Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Passing the Baton

Chiffon and Peppermint
By Sue Mooney

The first time our eyes locked, I was sure she was the one for us - floppy blond ears, liquid brown eyes, a nose that twitched like a bunny's, and over-sized feet that never stopped moving.

There was a plethora of puppies in the exercise pen, running, leaping, smashing into each other as they went every which way chomping on the plastic water bottles their handlers known as the "puppy storks" has thrown to them as playthings. These were future Guide Dogs for the Blind, and we were embarking on our first adventure as puppy raisers.

Every few minutes, this energetic little blond would stop and make definite eye contact with Jim and me, telegraphing, "I think I'm going home with you guys." Turns out she was right - this was Peppermint, the whirling dervish disguised as a yellow lab who would become the center of our universe for the next year or so. The first night we spent with her in the Grand Junction, Colo. motel was unforgettable - at about 5:30 a.m. when we were roused once again by puppy howls, I muttered, "I'm much too old to be raising an 8 week old."

That was over a year ago now, and there have been many firsts with Miss Peppermint - store visits, restaurants, church, writers' group, and public school classroom visits, to name just a few. Peppermint grew and matured in many ways, and so did we. Patience that hadn't been important since our kids were little had to be summoned up again, but with that came huge quantities of love.

Two weeks ago, the time to say goodbye to Peppermint arrived. After many farewells to her friends at all her favorite places, and a puppy goodbye party with the other raisers and club members, it was time to make the reverse journey to Grand Junction. The puppy truck was coming out from the Guide Dog school in California with new puppies, and taking these young adult dogs on to further training at their facility in Oregon.

The trip that beautiful Spring morning was bittersweet, and reminiscent of taking our kids to college many years before. Peppermint would be spending one more night with us. In the morning, she would be leaving, and we would be getting a new puppy to raise - another female lab, only black instead of yellow.

We spent a quiet afternoon together. One of our favorite activities has been shopping at our local mall, so we thoroughly enjoyed mall walking at the Mesa Mall. As they say, "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping."

After an early dinner with Peppermint quietly at our side, we took an early evening stroll. Later, as we walked back to the motel, we saw that the puppy truck had arrived. When Peppermint saw it, I couldn't help thinking that there was a glimmer of recognition in her eyes.

We got her settled in her crate in our room, and I helped walk the other big dogs who were off to school. Jim spent time getting acquainted with our new family member, Chiffon. She and Peppermint had a chance to meet, too. Chiffon was in the exercise pen, and we guided Peppermint over. Chiffon stood up on the pen, and she and Pepp went nose to nose, tails wagging. It was kind of a "passing of the baton" moment.

Peppermint slept well that night, but even with the new puppy still in the crate on the truck, we didn't - more of those memories of the past year tugging at our heart strings, I guess. When morning came, it was time to bid farewell. We hugged and cuddled Pepp, before turning her over to Lee and Jason's caring, competent hands, and officially welcomed little Chiffon into our family. After watching the puppy truck head out to Oregon with Peppermint and the other big dogs who would be her classmates, we left for Durango with Chiffon. We'll never forget Peppermint, and it will be wonderful to follow her progress.

We're falling more in love with our new fur daughter every day, and it's an amazing process. There's just something about Spring and a new puppy!

Tee Off For Dogs

Frank Frand prepares to tee off at the Tee Off for Dogs fundraising golf tournament
By Frank Frand

The 6th Annual Tee Off for Dogs Golf Tournament (an annual golf tournament raising funds for programs for the visually impaired, including Guide Dogs for the Blind), was held Sunday, May 16 at Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda, Calif. It was a fun and barking success! We had 117 golfers, 40 working dogs and puppies, a helicopter for the ball drop, the famous blind man hole, massage tables, lots of food, lots of licks and tons of laughs! We are very proud to announce this years tournament grossed $30,000!

The golfers had the opportunity to pet, play and receive hot puppy breath kisses from Guide Dog puppies while their raisers happily looked on. Many thanks to the six puppy raising groups in Southern California that participated: BAARK, CNI, Los Angeles Southwest Puppy Raisers, Paws for Independence, Puppies to Partners and VIP3.

And did you hear the news? I gave it a go at the blind man hole, and my ball went over 400 yards! Yes, 400 yards, or so we heard. (My Guide Dog, Cardinal, isn't talking, so my secret is safe!)

We posted many pictures on the website; please check them out at

Can't wait for next year!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cheers! Pinot & Pups Wine Gala a Rousing Success

Pinot & Pups guest Florence Rocks
Last Saturday, GDB supporters were the toast of the town at our third Pinot & Pups Wine Gala in Portland, Ore. Held at the Portland Art Museum, 250 guests bid on both silent and live auction lots while sipping fine wines, enjoying a gourmet meal, and of course, cuddling with puppies! The event raised more than $200,000, with almost half ($95,000) garnered during a special paddle raise to support veterinary care; the remainder of the proceeds will go toward the costs of training students with their new Guide Dogs at our Oregon campus.

Many thanks to our generous sponsors—
  • Soul Mate sponsor: Key Private Bank
  • Companion sponsor: US Bank Charitable Services Group
  • Buddy Sponsors: Pacific Power; The Standard
  • Reception Sponsor: NW Natural
  • Friend Sponsors: American Steel; Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt; Streimer Sheet Metal Works, Inc.; West Coast Bank
To see all the photos from the event, please visit the Pinot & Pups gallery on our Flickr site.

Didn’t make it to the event? You can still support Guide Dogs for the Blind by making an online donation. Visit to help make a difference today!

Pictured, top: Pinot & Pups guest Florence Rocks; bottom: guests Blake Hedinger and Mark Bruun.

Guests Blake Hedinger and Mark Bruun

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cupcakes for Culver!

Culver running with a frisbee in his mouthBy Debi and Steve Hays

Against all odds, it's been one year (5/19/09) since our family adopted Culver from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Culver was born with an intrahepatic liver shunt. When he was very small and in the puppy raising program, GDB sent him to a surgeon to try and repair it - or at least buy him some time. After the surgery, Culver was career changed. At that time, we provided foster care for him in our home, which led to our decision to adopt him. We wanted to give him the best chance at an awesome life no matter how many days he had left. The surgeon said that they didn't know how much time he would have - days, months, years??

Culver snuggling with Desma
He's lived a year so far, and we are elated. Culver is now 20 months old and living life to the fullest. He is a happy go-lucky boy, full of love and sweetness. He has spent the past year enjoying new adventures around the northwest. He likes hiking, playing on the beach, retrieving his bumper, stealing toys from his buddies, Desma and Dakota, and he loves sleeping in our bed.

So this week we're celebrating his amazing life with cupcakes to all our friends. We'll even go to Culver's puppy raiser club meeting so they can see how well he is doing these days (and yes, we'll be taking cupcakes there too). So far, he shows no symptoms of the liver shunt. We continue to be thankful for each day that we share with him. Culver is a very special boy and a precious gift to us.

Can we hope for another year, two, three? If love can keep him going, then he'll go on forever - we love him soooooooo much!

Culver hoping to snag the tennis ball from Dakota

Going the Distance: GDB Grad Completes Boston Marathon

Kerry Kuck and Janet Tebbe running in the Boston Marathon
Last month, GDB alumna Kerry Kuck of Denver, Colo., accomplished his dream of running in the Boston Marathon. He ran the race with a couple of different sighted human guides, tethered together (he is pictured above with his second guide in the race, Janet Tebbe; photo courtesy of Janet Leonard). Kerry finished in an impressive 4 hours, 24 minutes, and 32 seconds. He trained for the big day with his Guide Dog, Audi, by his side. This is his story.

By Kerry Kuck

The Boston Marathon was the culmination of 22 years of running. Over the course of those years, I've had three different Guide Dogs. My original dream was to run the 10K Bolder Boulder with Audi, my current Guide Dog, but after I finished that, I wanted to go further.

In January, 2007, I joined the Rocky Mountain Road Runners, a local running club, and ran with Audi to take home the first place ribbon in their 7 mile race. This was my second monthly race after I joined the club. RMRR races are set up so that the winner is the one who improves the most from their previous races, so after taking fourth place in their next 3 mile race, I needed to switch to human guides so that I could get faster. Fortunately, Achilles Track Club of Denver was getting started, and I was able to use young, fast guides from that running club for my guides in RMRR races.

Often in running clubs, the conversation is about running half and full marathons, so I committed to run in the Colfax half marathon. I successfully completed the Colfax race, and then the Denver Half Marathon before I decided to try a full marathon. In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon I had to run a chip timed marathon in less than 5 hours.

For my qualifying marathon, I chose the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon which has a flat, fast, relatively straight course at a much lower altitude than any race in the Denver area. I ran it in 4 hours and 39 minutes.

I should mention here that I am totally blind, with no light perception in either eye, 52 years old, and have Type 1 diabetes. I am lucky to have Audi as my primary running guide. For training, I use human guides one or two days a week, and Audi four or five days a week; I have never used a treadmill. I train with Audi in a park or on sidewalks with no traffic, or even driveways, and race with him on courses that are also closed off to traffic. Audi is 10 years old, but he still guides me like nobody's business, sometimes on very cold days, or even in blizzard conditions.

On race day, I woke up at 4:20 AM, but I had slept for almost 6 hours, pretty good for the night before a big race. Instead of trying to get in another hour or two of fitful sleep, I decided to get up and start my pre-race routine (I did my last shot of fast-acting insulin before the race, stretched, ate a little bit and started hydrating). I left the motel at 7 a.m., and did not cross the starting line until 10:43 a.m., almost 13 minutes after the starting gun went off.

I was supposed to start in the 22,000 wave, but it was so crowded, my guide and I only managed to get to the back of the 23,000 wave. I finished in around 18,900 place, so we had to pass a lot of people. I was bouncing off of, and jostling with, other runners during the entire race, but the first mile was really crowded. I wore a shirt that said "Blind Runner on Insulin" in big red letters. For certain sections of the race, I wore a sleep shade. I wanted the casual observer to understand that I was blind enough to be in the VI division, in fact, that I was totally blind (most of the people in the VI division have some degree of vision).

Thanks to plenty of training runs with Audi and nearly 50 other human guides over the last two years, I ran strong for the entire race (I checked my blood sugar routinely throughout the race, and ate/drank as needed to keep my levels up). Heartbreak hill was a piece of cake.

I wanted to break 4.5 hours, so when I crossed the finished line at 4 hours, 24 minutes, and 32 seconds (15 minutes faster than my qualifying marathon), it was mission accomplished. In addition, we were the first team to accomplish the difficult task of getting a blind person with Type 1 diabetes through the 26.2 mile course without a trip to the hospital. I love it when a plan comes together.

I think that running the Boston Marathon is something that everyone should do at least once in their life if they can. It is not fun, it is very hard, but that is why it is worth doing. My team had so much skill, dedication, and reliability, that once I crossed the starting line, I had no doubt that we would finish the race.

Special thanks to my guides Jana Tebbe and Scott Dailey for being fast, good looking, reliable, and ever ready with their glucose meters (we are all pictured, below; photo by Ric Schmitz). I also need to thank Audi and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Audi gave me more training miles than anyone else, and if we made it look easy, that is what I call teamwork.

Jana Tebbe, Kerry Kuck and Scott Dailey. Photo by Ric Schmitz.

Sharing the GDB Lifestyle

Youth participants in a GDB Lifestyles Workshop, happily petting a yellow Lab
Those LA Southwest Puppy Raisers are at it again! This past week, two members of the puppy club, leader Pat Whitehead and GDB alumna Melissa Hudson with her guide Anya, joined up with GDB staff members to present a couple of Lifestyles Workshops at the Braille Institute of Los Angeles.

First up, they spoke with adults that had expressed an interest in getting a guide dog, as well as five O&M Braille Institute staff members. Pat reported that it was a good group with loads of questions and great enthusiasm for future guide dogs in their lives. She brought along two GDB Pet Ambassador dogs, retired guide Glee and career change dog Trason. They used the two dogs to take the workshop participants on Guide Dog walks. "The dogs won many friends that day," Pat said. Later, the group presented the workshop to a class of blind children. "The youth were also enthusiastic," Pat reported, "and at their young ages (9, 10 and 11), they had already learned some things about Guide Dogs." A great time was had by all.

Youth participants at a GDB Lifestyles Workshop

My Puppy Club Outing in Pictures: GDB Puppy Club takes ferry to San Francisco

By Nancy Olivas

My local puppy club from Contra Costa County took the Oakland ferry to San Francisco this weekend, and we learned some valuable lessons. First, come dressed for San Francisco weather. That means to wear layers. That way, if it's too warm (which is hardly ever) you can shed a layer or two until you're comfortable. However, if you don't dress warmly a two-hour outing can seem like forever, as several of us can attest. Some of the chill can be sublimated with a hot beverage (see photo below of raisers walking dogs with loose leashes and large cups of coffee), but it's better to wear appropriate clothing from the start.

Raisers and their pups at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco
Second, if you're going to wear inappropriate clothing, it's best if you like the people you're with. That way, you can huddle together for warmth.

Pups and people huddled together on the ferry for warmth
We had fun and the dogs saw a lot of different things: seals, men in costume, a one-man band, pigeons, tour groups and buses, whirlygigs, fresh crab, and boats. And then all went back to the East Bay to get warm.

Oklahoma Guide Dogs and Blinded Vets Meet for Lunch

Cathy Tuton with guide Frampton
By Mary Haney

Service Dogs and Service Men—what better combination could there be? On a sunny spring noon in April, GDB's Oklahoma chapter of the Alumni Association met and shared information with blinded veterans over lunch at New View (formerly the Oklahoma League for the Blind).

At an earlier meeting of the alumni group, member Laurence Williams had quoted President John Kennedy’s injunction to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” and the group determined that informing blinded servicemen about the availability of service dogs would be an appropriate answer. Sandi Webster, the chapter's vice president, worked with Marcia Adkins of the Oklahoma City Veterans Administration and officials at New View to schedule the meeting.

Two Guid eDogs
Alumni members in attendance were Cathy Tuton with guide Frampton, Kathleen Kennedy with guide Pasha, Crystal Hollenbeck with guide Amy, Laurence Williams with guide Wally, and Ralph Haney with guide Bucky. There were 29 veteran attendees, including New View board members and servicemen representing six branches of the military.

After a light lunch organized by Kathy Holden, New View's director of rehabilitation, President Ralph Haney of the Oklahoma alumni group began his address. Questions from the servicemen moved the discussion through the topics presented, including, "Why would a visually impaired person choose to have a dog guide?" His answer being that the guide could go anywhere the handler could go, with the exception of an operating room and a zoo. Lively discussion followed.

Other topics included the GDB application process, the care and feeding of the guide, family issues, and a dog's retirement. John Laakman, VIST coordinator at the VA, clarified the question of just what the Veteran’s Administration would do for reimbursement of expenses by stating that both service related and non-service related veterans would receive the same level of reimbursement of veterinary costs for a service dog's treatment, but not for food or other non-health related items.

New View staff collected pamphlets and informational items provided for the seminar by Guide Dogs for the Blind to use in their service to the visually impaired community.

The Oklahoma Guide Dogs for the Blind Alumni Association is committed to informing the public of issues in the visually impaired community, and this is the second service seminar conducted by the group in the last six months. An in-service with Oklahoma City First Responders held in October of last year was very successful and additional workshops are planned with the individual emergency response departments of Oklahoma City.

GDB alumna Cindy Gonnerman honored for volunteer work at New Hampshire Veterans Home

Photo (left to right): Sharon Cook, American Legion Auxiliary Department of NH President; Bonnie Knapp, American Legion Auxiliary National Executive Committeewoman; Cindy Gonnerman, New Hampshire Veterans Home Volunteer; Rita Navarreté, 2009-2010 National President of the American Legion Auxiliary; Barry E. Conway, New Hampshire Veterans Home Commandant; Lisa Punderson, New Hampshire Veterans Home Volunteer Coordinator. Pinto, Cindy’s Guide Dog, is in the foreground.
Photo (left to right): Sharon Cook, American Legion Auxiliary Department of NH President; Bonnie Knapp, American Legion Auxiliary National Executive Committeewoman; Cindy Gonnerman, New Hampshire Veterans Home Volunteer; Rita Navarreté, 2009-2010 National President of the American Legion Auxiliary; Barry E. Conway, New Hampshire Veterans Home Commandant; Lisa Punderson, New Hampshire Veterans Home Volunteer Coordinator. Pinto, Cindy’s Guide Dog, is in the foreground.

On Friday, April 30, 2010, Cindy Gonnerman, a Tilton, NH resident and a volunteer at the New Hampshire Veterans Home (NHVH) for eleven years, was honored for her service by Rita Navarreté, 2009-2010 National President of the American Legion Auxiliary. Cindy was presented with a framed certificate and a special American Legion Auxiliary 90th Anniversary “Service Not Self” pin.

Cindy lost her sight in 1996 at the age of 29 as a result of diabetes, but blindness has not stopped her from achieving her goals. “If someone says I can’t do something, I will find a way,” she said. Cindy proved that when she decided to travel alone on busses, across the country, to GDB's Oregon campus to be matched with her first Guide Dog, Daniel.

Cindy began volunteering in 1999 twice a week at the New Hampshire Veterans Home. When Lisa Punderson, NHVH Volunteer Coordinator, first spoke with Cindy on the phone about volunteering, she said, “Cindy wasn’t sure if I had the need for a blind volunteer, and I said all we can do is just give it a try. When I finally had a chance to meet her and Daniel, and give them a tour of our facility, I realized the everyday challenges of being blind and how helpful it was to have a Guide Dog. I actually learned a lot from Cindy about guide dogs and the disability of being blind. She is such an interesting person and she has so much to give. I knew that if I found her so interesting, the residents would too—and they have." Cindy attends a variety of activities with NHVH residents like outings, church services, book club discussions, and monthly volunteer service committee meetings.

“I love the history there," Cindy said, "meeting the residents, hearing their stories, and interacting with them. Most of all I am honored that they let me and my Guide Dogs come into their home.”

For eight years, Cindy and Daniel visited the Veterans Home, and in 2006 he retired to live with a loving couple on the coast of Maine. The Veterans Home hosted a retirement party for him, and soon welcomed Pinto, Cindy’s new Guide Dog.

Cindy and Pinto often sit at “the Four Corners,” a crossroads of resident hallways that lead to the dining room and the home’s “Main Street.” Cindy takes off Pinto’s harness, signaling that he’s off duty. Recreation Therapist Maureen Campbell says that the residents look forward to seeing Cindy and Pinto. “They are so approachable and welcoming,” Maureen said. “Many of our residents had pets before they came to the Veterans Home, so they love to be able to stop and pat Pinto. You can see them relax and smile—it makes their day.”

Lisa Punderson adds, “Cindy Gonnerman is a wonderful volunteer and an inspiration to all of us. She’s a part of the Veterans Home family and she makes a real difference in our residents’ quality of life.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Celebrating a Leader

Pat Whitehead and her puppy club members in the City Council chambers
At the Manhattan Beach, Calif., city council meeting last week, Mayor Mitch Ward proclaimed Pat Whitehead, Los Angeles Southwest Guide Dog Raisers Leader, his Person of the Month for the month of May. Pat was honored for her more than 40 years as a community service volunteer with special focus given to her work for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Pat's puppy raising group was there to provide support and were included in the photo with members of Manhattan Beach City Council (naturally, the council members specifically asked that the puppies be a part of the photo!). Of course, all in attendance were wowed by the excellent behavior of the canine participants during the meeting, including 4 month-old Khaki, the youngest puppy in the group.

The plaque presented to Pat reads:
The City Council of the City of Manhattan Beach does hereby proudly recognize Pat Whitehead for her distinguished service to the community and designate her as the Person of the Month. Dated this 4th day of May, 2010. Signed, Mayor Mitch Ward.

Kudos Pat!

Pat and members of her puppy raising group

Photos by Scott Whitehead

Sniffing Out Some Fun in Portland

Sniff, The Movie banner
Looks like the movies have gone to the dogs! At least that was the case a few weeks back when our friends at the Hotel Monaco in Portland co-hosted the Oregon premiere of "Sniff, The Dog Movie" to benefit GDB.

The lobby of the Hotel Monaco during the film screening
More than 100 GDB fans took over the hotel lobby for the showing, and four-footed friends were welcome to join in the fun as well. Guide Dogs is featured prominently in the film, as well as other working dogs. It was a fun night - along with popcorn, movie candy, Thomas Kemper sodas, local Oregon micro-brews and wines, local vendors donated a special cake for dogs only! Local musician Geoff Metts of the Portland-based band "Western Aerial" featured in the film provided some wonderful acoustic entertainment, and director Barry Stone was on hand to answer questions and sign copies of the DVD.

Guide Dogs for the Blind is grateful to our friends at Hotel Monaco who have demonstrated over and over again that while dog might be man’s best friend, the big hearted dog-lovers at the hotel are a close second!


Here's a round-up of GDB in the media recently - enjoy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Great Volcano Adventure of 2010

Penny Hartin and her guide Oliana, planning their next trip around the world
Our Guide Dogs sure do get around. This past month when flight delays and cancellations were wreaking havoc in Europe due to the Icelandic volcano eruptions, GDB alumna Penny Hartin and her guide Oliana were stranded in Vienna, Austria. Both seasoned world travelers, they didn't skip a beat and made the best of their extended adventure. Here is their story.

By Penny Hartin

I thought some of you would be interested to know that one of your Guide Dog pals had been braving it through the flight disruptions over in Europe due to the volcano eruptions. Oliana and I were stranded in Vienna; we are back home now and in fact got very lucky. I think we were on one of the last flights that landed in Vienna before virtually all of the airports closed in Europe. Vienna is a nice city and we had a good place to stay - unlike many who had to camp out on cots in airports. The staff at our hotel in downtown Vienna were very accommodating about extending our room booking until we were able to get out.

I was in Vienna to speak at the annual congress of Age Related Macular Degeneration International (AMDAI). I am the Chief Executive Officer of the World Blind Union which is the organization that represents organizations of and for the blind at the international level – thus the reason for my frequent travel. Unfortunately, the conference had to be cancelled as very few people actually arrived in Vienna – many were stuck on route or didn’t get out of their home cities.

Oliana did a great job. Everyone in Vienna loves dogs, so she was offered bowls of water wherever we went, and around the corner from the hotel we had several blocks of pedestrian-only streets for shopping. I had absolutely no access issues, which one can sometimes have in some European cities, so it was a good place to be stranded in that sense. Oliana is a very seasoned traveler. She does not get anxious, and in fact, I think that she thrives on the challenge – the more difficult the situation, the more she seems to like it. She is really a wonderful companion, and even though I was worried about her and how we would get home, I was still very happy to have her with me.

The whole process was very challenging and stressful, mostly because no one knew how long we might have to stay and how we might actually get back home. I was also worried that I would run out of food for Oliana. I always pack for an extra day or two as I know that things can happen, but knew that I would not have enough for our extended stay. Once I realized that we would not get home on time, I bought some food locally but could not find her brand at that point. I started mixing her regular food with the new brand so as to ease her into it in the event that we had long delays. She responded well to that, so that problem was sorted.

Another issue I had to deal with was deciding how to handle her food and water intake so as to be ready when a flight became available. Fortunately, Oliana has travelled with me to Europe many times and so I know how she copes, how her schedule works and so forth. So I had planned when I would feed and water her and how I would handle it if our flight didn’t get out. This happened to us earlier this year when we were storm delayed in Geneva, so I was quite confident about what I could do for her so that she would not go hungry and would be comfortable. And indeed, she was just fine.

As it turned out, the first chance we learned that an Air Canada direct flight from Vienna to Toronto might be operating, I attempted to book it. I had worried that they might say the flight was too full to accommodate a Guide Dog and that they might ask us to wait. In fact, we were on their first flight out and they even blocked the seat next to me to give Oliana extra room. I am a frequent flyer with Air Canada, and have high loyalty status with them, so I guess that helped to, but I must say I was relieved. It was one of only three fights that made it from Europe to Toronto that day. Air Canada was wonderful to both me and Oliana; on the flight she simply curled up, very relaxed – obviously knew we were going home, and showed no signs of anxiety or stress.

I thought it would be useful to share our story, as it is nice for other Guide Dog handlers to know that one of their compatriots had a chance to participate in this historic event first hand. And I think that for those who are interested in traveling internationally, it is interesting to know some of the challenges that can arise and how our dogs can come through in such positive ways.

Have Dog, Will Travel

GDB alumna Susan Krieger is a sociologist, writer, and teacher in the Program in Feminist Studies at Stanford University. An author of several books, Susan's latest book, out this month, is called Traveling Blind: Adventures in Vision with a Guide Dog by My Side. Susan has this to say about the book:

Traveling Blind book cover
"This is a book about a special time in my life - when I first received my Guide Dog Teela and traveled to the Southwest desert and on city streets discovering the world anew. My partner, Estelle Freedman, whom I call “Hannah” in the book, shared my adventures and this exciting time, exploring not only the intriguing landscapes we visited, but also the issues of vision and interdependence that my failing sight raised for us both. Like me, Estelle was delighted and grateful to have Teela with us as we added new possibilities to our life together, becoming a threesome, learning how to cross streets and to navigate darkness and light, developing new responses to our needs."

Susan has two Northern California bookstore talks scheduled for May (Stanford Bookstore, Palo Alto, Tuesday May 11, 5:30 p.m.; and Book Passage Bookstore, Corte Madera, Sunday May 16, 4 p.m.), and will be a guest on Forum Radio, KQED-FM, on Friday May 14.

Visit the website for more information, including how to obtain accessible versions of the book. Traveling Blind: Adventures in Vision with a Guide Dog by My Side.

We've Got Mail: Guide Dog Gets Friendly

Good Afternoon,

I thought that I'd share this with you. I received Emmett in 
October of 2009, and can't even begin to tell you how happy he's made me. Emmett is my second guide, and he is the son I never had...

Emmett met Mary Jean Eisenhower (granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower) a few months ago, at a VIP Reception in Atlanta for the Board of People To People International (PTPI), of which Ms. Eisenhower is President and CEO.

The first time I met Mary, I had my first Guide Dog, Ramsee, who is the total opposite of Emmett. When I approached Mary to welcome her this time, she immediately noticed that I had a different companion (most people don't). 

She and I spoke for a few moments, then someone came up to ask for Mary's photo. I turned to speak with another person, and while I was speaking to this other person and Mary was having her picture taken, Emmett took the opportunity to, shall we say, sneak up to her from behind... at which point Mary declared Emmett her boyfriend. Of course, the picture had to be re-done...

I had asked if Mary could speak with the employees in my office in recognition of Federal Women's History Month, and to my very happy surprise, she came back to Atlanta and presented. It was an excellent speech and an excellent day with Mary!

I do believe that the driving force for Mary's visit, however, was to see her boyfriend again!


Love from Rita Harrison and Emmett

F Litter Pups: Where Are They Now?

F litter pup Finell, now named Jolie, in training in Canada to be an assistance dog
Do you remember the F Litter pups that we followed on this blog from the time they were born way back in the summer of 2008 through their various adventures in puppy raising, graduation and beyond? Well, we thought you might want to know where all those adorable pups wound up, so here's a round-up of the F Litter's accomplishments.
  • Faulkner, Flute and Frolic are all working guides
  • Franco is a working K9 Buddy
  • Finella (renamed Jolie) was gifted to Pacific Assistance Dogs in British Columbia, Canada, and is nearing completion of her training (pictured above)
  • Faraja and Fjord are both career change dogs, happily living as pets

Thanks, F Litter pups, for sharing your lives with us! We know you'll continue making a difference in the lives of others, and we hope to keep hearing from you!

A Sweet Memory: A True Story of a Guide Dog Graduation

By Sarah R. Fowler
Guide Dog puppy Tully
For the longest time, I had wanted a dog of my very own. My parents decided that I could raise a dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind as my very own dog for a year. I agreed, and shortly thereafter on September 5, 2008 a small male, yellow Lab was placed into my arms. His name was Tully. For a year I did everything for Tully; I bathed him, fed him, took him to Guide Dog meetings, and most of all, I loved him. He meant everything to me. On September 26, 2009 I gave Tully back to Guide Dogs for the Blind for advanced training. I shed a lot of tears over him and I longed to see him. Four months later Tully graduated as a Guide Dog with his partner, Mr. Bill Hoage. This is the story of Tully’s graduation.

It was Saturday January 16, 2010 and I was with my family at Guide Dogs for the Blind's California campus to see my dog, Tully, graduate as a Guide Dog to Mr. Bill Hoage.

I was excited and nervous at the same time. I hadn’t seen Tully for four months. Had Tully’s personality changed? Did he look different? I had a million questions running through my mind.

While my family and I were waiting, a staff member walked into the room and said, “Hi everybody, I’m Heather. I bet you’re all excited about seeing your dogs again. I’ll just take you over to the dorm where you’ll get to meet them.” She paused and looked around and then said, “Alright then, let’s go!”

Guide Dog puppy Tully
Once everybody was seated in the dorm, the staff started bringing out the Guide Dogs and their partners. I was in another room because my group was larger. I could hear everybody laughing and crying as they saw their dogs again. But where was Tully?

After waiting a few minutes, I saw someone leading a man on the other side of a low wall. Then… I saw him. He was very much the same; a beautiful golden/brown color, with his bushy tail, long ears, and always the same twinkle in his eyes.

When Tully saw me he rushed at me and landed on my lap. He couldn’t stop wiggling. He was so happy to see me again. I looked at my beautiful golden boy. I was overwhelmed. I had waited so long for this day.

I got up and went over to Mr. Hoage and said, “Mr. Hoage, I’m Sarah.” Mr. Hoage pulled me to him and said, “Come here, you. Thank you for all that you did.” He then handed me an envelope. I went back over to Tully, sat down, and opened up the letter. It read:

“Thank you to the special girl for the great job you have done raising Tully.”

I started to get a lump in my throat as I read it.

Guide Dog puppy Tully
After awhile of visiting and picture taking it was time to get ready for the graduation ceremony. Mr. Hoage was led off to the side of the stage, while I led Tully off to a side room with the other raisers and their dogs. At 1:30 the ceremony began, but I wasn’t listening. I was thinking, “Well Tully, this is it, boy. This is the end of the line for you and me, and it’s just the beginning for you and Mr. Hoage. Do me proud, Tully. Never let Mr. Hoage down. I love you.”

One by one, the raisers and the graduates walked up to the stage and both said a little something before they sat down. When it was about my turn I got up and walked to the edge of the stage to wait. Then I saw Mr. Hoage being led on stage as one of the staff said, “And next we have Bill Hoage receiving Tully, a male yellow Labrador retriever raised by Sarah Fowler.
I walked across the stage to Mr. Hoage where I placed Tully’s leash into his hands.

Mr. Hoage took the microphone that was handed to him and he said, “Thank you, Sarah.”
Guide Dog puppy Tully
When Mr. Hoage finished, I took the microphone and then said: “Even as a young dog Tully seemed to know what his life was meant to be. I remember one time when Tully was about 7 months old. I was on a walk with my Guide Dog group and someone else was walking Tully for me. This person wasn’t watching where he was going and almost ran into a pole except that Tully pulled him out of the way before he hurt himself. I was very proud of Tully. To see Tully graduate today is very rewarding to me. Even though it is bittersweet, I have to say this is one of the proudest days of my life. I just want to end by thanking Guide Dogs for the Blind for giving me a wonderful dog to raise. I want to thank my Guide Dog leader for helping me to raise Tully. And last I want to thank my two wonderful parents for all the time and love they put into this to make it possible for me to have raised Tully. Thank you.”

At 2:24 p.m. the graduation came to a close.

My family and relatives came over and congratulated me and Mr. Hoage. I watched Mr. Hoage and Tully with tears in my eyes. I reached into my pockets and fingered Tully’s old dog tags.

A little while later Mr. Hoage’s brother announced that it was time to go. I said goodbye to Mr. Hoage and then I bent down and gave Tully a hug. As I watched Mr. Hoage and Tully walk away a couple of tears slid down my cheeks. I wiped them away and whispered, “Goodbye. I love you, Tully.”
Sarah, Tully and Mr. Hoag


We love getting your photos! Here's a sampling of the great images that we received during the month of April, either via email or through GDB's Group Photo Pool on Flickr. Keep em coming!

Balck Lab puppy Tulia with raiser Bethany
Black Lab Tulia is growing big at 6 months of age. She is quite heavy now, but her raiser Bethany can still hold her in her arms! Submitted by TuliaSpritz via GDB's Group Photo Pool on Flickr.

German Shepherd career change dog, Kenzie.
German Shepherd career change dog, Kenzie. Submitted by Maureen Picarella who writes: "Kenzie was born in November of 1994. Our family adopted her approximately 2 years later. At the ripe old age of 15, Kenzie has been part of our family of four for more than 13 years of her life. She has outlived her yellow Lab buddy, Bailey, and accepted and learned to live with four new cats over the years. Her newest Lab buddy, Rocky, keeps her young. She has raised 2 boys from adolescence to adulthood, and still loves sleeping with them to this day. While most of her days are spent sleeping in a sunny spot of the house and waiting for her next meal, Kenzie still adores the neighborhood walks with my husband and I (although, a bit shorter now, due to her restricted mobility). As to be expected of a large dog her age, Kenzie has had some health challenges… we marvel at her resilience and count every day she is with us as a blessing."

Yellow Lab puppy Cabo visiting with a tour group at GDB's California campus.
Yellow Lab puppy Cabo visiting with a tour group at GDB's California campus. Submitted by Pat Salzarulo.

German Shepherd guide Michener
German Shepherd guide Michener, caught sleeping on the job. Michener is the guide of Dudley Hanks, who writes: "Most people think that the life of a guide dog is all work and no play, with little or no time for rest. While they do work hard, guides also have a lot of down time, as they laze around while their handler is busy with other things. Thus, one of the things guides have to be good at doing is, er, nothing. Here is a shot of Mich sleeping on the job. I was busy having coffee. He took the opportunity to catch a few Z's, and I couldn't resist snapping a shot of him lying there so peacefully."