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