Monday, April 30, 2012

Will Guide Dog Carlo Win the Hero Dog Awards?

black Lab in harness
Carlo is a six-year-old Guide Dog that has made an unbelievable difference in my life. I have lost my vision gradually and started using a white cane fifteen years ago. After falling down some stairs on my way home from work and suffering an injury that required surgery to repair, I decided I needed more than a cane. I got Carlo.

My cane has been collecting dust ever since. I commute over 20 miles to work five days a week. Carlo guides me on my twenty-five minute walk to and from the train station and around my rather large office building. He even guides me through the crowded, narrow and uneven sidewalks in San Francisco’s Chinatown to go to lunch with colleagues. Bumps, bruises and more serious injuries are things of the past. When people ask “Has Carlo ever saved your life?” I answer,“Every day!”

Technology, such as screen-reading software, has extended my career in IT, but without Carlo, I doubt that I would have the necessary mobility to continue. We go everywhere together. Besides work, he takes me to the grocery store, to get my hair cut, to visit friends, to medical appointments and more. We have travelled to Hawaii, Las Vegas and all over the State of California. We have even gone off-road – hiking in the Sierra Nevada and other places.

He gives me the confidence to go where I want to go and I do so feeling safe in his paws. --Timothy Godecker in Walnut Creek, California

Will Guide Dog Carlo win the Hero Dog Awards? Only if you vote! Vote every day and be sure to share!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Will Guide Dog Balsam Win the Hero Dog Awards?

Balsam and I are graduates of Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California. In 2008, I was run off the road by a truck, totaled my car and ended up with a severe head injury leading to a stroke. Lucky to be alive, I sustained an acute loss of peripheral vision resulting in a status of "legally blind".

While I was hospitalized, my 15-year-old niece contacted Guide Dogs for the Blind and placed me on a waiting list for a Guide Dog. Six months later, I entered into the program and was introduced to the most wonderful dog in the world!

After three weeks of training (for me not the dog), we arrived home with a new lease on life. As you might expect, coping with life-changing condition such as blindness tends to be a bit depressing.

Balsam accompanies me every day and has allowed me to travel internationally and independently with confidence. Balsam has given me the strength and ability to move on with my life in countless ways.

I am thankful to Balsam and Guide Dogs for the Blind for helping me move on with my life and making me whole. --Joseph Landau of Long Beach, California

Will Guide Dog Balsam win the Hero Dog Awards? Only if you vote! Vote every day and be sure to share!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Change of Careers for Olympic Guide Dog

Carole and yellow Lab Olympic with audience of children

Carole Aubrey, now a member of the Rogue Valley (Oregon) Kennel Club, and adopter of “career change” male yellow Labrador retriever, “Olympic”, recently updated GDB about her dog’s new job: “Olympic now has his therapy dog certificate through Therapy Dogs Incorporated, and he proudly wears a little red heart on his collar when he does his very important work in the community: On Mondays Olympic (we call him “Oly” for short) goes to the Lincoln Elementary School in Grants Pass, Oregon, and second graders read to him --- each child for twenty minutes --- three children over a one-hour time period. Then every Tuesday Oly goes to the Josephine County library (also in Grant’s Pass) to participate in the K9 Reading Buddy Program --- children of all ages read to him.” (For people who may not be familiar with these reading programs, the idea behind them is that many children can learn to read aloud better when they read to an always attentive, never critical, furry canine listener --- as opposed to reading to teachers, or to classmates who may seem less interested and less tolerant of a reader’s performance than the dog is.)

Per Carol, “Other days Oly goes to schools, rest homes, and assisted living centers around our town to educate the public, produce smiles, and participate in programs that teach people about dogs, their work, and all the goodness that they can share. He is so well suited for this new job! He loves it --- and it is a giant source of enjoyment for me as you might expect! I just love him every day! “

Monday, April 16, 2012

Will Guide Dog Atticus Win the Hero Dog Awards?

Jim and yellow Lab Atticus at ski resort
Atticus and I have been a team since Valentine’s Day 2003. During our seven years together, Atticus has not only been a hero to me, but many others as well.

Atticus has traveled the world with me and kept me safe from the ruins of Rome to the beaches of Cozumel. Atticus does all the usual, but performs best in a crowded situation.

Being a Disabled American Veteran I have had the opportunity, with Atticus by my side, to show everyone what a blind veteran is capable of. Atticus has attended numerous veteran associated conventions and participated in many ceremonies. He shines his brightest when performing as part of a Color Guard or leading me in Memorial Services for fallen veterans. Atticus holds honorary memberships in the DAV, VFW, VVA and Elks Lodge.

Atticus has always protected me and kept me safe. In Sacramento, he kept me from walking off an unprotected five-foot embankment, by holding fast to his training in intelligent disobedience. I kept telling him forward; he wouldn’t go. I thought I was fine, Atticus knew better. Numerous times Atticus has pulled me from harm’s way.

Atticus is a proud volunteer with me at the Sepulveda VA and has played the role of therapy dog for our veterans in the Nursing home. When we are out and about, Atticus puts a smile on people’s faces. Atticus is not just a Guide Dog, he is a Hero and an Ambassador for service dogs everywhere. -- Veteran James Hogan in Canyon Country, California

Will Guide Dog Atticus win the Hero Dog Awards? Only if you vote! Vote every day and share!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Guide Dogs for the Blind Welcomes Alaska Airlines!

man with Golden
Alaska Airlines team member interacts with Guide Dog in training

by Sierra Fish

Last week Guide Dogs for the Blind had the honor of hosting Alaska Airlines at our campus headquarters in San Rafael. About 30 members of the regional management operations team arrived for an afternoon of educational awareness, beginning with a panel presentation by GDB staff members in which various departments and programs were highlighted. Alaska Airlines team members were able to interact with GDB Canine Welfare Technicians and dogs in training, as well as take a tour of the campus. One of the highlights of the day was for each of them to experience walking with a Guide Dog in its final stages of training while accompanied by our instructors. “Our folks were truly enlightened and inspired,” said Michele Harris, Alaska Airlines Customer Service Supervisor.

Alaska Airlines has been a wonderful supporter of GDB and has demonstrated outstanding customer service when flying our staff members and dogs. We look forward to continuing our relationship and having the opportunity to encourage best practices at airports for those traveling who are blind and visually impaired. “I believe it opened many eyes for the management team at Alaska Airlines and allowed for an understanding on a deeper level,” said Bill Essick, Alaska Airlines Passenger Sales and Community Marketing Manager.

Karen Schierholtz and Guide Dog
Karen Schierholtz, Alaska Airlines Regional Sales Manager and Guide Dog in training

Alaska Airlines team member has a Guide Dog experience with Darren Walsh,Master Instructor

Alaska Airlines team member has a Guide Dog experience with Darren Walsh, Master Instructor
Michele Harris
Michele Harris, Alaska Airlines Customer Service Supervisor has a Guide Dog experience with Gayle Olmstead, Master Instructor

woman with black Lab

Alaska Airlines team member has a Guide Dog experience with Paolo Pompanin, Master Instructor
group shot
Thank you, Alaska Airlines for visiting and supporting Guide Dogs for the Blind!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guide Dog Puppies Visit the Airport

pup getting ready to be scanned
by Barbara Edwards, GDB Volunteer Puppy Raiser, Elk Grove Puppy Raisers

The Elk Grove Puppies with a Vision recently went on a tour of the Sacramento International Airport's new Terminal B. This addition to the airport provides great opportunities for our puppies to get some exposure to the airport process for flying passengers. We were able to ride the new shuttle that ferry's passengers from the terminal to the gate area. The puppies also experienced going through security and getting patted down when the alarm went off because of their collars and leashes. They all handled it really well. Most of them were able to go into a sit/stay while their handlers walked through the scanner and then they responded extremely well to the recall command to go through the scanner. Once we all cleared security, we were able to walk down to the gate area. Upon exiting the terminal, the puppies were able to experience a ride on the inter-terminal shuttle and finished up with a walk around Terminal A and the parking garage.

pups and raisers waiting in line

yellow Lab pup being scanned by TSA

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guide Dog Puppies Join Easter Egg Hunts with Blind Children

two young girls enjoy the company of a Golden puppy

Several Guide Dog puppy raising clubs in the Greater Seattle Area participated in an Easter Egg Hunt for visually impaired children. The event was held at the Green River Community Club in Tukwila, Washington and sponsored by the Century Link Telephone Pioneers. It was a fun outing with about 30 GDB puppies, lots of children and their parents. This year it was too wet out so the egg hunt was held indoors. The kids didn’t seem to mind at all.

Kara bunny with puppies and raisers

Kara bunny with black Lab puppy
The Easter Bunny this year was Kara Teachman, member of PUPS2C4U Club.

group of children with raisers and their pups

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Will Guide Dogs for the Blind Win the Hero Dog Awards?

button that says Vote for MeTake a look at all the Guide Dog for the Blind family members who nominated their dogs for the Hero Dog Awards! They're passionate about their canine partners, and they should be! Having a Guide Dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind is like having a soul mate.

Some people say the relationship is closer than a marriage, because they're with their dogs 24/7, they get unconditional love, and their dogs never say, "Those pants make you look fat."
Just kidding.

We're going to be introducing you to one of our contestants each week,
but don't wait for us -- you can vote once each day for a dog from our school.
Maybe our Presidents should try this system...
Cast your votes for:

As far as we're concerned, all of our dogs are heroes
--each and every one--
so we're not playing favorites!

We want everyone to get out the vote for all of our dogs.

Will Guide Dogs for the Blind win the Hero Dog Awards? Only if you vote! We won last year, so it's up to you to take us to the red carpet.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Guide Dogs for the Blind Wishes You a Happy Easter!

three yellow Labs wearing bunny ears with colorful Easter eggs between their paws

Dakota, Desmond and Culver say, "You can see on our faces we're egg-cited to wish you a tail waggin' Happy Easter!" Want more cuteness in your life? Become a Facebook fan of Guide Dogs for the Blind (

Friday, April 6, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Leather Collar

leather collar
This year, as we celebrate our 70th Anniversary, it's good to hear from people who are connected with our history. Franzi Corman came across a leather collar that brought back a flood of memories. She writes about Clarence Pfaffenberger, who began establishing standards for Guide Dog breeds at GDB in the 40s. Pfaffenberger volunteered at GDB for 21 years and is credited with developing the puppy raising and breeding programs.

by Franzi Corman

I grew up in the 1940’s and was an extremely shy child who really found it hard to talk to anyone. My name was Francie Bauer at that time, and I had begged for a dog since I was 5 years old. When I was 11 my father said those magic words to me, ”You can have a dog.”

He bought me a German shepherd puppy and signed me up for twice-weekly training classes at the Continuation School in San Francisco. There were three trainers and Clarence Pfaffenberger was one of them. I adored him because he always jumped around and happily cheered his dogs on and taught us to do the same. It was my first encounter with positive reward training. I actually did very well with my dogs in all my classes, and found some sense of myself in that dog training environment.

Sadly, my puppy died from Distemper at around 8 months, which was not uncommon at that time with no vaccinations or easy cure available. I was heartbroken and there was no money for another puppy.

I knew of “Pfaff’s” connection to Guide Dogs for the Blind and had been enchanted by the idea of Guide Dogs ever since I could read. I wouldn't have had the courage to ask Pfaffenberger about getting a Guide Dog puppy and can’t remember the details of how it came about, but it was Pfaff who knew me, trusted me and wanted to help me have dogs.

That is how my life with GDB’s German Shepherd “Dolly” #A12 began in 1949. Dolly was solid black and very large-boned for a female. I loved her, thought she was beautiful, and worked hard on her training with dreams of seeing her someday wearing that special harness and helping a person who was blind. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Dolly was quite shy and I did not understand the seriousness of her shyness until she was dropped from formal training. As much as I loved her and felt joy at having her back, it was a huge disappointment to me that she was not able to be a Guide Dog, however, raising Dolly was a significant event in my life.

I continued to train and love dogs, and many years later, when my children were old enough to get into 4H,I signed up to be a Guide Dog Project leader in Palo Alto from the late 1960s to early 1970s. Golden Retriever “Banner” (from the book Banner Forward) was a puppy raised by one of the girls in my Guide Dog puppy group. So after many years, my dream to see my Guide Dog puppy graduate did come true in another form after all.

Keeping Dolly’s collar for all these years has seemed natural. Meeting [GDB's Director of Research and Development] Michele Pouliot a few years ago was poignant to say the least, as it made me feel as though I had returned to the organization that started my life with dogs. It feels right to give Dolly’s collar back to GDB for a place of historical honor. I’m very happy that the collar I have cherished for so long is now back where it started.

Thanks so much to GDB!