl.com/?sid=28752409&nid=

GDB Guide Dog Puppy Leanne AT&T Commercial – http://www.business.att.com/content/speeches/day-in-the-life.mp4

Guide Dog Glendale Wins Purple Paw Award – http://www.greatfallstribune.com/media/cinematic/video/7868537/guide-dog-wins-purple-paw-award/

Past GDB graduate Kristina Blum on the Katie Couric Show (first legally blind contestant with the genetic condition albinism to compete in the Miss California USA Pageant and ended up winning the Miss Congeniality Award) – http://katiecouric.com/videos/woman-with-albinism-redefines-beauty/

GDB Career Change Dog is Now a Certified Hearing Dog Helping Cedar Point Woman Find Freedom – http://www.jdnews.com/features/neighbors/new-leash-on-life-1.288761

Saying Goodbye to Tiki: Eighth Grader Max Angel Raises His First Guide Dog Puppy – http://ktvl.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/ktvl_vid_12386.shtml

Residents in Portland Metro Area and Surrounding Regions Benefit from New Partnership – http://www.dovelewis.org/news-events/media-releases/residents-in-portland-metro-area-and-surrounding-regions-benefit-from-new/8336

GDB graduate Nancy Stevens featured in Ruffwear’s Video “My Dog is My” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep8daoZQVwY

Five Houston Area Families Train Future Guide Dogs – http://www.khou.com/community/5-Houston-area-families-train-future-guide-dogs-246471491.html

GDB Career Change Dog Pauletta is Now a Therapy Dog –  http://www.news10.net/story/news/nation/2014/03/18/how-a-dog-is-making-a-big-difference-in-a-second-career-at-a-hospital/6566637/

Silicon Valley Bank and Guide Dogs for the Blind Team Up – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v-7JjPO4j8

GDB graduate Nancy Shugart’s TED Talk “Be the One to make it Happen” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9QghVlreno

GDB Career Change Dog Pesto Now a Therapy Dog Who Helped Change the Lives of Two Brothers – http://www.9news.com/rss/story.aspx?storyid=378728

South County Safari Featuring the O.C. Coastal Puppy Raisers – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRlKTZixtT4&feature=share

GDB’s Collaboration with DoveLewis: Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT) – http://www.oregonlive.com/forest-grove/index.ssf/2014/02/bridge_to_independence_therapy.html

GDB graduate Wayne Heidle Gives Inspiring Lecture with Guide Dog Poncho  – http://optometryadmissions.com/2014/03/06/pre-optometry-students-inspired-by-low-vision-rehab-assistant-professor-wayne-heidle/

GDB Program Dog Teton is a Newly Trained Therapy Dog Working with Veterans – http://www.garthstein.com/news/index.php#45

Volunteers Play Critical Role in Helping Train Service Dogs – http://tdn.com/news/local/volunteers-play-critical-role-in-helping-train-service-dogs/article_e62c1620-b7ce-11e3-a279-001a4bcf887a.html