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.

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


  1. Now THAT'S pretty darn cool. congrats on the new truck. Best of luck to Lee, Joe and Mick.

  2. Yea! wooo! I was wondering how that was going. I wishI could have given more.

  3. We thank you, Carin, for getting on board. And the puppies do, too!

  4. I'm sorry to hear about the first truck. The new truck looks great and I love the video of the photo shoot. Every time I look at one of those great puppy pictures I'll think about puppies running around everywhere and the photographer having one short moment to snap the perfect photo.

  5. Our seventh dog should be arriving in SLC right now on the new truck. Looking forward to it. We also have a retired dog coming on the same truck.


  6. Hey really very interesting post...The videos which you have put on the blog is amazing. And great to see your new truck too...