Monday, June 29, 2009

Patriotic Pooch

GDB breeder dog Stella in front of an American flag
Just in time for the Fourth of July, GDB breeder dog Stella, above, proudly poses in front of the red, white and blue. Terry Meyers, Stella's breeder keeper, submitted this regal photo to Martha Stewart's online "Patriotic Pets" photo competition (check it out and pass it along!), and writes:

"Stella is a breeder dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA. She has had two litters of puppies, 19 total. The first puppy graduated last weekend with his new blind partner. Stella loves to be photographed and we took this photo last year on the Fourth. The picture will appear on the Guide Dogs for the Blind 2010 calendar. It will be Stella's third appearance in the calendar."

We may be biased, but we think Stella's photo is Yankee Doodle Dandy!

But speaking of the Fourth of July, just a friendly reminder that your pooch may not enjoy the festivities as much as you do. Keep in mind that parades are crowded, noisy places with lots of potentially scary sights and sounds (sirens! horses! clowns!), and that fireworks can be downright terrifying to your dog. With all the commotion, combined with potentially triple-digit temperatures, you should think twice before including Fido in your celebration. A cool, calm indoor location at home might just be the best spot for your dog to spend the day.

Public Access for Service Animals

A Guid eDog resting underneath a table at a restaurant
People who use service animals enjoy the privilege of bringing their animals into stores, restaurants and on public transportation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Along with that privilege comes a responsibility to make sure the animal is well-behaved and under control. 

Some feel that there are people who are passing their pets off as service animals so that they can take their pets with them everywhere.

Others feel that only people whose dogs (or other animals) have been individually trained to assist them with a physical disability should enjoy public access. 

And still others feel that it is a primarily a question of public safety – dogs/animals that are not good public citizens should not be allowed in public.

What are your thoughts on these issues? 

Other resources: 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Here are some photos and "tails" we thought you'd enjoy....

Yellow Lab Guide Dog puppy AngeloAbove: Guide Dog puppy Angelo
Photo submitted by puppy raiser Sandy Lynch of Chandler, AZ

Puppy sitter Sklyer Nelson with Guide Dog puppy DominicAbove: Puppy sitter Sklyer Nelson with Guide Dog puppy Dominic
Submitted by puppy raiser Jennifer Brewer of Bend, OR

Jennifer writes: Skyler is a puppysitter who has been working with our puppy club since the fall. Skyler is quite remarkable as an honor student, multiple sport athlete, and someone who has been very involved in community service activities. She has received many local awards and scholarships and enjoys working with young people in the community. Skyler and her famPuppy sitter Sklyer Nelson with Guide Dog puppy Dominicily have embraced puppysitting as their new favorite activity and our pups have been fortunate to accompany them to numerous school and community events, most recently several tennis matches (Skyler and her doubles partner just became the Oregon High School State tennis champions!).

Skyler was recently named Youth Volunteer of the Year 2009 for Central Oregon for her countless hours of dedication and service. One of Skyler's passions is environmental issues, and she founded the Environmental Club at Bend Senior High and was successful in turning the school into a Certified Green School. We are extremely proud to have her as an active member of our puppy club and a role model for youth in our community.

Guide Dog puppy JeepAbove: Guide Dog puppy Jeep
Submitted by puppy raiser Brenda Rae of Castro Valley, CA

Guide Dog puppy Hibachi with Debra Kraimer and her guide SheenaAbove: Guide Dog puppy Hibachi with Debra Kraimer and her guide Sheena
Submitted by puppy raiser Pat Salzarulo of Lakeside, CA

Vic De Stephanie with puppy raiser Bob FrickeAbove: Vic De Stephanie with puppy raiser Bob Fricke
Submitted by puppy raiser Bob Fricke of Roseville, CA

Vic's IGA Market in Folsom, Calif., recently sponsored the 4th Annual Fund Raiser for the Gold Country Guides Puppy Raising Club. Bob writes: Vic supplied hot dogs, buns, condiments, and soft drinks. We cooked the hot dogs on our grill and sold them with a soda. The proceeds will go towards the costs of harnesses for our puppies that graduate as guides. We also had tables set up with literature and had our puppies available for petting. Several people expressed an interest in Puppy Raising. The event was a huge success - thank you Vic De Stephanie!

Shout Out to a Stellar Volunteer

By Aerial Gilbert, Outreach Manager
Yellow Lab Guide Dog
Volunteer docent Joan Vennemeyer recently gave a tour of our California campus to a group that included a woman who is blind. She graciously spent a lot of extra time with the woman, answering her questions about our program. Because of her warm and informative guidance, the visitor has now applied to our school to get a Guide Dog. Joan is among thousands of GDB volunteers who make a real difference in peoples’ lives.

And you can, too. By learning more about blindness and GDB, you just may change someone’s life!

Did you know:
  • Approximately 1.3 million Americans are legally blind. It is estimated that an additional 47,000 people will lose their vision annually.
  • The leading causes of new blindness are progressive, degenerative and/or age-related (such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy).
  • You do not need to be totally blind to apply for our programs.
  • Guide Dogs, training, equipment, room and board, post-graduate support and financial assistance with veterinary care are all offered free-of-charge to people throughout the US and Canada. For more info, visit or call (800) 295-4050.
Be a resource!

A New Job for Ryka

By Heidi Sanders

Golden Retriever Ryka recently retired from her colorful career as a GDB breeding stock dog, but she's already found a new meaningful career as a therapy dog with the Friendship Foundation. Ryka joins my other retired GDB breeder, Nessa, who has been on the job as a therapy dog for three years.

During her career as a breeder, Ryka contributed twenty-seven puppies to Guide Dogs. For her first breeding she even traveled to the Guide Dog Foundation in New York! Ryka’s twenty-seven include her first “G” litter of 8, her gorgeous “L” litter of 11, and her last “P” litter Golden Retriever Rykaof 8 golden/lab crosses. So far, of these twenty-seven puppies two have become breeders, two Guide Dogs, one is in training with Canine Companions for Independence, and one was donated to Pawsitive Teams in San Diego. The others are either still in training or have changed careers. I am proud of Ryka’s legacy to Guide Dogs at the young age of 4 1/2.

Now that Ryka is retired I look forward to her new career with the Friendship Foundation. She has passed her initial tests, and I know much of her learning to become a good therapy dog will take place on the job. I am sure Ryka is thinking: “This is fun. I just go to places, people smile and pet me, I meet other nice dogs, and then I go home again. Wow, this is new to me, and I know I need to work on settling down, but this is very exciting for me. Wish me luck!”

Ryka and I look forward to our many visits with Friendship Foundation. She will take turns visiting with Nessa. We’ll see all of you out there on the job.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Retired Guide Finds Her New Career to be Therapeutic

Mastering a couple of different careers may seem daunting to you and me, but our Guide Dogs manage to do it all the time! Yellow Lab Freida, retired guide for GDB Board member Vickie Kennedy, took on a new career as a "Patient Visitation/Therapy Dog" at Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu after retiring from guidework. The hospital has since dubbed her weekly visits as "Freida Fridays." She also pays weekly therapy visits to St. Francis Hospice, and was recently named the center's “Volunteer of the Year.” Vickie and her husband, Jim, send this news about Frieda's accomplishments:

We are so proud of Freida. We get soooooo much pleasure seeing the instantaneous grin that comes across a patient’s face when Freida walks in. At first they are surprised, even stunned sometimes, that a dog is even entering their room, but then they usually shift to being joyful that this precious “little girl” is coming to see them.
Freida with her Volunteer of the Year award.
We spend most of the day on Fridays at Queen’s Medical Center. We start off with a list of about 10 patients from the Pain and Palliative Care unit (patients experiencing serious or terminal cancer, or who have had major trauma), but as we move from floor to floor, the nurses and doctors we encounter usually request that we visit with additional patients in other care units (ICU, Heart ICU, Cardiac Recovery, etc.). By the end of the day, we generally see between 25 and 35 patients. I think the most Freida has seen in a day at Queen’s was about 37. Our patient visits at Queen’s usually average between 3 and 5 minutes, but some can just be quick hellos, while others might last as long at 45 minutes.

Here is how Freida does her “thing”: Just before we walk into a patient’s room, we say, “Freida, let’s go see a friend!” She gets all excited - the word “friend” really energizes her. She prances in with a wiggle, and a huge, wide grin, then approaches the patient with a lick and kiss. They usually pat her on the head, and grin from ear to ear. Freida is basically an ice breaker for conversation. As we start to chat, Freida settles down and lays on the floor near the bed. (Although with her paws cleaned with antiseptic wipes just beforehand, Freida is even allowed on a patient’s bed if there are not too many tubes or wire attached; however, she has probably only done this maybe a dozen times in 18 months... and only in exceptional situations where the patient REALLY asks for it). The longer we talk with a patient, the better for Freida as her “batteries” get to recharge. As we get ready to leave, Freida knows by experience that our body language or verbal queues indicate that we are about ready to go. She then hops up and again approaches the patient for a goodbye lick or kiss, or pat on the head.

We take lunch and potty breaks, and Freida gets lots of healthy treats (carrots and non-salt rice cakes) along the way. In addition to all the patients Freida visits, she sees between 30 and 50 staff at Queen’s as well. The doctors and nurses need their therapy visits as much as the patients!

Freida also sees several patients each week at St. Francis Hospice and St. Francis Hospice West, where she is quite the celebrity. She's had her picture taken with a home hospice patient for their annual report, and was filmed for inclusion in a TV commercial about their services here in Hawaii. She was also named as "Volunteer of the Year," for which he received an etched wooden plaque, a hand-made lei with a bunch of little dog bones, and a $50 gift certificate to Longs. Is that cool or what?Freida rocks!!

At the end of the day, the grin on Freida's face tells us she is a happy dog. Even on her last visit of the day, her tail is wagging furiously. Our “little girl” is just unbelievable. As blessed as we have been in our lives, this experience a few dozen times a week is the greatest feeling we have ever experienced.

A Day in the Life of…a Guide Dog in Training!

A Guide Dog in training, working through a maze of traffic cones.
Readers: This is part of a series of articles originally published in our Community Connections Newsletter. We are reprinting them here for your enjoyment. Click on the "A Day in the Life" label link to list the entire series (see Labels section, right hand side).

Hello again, it’s your favorite Guide Dog puppy here! Things sure do move fast when you’re having fun! If you can believe it, I’m now 16 months old and am back at the Guide Dogs' campus where I am learning how to be a Guide Dog! This formal training is a lot different than everything I learned while I was in my puppy raising home, but I am ready, and I think I’m catching on pretty quick!

When I arrived back here at campus, I met lots of new friends – dogs and people! I was greeted by really nice folks that work in both the Kennel and the Training Departments, and they helped me get settled in. I got a nice, big run all to myself! So many of the sights and smells here in the kennels are strangely familiar, as if I’m returning home… could I have been here before?

The dogs in my kennel are all newly-arrived, just like me! The group of us makes up what’s known as “string,” meaning that we are all being trained by the same team of instructors, and basically are all more or less at the same stage in our progress toward becoming guides. The first couple weeks we were here consisted of a full health exam and getting acquainted with training staff. We got our own kennel signs and collar tags, both of which are labeled in print and Braille for all staff to read. And our tattooed ears are getting checked often to make sure we are all in our proper places. Pretty soon, we have learned the kennel routine: when we are fed (twice a day!), when we play, and when we get to spend time with our instructors. 

Not long after our arrival, we are “doubled” with a roommate, so we can enjoy some playtime in our runs, although we do get time to ourselves if that seems to be in our best interest (like, some dogs need to recover from spay or neuter surgeries, or simply prefer enjoy the calm quiet of a solo run. Me – I like to have a buddy!). 

The Canine Welfare Technicians (CWTs for short!) work very closely with us. The CWT’s primary role is to help ease our transition from home to the kennels, and they make it a lot of fun! There are so many ways that our time in the kennels is designed to be enjoyable. To start, the toys here are amazing! Nylabones and Kongs stuffed with frozen kibble – it just doesn’t get any better than that! In addition, we enjoy “recess” in a huge community run several times a day with our kennelmate or other dogs in our string, and are pampered with cuddling sessions or campus walks by staff or qualified volunteers. Some of us even get to spend some time during the day snoozing in one of the many offices around campus. While we’re in the kennels though, it’s pretty peaceful. The people here do a fabulous job keeping the kennels a calm and quiet place for all of us. 

Once we met our instructors, we began spending lots of time with them. One of the first things I learned was that whenever I heard a click, I would get a food treat – what a great deal! I got clicks for things that I learned in my puppy raising home: commands like “sit,” “down” and “come”; walking calmly on a leash, and paying attention. I felt like a show-off, but all of that stuff was a piece of cake! 

The next thing I learned was how to pull into a harness while walking on a treadmill, a funny-looking contraption with a moving belt. All the food and encouragement I received on my first session made the next few times on the treadmill something to look forward to! After I got the hang of it on the treadmill, my trainer and I hit the city streets. I learned how to consistently walk in a straight line both on sidewalks and across streets, and believe me, this sounds easier than it is at first! I had to learn to remain focused and responsible on my job, even with temptations like smells, food, people or other dogs all around! I eventually learned lots of new commands like “forward,” “left,” “right,” “curb,” “over here,” and “hopp-up,” (and “hopp-up” can have three different meanings!) Phew!  

Along with all that guidework in town, my education continues on campus: I’ve learned how to interact with my string mates during recess (like sharing toys!), as well as other skills like walking through an obstacle course, backing out of a chute, and navigating agility equipment. 

Some dogs in the community run with lots of toys

At about halfway through my training, I needed to demonstrate that I knew how to responsibly guide my blindfolded instructor and had a grasp of guidework basics:  Did I remain focused and responsive to commands? Did I maintain consistent drive? Did I know how to keep the team on line and away from obstacles, know to stop at the beginning and end of blocks (at curbs), and can turn both left and right when asked? I’m happy to report, I sailed through my basic skills, and got to move on to even more advanced training. 

The advanced work consists of navigating through buildings with all kinds of challenges (slick floors, stairs, elevators, and escalators); visits to big, bustling cities; awareness of overhead obstacles; traffic training (learning how to stay safe around cars); and rides on light rail and buses. Many of these concepts involve “intelligent disobedience” - meaning I get to ignore a command if it is unsafe (like refusing to enter a street if there is a car moving toward us), or if the command is impossible to execute (like not going forward because there is a wall is in front of us). Either way, it is pretty fun to purposely refuse a command AND get rewarded for it! 

Before I knew it, I was doing a 45-60 minute route in town with my blindfolded instructor that demonstrated my readiness to actually become a real working Guide Dog! My finished guidework responses and caution are greatly rewarded. Not to brag, but I excel at my traffic skills, nail all the obedience exercises, and sail through all the building tests as well (including wearing booties and a head collar). I love pleasing my instructor so much! But in the next phase of my journey, I’ll be paired up with a new blind or visually impaired handler – yet another new person to dazzle with my new-found skills! 

A Guid eDog instructor working with a Gui dedog in training on a busy city street

One thing I’ve learned with this whole Guide Dog career is that I need to be adaptable and ready for adventure! There are more new things for me to learn and places to see as I continue on my journey. I’ll be eager to report some of those things the next time you hear from me when I will be heading into class! Good times ahead, but goodbye for now!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ban Squishy Eye Syndrome!

A head collar can be a wonderful tool to use when walking with your dog. We certainly recommend and use them here at Guide Dogs. The concept behind a head collar is that when you lead a dog's head, their body will follow (much like the halter on a horse). They are an effective way to stop your dog from pulling while walking on leash (we've all seen people out with their dogs and wondered, "Who is walking who?" - right?). The collars are designed to allow the dog full freedom of movement (they can even eat or drink while wearing one).

So yes - we love them - they are great! But they do require some skill on the part of the dog handler (ahem... yes, that means YOU!). There are basically two things you need pay attention to when using a head collar: 1 - technical skill, and 2 - focus.

Technical skill: Basically, you need to know the right (and the wrong) way to put on a head collar. There are many different brands of head collars, and each one varies in how they should be worn. Make sure you follow the directions for the specific brand of head collar that you are using - and consult a professional dog trainer if you need instruction. Without a proper fit, you may experience unnecessary problems - excessive pawing, rubbing and resistance, or chafing of the nose.

For the purposes of this post, we'll demonstrate the fit of the Gentle Leader® brand:
  • The nose loop needs to be as loose and comfortable as possible, moving freely from just in front of the dog's eyes to the beginning of the fleshy part of his nose - but NOT so loose that it can come off.
  • The proper fit of the nose loop is totally dependent on the proper fit of the neck strap, which must be high at the very top of the neck (touching the skull) and very snug (only one finger barely squeezes underneath) so that it cannot rotate. (If the neck strap rotates, so will the nose loop, which may cause chafing of the skin.)
  • When properly fitted and viewed from the side, the Gentle Leader® will resemble a "V" for Victory, not an "L" for Loser.
Doesn't this look great?

The proper fit of a head collar.
Focus: Using a head collar is all well and good, but all your good intentions and attention to a proper fit will go out the window if you aren't paying attention to your dog. Yes, that’s right – YOU need to focus on what your dog or pup is doing when it’s wearing a head collar in order for the equipment to be effective. Your dog should be walking with a loose leash, so as to not put tension on the head collar and cause the dreaded, cringe-worthy "Squishy Eye Syndrome!" (Ouch!)

Examples of poor head collar use.
A couple points to ponder:
  • Are you walking your dog with a loose leash? Is your dog looking straight ahead, or are you pulling a little bit too much causing the dog's head to strain sideways?
  • Pay special attention to your dog when you’re descending steps – is your dog straining with its head up?
Used correctly, a head collar can make an incredible difference in your dog’s ability to focus and learn. Used incorrectly, it speaks VOLUMES about YOUR abilities as a dog handler.

When you see a dog with Squishy Eye Syndrome, please be sure to point it out to the handler so they can learn how to use the head collar correctly. Their dog or pup will thank you for it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who's the Cutest Face on Facebook?

Black Lab puppipes Dot and Dubai
Congratulations to Marlene Markowich for winning our “Who’s the Cutest Face on Facebook?” contest – little Dot and Dubai stole the show! We now have over 1,300 members of our Guide Dogs for the Blind Official Group on Facebook; we hope you're already our friend, and that you'll tell your friends to join in the fun!

We have another contest for you this month - this time, it's a short story contest called “Who’s Your Soul Mate?” Tell us, in 500 words or less, how your dog enhances your life. What traits do you share with your dog and how has this affected your life? We're looking for stories that echo GDB's vision of using our power of partnering to improve quality of life. The winner's story will be posted on this blog! Please submit all entries to (feel free to include a photo) by July 13th.

Following the Instructor, Part 3: Escalators, Platforms and Subways

By Joanne Ritter

The following text describes a 10:17 minute video, taken on my excursion to San Francisco with Instructor Ben Cawley and yellow Lab Solana.

Link to the video: Following the Instructor, Part 3.

Yellow Lab Solana enjoying the ride on the train.Ben pauses to put dog booties on Solana’s rear paws before they head to the escalators. She accepts it patiently. It’s strange to see a dog wearing “sneakers,” but important to protect the dog’s pads. The booties are also sometimes used in inclement weather when the sidewalks are either too hot or covered with ice and snow.

As they approach the escalator, Solana slows and alerts Ben with her body movements. He lets go of the harness handle and with leash in hand, they carefully step on board the moving steps. Solana stays calmly by Ben’s side as they ride along, her gaze on him waiting for his next cue. As they near the top step, Ben takes hold of her collar and then releases it as a signal to disembark. Ah, wags and praise all around!

Now, on the subway platform, he lifts the harness handle and cues her to enter the subway’s gaping doors. Once onboard, we have a chance to sit and visit with an interested rider. The dogs draw many questions from the public and the trainers often have to shift hats – from training dogs to doing public relations.

At our stop, we exit and do some platform work. Ben waits for the train to leave, and gives Solana the cue to go left – right off the platform and on to the tracks below! But she’s too smart for that -- she’ll have none of it! She disobeys him with confidence and is rewarded by lots of praise. This is what is known as intelligent disobedience. The dog is trained to disobey a cue if it would put the team in harm’s way. Had this been a real situation, she would have potentially saved Ben’s life!

As remarkable as this is, it points up the importance of not distracting or obstructing a working animal. The dog is doing a very important job and needs to focus.

Leaving the subway, Solana stops to alert Ben to the steps and he rewards her before continuing through the crowded city streets. It’s not just the number of people that is distracting. There are pedestrians rolling suitcases, women walking noisily in heels, and a homeless man asleep on the sidewalk. How does Solana know to ignore them?

Early socialization to the world by our puppy raisers is key to establishing a solid foundation for guidework training. It helps to make the sights and sounds of the city a “normal” environment. Solana can concentrate on her guidework training with confidence.

Today’s question goes out to our alumni – has your dog ever saved your life?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The F Litter Turns 1! Letters From the Pups to Mom Christine

Can you believe the F litter pups that we've been following on this blog are now a year old!? Wow, how time flies! The pups' mom, Christine, got some letters home from most of the youngsters, snippets of which we'll share with you below. As for the three pups that haven't written home, Frolic, Fjord and Finella (now Jolie) - mom wants to hear from you! :) Actually, word is that they're all doing great with their puppy raisers as well. We can't wait to see what the future continues to hold for these pups - and we'll be sure to share it with you!

Letter From Faraja

Hi, Mom!

Faraja here! How are you? It's my birthday! Look how I've grown. As you can see, I like to know what's going on. I'm not sure how we'll celebrate my big day, but I know I'll be happy with whatever Judy and my big "sister" Cobalt have planned. I hope it involves a good romp in my favorite playground!



Letter From Flute

Dear Mom,

I have been REALLY busy! Last weekenBlack Lab Fluted I visited the college that I will be going to soon - GDB's campus in Oregon! I got to go to a graduation - I was really excited for such a special day. I also went out to lunch this week with some of the children from my class at school. It was a chance to show off for them how well behaved I am. You'd be really proud of me, I didn't even SNIFF the food on the floor, much less eat it! They walked over to my favorite store where they have all kinds of dog food and treats. They were whispering something about "birthday" and "present" but I'm not exactly sure what that meant!

You know, my people like to show off a lot and I have to help them sometimes. They cFlute in front of Seattle's space needle with puppy raisersan drop my leash and I just walk along at their side for as long as they want me to, no matter who or what that is interesting is beside me. They tell me "sit" and I just have to wait there until they walk away and call me and they get soooo excited you'd think I'd done something hard!

I've discovered how much fun the lake can be. Do you know about lakes? There is lots and lots of water and I love to jump in it and get my feet and legs wet. I also like to get sprayed with the hose. What I like to do best is sleep. I'm a really good sleeper, and guess what? I must be a big kid now because I don't have to sleep in the crate at night any more!

That's all from Seattle, Mom (that's a picture of me in front of the space needle with my raiser's nieces!). Love,


Letter From Franco

Dear Mama,

The month of May was a busy month. We attended several track meets and had the chance to be exposed to large crowds with lots of cheering and excitement. My puppy raiser got 1st in the JV boys district mile race!

I've also been busy helping my raiser give tours and educational classes a Lucky Peak Nursery, a unit of the United States Forest Service located near Boise, Idaho. The nursery began its life in 1959 and has produced seedlings for reforestation after natural disasters and stand management since 1961. They have the seed bank for the south and western United States. The nursery produces more than 2 million seedlings each year. My raiser and I show school kids what happens there, and how the nursery is helping the forest.

I am so glad that I have a busy family. I get to normal stuff like going to the grocery store and the library with my family and then we go and do a little bit more. I have been to a lot of places but sometimes it is really nice to come home and relax.

With love and licks,


Letter From Faulkner

Hey Mom!!

Now that I'm a year old, I have discovered a few things that I really really like. First of all: outside. Outside is the best place on Earth!! I love all the smells. Another of my favorite things: water. The bathtub, pon Faulker with tongue hanging outds, puddles, anything! The hose, though, is the most magical of all. My favorite toy: a purple jolly ball with a rope through it. I can play tug or just run around with it. My final favorite thing: the cold. I can't stand the heat. I really like laying down on the cool air conditioning vents, but I'll settle for cool hardwood floors in a pinch. Kate has even given me a couple ice cubes which combines my love of water with my love of the cold! They are quite the treat!!

Kate seems to be very proud of my work too. I know all of my commands and will do them flawlessly. Except "stand." Kate and I are working really hard on it, but it's a little awkward for me still. I really do love getting to work in public. Whenever I see Kate bring out my vest I get very excited and have started scooping my head into the straps to make sure she doesn't forget me.

Kate has not been feeling really well for the past few months and we've been staying at home more often than we used to. As long as I'm with her, I'm very happy though. We get to spend hours outside in the sun and it's given us a lot of time to really work on my obedience. I try really hard to stay calm while I'm inside and keep out of the way when there are lots of people around. The only thing that I do that upsets people is knock wine glasses off of the coffee table. I never do it on purpose. My tail just gets out of hand. So far, we've only had one spill though and I'm learning that a tap on the rump means "either sit or move" so that nobody's glass gets upset.

Because of Kate being sick, we're going to doctors a lot. They all love me there and nothing phases me anymore. The smell is a little weird, but I've learned to love the people in the big white coats.

Yesterday, on my birthday, Kate took a long time to cuddle with me and love on me. She told me that she loves me and can't believe what a good dog I am. She told me all about hRaiser Kate with Faulknerer past five dogs and how they are ALL working with a blind person. There is no question in Kate's mind that I will join her past pups in giving a very important person their freedom. She seems very proud of her dogs who are working and for her to be that proud of me will make having to leave her worth it. Whenever Kate talks to me, I give her unwavering, unblinking eye contact and she has often told me that she can see straight to my soul through my eyes.

I hope that you're doing well and will promise to let you know when I'm going back to school to make you, Kate and everyone else proud.



Pinot & Pups - A Perfect Pairing!

Pinot and Pups guest DeniseWine pairings are always such a big deal - but we know what goes well with a good Pinot: Puppies! And plenty of other people agree, as was evidenced by the success of our 2nd Annual Pinot & Pups Wine Gala, held last month in Portland, Oregon. Over its two year history, the event had raised more than $330,000; proceeds from Pinot & Pups directly support veterinary care and the training of our students in the Pacific Northwest.

Check out this link to the Pinot & Pups photo slideshow to see what a fun time it was!

So many people are to thank for the success of this event - the sponsors, the volunteers, the many wineries, businesses and individuals that donated amazing auction items, and of course everyone who came to the party! We got lots of help from puppy raisers far and wide, including clubs in Colorado and Utah who put together some wonderful vacations in their home states. And wineries from throughout Oregon and Washington were more than willing to provide the Pinot and other great wines for the enjoyment of our guests during the reception and dinner, including wines from Chehalem, Elk Cove Vineyards, Eyrie Vineyards, La Bete Wines, ArborBrook Vineyards, Erath Vineyards, Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards and Willamette Valley Vineyards.

In particular though, there are two people that deserve an extra-special shoutout for helping put Pinot & Pups on the map: Mike and Deena Bragg. The Braggs have served as the event's co-chairs since its inception.

Mike serves on GDB's Board of Directors, but Deena is nearly every bit as involvMike and Deena Bragg at Pinot and Pups 2009ed. "We are a two-for-one package deal - when Mike gets involved so do I," she said. "The first time I saw a Guide Dog puppy in training, I was instantly in awe that this pup could grow up to serve as someone’s eyes. I've been hooked ever since."

For Mike, creating an event that celebrated Oregon's world-class Pinot Noir wines while supporting GDB was a no-brainer. "Oenology, or the study of wine, is a hobby of mine," he said, "so blending our two passions together to raise much needed funds for GDB was a natural fit. We are very grateful that the Portland community has embraced this event and Guide Dogs so generously. We are so thankful to be a part of this amazing organization."

Following the Instructor, Part 2

By Joanne Ritter

Thanks to all of you who left positive comments from our first video in this series about Guide Dog training.

At the start of this 2:33 minute video, Instructor Ben Cawley grabs a cuppa' joe and gets ready for the drive into San Francisco.

A dog's gotta' look good for a day in the big city, so it's a quick brush down and then on with the leather harness and we're ready to roll.

Guide Dog in training is harnessed to begin his training workout
Music cannot mask the sounds of the city -- the car horns and loud engines are almost ear-splitting. Distractions abound. It takes a lot of focus to be a Guide Dog. Focus, patience and an eagerness to please.

Stopping for curbs wins a pat and praise. The dog waits calmly until Instructor Paolo Pompanin gives the cue to cross the street. It seems like a simple task, but it can mean the difference between life and death to someone who is blind. Unlike our focused dogs, pedestrians and drivers often aren't paying full attention to safe travel.

What about you? Do you multi-task when you're driving? Have you experienced a close call because you or someone else wasn't paying attention to traveling safely?

Here's a link to a short video of the day's excursion!
(2:33 minutes)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Following the Instructor, Part 1

By Joanne Ritter

Recently, I had the good fortune to follow our instructors on training routes as they prepared some of our dogs to become Guide Dogs for people who are blind. As the sun beamed its morning light, one by one the instructors led them through the kennel gate, readying them for the day's training.

The dogs are so beautiful to watch, and I often feel we are spoiled by the stellar behavior -- a product of good breeding, early and extensive socialization, good training patterns, attention and love. We expect a lot from them, and they deliver. A simple walk to the curb demonstrates so much. There is no yanking or pulling; they're calm, not barking. And yet they are happy--tails wagging in eager anticipation.

Some are led to a fenced-in yard to romp gleefully. Others are put through their obedience paces. Once in awhile, I hear the crisp snap of a clicker followed by the positive reinforcement of a food reward for a task well done.

Instructor walks with a black Lab toward a training van
The dogs are then loaded safely into crates within the training vans. Some busily gnaw on Nylabones as they wait to be transported to downtown training areas.

In our next episode, I'll be following an instructor and dog in the final stages of training in downtown San Francisco. Stay tuned!

Do you have a pet dog? Does your dog walk calmly at your side? How do you teach your dog not to pull you down the street? Are you consistent as your dog's trainer? What tips would you like to share with other readers of this blog?
6:45 minute video.

Read more in the second installment of this story.