Monday, June 28, 2010

Enter, Stage Right: Career Change Dog Humbolt On Stage with the San Francisco Opera

GDB career change dog, Humbolt, a stunning 11 year-old white German Shepherd, was recently cast as a battle dog in the San Francisco Opera's production of "Die Walkure." Here's his story behind his fun adventure, submitted by his adopter and handler, Blancett Reynolds.

Humbolt pictured with Baritone Mark Delavan
Humboldt's career change from Guide Dogs over 10 years ago opened the door for him to be a competition agility dog and a demo dog for the competition agility classes that I teach at Ace Dog Sports in San Francisco. Humboldt has been retired from agility competition for a couple of years, but still does a little bit of agility for fun (you can see him in action during the half time show of the Stanford Women's Basketball Team on YouTube).

Humboldt's current adventure in San Francisco Opera's production of "Die Walkure" started when a student at Ace Dog Sports with connections to the opera asked me if I knew any German Shepherds who could run across a raked stage that was surfaced like a subway grate. I knew Humboldt would love to be in front of an audience (he had been on stage before in a comedy sketch), so I brought him down to audition. With all the different surfaces Humboldt had experienced while a puppy in the Guide Dog program, and the surfaces he was exposed to in agility prep, Humboldt didn't have a problem accepting the stage surface. He got the job of one of two dogs who run across the stage during the climactic battle scene in which Siegmund is killed by Hunding. (Humbolt is pictured here with Baritone Mark Delavan, who plays Woton in the production.)

Humboldt is getting the star treatment at SF Opera and loves it. He walks into the Opera House backstage area with his Kong in his mouth, greeting all his new friends and checks himself in for his performance calls. Right before he goes on stage there are thunder/lightening cues, and trombones blaring right behind him in the wings, none of which bother him at all. A moment before his entrance, Humboldt gets very excited (and sometimes barks!) and tries to pull the props person holding him in the wings forward before he is released (with his new dog friend and co-star, Milo) to run across the stage to his waiting handler. After their dash across the stage, the actors rush in behind the dogs and start fighting. There is always a murmuring response from the audience as the dogs run across the stage. Humboldt loves it and gets faster with each performance. Not bad for an 11 year-old German Shepherd!

All Aboard! Puppies Take to the Rails

Group photo of puppy raisers at the
An enthusiastic group of Southern California puppy raisers and families "rode the rails" again this year, marking the 16th annual Guide Dog Puppy Travel Day event, co-hosted by L.A. Southwest Guide Dog Raisers, MetroRail and MetroLink (MetroRail and MetroLink provided courtesy rides for all). This excellent socialization experience gives Guide Dog puppies an opportunity to ride the trains, work through Union Station, find their comfort zones along busy Olvera Street with its narrow shopping areas and restaurants, and encounter many curious people who want to pet them. The people enjoy it as well, since there is ample opportunity to meet other puppy raisers and find littermates.

"Raisers and puppies are treated to the colorful, crowded marketplace filled with Mexican shopfronts, restaurants, mariachi bands, and lively music and dancing," said participating puppy raiser Gail Hardy.

Members of six puppy clubs came out for the day: Antelope Valley GDPR, VIP3, Diamonds in the Ruff, PRIDE, Riverside GDPR, and L.A. Southwest GDR. Photo by David Hudson.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Going Full Circle

Volunteers holding the puppies that would be presented to their new raisers at an Oregon graduation ceremony
This past Saturday, for the first time ever at GDB's Oregon campus, the audience at our graduation ceremony saw the complete story of Guide Dogs when we celebrated the accomplishments of six new Guide Dog teams AND delivered three new pups to their Oregon puppy raising families.

Anyone who has attended one of our graduations knows that these ceremonies are always filled with emotion, but this graduation was something extra special. We have been working with a few young pups in some early training tests here on the Oregon campus, so we had the opportunity to have the little guys around for a bit - a great treat! And when it was time for them to be sent to their puppy raising homes, we got the chance to send them off with much fanfare.

With an auditorium filled with visitors, supporters and friends, there were plenty of “ooohs and aaahs” when Zenith, Alden and Art were presented to their new families by campus volunteers. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the stage was swamped with well-wishers, all wanting to welcome these little bundles of fur into their hearts.

So, from beginning their lives as Guide Dog puppies in the arms of their new families, to concluding their training and becoming bona fide Guide Dog teams, we came full circle in the span of the afternoon.

Join us on July 17th at our Oregon campus for another graduation ceremony, once again complete with puppies. The ceremony begins at 1:30 p.m., and is open and free to the public. Check our website for details and directions.

Above and Beyond

By Rebecca Hornick
GDB's California Campus Foster Care Program Coordinator

We all know that our volunteer foster care providers serve a great purpose each year when there is need to put dogs into temporary homes for a variety of reasons. But I bet you didn’t know just how far above and beyond the normal call of duty some of these amazing volunteers will go. As a group, the foster care providers at our California campus have volunteered more than 37,000 hours fostering more than 400 dogs since July 2009, which translates to more than 3,000 hours per month. There’s no question that their homes have provided great comfort to many of our dogs over the years. But some dogs need even more.

When it comes to dogs needing physical therapy before or after corrective surgery for orthopedic problems, here at the California campus we always call on volunteer Carol Mack. After she gets special instruction from our clinic’s physical therapy specialist, Kristen Hagler, about how to perform various physical manipulations several times a day, Carol also provides transport for these dogs to and from a vet clinic 30 minutes north to receive hydrotherapy sessions as well. We think the world of her and thank her for going the extra miles, literally!

Cooper Jacob with a group of four foster care dogsCooper Jacob hiking with two dogs
Another special shout-out goes to volunteers Dottie, John and Cooper Jacob. (Cooper is pictured above and at right.) Not only have they provided help and foster care for orthopedically challenged dogs, but they don’t stop there: puppies, dogs in training, boarding guides, breeders, career change dogs, medically challenged dogs, elderly dogs... you name it, they'll care for them! They even happily take more than one dog at a time, and have been known to call us on their way home from vacation to see which dog needs them next. Their desire to help whenever and however possible is a blessing to the foster care program.

Lucy Greco with a foster puppy
Also on the list of folks who always have a foster dog in their home are Mike Duigou and Lucy Greco; Lucy’s Guide Dog, Pecan, is never lonely for company! (Lucy is pictured with a foster pup, left.) They have taken in some of the most medically challenged young career change pups, and on many occasions, Mike has offered to transport dogs to and from local veterinary specialists and even UC Davis for surgeries or follow up care. They then provide the weeks or months of aftercare required to get the pup stable and healthy enough to be adopted into a permanent home. As you can imagine, young pups need the benefit of home life and whatever socialization they can be offered to be the best dogs they can be. Mike and Lucy’s efforts give these pups an extra “leg up” thanks to their contribution to the foster care program.

Whether it’s leaky little puppies or infirm elder dogs, Jeff Cannizzaro is another volunteer always ready to lend a hand. After raising GDB puppies Viva and Rora (Rora graduated as a guide from the Oregon campus last year), Jeff decided to help out with foster care. I like to call him one of my “teddy bears of foster care” because he is there for the dogs who need comforting the most. Jeff and his wife, Lauren Kenney (a staff member in our training department), provide care to all sorts of dogs that come through the foster care program. In their home, many young dogs have thrived, but they have even been there giving love and comfort to elderly dogs who have needed to live out their last days in foster homes as well.

Bob and Liz Patterson
One of my favorite things to hear is, “I just dropped off a dog. Who needs me now?” Fortunately I hear this frequently from volunteers Bob and Liz Patterson (pictured above). If they are in town, they’ll take a foster dog. Unlike some people who need a break after having a canine visitor, these folks are always game for a new dog. I know for a fact that our dogs have single handedly turned Bob into a serious dog lover. He hadn’t had a lot of dog experience the couple decided to join the foster care team back in July of 2007, but by now they have fostered more than 50 dogs. With almost every dog he says, “This was one of our favorites!” I don’t know who makes who happier, Bob or the dogs!

When the requests are tough and the dog’s needs aren’t easy, I call on these fine folks to save the day. Time after time, they have been there for our most challenging charges and if you ask them, they wouldn’t have it any other way. These amazing volunteers get our highest praise for always being willing to go above and beyond the call of duty for our foster dogs. We feel so very lucky they are part of the Guide Dogs Team!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Remembering Chip

By GDB alumna Andrea Guidice

Andrea and Chip
Mr. Snake, also known as Chip or Sphinky or Mr. Sniffy pants or Chippee the dog or Monk, has crossed the rainbow bridge. In his beautiful warm yard in Florida, on a blanket with his retirement mom and dad holding him, he did what he so loved to do - he went to sleep in the sun. Laural and Jonathan gave Chip the most generous gift possible, they gave him a peaceful death before he was caused to suffer. My gratitude for this finds no words.

In May, Chip was diagnosed with an aggressive form of throat cancer. Since the diagnosis, he had been brave and strong, and if it is even possible, he was more spoiled then usual. Doggie ice cream was part of his daily diet! Laural and Jonathan provided a safe, loving, prideful home for Chip in his retirement; a loving family unit in which to joyfully, exuberantly relax after seven and a half years of service. He had eighteen months of soaking up the Florida sun, taking leisurely morning and evening walks, patrolling the fence line, playing ball and Frisbee, and enjoying brotherly canine companionship with Eubie.

Now you know of his last 1.5 years but what of his 7.5 years with me as my trusted guide? Where/how to tell that tail? I met Chip in the early evening hours of March 21, 2001, the beginning of a truly wondrous journey. Chip guided me along countless sidewalks both quiet and busy; always knew his right from his left (though I often didn't); worked through buildings of every stripe; tackled escalators and elevators; walked in rain snow heat cold and wind; avoided obstacles of all descriptions (and some that totally defied description); climbed up and down billions of stairs; passed through millions of doors; navigated airports in at least ten states; patiently approved and vetoed my purchases over and over and over; and "found" counters, empty seats, sinks, rest rooms, hotel rooms, home and more.

Along with the routine tasks of guiding - and the not so routine times when Chip saved me from getting hit by cars, falling off a loading dock or bashing my head on a huge overhanging tree limb - he also guided me through three of the most difficult times in my life. Just over a year after Chip and I were partnered, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Our life course took an immediate, dramatic and drastic swerve. I went from working full time and being an active person to being mostly bed and house bound. This caused Chip to enter a semi retirement phase at age 4. Remarkably, he did not eat me in my sleep and his guidework never suffered. Regardless the length of time that stretched between each time I harnessed him up, or how simplistic most of the routes might be, he could step right back on to the streets of San Francisco and guide like we had been working in the city every day. Along with his resilient guidework was his attitude. He never got angry or bored with his abrupt change in lifestyle. Dealing with CFS was almost more then I could handle, but having Chip so gracefully transition to our new life was one of his greatest gifts to me. Not having to worry about him and having a rock solid guide as my partner made so much more manageable.

At the end of 2007 Chip helped me through another huge life transition. My husband and I split up and I was single for the first time in 13 years. Chip soaked up my tears, listened endlessly to my woes and worries, snuggled with me and was a strong solid constant companion guiding me physically and emotionally into my new life. And in January of 2008, I embarked on yet another first: I moved in to my very own apartment, living alone for the first time in my life. Well not alone of course because there was Chip keeping me brave and making it all okay. Together we explored our new neighborhood. With Chip by my side I got my bachelorette sea legs and even started to flourish.

As the CFS remitted some and I conquered my new hood, the summer of 2008 approached and Chip had another gift to give. His gift to me was to get me ready for his successor, Yolo. As summer wound down into fall and Chip and I had our last dance, he helped me understand that he was happy to be retiring and that I needed to be open and accepting of my next guide. He went to his new home with a joyful heart and allowed me to go to Yolo with a guilt free one.

In February of 2010, Chip had a final gift for me. I visited him in his retirement home where he showed me his new life, his happiness and his peacefulness. He gave me eleven days of his healthy Chippee self to hug on and indelibly plant on the drawing board of my heart. As gifts go, this one was priceless.

I have written and written and yet I feel as if I have told none of it. Such an enormous dog, soft and gentle, calm and steady. Wise and silly with little ears, a dusty rose nose and a tail with a little crook at the end. Remembered by all who met him, coveted by many, loved by all, Chip has left gentle paw prints on our hearts. Oh, my dear sweet Chip my heart hurts and I miss you so. If I try very hard I can feel your velvety ears under my fingers and your soft fur against my cheek. I so wish you were here to soak up my tears tonight. I love, respect and thank you so very much for all your years of service to me.

I honor you always and forget you never,


Good News about "Good Dogs"

By Jennifer Bernstein
GDB's Campus Volunteers/Guest Relations Manager

A group shot of the Terra Linda High School students who participated in GDB's Good Dog program.
In January of 2010, we launched a new program called "Good Dog!" - the aim of which was to reach new groups of young people and introduce them to dogs, the organization, blindness, and how any of those concepts might apply to their communities and future careers. We partnered with Terra Linda High School’s AVID program, which supports high school Juniors and Seniors who are the first in their families to be college-bound. These young people learned about safe interactions with dogs, training methodologies and responsible breeding of dogs, in addition to meeting with GDB graduates to discuss blindness and access issues.

One particularly memorable day was one of the rainiest in February, when about ten dogs were brought into our board rooms to teach the students a little bit about dog training using a clicker. Many kids had never walked a big dog on leash before, much less worked with clickers, and by the end of the session some of them had really shown a talent for dog training! Some kids were shy, unsure, even afraid of working with large breed dogs, and even the most unsure student that day was able to make strides in her ability to communicate with her canine charge.

Many, many GDB staff took time out of their busy days over the course of five months to work with the students and provide unforgettable educational experiences for them. As many of them go on to college we hope that they will remember us and consider us in their futures - for members of their communities who might benefit from our services, for careers, for volunteering, or for whatever inspires them. They certainly inspired me!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Growing Up Guide Pup: Sneak a peek on YouTube!

Amie and Rickie
Wouldn't it be great if you had the chance to watch the progress of a Guide Dog puppy, week by week, as it learns and grows? A place where you could see all of the cute puppy antics, as well as get some great insight into the GDB puppy raising process? Well wait no more!

We're excited to share with you a fantastic YouTube show called "Growing Up Guide Pup," produced by puppy raisers Amie and Matt Chapman of Hayward, Calif. Each weekly online episode gets you caught up on the activities of their GDB pup-in-training, Lab/Golden cross Ricki, as well as answers questions from viewers. Amie and Ricki are the on-camera talent; Matt is the videographer and editor.

Kudos to Amie and Matt for making a really fun, informative series. We're so excited to be watching Ricki's progress - and we hope you will enjoy it too! Check it out and subscribe to the series at


Guide Dog puppy Frasier
GDB in the news....
  • Raise guide pup and change a life (Sequim Gazette, May 12, 2010): Guest opinion from puppy raiser Deb Cox.
  • Pinot for Pups (KOIN-TV/CBS, Portland, May 13, 2010): To help promote GDB's Pinot & Pups Wine Gala, George Thompson and Guide Dog Cairo along with puppy raiser Stephanie Ricker and GDB puppy-in-training Frasier were featured on an evening lifestyle program. (Frasier is pictured above; photo courtesy of KOIN-TV.)
  • Family raises dog with mission (Forest Grove News Times, May 27, 2010): Highlighting puppy raisers, the Schrader family, with their GDB pup, Tandy.
  • Blind Survivor (Central Florida News, Channel 13, May 31, 2010): A news segment featuring GDB grad and 911 survivor Michael Hingson.
  • 'Great American success story' also includes a good dog (Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 7, 2010): A feature on GDB graduate Deb Swenson and her guide Kudo.
  • Guide Puppies and Police Horse, Nose to Nose in West Seattle (, June 8, 2010): A feature of Guide Dog puppies meeting with Seattle Police Department's mounted patrol.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Breeders Digest, 3.1.10-4.30.10

Cute baby Labrador Retrievers
Breeders Digest - have you missed it? We're playing a little bit of catch-up here, as it's been quite some time since we shared our newest arrivals with you. We're hoping the cuteness of the photo slideshows makes up for our delayed actions. Check out the photos of the March littermates, April littermates, and even some bonus photos of the February littermates. See - isn't that better? And here's our litter/breeder announcements for March and April as well - enjoy!

March 2010 Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
  • 3/10/10 Denzel x Maria – 4 males, 4 females
  • 3/13/10 Tiburon x Bloomer – 6 males, 2 females
  • 3/14/10 Jenkins x Rose – 2 males, 5 females
  • 3/15/10 Buck x Gallery – 3 males, 3 females
  • 3/16/10 Laramie x Paulina – 2 males, 5 females
  • 3/23/10 Dylan x Aqua – 1 male, 7 females
  • 3/23/10 Samuel x Savannah – 5 males, 1 female
  • 3/26/10 Russo x Darlene – 1 male, 2 females
  • 3/27/10 Jay x Enid – 3 males, 3 females
  • 3/31/10 Tiburon x Vintage – 2 males, 5 females
March 2010 New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
  • Darice – raised in CA
  • Marnie – raised in CA
  • Ozzie – raised in WA
  • Parson – raised in WA
  • Tamryn – raised in CA

April 2010 Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
  • 4/1/10 Jay x Lapis – 4 males, 3 females
  • 4/8/10 Danny x Dasha – 4 males, 1 females
  • 4/13 Kentucky x Marin – 4 males, 2 females
  • 4/13/10 Laramie x Doralee – 3 males, 2 females
  • 4/15/10 Tiburon x Glorious – 5 males, 3 females
  • 4/16/10 Jenkins x Mamie – 2 males, 3 females
  • 4/17/10 Tiburon x Alanis – 4 males
  • 4/18/10 Jay x Suzanne – 4 males, 1 females
  • 4/22/10 Samuel x Nell – 5 males, 3 females
  • 4/27/10 Jay x Dorinda – 3 males, 6 females
  • 4/28/10 David x Leola – 3 males, 2 females
Golden Retrievers
  • 4/3/10 Cody x Lamara – 5 males, 4 females

April 2010 New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
  • Curt – raised in CA
  • Flamenco – raised in CA
  • Forte – raised in UT
  • Nicasio – raised in WA
  • Pandy – raised in WA
  • Willa – raised in CA
Golden Retrievers
  • Tess – raised in CA
Lab/Golden Crosses
  • Leslie – raised in CA
  • Malou – raised in WA
  • Matisse – raised in CA

Graduation: Smiles All Around!

The June 5th graduation at our Oregon campus was the perfect place to be if you felt like smiling. Along with celebrating the new partnerships between six wonderful Guide Dogs teams, we had several very special groups join us for the festivities.

2010 Portland Rose Festival' reigning Princesses and last year’s Queen
As part of the the 2010 Portland Rose Festival, the festival's reigning Princesses (and last year’s Queen!) joined us for the day. These 14 lovely and talented representatives from Portland-area high schools toured the campus, took in the graduation, and got plenty of puppy love. We were honored to have these ambassadors spend the afternoon with us, and we’re proud to be part of Portland’s premiere annual event.

Suburban Auto Group
We also had a visit from our neighbors, Suburban Auto Group, located in Sandy, Ore., just three miles down the road from campus. For several years now, owners Nancy and Jerry Jaksich have held an annual Cruise-In event and have donated the proceeds to Guide Dogs. They have raised thousands and thousands of dollars for us, and have truly made a positive difference. Their most recent Cruise-In was held in May, and even in the face of a shaky economy and on a windy, rainy, blustery day, they were still able to bring the community together and raise funds for our benefit. At graduation, Nancy and members of the staff presented us with a check for $15,000. Their generosity is a testament to how important Sandy Suburban Auto Group is to the community, and of what great friends Nancy and Jerry have been to Guide Dogs. Thank you!

Girl Scout Troop #40041
And finally, Girl Scout Troop #40041 from West Linn, Ore., joined in the ceremony and presented GDB with a donation to fund a harness for a future Guide Dog. Thanks to these generous fourth graders, someone will be able to walk the streets safely and with confidence with their brand new guide.

We’ve got beautiful moments like these at EVERY graduation. If you're up for some smiles, please plan now to join us at our June 19th graduation ceremony at the Oregon campus where we’ll have a PUPPY DELIVERY that will melt your heart. Some very lucky families in the Portland metro area will be receiving their new Guide Dog puppies, and we’d love to have you join us to witness their first meeting. The ceremony begins at 1:30, and as always, it is free and open to the public. Call (503) 668-2100 for reservations and more information, or visit our website for a complete list of graduation dates on both campuses. See you there!