Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Awaiting the Great Pumpkin...members of the Auburn Foothills Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising Club visit the Zittel Farms Pumpkin Patch in Folsom, California. Shown left to right: Cheryl Stucky and Dennis Cross with yellow Labs Citrus and Cora, Bonnie Finsthwait and Mikayla Brant with black Labs Leoni and Penn, Siri Denton with Golden Sake, and Andrew Knight and Dot Byer with black Labs Sabina and Kathleen.

Be sure to post your silly, scary Halloween photos on our Facebook Fan Page and show all your friends!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Remembering Spreckles

black Lab lying on a carpet
by Linda Freund

October 6, 2011

Dear Friend,

Sunlight streams through the window pane
Unto a spot on the floor….
Then I remember,
It’s where you used to lie,
But now you are no more.
Our feet walk down a hall of carpet,
And muted echoes sound…..
Then I remember,
It’s where you paws would joyously abound.
A voice is heard along the road,
And up beyond the hill,
Then I remember it can’t be yours….
Your golden voice is still.
But I’ll take that vacant spot of floor
and empty muted hall
And lay them with the absent voice
And unused dish along the wall.
I’ll wrap these treasured memorials
In a blanket of my love
And keep them for my best friend
Until we meet above.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Follow the Polar Vision Team as They Trek to the End of the Earth to Support GDB!

Alan Lock training in Canada
Meet Alan Lock. Alan, a native of Somerset, U.K., was training for a career as an engineer and officer in the British Royal Navy when he was diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2003. In the span of six weeks, his vision deteriorated to the point where he felt he was looking at the world through a frosted glass. Today, his central vision is gone.

After working for awhile as an investment banker for HSBC, he decided to challenge himself by becoming the first visually impaired person to row, non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean. He rowed 3,000 miles, set a Guinness World record and raised $80,000 in donations for sight-related organizations.

He then went on to get his MBA at Berkeley. There, he began a collaboration with fellow Berkeley MBA Andrew Jensen, Richard Smith (a Dartmouth MBA), and Garrick Hileman (who completed his MBA at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland) to mount his next challenge: to be the first visually impaired person to trek to the South Pole.

Four team members of Polar Vision dressed in ski parkas

Garrick Hileman, Richard Smith, Alan Lock, Andrew Jensen

They applied everything they learned in business school – leadership, team building training, marketing, fundraising and more – to realize their adventure. They have been training in Canada’s cold climes. Traversing icy trails on modified cross-country skis, they each pulled 130-pound sleds (pulks) packed with tents, stoves, gear and bags of dry dog food for extra weight. The experience led them to understand the true nature of teamwork and interdependence.

pulling sleds
They depart for Chile on Nov. 22 and then fly to Antarctica. They estimate the 600-mile journey will take about two months. When the team reaches the Pole, Lock will earn another Guinness record. And they will have the satisfaction of knowing they’ve paved the way for other people with vision loss through their efforts.

Read a seven-page article about the expedition in Businessweek and their coverage by the NY Times.

Watch their training video.

And follow them on their web page and on Facebook!

wide shot of tiny team amid acres of snow and ice
This expedition will be a great interactive classroom learning experience for kids!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Finding Homes for Retired Guide Dogs

four black Labs with greying muzzles

by Steve Grunow, GDB Dog Placement Coordinator

Just as we humans retire at different ages and often have second careers, Guide Dogs are retired at a variety of ages, and they often take on significant new roles in their adoptive homes and new families.

Following are the stories of some retired guides that the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) Dog Placement Program has matched up with carefully chosen adopters during the past year. The names of the dogs have been changed here to protect the privacy of their people --- though the dogs themselves probably don’t care a lot about privacy as long as good food, interesting toys, regular walks, and lots of attention and petting are being provided!

1. Carmela, a female black Labrador Retriever, was retired at 4 years of age because her vision-impaired GDB graduate was experiencing health issues that prevented her from continuing to use Carmela as a Guide Dog. After an evaluation at GDB, Carmela was matched with a local middle-aged woman and her adult daughter. Carmela now benefits from the dog- savvy which the daughter had learned previously by being a volunteer with a local dog rescue organization in San Francisco. Because Carmela loves other dogs (not all dogs do) this family was chosen for her, also, partly because the family already had a resident 10-year-old pet male Labrador retriever. One of Carmela’s new “jobs” is to play with the family’s senior Lab to help keep him feeling and acting younger.

2. Flora, a female yellow Labrador Retriever, was retired at 6 years of age when her GDB graduate passed away. An older local woman who has special needs was selected to be Flora’s new mistress due to the adopter’s long term commitment to GDB, her past experience of having successfully owned a previous “career change” dog from GDB until that dog’s natural death and because she planned to take Flora on visits to a nearby medical facility to bring smiles to the faces of patients there.

3. Amity is a female yellow Labrador Retriever who was retired at 2 years of age because Amity seemed unduly stressed by being out in the big world doing guidework. Amity had been raised with children and she is unusually calm and well behaved for her young age. So, Amity was paired with a family that includes two small children, a dad and a mom, in Los Angeles. The dad is a volunteer at a Southern California organization for blind people. Per an email from the adopters, “Amity is doing great and she is adapting very well to her new home and family. She is great with the kids (and with adults, too) and we are all very much enjoying her. … Thank you for matching her up with our family. We couldn’t be happier.”

4. Holly, a female yellow Labrador Retriever, was retired at 3 years old after about a year of guidework. Per Holly’s GDB retirement paperwork: “Holly… while capable of working at an exceptionally high level, has a persistent interest in other dogs that is high enough to end Holly’s career as a guide…” Ironically, Holly had also been described as “a little intolerant with other dogs” when she was running with a group of other dogs in community run at GDB (ironic, since she was so interested in other dogs while she was working and was supposed to be ignoring them). During her stint as a Guide Dog, Holly had also developed expert skills in “counter surfing” (snagging forbidden food off counters). Again, per Holly’s retirement paperwork, “Preventive measures (keeping the counters clear) have improved the situation somewhat, but in new situations Holly will still look for the opportunity.” Because of Holly’s tendency to steal food, and her discomfort with some other dogs, Holly was placed with a middle aged woman who currently had no other dogs in her home in California’s Central Valley, but she had previously happily coped with a less-than-angelic GDB “career change” dog which she had cared for until that dog’s natural demise. So she had already learned coping skills and tolerance for living with a less-than-perfect canine. The adopter’s adult son and his two children live nearby and they spend a lot of time with Holly and her new caretaker. Per an email from Holly’s new person, “Even though I haven’t had her long, I already love Holly and I am so glad to have her with me. She is very sweet and loving and quickly became popular with the whole family… Thank you so much for placing her with me.” (No mention of whether Holly has yet had an opportunity to display her counter surfing talents to her new folks...)

5. Huntly, a male black Labrador Retriever, was retired as a 2 year old after a brief guidework career due to his being too highly distractible and too active for optimal guidework. Because Huntly had been raised with a child, and has a high energy level, he put into an active family in Santa Barbara, California, where his current “duties” involve “doing a lot of hiking and cuddling with the kids” per the adopters.

6. Mikette, a female yellow Labrador Retriever, guided a GDB graduate briefly, then was retired as a 2 year old because, though she was well trained, her high energy level proved to be incompatible with optimal guidework. (While Mikette was at GDB awaiting adoptive placement, a GDB employee quipped that while she was fully trained as a working Guide Dog, “Mikette didn’t seem to be able to completely envision herself being in that role!”) Coincidentally, around the time of Mikette’s retirement, a middle-aged blind lady who lives alone in Southern California was sadly anticipating that her own elderly long-term companion, a (non-GDB) female black Lab, was not going to be around much longer, and the lady applied for a companion (not a working guide) from GDB. Since Mikette had actually been a Guide Dog, albeit only for a short time, her training and experience made her a good candidate to be a canine friend for this vision-impaired woman. A brief month after this applicant had adopted Mikette in April, she emailed to GDB: “I could not have received Mikette at a better time, as on May 31 I had to have my old dog put to sleep.”

Our thanks to the many people who help our retired Guide Dog heroes enjoy their remaining years.

Do you have stories to tell about your older dog? You can show your love for your dog and support for GDB by making a tribute or memorial gift in his or her name.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Get Ready to Read!

Chad and yellow Lab crossing busy streetChad Kollman and his yellow Lab Guide Dog Winifred are among the dog-lovers featured in the book Dogs Make Us Human

Thunder Dog: by 9-11 Survivors Michael Hingson and his GDB guide Roselle.

GDB Alumni Ryan Scott’s autobiography, Scary Lions, Journey of a Blind Psychologist.

Did a book inspire you to become connected to Guide Dogs for the Blind? Which one was it?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Human “Angels” Who Adopt Senior Retired Dogs

yellow Lab next to dog adopter

by Steve Grunow, GDB Dog Placement Coordinator

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) really appreciates ALL of the people who adopt the “career change” dogs and retired Guide Dogs. There is a special place in the hearts of all the staff in the Dog Placement Program for those individuals and families who choose to provide homes for the elderly retired guides.

GDB’s dogs tend to live about 10 to 14 years. Senior dogs often have age-related veterinary issues and need to be given medications. Some canine oldsters have trouble climbing stairs. They usually physically cannot jog, hike, go bicycling or play games of fetch with their people --- abilities which many potential adopters require in the dogs that they want to adopt. Some geriatric dogs are not the specimens of doggy attractiveness that they were in their youths. Probably most significantly, adopting a dog “of a certain age” means knowing and accepting that the pooch has only a limited portion of its lifespan left, despite the bond that will be developed, and that there is bound to be some grief in the end.

Fortunately for GDB and its lucky elder former guides, there are some brave and “saintly” adopters who are content to see the dog-adoption glass as being half FULL with their furry "AARP members". The dogs are usually much calmer, easier to control, don’t require as much exercise and are better behaved than most young dogs.

Following are some stories of older retired Guide Dogs the GDB Dog Placement Program has matched with very accommodating and cherished adopters over the past year. The dogs’ names have been changed here to ensure privacy for the people involved.

1. Allure, a female German Shepherd, one of the last few of GDB’s guides of that breed, was retired at 10 years old due to having a mast cell tumor (which had been successfully removed, but could recur). Allure also had a torn cruciate ligament, which was not causing serious problems, but was incompatible with Allure’s continuing to work as a guide. After some veterinary care at GDB, including extensive physical therapy, it seemed best for all involved that Allure would go to Arizona to grace the home of a middle-aged couple, whose past experience with raising German Shepherd puppies for GDB had given them important insights into caring optimally for this sometimes- sensitive breed. Allure now attends the meetings of the current GDB puppy raisers and their pups in her county, and she demonstrates good behavior for those young "whippersnappers" there that are currently being educated as future working dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

2. Ginny, a female Golden Retriever, was retired at 10 years old due to normal age-related slowing of her pace. She also has some eye abnormalities that need to be monitored, so she was lucky to be adopted by --- a veterinary ophthalmologist (eye doctor)! The adopter wrote,”… as long as Ginny doesn’t mind my cats and other dogs, she can have a forever home with me.” Great for Ginny herself, and great for Ginny’s eyes!

3. Orion, a male yellow Labrador/Golden crossbred, was retired at 10 years of age when his GDB graduate passed away. Orion’s adoptive family in California’s Central Valley consists of a middle-aged mom and dad, two adult daughters (one of whom has a serious medical condition and Orion can be a comfort to her), two very old other dogs, horses, and a cat. The adopters had gained a lot of dog savvy by raising a puppy for GDB a number of years ago. Their prior dog knowledge is a help in caring for Orion. They have reported that Orion is doing well, and that they are really enjoying providing Orion with a “ vacation retirement home” to reward him for his prior eight- years of service as a working Guide Dog.

black Lab with pink tongue

4. Lindy, a female black Labrador Retriever was retired at 10 years old and with a tumor in her leg. After successful surgery through GDB, Lindy was offered to an elderly woman with limited mobility who has generously previously taken in a number of previous GDB dogs, both young and old, with special needs. She and her family have lots of knowledge about dogs and experience with dealing with lots of canine medical and behavioral issues. Lindy is doing fine, has received radiation therapy to hopefully prevent the regrowth of her tumor ---and she is coping gracefully with having gone from being a “princess” of a former only- dog in her former GDB graduate’s home to sharing her new human “mom” with a pack of several other dogs in this home.

5. Carrot, a female yellow Labrador, has had a unique and multi-faceted life! She was retired from guidework as a 4-year-old because her GDB graduate’s wife had passed away and the man was no longer using a Carrot as a guide. Carrot then was still quite young for a retiree. So after an evaluation at GDB, Carrot entered training with a hearing dog program (hearing dogs are trained --- with food treats --- to alert their deaf human partners to sound). Carrot aced hearing dog training (most Labradors are overjoyed with any activity involving food treats). She then had a successful eight-year career as a hearing dog with a woman in Colorado. By Colorado law, a hearing dog can go just about everywhere with its human, just as a working guide dog can. Then Carrot’s hearing dog partner very sadly had to return Carrot to GDB because the woman’s deteriorating health prevented her from continuing to care for the dog. Carrot has now become the constant companion of an older man and woman who were selected for Carrot because they had previously successfully owned two other older retired Guide Dogs until those dogs’ natural deaths --- and they had then signed up again to take in yet another oldster. The new family has acreage in both California and Texas. Per a GDB employee who knows the adopters, “They are all getting along famously. Carrot follows them everywhere and they adore her. They are inseparable!” So Carrot’s life experiences have ranged from Guide Dog to hearing dog to ranch dog and remarkably tuned-in companion --- quite a canine resume!

6. Dane, a male yellow Labrador/Golden crossbred, was retired at 11 years old due to normal geriatric conditions. While he was at GDB awaiting placement, he was often referred to as “the old gentleman”. He was offered to a middle-aged couple who have purposely chosen to repeatedly take on older retired guides as their way to actively help support the work of Guide Dogs for the Blind. There is another former Guide Dog currently in their home, and these adopters have also previously taken in several other senior retired guides and cared for them until those dogs’ natural deaths.

There are not many adopters who will take on an aging dog that may be relatively close to its demise, happily care for, and love that dog until it passes on --- then do that again, and again, and again! For a few hardy and unusual souls, often senior citizens themselves, welcoming these animals into their homes seems to be more about what they can offer the dogs than about what the dogs can do for the people --- and these “human angels” seem to be OK with that. GDB really thanks those people who thrive on provide comfy retirement homes for GDB’s "geezers" and "geezerettes".

Understandably, there is usually some grief at the end --- but these “angels” have not complained or expressed any regrets.

Do you have stories to tell about your favorite "geezer" or "geezerette"? What life lessons have they taught you?

You can show your love for your dog and support for GDB by making a tribute or memorial gift in his or her name.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Breeder’s Digest for July 2011

A Matisse puppy!
Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers
7/2/11 Marino x Lovey – 4 males, 6 females – litter letter “C”
7/6/11 Hurley x Arizona – 4 males, 2 females – litter letter “E”
7/9/11 Forte x Lani – 3 males, 2 females – litter letter “B”
7/9/11 Jay x Deanne – 2 males, 4 females – litter letter “L”
7/10/11 McKinley x Cathy – 1 male, 5 females – litter letter “J”
7/20/11 Nevin x Jova – 3 males, 2 females – litter letter “F”
7/27/11 Denzel x Elsa – 1 male, 5 females – litter letter “K”
7/28/11 Nevin x Fiji – 2 males, 5 females – litter letter “M”

Labrador Retriever-Golden Retriever Crosses
7/30/11 Jonathan x Matisse – 3 males, 6 females – litter letter “O”

Golden Retrievers
7/19/11 Kash x GEB’s Lois – 2 males, 5 females – litter letter “A”

New Breeders

Labrador Retrievers
Carnegie – raised in CA
Contessa – raised in CA
Darby – raised in AZ
Estee – raised in CA
Heloise – raised in CA
Hickory – raised in CA
Hilda – raised in CA
Kirin – raised in OR
Lucinda – raised in CA
Reann – raised in CA
Tabetha – raised in OR
Vernon – raised in CO

Lab-Golden Cross

Medford – raised in CA

Friday, October 7, 2011

Support Our Canine Heroes Wine Auction a Success!

Joan Boyd, Rochelle Bochner, Phred and Karen StarkweatherLast Saturday, 250 guests turned out to support our 9th annual Canine Heroes Wine Auction. Held at the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa, the event raised nearly $470,000 to fund veterinary care for our dogs and pups.

A live auction highlight close to our hearts was the “Paddle Raise for Veterinary Care.” Through the generosity of our guests, this auction lot alone generated more than $133,000. The funding will support everything from urgent care treatments and life threatening conditions, to annual exams including vaccinations and lab work.

It was a lively and spirited evening all around, complete with delicious food and wine, a moving program featuring keynote speaker Theresa Duncan with her black Lab guide, Dario, and a host of puppy raisers mingling in the crowd with their pups.

Kudos to the numerous staff and volunteers that helped make the event such a success, and special thanks to our generous sponsors: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Callan Associates, Eaton Vance Management, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Grosvenor Capital Management, L.P., StarkweatherBondy Architecture, LLP, BlackRock, Inc., BNY Mellon Cash Investment Strategies, Friess Associates, Mesirow Financial Private Equity, Pet Emergency and Specialty Center of Marin, All-American Printing, 55 Degrees.

To see all of the photos from the event, please visit

Pictured at top: Event Chair Joan Boyd, Rochelle Bochner with a black Lab Guide Dog puppy, Phred and Karen Starkweather.