Friday, September 24, 2010


National Guide Dog Month Media Coverage:
  • It's National Guide Dog Month! (KPTV Fox 12 Oregon): Instructor Dan Rollings talks about Guide Dogs and the Petco/Natural Balance effort to raise $1 million dollars for guide dog organizations during the month of September.
  • Pet of the Week/National Guide Dog Month (KOIN TV Oregon): Director of Research and Development Michele Pouliot details National Guide Dog Month.
  • National Guide Dog Month (WLS-TV Chicago): Instructor/Graduate Services Field Manager Lauren Ross interviewed about National Guide Dog Month (embedded video below).
GDB in the news!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Road Construction Hazards

By GDB alumnus Ernest Jones

This is an article Ernest wrote in his local newspaper pointing out some pedestrian hazards in a road construction zone in his town.

For several hours, I puzzled over the noise rolling across the valley. It didn't sound like any farm machinery, and that was all I could think of. It was only after my wife told me there was road construction going on outside that I could put a picture to the noise. As the county workers came down our road that morning, I thought of the great improvements that could be made to the roads.

Starting on our walk the next morning, I never considered that this walk with my Guide Dog would be different than any other day. After all, the roads were still in the same place, so why should this walk be any different from all the others?

But very soon I discovered there was a problem: where was the edge of the pavement? My feet told me I was walking on gravel, so where I was standing should be the road's shoulder. Turns out I was actually well out toward the center of the road. Not only did I have trouble, but so did my guide for everything was different for him too. Still, I figured it couldn't be too bad so we continued on our way.

When I gave the cue for my guide to move to the edge of the road, he seemed very hesitant to move over to the left. Many times when he had me right on the pavement's edge where I needed to walk, my foot would find that the shoulder was anywhere between one inch to several inches below the level of the pavement. More than once I twisted my ankle as my foot slipped off the pavement.

I decided to cut our walk short and we headed home. At that point, I knew very soon we had to round a ninety degree corner, one my guide liked to cut across. Once we passed that corner, however, we would find a nice wide, rather smooth shoulder - one where we could walk fast with little worry of tripping or stumbling.

But I found that this corner and even the nice wide shoulder had been greatly changed. In rounding the corner I tried to get my guide clear over to the left side but he kept crowding me onto the road. Finally insisting he move off the pavement I found him many inches below me and found a steep gravel bank sloping way down; there was no way my guide nor I could walk safely off the pavement here. Worse yet, I found that even the area where we had never had a problem now had a sharp drop-off of at least two inches below the pavement.

Nearing the next 90 degree corner I relaxed for again, we would have a wide shoulder to walk on. But as we made the left turn, the normally wide shoulder was covered with paving and gravel; I guess this was to make it easier for cars to make the sharp right turn.

I know road repairs will usually cause a few problems: there will be traffic delays and people will have to slow down or even stop. It seems road improvement always comes with some cost, but this is the price we pay for better roads.

I don't mean to complain for I understand construction, but for safety sake I could not walk these roads alone for several days. It is not just working with my Guide Dog either; if I used the long white cane I would find traversing these roads even harder.

Thus my guide and I didn't take our normal morning walk for several days. I eventually took the walk by following my wife and our neighbor; after another week or so of learning the changes, I knew my guide and I could try the route alone. Still, for a while, everyone walking or jogging these roads will need to be more alert and careful of rocks being thrown by a passing car.

I am trying to point out one of the difficulties a person may have when it comes to construction work. Being blind I notice this, but for a few days even sighted folk will need to be just a little more careful. I know that in time this will be an even better road.

Have a great day and remember sometimes road work, though maybe a big pain, should be worth it in the long run.

In Home Training: What’s Up with That?

By Emily Simone, GDB Field Service Manager

I have been with GDB for 20 years. I was an instructor for the first ten years, training new and retrain students at our California campus. For the last ten years I’ve been a remote field service manager. In this role, I work from a home office in Central California and work daily with GDB graduates in a large geographical area, which covers all of Central California and the entire state of Colorado.

In mEmily Simoney current role as a field service manager, I wear a lot of hats: trainer, behaviorist, vet assistant, orientation and mobility specialist, grief counselor, transportation specialist and even occasionally a light housekeeper!

It may be surprising to hear that I also continue to instruct new and retrain students with new dogs. How am I able to do this? Through a small but successful program we call “In-home” or “Domicile” training. GDB strives toward making our services available to all qualified applicants. In cases where leaving home to receive Guide Dog training may create a hardship for an individual, in-home training may be an option. In-home training qualification is determined by GDB and with client input. The following are some common reasons an applicant may receive in-home training:
  • Health: The client has very fragile health considerations and asking this type of client to train outside of his home and away from regular medical care and equipment is unsafe and unreasonable. Common health issues that may warrant in-home training include: regular/inflexible medical support needs (such as regular dialysis); necessity to utilize critical medical equipment that can’t be easily transported (such as oxygen); a health disorder that requires intensive, regular support that cannot be effectively managed by GDB’s campus nursing staff.
  • Family issues: Clients that have very young children or care-giving responsibilities to other family members, and no practical access to child-care or adult care assistance may qualify for in-home training.
  • Work: Clients that cannot get appropriate time off their job to come train at one of our campuses may qualify for in-home training, depending on their job commitments and other factors.
  • Age: A person's age may also be a consideration if GDB staff feels bringing a client in to train would be an unreasonable strain on the client’s mental and physical health, or could jeopardize their success.
I have conducted numerous in-home trainings in the last ten years. Each experience is challenging and inspiring. As the instructor, my priority is to teach the client the current training methods and practices that they teach in the residential training programs. This means staying up to date on all current training methods currently taught in class.

The training program length depends on the individual. I’ve conducted most in-home training in approximately 10-17 days. The client is heavily involved in directing his/her program and they identify specific areas and environments on which they would like to focus, i.e. the route from home to work; mastering the bus system; learning a college campus, etc.

There are some clear advantages to training a client in their own home:
  • The client is familiar with the area and able to work with the new dog without ALSO having to learn the lay-out of a new dorm and city.
  • The client is often more relaxed and less stressed, since they remain in their comfortable, familiar environment and routine.
  • The new dog can be immediately oriented to the client’s home, routine and relieving area, and any potential challenge can be addressed promptly.
  • The schedule is demanding but is often more relaxing than the dorm schedule and routine.
  • The instructor is present to educate family and work colleagues on guide dog etiquette and inclusion within the family dynamic.
Over the years I have also found that in-home training is not perfect. Clients can be distracted by home/work/family issues and may not effectively focus on the new dog. Staying in the home environment can lull clients into lax routines that can sabotage work with their new dog. In-home clients miss the fabulous experience of being in class and on campus—and being a part of a group of students and GDB’s community. Often, they miss graduation. This is sad for both the client and the puppy raiser, though most are able to connect in a meaningful manner after the training.

GDB has an excellent residential program and it is very effective and successful for the vast majority of clients we serve. By offering in-home training as an option to those who qualify, we have an opportunity to enhance the independence of as many qualified clients as possible. There is clear value in having both programs available.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Take Us Out to the Ball Game!

Bob Sonnenberg throws out the first pitch at a Mariners-Angels baseball game; his guide Nino is by his side.
When the Seattle Mariners took on the Los Angeles Angels at Seattle's Safeco Field a few weeks back, they were being cheered on by some very special four-footed fans - puppies!

Ten Seattle-Area puppy raising clubs filled the stands with Guide Dog puppies, puppy raisers, and community supporters - more than 600 supporters in all. The event was a fundraiser for the puppy clubs, and due to their impressive ticket sales, Guide Dog puppies were able to take to the field prior to the game, and a GDB representative got to throw out the first pitch! Bob Sonnenberg, with his black Lab guide Nino beside him on the mound, sent the ceremonial pitch blazing across home plate. (Photo by Ben VanHouten, Seattle Mariners.)

GDB alumnus Randy Tedrow and his guide, Clark, were at the game. He submitted this tale of their Safeco Field adventure:

Clark and the Lost Hat

I lost my hat! I lost my very nice hat made of fine wool felt. It is, or was, a very nice hat. Clark and I were at a Mariners baseball game. The Mariners are not the important part of the story, they only provide the backdrop to the sad story of my lost hat.

Clark and I went to the game with about 20–30 GDB puppy raisers, or maybe it was 200–300 (I know there were a lot of puppy raisers!). The puppy raisers had sold a lot of tickets to the game. Clark and I were there representing GDB to all the adoring fans, some of whom were even there for the Mariners!

A nice puppy raiser named Miss Patty picked Clark and I up and we had a nice trip to the field. I had never been to a baseball stadium so early before! We were there before they were letting people inside. In fact, they didn’t want to let us inside until the gates opened. We were there before they even started selling coffee! Can you believe that? We're in Seattle and the coffee wasn’t being sold?

We got inside and I was given a handy name tag to hang around my neck. Clark was having a blast like he always does in a new place. I had to feel sorry for the puppy raisers because they had to walk slower since their puppies weren’t up to Clark speed yet. But, there were lots of cute puppies and proud puppy raisers.

Clark loved working in the wide, almost empty concourses of the stadium. We were almost running and his tail was tapping out a happy rhythm on my leg. We got to the place just back of home plate and well, we waited.

It was fun to talk with some of the other handlers and meet a bunch of puppy raisers. They were all nice people, particularly the ones who got me coffee!

Now, I am very graceful and promptly spilled my first Starbuck’s coffee! I am very good at spilling coffee and like to keep in practice. Clark was not impressed since he had to get up from his nap to keep from getting burned. Sigh. Fortunately, the coffee people were forgiving and I got another cup.

Once the gates were opened we got busy! We answered many questions about Guide Dogs and raising puppies. One couple brought their adopted retired Guide Dog and he became the petting dog. This was nice for everyone. There were so many people that I decided not to let anyone pet Clark, otherwise, the black on his fur might have been rubbed off. There is nothing quite so sad as a black Lab who has rubbed off spaces in his black fur.

Of course, people were impressed with how well behaved Clark was. There were three Guide Dogs at our table and all were so well behaved. I think it amazed the passersby and encouraged the puppy raisers.

It was a windy evening at Safeco Field and we could feel the wind inside the concourse. It was so windy, that Chicago got jealous! At some point, Miss Patty helped Clark and I get to the relieving area that had set up for the dogs - it was quite the trek: we were on the 100 level and the relieving area was on the 300 level. The wind was so strong, that it almost blew my name tag off. I managed to rescue the name tag, however, I didn’t manage to rescue my hat.

I discovered that my hat was missing when some friends stopped by later during the game to say hello. I went to show them my hat... and no hat! My hat, my very nice hat made of fine wool felt was gone!

We began a frantic search. It wasn’t near my back pack. It wasn’t at the Starbuck’s and Miss Patty couldn’t remember seeing me with it. In fact, no one could remember if I had it or not! My hat was gone! And, it was raining! I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach and wondered how I could tell Valerie it was gone. She had gotten me my very nice hat for Christmas a few years back. Oh no!

We made our way home from the game, and I dreaded telling Valerie my hat was gone. Thankfully, Valerie wasn’t home yet. I breathed a sigh of relief and went to get a leash to take our pet dog out to do her business. I opened the closet where the dog stuff is kept and right there on its hook was my hat! My very nice hat made of fine wool felt, a very nice hat indeed, was not lost! I had not even taken it to the ball park! Yeah! A Mariner's win and a found hat. How's that for a happy ending?

Grand Champion, black Lab Pima

By puppy raiser Colette Worcester

I just want to tell you about my career change dog who won the title of Grand Champion in a recent obedience competition!

Colette Worcester and Pima
While guiding just wasn’t for her, 5 year-old career changed black lab, Pima, has found enjoyment in pursuing 4-H with me. I am 16 years old and this was our first year doing the dog project together. At our county fair last month she won Grand Champion; we qualified for state competition in both Obedience and Rally. On August 29, at the Colorado State Fair, Pima and I placed second in our Rally class (out of nearly 40 exhibitors), and first in our Obedience class (out of nearly 20 exhibitors). Pima also received Grand Champion for the overall high score in the sub-novice obedience division!

Pima was the first puppy I raised for GDB and when she was career changed we took her back as a pet. She is eager to please and enthusiastic about training (with treats, of course!). In addition to her 4-H duties, she also enjoys helping me continue to raise Guide Dog puppies. Currently, Pima is aiding with my fourth puppy, a yellow lab named Petunia. Petunia certainly has a lovely role model!

Everyone enjoys Pima. Several younger 4-H members say that Pima is their favorite dog and each think that they are Pima’s favorite person. I guess Pima loves everyone equally, so it all works out. Thank you for such wonderful dogs!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Breeders Digest, July 2010

Two OzziexDamsel pups
Here's the litter announcements for July - we had so many new arrivals this summer! As always, you can view all of the littermate photos from July on our Flickr site. Also, we want to give you all a heads-up that we'll be changing the way we organize the photos for Breeders Digest. We're hoping that our changes (to be unveiled in the August Breeders Digest) will enable you to find and view any given litter's images much more easily. So stay tuned!

Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
  • 7/5/10 Parson x Julie – 3 males, 4 females
  • 7/13/10 David x Dorena – 2 males, 3 females
  • 7/14/10 Jenkins x Molly – 2 males, 3 females
  • 7/16/10 Cabby x Sally – 3 males, 6 females
  • 7/29/10 Curt x Tilda – 3 males, 4 females
  • 7/31/10 Ozzie x Damsel – 3 males, 1 female
Golden Retrievers
  • 7/5/10 GDF’s Mazel x Tess – 1 female
Lab x Golden Crosses
  • 7/4/10 GDF’s Mazel x Lovey – 1 male, 3 females
  • 7/5/10 Forte x Brisbane – 3 males, 1 female
  • 7/10/10 Taylor x Butterfly – 4 males, 2 females
  • 7/18/10 Guidinglight Wallace x Malou – 4 males, 4 females

New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
  • Alonzo – raised in CA
  • Jillian – raised in CA
  • Jude – raised in CO
  • Marino – raised in WA
  • Nevin – raised in CA

Friday, September 3, 2010

Breeders Digest, June 2010

Cuteness, get your cuteness here! Just in time for the Labor Day weekend, here are the Litter Announcements for the pups that arrived at GDB this past June. Check out all of their adorable littermate photos on our Flickr site.

Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
  • 6/5/10 Parson x Bruna – 3 males, 5 females
  • 6/5/10 Tiburon x Cher – 2 males, 1 female
  • 6/8/10 Forte x Arizona – 3 males, 3 females
  • 6/8/10 Jay x Genova – 2 males, 5 females
  • 6/9/10 David x Zante – 2 males, 5 females
  • 6/15/10 Jenkins x Luana – 1 female
  • 6/20/10 Jenkins x Balina – 4 males, 4 females
  • 6/26/10 Ozzie x Labelle – 6 males, 2 females
  • 6/27/10 Simon x Nancy – 3 males, 1 female
Golden Retrievers
  • 6/4/10 Guidewell Tetley x Garcelle – 1 male, 4 females

Lab x Golden Crosses
  • 6/10/10 GDF’s Mazel x Sunset – 2 males, 7 females

New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
  • Elena – raised in UT
  • Jakarta – raised in CO
  • Josie – raised in CO
  • Justine – raised in UT
  • Norma – raised in OR
  • Provence – raised in CA
  • Sadie – raised in CA

Petco and Natural Balance Team Up in September to Raise Funds for Guide Dog Organizations

Jimmy Van Patten, Nicollette Sheridan, Dick Van Patten
Jimmy Van Patten, Nicollette Sheridan, Dick Van Patten

For the month of September, Natural Balance Pet Foods and Petco are helping to raise $1 million dollars to support guide dog organizations including Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Petco is joining Natural Balance Pet Foods (founded by Dick Van Patten) and Actress Nicollette Sheridan in this goal and together they are raising donations in the following ways:
  • Petco customers can purchase specially marked bags of Natural Balance Dog Food where a $1.00 from each purchase is donated towards the goal.
  • Petco customers can participate by "rounding up' their total purchase amount.
  • Customers can make a direct donation of $1, $5, $10 or $20 at checkout.
GDB is very grateful to participate in this opportunity. When you visit a store, please thank Petco employees for their support.

We hope you will share this exciting news with everyone you know, including everyone who shares their life with a special pet and encourage them to shop Petco during the month of September! Learn more at

Puppy Raisers Hit a Home Run with Fundraiser for GDB

By puppy raiser Jillian Frost

Jillian Frost and Katie Irving with pups Ruffle and Dakota
Hot Dogs! Peanuts! Puppies... Puppies at Angel Stadium?? Do the Los Angeles Angels have a new mascot? What happened to the rally monkey? Well, the Angels don’t have a new mascot, but they do have some new four-legged fans.

On August 23, puppy raisers, graduates, and friends of GDB came out to support the Angels and raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind at the same time, bringing their puppies in training and working guides to experience the thrill of a major league baseball game.

Kathleen Bigley, Jaclyn Bigley and Megan Irving enjoying their hot dogs
Youth puppy raisers, Jillian Frost and Katie Irving, with puppies Ruffle and Dakota (pictured above), found a fun way to support GDB, the Angels and socialize with fellow GDB fans. The Angels generously offered to donate a portion of each ticket sold to GDB and they even threw in a free hot dog and drink. The event raised more than $1,000 for Guide Dogs for the Blind!

What began with some flyers and phone calls quickly became so much more. As emails and phone calls came in and the support for the event grew, we found ourselves amazed at the support for GDB from not only the puppy clubs and graduates, but from so many people in the community as well. At the game it was exciting to put names with faces, meet the people in this wonderful extended family of GDB, and hear their stories. “My youngest daughter is legally blind," said attendee David Stephens, "and may require the services of a guide dog in the future so this is an awesome charity you did this for.”

We learned about sales, marketing, success, and banking, but most of all, we learned how wonderful it is to be a part of this family and are so thankful for the new friends we’ve made and the difference that puppy raising has made in our lives.

The GDB family of puppy raisers, graduates, and friends at the Angels game

The Journey is the Reward

Maia Scott with her Golden guide Tessa at StonehengeGDB alumna Maia Scott with her Golden guide Tessa recently returned home to San Francisco from a jaunt to Europe earlier this summer. We caught up with her at the California campus Fun Day, where she said she was "still floating around in a blissful state of afterglow from such an incredible excursion." She sent us the following highlights of her trip:
  • Golden guide Tessa at Chalice WellGetting held back by Eurostar going from France to England which resulted in an unexpected stay in Paris and Tessa ending up with a French passport.
  • Receiving an extra fifteen minute touch tour of Stonehenge after our group's hour within the circle of the stones (I don't know if very many people - or dogs - get to stand on the alter stone!).
  • Visiting the stones at Avebury; the whole little town is inside a stone circle.
  • Spending time at Chalice Well with Tessa. She drank the iron-rich water as if it were going out of style. People pilgrimage there to walk on the Tor and drink the water for its healing properties. Whenever we walked by the garden entrance, Tessa wanted us to go back in for another drink.
  • Both in England and Ireland, it was really funny to hear people commenting near us, "Do you think that dog is really from the States?"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

School District is Going to the Dogs!

By puppy raiser and leader Alice Garcia

The puppy raisers and their pup of the Las Virgenes Unified School District
Four years ago when I interviewed for a District School Nurse job with the Las Virgenes Unified School District (LVUSD), in Calabasas, Calif., my fourth Guide Dog in training, Garfield, attended the interview with me. Garfield was on his best behavior and actually slept through the interview process. At the end of the interview, I was asked if there was anything I'd would like to share about myself with the interview team. "If you hire me," I said, "you will have the privilege of having a Guide Dog in training in the district for years to come.” I did get hired, and I'm now raising my seventh Guide Dog puppy, Tally.

As you can imagine, a puppy-in-training is quite popular on campus with the students. I cover preschool through high school and am at a different school each day. The puppy visits the health office and can quickly cure a stomach ache, soothe a child that is having a bad day, or just put a smile on anyone’s face by snuggling for a hug or rolling over for a belly rub.
The staff and faculty are also positively affected by having a Guide Dog pup on campus.

Now the LVUSD has two additional puppy raisers. Kim Ellis is a biology teacher at Agoura High School, and is raising her first puppy, black Lab Cole. Cole is quite comfortable with the high school students changing classes. He knows the routine of snoozing in class and is a crowd favorite at staff meetings. Carol Martino is the principal at Sumac Elementary School; she and her husband, Gary, are also raising their first Guide Dog puppy, yellow Lab Narita. Narita was delivered to the Martinos over the summer. She will start school in September along with the 500 students that attend Sumac.

What an outstanding educational opportunity the LVUSD has presented to us as puppy raisers and the students of their district. The students, staff and faculty have learned a lot about Guide Dog etiquette and increased their awareness of the visually impaired in our society. LVUSD has provided this golden opportunity and the three of us feel privileged to bring our puppies to school each day.

Embrace Your Abilities

By GDB Alumna Cindy Rogers

GDB alumna Cindy Rogers at the Nautica NYC Triathalon with her sighted guide partner
This past May, I received an email from C Different Foundation’s founder, Matt Miller, asking for my possible participation in an event as a blind or visually impaired athlete. Well, I do run a few 5K races each year, but does this qualify me as being an athlete?! But the phrase that caught my attention - “All you have to do is get to New York City” - piqued my interest. What would I need to do once I reached New York City?

The email from Matt continued [paraphrased]:
“Recently, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) announced that they are requiring all visually impaired athletes, no matter what your level of visual impairment may be, to wear blackout goggles during the run portion of a triathlon. The ITU is changing the rule because they state there are not enough blind/visually impaired athletes competing in sports, therefore, [the blackout goggles are being required] in order to level the playing field. My proposal stated that the C Different Foundation will provide the following to all blind athletes who wish to compete at the NYC Triathlon, which is the paratriathlon US National Championships:
  • Cover the cost of the entry fee for each athlete
  • Coordinate and cover the cost of transporting your tandem through Tri Bike Transport to the city (it's extremely safe and secure)
  • Find you a local guide from NYC who could guide you and provide you with a homestay
  • Provide you and your guide with an official CDF racing top."
Triathlon?!? I know that ‘tri’ is three and the ‘athlon’ sounds like more running than I would ever do, but.... how could I NOT join C Different Foundation in support of those of us who are blind and visually impaired? All I had to do was pay round trip airfare to NYC and, oh yes, participate in a triathlon! I mentioned this email to my manager at Starbucks. Her response was that I absolutely had to participate and that our store would sponsor a fundraiser for my airfare!

In June, I made the commitment and registered. I probably should have committed myself for this commitment! Thus began my training and the countdown to July 18th. I was humbled by the outpouring of support from my friends and my Starbucks family to assist in my accelerated training program. It was arduous and daunting, especially battling Phoenix summer temperatures, but when July 16th arrived I boarded my flight with bike helmet and wetsuit in hand and my unconditionally loyal and fearless Guide Dog, Zamira, by my side!

There were 62 of us (31 athletes and 31 human sighted guides) representing C Different in the Nautica NYC Triathlon. We were “protesting by participation” the USAT ruling requiring blackout goggles. We were indeed visible as we proudly wore our bright orange C Different t-shirts with “No blackout goggles NYC 2010” printed on the back. Pre-race day was packed with preparation as we met our guides and practiced on tandems and tethered running. We finalized tether lengths for our 1500m swim in the Hudson River and arranged our gear in the transition area.

On Sunday, July 18, 61 very proud athletes approached the swim start as a determined and courageous team of men and women gathered together to make a statement and to make history. The crowd cheered with exuberance and my heart was filled with a pride that brought tears to my eyes. What a monumental moment this was!

The race did not progress as I had hoped and I did not finish the Triathlon. I continue to struggle with this disappointment, but each day I grow in more acceptance that I was willing to try. John Bingham once said: “The miracle is not that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start.” I will be able to say this one day. For now, I will add one of my own words to this quote: “The miracle is not that I (didn’t) finish, the miracle is that I had the courage to start.”