Monday, June 25, 2012

The FBI Welcomes Guide Dogs for the Blind

Mark Francis and Kent Ellard

The FBI Portland Division held a Diversity Awareness Day on June 12. GDB alumnus Mark Francis and Puppy Raiser Kent Ellard represented GDB and spoke about the different aspects of our organization from puppy raising to coming to campus to train with a Guide Dog.

“I really like the fact that we were able to speak as a team,” said Mark. “A graduate and a puppy raiser together, because this helps tell the whole story. We were able to discuss the before and after and everything in between. There was a wide range of inquires and people cared enough to ask really good questions. Overall, it was a great opportunity.” Kent has raised seven puppies for GDB and his current puppy in training, Pegasus, accompanied him at the podium.

Adelina Wildy, FBI staff operations specialist, had this to say: “It was perfect and a big hit. I can say with confidence that everyone in the audience enjoyed the presentation and thought highly of both presenters.”

Will Guide Dog Puppy Pilaf Win the Hero Dog Awards?

Pilaf is the twelfth puppy I have raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Two years ago, my husband and I started a web series called Growing Up Guide Pup. We thought that it would be fun to document and share our experience puppy raising. We gained a lot of fans, especially those who use guide dogs or were interested in getting a guide of their own, or people who were interested in becoming puppy raisers.

We decided to conitue the show and do another season with a new puppy, Pilaf is that puppy. She is helping us to continue to educate people how guides are started. Many people believe that working dogs are forced to work and never have any fun. Pilaf is helping to show the world that Guide Dogs are raised with love, not manufactured. They are encouraged to work because it's fun, not forced because they have to.

We have recieved messages from all over the world about how our show has helped people decide to get a guide dog, now understanding all the work that goes into them. We have also had people tell us that they want to become puppy raisers because of the show.

Pilaf is a great puppy to show that anything is possible. She started off as a very timid puppy, afraid of the world around her. But she is proving that with some encouragement and guidence she is overcoming her fears. -- Amie Chapman of Hayward, California.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Here's a round-up of some recent stories in the news about our alumni and puppy raisers.

Yellow Lab Guide Dog Cricket
Yellow Lab Guide Dog Cricket, from
Ann Taylor Tells Blind Woman Her Guide Dog Isn't Allowed in the Store
Ann Taylor apologizes for kicking guide dog out of store
Ann Taylor says it was misinformed the first time it issued a statement on Guide Dogs

    And in other news....

    Future guide dogs get puppy pat downs 
    Going to the Dogs; Local Students are Puppy Trainers for Guide Dog Program
    (Oakdale Leader, Oakdale, CABritish Columbia, Canada)

    Gift puts visually impaired Penticton woman in the driver's seat 
    (Penticton Western News, British Columbia, Canada)

    Leading the way; Durango volunteers raise puppies to guide the blind 
    (Durango Telegraph, Durango, CO)

    Guide Dogs for the Blind brings puppies to Lemoore 
    (Hanford Sentinel, Hanford, CA)

    Quilts Sewn for Servicemen, Women 
    (GDB pup Pernilla is pictured with raiser Nancy Bloyer, a member of the quilt guild. San Clemente Times, San Clemente, CA)

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    Will Guide Dog Pasta Win the Hero Dog Awards?

    black Lab in harness on stairs
    Ever since receiving Pasta from Guide Dogs for the Blind, my life has changed. When I used my cane, I felt insecure. I hated traveling at night; I avoided going out in the rain when possible because the noise made listening to my surroundings challenging and I never just went for pleasure walks.

    With Pasta, I take pleasure walks, travel at night, ride the bus, go to stores and restaurants, and even go out in the rain! I don’t have to worry about running into something, misreading traffic or tripping. Pasta guides me around obstacles, stops for changes in elevation and refuses to go if it is unsafe.

    Pasta makes me feel a level of confidence that I have never known before. One day, a passerby said, “When I see you walking, I don’t think of you as disabled.” And, with Pasta, I don’t feel that way.

    Pasta gives me the freedom to do anything. If I get lost, as I did mere months after receiving Pasta, all I have to do is say “Let’s go home,” and she’ll take me there, as she did that very first time four years ago. If we are crossing a street and a car turns in front of us without looking, she’ll stop and push me out of the way, as she has on several occasions.

    But Pasta is more than my Guide Dog; she is my friend, cuddle-bug and so much more that words cannot describe. I love her with all my heart. -- Megan Miller of Long Beach, California

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

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    GDB History: Stories of Sgt. Leonard Foulk

    Sgt. Leonard Foulk with BlondieGuide Dogs for the Blind was founded in 1942 to aid blinded servicemen returning from World War II. The first veteran to graduate from the program was Sgt. Leonard Foulk, who was paired with a Guide Dog named Blondie. We recently caught up with Sgt. Foulk’s niece, Bonnie Cursey, and great niece, Holly Searcy (who considers Sgt. Foulk to be her grandfather and refers to him as "Papa"). We shared some of their memories of Sgt. Foulk in the latest issue of Guide Dog News, but they had many other stories to tell. Here are some more wonderful anecdotes about the man and the dog that have become the face of GDB's founding era. 

    "Blondie was ready at any moment to do the job that she was trained for, and Leonard was eternally grateful for her service and her friendship," said Bonnie. "She was ALWAYS there for him."

    Bonnie relates that there was a defining moment when Leonard really developed his 'blind' trust for Blondie. It came as they were walking in a familiar place in San Francisco, and Leonard doubted one of Blondie's actions. "Blondie did something to indicate that Leonard should move over and he ignored her," Bonnie said. Urging her forward, Blondie once again tried to signal Leonard to move over. "He ignored her yet again, and as they moved forward at his insistence, Leonard ran right into a light pole, striking his head." Bonnie said that was the one and only time he ignored Blondie's signals.

    "Without Blondie," Bonnie said, "I am not sure what he would have done in those first few years of blindness. Adjusting to being blind was difficult, but having Blondie as his constant, loyal companion - taking Leonard wherever he wanted to go - allowed him full independence that he would not have had otherwise. This was truly a wonderful gift and a blessing. Leonard traveled with her, ate with her, slept by her ... Blondie was his best friend. Blondie gave him something to care for, to get up for, and to start a new day even if he did not want to. She was his responsibility and he would not do anything that might be detrimental in caring for her. She probably saved his life, and he knew this as well as did our family. Although he did not work, he became an accomplished wood worker, learned to play the banjo, and spent many hours listening to books on tape. He lived a full rewarding life, enjoying his family, friends and hobbies thanks to Blondie and the Guide Dogs for the Blind."          

    As the years passed, Leonard didn't use Blondie quite as much for his mobility as he did in the beginning of their partnership. By the time Blondie was 9 or 10 years old she pretty much was just a wonderful companion and no longer a working Guide Dog. "She was getting old and was having difficulty getting up and down," said Bonnie. In her retirement, "Blondie got to enjoy being lazy and spoiled. In 1955 or 56,  much to everyone's dismay, Blondie went outside and disappeared. For weeks we looked for her, the community joining in, but she was never located. It was very difficult for him to lose her as they had been through so much together and he was quite devastated for some time."

    Leonard with FuzzyBonnie also relates how Leonard met the next dog in his life, Fuzzy: "While sitting outside on the driveway one day, a beautiful sheep dog walked across the street and sat down beside him," she said. "From then on, Fuzzy would walk across the street each day, nuzzle Leonard's hand to let him know that he was there and then spend the day. Fuzzy would follow Leonard and never let him out of sight until his owner called him home at night. If ever there was an object on the ground, Fuzzy would pick it up and move it so Leonard wouldn't stumble (something Blondie had also done). The owner could not keep Fuzzy home and the following Christmas, Fuzzy's owner put a large red bow on him and sent him over as a Christmas present to Leonard. From that time on, Fuzzy became the new guardian, slept beside Leonard's bed and was his new Blondie. Leonard always said that Fuzzy was his reincarnated Blondie."

    Bonnie and Holly both said that Leonard rarely talked about the war or the actual injury that he sustained that caused his blindness. His family learned many of the details from his book, "Still My World." Holly relates: "From what I have read in his book, I am sure his confidence and determination was developed when he began training with his Guide Dog, Blondie."

    Holly with Leonard, her Papa
    Holly has nothing but the fondest memories of her dear Papa. "He was well-loved and respected by so many people. He was kind and generous to everyone he met. Papa had a workshop in the back of the house that he built with the help of his good neighbor who was a contractor. He loved that shop and spent many hours working in it. It had a million tools - he could build anything. I would spend hours with him in the shop learning how to use different tools. To this day, I think I know how know about tools than my husband does!

    "One summer he built a drying rack for meat and fruit. For Christmas, everyone received jerky and peaches from his garden - a gift we looked forward to each year! When it was cool outside, he would sit by the shop's wood burning stove and play his banjo. I loved hearing him play and to this day when I hear or see a banjo, I think of him."

    Holly isn't exactly sure when she realized that Leonard was blind (Blondie was gone by the time Holly was born). He was so accomplished in all that he did, the thought never occurred to her as a young child. "We would take walks to the mailbox located at the very far end of his gravel driveway," she said. "He would hold my hand like any other grandfather did, but I didn't realize I was his eyes, guiding him since there were no walls to trace. To me it was just taking a walk with Papa, something I loved to do."

    Holly also is grateful for the many life lessons that she learned from Leonard. "My grandfather literally saved every spare penny that he had to pay for my college education, something he never had," Holly said. "He would take his change out of his pocket at the end of the day and walk to the coffee can that was stored in a cupboard and drop the coins in, telling me that someday I would use it for school. And I did. He inspired me to go to college and get my degree, something I wanted for myself and for him. He inspired me to never give up on something I really want."

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    First of Its Kind Adaptive Rowing Camp… a Huge Success

    By Aerial Gilbert, Outreach Manager at Guide Dogs for the Blind and former National Adaptive Rowing Team athlete

    Participants in the adaptive rowing camp

    A landmark rowing development camp for veterans and civilians that are blind, visually impaired or have physical disabilities took place May 20-25 in Oklahoma City. Ten men and one woman, 80 percent of whom had a direct connection with the military, traveled from around the country to the Devon Boathouse, home of the Oklahoma City National High Performance Center. The participants' experience with rowing ranged from totally new to the sport to experienced rowers. Over the course of the camp, all of the athletes transformed their technique dramatically, starting with basic technique on the rowing machines to learn the stroke, advancing to the world’s first dynamic indoor rowing tank, and then progressing to rowing on the river in shells. By the end of camp, participants were rowing by all eight and really moving the boat. Griffin Lynch, who rows for his college team at the University of North Carolina, said, “We weren’t rowing by all eight for three months in my novice year!"

    Rich Cardillo, head of the Military Sports Program at USABA, spent a couple of days observing camp and explained the Paralympic Military Program where the Veterans Administration provides a stipend for potential Paralympic athletes that meet the standard for one of the Paralympic sports. All of the participants worked very hard over the five days but also had a lot of fun as well. At the wrap-up at the end of camp, Sklar Lao (a wounded veteran) told the group, “I have been doing four types of therapy this past year for balance, physical therapy and speech -- rowing has it all; I want to do it more!”

    The coaching staff for the event included: Garrett Klugh, World Champion and Olympic rower; Matt Muffelman, Adaptive Rowing Coach and former US National Team athlete; Marina Traub, collegiate rowing coach; and myself. Garrett, the program coordinator for the event, said, “This camp exceeded our expectations in every way. We are extremely appreciative of the generosity of the Devon Boathouse to allow us to use this world class facility. This was truly a remarkable group of people supported by great partners. I could not be more pleased with the camp and how it evolved. This group really set the standard high for the future.”

    The camp was sponsored by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) in partnership with USRowing, Disabled Sports USA and U.S. Paralympics. Grant funding for this program was awarded by U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, through funding provided by the Veterans Affairs and Disabled Sports USA. The grants are provided to facilitate the growth of Paralympic sport programming for disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.

    Breeder's Digest for March 2012

    A yellow Lab puppy

    Litter Announcements

    Labrador Retrievers
    Labrador Retriever-Golden Retriever Crosses

    New Breeders

    Labrador Retrievers    
    • Shawn – raised in CA
    Lab/Golden Cross
    • Ardella – raised in CA

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Will Guide Dog K9 Buddy Natura Win the Hero Dog Awards?

    boy with cane and yellow Lab on leash walk down steps

    It's been a year since Zach Thibodeaux, a 9-year-old third-grader, was diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy, an incurable disease rapidly taking his vision. Natura, a K9 Buddy dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind, based in San Rafael, California, became a part of Zach’s life on New Year's Day.

    A K9 Buddy provides children who are visually impaired with canine companions.It teaches them the responsibility of having a dog, so when it’s time to receive a guide dog they know how to care for and live with a dog.

    Zach is learning to be in charge of Natura’s behavior and well-being. He attends classes with the local Texas puppy raising club to keep up Natura's commands, and learn skills that will benefit him in the future with an actual working guide dog.

    Natura was on her way toward becoming a Guide Dog, but couldn't handle public transportation, so she was then placed in the K9 Buddy program. Due to the transportation issue, we were afraid that the the flights she’d have to take from Northern California to Dallas would be terrifying for her, so volunteers drove her all the way from San Francisco to Dallas in time for a surprise presentation to Zach on New Year's Day. Zach and Natura have bonded beautifully and have become a wonderful part of the Lone Star Puppy Raising Club.

    Read more about Natura by following all the stories on the K9 Buddy Train!

    boy with cane walking yellow Lab

    Will Guide Dog K9 Buddy Natura win the Hero Dog Awards? Only if you vote! You can vote once a day, and be sure to spread the word!

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Will Guide Dog Joan Win the Hero Dog Awards?

    Joan displayed her incredible service while we were training [at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California]. During the last week of training, Joan and I were walking the streets in search of a store, but Joan stopped at an alley. I told Joan "hop up", which means pay attention. Joan completely ignored my command, and pushed me back to the sidewalk. At that exact moment, a car was racing at us and did not see us until the driver was right beside us. Joan saved my life, knowing that it was not safe to cross the street, which is called intelligent disobedience!

    Ever since that time, Joan has given her life to serving and protecting me. Many doors have been opened because of my dog. When Joan is not working with me, we often visit mentally and handicapped children, giving therapy whenever she can. Joan is my hero, please consider her as the guide dog hero of 2012. --Jessica Keel of Umatilla, Florida

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