Monday, March 29, 2010

Breeders Digest, 1.22.09-2.28.10

A cute yellow Lab puppy
Here's all of our new arrivals from January 22, 2010 through February 28, 2010. To see photos of these litters, please visit GDB's Flickr site, Littermate Photos.

Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
  • 2/3/10 Jay x Belle – 5 males, 2 females
  • 2/7/10 Buck x Trinidad – 4 males, 2 females
  • 2/11/10 Samuel x Indiana – 6 males, 4 females
  • 2/12/10 Piedmont x Mango – 1 male, 2 females
  • 2/20/10 Simon x Elsa – 2 males, 4 females
  • 2/24/10 Laramie x Dia – 2 males, 4 females
  • 2/28/10 Piedmont x Geraldine – 5 males, 4 females
Golden Retrievers
  • 2/5/10 Honors Reuben x Devine – 2 males, 1 female
Cross Litters
  • 2/2/10 Piedmont x Petal – 3 males, 4 females

New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
  • Sally – raised in CA

Monday, March 22, 2010

Announcing GDB's First-Ever Online Auction!

Are you in the mood for a little shopping? Maybe a little competitive bidding for a great cause? Well now is your chance: Guide Dogs for the Blind's first-ever Online Auction is officially open!

Whether it's a once-in-a-lifetime sailing adventure aboard Stars and Stripes, the World Cup-winning sailboat; a chance to shadow a Guide Dog trainer; an exotic Mexican getaway; or the best seats in the house for the San Francisco Giants/Oakland A's Battle of the Bay, this auction has it all!

Take a Good Look
Bids are now being accepted on many fine items. Whether you're looking for something unique for yourself, searching for a gift for a special someone, or hoping to add a little adventure to your days, you're sure to find something of interest in our auction catalog.

Make Your Bid
Even if you've never taken part in an online auction before, it's fast and easy to place a bid. Step by step instructions will walk you through the bidding process so you can participate with confidence. And remember, every bid helps support GDB.

Tell Your Friends

The success of this online event depends on getting the word out to as many people as possible. We need your help. Please share all of the auction news with your friends and encourage them to participate so they don't miss a single moment of the fun and excitement.

Items are open for bidding and will close on April 10. You have until 10:00 pm Pacific time on the 10th to place your maximum bid.

So what are you waiting for? View the Auction Catalog and bid online now.

Changing Careers = Changing Lives

By Ingrid Spies

Career change yellow Lab Chanel in the Lincoln High School production of Annie.
I had not had a dog since our dear, old golden, PB, died many years ago. I really wanted a dog again both as a pet and, as teacher of students with a wide range of needs, I was becoming aware of the documented benefits of animal therapy for stress reduction and socialization. A friend whose daughter-in-law is a GDB puppy raiser suggested I would be a good candidate for a career change dog. About six months after making my first contact, I got a very exciting call and shortly thereafter, Chanel came to live with us and began working in my classroom at Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore. She has been a life changing presence for many of us ever since.

We had been told that Chanel was a bit willful and had a mind of her own, but that she had won the snuggling contest at GDB's Oregon campus! I enrolled for classes with BEHAVE Canine Solutions under Scott Raymond and learned some tips as to how to get the best out of Chanel. Also, we worked with Heather Toland at the Therapy Dog program at Dove Lewis and Chanel passed her therapy dog test last summer.

In the meantime, Chanel had already been working with me at Lincoln where she has won so many hearts. She gives of herself generously to all she meets and we are entranced by her soft spirit, compassion and melting eyes. Chanel has taught herself to greet students when they enter the classroom. She walks around and picks out those who seem to especially benefit from her brief doggy kisses and handshakes. As soon as class begins, Chanel goes back to her big papasan chair and waits until class is over, when she gets down to see everyone out. If a student is upset, Chanel jumps out of her chair and goes to lie beside the person. A social group which includes several students who wanted to make friends has formed around Chanel at lunchtime in my classroom. Supervised walks with Chanel are rewards for some students. Chanel has an instinctive knowledge about needs of those teenagers who are lonely or upset and responds without prompting. We feel the positive aspects of having a therapy dog for students are enormous. On the days when she stays at home, several young people ask repeatedly when she is coming back. Some students visit several times a day.

Social work has not been Chanel's only involvement. Last year, she was asked to play Sandy in the school production of Annie (pictured, above; photo courtesy of Lincoln High School). Karyn Munford, the career change representative at GBD, had told me that Chanel would probably never be totally trustworthy off leash, and I ignorantly assumed she would be on a leash for the play. I had done extensive work with Chanel at our farm and we were taking walks off leash together. Now she licked the noses of the horses next door, instead of wanting to chase them, and came when called, but I was horrified when the play director gave me the script six weeks before the play was to be performed and I learned that Chanel had to be alone, off leash, on the stage, walk across the stage, stop mid-way and continue. I immediately called Scott Raymond and he helped me, along with a student assistant (who proved to have a natural gift with animals), train Chanel for the part. Chanel was a smash hit, in front of full houses, and did an amazing job with the part that had multiple demands. In the middle of the show while Annie was sitting, loudly singing a solo, about sixteen kids were dancing and the school band was blaring, Chanel rolled on her back trying to entice Annie to give her a tummy rub! The crowd loved it. Chanel had plenty of energy left to gently greet the young children in the audience after the performance. My fears of an animal running loose through the crowd were not realized. What a dog!

This June I retire. Some of my students will be devastated at losing Chanel, but she has been invited back to work with the Dialectical Behavior Training Program as our psychologist, sadly, can no longer use his therapy dog due to the animal's illness. We will continue our work through the Dove Lewis program.

Our gentle, clever dog touches so many lives and enhances them. I am indebted to GDB for the privilege of having her.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We've Got Spirit, Yes We Do!

Courtney and Tola in the torch relay
Olympic spirit, that is! Three GDB alumni participated in either the Olympic or Paralympic torch relays as the 2010 games were held in Vancouver, British Columbia these past few weeks. Courtney Maddocks with her guide Tola (pictured above) carried the torch during the Olympic torch relay, while Heather Walkus and guide Nimitz and Bruce Gilmoure and guide Aurora, relayed the torch for the Paralympics several weeks later.

Heather (pictured below) sent along this write-up about what the honor of carrying the torch meant to her:

I am 54 years old and have been active and athletic all my life. I had a full life full of varied interests, friends, family and a husband. 10 years ago I started noticing little things. Like not being able to see my horses and all of a sudden they would sneak up on me. I started tripping and dropping things when handed to me or not being able to determine distances. Over time, things I were looking at were missing pieces. Parts of my vision started disappearing.

After learning I was going blind, I had to decide whether to give up or to live as fully as possible. Going blind made a big change in my life. I lost my husband, friends, family and colleagues. People would not or could not adjust to the changes in my life. I knew I was still the same person, but people close to me treated me very differently. Longtime friends still walk past me on the street and not acknowledge me. Others quit phoning or dropping by. I was forced to leave my beloved horses behind and move to town, alone.

It was when I received my first Guide Dog, Hank, from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, that my life started to turn around. I started traveling, and meeting new people. I met a dear friend, Judy Hemmer and her Guide Dog Perdy, who taught me how to be secure while traveling the world and enjoy it. I have learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.

Heather and Nimitz in the torch relay
Today, thanks to my new friends and my Guide Dog, Nimitz, I am strong both mentally and emotionally and live in the supportive town of Keremeos in British Columbia. Thanks to the encourage and support of the Mayor, Walter Despot, and community leaders like Kelly McKay and June Croutch, I can now use my skills to volunteer time for people with “abilities,” both seen and unseen. They made room for me in the community. I now assist people to find and learn to use, new technologies and to create for themselves, a high quality of life. I started writing again and have recently joined a blind photography group.

I have the utmost respect for the Para Olympians and want to celebrate their accomplishments, confidence and courage. Courage shows itself in many forms when a person faces adversity. I do not feel courageous dealing with my blindness, that is the easy part. I feel the need for courage when educating sighted people who are blinded by their discomfort when having to relate to me. I feel courageous getting through a shopping center or airport and safely onto a plane with my Guide Dog. I feel courageous when having the patience to explain to someone why I need a Guide Dog and still have the ability to use a camera and travel the world.

Being a Torch Bearer is a right of passage for me and says I am part of something greater than myself: a community of capable and productive people. I belong, Guide Dog and all. I feel the courage of people I meet who, through their own intelligence and grace, have reshaped how society views and supports people like me. To them and all the Olympians who show the world what true courage is about, Thank You.

Update, 3/22/10: Here's a link to a YouTube video of
Bruce Gilmour at the Paralympic Torch Relay:

Flying High in Seattle

Captain Sullenberger with a group of Seattle puppy raisersRecently, GDB breeder keeper and puppy raiser Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (of the Hudson River landing fame), was in Seattle to speak at the Museum of Flight. Members of the local puppy raising club. Guide Puppies of Seattle, were among the 1,300 people that came out to the museum to take in Sully's presentation. Club leader Ruth Oldham reported that before the event started, Sully made a point to stop and pet the puppies and chat with the raisers; this group photo was taken at his request. "Several of us thanked him for all that he does for Guide Dogs and of course what he did to boost the spirit of Americans that fateful day," said Ruth. "He was a great speaker on what it means to truly be a team leader."

Puppy Invasion!

We received the following photos and update from proud breeder keepers Ken and Nancy Schopp who participate in GDB's Litter Raiser Program. We'll let them tell you a little more about the program, and about Belle....

Belle and her puppies
Hi! This is Belle, a Guide Dog breeder. We bring her litters home from GDB at 1 week old so we can help her raise them, for seven weeks, until they are ready to be sent off to their puppy raising homes. This is her fourth litter. She has seven Guide Dogs out working and four more in final training from her third litter. Did you notice the yellow pup? Even though she has always been bred with black males, she almost always has one yellow pup. Belle is also the Tuesday morning "mentor dog" for the pups in the kennels at GDB during their socialization sessions. She plays with them and chastises them if they are naughty. What a great mom.

Belle and her puppies

Into the Woods, A Tribute

By Cherie Newton

One of the excursions students in the classes on our California campus participate in is a trip to Muir Woods National Monument. It's always a highlight of their training. Alumna Cherie Newton wrote the following tribute after her experience at Muir Woods when she was training with her current guide, Kim. She is pictured with Kim's puppy raisers at graduation.

Cherie, Kim, and Kim's puppy raisers
The morning is sunny, clear and bright. There is a light crisp breeze that whispers of a crystal fresh day, perfect for our pending venture. The last to leave, I stand in the doorway to our now vacant, eerily silent lounge. After a short pause I pick up the handle to my Guide Dog’s harness and give her the Foreword command. Obediently she starts out and I can feel her every move through our physical link. We break out into the sun’s welcome golden warmth, weaving confidently and effortlessly as one through the ever-changing, ever-present obstacle course.

At one point my partner stops and I reach out to see what she is trying to show me. A traffic cone, so intensely orange that I imagine that I can feel its vibrant color, has been intentionally placed in our path. “Good girl!” I praise as I scratch her velvety pointed Shepherd ears. The sun has seeped into her dense sable coat and my fingers momentarily luxuriate in the feel of silky sun-drenched fur. I heel her through the narrow gap and once on the other side, we confidently resume our route.

The sidewalk we’re walking along curves lightly to the right as it slopes slightly upwards. Predictably my guide comes to a halt on the level. From previous experiences, I know that we have come to the infamous overhead clearance obstacle; the final hurtle our sadistically imaginative instructors have devised to test us. Just beyond waits the bus that will take us on to our last adventure as a class.

In the bus, we glide seemingly effortlessly along the sinuous black ribbon of asphalt that winds, dips, rises and flows over the rolling landscape. I suspect that the instructor at the wheel is mightily amused as he accelerates up each hill and then lets the vehicle’s momentum drop it dramatically over the crest, plunging into the sloping terrain. The thrill-seeker in me rewards him with whoops of laughter. My guide snoozes contentedly at my feet as she swishes back and forth to the rhythm of the swaying bus despite my best efforts to anchor her with my feet. It’s very clear that this big gentle dog and I were meant to be together. While we were destined to share hundreds of bus and rail rides, nothing would ever quite live up to this current free-wheeling adventure.

Once we arrive at our destination, we all set off along wide, smoothly paved trails through the towering redwoods. The very atmosphere seems to change as we move into the shadows pierced here and there by brilliant streaming bands of sunlight. No one feels it yet, but those of us who have been there before know that the subtle but powerful magic will strike when we are least expecting it.

The dogs are up and energized. They somehow know that they are on a light-duty holiday devoid of curbs, traffic lights and city streets teeming with moving vehicles. They feel their handlers’ buoyant playful spirits and revel in the pure joy of being. Both canine paws and human feet are light, fleet and carefree. The race is on to see who can out power-walk who. The field spreads out as brightly colored laughter rings through the ancient wood.

Somewhere near the middle of the pack I walk in easy harmony with my guide. Her pull is strong and sure and her concentration is complete. Our bond strengthens as our awareness of each other sharpens. I feel her jaunty pace as we coordinate our strides. We slip along, listening to the laughing banter of those around us. We are one with the group, but we are also free, apart in our own little universe.

Ahead, the faint chuckling and gurgling of water slowly seeps into our dawning awareness. We round a bend and its music surges then quickly fades into a faint teasing rippling murmur that follows us, challenging us to seek its source.

The path levels out as furry paws and sneaker-clad feet leave the concrete to thump a hollow tattoo on the weathered boards of a bridge spanning the sparkling crystal stream; the vibrant beating heart of this majestic forest.

One of the instructors accompanying us calls a halt. Obediently we all stop and line up against the time-worn wooden rails of the bridge. Even our guides sit or lay down without encouragement.

“A moment of silent reverence please,” our leader requests. No one stirs; everyone is perfectly still as ancient forces work their timeless magic on human and canine alike. Modern civilization, with all of its hustle, bustle, noise and stress fades immeasurable light years far away for a few all too short very special moments.

I open my senses and all earthly thoughts that constantly careen through my head vanish, whisked away on the rushing waters rolling below. The wind whispers gently in the lofty tops of the mighty redwoods. This place, like no other on this precious sparkling blue jewel we call Earth, makes me realize how much nature and her powerful forces have to offer if only we would open ourselves up more often to receive her magically elusive gifts.

I reach down to caress my guide’s proud regal head. I feel the erectness of her large pointed ears as they alertly listen, swiveling to catch even the slightest sound. At my touch she tilts her loving dark almond-eyes up to mine before pressing her head comfortingly against my thigh. Her bushy tail thumps once-twice-thrice on the weathered warn boards beneath our feet. I stroke her thick soft fur. I feel our bond strengthen, as I know she does, and our earlier training difficulties recede into the distant murky past. Silently I send up thanks for this magnificent loving and loyal companion that Guide Dogs has so carefully partnered me with. Our pairing is a perfect match for my life now, as was the first match with my retired, beloved German Shepherd, Robey, eight and a half years earlier.

A quiet word brings us back to reality. We turn back the way we came and start our trek back. Gone is the bright exuberant laughter and hurried pace. In its place there is calm serenity, peaceful coexistence and reverent appreciation. With a reluctance I cannot explain, I too pick up Kim’s harness handle and give her a hushed foreword command. With quiet ease we move out among the others. Even if I never have the awesome privilege of returning here, I know that a tiny piece of this magical sacred sanctuary will live on deep within my being forever.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Here is a sample of some of the fantastic photo submissions we received in the month of February, 2010. To see a slideshow of all of the month's submissions, please visit the gallery on our Flickr site.

Retired breeder, Golden Noelle.
Retired breeder, Golden Noelle, in the snow.
Submitted by Brenda Douglas.

Guide Dog puppy Tiki
Guide Dog puppy Tiki in the snow.
Submitted by Stacie Logan.

Guide Dog puppy Alisa
Black Lab Guide Dog puppy Alisa.
Submitted by Pat Whitehead.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Georgie and Dugan stepping off the bbus

Retired Guide Gets a Disney Salute

Kathy Kennedy and Katela
GDB alumna Kathy Kennedy works as a reservation sales agent at the Walt Disney Travel Company. The following is an article printed in the Disney employee magazine about the office retirement party thrown for Kathy's guide, yellow Lab Katela.

In August of 2001 a new friendship developed between Disney Travel Reservation Sales Agent Kathy Kennedy and her Guide Dog, Katela. At the time, the playful Labrador pup was just 2 years old and ready to assist Kathy, who is legally blind.

“She guides me around trees and posts and if something is in the way, she takes me around it,” she said.

Like many owners of assistance dogs, the trained companion allowed Kathy to feel safe and lead a confident, independent life. When she is with Katela, she says people are more receptive to her than if she walks with the assistance of a cane.

Although the dogs appear approachable, Kathy stresses the importance for others to be aware when Guide Dogs are with their owners. “When we are holding on to their harness they are working and their focus should be on us,” she said. The appropriate way to approach someone with a guide dog is to first ask the person’s permission to pet their companion. Avoid calling out the animal’s name as it may distract them from doing their job.

After eight years of service, Katela is being retired and will be adopted by Kathy's sister who has three young boys to play with their new family member. Kathy will be getting a new guide in a few short months. “She is 70 years old in dog years so it must be hard for her,” said Kathy. “It is breaking my heart to retire her, but I will still get to see her.”

A retirement party for Katela was held at The Walt Disney Travel Company, complete with treats and smooches from Pluto!

Katela gets a smooch from Pluto

Katela enjoys a well-earned retirement treat

Breeders Digest, 12.30.09-1.31.10

A baby yellow Lab puppy
Here's all of our new arrivals from January 1, 2010 through January 31, 2010. To see photos of these litters, please visit GDB's Flickr site, Littermate Photos.

Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
  • 1/1/10 Jenkins x Tinella – 2 males, 3 females
  • 1/1/10 Kentucky x Deanne – 4 males, 3 females
  • 1/3/10 Danny x Marikay – 5 males, 3 females
  • 1/3/10 Samuel x Fontina – 2 males, 5 females
  • 1/5/10 Denzel x Meredith – 2 males, 4 females
  • 1/6/10 Simon x Albertine – 3 males, 3 females
  • 1/9/10 Norbert x Parkay – 4 males, 4 females
  • 1/13/10 Cabby x Favor – 5 males, 3 females
  • 1/16/10 Jay x Michelle – 2 males, 4 females
  • 1/20/10 Atrus x Peach – 2 males, 3 females
  • 1/22/10 Baker x Fritzie – 1 male, 4 females
  • 1/22/10 Bond x Edelyn – 5 males, 2 females
  • 1/25/10 Simon x Gilda – 4 males, 2 females
  • 1/30/10 Bond x Simone – 8 females
  • 1/4/10 Norbert x Brazil – 4 males, 6 females
  • 1/20/10 CCI’s Kaelen x Fame – 4 males, 3 females
  • 1/23/10 Tiburon x Aiko – 3 males, 2 females
New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
  • Cathy – raised in OR
  • Damsel – raised in CA
  • Dream – raised in CA
  • Molly – raised in WA
  • Starling – raised in CA
  • Ultra – raised in CA

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not So Fast.... An Update About Cadillac Heading to Chile

Yesterday, we announced that GDB career change-turned-search and rescue dog, Cadillac, was being deployed to Chile to assist with earthquake recovery efforts (read about it here). Unfortunately, it looks as though Cadillac and his handler will remain stateside for now. The following message is from Search Dog Foundation, explaining the situation:

In the wake of Saturday's devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, six Search Dog Foundation teams mobilized as part of Los Angeles Task Force 2. They traveled to Pacoima, CA where they met up with the 74-person Task Force, and were on standby to depart for March Air Force Base where they would board a military cargo plane bound for Chile.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday evening the teams learned that the mission had been cancelled because the Chilean government has not yet officially asked for assistance from the United States.

Had the teams reached Chile, we know one thing for certain: the handlers and their dogs were at top deployment readiness, prepared to face the most challenging search environment, and prepared to save lives.

Major disasters can occur anywhere, anytime. Four of the teams activated for Chile recently returned from Haiti, where their combined efforts helped find ten people buried in the rubble. The knowledge they gained during that deployment is being shared with teams across the country to advance their training techniques and search methods.

We deeply appreciate the support of SDF friends across the country that ensures that the next time disaster strikes, our Canine Disaster Search Teams will be there to make sure everything possible is being done to make sure no one is left behind.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cadillac's Good Deeds Continue

Cadillac and his handler Jasmine Segura
Cadillac, a GDB career change-turned-search and rescue dog that helped with Haiti rescue efforts (previous blog post here), is now on his way to Chile with other teams from the Los Angeles Task Force 2 to assist with rescue efforts there. They are prepared to be in Chile for about 10 days.

Please see the following link on the Search Dog Foundation's website for additional details:

Photo from Search Dog Foundation

Christine's New Career

Submitted by Cathy Gregory

Cathy is the proud custodian of retired breeder, Christine (Christine is the mama of the famed F litter pups that we write about often in this blog). Since Christine's retirement from the Breeding Program, she has gone on to do other great things. We'll let Cathy take it from there...

Daisy and Christine
Last September, Christine became certified as a therapy dog. I feel strongly that I want to help veterans Injured emotionally by war’s trauma so we began volunteering at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto. Usually we go with my good friend Gretchen and her 10 year-old lab, Daisy. Every visit is a new set of challenges.

The “twin” labs as they have come to be recognized, come into their workplace through two locked and monitored doors. The vets inside are at risk—so they aren’t allowed outside their ward. On the upstairs ward, there is camaraderie; vets wanting to talk about the dogs they have known, their wartime experiences and sometimes their plans for the future. There is also some interest in getting involved with Paws for Purple Hearts—a vets helping vets dog therapy program. We visit the common lounge and eating area, and then work our way down the two halls. The recreation therapist, who is always with us, knocks on each door and says “do you want to see the dogs today?” Usually Christine and Daisy take turns approaching the patient in bed. Some of these visits last only a few minutes. When a patient smiles and breaks the silence, the dogs will move in a little closer. Daisy is a masterful licker if given the go ahead.

After an hour is up, the four of us head toward our second stop, downstairs. The rec therapist tells us that today might be a short visit. We go through the locked doors and it is quiet inside. It turns out that half of the patients are in the patio. The sun is breaking through the clouds and there is an afternoon warmth in the air. The exterior walls are several feet taller than the basketball hoop at one corner. The dogs do their best to engage. I’ve had good conversations with some of these men on previous visits, but today the tension is palpable. Soon we are back inside. and we tour the lounges and bedrooms. By holding onto Christine’s leash one patient has annoyed the others so much that our visit concludes.

The last couple of months at the VA Hospital has shown me how pet therapy is a positive therapy. One guy upstairs who followed us for much of a visit one afternoon told me “we don’t need these fancy doctors they give us, we just need a dog.” Even when it is difficult, as yesterday was on the downstairs ward, I have seen how the dog’s attention can engage the person inside, however fragile their exterior may be.

The attached picture was made into a poster for the two wards we visit, with a short bio about each dog.

Wild Kingdom: Blind Pet Deer and Guide Dog Best of Buddies

Brandon, Maple the deer and Shakespeare the Guide Dog
Three years ago, GDB graduate Brandon Foshee adopted a baby deer who was blind and named it Maple. Brandon decided to adopt the baby fawn after it was abandoned by its mother and rescued by a local forester. When Maple was found she only weighed 4.5 pounds and needed to be bottle fed.

When Brandon brought the 1 week-old baby deer home, his first Guide Dog, Salsa, a female yellow Lab treated Maple like she was her pup. In 2009, Brandon was partnered with his current Guide Dog, Shakespeare, a male black Lab. Since Maple and Shakespeare are close in age, they have a more spirited sibling relationship. When out of harness, Shakespeare and Maple run around the yard for hours playing with each other.

Maple has another unusual trait… she loves meat. If Brandon is cooking up something on the BBQ and brings it inside to eat, Maple will knock at the back door with her hoof.

Brandon is not sure if Maple thinks she is a dog or a deer.

We've Got Mail: Grateful Grad Sends Thanks

Elaine Harrison with Guide Carmel and baby daughter
Dear Guide Dogs,

My boyfriend recently reminded me of how important it is to thank those people and/or places that have done anything that has influenced one's life. So, I was inspired to write a thank you note to Guide Dogs for the Blind, because GDB influences my life, every day.

I applied to GDB at the tender age of 17, but I had researched the topic of guide dogs since I was 8. I knew it was a lifestyle I always wanted to have, but I was terrified that I would never measure up, mobility wise. Through encouragement and through the help of some orientation and mobility professionals, I worked hard to hone my skills necessary for working with a dog. It took me a full year before I felt confident enough to attempt the home interview. Even after the interviewer left, having said kind words, I still felt that I wasn't good enough for GDB. However, when the email came stating that I had been accepted, I was thrilled beyond belief!

In August of 2005, I met my first guide on the California campus of GDB. I still kept thinking this was some sort of dream and that I would wake up, dogless. My first walks were hindered by a lack of confidence in my own skills, but through encouragement and reassurances from GDB instructors, I managed to get through those jitters. It's amazing how a professional and qualified staff can make a nervous wreck feel confident, so I have to say, thanks to them.

So now let's fast-forward to 2010. That faithful guide who I met in 2005 is still working now, leading both me and my child through whatever the physical world throws at us, with the fervour and zeal that makes her such a wonderful companion. We've been through harsh winters, multiple cities, traffic encounters, and the birth of a baby, and she is still the same consistent rock she's always been. She has a love for new challenges, a love for her work, and a love for each new day. Therefore, I want to take the time to thank GDB, as a whole, for influencing my life in such a complex way, through the dog that I trust not only with my life, but the life of my child, as well.

Forever Grateful,

Elaine Harrison with Guide Carmel

Dogs Change Lives

Submitted by Dawn Benbow

Dawn has entered the following essay about the relationship she has with her Guide Dog Baskin in a "Dogs Change Lives" essay contest. If you'd like to vote for Dawn and Baskin's story, please visit

Dawn and Baskin
In August of 2007, I boarded a flight early in the morning taking me to Oregon to meet and train with a very special dog. When I met him it was love at first kiss. I sat down in the trainers' office, my ears straining to hear anything from the dog that I knew they had for me. When the trainer brought Baskin over to me, he sniffed me once, and then the kisses started! As he kissed me, and I hugged him I knew this was going to work.

That feeling was solidified when we had our first walk together. He guided me so well, and we worked together with a flow and grace that I had not expected to happen for months. That's when I was certain this was the perfect guide dog for me. That feeling has only been strengthened through our years together as a working team.

Because of Baskin, I am able to do all those everyday things that every mother does with her children, with just as much dignity and independence as any sighted woman. On our first days home, we began the daily mile and a half trek to and from my daughters school so that I would be there to meet her and walk her home at the end of her day in kindergarden, just as all the other parents of the boys and girls in her class did. Her father worked, so this was my job as a stay at home mom. Being there to walk her home, volunteering in the classroom, talking about dogs, and guide dogs. Baskin was my eyes for all of it, and the kids' favorite thing to see at the end of the day. I would hear them say to each other and their parents "That's Bridget's Mom, don't pet her dog because he's working. Some dogs have jobs!"

Baskin guides me every Sunday at church, and he guides me through stores, the mall, parent meetings, and everything else in my life. He's always there when I need him, when I'm not feeling well from my asthma he'll always find a way to make me laugh. He is my four legged son and an important part of the family. He gives me unconditional love, and teaches all of us what that looks like. He soothes my kids when they get upset, he makes us laugh, and above all and most important to everyone he guides me through the world, acting as my eyes, with even more grace and confidence then we had on that first day together.

Having Baskin at my side has increased my confidence to move through the world as I do, knowing that as long as I have this wonderful companion with me, I am never alone and always have another pair of eyes watching out for me where ever we go, and whatever situation life may present to us. We can travel through it all working together as a team.