Tuesday, September 30, 2014

GDB Puppy Raising Scholarship Essay: My Experience as a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser

By: Emily Mason (2014 GDB Puppy Raising Scholarship Recipient for Overall Achievement)

Raising guide dog puppies has a way of impacting people. Whether that person is me, my family, or whoever receives the puppy, there is no doubt in my mind that my puppies have impacted the lives of many.

I think those that are the most directly impacted by my puppies have been the people who have received them as guides. A wonderful man named Terry received my first puppy in training, Virgil. Terry live-in Oklahoma with his wife, three daughters, and two granddaughters. Terry is an amazing man, who I still keep in touch with today. Virgil impacted Terry because before Terry received Virgil, he had been living without a guide for months. When Terry arrived at home with Virgil, he and Virgil began adjusting to one another, becoming an unbeatable team, and creating a strong bond. Terry and Virgil have gone on a few backpacking trips and frequently go sailing.

My third puppy, Tommy, who I raised as a transfer puppy, has significantly impacted his handler, Brian. Before Tommy, Brian had never had a guide dog before and had relied on a cane and the help of others to travel. Brian’s life was significantly changed when he received Tommy, because he can now travel alone and be independent, with the thought in mind that Tommy is by his side, watching for any hazards.

Guide Dogs for the Blind has also significantly impacted my community. Virgil was the first guide dog puppy raised in my town, Oakdale, in a very long time, and most businesses were unsure about the program and having a dog in their facility. However, by introducing them to Virgil and explaining the program, Virgil was allowed access to all the businesses in town! Virgil helped pave the way for the ten puppies that have been raised in Oakdale since.

Another huge impact GDB had on my community was at my school. Virgil was also the first dog to attend Oakdale High School, and not long into my sophomore year, Virgil was ready to join me. My school and superintendent were unsure at first about having a dog on campus, but I was fortunate enough to have had a vice principal who had previously taught at a school that allowed puppies ingraining, so he helped me get the puppy raising project approved at my school. Having a puppy at school was a challenge at first, being that so many people were unaware of the etiquette toward a puppy in training. It was also a hard task adjusting to all of the students being around the puppy. But Virgil set the standard, and five more puppies have since followed in his paws.

Raising guide dog puppies has taught me many things, and over time, it has helped me grow. Raising guide dog puppies has taught me to be responsible. Since caring for a puppy is a lot like caring for a child, I have had a lot more responsibility than most of my friends. Raising puppies has helped me learn to put the care of others before myself - taking care of a puppy can be a full time job. Raising guide dog puppies has taught me the feeling of accomplishment through reaching goals, whether those goals are successfully teaching a puppy “down,” or having a puppy become a guide dog. GDB has taught me what it is like to accomplish a long-term goal. Raising guide dog puppies has helped me understand the gift of giving, because no matter how much I love each of my dogs, there’s no doubt in my mind that I want nothing more than to see them succeed. It was truly amazing feeling to stand on stage and hand Virgil’s leash over to Terry.

Lastly, raising guide dog puppies has majorly impacted my future career goals. Since I was a small child, my dream was to become a veterinarian. I was fortunate enough to be secreted for GDB’s summer internship program where I got to work in the vet clinic for two weeks. Working alongside the veterinarians and clinic staff was like a dream, it is a time in my life I will always cherish. I had such an amazing time working and learning from such experienced professionals. My internship helped confirm my goal - becoming a veterinarian is no longer the dream of a small child but a goal set by a young adult. Being alongside the veterinary team at GDB helped me know for sure that being a vet is what I want to do with my life.

Guide Dogs for the Blind has given me many life experiences and taught me many things. I have been able to watch my community and school grow as they became accepting to guide dog puppies. Through this wonderful experience I have been able to grow as a person and experience the amazing feeling of being able to give someone a gift like a guide dog. GDB is a wonderful organization, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Announcing GDB’s 2014 Puppy Raising Scholarship Awards

Annually, GDB awards scholarships to puppy raisers in their senior year of high school who have outstanding scholastic achievement and volunteer experience within GDB and their communities. For 2014, we were pleased to award $3,000 in scholarship funds. Congratulations to the following puppy raisers on their accomplishments!

$1,000 Scholarships for Overall Achievement:
Sophia Hamilton of Ukiah, Calif., currently raising her third puppy
Emily Mason of Oakdale, Calif., currently raising her fifth puppy

$500 Scholarship for Outstanding Essay and Outstanding Creative Project:
Maddie Hall of Castro Valley, Calif., currently raising her third puppy

$250 Scholarships for Outstanding Essays:
Caitlin Berge of Normandy Park, Wash., currently raising her third puppy
Skyler Howard of Vashon, Wash., currently raising her fourth puppy

The bios of the scholarship winners are included below. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll share the winning essays and creative projects from the scholarship winners here on the blog, so stay tuned!

Sophia sits posing with a Golden Retriever in front of the GDB pond
Sophia Hamilton of Ukiah, Calif. has been raising puppies for Guide Dogs for Blind for five years. She has always been a dog lover, and has enjoyed the value and joy of serving others that being involved with GDB puppy raising has brought to her life. She has raised three GDB puppies: Almond (a working guide); Shimmer (a breeder who recently whelped her first litter of 10 puppies); and her current puppy, Fauna, who will be returning for formal training this fall. Sophia has also served as the teen leader of her puppy raising club, Mendocino Pathfinders, for the past two years. In addition to puppy raising, Sophia is also a dedicated student athlete. She is a three-year varsity water polo player and a two-year varsity swim and dive participant. She is a 2014 All American in swimming and diving and the recipient of the 2014 United States Army Reserve National Scholar Athlete Award. Sophia will be attending the University of California Davis in the fall.

Emily sits with her black Lab guide dog puppy on the ground surrounded by leaves
Emily Mason of Oakdale, Calif. has raised five GDB puppies: three are working guides, one is in formal training, and her current pup, Cloud. Emily enjoys working with animals, and aspires to one day become a veterinarian. Emily is vice president of her puppy raising club's 4-H program. In addition to her puppy raising activities, Emily has also been the  assistant coach of a little league softball team. Emily will be attending Columbia College, in Sonora, Calif. in the fall.

Maddie wears a University of Oregon green sweatshirt and puts her arm around a yellow Lab smiling.
Maddie Hall, of Castro Valley, Calif., has been raising GDB puppies since her sophomore year in high school. She is currently raising her third puppy, Nevada. Her previous puppies were Eichler and Blaine, both career change dogs and Maddie’s pride and joy). As a member of her local 4-H club, Maddie also raised and showed mini Lop rabbits for many years. Maddie will be attending the University of Oregon in the fall.

Caitlin poses in front of a vintage red truck with her black Lab guide dog puppy.
Caitlin Berge, of Normandy Park, Wash., has been involved in puppy raising since she was 14. She is currently raising her third puppy, Wesley. Her first puppy, Alan, is a working guide, and her second, Havarti, is currently in formal training. Besides volunteering with Guide Dogs for the Blind, Caitlin is also an active participant in her church's youth group, with which she has gone on mission trips for the past six years (this summer she went to Belize, her fourth mission trip to that country). Caitlin received her Associate of Arts degree while still attending high school; she will attend the University of Washington-Tacoma in the fall.

Skyler smiles while holding a young yellow Lab puppy.
Skyler Howard of Vashon, Wash., has raised four guide dog puppies since she was a freshman: Tanny, Triumph, Berlin, and Whisper. Triumph and Berlin are both working guides. Skyler is a member of the National Honor Society and has volunteered in rural villages in Laos and Peru, as well as at a local veterinary clinic. She plans to attend Carroll College in Helena, Mont. this fall. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A City Dog gets to Work and Play

By Katie Crocker

Katie Crocker and her black Lab Jetty

Every August, as part of my job, I record an event that is held at the Massachusetts state house.  My job at this event is to set up audio equipment, record speakers and audience discussion, and ultimately, turn that audio into a radio show.  The event features a yearly program run by the Massachusetts agency for the blind.  In any case, this was the first time I've attended this event with a guide dog since 2011.  Jetty and I have been a team now for about 15 weeks; he is by far the youngest dog I have ever taken to this particular event (I've attended this yearly since 2006).  This involves tons of people, many with white canes, several with guide dogs, tables, crowds, food, the whole nine.  In addition to these distractions, I also had many situations where Jetty needed to do a sit/stay or down/stay, while I untangled wires, tested audio equipment, etc.  This also involved him helping me trace along walls to find wires, and tape them down to avoid tripping hazards, much of this was just him and I, without sighted assistance.  Let me just say, Jetty was a total rock star! He did an amazing job, weaving me past tables, podiums, other people who could not see us, led me past curled up wires, even stopping patiently while I rearranged wires along the wall so others without sight would not trip.  His work was exemplary; never before have I seen such restraint and focus in such a young partnership.

Another thing I found amazing was Jetty's ability to read me before I gave any commands.  As I've been behind the scenes at this event for multiple years, I know the surrounding area quite well.  It only took Jetty a trip or two to figure out: A, where my assigned chair in the audience was, B; where the podium we needed to connect to was, C; where our recording devices were (in a separate room, D; where the press media ports were in the room.  We needed to frequent these places periodically, as the recording requires two separate speaker systems.  There were folks there who were deaf/blind, so we also needed to account for an FM transmitter to accommodate listening devices.  This was my first time making on the spot changes to our rig, but it worked out for the best!
There were a number of guide dogs there.  One belonged to MCB commissioner, another belonged to the ADA coordinator of the state house.  Then there were several in the crowd.  One I knew from my previous guide dog school, and a few from our own GDB.

Jetty was a gentleman, through and through.  He targeted the areas I needed, with very little verbal cues, which I found amazing! He and I are getting into that  "mind reading" phase, where before I can utter a command, he seems to already know!  We move like a fluid force, together. At every step he seems to know what I need, and in turn, I feel through all things what he needs.  We have been a good team so far.  Of course there have times where we have had to figure each other out, but it seems like with each trip out the door we get better and better.  We are learning more about each other every day.  But, we are staring to respond to each other on a level that is almost surreal.  Sometimes it's nonverbal.  Sometimes a gesture, or my pace, or...I don't even know what, will prompt my boy to do move in a way where we just flow.  It completely takes my breath away.

The minute we get home, and the harness comes off, Jetty turns into a goofy, sloppy teenager. He grabs whatever toy is closest, snorts, and will do backflips right into you.  He likes keep away games, loves to chew, and loves, more than anything else, to feel needed and important.  When I sit on the floor, he will curl up in my lap, and he seems to feel at peace.  He needs both work, and play, in that order.  If Jetty can't guide, he really doesn't feel like himself.  But when we are out and about, he is his happiest.  This is an amazing dog.....

The streets of Boston are loud and chaotic.  At every turn there are crowds, buses honking their horns, construction, you name it.  But nothing ever phases Jetty, or gets him worried.  He is the most confident city dog I've ever had.  GDB did a wonderful job pairing us together, and I can't thank them enough for this amazing gift!  I look forward to every day as an adventure with this boy by my side! This is how we/have grown.  I feel so blessed!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Breeder's Digest for June 2014

Breeder’s Digest
June 2014

Litter Announcements 

Labrador Retrievers
Golden Retrievers
Labrador Retriever-Golden Retriever Crosses
New Breeders
Labrador Retrievers
  • Aida: raised in AZ
  • Arbor: raised in CA
  • Belay: raised in WA
  • Harlem: raised in CA
  • Lovely: raised in CO
  • Namiko: raised in CA
  • Novel: raised in CA
  • Quince: raised in CO
  • Ronnie: raised in WA
  • Vesta: raised in CO
  • Vikram: raised in CO