[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.