Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Five Reasons to Take a Guide Dog to College with You

By: Jake Koch, GDB graduate and alumni representative

There are many reasons why a guide dog makes a great travel companion both in college and in life. Here are five good reasons:

1. Travel benefits
Most colleges and universities are relatively large, sprawling and beautiful places; complete with winding sidewalks and often unidentifiable tactual landmarks. The physical layout of the modern campus is spreading outside the box. A guide dog is trained to assist a blind or visually impaired person in achieving safe and efficient travel. Guide dogs can be taught to stop at specific entrances to buildings, or intersections of sidewalks. In addition, guide dogs, by virtue of their training lead a blind or visually impaired person in a straight line. These two important attributes increase efficiency in travel, and reduce confusion for a person who is blind or visually impaired.

2. You will soon become one of the most popular and easily recognized students on campus 
It is hard to stand out amongst 10,000 plus students. However, a person traveling with a guide dog has a significant positive advantage. Many people love dogs, and guide dogs are no exception. Embrace the attention; a guide dog is a great icebreaker! I suggest answering 2-3 guide dog specific questions, then say something like “do you have dogs at home?” People really enjoy talking about their lives, and are often happy to tell you about their animals or experiences. Giving the other person an opportunity to talk about a common subject with a blind or visually impaired guide dog handler will reduce their reservations about talking with that person.

Jake wears his backpack and walks on campus with his guide Angelina (yellow Lab)

3. Confidence breeds confidence
Many of our graduates tell us that a guide dog increases their confidence significantly. If a guide dog brings confidence in travel, it’s likely that a person who is blind or visually impaired will be more confident as well.

4. A guide dog is the best roommate ever 
Most college students either live in a dorm room, or an apartment close to campus. Both options usually contain roommates that you may or may not see eye-to-eye with. Simply put, a guide dog is the best roommate ever! A guide dog won’t steal your food, make a mess of your living space or bring a bunch of crazy friends over to hang out at 3 A.M.

5. Your guide dog can help you get involved with student activities both on and off campus
You as a blind or visually impaired person have learned to get around campus and have met a few of your classmates. Now you want to get involved with some student activities. If you can navigate your college campus, you can get around just about anywhere, and that is exciting! You are free to come and go as you please, and your guide dog will help you get to and from your destination. Everybody wants to hang out with the awesome student with the cool dog; so round up some of your new found friends and go on an adventure.

Jake smiles and puts his arm around his guide Angelina (yellow Lab) with rocks and green plants in the background.

Even though the challenge of college/university life may be daunting, having a guide dog by your side makes the experience that much better. One thing is for certain, a guide dog may not be able to do your homework for you, but he or she certainly won’t eat it either! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

GDB Fun Day in San Diego!

By: Juliet Cody, San Diego Surf Dogs Alumni Chapter President

Finally the weather report said we are going to get rain – something we have been longing for in Southern California for a while. However, GDB Fun Day in San Diego was going to take place that Saturday, so I’m sure the GDB puppy raisers, guide-dog/ handler teams, and all the new little puppies were hoping the rain would stop before then.

It rained hard all night, but when my guide-dog Jura woke me up early to eat her breakfast, the rain had stopped. “Good,” I thought to myself…but, when I opened the back door to relieve her, I felt a blast of cold wind and the yard was soaked. As I was getting ready and sipping my coffee I thought, “I hope it warms up and it doesn’t rain” – the puppy raisers had worked so hard on the preparations for this special day.

By the time everyone got to The South Oceanside Elementary School, where the event was held, the day began to blossom. The Fun Day kicked off with Starbucks’ coffee and breakfast snacks as another beautiful day in paradise had begun. The sun came out, and more folks and puppies were popping in – puppy raisers had wasted no time in getting the word out! Some had their guide dog puppies, while others had career change dogs. Pat Salzarulo, a puppy raiser from San Diego, was there with her career change dog Cabo who is now a therapy dog. He works at the court houses in San Diego and his job is to sit at the stand with the children who are testifying in front of the judge and jury. Cabo’s presence helps to calm the children, so that they can give their testimony. Along with Cabo, Pat brought her new yellow Lab puppy in training, Sabrina. Guide-dog/handler teams from our GDB Alumni Chapter – San Diego Surf Dogs were there: showing off their beautiful guides, displaying electronics for the blind, and making braille name tags for donations to help the clubs. The Oceanside Police were also there with their rescue dog, an intelligent German Sheppard who was demonstrating his important job.

The Puppy Clubs from San Diego, Temecula, and Orange County held an auction and brought an array of gorgeous baskets, ceramics, paintings and homemade doggy beds! After a yummy lunch, it was the main event – the distribution of the new guide dog puppies. The GDB Puppy Truck with seven puppies arrived and everyone gathered. GDB Community Field Representative Rick Wilcox began announcing the puppy raisers’ names and introduced the puppy they would be receiving. And yes, the puppies were adorable and it was so exciting! I saw at first hand the joy, instant love, strong dedication, and the solid bond between the raisers and the puppies. 

Big group photo of everyone and their puppies/dogs in front of the GDB Puppy Truck
Big group photo of everyone and their puppies/dogs in front of the GDB Puppy Truck
Sharing this time with our puppy raisers exposed me to a clearer vision of what GDB is all about: the giving and taking, the donations that run the program, the puppy raisers that play such a major role, and the guide dog handlers who are able to expand their life to new challenges – we are all playing an important role in crucial situations and the rewards are endless.