Wednesday, December 31, 2008

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays!

As we head off to ring in the New Year with our friends and families, we've been gripped in the throes of a crisis that finally, thankfully, has a happy ending.

Argos, an 11-month-old yellow Lab Guide Dog puppy got separated from his vacationing raiser family in New Mexico last Friday. Word had it that some local youths were seen with the dog. After the authorities and the media were notified, the hunt began. Much to everyone's joy, the dog was finally returned unharmed.

photo of Argos in his green puppy jacket
If you heard a howling sound, it was just the collective sigh of relief from all of us here at GDB. We're so glad Argos is home, safe and sound, and we know his raisers are, too!

Give all of your dogs and pups an extra hug from us! We wish you peace and prosperity in the New Year – from all your friends at Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Story Wall, Part 1

We are SO EXCITED about our new mural in the Volunteer/Visitor Center on our California campus. The mural will depict a mom and her sleeping puppies beneath a tree. While the little ones snooze, the mom thinks of their future (socialization, puppy raising, training, and guiding). Our hope is that the mural will inspire viewers to also think of the career-cycle of our puppies when they visit them in our kennels as part of their tour.

Our muralist is Michelle Imbach of Napa, California. Her dad, Mike, is assisting her with the background. You can check out more of her work at http://www.michelleimbach.com.

Very special thanks to our wonderful puppy socializing volunteer and long-time supporter, Wally Smith, who funded the project to honor the memory of Panda, her adopted retired Guide Dog.

Michelle working with her father on the sky on day 1:

Michelle working with her father on the sky
And overnight a tree has grown! Michelle adds the mama dog beneath the tree, day 2:

Michelle painting a dog onto the wall
Stay tuned for more photos as the project continues!

Monday, December 8, 2008

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello!

Photo of yellow lab Prizzi on her back as she is petted on her tummy
It's off to new adventures for our dogs and puppies just in time for the holidays as the Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Truck travels to Washington State. Watch this heartwarming 2 1/2-minute video from King TV.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Update from Franco to mom

Remember our 'F' litter pups? Here's an update from one of them, Franco, to his mom, now-retired breeder Christine.

Hello Mama,

What a month! I've been very busy traveling and meeting people. I have been a handsome ambassador for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

I have been traveling almost all month. I have only been home at my puppy raiser family's house for five whole days this month. The first part of November I flew to southern California and was totally pampered. The last part of November I drove to Montana and went hiking along the Continental Divide. I've seen the Pacific Ocean and the headwaters of Missouri River which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. I met a young infant and visited a spry 101-year-old man. America is a beautiful country even when it snows on you. It doesn't matter whether you are driving or flying, America is a big diverse and beautiful country.

Puppy Franco pictured seated by a swimming pool

Franco seated in the snow


You asked me how my training was going. I have almost all 12 of my commands down pat. I can go from a down to a sit and I am also working on a stand from a sit. Those are tricky, but I am sure that I am going to get them soon. My stay is not that solid yet but you wait and I will get that too. While I was in California we weren't able to make it back to the house we were staying at because of the fires there so I slept on my tie down. It was the first time that I slept all night out of my crate. I did really well.

With love and licks,
Franco

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GDB career change dogs at work

Over the past few months, several career change dogs, staff and volunteers from Guide Dogs have been volunteering with the Pine Street Foundation to help with a study designed to determine whether dogs can perform the early detection of ovarian cancer. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, tune in to KQED-TV (PBS / Comcast 709 - SF) at 7:30 to an episode of Quest titled, "Fido Fights Cancer." The segment is also available here on the PBS website.

GDB dogs that initially tried out to take part in the study included: Beauty, Bella, Chapin, Collins, Freeman, Ida, Jack, Tessy, Tibbs, and Trevino. All of the five dogs selected for the study are from GDB stock, including Freeman (a retired breeder), and career change dogs: Tessy, Tibbs and Collins. GDB staff members Kathy O'Brien and Rebecca Hornick are the trainers interviewed. Read more about the study at the Pine Street Foundation website.

A yellow lab career change dog from Guide Dogs during her scent detection training

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Raising Awareness of Guide Dogs

Read how the folks at Cal State Fullerton University honored Guide Dogs day here.

We'd also like to honor the puppy raisers who assisted Guide Dogs of America in caring for 69 dogs that were evacuated from their campus during the recent fires in Sylmar, California. All are okay, although we hear it was a harrowing time, with 70 mile an hour winds and fires consuming a mobile home park and portions of a nearby hospital. Kudos to all who helped out during this time of need.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Guide Dog Day Proclamation

Guide dogs play a critical role in the lives of Californians who are legally blind. By providing invaluable assistance, these unique animals allow many to live safely and with greater confidence.

The State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind works to ensure that guide dog schools and trainers are properly licensed and qualified, and also that dog handlers are taught how to work with their canines. The high standards of the Board help to create a safe environment for the guide dogs, their handlers and the general
public.

It is important that we remember that guide dogs are working animals. We should always ask handlers if we can pet their companion beforehand and be aware of laws that allow service animals in public places.

Many people are able to enjoy life more fully because of the assistance that a guide dog provides. I extend my gratitude to all those who have dedicated themselves to this noble cause, and I encourage all Californians to do their part to support those who are legally blind and the four-legged friends who serve them.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, do hereby proclaim November 18, 2008, as "Guide Dog Day."

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 4th day of November 2008.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
Governor of California

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Day for the Dogs

[Note from the editor:

People often ask, "What happens to the dogs who don't make it as Guide Dogs?" At GDB, we refer to them as Career Change dogs, because they play an important role in people's lives, no matter what path they take. Whether they continue to live in the homes of their puppy raisers or are placed in adoptive homes, many go on to other careers helping people. To learn more about them, visit www.guidedogs.com/adopt.

Recently, a group of Career Change dogs and their people had a wonderful get-together in Portland, Oregon.]

A Celebration of Family
by Megan Minkiewicz

Imagine, if you will, 150 dog roaming the halls of a public museum exhibit all demonstrating the wonderful social skills of GDB program dogs, and you have an idea of the vibe at the first-ever GDB Family Reunion.

Career change dogs, retired guides and breeders were present, ranging in age from puppy to middle-aged to wise seniors. We had shepherds, golden retrievers, labradors, lab-golden crosses, and even a poodle! The reunion was the brainchild of puppy raiser and career change adopter Joanne Mechling of Portland who is very aware of the work career change dogs do in the community and felt they too should be celebrated. The tireless efforts of GDB staff and volunteers made this event possible and a rousing success.

Hosted at the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum in conjunction with their 'Wolf to Woof; The story of dogs' exhibit the doors were graciously opened for us to take over on what turned out to be a gorgeous fall day in Portland. It was a truly a day of reunions; littermates, puppy raisers, and even GDB staff were reunited with dogs they had trained, raised, shared a memory with or just plain loved.

Throughout the afternoon various presentations were offered by staff and volunteers covering everything from hiking with your dog, to geriatric canine care, to a day in the life of a career change dog. Woven into the museum exhibits were numerous stations for adopters to visit, including a mobile gift shop, information on puppy raising and volunteer opportunities, a chance to chat with dog placement staff, a glimpse at the family tree via the breeder books, memory walls filled with career change dog profiles, a pet photographer to take portraits and finally the job fair.

Career change dogs represent a significant part of the GDB demographic and while they all go on to rewarding careers as pets many also find alternative careers well suited to their individual personality.

Joanne's career change dog Lopez does search and rescue in addition to being a blood donor, while her other career change DaVinci is a therapy dog. My own career change Noah was a blood donor until forced retirement at age 10; however, he remains an active therapy dog with the Delta Society. The job fair showcased a number of second, third and even fourth careers for our amazing dogs including Dogs for Diabetics, search and rescue, animal-assisted therapy, agility competition, crisis response, and so much more!

I have always had a soft spot for the career change dogs, having raised three of them and seeing the amazing impact each one of these dogs have on their communities it's no wonder career change adopters are so proud of their dogs! The response from this event was so overwhelming it exceeded to expectations of all those involved and clearly left a lasting impression that will be continue with family reunions to come.

Visit GDB's Flickr site for photos from the event.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Our Veterans

On this Veterans Day, we ask you to join us in honoring our veterans by listening in on a conversation with GDB Alumni, Vice Admiral Stephen Butler. Stephen is a retired Naval Officer and now heads Operation Send-Off, a non-profit dedicated to supporting members of the military and their families as they deploy and return from tours of duty. His Guide Dog, Blaze, has his own story with the military.

Link to the audio interview with Stephen Butler.

Photo of Blaze comforting two young girls who just bid their father goodbye

To all our Veterans, we salute you and thank you for dedicating your lives to freedom and independence.

Photo of Stephen Butler with troops deploying to Irag

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Movin' On!

by Cathy Gregory

To all of you who have been following the F litter (see No Bones About It! July 2008), are you ready for an update? Christine has now retired from her career as a breeder mom! Since her F litter babies have departed, she's getting her svelte shape back, but she still has her "milk bar" -- 10 distinctive faucets -- along her belly!

The day that she was to be dropped off at the vet clinic for her spay surgery was also the day of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new puppy truck. She and I had a chance to go inside the truck and say goodbye to the pups about to embark on their maiden voyage.

As the photographer of the photos that adorn the truck's sides, I had enjoyed coming up with an appropriate design. I remembered how cute Christine's puppies were as they peered out over a board that I had placed in our doorway. The pups would clamor to peek over it at every opportunity, their curiosity getting the best of them whenever mom was approaching or when kibble was being poured into their bowls. By the time they were 6 weeks old, they would all line up, and that made any humans in the area rush to grab their cameras.

We tried to re-create the experience in the photos for the sides of the puppy truck. The white, UPS-sized truck now vibrates with the images of puppies that are larger than life! Every whisker and eyelash is defined and the color and texture of their collars is so real. They inspire wonder and are an irresistible invitation to learn more about Guide Dogs for the Blind.

In retirement, Christine plans to spread a little hope by connecting with vets at the VA hospital a couple of miles from where we live. She's a real trooper!

Here's a photo of Christine with a small human friend beside her:

Christine pictured with a small girl beside her

Friday, October 31, 2008

We've Arrived!

The puppy truck's maiden voyage was a success! All arrived safe and sound in Colorado today, just in time for Halloween! Next stops are Utah, Idaho, and Oregon.

Photo of Puppy Truck drivers Joe and Lee posing outside the Puppy Truck in Colorado:

Puppy Truck drivers Joe and Lee posing outside the Puppy Truck


Photo of puppy 'Mystery' being introduced to her new raisers:

Puppy 'Mystery' being introduced to her new raisers


Photo of puppy 'Damaris' being passed to her new raiser:

Puppy 'Damaris' being handed to her new raisers


Puppy 'Samba' is introduced to her raiser:

Puppy 'Samba' is introduced to her new raiser


Career-changed dog 'Angel' returns home to her raiser:

Career-changed dog 'Angel' is returned home to her raiser


Lee and Joe in the cab of the truck wearing their Halloween costumes:

Puppy Truck drivers Lee and Joe pictured in the cab of the truck in their Halloween costumes

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Puppy Truck's Maiden Voyage

Photo of truck with new puppies ready to be loaded
Like most things at Guide Dogs for the Blind, this story has a happy ending. As many of you know, Guide Dogs get their start in our kennels at our California campus. They are transported by puppy truck to the homes of puppy raisers in 8 Western states so they can learn good house manners and be socialized in public before they return to our campuses for formal training to become Guide Dogs.

Back in January, one of our puppy trucks got caught in a storm and was involved in an accident when another driver lost control of his vehicle and struck ours. Denny Epperson, who was driving at the time, did an excellent job in keeping the puppy truck upright and minimizing the accident as much as possible, but he, himself, was injured.

Sadly, one of the five adult dogs traveling was killed during the accident. She was a retired guide who was returning to her puppy raisers for adoption. The four other adult dogs, including Denny's active puppy that he is currently raising, and the 18 puppies aboard were not injured. We have many people to thank for getting them back to us, safe and secure.

When our puppy raisers, staff, graduates and others learned about the accident, they pulled together the funds to purchase a replacement. After going through this ordeal, our puppy truck drivers offered suggestions that would create an even safer vehicle for our precious cargo. Our new truck was custom built for us, and today, we happily celebrated the ribbon cutting for its maiden voyage.

Adorning the side of the truck is a large white panel with an adorable photo of six puppies sitting behind a white fence with their paws hanging over the side. The pups look like little angels, but we know the real truth! These feisty little devils gave us a run for our money when we attempted to do the photo shoot. You can hear our squeals of laughter when they continued to leap over the fence every time we were just getting ready to snap the shutter.

Below are several videos:

Video 1 is just 20 seconds and shows the crazy puppy photo shoot.
Video 2 is 2 and 1/2 minutes and is a series of photos from the same photo shoot put to music.
Video 3 is a 2-minute video showing the ribbon cutting and loading the puppies into the truck.

video

video

video


Following these is a series of photos showing the truck being custom built and the interior kennels installed. See all the photos on our Flickr site here.

Thank you to breeding stock custodian and photographer Cathy Gregory for the fantastic photos for the murals, and for her time and energy spend creating the video!

Drivers Lee Shenk and Joe Aguirre will be putting the new truck to good use right away - on a seven day trip to Colorado! If you'd like to see the truck in person, please visit us on a stop along the way. Here's the schedule:

10/30 Salt Lake City, Utah: Ramada Inn at exit 113 (Highway 80), 1:30 pm or Grand Junction, Colorado: Holiday Inn at exit 31 (Highway 70)
10/31 Littleton, Colorado: 4H Extension office, 5814 South Datura, 12:00 p.m.
11/1 Ogden, Utah: Best Western Inn at exit 347 (Highway 39)
11/2 Boise, Idaho: Story Park at Meridian exit (Highway 84)
11/3 Boring, Oregon: Guide Dogs' campus, 12:00 p.m.

We would like to give a special thank you to our puppy truck drivers, Lee Shenk, Joe Aguirre and Mick Aguilera, for their patience, and to Christina DiMaio from our Maintenance staff who worked so hard to order our new beauty! We would also like to send a "shout out" to Denny Epperson, who is currently making excellent progress on his recovery at home. We look forward to having him back on the road someday soon!

Photo of skeleton of puppy truck

Front of puppy truck under construction

Photo of truck with insulation installed

Photo of roof

Kennels installed inside truck

Photo of truck with work in progress

Photo of finished truck

Monday, October 13, 2008

Guides for the Blind Dog?

by Morry Anne Angell and Randall Dunn

Allow me to introduce you to one of GDB's coolest career change dogs, 7-year-old yellow Lab Chapin. Chapin has quite the story. Like all career change dogs, he started life as a Guide Dog puppy, but he wasn't exactly cut out for that job. For example, he has never met another dog that he didn't want to meet... or bark at! He commenced living the life of a very active pet - he's an avid hiker, runner, swimmer, and marathon sleeper. So what makes him special? This dog, who accompanies our family on backpacking and cross-country ski trips, is totally blind.

When Chapin was 3-1/2 years old, he was diagnosed with glaucoma in his left eye. He received the utmost in medical care, and was outfitted with a fancy prosthetic eyeball. And life was normal... for a while. Shortly after he lost his first eye, his second eye was diagnosed with glaucoma as well. It was only a matter of time before he would be completely blind. It was at this point that Chapin was returned to Guide Dogs by his first adoptive family, who we understand were truly devastated, but were overwhlemed with the prospect of caring for a completely blind dog. And that is where he came in to our life!

As Foster Care Volunteers, we started caring for Chapin while Guide Dogs' Placement Department searched for a new adoptive home. But the prospects were slim - not many people want to take a chance on a young and soon-to-be blind dog. As Chapin stayed in our home, it became quite apparent that WE were the ones.

Chapin was a phenomenal dog, and it was obvious that total blindness was not going to slow him down one bit. We played blindfold games with him in anticipation of him losing his second eye, and he could navigate better than fine. After several months we decided to officially adopt him. Ironically, the very morning that we were scheduled to complete the adoption paperwork was the morning he lost all the sight in his remaining eye. We like to think that he somehow knew that he had a permanent home, and it was ok for that eyeball to go. So, he got a second prosthetic eye to match his first, and it hasn't changed his stride. (A note on the prosthetics: he still has his eyeballs per se; the prosthetics are rubber balls that they implant inside the eye after scooping out the insides. His outer eye/cornea remain... hence the protective "doggles" he's wearing in his picture - we have him wear them when we go on hikes or are near cactus or other sharp plants in case he bumps into things.) With the prosthetics in place, we now call him our "blond with implants"! Chapin is a complete trooper, and we treat him no differently than any other dog: he hikes, he swims, he goes sailing/rafting... if we're doing it, he's doing it. He gets to go to work every day with one of us, too - we're all really spoiled that way!

Recently, Chapin embarked on a new career! He was selected by the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo to participate in their canine cancer sniffing studies, wherein it has been determined that dogs can detect very early stages of cancer in breath molecules. The research is to determine what it is on a molecular level that the dogs can detect that science can't, in hopes that one day science can catch up. True to form, Chapin loved going to his job - his nose is the best around, so they said - until it got hard! He was let go from the study because he just would rather be petted and fed treats... work was boring! So - he was a scientist for a few nanoseconds, but we still think it's cool.

So, who knows what Chapin's next big adventure will be? All we know is that blindness certainly isn't a barrier to his life!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Catching Up With Brendan

Brendan Pritkin is one of the lucky people who's had the chance to get a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look at Guide Dogs for the Blind. He was part of our Summer Internship Program. We caught up with him recently on our California campus. Give a listen to the 4-minute interview here! (MP3)

When he was a baby, Brendan was cared for by infant development specialist Bette Flushman, who has been a Breeding Stock Custodian for Guide Dogs for the Blind for many years, and is also his neighbor. Today, Brendan dog-sits for Bette's retired GDB breeder Nicola.

It's a small world. We hope you'll share your passion for our program with others!
You can learn more about volunteering at: www.guidedogs.com/volunteer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Owner and Guide Dog Take Rewarding Path

Check out an article written by alumna Deborah Kendrick entitled: Owner and Guide Dog Take Rewarding Path published on Independence Today's website. Deborah's an experienced Guide Dog user and an award-winning writer, author, and poet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Faraja Update

by Judy Toole

Remember reading about Faraja – one of the fabulously famous F litter pups? I have the joy of raising him, and I can tell you, he is a wonderfully delightful puppy. He's my 10th, and so far, it's hard to tell if he's going to be a relatively "easy" one because of the home raising. He was described in the blog as the one that liked to sit back and observe but is also quite capable of entering into whatever activity is going on. So far, he's quite self-confident. He's been very easy to leash train and house break.

Of course, I was interested in his unusual name, so I checked on-line through Google and found that it is a lovely Swahili word that means "comfort." Well, he not only likes to give comfort, but he also likes to be comfortable, and his favorite resting position is snuggled next to my Career Change Lab, Cobalt. Faraja absolutely adores her and even accepts "motherly corrections" from her. They play supervised tug games every day with each other and me. I can see Faraja watching Cobalt and copying some of her behaviors. As I teach Faraja to "sit," "down," and "wait" for food, I can see him watch Cobalt obey the same commands and copy her.

Faraja sees my Ragdoll cat comfortably ensconced on my sofa, chairs and bed, and can't understand why he can't cuddle with the cat the way he does with Cobalt--or at least enjoy the same furniture privileges. I've never had a puppy of this age even try, let alone succeed, in getting up on my very high four-poster-bed. (Even I need a footstool.) I've caught him twice on my bed but never actually in the act of getting onto the bed -- I'm not sure how he does that. I did have the camera close by the first time and captured the moment before I removed him from the bed. Now I'm watching for the behavior so I can correct it immediately.

Now that he's had his 12-week shots, we're getting out a bit more and Faraja is having to learn that he can't interact with other dogs without my permission. He's also learning the same lesson with humans (adults and children). He's not happy to be given these restrictions, but we've bonded nicely and he's also very eager to please me.

He had a play date with Clifford, a 5-month-old Guide Dog pup being raised by a neighbor. They played very nicely together under my supervision and then were able to just "hang out" in the same room for a few minutes. A few days later at our club meeting, both dogs appropriately demonstrated their "working" behavior.

As Faraja develops, it will be interesting to trace his progress. Stay tuned. Check out an album of Faraja's photos, too! Wonder what his siblings are up to???

Monday, September 1, 2008

Video Synopsis of Fun Day 2008

Check out this video taken during the Fun Day celebrations on our Oregon and California campuses.

video

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dangling the Carrot

by Sierra Fish

Sierra pictured sharing carrots with Blakely, a Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever crossbreedWhile the majority of us peruse the pet aisles aimlessly searching for the best dog treats to purchase, some of us are able to do a one-stop shop in the produce section. Though not popular with every dog, baby carrots are a good substitution for commercial treats. This option is especially suitable for dogs that have weight issues, and like any other reward moderation is a good rule to follow. In addition to being fat free, these sweet, crunchy snacks are also great for your dog's teeth. Eating healthy is just as important for dogs and this tasty treat is something you and your dog can enjoy together. So the next time the two of you get the urge for an afternoon snack, remember that a carrot a day can keep the vet away!

[Note: Carrots are not approved for Guide Dog program puppies-in-training.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Zoom Zoom Zoom

by Joanne Ritter

Breaking news on the hybrid car issue we wrote about on June 9th. Thanks to some creative engine-uity, inventors are coming out with a sensible solution that will help keep pedestrians safe without adding noise pollution: wonder of wonders -- a car that sounds like a car!

Hats off to our fellow guide dog users in the UK who are featured in this video:
http://inventorspot.com/articles/are_hybrid_vehicles_too_quiet_17110. If you're using JAWS to read this article, you may experience an issue accessing the video. Here's the direct link to the video on YouTube. (Thanks, Carin!)

And closer to home: http://origin.insidebayarea.com/sanmateocountytimes/localnews/ci_9459709

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Place My Trust in You

by GDB Alumna Megan Miller

I have been excited about getting a Guide Dog for several years now, but the timing never seemed right. Finally, this past January, I was able to go to San Rafael, California, to meet and train with my dog.

I knew I would love having a Guide Dog, but I could never have imagined how great it would be to have such a great companion. The partnership that GDB fosters is beyond words. Pasta is everything I could ask for. Probably the most challenging part of the training was keeping my friendly dog from saying hi to everyone during our work. But now, our connection is very strong, and I love her personality -- she is so sweet and loves to play and cuddle.

She makes walking around my crowded college campus so easy. Now, I don't have to worry about bumping into people, trash cans and randomly placed signs. Pasta goes around everything. If a car comes out of nowhere, she knows what to do to keep us safe. She is the smartest dog I have ever seen!

I found out what a fantastic memory she has one night after my class. I had recently tried a new route to and from my class to get around some construction, but I guess I wasn't very sure of it yet. I must have told Pasta to turn too late or something, but the next thing I new, we were at a curb, which we weren't supposed to be. I did a 180 and told her to go forward, hoping to retrace my steps and start again, but I once more had a poor time/distance estimate and wound up somewhere else that was unfamiliar.

Even though I didn't know exactly where I was, Pasta seemed to -- her demeanor changed from her normal, happy, speedy self to an even happier dog with an extra spring in her step. I can't describe it, but I can tell when she recognizes a place. So, I trusted her and let her guide me without giving her direction. This may not have been the best thing to do, but I trusted her eyes and memory better than my memory alone.

After a minute, she walked me up to a building I didn't recognize at first. I was trying to get to steps to take me up to the shuttle stop which would get me to the dorms, so I knew I shouldn't be at a building. I told Pasta to hop up and directed her away from the building. She kept walking with a bounce in her step, and the next thing I knew, she had brought me all the way home, and we had never walked that way before!

Before I had Pasta, I would have been terrified alone in the dark with my cane, but with her, I was not afraid. I trusted that she would keep me safe, and if she didn't take me somewhere familiar, I would have stopped and asked a passing person for help. But, I didn't have to do that because her amazing memory got me all the way home! I never expected that. The trust I have in her has grown exponentially since that night. I know now that she will take care of me, and even if she doesn't always get me home, I know she will keep me safe.

Pasta is pictured below, working in her harness during a guide dog demonstration:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

F Puppies Meet Their Raisers

At Fun Day in Oregon this past weekend, the F puppies were introduced to their raisers for the first time. They'll be raised by families living in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Cathy Gregory, the custodian for breeder mom Christine and her litter of puppies, was on hand to participate. Check it out!

video

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The 'F' Puppies are Ready to Roll

The F litter of puppies pictured yesterday morning as they arrived on Guide Dogs' California campus to be loaded onto the Puppy Truck:



Litter raiser Cathy Gregory (and custodian for breeder dog Christine) hugs one of the puppies she raised before loading him onto the Puppy Truck:



Cathy pictured holding one of the black Lab puppies:



A black Lab puppy pictured looking at the camera:



Cathy Gregory pictured handing over one of the puppies she raised from birth, a black lab:



Photos by Morry Anne Angell, Guide Dogs for the Blind

Also, check out a 2-minute video of the puppies, from their arrival in Cathy's car to being placed safely on board the Puppy Truck:

KUDOS TO THE VETS! – F Litter Chronicles, Episode 9

by Cathy Gregory and Nina Gannes

All along the way in this process, the Veterinary Clinic staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind have been superb. We'd like to take a moment to acknowledge them. Drs. Jeff Williams, Craig Dietrich, and Kristine Gonzales (we think of her as the OTHER Christine) and their staff have taken such great care of Christine during her many visits as a breeder for the past six years.

A photo of Dr. Kris listening to Christine's heart:



Two photos of Dr. Kris conducting an exam while Christine is on her back:





When I took the pups in for their 8-week final check-up -- a shot and a heartworm tablet -- for once Christine wasn't riding in the front seat of my Prius; she was back at home. Is she going to miss them? Well, when we returned, she jumped into the car and watched me take each one back into their yard. I can't be sure, but I think she remembers, from her last litter, that change is coming soon. She seemed satisfied that they all came back, at least for today.

Previous Posts About the 'F' Litter:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8

Monday, August 4, 2008

F Litter Ready for Raisers -- Episode 8

The puppies have been getting ready to venture into the great wide yonder: the homes of their future puppy raisers. Several important things have happened first.

Rub-a-dub-dub
Each puppy got another bath. One-by-one they took their turn standing in the sink, getting rinsed with a warm splash of water from the faucet. Next came the soap. This involved an elaborate process of rubbing each puppy to make sure they were thoroughly avocado-shampoo-smelling clean. Some puppies took to this better than others. While some would stand quietly, others would whine or groan throughout the entire process. After they were soaped we rinsed them off again. For some reason, the second rinsing usually evoked more wriggling and noises than the first. After the final rinse, we dried them off with a big warm towel. One towel usually lasted about two puppies before becoming soaked. The puppies seemed to enjoy this final step the most because it involved getting cuddled. By the end of the process, we had seven beautiful smelling puppies back outside again and ready to tackle the world!

Black Lab Frolic starts her bath with a rinse:



Black Lab Finella getting a rinse in the sink:



Yellow Lab Franco is pictured after his rinse:



Black Lab Flute climbing out of the sink onto a green towel:



Black Lab Fjord being towel-dried:



Black Lab Faulkner, damp from his bath, pictured in a blue towel:



Black Lab Faraja, clean and shiny, pictured below in a brightly colored towel:



My Mommy, My Mentor
Since she started to wean them, Christine has been gaining more and more of her old spunk back. When the babies were little, all she had time to do was eat, sleep, and nurse. Now that the puppies are mostly eating kibble, Christine has gotten some more energy to play with them. She will pick up toys in the yard and let the little ones try to grab hold of a side. If they do something she doesn't like, she will bark at them to teach them better manners. She wags her tail while she's playing with them and they wag back, happy to have their mama as a playmate.

Christine is pictured below playing with her puppies.



Move Over Dora!
Exploring is fun! Several new territories have been discovered. Frolic has become the champion of sneaking into the house to get extra attention. Although she is one of the smallest puppies, she has become an expert at throwing herself over the wooden plank that blocks the side door. Even the larger puppies can't do it with the skill she has finessed; if the door is open and we're inside, she will reliably appear about fifteen seconds later.

We don't know who started it, but the pups have decided that standing with their front paws in the water bowl and digging and splashing around is infinitely more fun than drinking. As a result, we are constantly refilling the empty bowl, which only adds to their pleasure.

Road Ready
This Wednesday will be a very bittersweet day, as we will be heading for GDB's campus and saying goodbye to our little litter. Our biggest consolation in giving them up is that we know they will be wonderful guide dogs in the future. Realistically, we know it would be insanity to raise seven dogs in one household until they are full-grown, but sometimes, we can't help but wonder about what it would be like to try...

All of the puppies, clean and ready for their big day, pictured together on a single dog bed.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sleeping, and dreaming of the future -- episode 7

by Cathy Gregory and Nina Gannes

Franco continues his nap pattern that he established several weeks ago. He goes to sleep before the others and wakes before them, often being rewarded with bonus cuddle time. He's strong-willed like his brothers, but he's such a softy when ready to nap. He finds a big pillow for his big polar bear head and curls his body around it. He becomes the bottom of the pile when his brothers and sisters flop on top of him for their naps.

All the pups have collars now. Choosing which collar was a tad like shopping for a dress-up gown. Who am I? What color feels right? Flute has purple. Gorgeous and distinctive, just like the little cowlick on her muzzle, she is sweet and fearless when it comes to new challenges. Faulkner has cerulean blue, because as the litter's resident poet his perspective is clear (sometimes loud), and his nature is a gentle as his broad head is distinctive. Finella has aqua blue embroidered with "GDB Tour Puppy," as she has been gifted by GDB to PADS, an assistance dog school in British Columbia. If all goes well she will become a breeder for them and maybe we'll be able to raise one of her babies. Frolic has light green. The color of baby lettuce, she has big potential for the future. Franco has shocking pink. Unforgettable Mars and Venus temperments happily cohabit in this 12-pound bundle. Faraja has yellow. His name means 'leader in Swahili' and yellow is the national color of Tanzania (where our human family is spearheading an effort to build an orphanage). Faraja has the intelligence to understand that as the largest of the litter he should also be the kindest. And Fjord has red with white hearts and smiles, mimicking his self-sufficiency and fondness of playing with all the toys.