Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Grateful: A Walk with Lava

By: Marlene Dunaway, GDB Graduate

It is 7:00 AM in the morning. I know because my internal alarm clock insists that I open my eyes. The news says the weather will be sunny and warm, and I think to myself, “Yes, let’s take a walk on the greenbelt today.” As I roll over to the edge of the bed, I feel a soft kiss on my lips as Lava, my black Labrador guide dog, does her graceful “downward dog” stretch, reminding me that I must do that myself. Lava lies down by my bed and patiently waits. Occasionally she groans just to let me know she is there and getting hungry. When I do get out of bed, she romps around me, tail wagging, and dashes to the kitchen and back again to see if I am also coming. After eating enthusiastically and taking a short outside potty break, she is willing to relax in her bed while I get dressed and do my daily morning tasks. She knows I am getting ready to take a walk.

I get my sunglasses, hat, water and snacks for Lava and me. Then I put on her leash and she glides into the harness with little effort. I give her kisses on the nose and tell her she is now my eyes and I want her to focus and take care of me. She is now in her serious mode and lies down and waits until I get the key in the door, turn off the lights, and do a couple of other things I have forgotten to attend to.

Finally, we are on our way. Before I leave the house, I say to myself, “What will we encounter today? I hope there are no loose or aggressive dogs on our walk. I hope the sidewalk will be clear of toys, buckets, and anything else.” Then I put all my fears aside and say “forward” to Lava. Immediately, I am propelled at a fast-paced clip in the direction I tell her to go. We whisk around the pile of leaves in the way. We avoid the small chair sitting in the middle of the sidewalk and stop when a car’s door is left open in our path. I’m not even sure what we are avoiding, but I know I feel a flow of movement and a freedom I can’t get any other time. I am invigorated as I crunch on the leaves beneath my feet, smell the aroma of the Asian noodles and the teriyaki chicken or the enchilada sauce and chilies simmering as I wind my way past the row of inviting houses. I almost want to knock on a door to get a clearer image of what is really cooking. Lava sees and hears everything: squirrels darting up the trees, children shouting as they play on the swings, dogs, bicyclists, and strollers. Some people say “Good morning” while others avoid getting too close. No matter. Lava dutifully continues her pace without getting distracted by the environment. I praise her as we move, and sometimes we find a bench where she rests and enjoys some extra petting.

I feel brave when I am with Lava. I don’t have to see what is lurking within the pockets of shadows and light. She takes me right through them without hesitation. She remembers where the bench I like to sit on is located, and she knows the correct doors to enter at the restaurants I frequent. She stops at curbs or stairs to alert me or uses the flat part of a curb so we don’t have to stop. When we go to a restaurant or go shopping, she patiently waits for hours while I talk to my friends or look at items to purchase. She even helps us find the car when we struggle to remember where we parked.  

I am so grateful for my lovely Lava that at times I am overwhelmed with emotion. It is a gift I treasure, and I am content to explore my new world with this amazing companion.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Breeder's Digest for September 2013

Breeder’s Digest
September 2013


Litter Announcements

Labrador Retrievers

Golden Retrievers

Labrador-Golden Crosses

New Breeders
Labrador Retrievers:  Glory – raised in CA;  Paris – raised in CA

Lab-Golden Crosses:   Royale – raised in CA 

Golden Retrievers:  Siefkin – raised in AZ

Making a PACTT

By Jim Price

Months of planning, organizing, training and coordination came together recently at the launch of a new therapy dog program for GDB career change dogs in the Portland, Ore., area. Known as PACTT (Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams), the program is a partnership between Guide Dogs for the Blind and DoveLewis Animal Hospital. Last week, the first PACTT team (therapy dog and handler) made its debut therapy visit.

On the GDB side, Community Field Representative Deana Allen coordinates the program. “DoveLewis had a therapy dog program for a while that was disbanded for a variety of reasons,” she said. “Their CEO Ron Morgan wanted to have another and this time he wanted to partner with GDB.”
It made a lot of sense to both organizations to tap into the GDB career-change community. “Many of the people who adopt career change dogs are GDB puppy raisers and they have a lot of skill,” Deana said. “They know their dogs very well, and the dogs are used to being out in public.”

Moon lends a little love to Juanita Murphy at Emeritus Senior Living in Vancouver, Wash., as handler Lisa Locke looks on
Moon lends a little love to Juanita Murphy at Emeritus Senior Living in Vancouver, Wash., while handler Lisa Locke looks on 
Under the agreement with DoveLewis, GDB’s role is to train and evaluate the PACCT teams, while DoveLewis would take care of coordinating and scheduling site visits to places interested in having therapy dogs visit. “I'm very excited about the possibilities,” said Kathy Loter, DoveLewis’s animal assisted therapy program coordinator. “I have so many ideas of where we can take the program. There are the traditional hospitals, assisted living facilities, etc. but opportunities also exist in the court system, with organizations helping children, and in domestic violence situations. I'm scheduled to go on a ride-along with the county sheriff's department, for example. All I need are the teams. We plan to have 16 or 17 by the end of the year, and 70 by the end of next year.”

Janet Schultz and Salsa during therapy dog evaluation at the GDB dorm.
Janet Schultz and Salsa during therapy dog evaluation at the GDB dorm
To create the new program, Deana said, “I first had to determine what a therapy dog needed to do. I looked at other programs, actually became accredited through another program with my own dog, and made a few visits with teams to see exactly how they interacted with the people they visited.” She then developed the training curriculum and assessment criteria. The first class had four teams and the second one had three.

Lisa Locke and her dog Moon visit the Emeritus Senior Living’s recreation room, Vancouver, Wash.
Lisa Locke and her dog Moon visit the Emeritus Senior Living’s recreation room, Vancouver, Wash.
Vic Bowden of Vancouver, Wash., went through the program with her yellow Lab, Sherbert. She and her husband raised seven puppies for GDB. “We adopted both our third and sixth dogs that we raised for GDB,” Vic said. “I discovered early on that my purpose isn't just to raise guide dogs. Every one of our dogs has changed people's lives in one way or another. I used to go almost every day to see my mother-in-law when she was in a nursing home and I just loved to see how much the people loved to see our dog. We visited from person to person to person. In addition, my husband taught an anger management class at our church and he would always take whatever dog we were raising. He said he could watch the people in the class who were so closed up and angry, just relax and calm down while petting a dog.”

Elaine Wilderman of Bethany, Oregon and her dog Clark are one of the teams recently certified to do therapy work
Elaine Wilderman of Bethany, Oregon and her dog Clark are one of the teams recently certified to do therapy work
The first official PACCT visit was by Lisa Locke of Hockinson, Wash., with her yellow Lab, Moon. The duo visited the Emeritus Senior Living facility in Vancouver, Wash. Locke and Moon visited with several residents and Moon generated smiles wherever she went, especially from one particular resident named Juanita. “Bye Moon!” Juanita said. “I can't wait for you to come see me again.”

Here’s to many more visits and smiles in the future. It’s our PACCT!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Alumni Connections: Reach for the Stars Scholarship

By: Samantha Adams

“They walk among us.” This is a phrase usually associated with those silly e-mail messages my family sends announcing the Darwin awards for the year. Customarily, this phrase is somewhat derogatory; however, I am choosing to put an awe struck spin on it. They walk among us. “They” are the remarkable members of the GDB family who are out there in the world working with their guides and inspiring all people to strive to do their best; to push the limits of self. 

You may or may not be aware that the Alumni Board of GDB has been vested with the responsibility of selecting a scholarship recipient every year. The scholarship is called the “Reach for the Stars” scholarship and exists due to the generosity of a GDB graduate, Ms. Gina Harper of Davis, California. The value of the scholarship is $1500.

This year, the nominating committee of the Alumni Board was charged with an especially daunting task of selecting one recipient out of a large number of truly remarkable candidates. This predicament was conveyed to Ms. Harper in the context of updating her on the progress of the committee.  Following this comment, Ms. Harper contacted the committee chair and offered an additional scholarship of $1500.

The scholarship recipients were announced at the banquet at the Alumni Reunion on October 5, 2013. I am pleased to introduce to you, two remarkable young women who I am proud to identify as part of our GDB family.

Ms. Cristina Jones travels with guide dog, Kingsley. She is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton. This fall she embarked upon a great adventure across the pond. She is studying music in London England at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music pursuing a Masters of Arts in Voice Performance with an emphasis in Opera Performance - this is a two year program. Ms. Jones explained to the nominating committee that she is required to learn about six pieces of music per week and these pieces are in several languages, including English. Going to school in England means that she does not have the benefit of the ADA and therefore; she finds herself incurring additional costs to get braille music.She anticipates that the scholarship will greatly help with the purchase of braille paper. Ms. Jones is not one to be discouraged by hard work and long roads. After this program, she intends to audition for opera schools and ultimately work as an opera singer professionally.
Our second recipient is Ms. Natalie Martiniello of Montreal, Canada and her guide Carlina. She is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English and Education and she is currently pursuing a Master’s program in Vision Rehabilitation Teaching at the University of Montreal. It is worth noting that the University of Montreal is an institution where all of the courses are conducted in French. Ms. Martiniello speaks English an Italian; however, prior to her enrollment in this program, she would not have called herself fluent in French. Nevertheless, she is learning French to a level which meets the academic standards of her chosen course of study. Her goal is to teach visually impaired and blind people braille and technology and ultimately pursue her doctorate and teach vision rehabilitation professionals. She told the nominating committee that her Masters’ thesis would discuss the role of technology in relation to the use of braille. Ms. Martiniello is one who embraces the challenges of life and rises beyond them. Her first guide led her out of Dawson College during the course of a shooting incident and then went on to be by her side through lengthy chemotherapy. Neither of these incidents have halted Ms. Martiniello’s journey forward. She continues to march forward in search of her goals and dreams.

Are you inspired yet? These are but two examples of our GDB family out there “reaching for the stars.” They walk among us.