Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Yellow Lab puppy QuinnBoy, did we ever get some great photo submissions during the month of July. Like the great shot of yellow Lab puppy Quinn, above, submitted by puppy raiser Pat Massagli. Quinn is pictured relaxing by the roses at Mckinley Park Rose Garden in Sacramento. Click on over to our July 2010 Photo Submissions Flickr gallery to see all of the great pictures that came our way in the past few weeks - you won't be disappointed!

Git Along Little Doggies! Fun Day Recap

Brenda, Kate, and Maddie Hall with black Lab Christina
Yee-haw! The past couple of weekends, the fur has been a-flyin at our campuses as we celebrated "Boot Scootin Bow Wow" - our annual Fun Day event for puppy raisers. At the California campus, we hosted 1,200 people and about 500 pups; the Oregon campus welcomed 600 people and several hundred more pups. How's that for a round-up?!

The days were chock full of activities, seminars, presentations and prancing puppies. Raisers enjoyed meeting their pups' littermates, catching up with friends - both old and new - and touring our facilities. The highlight of Fun Day is always the afternoon puppy delivery, where young pups are presented to their new puppy raisers. It was a regular ol' hoedown, if we do say so ourselves!

Photos from the events can be found on our Flickr site - take a minute to check them out!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

L.A., Here We Come!

Puppies with a Vision puppy club in the os Angeles Metro Rail Subway station
On a recent hot Saturday morning, eight puppies with an excited group of puppy raisers and their families from the Puppies with a Vision puppy club of Ventura County took the stairs or elevator down into the Universal City Metro Station. Their field trip for the day was a ride on the Los Angeles Metro Rail Subway (yes, there is a subway in L.A.!!), a stroll along the downtown streets, lunch at a downtown restaurant and a return trip on the subway. This socialization experience gave the pups that live in suburban areas a chance to experience an urban environment.

On the subway portion of the trip, the puppies successfully navigated the long, steep stairways; stayed calm as the noisy, fast-moving trains pulled in and out of the station; and remained unruffled while riding in crowded train cars. After a 20-minute subway ride, the dogs were ready for the long climb upstairs to the street level of the city.

Walking along the busy downtown streets gave the dogs the opportunity to experience the faster movements and noises of the passing traffic, walking on sidewalk grates, and crossing streets with a lot of cars. They encountered both fountains and fowl (at least, pigeons) and all did fine.

They were graciously greeted at the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant with bowls of water for the pups and an entire section reserved for the group of 20 people. Once again, with all those pups in a relatively constricted area, the dogs’ behavior was excellent.

“We were so proud of our puppies and how they were able to handle the new experiences that they encountered today,” said participating puppy raiser Bonnie Sloane. “We will certainly be making this trip an annual event.”

Freya Saves the Day

By Erin Austin, puppy raiser

Black Lab Freya at graduation
Recall day is one of the hardest days ever for a puppy raiser. I think it’s especially hard for a first time raiser. This past February, I had to return my first puppy to the GDB campus in California. Since there was no puppy truck going through my town on recall day, my leader, Mary, her daughter Brenna, and I all headed up to Guide Dogs on our own.

Nothing I could have done would have prepared me for the moment that I placed Freya in her kennel run. In fact, nothing could have prepared me for how fast she flew through all ten phases (though I was worried because she spent the longest in Phase 1 and I was afraid her bow legs were the cause). I was fully prepared to take up a hotel room the day I dropped her off because I was certain that the next day I would receive a call telling me that they was no way they could use such a wild pup and that I should pick her up immediately before she influenced the other dogs in the kennels. But I got no such phone call.

Freya was in formal training for less than three months before she was put into class. I didn’t know exactly how to feel about my dog being with someone else. I had loved and cared for this dog for fourteen months and I did not want to say goodbye forever. I knew that there was a possibility that her new person wouldn’t want to stay in touch with me. I kept reminding myself that this was what she was born to do and I had respect the wishes of her new person.

So, when the day came when I could call her new partner, I prepared myself for someone who wouldn’t want to talk or keep in touch. I got quite the opposite. His name is Mike, and I could hear in his voice how much he loved her and how much Freya had bonded with him. I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled when he asked me if I wanted to keep in touch with him. On graduation day we exchanged contact information. While Freya remembered me, she and he were obviously the team now. I was so happy to see that someone appreciated the kind of dog Freya was as much as I did.

Now I receive e-mails of Freya’s many travels and frequent updates on how they are doing as a team. I received this wonderful e-mail about how Freya saved Mike from a wild animal:

Hi Erin,

I have to tell you about a tense few minutes that happened on our walk this weekend. Did you know that there are wild animals in Alabama waiting to feed on a careless Guide Dog Team? Freya and I were walking down a sidewalk when I could suddenly feel a difference in Freya’s stride and body. She usually walks with her front shoulders down and pulling and her head moves around like she is scanning and sniffing the route. But suddenly her shoulders came up, her head stopped moving, and her pace slowed to about half speed. I could tell that she was looking at something in front of us and it kind of spooked her.

After a few more steps she slowed even more and came to a stop. I asked her to go forward and she tried to lead me off the sidewalk and to the grass on the right side. So I stopped her and attempted to find out what she was trying to avoid and what concerned her so much. It turned out to be a Lion waiting for a tasty Guide Team to walk thru the kill zone.

Ok... it wasn’t really a lion. It was a motorcycle parked parallel with the sidewalk and facing toward us. The motorcycle had a large faring and wind screen to protect the rider’s legs, arms, and face. The faring was painted to look like a lion and the two (side-by-side) headlights on the bike were the lion’s eyes. Freya was not going to take any chances by getting too close to this beast of prey.

We eventually worked our way past the wild beast, but Freya kept looking behind us to make sure we were not being chased. My protector (Freya) never left my side. I am so glad that I had her watchful eyes and guidance or else I might have been eaten by the hungry beast. I guess we won't be going to the zoo anytime soon.

Take care,

Mike and Freya on the hunt in Alabama

My fear of having to say goodbye forever is gone. Freya was the wild child of my group, which is full of first-time raisers who will have to give up their puppies soon. I hope that hearing about Freya and her job will make their recall day easier.

I am so happy that Freya is Mike's ever-watchful guide and guardian. Thank you Guide Dogs for making a wonderful match!

Visually Impaired Career Change Dog Wins Big in Obedience

Lizette and Mika
GDB career change dog, German Shepherd Mika (formerly Britt), with her adopter, Lizanne Kaiser, took top honors while qualifying for the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Utility Dog (UD) title. Each year, only about 30 German Shepherds in the U.S. complete the requirements for this title. En route to the UD, Mika won multiple 1st place titles. Also, Mika has earned a Temperament Certificate from the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, where she was top-scoring dog on the day that she earned the certificate. Even more impressive, Mika achieved these awards while having vision in only one eye. Her limited vision at times made successfully competing in the sport of AKC Obedience trials quite challenging.

Utility is the most advanced class in the sport of AKC Obedience. The dog, off leash, has to respond to the owner’s hand signals (no verbal commands allowed), and complete exercises in a number of disciplines, including scent discrimination, directed retrieves, jumping, and silent signal following. Some of the exercises require that the dog respond to commands given from 25-50 feet away, typically requiring that the dog would need good long-distance and peripheral vision and good depth perception. Per the AKC rules, the dog must walk on the handler’s left side, and the handler cannot repeat commands or signals. Since Mika is missing her right eye, she needed to pay close attention so as not to miss her handler’s cues.

Mika was adopted from GDB by Lizanne Kaiser and Broheen Elias in 2004. Mika was one and a half years old, and had completed a few weeks of formal GDB training before becoming a career change dog. When Mika was first adopted, she was fully-sighted, and she was fully sighted when she completed two lower-level AKC Obedience titles. However, when Mika started learning the advanced Utility exercises, she was diagnosed with “canine dry eye” (keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS). Despite various medications and a surgery, Mika's right eye still failed to produce tears. It was obvious that Mika was uncomfortable, and her eye would be susceptible to infection if it weren’t enucleated. Mika healed quickly post-surgery and began to reorient herself to having partial vision. Lizanne and Mika had to re-train a number of the exercises so Mika could better see the cues and perform correctly.

“Training and competing with Mika taught me a lot and helped me grow as a dog trainer,” said Lizanne. “I needed to be very clear and consistent in showing her what she needed to do to be successful. Mika sometimes took longer than other dogs to learn an exercise initially, and there were certain details where she was never going to be as precise as other dogs. But she has a strong will to do her best. I call her ‘my little worker bee’ because at Obedience trials she always gives it her all and gets the job done. Mika taught me that with the right winning attitude, you can achieve your goals and dreams.”

Mika, currently 7 years old and retired from Obedience competition, is now helping to train Lizanne’s newest dog, Dante (a rescued German Shepherd).

“We are so fortunate that GDB gave us the opportunity to adopt Mika,” Lizanne said. “Bob and Daphne Easton, her puppy-raising family, had already socialized her so well to all sorts of different people, animals, and situations. She came to us with a great foundation for AKC Obedience. I’d strongly recommend a career change dog for anyone looking for a dog for a performance sport. These dogs were bred to work and love having a job.”

Please note: GDB is no longer using the German Shepherd breed in our program. There are yellow/black Lab, Golden Retriever and Lab/Golden crosses available for adoption that would make ideal performance sport competitors; we encourage those interested in agility, obedience or sport training with a dog to apply on our website.

We've Got Mail: A GDB Alumna Pays Tribute to Puppy Raisers

Dear Puppy Raisers,

I have been using these incredible dogs for more than 35 years. I got my first dog when I was 18 and preparing to go to college. Although blind from the age of 14, I knew nothing about working dogs; indeed, I had never even met one. My first dog was named Whirl. She was a beautiful, delightful Golden Retriever. As with most Goldens, she had a happy, fun-loving personality, yet was an excellent worker. Whirl never met a tennis ball she didn’t love!

Debra Cooper and Portia
Immediately after returning from the school in California, I went to Arizona State University, which at that time had approximately 40,000 students. Whirl and I were sorority girls and spent four years walking all over that campus. After graduating, I taught high school for a couple of years before going to work at the Arizona Republic newspaper. Naturally, Whirl was with me every step of the way. Everyone loved her; it would have been impossible not to.

After Whirl had to officially “hang up the harness,” I went on to have four more Golden Retriever guides. Three of my dogs worked for nearly ten years each. Today, I have Portia, a precious little black Lab, who is sitting right here at my feet as I write this.

What I want to convey to you is two-fold. First, I want you to know how much each of these dogs has meant to me. Because they exist, I can do so much more, be so much more. Prior to getting Whirl, I felt embarrassed about being disabled. In fact, my greatest reluctance about getting my first dog was that now “everyone would know.” For the previous four years, while with a boyfriend, or group of girls, no one really knew that I was “different.” The fact that I had no independence was irrelevant – at that time in my life, the most important issue to me was that no one know I was blind.

Getting Whirl completely changed my life. We could do anything together: walk down the street, cross intersections, go into stores. I came to literally trust her with my life. But most importantly, my shame vanished. I went from embarrassed of being me to incredibly proud of being us.

Because of the autonomy a Guide Dog provides, I have been able to get an education, work at a variety of jobs, even walk my son to school when he was a little boy. Just having Whirl, Nomi or Rosie at my side has helped me to be a stronger, more confident woman. Moreover, when in public with my dog, I have had the utter joy of seeing how very helpful, kind and thoughtful people can be.

Which brings me to my second point: how much I appreciate you. I cannot thank you enough for all the time and “heart” each of you has invested in this program. Whether it is caring for the puppies day to day, taking them to vet appointments, or introducing them to the home environment on the weekends, each of you is playing a priceless role in another person’s future. That puppy who chews your shoes, or just refuses to learn the “down” command, or throws up at the most inconvenient time, may one day make the absolute difference in someone’s life. Perhaps it is a person who is alone and homebound, or is an individual who uses a cane and never really feels safe, or maybe, just maybe, there is another young person out there who is profoundly ashamed of being blind. The puppy you know and love today may very possibly release her from that shame tomorrow.

Blindness is extremely difficult. It is a very hard way to live. There are far more challenges than you could ever imagine. However, because you selflessly raise these dogs, love and care for them - all the time knowing you must say goodbye to them one day – because of you, life becomes more about choices, and less about challenges.

God placed these wonderful dogs on this earth to help His children. After all your hard work, when that dog is presented to its owner, I know God smiles.

God bless you all.

Debra Cooper

My Camping Experience

By GDB Alumna Tracy McGee

GDB Alumna Tracy McGee, guide Fazio and son Colin
Over the Memorial Day weekend my son Colin, my guide Fazio and I had the distinct pleasure to be among the many blind/visually impaired folks that attended the Oral Hull Foundation for the Blind's long camping weekend. We had an incredible time! Since my eye sight has decreased so significantly over the past 8 years, camping has not been on the top of my list of things to do; I've always felt like a fish out of water. But being a single parent to an 8 year-old boy, camping is an activity that I'd like to engage in more often. After my experience at Oral Hull, I now know just how fun it can be and we're already planning to go back.

Oral Hull is a 23-acre park three miles from Sandy, Ore. Serene and wooded, the unspoiled natural beauty of Mt. Hood, Oregon's loftiest peak, forms a fitting background for this wonderful place. It is an accessible camp that leaves the camper feeling independent by providing the appropriate tools, such as rail-lined pathways, as well as an onsite O&M instructor. Attention to details like these lends to a safe and comfortable experience for each camper.

During our long weekend, the activities were abundant, the social interactions were enlightening and entertaining, and the opportunities to widen our horizons were plentiful. Jeff Lann, Oral Hull's executive director, packed the weekend with such things as swimming in a wonderfully warm indoor pool; creating a number of arts and craft projects (which I had not done for many years - my son and I both thoroughly enjoyed craft time!); learning about the art of drumming (we played the drums, learned about their origin, and felt the natural syncopation that takes place when a melody is played - boy oh boy was that fun!) - and that's only scratching the surface! One of the most amazing experiences that we took part in was a lesson on the universe with the guidance of an astronomer. He used large balloons of various shapes and sizes to illustrate the planets, and passed out tactile displays of the night sky, including the star formation on an average night as well as maps of some of the more popular constellations. Wow, was that an educational, mind-boggling and simply fascinating activity!

We also went to a play in Sandy, which was fantastic. Prior to attending the play, the director came to Oral Hull and provided us with background information. When we got to the playhouse, we got the opportunity to touch and feel each component of the set, and were introduced to the actors and actresses. They all told us about themselves so that we would have a voice and a history to paint the picture in our minds of each of the characters. I am sure for many blind/visually impaired individuals going to a play may not be at the top of your list, but this particular experience has opened my eyes to how awesome going to the theater can be.

My goal in sharing my experiences at this wonderful place is in the hopes that you will give it a try yourself. Come and bring your family, your friends (sighted or not), and most importantly your guide, and have the time of your life. Visit the website, or better yet, visit the camp! www.oralhull.org