Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Poem for Peggy

woman hugging black Lab puppy
by Mari Casanova

Like all puppy raisers, when that little pup goes off to school, you eagerly check the progress reports you receive by email each week and smile as you see their name and the phase they are in. Even more so, when it is your first pup! In our case, the first puppy we raised, Neeley, who was so awesome and loved by all, was career changed due to dog distraction in the eighth phase, (out of 10 in those days). We were disappointed, but happy that she joined our extended family.

We then joyfully began to raise Peggy. Perhaps because Neeley had not become a guide, I was very determined to do everything I possibly could to help her be successful. I saw her as valuable in so many ways and took my part in her training very seriously.
At the same time, we loved and enjoyed her while she was with us.

Inevitably, when she was old enough, she went off to her formal training and we began to watch her progress via the weekly emailed reports. We were ecstatic when we heard that she was “in class”, meaning that she was at the point where she was working with a blind person who could become her partner.

The experienced raisers in our raising group, BAARK (acronym for Brea Area Adult Raiser Klub) had told me how wonderful graduation was, and I looked forward to being able to proudly hand over the leash to her partner at graduation. I admit to getting choked up hearing the stories, reading the blog and even speaking to others about this wonderful program where I am so rewarded by having a small part. From her first puppy kisses we fell in love with her and now were just amazed at how much she had learned and what she could mean in the life of someone who is blind. How would I be able to speak from my heart, and actually get the words out?

My only hope was to “keep it light” as I said in my opening remarks at graduation. And in that regard, I decided to write a poem, “in the spirit of Dr. Seuss” in celebration of Peggy, her partner Michael, all the puppy raisers, breeders, trainers, well…. I guess all of GDB! I hope you enjoy it!

A “P” Litter Poem for Peggy

There once was a puppy named Peggy,
Who came from a P litter Pack.
Proud parents, Georgette and Flamenco-
8 pups -- both yellow and Black.

Some here at school
You might already know
Were Pueblo and Paris,
Persia, and Poe.
(Each of them precious to their last little toe.)

The “P” Litter Peeples
Raised them for you,
With patience, persistance,
And a promise, or two.

Oh, the places you’ll visit!
The people you’ll know!
You’ll make good working teams,
Wherever you go!

When the Puppy Truck comes,
You’ll go off to school.
They have playtime and walks,
And bubbles -- it’s cool!

Did I mention Pilates
And ice cubes and toys,
And cuddles, massages,
And pals to enjoy?

There’s walks and group play,
and a roommate. It’s true!
And more, there’s love,
Just waiting for you!

And the trainers!
Magicians! With tricks up their sleeves!
Propelling their prospects
With kibble and ease!

Eight levels of training
And skills to perfect-
No pressure!
The process produces the best!

And then comes the day when
Your partner you’ll greet.
With a sniff and wag
You will happily meet.

Together you’ll learn
To trust and to lead
With teamwork
You both will only succeed.

May you always be blessed
And continue to grow
And spread lots of smiles,
Wherever you go!

And now, cheers for you both,
And the other teams, too!
We’re proud as you graduate
From G D B School!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Career Change Therapy Dogs Touch Many Lives

child reads to yellow Lab by Kathy Featherstone, GDB Dog Placement Coordinator

As a Dog Placement Coordinator, I really enjoy the process of matching each career change dog's needs with that of an adopter. Some of our dogs have a great aptitude for another career such as therapy work.

Atlas, Shep, Hope, Arlo and Tansy are five wonderful examples of career change dogs that have created new friendships within their own communities in collaboration with their adopters. As Atlas’s adopter Mary said, ”We strongly believe that Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds their dogs to be of service and that if they can’t guide then they should have another job! We knew that we would be looking into therapy work when we adopted Atlas.”

Atlas (shown above, photo by Ron Webb)

Atlas is a yellow Lab that is the second career change dog adopted by Mary and Tom. He joined his new family while he was still recuperating from surgery and continuing with physical therapy. The family as well as their first career change dog, Tenaya welcomed him into their lives and their therapy volunteer work. Atlas is certified through Therapy Dogs International and is an active member in the local #220 Fresno Chapter. He has volunteered for the past four years and participates in multiple jobs from reading programs with young children to visiting nursing homes and Alzheimer’s patients. Atlas primarily works with young children in the “Tail Waggin Tutor” program, and the Fresno Library Reading program. He lies on his blanket and the children sit around him. One student said, “I like to read to him and he listens. I like to pet him.” Mary added, “Atlas provides a friendly, furry, cuddly and patient, non-judgmental listener with the purpose of encouraging the child to read out loud and gain confidence in his or her reading skills. He is accessible to all to pet and he seems to make it a point to turn so that he spends time with each child! It’s amazing!” Promoting literacy to students is a gift that Atlas and Mary are happy to share with children.

black Lab being petted Shep

Black Lab Shep has been accompanying his adopter Tammie at her place of work, an assisted living community for seniors. Tammie says Shep’s job description includes ”providing comfort to residents, staff and families; providing in-room visits with residents; being the walking group leader, listener, community greeter, welcome committee chairman and foot warmer.” Tammie remembers one resident who spoke little and did not participate in activities. As she passed Tammie’s office, “Shep poked his head out and a large smile spread across the woman's face as she reached out to pet him. Shep moved closer and he promptly sat on her feet. To everyone’s surprise, she spoke up and said, "You can warm my feet every day!" A new friendship was formed. Tammie feels fortunate to share her job with Shep and believes that he is happy to have a job that he can go to daily and form new friendships. “With Shep at my side, I feel like I can accomplish even more for my residents.” yellow Lab Hope beside man in wheelchair


Hope, a yellow Lab, now lives in Nevada and works a few times a month at a long-term care facility. Melinda, Hope’s adopter, describes the purpose of Hope’s visits as: “to promote physical and emotional benefits to residents. Hope participates in meet-and-greet activities with large groups and individual visits with residents at long term care, spending between 5 to 30 minutes with each individual.” One resident loves to hold her leash while being pushed in a wheelchair as they walk around the facility. She loves to whisper to Hope as they share this one-on-one time together. Both are content and happy. Another resident loves seeing Hope and scratching her behind her ears because she reminds him of his dogs back in his cowboy days. Hope has made many friends over the past year, and residents look forward to her visits. As Melinda said,“When the residents smile at Hope, I know she’s made a difference in someone’s life."

black Lab Arlo Arlo

Another dog with a new career is black Lab Arlo, now living in the East Bay (east of San Francisco). His adopter, Denise, said,“Since adopting Arlo, we have been involved with The Friendship Foundation, making 17-18 visits each month to various facilities including skilled nursing facilities, senior homes, adult and adolescent acute psychiatric facilities, and others." Denise spoke of a recent visit to a youth center in which “Arlo was taking treats from the kids, but one young girl was afraid. She was encouraged to try to give Arlo a treat but remained hesitant. After more encouragement from the staff, she was able to give Arlo a treat. The young girl was overjoyed with her achievement!” Denise’s next adventure with Arlo is with K-9s for Care, an outreach program for seniors at a neighborhood church.

Man pets Golden


Tansy is a Golden Retriever now living in Montana and going to work full-time with her adopter Carly to a long term care facility. Carly said,"The first thing that is noticeable when Tansy comes to work is that everyone instantly smiles." Pearl, a former school teacher said, "Tansy is the best dog I ever met! She is just wonderful….so loving.” These words may seem ordinary – but the love on Pearl’s face and the contentment in her eyes when she is petting Tansy is wonderful beyond words or description. Pearl is 102 years young.

Carly also shared a particularly poignant day at work:“One day, Joanie, a resident, had a serious and rapid decline. Tansy went into Joanie’s room on her own and put her head up on Joanie’s hand – for several minutes, and then laid at the side of her bed. Joanie really liked Tansy and Tansy visited her often – but this last visit truly touched each staff member and gave us an appreciation of Tansy’s depth and complexity. Tansy is a tribute to herself and all those who helped her become her best.

Atlas, Shep, Hope, Arlo and Tansy’s adopters are so grateful to the puppy raisers for allowing them the gift of a career change dog with the capacity to enrich their communities.

Friday, February 10, 2012