Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'll Bet You Didn't Know

a pile of mostly sleeping yellow Lab pups
by Rebecca Hornick, GDB Dog Placement Coordinator

There are so many interesting things to know about Guide Dogs for the Blind -- innovations in training, health tips from our veterinarians and fun stories about raisers and grads. In this post, I’d like to feature a core group of dedicated employees in the San Rafael Kennel Department.

Beyond keeping the kennels immaculate and feeding the dogs, our Kennel staff are experts in many aspects of canine care. It is not an exaggeration to say that senior members of our Kennel staff have more whelping experience than do most veterinarians. The staff is on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Aside from caring for the dogs that are whelping and nursing, they check on all the dogs in their care throughout the kennel: boarding dogs; surgical recovery dogs; young puppies and others that may need feeding, medications and treatments throughout the night. On-call veterinarians can sleep soundly knowing they can count on the expertise of Kennel staff to manage the most challenging medical situations with little or no assistance.

Ron and Karen doing ultrasound on a yellow Lab's belly

After the Breeding Department staff makes the selections of the dogs that will be bred, it is primarily the Kennel staff who conducts these scheduled breedings. There are at least two staff members present for each breeding to ensure all goes well and record any details that will affect future breedings. The Kennel staff knows our breeder dogs well because they are responsible for their health and wellbeing before, during and after conception. It’s not uncommon for staff to greet these dogs by name as they saunter down the hallway with their breeder custodians in tow. I recall feeling comforted when, years ago, I dropped off my own breeder at GDB and she greeted each staff member along the way with a wag and smile of recognition.

yellow Lab newborn on scales

Kennel staff is present at each whelp to detect any subtle signs of trouble. Once the pups are born, staff assesses them daily during their first months of care. Our Veterinary staff can attest to their in-depth medical knowledge – the two departments work hand-in-hand. By paying close attention to symptoms that might normally go unnoticed, Kennel staff experts utilize the experience they have gained by caring for hundreds of our dogs and alert the veterinarians to unusual cases that may require further medical attention.

black Lab puppy being bottle fed

They also oversee a lot of healthy dogs who come in to board each year while their caretakers are away from home. They engage the minds and bodies of these active dogs while boarding through our Kennel Enrichment Program to alleviate the dogs’ boredom. These activities include: daily dog walks, canine cuddling programs for physically challenged dogs that cannot go for invigorating walks, hanging toys in the outdoor and indoor runs, play structures to climb on and stuffed frozen Kongs (also called “pupsicles”) which are a much loved treat and activity all rolled into one delicious morsel!

Kennel staff also has the responsibility of managing the in-home Litter Raiser Program, processing all dog food orders for the hundreds of dogs on campus (as well as GDB staff dog food orders) and receiving all incoming phone calls after hours (whether they involve a medical emergency, lost dog or random question that happens to come in during the middle of the night). They conduct hands-on training programs for new dog walkers and foster care providers (so they can comfortably walk and care for their four-legged charges with confidence and skill).

The variety of unique challenges and educational opportunities may be among the factors that contribute to this staff’s amazing longevity. The 14“senior” staff (10+ years) have 258 combined years among them -- that’s a LOT of experience when you think about all they have seen and done in those years. Clearly, there’s a lot more to the job than just scooping and hosing. Of course, they get to receive lots of doggy kisses to help keep them motivated through the busiest of times as they do their fulfilling and important work for in support of GDB’s mission.

black Lab puppy with milk on her mouth

I am happy to sing the praises for this dedicated and humble core group of staff. Their hard work reminds us there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to make GDB a success.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much Rebecca for highlighting these dedicated workers. I had no idea what a diverse range their responsibilities included. Perhaps we could "meet" one or two of these dedicated people in this Blog Spot sometime.