Friday, September 27, 2013

Introduction to My Class Experience

By: Jane Neglia

Hi everyone, my name is Jane Neglia and I am the new Outreach Manager here at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB)!  As Outreach Manager, it is my role to reach out and educate potential applicants and those who might refer individuals to us for a Guide Dog:Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructors, Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI’s), etc. about our various programs and services. As a guide dog user myself, I have not yet experienced our two week class training program. I went through the four week training with my first guide Ari, and three weeks with my current guide Anja, and as part of my training as Outreach Manager I am going through the two week training program so that I can talk about it first hand while out presenting GDB and our services to the community. I will be receiving a different dog for this experience while Anja rests peacefully at home with my fiance waiting for my return in two weeks. So if you are considering coming to GDB for a dog, or have a dog from here, but are unclear or uncertain about the two week training program, stay tuned!      

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Small, Small World

By: Megan Minkiewicz 

What are the odds that a guide dog puppy raised in Bend, Oregon, matched with a graduate from College Station, Texas would reunite two kids who had grown up together in Kent, Washington?  Slim to none I would say. But, if you’ve been around the Guide Dogs for the Blind family long enough you start to experience the overlaps and extensions of family and friends in this tight knit world.

In February I dropped of our eighth puppy Dyson for formal training on the Oregon campus and in early May we were notified that he was matched with his partner and set to graduate! As graduation approached I had the opportunity to talk to Dyson’s handler Laura Ann. She is Dyson’s soul mate, they are made for one another and in an instant we were thick as thieves too. In our conversations she casually mentioned a friend from Washington would be attending graduation. I really didn’t give it much thought; graduation is always full of new friendly faces. After the emotional reunion and graduation ceremony, chatting up with friends and staff, Laura Ann said she wanted me to meet her friend Cathy. They had been classmates nearly 10 years ago when Cathy received her first guide dog Bombay and Laura Ann was matched with Dasher, her third guide.

As Cathy reached out to shake my hand she mentioned we had a mutual friend on Facebook. After a few rounds of attempting to try to put the pieces together she mentioned her maiden name and I blurted out “your sister was our 6th grade volleyball coach!” Cathy and I had grown up in the same community outside of Seattle, attending elementary through high school together. Cathy lost 95% of her vision in her late 20s due to diabetic eye retinopathy and has the lovely Bombay as her guide dog. The last time I saw Cathy was nearly 20 years ago at our high school graduation. Neither of us have kept up much with our classmates or attended reunions, but leave it to Guide Dogs for the Blind to reconnect us!

Megan, Laura Ann and Cathy sit smiling on a bench with their dogs

Funny how these connections are made and we reconnect in various stages of life. It truly is a small world after all! One common love for a little yellow Labrador named Dyson was all it took to bring us together.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alumni Connections: Introducing Our GDB Alumni Board

By: Becky Andrews, Alumni Association Chair

Greetings from the 2013-2014 Alumni Association Board! Sixteen years ago, on September 17th, I took that initial walk with my first guide, Pantera. I was so thrilled! Now, with my second guide, Cricket, I am grateful for this opportunity to serve as the Alumni Association Chair. Under the direction of Theresa Stern, Alumni Association Director, our term began in July with meetings in San Rafael with members from the GDB Board of Directors. We had the opportunity to meet with Bob Burke, Interim CEO, Brad Hibbard, Director of Training Operations and Andy Mathiesen and Stuart Odell from the GDB Board of Directors. George Kerscher, Chair from the GDB Board and our liaison was also in attendance.

We also enjoyed the chance to see our beautiful new Student Residence and welcome our three newest Alumni Association board members: Leanne Bremner, Maile George and Gary Norman.  Also serving on our board: Terry Christensen, Vice Chair; Michelle Miller, Secretary; Melissa Hudson, Outreach Coordinator & Nominating Chair – Chapter Coordinator; Samantha Adams, Communications Chair; and Melanie Brunson, Advocacy Chair. Thank you to this great Alumni Association Board! You can find our bios and contact information here:  

We would love to hear from you! 

GDB Alumni Association Board stands on campus with Director of Training Brad Hibbard.

Under the direction of Theresa Stern, Alumni Association Director, and our Special Events Chair, Melissa Hudson; we have been working hard planning our upcoming Alumni Reunion: Harnessing Health and Happiness October 4-6, 2013 in San Rafael, California. We hope you can join us!
Last Thursday we had our first Speaker Series of this year - a Townhall Meeting where we loved getting the chance to connect with many of our alumni!  Mark your calendars: our next Speakers Series call in meeting will be Thursday, November 14th. Details to follow. 
Again, we would love to hear from you. My email is: For fun, leave a comment on this post - maybe share a word that describes your partnership with your guide.

Until next time, wishing you and your guide health and happiness!   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Golden Summer

By: Susan Mooney

She came to us
a fluffy butterball
inquisitive brown eyes
open to an undiscovered world

Seasons changed while she grew

Autumn leaves blowing
in the wind like butterflies
as she munched on them --
nature's potato chips

Winter brought snow angels
four-pawed snowplowing
jumping and twisting Snoopy-like in the drifts

Spring blossoms and returning birds
a scenic backdrop as she went off to
Read to A Dog at local schools, church,
hanging out under restaurant tables,
and other venues of life in a small town

Summer arrived in time for mountain hikes,
clear streams, blowing bubbles in Junction Creek
while bobbing for rocks,
concerts, theater visits and
sleepovers with other puppy raisers

Soon this grownup Golden Girl
will head off to Guide Dog school
her world will enlarge
our world without her will shrink

But wait! The puppy truck arrives
and our joyous whirlwind begins anew

The Mooneys hold their puppy at the Puppy Truck stop

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jeremy and Spice

By: Jim Price

He was 26 and depressed. He didn't even know it, but his wife could see it plain as day. And she came up with the perfect solution – time to get a guide dog.

Jeremy Jeffers of Los Angeles started life a bit behind everyone else. He was missing one leg and he had retinopathy of prematurity. And he had spent most of his young life proving those things aren't what make you a man. "I was in the band in middle school and for discipline you had to run around this big track. I got in trouble for something but they said I didn't have to do it because of my vision." Jeremy ran it twice.

He said he has always been sensitive to what other people say. "I didn't ever want to be 'that blind guy.'" Until recently he had enough vision to get by, even though his left eye didn't work at all. When his vision finally failed altogether (he can only detect light and dark now) it put him in a funk. "That's the thing about someone who really loves you. They can see past your poker face. I thought I was fine but Majanaye could tell. She had a friend, Nicole Bautista, who was a Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) grad and was doing great with her guide dog. She was convinced a dog would help me and she was right."

His new dog is female yellow Lab Spice, who was raised in Port Townsend, Wash., by Michael Porter and Mary Munford. "Spice is amazing," he said, subconsciously reaching down to his side for a pat. "She has a very warm personality, even though she is somewhat cautious. GDB does such a great job of matching us up. I can't imagine a more perfect dog for me." He was in class at the Oregon campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Jermey hugs his guide dog Spice - a Yellow Labrador Retriever

His first walk with Spice, however, ". . .was horrible. I was so nervous. All I could think about was don't screw up this beautiful dog. I got along great with Juno. We walked. We were good. (Juno is a fake dog on wheels that students use to practice with before they get their real dogs.) Thankfully, Spice is so patient. She's like, 'Okay, Dude. I'll go with you, even though . . .' I didn't get that sense of freedom at all. I was too nervous. But then last night (his ninth day in class) we went on our first night walk and it all came together. If felt so great to just walk down the street by yourself, no worries, you know you aren't going to bump into anything – it was great. I loved it."
 Back home in LA Jeremy and Spice will be on the move. He is a musician, playing piano at two churches and for anyone else who calls. He attended a performing arts magnet high school. They asked what would be his biggest dream. He told them, and they made it happen – he played trumpet on stage while Stevie Wonder played the piano. At one point his blues group won a competition and the prize was to play with Ray Charles. He also writes and produces original music. "Music is fun. It's challenging and can be very rewarding one day then very depressing the next. But it's all worth it. I love it." During training at the Oregon campus the instructors even took Jeremy and Spice, along with another musician in the class, to a music store. "She did great," he said, his voice obviously proud.

Jeremy and his guide dog Spice walk down a sunny street

"This class has been tough," he said. In addition to his prosthetic leg, he had to endure back spasms while in Oregon as the routes are many and long, mostly through downtown Portland. "But it's all worth it. I have been hesitant to go places because I don't want to overextend my welcome with people. If I can do it myself, I will. I'd rather do that than leave a bad taste in someone's mouth. With Spice, I will be able to do a lot more networking with people. I will have a lot more independence. I'll be able to go different places, see people. Just being out by myself will make it all worthwhile."