Monday, July 27, 2009

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?


  1. Oh that's a definite no-brainer. As for the instructor, as I returned to the dorm once, I suddenly felt myself being fanned furiously by a tail. I couldn't figure out why and then I heard an instructor's voice that was Trixie's primary trainer. Ah. So that's why the tail was going faster than I'd ever seen.

    As for her puppy raisers, well, we were told to hand over the leash to them and let the dog go nuts. And lordy Lou she sure did. Tomorrow I'm meeting up with her raiser so we can see each other again, and I imagine that even after two years and some months have passed, Trixie will still go nuts.

  2. Well of course...
    One day my instructor told me that as we worked she followed with tears welling up in her eyes. Bamboo was strutting her stuff, and whacking my shorts with her tail wags. I was lavishly praising her; upright, confident, and proud of our great teamwork. It may be that as a team we found a special place in her. She taught both of us so much, and we are very grateful.

    The puppy raisers were a mother and daughter team. Mom told me that she was crying when they drove to the campus. Unsure of what it would be like to see the dog for the first time since recall, and then to have to part again. Their first puppy, my first guide. As for the daughter, we all headed down the hallway for pictures, and my dog was still really excited. I wanted to get her focused, so I had her do the old sit & down routine. My dog was intensely looking up at me with her piercing, golden eyed gaze. Further down the hall I heard her say, "look how she looks at him"! Her voice was something I will always remember from that day.

    Smiles and wags,
    Seth & Bamboo.

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