Monday, July 27, 2009

Puppy Cam

Here's our latest puppy cam from our California campus. Can you say "Awww...."? 


Newshounds!

A puppy raiser being interviewed by a TV camera man
Our people, pups and dogs sure do know how to attract some good attention! As witnessed by this photo, taken by puppy raiser Sue Day, during a recent puppy club outing. She writes: "This was taken during a club outing to San Francisco on the Ferry Boat. We ended up walking to Pier 39. Just as we got there, an interviewer and camera man from Fox Sports approached Don Hirzel, the leader of our Alameda County 4H puppy raising group. The camera crew was out doing public interest stories and asked Don questions about Guide Dogs, what he was doing, and other questions about Guide Dog puppies and the organization. It turns out that the crew was there to cover a soccer game with Mexico; the segment was actually aired in Mexico."

That's just like our puppy raisers - ready with a feel-good, man-on-the-street interview any ol' time of day! 

Here's a list of links to some more recent media coverage we thought you'd enjoy. Great stories and videos of the impact our program is having in our communities. Enjoy!The cover of Dog Fancy Magazine
And here's a couple of stories about some of GDB's career change dogs and retired breeder dogs that are involved in a cancer detection study at the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo, California. 
The cover of O Magazine
For more information about the cancer detection study and the Pine Street Foundation, please visit their website at http://pinestreetfoundation.org/.

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

A Guide Dog team followed by an instructor.
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).


I passed all my final exams with flying colors! I know if my raiser Abby was here she would be so proud of me. I’m told that next I will go to class. I am anxious to find out exactly what that means. Over the past four months I’ve grown very close to the Canine Welfare Technicians (who take care of me), my fellow Guide Dog in training buddies, and most of all, my instructor. She has taught me so much and I know I’ll make her proud in class. Here comes a CWT now to get me. “Is it time? Is it time?” No, instead we’re going into the bathing room. Not my favorite place on campus, but I’ve learned to tolerate it. The aloe and oatmeal shampoo does leave my coat silky soft. I’m sure the CWT will also clean my teeth and ears and brush my coat. I’ve learned that it is important for me to hold very still for these rituals. I’m even comfortable having my nails clipped. Wow, have I matured!


I’m back in my kennel, and I can feel the excitement in the air. Something about today is different. This must be the day I’ve been hearing about…Dog Day. It sounds like a celebration of me and what could be better! Here comes my instructor. “Is it time? Is it time?” Yes! As I walk in perfect heel with my instructor she gives me a few words of encouragement and advice. “You’re no longer a puppy. Today you become an adult with big dog responsibilities. Everything you have learned has led you to this experience. Today you will meet the person with whom you will spend the rest of your life. This person is special and needs you to perform a very special task. We all believe in you. Remember your training and believe in yourself.” As we walk into the large building know as the dormitory I can smell many people I’ve never met before. Some of my Guide Dog buddies are here too and have already been paired with people. My instructor is leading me to the Music Room where I can only pick up one person’s scent. My person! I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. I have to sniff him up and down, give him a few licks, and really let him know how happy I am to meet him. He also seems very excited and has tears of joy in his eyes as he runs his hands along my sides in such a gentle manner. I know in this moment that we will have a very special relationship. My person, Kevin, takes the leash from my instructor and gives his first command, “heel”. I am still so excited that it is difficult to stay in heel position as we walked to our room. 


We spent the rest of the day playing, cuddling, and practicing heel position. Kevin prepared and fed me my dinner before having his and then off to bed. Before I knew it we were up and starting the next day. Kevin prepared my breakfast and took me to a place called the “relieving circle”. There were eleven other of my buddies there who had been paired to people. We all motioned our quiet “good mornings” and got to business. After Kevin ate his breakfast we met in a large comfortable area called The Day Room. I got to take my mid-morning nap while the people talked about important things like crossing streets and re-working errors. After another opportunity in the relieving circle (I always use my opportunities…wouldn’t want to have an accident!) we boarded a bus and drove away from campus. I really wanted to lie down and nap more, but Kevin preferred me to sit. I could understand that we were practicing for something. The bus eventually stopped and we got off. Kevin gently slipped the harness over my head as I stood very still. He picked up the harness and commanded me forward. Although he sounded very authoritative, I knew that if it wasn’t safe I would disobey even the most confident command. My instructor had taught me the concept of “Intelligent Disobedience” well. This time there we no obstructions or hazards. I stepped forward and pulled firmly into the harness. Kevin followed hesitantly at first but eventually relaxed and walked by my hips. We flew down the sidewalk. I showed Kevin how well I knew to stop at curbs and cross the street strait as an arrow. Each time we reached an up-curb Kevin stroked my chest and gave me a kibble. I loved that I was pleasing Kevin, but I can’t lie…the kibble was the icing on the cake! What a great first walk. We reloaded the bus and drove back to campus. After lunch (Kevin’s, not mine. Drat!) we did it all over again. 


That night I feel fast asleep on my fleece mat next to Kevin’s bed, and had dreams about what the rest of class would hold for us. I dreamt that I took Kevin to all my favorite places: downtown San Rafael which I know like the back of my paw, Fisherman’s Wharf where the smells never quit, and The Embarcadero where I can show off my acute awareness of the dangers of platform drop-offs. I went on to dream about being on a great stage with both Abbey and Kevin. Many people were applauding us with tears in their eyes. What a great feeling! I can’t wait to graduate and walk proudly onto that stage. I hope to see you there too!

Following the Instructors: Episode 4

By Joanne Ritter

Instructor Ben Cawley with yellow Lab Solana
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Following the Instructors series which we began in June. The first of our final two videos shows Instructor Ben Cawley and Solana as they wrap up their training route. In our second video, we meet Solana on graduation day! Yes, that’s right, she graduated this past Saturday, and we had a chance to capture an interview with her new partner and her puppy raisers. 

In our first video, Instructor Ben Cawley sets a fast pace with his dog-in-training Solana. She stops at the curb and waits patiently, tail wagging in response to his praise. The ability to wait patiently until traffic has cleared is important, because a blind handler would need to concentrate on the sound of traffic flow in order to determine when it is safe enough to give the cue to cross the street. While waiting, a tour bus passes by. Since so much of our training takes place in the streets of San Francisco and San Rafael in California, and Gresham and Portland in Oregon, we are one of the "sights to see" for touring visitors. Back at the training van, Ben removes Solana's booties and gives her ample praise. He takes a moment to give us his assessment of this beautiful Guide Dog.

After months of training, Solana was ready for class. As Ben predicted, she was matched with Mrs. Cindy Caler from San Diego. We had a chance to visit with Cindy and meet Solana’s raisers, Margeen and Gail Morikone of Grand Terrace, California. 

This question is for our alumni – Did you notice that your dog held a special place in his/her heart for an instructor or puppy raiser?  How did you find that out?

Behind the Scenes at Graduation

By Joanne Ritter


A row of Guide Dogs at a graduation ceremony.


Graduations at Guide Dogs for the Blind are unique celebrations – they represent the coming together of hard work, passion and commitment of so many people: puppy raisers, staff, students and supporters.  


This past Saturday was a perfect day weather-wise and in so many other ways for a graduation ceremony on our California campus. In the following two videos, I’d like to take you behind the scenes so you can meet some of the people in this wonderful community.

If you haven’t yet been to a graduation at either of our campuses (San Rafael, California or Boring, Oregon), what’s stopping you? They’re open to the public. You’ll find schedules and directions on our website, www.guidedogs.com. Bring the whole family!


Question: What did you enjoy most about your last GDB graduation?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

A dog swimming in a lake
Here's some great tips to help you and your pooch enjoy these long, hot summer days. Whether you're trying to beat the heat, gearing up for vacation, or just hanging by the pool, these pointers will get you through the summer in style. 

Sun and Heat Exposure
  • The best preventative measure to prevent sun/heat exposure is to monitor your dog’s activities, and to minimize exposure during the peak hours of the day. Dogs love the warmer weather just as much as you do, but the season’s heat and sunshine can be problematic. Each summer, countless dogs are treated for heat stroke.
  • While no one is safe in a parked car in the sun, dogs are especially susceptible to succumbing to heat stroke. In fact, according to AAA, a car’s interior temperature can climb to 170 degrees on an 85-degree day in less than 20 minutes, even with the windows cracked. In many states it is illegal to leave your dog in a locked car, and it’s never ok for Guide Dog puppies. GDB alumna Jen McEachen of Prince George, British Columbia, recently wrote a Letter to the Editor in her hometown warning pet owners of the dangers of leaving their pets in the car on hot days; read her letter here: www.princegeorgecitizen.com.
  • Energetic games of catch or long walks/runs in high temperatures can also weaken your companion. So on super-hot days, avoid the sun by taking your dog out in the early morning or later in the evenings, instead of when the sun is highest in the sky.
Swimming 101
  • Moving water can be quite cold but in all the fun your dog may not care! Call him out periodically and check that he is not becoming excessively chilled. Trembling can be a sign of early hypothermia or just doggy excitement. Dogs whose hackles (the hair along the spine) are raised up when they exit the water are showing that they are very cold.  Keep plenty of old towels on hand to dry off your dog.
  • Some dogs swallow a lot of water while swimming and swell up like balloons! Keep your dog out of the water for a while if this happens and be prepared to give him plenty of opportunities to relieve himself.
  • Anytime a dog swims it will expose his ears to moisture. Excessive moisture in the ear can contribute to ear infections. Care must be taken to dry and air out the dog’s ears after swimming. Check with your veterinarian if your dog is prone to ear infections before allowing him to swim.
  • Ponds, sloughs, lakes, rivers: Bodies of water inhabited by wildlife may be contaminated with bacteria such as giardia; dogs should not swim in areas that would be unsuitable for humans to swim. You should also be aware of hazards such as submerged branches, fishing line etc. A gradual entry into the water is safer and less frightening to a dog than a steep bank; boat ramps and gently sloping banks are excellent entry points. Currents can be unpredictably strong; caution should be used wherever there is a flow of water.  Some dogs thrill in paddling against the current but even the strongest dogs may be swept away in swift running rivers. Dog owners should be considerate of other people using the swimming area; not everyone enjoys being sprayed by wet dog shaking off!
  • Ocean: All the above should be considered when taking a dog to the beach. The ocean can be overwhelming to some dogs and highly stimulating to others. Caution should be taken even wading in the ocean with small dogs and puppies. Dogs who have been in the ocean should have their coats rinsed thoroughly afterwards.
  • Swimming pools: Small dogs and puppies may be more comfortable being introduced to water in a plastic kiddie pool. Keep the water very shallow at first and encourage your pup to enter by stepping into the pool yourself and using a fun toy to encourage him to follow you. Dogs should be carefully introduced to a swimming pool on leash and they should never be forced to enter the water. If your dog enters the water voluntarily he should be allowed only a few strokes before being shown how to get out of the pool. This should be repeated several times until he knows exactly where the steps are. Should your dog get into difficulties in the water, carefully guide him to the steps by the leash. If he is not on leash, you should be prepared to enter the water and take hold of his collar and guide him to the steps. Once you are certain he knows how to get out of the pool he can be turned loose to enjoy himself. In order to prevent accidents, care should be taken that your dog does not have access to the pool unattended.  A pool cover is no guarantee that your dog will not enter the pool on his own, with potentially disastrous consequences. Also, keep in mind that pool chemicals can be harsh on a dog’s coat, so rinsing him off with tap water after a swim is a good idea.
Travel
Unless you’re traveling with a service animal, flying or driving are usually your only options. Buses, trains and cruises do not typically allow pets on board. But Smart Money magazine had some very helpful tips to help cut costs in the air and at your destination, including:
  • Book ASAP. Airlines allow just a few pets on board per flight, so you’ll need to book early to reserve a spot. Check safety records. If you travel with your pet in cargo, make sure that the airline has a record of few problems and deaths. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics tracks incidents by airline on a monthly basis.
  • Compare fares. Fees vary by airline and how the pet travels.
  • Get a clean bill of health. Most airlines require a health certificate and proof of vaccinations issued no more than 10 days before your flight.
  • Pick up airline miles. Some airlines (like JetBlue and Continental) add frequent-flier miles for traveling pets to their human companion’s account.
  • Look for pet-friendly hotels. There’s a dearth of pet-friendly hotels these days where your pet can stay without an extra fee. Shop around. 
Read the complete article from Smart Money at www.smartmoney.com

Have a safe and fun summer everyone, and most of all, stay cool! 

Puppy Raising Youth Scholarship Winners, 2009

Each year, GDB awards scholarships to puppy raisers in their senior year of high school. This year, we are pleased to award four scholarships totaling $5,000. Congratulations to Mallary Paoli, Abby Rose Christensen, Jon Bottom and Cristen Phillipsen. 

Mallary Paoli with a Guide Dog puppy
Mallary Paoli ($2,000 Recipient)
Mallary Paoli from Elko County, Nevada has been raising Guide Dog puppies since 2000 and is currently raising her eighth puppy, Montessa. In 2007, Mallary did an internship in the Training Department at our Oregon campus. This spring, Mallary was awarded the Prudential Certificate of Excellence Award and the President’s Call to Service Award for her volunteer work with Guide Dogs for the Blind. She’s been giving presentations about GDB since 2003 at such places as elementary schools, preschools, Lion's Club, Rotary Club, Soroptimists International, and the Elko County Reads event. Each year Mallary takes her puppy to the Beeping Easter Egg Hunt for blind and visually impaired children. She is a nine-year member of the Adobe Summit 4-H Club and was a member of the Ruby Mountain FFA Chapter for four years. Mallary won many awards, including a Silver Emblem in Poultry Judging, her Nevada State Degree and a Gold Proficiency Award in Small Animal Production and Care for her Guide Dog project. Mallary is also a member of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and competed in the Veterinary Assisting event. This year, she placed second at the state competition and was in the top ten finalists at the 2009 National HOSA Convention. 

Mallary was homeschooled in high school and graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Independent Study High School in June. In May (before she graduated from high school!), Mallary graduated from Great Basin College with an Associate of Arts and an Associate of Science degree. She will be attending Oregon State University in the fall, and has been accepted into the University Honors College. She is going to major in Animal Science with an emphasis in Animal Behavior and Bioethics. Mallary hopes to one day be a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor in Oregon.  

Abby Rose Christensen ($1,000 Recipient)
Abby Rose Christensen with a Guide Dog puppy
Abby joined a puppy raising club in King County, Wash., to become a part of Guide Dogs for the Blind, yet over the years, she says Guide Dogs became a significant part of her. Eight years and four puppies later, she has graduated two dogs as working guides and one is a pediatric therapy dog. As a member of 4-H GDB Youth Group, she held leadership positions and won many awards competing in the King County Fair, including Grand Champion in Fit and Show with her first dog, Josanne. As a high school freshman, Abby took her second pup-in-training, Prescott, to the Capitol building in Olympia, WA for the YMCA Youth and Government Legislature program and successfully passed a bill into Youth Law that would allow puppies in training into all public establishments. Three years later, Abby was peer elected as the Washington State Youth Lieutenant Governor, leading the Senate for one term. Over the past 14 years she has studied to become an accomplished dancer in ballet and hula while performing many lead ballet roles including Wendy in Peter Pan, Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.  She also teaches Sunday school for her church and works in summer youth programs as a camp counselor.  

In the fall, Abby will be attending the University Of Washington Honors Program to study Biomedical Engineering in hopes of ministering to others with the creation of artificial tissue and vital organs. Abby is grateful to Guide Dogs for the Blind for trusting her with the privilege of raising puppies. In all that she hopes to do in life, she says that she will always think of herself as a puppy raiser.  

Jon Bottom ($1,000 Recipient)
Jon Bottom with a Guide Dog puppy
As a 7-year member of Stanislaus County (California) Guide Dog Puppy Club, Jon raised six puppies. Presently, three are working guides and one is a breeder. Over the years Jon solicited thousands of dollars in donations from local businesses for his club. In addition, he mentored several young puppy raisers, including his sister, and puppy-sat many dogs. Jon has also helped to raise public awareness of Guide Dogs for the Blind. In 2005 he developed an expository speech using “Ford,” his Guide Dog Puppy, as his assistant. Ultimately they placed as National Semi-Finalists in the NCFCA (National Christian Forensics and Communication Association). To this Jon added team policy debate and extemporaneous speaking where he has qualified to compete at the NCFCA National Tournament for the last four years. In 2008 he earned national open standing as a 1st Place Speaker and 2nd Place Team in Policy Debate.  For the past two summers Jon has helped aspiring debaters as Team Leader at Santa Clara University’s Debate Camp.  
 
While raising puppies, Jon was also involved in Boy Scouts of America Troop 76.  In January 2004, Jon and his first two Guide Dog puppies were featured in Boys Life, the national magazine of Boy Scouts of America. In 2007-2008 as Senior Patrol Leader, Jon organized and led weekly meetings, monthly outings and his troop’s three-week summer wilderness camp for 30 scouts and staff. Jon earned his Eagle Scout Rank in April 2008. Active in his community (projects served the Red Cross, Lion’s Club, Friends of the Tuolumne River and numerous churches), Jon currently volunteers as an Explorer Scout for the Modesto Police Department.
 At UC Berkeley, where he plans to obtain a B.S. in business, Jon hopes to compete for Cal Debate. 

Cristen Phillips with a Guide Dog puppy
Cristen Phillipsen ($1,000 Recipient)
Cristen has raised four puppies with her family in El Dorado County, Calif., three of which became working guides. She continues to puppy-sit and is excited that her younger sister will soon begin her puppy raising experience. In addition to being active with GDB, Cristen has been in 4-H for ten years. She has held five offices and been teen leader for the photography, sewing, and arts and crafts projects. Additionally, Cristen has been a dancer since she was five years old, and has performed ballet and Polynesian dance at senior centers and charity events. In high school, Cristen participated in many clubs. She was president of I Support American Women (ISAW); treasurer of the French Club; a member of Key Club, California Scholarship Federation, and Prospectors for Peace (a student-run People-to-People club). She won the faculty award from her high school mathematics department. At the University of California, Davis, Cristen will be expanding her education by majoring in mathematics. 

Who's Your Soulmate?

Becky Andrews and Cricket
Congratulations to Becky Andrews of Bountiful, Utah, who submitted the winning essay in our recent Facebook "Who's Your Soulmate?" essay contest. Not our friend yet? Join us on Facebook here!

My Soulmate
By Becky Andrews

Last night at the conclusion of yoga while we were doing the shavasna, my soulmate, my Guide Dog Cricket, was snuggled next to me as we slowly breathed in and out. I stroked her soft gentle ear and was reminded that this beautiful girl spends almost 24/7 with me. She knew most intently at that moment how busy our day had been. We had not gotten the opportunity to touch each other as much as we both need to do so throughout the day so she was being a little extra cuddly during yoga. That day, we had nine face-to-face sessions with clients, had busily gone from one meeting to the next, crossed several streets, and quickly eaten (no problem for a yellow lab) before yoga. Now we were sharing a special moment together. As I listened to her deep breathing and felt her body cozy up to mine, I felt so grateful for this beautiful dog that spends her life loving and serving me.
I am blessed to have an incredible family and married to my best friend, Steve, for 25 years. However, no one spends more time or knows my days' journeys like Cricket does. She is there and so aware of the daily victories and challenges – "Yes we nailed that crossing, Crickers! Good girl for weaving through that busy group of kids on the sidewalk!" She seems to know just when I need a little nose on my knee during a busy day – or when it is time to be silly and play with her toys for a little fun.

Cricket is just the soulmate that I need in my life right now – she brings me freedom as a fabulous Guide Dog and also brings love, compassion and balance to my life. Cricket knows that we both feel better when we start our day outside watering the flowers and enjoying the fresh air. We also know we both feel better at the end of day having some time to snuggle together and be grateful for each other. Whether we are in a new busy area trying to navigate or simply having some quiet time at home, Cricket understands my soul and calms my spirit in such an amazing way.

Recently walking along the sidewalk near a driveway, a car pulled out quickly - Cricket pulled us both back to protect me. At this moment, I was reminded that while I am walking along she is constantly watching out for my safety – watching for cars, obstacles in the sidewalk, people she needs to be careful to avoid, overhanging branches that she needs to stop and signal to me … her duties are endless. Her love and devotion is amazing! As I was pulled back from this car, I bent down and hugged Cricket and thanked her - in Cricket fashion she licked me and wagged her tail to acknowledge that she loves me and is excited to be my soulmate.

Find more tales of Becky and Cricket on their blog, Cruisin' With Cricket.

From Mongolia to GDB

Uyanga Erdenebold and her Guide Dog Gladys
Submitted by Uyanga Erdenebold

I remember standing at the airport in Ulaan Baatar with my family on that fine morning in August. My mother kissed me goodbye on my right cheek and said that she would kiss my other cheek when I got back home. Only then did I truly believe that I had finally made it. 

On that morning, I was flying to the United States of America to begin my two years of the master’s program in library and information science at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge. One year before, I was sitting in a room of the Embassy of the United States in Mongolia, facing the Fulbright scholarship selection committee. I didn’t need to feel so nervous - a week later, I received a call saying that I was selected to receive the Fulbright fellowship. 

I was diagnosed with retinoid dispegmentosa when I was four years old and started wearing glasses. I have lost my sight over time to a degree that I can no longer see myself in the mirror. Being a blind person in a developing country is not easy. Imagine finishing high school and college having never had a single book in Braille or in audio format. I don’t know of a single school or library in my country that has any materials in Braille; even the country’s only high school for the blind has no textbooks for its students in Braille - aside from 30-year old elementary reading books. In my third year at college, I was introduced to audio books. As there were no audio books in Mongolia, it was a great discovery for me.  

I typically had to rely on the assistance of others to read materials to me, which I then typed into Braille. I was always dependent on others to help me and I felt I had little control over my own time. However, I am lucky to have such a great family and incredible teachers to support me in all my goals. With their help, I graduated from one of the well-known universities of Mongolia with top honors. Not all blind people in Mongolia are as fortunate. Because of the challenges, many have given up studying even though they have equal intellectual ability. 

I learned from many of my foreign friends about the opportunities and resources that the libraries around the world make available to their blind or visually impaired citizens, including audio book service. Although I did not have much opportunity to read, I have always been fascinated with books and reading. As someone who has confronted the problems of lack of literature for blind people every day, I have developed a special interest in libraries and their importance to the communities they serve. For all my life as a student, I dreamed of one day sitting in a library reading room and finding the materials I needed on my own. My ultimate goal is to establish a library or library service for blind individuals and other people who are disabled in other ways in Mongolia. So there I was, flying to America to fulfill my dream.  

After arriving in Louisiana, I was registered with the Louisiana State Library. I received audio books from the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). This service brings the world of literature to me. I enjoy it so much that sometimes I have to stay up late at night to catch up with my school work. 

Yet, i never thought that I would meet the very people whose voices I have come to know so well from the NLS books. However, in May 2008, my academic advisor arranged with the NLS for me to do a field study at their main headquarters in Washington D.C. During my three-week study, I was able to talk to representatives and heads of all the departments and sections of NLS and see the equipment and the facilities. The NLS staff was so generous with their time and they had a great willingness to talk to me and answer my questions even though I was no more than just a curious student full of big ideas and dreams but with no professional experience or support from any organization. It was a great and valuable experience for me.

There is yet another experience, a very new aspect of life that I discovered while in the United States. Since there is no mobility training for the blind people in Mongolia, I was never taught how to walk with a cane or a guide dog. As an individual and a young person, I want independence and privacy as much as other people do, something that wasn’t always possible in Mongolia. Upon my arrival to LSU, the school’s Office of Disability Services put me in contact with the Louisiana State Rehabilitation Services, which provided me with mobility training with a white cane.

The first time I touched a cane, I felt so insecure. I could not help thinking “This is just a stick, how can I trust my life to it?” The idea of walking with a cane did not seem welcoming or pleasant at first. However, as I practiced more with my tutor, I came to understand how much independence, opportunities and self-confidence a cane gives me. After having been accompanied wherever I go for all my life, a cane helps me to know what it is like to walk alone, to take as much time as I want to reach a certain place, to stop wherever I want to, and to enjoy traveling by myself. 

However, I soon realized that learning to walk with a cane was just a beginning and there was yet even more for me to discover: a relationship full of trust, love, and honesty that can only exist between a blind person and a Guide Dog. 

I got my guide, Gladys, a lovely little Labrador, in August 2008 from GDB's California campus. I cannot fully describe what positive changes Gladys brought to my life that I never thought about or experienced before. I think Gladys is one of the happiest things that happened to my life. Many people ask how is it different to have a Guide Dog than having a cane. Some blind people would jokingly answer such a question with: “Well, you never hear people saying what a beautiful cane you have,” or “Let us move you to the first-class compartment of the plane to give your lovely cane more space to rest.” With a guide dog you are no longer just blind - you are special. When I walk through the LSU campus with Gladys, I can feel the smiles and love she brings to people’s faces and into my life. Now Gladys is an official member of the family of the School of Library and Information Science at LSU. She never misses a class and attends all the parties. She is much loved by the faculty and staff. In fact, she is the only student who gets the dean’s administrative assistant to prepare her something to drink, and she is the only one who sleeps, sometimes even snores, through the most of the classes and still remains the favorite of all the professors. 

Gladys not only guides me through physical obstacles, but she also guides me through the emotional barriers and difficulties in life, something a cane can never do. She brought to my life a true companionship and a trust, both of which she gives me unconditionally, and I feel more confident and strong day after day, because I know I’m not alone no matter what. 

When I go back home this May, Gladys will be the first Guide Dog in all of Mongolia, and we will have many challenges to overcome. Since there are no guide dogs or guide dog schools in Mongolia, there are no laws or regulations protecting our rights to have access to public places. However, Mongolians are kind, hospitable, generous and open-minded people, and I’m confident that once introduced to the idea of guide dogs and how important they are to people like myself, my fellow countrymen will love and support guide dogs. I’m hopeful that our government will be willing to cooperate to provide the necessary legal protections to the very first guide dog and thus ensure the possibility of future guide dogs in Mongolia. Gladys and I have a long way to go and a lot to achieve. However, the longer the road and the harder the task – the more worthwhile the effort. 

Changing Lives, One Dog at a Time

A black Lab Guide Dog
Submitted by Robin Schneider

I first met Brandon when he was in the 7th grade. He was a reserved, quiet boy – tall and lanky. He sat in his seat quietly, did all of his work, and looked pretty bored most of the time.  

I had returned to my job as a Special Education Instructional Assistant at A.E. Wright Middle School in Calabasas, Calif., after getting my first Guide Dog, Evita, a  black Lab. Brandon and Evita became instant friends, and I do mean FRIENDS. When Evita is in the same room with Brandon, I know it immediately because her attention is on him and her tail is wagging, non-stop. Brandon knows not to touch her with her harness on, but she can’t control herself. She is not this way with any other students. I usually take off her harness and let her and Brandon have a love fest. 

I recognized the need to educate the 900 students at school regarding proper guide dog etiquette, so I targeted the 6th graders. I visited each classroom and told the kids how I suddenly lost my vision, and eventually found myself with a Guide Dog. Then I asked if they would donate to GDB. 

I began taking some of the Special Education students with me to help, including Brandon. After a short time, I asked him to do the pitch for pennies. He loved it, and each morning, he would greet me, asking “Which class are we visiting today?”  Last year we raised over $1,100 and this year $450.  

I know for certain that Evita has added something significant to Brandon’s life; I only wish it were more. Brandon wrote the following poem in May 2009:

We Are All Equal

I want to feel normal
I want to be a normal kid at school
But that isn’t possible
When I’m treated like a fool

This is the way God made me; I can’t help how I am
We’re not all that different from all the other boys and girls
But we can’t feel normal because of them
We’re all the same, just like the other boys and girls

I want to be in class without being stared at
Nor baring the fact that everyone around me is regular, while I’m the special kid
Can I be accepted by kids and not stepped on like a mat?
I want everyone to talk to and treat me like a normal person, not like that special kid

Kids feel sorry for a kid in a wheelchair
But kids who have lower functioning brains get treated like they’re animals
The thought about it just doesn’t seem fair
We are not animals, but just have some communication problems, but we’re just like everybody else

I want to be comfortable with my environment
I don’t want to be hit, with kids making a bid
It’s what’s on the inside that matters, not what we do, nor what we look like
I want everyone to talk to and treat me like a normal person, not like that special kid

From Brandon:
I really enjoyed helping out Guide Dogs for the Blind for the past two years and I only wish I could do it more. Mrs. Schneider is a very intelligent woman and is very lucky to have a dog like Evita. Evita is a very gentle and fun-loving puppy. I remember when I first saw her. I will miss them both, and hopefully will see them over the summer. I am truly fond of them. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Embracing Change

Three Labrador Retrievers in a row
It's no secret that all of our dogs here at GDB are pretty special. What you may not know, is that so many of the dogs that don't become guides (who we affectionately refer to as "career change" dogs) - or even many retired guides - go on to have all types of other fulfilling and rewarding careers. And even if they don't, they make for some of the best pets in the world, and still manage to touch the lives of many people. 

Regardless of their paths in life, our dogs make a difference every day. Puppy raising leader Sharon Davis of Aurora, Colo., may have summed it up best when she describes her experience with Argos, a puppy she raised that was recently career changed: 

"I had just received the news I didn’t want to hear," she said, "Argos, the puppy I had spent the last year loving and training, was being career changed. My first feeling was one of failure-- I failed to accomplish the goal that I had been devoting hours to for the last year; I wasn’t good enough as a raiser to get this lovable, high energy dog up to the standards required to be a Guide Dog.

"But now that I have had a few weeks to reflect and think, I realize I did not fail," she said. "I raised a wonderful, happy, loving dog. I was well aware of his challenges, and my co-raiser and I spent hours working on them; a local park became our second home as we walked and walked, trying to work on his dog distraction. Argos tried too. We would see improvement, but really, he just wanted to play with those other dogs. He is the dog he was meant to be.

"Going through the career change process the last few weeks, I was struck by another thought:  I just want Argos to be in the situation that is best for him. If he is not suited for guidework, then I wouldn’t want him to be in that position."  

Argos went home to Colorado, where he is settling in with a new adoptive family. "They already love him as we do, and I’m very happy that he is where he needs to be," she said. "I didn’t fail, I raised a dog that loves life and is relishing his new role as a family pet. We will get a new puppy in July and try again. Maybe the next one will become a guide, but if not, I know that at the end of the journey, we all will have given it our best shot."

We certainly agree with Sharon: our career change dogs all manage to find their niche, and we'd like to share with you some of their stories. 

Jodianne and Leilani
Jodianne and Leilani were both raised by Sue and John Baptista in Ft. Collins, Colo. Both dogs are now enjoying their work as therapy dogs; they visit two schools as part of a reading program. 

Jodianne and Leilani with Sue and John Baptista

Herbert
"I know there are other great GDB dogs out there doing amazing things, and Herbert is just one of them," writes puppy raising leader Bonnie Anderson, "but to Benton County Oregon, Herbert is a special member of the District Attorney's Office team." As part of GDB's new Pet Ambassador program, Herbert interacts with members of the public (adults or 
Herbert in front of thee District Attorney's officechildren) who have been involved in various criminal cases, either as victims or witnesses, who might benefit from a friendly, gentle dog's presence. In addition, he is a friend to staff members who feel the stress of the environment and subject matter they deal with every day.   
 
"I know Herbert makes a difference," Bonnie said. "In a recent case, four young children had to be at the courthouse all day, waiting to testify at the trial, and their tension was noticeable and increasing. I took Herbert to visit them, and soon they were laughing, having Herbert do his little tricks, taking him for walks, feeding him treats, and totally forgetting why and where they were. The next afternoon, their grandmother reported that all the kids talked about from their tough day was how much fun they had with Herbert. In an environment of the unknown, a friendly black dog is something people recognize and appreciate." 

Mingus
Mingus
As a therapy dog with Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) program in Walnut Creek, Calif., Mingus has the enviable job of "Pet Hug Pack Member." His job is to visit with people and put a smile on their faces. "It was important for me to find him a new job," said Ellen Aguirre, Mingus's puppy raiser and career change adopter. "Pet therapy has been perfect - he does his job very well." 

During the summer, every Monday Mingus visits Camp Arroyo in Livermore, which is a special camp for kids with serious or life-threatening medical ailments. Every other Friday he also visits seniors in two different senior living complexes in Pleasanton.

"The most common comment we get when we are out is 'Wow! He is a big dog!'" Ellen said. "He weighs 95 pounds. I just tell them that just means there is more to pet!" 

Rigo
Black Lab Rigo
Black Lab Rigo goes to work as a therapy dog with his career change adopter, Diana McQuarrie. The duo visit schools, mental health centers, hospitals, and anywhere that might need the gentle, healing visits that a dog can provide. "Rigo is a wise soul," Diana said. "His deep dark eyes melt hearts, calm fears and invite confidences. He is quiet, calm and gentle. He touches many lives, but I dare say none as deeply as mine." Rigo and Diana are the subjects of a new self-published book by author Teri Pichot, called "Transformation Of The Heart: Tales Of The Profound Impact Therapy Dogs Have On Their Humans." 

Phoebe and Patti Herman
Phoebe
Retirement from guidework for yellow Lab Phoebe truly means "career change." In her new career as a hospital visitation dog, Phoebe and her adopter, Patti Herman of Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif., spend their days spreading cheer. 

"Phoebe is not only a welcome addition to our family," Patti said, "but she is continuing to share her special calm, loving personality in the Pet Visitation Program at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, where we visit every other week. It's apparent to me as we make our rounds, whether she is greeting the staff, reaching out her paw to visitors, or on 
a patient's bed getting hugs and belly rubs, that she is providing a positive benefit to everyone at the hospital. With her Guide Dog experience, Phoebe is a natural and the perfect dog for her new career. I am heartened and proud to be her partner at the other end of the leash... it's a win/win for everyone."

Another F Litter Pup Writes Home


The latest in our ongoing updates about the F Litter puppies that we've been following over the past year. This is Faulkner's most recent letter home to mom; he is the black Lab pictured above.

Hey Mom!

It's officially summer in Boise, Idaho. It has been SO hot here that my puppy raiser, Kate, slips off her shoe to check how hot the pavement is in the parking lots; she wants to make sure that my paws won't get burned! Luckily, the breeze has been blowing and I've been able to be outside a lot. 

Faulkner outside playing with a toy

With summer in Boise comes a variety of fun new activities. Yesterday, our club went to an event called Alive After 5. It takes place in a big open area with a fountain in the middle where a live band plays and booths are everywhere selling food and drinks and music and all kinds of stuff. We had seven of us puppies in training show up and we had lots of fun! A yellow lab from Elko, Nevada even showed up for the festivities. Kate and Mike and I even walked around downtown for a long time after we left the crowd because it was so nice. Tomorrow, there  will be a showing of the movie "Hotel For Dogs" on an outside screen in the park. It's a free event and I hope some people and pups from our club show up. 

My favorite part of the summer is spending time outside with Honey. She's a yellow lab mix that lives with Kate and her family. She's 9 years old but still will play outside for hours with me. Eventually, she goes to lie down in the shade and Kate makes me leave the "old dog" alone.
 
Faulkner and his pal Honey

Well, it's time for me to get a drink and take a nap.

Love,

Faulkner

And the reply from mama Christine:

Hi Faulkner and Kate,

Great to hear from you. Cathy has been working hard designing a wedding album for a couple of hours so it is just a snore for me today! But now that you piped in, you got her thinking about dogs again. 

It is pretty hot during the day here too, so I tend to start and end my days with nice walks. I also have some buddies who get to stay with us when their owners need some help. 

I can’t believe how handsome you are! I am very proud of you. Keep up the good companionship and diplomacy skills as you walk around all those fun summer activities! Somewhere in your future might be a blind person who loves to be out and about and you can lead him/her to a wonderland of enjoyment.

Love from your mama, 

Christine 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Franco Checks In

Yellow Lab Franco with friends Lady and Jedi
The latest in our ongoing updates about the F Litter puppies that we've been following over the past year. This is Franco's most recent letter home to mom; he is the yellow Lab pictured above.

Dear Mama,

To start with now I am a year old and getting big. I am well into my second summer and I have just returned from my second trip to Montana. June was a very busy. We had high school graduations, last days of school, triathlons, travel, training, and busy summer days. I really like to play with my friends. My best friend is Lady, she is a little chocolate lab; the big black Lab is Jedi, and he is the boss - he likes to always be in charge! We play and play in our free time. Speaking of... I need to go play in the sunshine with my pals, so I'll check in with you later!

With love and licks,

Franco

For the Love of Dogs

Suzanne Woods Fisher holding a baby puppy.

According to Suzanne Woods Fisher, being involved with Guide Dogs "is like eating one potato chip. You just can’t stop!” Her history makes a compelling case that joining the GDB community is every bit as addicting as a delicious snack food. She's a volunteer puppy raiser, puppy socializer, speaker's bureau member, Communications Department volunteer writer, and all-around GDB advocate. In her own words: 


"Nine years ago, Our family had family had just moved back to California after living in Hong Kong for four years. My youngest son, Tad, was in third grade and had always wanted a dog. I happened to chaperone his class on a school field trip to GDB's San Rafael campus, and that was all it took. We came home eager to start the process to become puppy raisers, and it was only a few months later that Arbor, a yellow lab male, joined our family. It's now seven puppies later... clearly, I'm hooked!"


For the Love of Dogs book cover

One of her projects that combined her passion for GDB with her profession as a writer, is the recently-released novel, "For the Love of Dogs"; all royalties for the book are being donated to GDB. "The book is set in the 1960s," she said, "and it's about a young blind woman who ends up getting a guide dog… and finds love." The book is available online at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, or can be ordered at your favorite bookstore. 


Tad is now a senior in high school and Suzanne is busy writing more books, with her newest puppy, yellow Lab Reyna, on a tie-down by her computer. “Reyna is the first dog I’ve co-raised with another family,” she said. “Co-raising is an awesome way to still participate with puppy raising while sharing the load. And I think the puppy ends up with double the benefits.” 


As for Reyna, "Her name means ‘queen’ in Spanish, but we’re not telling her that,” said Suzanne. “She already thinks she’s a princess.” You can find Suzanne and Reyna on-line at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com

Monday, July 6, 2009

All Aboard! Puppy Raisers "Ride the Rails"

Ride the Rails group photo.
Has public transportation gone to the dogs? In Southern California, that certainly was the case one sunny Saturday in June. 45 Guide Dog puppies and their entourage (raisers and raiser family members) participated in the fifteenth annual "Guide Dog Puppy Travel Day," hosted by the Los Angeles Southwest Guide Dog puppy raising club. The participating pups and their peeps came from as far away as Lancaster, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., to "ride the rails" to Union Station in Los Angeles, courtesy of both MetroRail and MetroLink. Once at Union Station, they walked to historic Olvera Street for lunch, entertainment and socializing before returning home. 

Guide Dog puppy Saturna is lying calmly under the seat on MetroRail.
Los Angeles Southwest's fearless leader, Pat Whitehead, reports: "Besides preparing our pups to become future guides, this event provides an opportunity to introduce rail travel to families, raise public awareness about blindness and related issues, locate and educate potential new puppy raisers, and renew the bonds that raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind brings. This event would not be the success it is without the support from MetroRail and MetroLink." 

Participating Guide Dog puppy raising groups included: L. A. Southwest Guide Dog Raisers (host), Antelope Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers, CNI, Diamonds in the Ruff, Glendale Pups to Partners, North Orange County Puppies to Partners, PRIdE - Puppy Raisers of Inland Empire, Riverside Puppies for Freedom, South Bay Guide Dog Puppy Raisers, South Orange County Paws for Independence, VIP3, and Yuma Southwest Sightseers. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Scotland Goes To Denver

Emily Romero and K9 Buddy Scotland
Yellow Lab Scotland recently met his new buddy, 13 year-old Emily Romero of Denver, Colo. Emily was so excited to welcome her new K9 Buddy home, she said that she rehearsed his arrival at least three or four times before he got there; washed her favorite dress and polished up her formal shoes for the occasion, and requested from her family that all welcome gifts for Scotland be properly gift-wrapped. Needless to say, the meeting was a joyous event! And we think they make a picture-perfect team, don't you? Here's to a long and lasting friendship Emily and Scotland!