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: 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:

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!

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.

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.