Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Letter From an F Litter Pup: Flute Has Big News!

Flute and his pal Donovan

Dear Mom,

Exciting news! My puppy raiser and I just found that I'm going to COLLEGE ... on Friday! The folks at GDB thought I might have to wait a while longer because there were so many other dogs ahead of me, but something must have changed and now they want me! Everyone around here is really excited, so I guess it must be really special.

I got a bath, toenail clipping, ear cleaning and toothbrushing this weekend so I'm all clean and ready to go. I'm getting lots of extra hugs and whispered messages about working hard and becoming a really good Guide Dog. People seem sort of sad underneath their excitement however. I'm not sure what it all means. But I know I'm ready for something new and interesting. I've done so many things this summer, including going to a Seattle Storm basketball game, swimming in Lake Washington, riding on a new streetcar, and best of all, making a new friend. Donovan says that he was the first one to train with my raiser, Kathi, ten years ago. He lived in California for a while with her sister, but has come back to Washington in his senior years to live with her. We've had great fun getting to know each other, though he moves a bit slowly. He is nice to snuggle with and tells me that college is a lot of fun with great people. He made it all the way through training but was career changed for a medical reas

on. Here is a picture of the two of us.


Well, that's all from Seattle. I hope to be sending you word in the coming months of my graduation from college, but I know that whatever the future holds, you got me off to a good start. Kathi says that if I don't make it as a guide there might be another job waiting for me somewhere and I can always come home to live with her. But I want to make you all proud.



A look back at Flute as a puppy: 

Flute as a young puppy

Flute as a young puppy

Flute as a young puppy

Monday, August 17, 2009

Paradise Found: Fun Day 2009

Yellow Lab puppy Neils wearing a Hawaiin lei
The past two weekends, our campuses have been turned into tropical paradises as we hosted our 51st annual Fun Day. Themed "Hawaii Fi'Do," on August 8 in Oregon, and August 15 in California, GDB rolled out the red carpet (or rather, the grass mats!) for our volunteers, friends and supporters as a way to recognize the efforts of our puppy raisers.

Hundreds of puppy raisers and their four-legged charges came from far and wide to spend the day socializing, learning what's new and exciting here at GDB, as well as getting valuable tips on puppy handling and canine behavior straight from our experts. Through live presentations, interactive booths and educational exhibits, Fun Day was no lazy day at the beach, but rather a totally awesome learning adventure - complete with hula dancing.

Please check out our Fun Day photo slideshows on Flickr to see all of the fun and activities:

My Eyes, My Friend

We got a message from Wendy Phillips of Calgary, Alberta recently letting us know that her guide, yellow Lab Bandana, was retired in June and is now living the life of leisure in Oregon with friends. 

Wendy writes: "When I moved to Calgary almost 4 years ago, I became a volunteer at one of the homeless shelters in the city and of course, Bandana was a part of my volunteering. She made the people I worked with feel like life was worth living and gave them a purpose to go on when everything seemed hopeless. She was the runner-up for 2007 volunteer animal of the year and was awarded a ribbon and certificate in early 2008. She also had her own volunteer name tag. She was very well known throughout Calgary; everywhere I we went she brought a smile to those who saw her. I continue to tell all those who are considering a guide dog about my experience with GDB and I hope to return in the next year for a new dog."

Wendy also included a poem that she wrote about Bandana and the difference the dog made in her life. 

My Eyes, My Friend

A Yellow Lab is all I have 
To guide me on my way,
But trust and love and faithfulness 
She gives to me each day;

Like God above she gives her love
To help the blind to see,
To keep me safe protecting me 
A special guide to be.

My eyes, my friend, I never knew 
Could be so possible,
God created this little dog 
Trained to be responsible;

Time well spend to teach this dog
The blind her eyes to be,
This yellow dog was sent from God 
My eyes and friend to me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Imagine the Pasta-Bilities!

Black Lab guide Pasta
Black Lab Pasta, the working guide of Megan Miller of Anaheim, Calif., has been selected as Wellness Pet Food's "Pet of the Month" for August. Megan submitted Pasta's photo and story, in which she wrote "[Pasta] is truly my soul mate, my eyes, my best friend and so much more." Her submission got a very enthusiastic response. "Thanks so much for submitting Pasta to our pet of the month contest," Wellness Pet Food wrote. "Your story is inspirational to us and Pasta is absolutely beautiful!" Click here to read Megan's complete submission. 

F Litter Update: Faulkner and Franco

Franco and Faulkner
Hey Mom! 

I've got all kinds of fun things to tell you in this update! 

First of all, my puppy raiser, Kate, is doing all kinds of house sitting since it's summer and everyone wants to go on vacation. The past ten days, we've been staying at a house that came complete with chickens and a little 1-year old Welsh Terrier named Reuben. He has a lot of energy, but we were able to play outside a lot and he followed me everywhere! When Kate would put me in my crate, Reuben would often go in with me. It was neat to have a little "brother" for the week. 

While we were at Reuben's house, my littermate Franco also came to visit a couple of times. The three of us boys had so much fun getting to play together and run around!! Franco even got to stay the night and all three of  us curled up in a big puppy pile in the crate. Kate told us that we were too cute to exist. The only problem that we had was that Franco and I were a little too interested in Reuben's food, but Kate made is almost impossible to sneak any because she kept such a close eye on us. 

Next up: Kate is pulling a switcheroo! She's going to take Franco with her to her next housesitting gigs, and I'll be going home to stay with Franco's puppy raiser, Mike! Franco with have a great adventure with Kate - he gets to meet nine new cats and four new dogs! I'm hoping you'll be getting a letter from him because he'll certainly have plenty to write home about. Franco made sure that I wouldn't forget to tell you hi and send you some puppy kisses and a tail wag until you get to hear from him again. 


Faulkner (and Franco)

Faulkner at the park

P.S. The first picture is of the two of us at Reuben's house. Reuben wouldn't sit still long enough to be in the picture though. There's also a picture of me when Kate and I went to the park.

An Exceptional Team

by Lauren Ross, GDMI, Midwestern Field Manager

Jackie Blahnik with her guide Skippy in a classroom with a group of students

Our dogs are special, we all know that. And as a field manager I am continuously awed by the accomplishments of our teams. Assisting in their travels through life in bustling cities, pastoral farmlands and placid suburbs, I learn our graduates’ stories and view each one as remarkable and unique. Once in a while, though, there is a tale that begs to be shared, or a triumph that deserves to be bellowed from the rooftops. Or at least passed along gently in a quiet narrative…

Take Minnesota native Jackie Blahnik, for example, and her Guide Dog, Skippy.  This dedicated teacher and studious black Labrador retriever graduated from GDB in November of 2007, returning home to the charming community of St. Charles, Minn., just as the last maple leaf fell to the sidewalk and winter began.  Fortunately, much of Skippy’s work was to be done indoors and away from snow, guiding instead through the maze of hallways and stairwells in the school where Jackie teaches.  It was here Skippy discovered that his career was to be much more than he had ever imagined.  

A bit of background:  Jackie’s school is funded by “Head Start,” a national program for enhancing the social and cognitive development of economically disadvantaged children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services. Before Jackie left to attend GDB she taught a unit on individuals with disabilities, focusing on blindness and visual impairment.  She talked with her students about how visually impaired individuals may choose to use a white cane or become part of a guide dog team.  And they talked a lot about working dogs.

Once Jackie returned to school with her new guide, the students were fascinated with the tangible example of what they had learned.  They wanted to know more about Skippy’s responsibilities as a guide and the rules that would have to be followed with this special companion. The children were also intrigued by the idea that a dog’s needs could be so similar to their own; teeth that need brushing, hair that needs grooming and feet that need shoes in the winter.  Due to the students’ rapidly growing fondness for the dog, a mailbox was attached to the top of his crate to accommodate pictures and letters addressed to Skippy; this began to enhance the children's literacy experiences. Instead of napping the day away in his classroom crate, Skippy eagerly accepted his new role as mentor and motivator for the Head Start program’s important mission. 

More and more, he was asked to participate in classroom activities. "Story Day with Skippy" was developed, a weekly time set aside for reading to him – usually a book about a dog. And during part of each day in the classroom, “Discovery Time” was taking place, with various educational activities in progress.  Jackie and Skippy toured the room, stopping at each activity so the student could "teach" Skippy about colors, counting, and letter recognition.  

In addition to these responsibilities, Skippy could sometimes be found lying in the “Quiet Reading Castle,” listening as the children read to him; the preschoolers looking at pictures in a book and telling him a story while turning the pages.  Jackie even put together a story book about the dog, “Yippy Skippy and Me,” designed specifically for her students. 

While watching Skippy do his daily doggy stretches, the children discovered that stretching is a good way to relax.  So another classroom activity was developed.  The class – along with the dog - took up yoga practice, fashioned after Skippy’s picture perfect “Downward Facing Dog” pose.  Jackie’s students changed the name of the pose, though; it became known as the “Downward Facing Skippy”, and their favorite yoga pose.  

Skippy’s integral part in the classroom has been a fun, imaginative and very effective way of helping the children to develop their speech, language and reading skills.  Nothing is untouched by the dog’s presence, even snack time has changed: the children formerly enjoyed eating Jif peanut butter, but are now loyal consumers of a different brand.  That brand is, naturally, none other than…Skippy, with Natural Creamy being the preferred variety.  And Skippy the dog joins the children to relish his own treat of Skippy peanut butter – in his Kong toy, of course. 

Recently, Skippy was recognized at an assembly for one year of service with his Head Start school.  He was asked to rise and received an enthusiastic round of applause.  But the best was yet to come.  In April, Jackie Blahnik was announced National Head Start Teacher of the Year.  She received her award at an honorary event in Orlando, Florida, on May 1st.  The book, “Yippy Skippy and Me” was included in the nomination.  This award is a well-deserved recognition of Jackie’s talent as a teacher.

Yes, as a field manager, I am bursting with pride over the success of this team. And maybe I’m biased. But it seems to me that Jackie and Skippy provide indisputable evidence regarding the distinctiveness of our dogs, and the exceptional achievements of our teams.  

Breeders Digest

A new litter of Labrador puppies
We're trying really hard to get caught up on our litter and breeder dog announcements - we know you've been waiting patiently! But wait no more - here's all of our new arrivals from April 1, 2009-May 30, 2009. We'll have more coming soon - stay tuned. 

Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
  • 4/1/09 Tiburon x Labelle – 5 males, 2 females
  • 4/2/09 Samuel x Vintage – 6 females
  • 4/11/09 Kentucky x Chenille – 4 males, 3 females
  • 4/13/09 Bosworth x Carlotta – 3 males, 2 females
  • 4/20/09 Russo x Gabriela – 3 females
  • 4/23/09 Kentucky x Vonnie – 2 males, 5 females
  • 4/25/09 Bingham x Raven – 5 males, 2 females
  • 4/26/09 Jay x Marcie – 3 males, 4 females
  • 4/27/09 Astro x Courtney – 4 males, 2 females
  • 4/28/09 Baker x Cuesta – 2 males, 3 females
  • 4/29/09 Tiburon x Athenia – 1 female
  • 4/30/09 Cubby x Chestnut – 2 males, 3 females
  • 5/2/09 Astro x Harbor – 3 males, 1 female
  • 5/2/09 Cabby x Lark – 2 males, 2 females
  • 5/5/09 Dylan x Favor – 2 males, 3 females
  • 5/6/09 Jay x Balina – 5 males, 4 females
  • 5/7/09 Bosworth x Gail – 4 males, 2 females
  • 5/13/09 Damon x Merlot – 5 males, 3 females
  • 5/14/09 Denzel x America – 5 males, 3 females
  • 5/28/09 Tiburon x Luana – 1 female
  • 5/30/09 Atrus x Kyris – 5 males, 2 females
Golden Retrievers
  • 4/20/09 Finnegan x Devine – 2 males, 2 females
  • 4/21/09 CCI’s Zorba x Garcelle – 3 males, 5 females

New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
  • Albertine – raised in WA
  • Bloomer – raised in CO
  • Dutch – raised in WA
  • Edelyn – raised in CO
  • Faberge – raised in CA
  • Fontina – raised in CA
  • Genova – raised in UT
  • Gilda – raised in CA
  • Hardy – raised in CA
  • Lani – raised in CA
  • Lania – raised in CA
  • Salina – raised in CO
Golden Retriever
  • Lamara – raised in CA

Share with us on Flickr!

A handsome yellow Lab
Do you have fabulous photos of your GDB program dog? Is your career change dog simply the most handsome dog ever? Does your breeder dog make other dogs jealous with envy over her stunning good looks? 

We thought so! 

Now we have a way that you can share your photos with the rest of the GDB community: simply upload your photos to GDB's new photo pool on Flickr. Check it out here: 

You do need to have a Flickr account of your own, but setting up a basic account is free and easy (visit Flickr's home page to get started). Once you have an account, just search for our group (GDB photo pool), and start sharing your photos with us. We can't wait to see all those pin-up pups! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


This recent puppycam features Mentor Dog Gaya as she helps socialize Guide Dogs' young puppies.

Back to School Time

Two new fuzzy faces in our kennels were enjoying their second day of training. The focus was on the basics – how to sit and lie down straight (none of that puppyish sideways sitting anymore; you're a Big Dog, now) and sit/lie/stay on cue. Must be nice to get a food reward every time you sit or lie down! They're probably thinking, "Hey, I could get used to this!"

Video 1: Senior Licensed Instructor Jeff Grey with Armani:

Video 2: Qualified Instructor Megan Gutierres with Nina:

Vision Loss in Seniors

by GDB Alumna Carmen Apelgren

Recently two GDB Alumni and I were featured on a wonderful television program Aging in LA. Dan Donlan and I were interviewed while our Guide Dogs Elbert and Val slept peacefully on camera, unfazed by the bright lights. Melissa Hudson demonstrated cooking techniques.

As the Community Relations Coordinator for the Braille Institute, it was a pleasure for me to be able to educate the television audience about the work of the Braille Institute, and more importantly, that blindness doesn't prevent independence. People who lose their vision merely need the right tools and guidance to learn to do things differently so that they can maintain their quality of life.

If you know someone who's blind, please let them know that services are available to them, and, like GDB, many of these services are offered free of charge.

May I Have This Dance?

You can't even get your pet dog to heel? Watch how our Director of Research and Development, Michele Pouliot, performs a dance routine with her pet dog: Why I Love Freestyle (video).

Michele Pouliot performing a freestyle routine
Have you ever tried training your pet dog using a clicker? What did you teach your dog to do?

We’re Gettin’ Ready for Fun Day!

2009 Fun Day logo features a yellow lab holding a sign with the GDB logo
GDB employees Teri Balestrieri and Mark Bollinger stand in front of the partially complete mural

Fun Day is a day we invite all of our puppy raisers back to our campuses to enjoy a day of … well, fun! This year's theme is Hawaii Fi' Do. We decided to make the most of kennel construction plywood on the California campus. Resident artist and Senior Dog Care Specialist Robert Quick provided the drawings. Teri Balestrieri and Mark Bollinger of our kennels (shown above) were among the volunteer painters who filled in the design.