Monday, March 23, 2015

GDB Puppy Raisers Team Up with Alaska Airlines at Oakland International Airport

By: GDB Puppy Raiser Cynthia Money

We want to thank Alaska Airlines for our recent Oakland International Airport puppy raising outing; it was a huge success! We had 15 puppies from four local GDB puppy raising clubs attend. The team at Alaska Airlines is beyond amazing!

“We are so grateful to Alaska Airlines personnel in Oakland for taking the time to expose our guide dog puppies to various elements of the air travel experience. Their generosity of time and spirit made a tremendous difference in the puppies’ journey to becoming working guides, as well as benefit numerous handlers’ travel experiences in the future." – GDB President and CEO Christine Benninger

Here are some images and quotes from puppy raisers about the outing:

Blue digital sign that reads "Alaska Airlines Welcomes Guide Dogs for the Blind!"

An Alaska Airlines female employee with her badge walks alongside a GDB male puppy raiser with a yellow Lab (wearing the green puppy coat) outside of the airport along the walkway.

"This is the best outing I have ever been on as a puppy raiser. I've been a puppy raiser for over 10 years and I've never seen a company so excited to work with me and my guide dog puppy. I would never entertain the thought of traveling with my guide dog puppy in training, but after today I will not only consider it, but look at Alaska Airlines first for all my travel needs." – Karen with guide dog puppy Daisuke 

Three female GDB puppy raisers pose with their guide dog puppies: black Lab, Golden Retriever, and yellow Lab (all wearing their green puppy coats) outside at the airport.

An Alaska Airlines female employee poses with a female puppy raiser with her guide dog puppy in training sitting calmly next to her.

"Thank You, Alaska Airlines, for giving my guide dog puppy the opportunity to experience everything in an airport that she would encounter in a real life situation with a blind handler. The hospitality and kindness that your employees showed us puppy raisers is unlike anything I have ever experienced on a socialization outing with my puppy. I feel very strongly that my puppy, Jolene, will be able to handle any airport setting and actual flight thanks to you guys. Thank you for giving us the best socialization opportunity I have seen in my five years of training guide dog puppies!" – Emily with guide dog puppy Jolene 

Several GDB puppy raisers ride the tram with their puppies in training to head to a different part of the terminal.

A female GDB puppy raiser walks with her guide dog puppy through the tunnel to board the plane.

"It was an amazing experience for us! Shania did a fantastic job during all facets of the tour. I appreciate Alaska Airlines and all that they did to make this possible...they rolled out the red carpet and exposed our guide dog puppies in training to a wonderful outing. The Alaskan Airlines staff was so gracious, professional, and kind. The learning experience went beyond the puppies, raisers, and staff, but to everyone in the airport as well. An incredible day and very successful for our guide puppy in training, Shania. THANK YOU." – David and Hope with guide dog puppy Shania 

Guide dog puppy Jolene (Golden Retriever wearing her green puppy boat) sits smiling in the middle of the aisle on the plane.

Five Alaska Airlines flight attendants smile for a group photo on the plane.

"I want to pass along my THANKS to Alaska Airlines and all the incredible employees who helped with our visit to the Oakland Airport last week. This was one of the best run and well executed events ever as a Guide Dogs for Blind puppy raiser. All of your employees were professional and a great group to work with. The ability to socialize our pups on a real aircraft goes a long way in preparing them for their future as a working guide dog. Thank you again for your support of GDB and its puppy raising community." – Mark and Leslie with guide dog puppy Vidal 

Guide dog puppy Jolene (Golden Retriever) smiles while her raiser holds up her Alaska Airlines Guide Dogs for the Blind VIP Boarding Pass

GDB Puppy Raisers stand in front of the luggage carousel teaching their guide dog puppies to be patient and get used to the motion and sound.

"I so appreciated the opportunity Alaska Airlines provided our Elroy, to train him for what will come very soon in his flight to his new home; it is invaluable training. We so appreciated the welcoming attitude and the professionalism and care that Alaska Airlines employees displayed. Starting with helping us through the TSA and check-in process, to showing us the plane and allowing our dogs to get comfortable in their positions in their seats, to delivering our wonderful goody bags. It was a great experience from beginning to end. We really appreciate Alaska Airlines and what they did for us!" – Nancy with guide dog puppy Elroy 

GDB Puppy Raisers stand in front of the luggage carousel teaching their guide dog puppies to be patient and get used to the motion and sound.

We can't thank Alaska Airlines enough for such a special outing!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lava's Proud Puppy Raisers

By: GDB graduate Marlene Dunaway

On a recent trip to the Los Angeles area with my four year-old guide dog, Lava, I arranged to meet Lava’s two Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) puppy raisers at a restaurant in Seal Beach, CA. Both of these women are members of the Brea Area Adult Raisers Klub (BAARK) of Orange County. Mari had spent time with Lava and me at our GDB graduation in 2012; Renee, I had not met before. I was excited to see both of them! As Mari and I chatted, Lava suddenly became very excited, sniffing the air and prancing around; behavior uncharacteristic of her when she's in her working harness. The cause of this activity was the arrival of Renee, Lava's puppy raiser from eight weeks to seven months of age, whom Lava hadn't seen since then. In spite of her evident excitement, Lava then demonstrated great restraint by obediently lying under the table until the meal was over. Then, with permission, she acted like a puppy again, nuzzling and licking her first puppy raiser while obviously enjoying some familiar scents and happy memories. This was so touching to watch, and I know it meant a lot to Renee to be so fondly remembered.

Graduate Marlene poses with her guide Lava (black Lab) with one of her puppy raisers

Mari, Renee, and I traded Lava tales. The women explained how they helped her develop proper guide dog behavior. I am in awe of all the puppy raising families; they lovingly care for the dogs and then generously send them to live with those who truly need them. During Lava's time with Mari's family, they took her to as many public places and events as possible; they helped her remain calm and focused.  She can now lie quietly for hours at a play, musical performance, or movie. Waiting in line at the bank, I may get annoyed, but the waiting doesn't seem to bother Lava at all. She is also patient while I'm grocery or clothes shopping, at long meetings, or when I stop to talk with friends on a walk.

After leaving the restaurant, we all strolled along the nearby pier. The puppy raisers walked behind Lava and me so that they could see her at work. The pier was crowded with people walking, taking pictures, and fishing with their rods and pails. There were many seagulls flying and diving all around us, and little children running and shouting with glee at the crashing white waves and the sparkling water. The puppy raisers looked on with pride as Lava ignored the distractions and maneuvered around all obstacles with ease. They were like proud parents, acknowledging that Lava is now able to take care of both herself and me with confidence and joy. I am so happy that we three women made the effort to get together to share our love of Lava and celebrate both her and our accomplishments.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Meet GDB Graduate Carrie Moffatt

Carrie Moffatt lives with her guide dog Casey in North Vancouver, British Columbia. At the age of 16, Carrie began losing her vision and was eventually diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, a dual sensory impairment that affects her hearing and sight. She didn't let this stop her and went on to pursue an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Environmental Studies, as well as a communications diploma. She later completed her law degree at the University of Victoria, where she ranked near the top of her class and won several awards, including a research fellowship. 

Carrie also graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) with her first guide dog Casey in the summer of 2012. "My experience at the Oregon campus was fun, intense, and so rewarding,” said Carrie. "The instructors were professional, respectful, thorough, empowering, and all around awesome people. I left feeling fully prepared and confident that Casey and I could face whatever obstacles are thrown at us on a daily basis. The small class size, the student-instructor ratio, the meals, well organized schedule and supportive atmosphere allowed me to focus on learning and developing my relationship with Casey. GDB makes it possible for people who are visually impaired and blind to be fully engaged citizens and participate in the workforce and society. Empowering people with vision loss by pairing them with a highly trained guide dog benefits everyone."

Carrie kneels down in her formal black Barrister’s gown with a white long tie smiling next to her guide dog Casey (black Lab in harness also wearing a white long tie).

Now a lawyer at Lidstone & Company in Vancouver, BC, Carrie advises local governments in the areas of municipal, environmental, constitutional, administrative and land use law. She conducts legal research and analysis, drafts legal opinions, memoranda, and written advocacy. Carrie is also an avid supporter of Cycle for Sight, which is a fundraising event in support of the Foundation Fighting Blindness (Canada’s largest charitable organization raising funds for vision research). In 2012, she was chosen by the GDB Alumni Association Board of Directors as the recipient of the annual Reach for the Stars Scholarship. “Losing your vision is a really difficult process to go through and having a guide dog has turned my blindness into a positive experience,” said Carrie. “I feel like I can walk with my head held high with Casey by my side. Most people do not realize I am visually impaired because through our teamwork, Casey gets us to our destination with grace and speed. She also provides comic relief by groaning loudly in meetings or sprawling out on her back when she’s off duty, demanding belly rubs from co-workers."

Carrie has traveled around the world to several countries and looks forward to more adventures with Casey. "I reflect a lot on how incredible it is to have this inter-species relationship, and I am constantly in awe of our symbiosis and teamwork,” said Carrie. “It is very humbling to have wholehearted trust in a dog. I am dependent on her as a second set of eyes and ears to help me navigate and weave through crowds and traffic. She is dependent on me for food, play, warmth, and shelter. We depend equally on each other for unconditional love and companionship. What I have learned from having a guide dog is that I can be both independently strong and interdependent at the same time."