Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Puppy Raising Youth Scholarship Winners

Annually, Guide Dogs for the Blind awards scholarships to puppy raisers in their senior year of high school. This year, 17 raisers submitted applications, all of whom have outstanding scholastic achievements and community service experience within Guide Dogs and their communities.

For 2013, we were pleased to award $3,000 in scholarship funds. 

Carrie Faber holds a young guide dog puppyCarrie Faber, of Nevada County, California, received a $1,000 scholarship.  Carrie has raised guide dog puppies since she was 11. She has always loved dogs, and enjoys being part of the process of building a strong interdependent team whose lives are richer because of the partnership. She has raised seven pups: five are working guides, one is a therapy dog, one is in formal training, and one is currently a puppy in training.  In addition to puppy raising, Carrie also maintains her club’s web page on Facebook. She has taken several classes at her community college including American Sign Language classes, earning her both high school and college credits. Carrie will be attending Moorpark College and applying to their Exotic Animal Training and Management program (EATM). She hopes to work in the service animal industry in the continued effort to enhance the lives of both human and companion.

Bryan Goings in his graduation uniform with guide dog puppyBryan Goings, of Douglas County, Colorado, received an $800 scholarship.  Bryan has been part of his puppy raising club since his freshman year in high school. He is currently raising his third puppy, Armand, and his two previous puppies, Keller and Maximus, are working guides. Bryan has been part of his high school’s World Language National Honor Society and received a varsity letter in Cross Country. Bryan also participated in a week long mission trip to Costa Rica to help construct chicken coops for an impoverished church. Bryan has been chosen to be part of the Honors Program while attending Colorado State University to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering beginning fall 2013. 

Blaise Wittenauer-Lee with guide dog puppyBlaise Wittenauer-Lee, of Washington County, Oregon, received a $600 scholarship.  Blaise has been involved in puppy raising since she was 11. She and her family have raised 6 puppies, among them are Chantilly who is a working dog in Tennessee, and Kirin, a breeder.  Blaise's most recent puppy Delia, is in the formal training on the Oregon campus. Blaise is also a dedicated student athlete. She earned Scholastic All American in swimming this year, was the recipient of OSAA award of excellence for high school swimming, is a Junior National qualifier, and a state and school record holder in her events. She is a member of the National Honor Society.  Blaise worked for a woman's shelter for her Christian Service Project at Jesuit High School and was the recipient of the school's 201 Service Award, completing over 200 hours of community service in her junior and senior year.  Blaise will be attending Seattle University with an academic and athletic scholarship and plans to study Biology.

Colleen Bohannan with guide dog puppy at Christmas eventColleen Bohannan, of Solano County, California, received a $600 scholarship.  Colleen has been involved with her puppy raising club since the age of nine. She is currently raising her 8th puppy, a Golden Retriever named Freedom. Colleen credits the Guide Dog program for teaching her great responsibility and a sense of community. In addition to puppy raising, Colleen is a California State 4-H Ambassador, a member of her school's leadership program, a Varsity athlete, and a lifeguard at her local pool. She graduated as a member of her school's National Honors Society and part of American Canyon High School's inaugural first class. Colleen will be attending Oregon State University in the fall, majoring in Athletic Training with the hopes of earning a Master's degree in Physical Therapy.

Honorable Mention
Anne Dansie

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Collaboration with the Minnesota Guide Dogs Breeding Center

Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) is excited to announce a new collaboration! GDB has several mutually beneficial relationships with guide and service dog schools around the world and our collaborative efforts consist of donating and accepting puppies and adult dogs, as well as annually participating in numerous co-breeding exchanges. Each collaboration builds a relationship with a school and a community, leads us to future opportunities to expand our knowledge and experience, increases the prospects for greater canine genetic diversity, and further spreads the gift of mobility and independence throughout the world.

Recently GDB participated in another type of collaboration with the Minnesota Guide Dogs Breeding Center (MGDBC). The MGDBC was founded in 1989 by a captain of industry and philanthropist, Paul Keymer. Mr. Keymer visited guide and service dog schools around the world and realized that introducing collaborative breeding efforts would dramatically enhance progress in reproductive practices, canine selection strategies and provision of services for the visually impaired. Toward this goal, he founded the MGDBC and contacted key schools to create the Original Collaborative Breeding Group:
  • The Seeing Eye (United States)
  • Guiding Eyes for the Blind (United States)
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind (United States)
  • KNGF (the Netherlands)
  • Guide Dogs, Victoria (Australia)
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (United Kingdom)
Mr. Keymer initiated staff training and provided the state-of-the-art equipment which enabled the original members to share in vitro canine reproductive techniques while also breeding and donating puppies produced at the MGDBC to the other schools, serving as a role model for collaboration.

To date, collaboration continues to flourish. The six original schools continue to benefit from the opportunity to share knowledge and experience and to further initiatives to expand gene pools, educate veterinary staff about techniques specific to working with assistance dogs and to improve the health and well-being of guide dogs around the world.

Once collaboration between the six original schools was well established, Mr. Keymer donated all the MGDBC adult breeding stock to other schools and stopped producing puppies. Since that time the MGDBC has continued to support the Guide Dog industry by whelping and rearing litters of puppies for other schools. MGDBC has developed a program for the early socialization of puppies and they usually select one school each summer to work with. This year Guide Dogs for the Blind was honored to be selected for this collaboration. Golden Retriever brood Amaya was selected and traveled to Minnesota while pregnant; she then whelped and reared her litter at the MGDBC. Once the puppies were weaned, MGDBC staff member, Kelly Schulz, accompanied Amaya back to GDB and spent a week at our San Rafael campus learning more about our program and exchanging ideas. Similarly, Breeding Manager, Jenna Bullis and Puppy Raising Program Specialist, Sharon Kret traveled to Minnesota to observe their program and Amaya’s puppies before they left to join their new GDB raiser families.

Young puppy sits in socialization yard

We greatly value our collaboration with MGDBC and look forward to continuing to work together in the future. We are very excited for the volunteer puppy raisers who will begin working with the puppies from the Amaya x Amici litter this week. We are grateful for their help and the assistance of all our volunteers and donors in fulfilling Guide Dog for the Blind’s mission.

Photos of Amaya x Amici puppies:

Video of Amaya x Amici puppies:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Gift

By: Marissa Pounds

Sierra and Marissa Pounds and Jessica Harpel along with GDB puppy "Vino"

The pure and true love that those puppies give when they are put into your arms. The wag of their tails, or the wiggle of their bodies, even the licks of their tongues on your face. And the pure love that pours out of both of you when you press a kiss onto their head when you say goodbye.

The perseverance that keeps you moving through times of wanting to give up, or that are amazingly hard and never seem to work right. To push through the tears and walk away from your best friend and companion of the past year.

A trust that is clearly visible in those soft brown eyes that search for your own when unsure or scared. The trust you see the dog with the same soft brown eyes have in their blind partner and likewise. A trust that makes unforgettable memories.

The loss of a friend who didn't ask, and was content with no answers. Who was happy with a hug in the morning, and passed no judgement. A friend who was meant for greater things, who was born to lead, and who wagged their tail as tears streamed down your face in sadness of the goodbye that would happen in just a moment.

Then came the joy. Months later, realizing that the friend you had given up, had been given to someone else as a gift that brought light to them while still in the dark. The prince who the girl had been searching for through the darkness, years before he came. A gift she could only describe as her "Happily Ever After."

This gift you helped create shines like a radiating star, the pure love between your companion and their partner. A bond full of trust and soon to come unforgettable memories. A perseverance that will never give up, and always keep going. And, through the loss and the joy, this true love will never stop, and never end in the partnership that is a person who is blind and their guide dog.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Understanding Mismarks

By: GDB Breeding Manager Jenna Bullis

Recently we posted a litter announcement for the Auberge x Tom litter and shared with you all that “Jicama” was career changed due to a prominent facial mismark.  Since then we have received many questions and comments so we thought we would give you some more “Fun Facts from the Breeding Department”. Get ready for your biology lesson for the day!

In order to understand what caused Jicama’s mismark, we have to cover some basics first…there are spots on the canine genes called “loci” (or “locus” for a single spot) that deal with different coat colors. There are thousands of these loci, and it gets pretty complicated really quickly. Fortunately for us, in Labradors (and Goldens) we really only need to focus on two loci to determine whether a dog will be black, chocolate, or yellow: B and E.

Jicama puppy shown with prominent black facial mismark
B comes in two varieties: black and brown. Black (B) is dominant, brown (b) is recessive, and the color applies not only to the dog’s fur, but to some extent all of the areas of pigment we see: nose, lips, foot pads, and around the eyes. If the dog in question has even one copy of the dominant (B) gene, s/he will have a black coat and black nose, etc. Only if the dog has two copies of the recessive gene (b) will their coat and nose look brown.

So where do yellow Labradors and Golden Retrievers fit in? For them, we need to go to a different locus: E, which works a little differently. In recessive form (e), it suppresses or prevents the coat color of the B locus from expressing itself. In other words, the black or chocolate color won’t show up in the fur if the dog is carrying e/e. Instead, their coats will be yellow. Recessive (e) doesn’t remove the other areas of pigment however – they should have black noses, or at least a black rim around their noses, if they have B/B or B/b on that first locus. If they have b/b on that first locus, then those other areas of pigment will be liver colored. Couple that with e/e for recessive yellow coat color and we see a yellow coated dog with liver b/b pigment.

In a way, the coat colors are like a ladder. The first rung (or loci) tells you if the dog is black or brown, then the 2nd rung takes that black or brown dog and if double recessive, turns its fur yellow.
Golden Retrievers are genetically black (BB ee) but look golden (yellow) to reddish due to their (ee) genes restricting the development of black pigment.

So how does all this relate to Jicama? Sometimes when an embryo is developing one of its skin cells undergoes a mutation. Any cell that is produced by this mutant cell dividing also contains the mutation.  Jicama had mutation in a skin cell in which (ee) became (Ee). This allowed the black pigment to form in cells descended from that one original mutant cell. This phenomenon is well documented in Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. These dogs are sometimes referred to as Mosaics. This same phenomenon has also been observed in domestic cats and in ranched foxes. It’s not a really a birthmark, it’s just a somatic mutation.

The cells responsible for reproduction originate from a different place than the skin cells therefore are not affected by this mutation and thus a dog which has a somatic mutation (or mismark) will not produce its dual color in offspring. 

These types of color mismarks are not incredible unusual in our colony, but they are not typically as prominent and noticeable as Jicama’s. Phew!  As you can see, genetics is a complicated business!  In the end, as we said in the original post, we felt that Jicama’s mismark was prominent enough to draw significant comment from the public, which could be a distraction at best, and a potential burden for a graduate.  She is enjoying her life as a pet in a loving home.