Monday, June 30, 2008

Are Your Ears on Straight?

A yellow lab puppy is pictured tilting his head listening Okay, bloggers, you've peaked our interest. Now that we know you sing songs to your dogs, we wanna' hear 'em. You can dial this number (214-615-6505 ext 7831) and sing into your phone (landlines work better than cell phones). Give us some time, and we'll post a link to them as responses. All together now: "Mememememe…"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kibble to Feed Your Insatiable Appetite

We know you’re hungry, so we want to send some news snacks your way – and you don’t even have to behave to get rewarded!

Photo pulled from the video link below of a yellow Labrador Retriever Guide Dog in harness looking at the camera

Disabled people want full access for service dogs
The incidents are illegal and violate the rights of disabled people. Two Bakersfield, California women who are legally blind asked Eyewitness News for help after they were recently denied access to local businesses. Click here for the full story and video:

Get the popcorn! In case you missed the movie Music Within when it was in theaters, you’ll be happy to know that the DVD has just been released. The film is a biography of Richard Pimentel who was instrumental in the 1970's disability rights movement that culminated in passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act ( The Extended Version Facilitator Guide includes step-by-step instructions to facilitate group discussions about the film and the ADA for businesses, rehabilitation professionals, educators, parents and religious organizations. The extended version is available at:

Still hungry? We think you may find these blogs interesting:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah, Cookie, Blah, Blah

I’ve always been amused by the way we all talk to our dogs. There’s something about them that brings out the playfulness in us. Here at Guide Dogs for the Blind, we not only have a kennel full of dogs and puppies, but our personal dogs are scattered throughout our offices.

Professional guide dog instructors who spend their days teaching dogs to respond to one-word commands like “Sit!” “Stay” and “Halt” can often be heard babbling to their own personal pets.

It’s those paragraph commands that amuse me the most. One of my co-workers is socializing a Guide Dog puppy and she brings her to work several times a week. It always brings a smile when I hear her through my office door: “Nirvana – How is this helping me?” “That’s a nice tummy you have there!” “You need to calm your bunnies!” At least I think she’s talking to the dog…

We thought it would be fun if you sent in some photos and describe how you talk to your dog. And we’ll also accept that candid shot of your co-worker and his/her dog as well… Have some fun!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Priceless Moments

Judy Hartwell and Guide Dog "Barika"

In 1956 I lost most of my sight at the age of 9 from a drug allergic reaction (a severe condition known as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome), resulting from sulfa drugs my doctor had prescribed for a kidney infection.

Then in 1994, I lost the remainder of my vision after having eye surgery to try and correct a problem with an ulceration of the cornea. This left me without any usable vision at all other than for light perception.

It took me about five years of being led around by the arm of someone else to decide that was not the way I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I decided enough was enough. It was at that point I decided I wanted to get a guide dog. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. I couldn't believe the difference my dog made in my life. My new freedom was wonderful!

My dog is a beautiful little female German Shepherd by the name of Barika and has the sweetest nature of any dog I've ever had. She's exceptionally friendly and people, as a rule, adore her.

About a year after I got her, I decided to fly back to Michigan to visit a friend of mine and her guide dog, graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

We had to transfer in Denver. As usual, they had pre-boarded us first, and placed us in the row of seats just behind the bulkhead. There were three seats in the row. The flight attendant had me sit in the window seat. The middle seat she said they were leaving vacant so my dog would have plenty of room, and then there would be a passenger in the aisle seat.

The flight attendant had just started to orient me as to where things were located, such as the call button, etc., when I heard a woman in a very rude voice say, "Oh my God, don't tell me I have to sit next to that dog!" The flight attendant turned to her and in a very calm manner asked the woman if there was a problem. "There is, if I have to sit next to that dog!"

At this point the flight attendant very politely asked the woman to please give her a moment to finish with me then she would see what she could do to help her.

After explaining everything to me, the attendant stood up and said to the woman, "Evidently there is a problem with you sitting next to the dog. Would it help if we moved you back a couple of rows or even across the aisle?" At which the woman answered, "No, I'm not moving any further back than this, so if you can't do something else about the problem, then you can just move me to first class!"

The flight attendant answered, "If you'll please give me a minute, I'll see what I can do," and she excused herself.

When she returned, (and this is when the moment became "priceless"), the attendant leaned over, and placed her hand on my left shoulder, in a very pleasant voice she said to me, "Ms. Hartwell, would you and your dog please come with me? I'm moving you up to first class!" What I would have given to have been able to have seen the expression on that woman's face.

Not only did they move me to first class, but I received the royal treatment, with the full complements of first class. I couldn't help smiling, when they served me a wonderful meal, (with real dinnerware and silverware), along with wine and the most heavenly chocolate mousse cake I've ever eaten. And there she sat with her little bag of peanuts.

That's not the end of my story. When we landed in Michigan, we had to wait for the ground assist person to come and escort us off the plane. While I was waiting, I heard the captain asking the flight attendant if everyone had gotten off okay. The attendant informed him all were off except for the one passenger and her guide dog who were waiting for ground assist. The captain, with a chuckle in his voice, replied, "You mean there's another hard working animal on this plane?"

He then came back to where we were sitting to say hello. He asked permission to pet my little girl and being the flirt she is, it didn't take her long to win his heart over with tail waggles and slurpy doggy kisses. The flight had been a long one, so the captain offered to take Barika out so she could “take care of business.” He assured me he had done this before and would take good care of her. She left with him eagerly, so I knew she needed to go out; she came back just as eagerly, as she's very much a mama's girl.

Then to top that off since ground assist still had not shown up, he personally offered to escort us off the airplane and to where my friends were waiting for us.

I'm so thankful to United Airlines and their wonderful personnel. They turned a very nasty moment into a "priceless" one -- one I have enjoyed telling about to all of my friends and family here at home and all of you out there who are reading this. And my thanks to that rude woman. After all, I could have been sitting there next to her with my own little bag of peanuts. I guess it's true, "What goes around comes around." Thank God, those kind of people are for the most part very few and far between.

Happy travels to all.

Readers: Do you have a good travel story to tell?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Over There

By Cathy Anne Murtha

As my guide dog and I stood in line at the checkout of the River City Market at CSUS, I asked the cashier what I considered a simple question. "Where are the napkins please?" Her response was hurried, but sincere, "over there."

Emerging from the light rail for the first time, I managed to catch the attention of a passerby, "please sir, can you tell me where I might catch bus 63?" A kind voice offered a pleasant response before disappearing into to the cacophony of the early afternoon, “you can catch it over there.”

So many things reside over there—napkins, bus stops, pencils, pens, clothing racks, department stores and even my shoes! A never-ending supply of important and indispensable items and locales all reside in this place which is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. I stand in perplexed silence after learning that something is over there. It is a place I have never been and have no hope of finding on my own. My guide dog is quite skilled in finding chairs, stairs, elevators, escalators, helping me cross streets, and can even find me the Diet Pepsi display at Food Town; however, when I tell her to find "over there" her little bottom hits the floor and a small whimper tells me that she is as confused as I. We will not be going "over there" today.

Over there has caused me a bit of vexation, a lot of confusion, and, on occasion, made my heart race. I have discovered that "over there" can be a dangerous place. One day, while crossing a street, I heard a driver's irritated voice shout out a warning of a truck bearing down on me from over there. Shadow artfully dodged the oncoming vehicle and pulled me to the safety of the curb. Our hearts were both racing as we took a few moments to compose ourselves. Close encounters with "over there" can be frightening experiences. Although many blind people have wondered as to the exact location of "over there," few have dared to venture forth in an actual exploration of the mysterious place.

One day, while standing in line at the supermarket, I asked the clerk where I might find the aspirin. With a cheery smile in her voice, she informed me that the aspirin was located "over there." With a weary sigh, I decided that I would take the extra step that would unravel the mystery, which had vexed my compatriots since the beginning of time. Taking a deep breath, and attempting to look nonchalant, I smiled at the clerk, "Where," I asked, "is over there?" I imagined the girl's shocked expression. I felt her sharing condescending and concerned looks with her fellows in the store. The silence grew palpable as they mulled the possibility of allowing a blind person access to the forbidden land. She had no choice; she would have to tell me how to find "over there!" I had won! Exhilaration swept through me as I waited in breathless anticipation. A victorious smile crept to my lips, my hand tightened on the handle of Shadow's harness; we would soon be going "over there!" The clerk's voice reeked with resignation as the decision was made.

"That way," she said...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Striking a Match

One of the things Guide Dogs for the Blind is known for is our incredible matching process. We take great care to find just the right dog for each person.

As we train dogs to become guides, we learn a lot about their individual personalities, character and capabilities. When someone applies for our training, we learn as much as we can about their stride, manner, personality, lifestyle and goals. And then the matching magic begins!

Here’s your chance to tell us about how well matched your Guide Dog or pet dog is to you! Are you and your dog alike?

And if you’d like a bit of fun, go to to play WHAT DOG ARE YOU? and find out what breed you would be if you died and came back as a dog. (We apologize for directing you to a site that is not accessible.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

When Quiet is Too Quiet

Something to Bark About
by Joanne Ritter

Okay, fellow bloggers – prepare yourselves for a serious post. It may be time to make a little noise.

At Guide Dogs for the Blind, we are very much in favor of efforts to protect our environment – we’re all about improving the quality of life. And certainly, hybrid cars improve our quality of life, right? Well, maybe.

Of course we are all in favor of quieter engines – but what if a car was silent AND invisible. What if it crept up on you so stealthily that you weren’t aware of it even though you were right next to it? You’d probably fear for your life!

Well folks, that’s the actual experience of people who are blind when they’re around hybrid cars, especially when they’re idling at stop lights, backing out of driveways or in parking lots. And they’re not alone – sight-dependent pedestrians, cyclists, children and others are just as vulnerable.

Bill Kwong, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales USA, has been quoted as saying “Not only does [the Prius] not pollute the air, it doesn't create noise pollution." I’m sure that after awhile a squished pedestrian DOES stop making so much noise, but isn’t that a high price to pay? All joking aside, what’s a pedestrian to do? We know that Kwong and others ARE beginning to take this seriously, and we commend them for it. The National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind have pushed for legislation to address the issue. Too bad it requires legislation for common-sense action to be taken.

Guide Dogs for the Blind is doing its part as well – we’ve actually purchased some hybrids to use in our training. That may help some, but frankly, a dog is not going to be much better than a person with sight at knowing when a silent car is approaching. And furthermore, not everyone who is blind has a guide dog.

Photo of a Guide Dog instructor in a blindfold training a black Labrador Retriever with a hybrid car

For those of you who own hybrids – they’re great cars – some of us own them, too. We drive them with heightened awareness, and we encourage you to do the same, if you’re not already. Compassionate people who care about our environment share our concern for the safety of all living beings.

The bill before Congress will ask the Transportation Department to conduct a two-year study before issuing safety standards. Automakers would then have two additional years to comply. Clarence Ditlow, president of the Center for Auto Safety has been quoted as saying he didn’t think a two-year study was necessary. What do you think?

Further reading on this topic:
Stanford pair makes electric car noisier -- to help the blind

Oregon Guide Dog Trained to Detect the Silent Danger of Hybrid Cars

Unobtrusive Hybrid Car ‘Noise’ Being Developed

Are Hybrids Too Quiet?

Plan Would Make Hybrids Noisier to Protect the Blind

Are hybrid cars too quiet? U.S. bill calls for study into potential dangers

Blind Pedestrians May Not Hear Hybrid Cars

Blind Pedestrians Protest Hybrid Cars

Blind Pedestestrians Say Quiet Hybrids Pose Safety Threat

Blind Pedestrians At Risk from Hybrid Cars?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Guide Dogs for All of Us

Welcome to the first edition of our blog. We hope you’ll enjoy it and we look forward to your feedback. Please feel free to share it with those you know and love so that they can become our new friends…

Guide Dogs for All of Us

Guide Dogs are trained to lead people who are blind around obstacles; they will stop to communicate a change in elevation, such as curbs or steps. And they will even disobey a request to go forward across a street if they notice a car coming.

They’re so remarkable, one wonders what ELSE they could be trained to do!
Animator M.K. Brown imagines that if we lived in a world where dogs could talk, they might guide us in ways we’ve never dreamed possible.

Brown’s illustrations have graced the pages of everything from The New Yorker Magazine to The National Lampoon. She is a supporter of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Enjoy her humorous animated short, Guide Dogs.

The animation is not in an accessible format for screen readers. Descriptions:
Cartoon 1: dog with man driving a car
2. Dog with woman shopping for clothes
3. Dog with race car driver getting a beer
4. Dog with man who’s flirting with a woman
5. Dog with woman at the refrigerator
6. Dog with man at office desk
7. Dog with guy lying on lawn