Thursday, May 7, 2015


By: GDB Foster Care Coordinator Rebecca Hornick

As I try to process the joy and even some sadness from recent retirement of our beloved veterinarian and longtime GDB employee and friend, Dr. Craig Dietrich, I am struck by what it means to be an employee here at GDB long-term. We understand why this amazing organization attracts amazing new staff, from all walks of life, year after year. Some come and then go on to walk other career paths in their life, but remain forever touched by their connection to this transformative place. But what type of person comes here, sometimes as a youngster, with stars in their eyes, and remains year after year, change after change, and continues to be held in the spell of the intrinsic rewards of being part of the GDB workforce that makes this place flow?

I started my career here over 20 years ago, so I am happy and proud to think of myself as a “life-er.” After all, I hope to remain here, helping support our mission, until I am old and gray. And I have known others here that I would call life-ers as well.  One of these folks is actually someone who came many years ago, had a brief intermission while he was engaged in another line of work, but then decided he missed GDB so much that he just HAD to come back! Many of you know him; he’s our favorite Master of Ceremonies at Fun Day, always ready with a warm and welcoming smile for all he sees. He is, of course, our beloved Mick Aguilera or as I like to call him, “BOOMERANG MICK!” So let’s take a peek, into the life and times of one our favorite “life-ers” at GDB and get to know Mick!

How did you learn about GDB? I had been working in a specialty running shoe store in the Haight Ashbury in San Francisco and met Karen Butterworth (Asst. Canine Welfare/Neonatal Manager), who was running in a women’s track team sponsored by the store. Karen was working in the GDB Kennel and as we became friends she talked a lot about her job in the Kennel and it sounded very interesting. I had been in the world of retail long enough to know that I needed a big change in my life and so I talked to Karen more about GDB, and she recommended that I come to talk to Canine Welfare / Neonatal Manager Kathy Fenger and apply for a Kennel position.

When did you start at GDB? Before I started as Resident Advisor this January, I started working at GDB in January 1996, where I worked two years in the Kennel Department, and then 10 years in the Puppy Raising Department. I then left in 2008 to help open up a business in downtown San Francisco. After seven years with our successful salon, I felt it was time to get back to doing something I was passionate about, and that was Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Mick (wearing a tan baseball hat) checks the ears of one of the puppies (a yellow Lab) on the Puppy Truck

What roles have you had here and what years did they include? I started out in the Kennel Department (1996 – 1998) and got a chance to work with breeder dogs and their new pups in the Whelping Kennel. I also worked with the daily care and feeding of GDB puppies, retired guides and career change dogs. During my time in the Kennel I had the opportunity to work with Charlotte Hansen who was then coordinating the Puppy Truck trips, and on those many trips I got to meet and work with GDB Puppy Raisers in (at the time) eight western states. In 1998 I moved over to the Puppy Raising Department and worked as Recall Coordinator (coordinating guide dog puppies returning for formal training), as well as scheduling and traveling with the Puppy Trucks. During this time I also worked with the Development Department and was on stage to host and act as Master of Ceremonies for GDB fundraising events, as well as for GDB Fun Day events (celebrating our amazing puppy raisers). Even during my time away from GDB, I continued as a volunteer and would help with fundraising events.

Where are you originally from and what did you study/what are your interests and hobbies? I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, with a very close knit family of dad and mom, and an older brother and two younger sisters. In high school l discovered the world of Theater Arts and acted on stage and sang in both school and church choirs. I was also very competitive in our school cross country and track teams, and continued to compete as a marathoner, completing the New York City Marathon five times.

Mick smiles as a gets a kiss from a young puppy (yellow Lab) while standing under some mistletoe on the steps of the Puppy Truck.

What GDB dogs have you had or have now? My love of Golden Retrievers started when I adopted a career change dog named Camber. She was a nine month-old puppy when I got her, and she lived with us for 11 years.  I then had the opportunity to be a Breeder Custodian and had Golden Retriever named Kaylee in our home for her five litters. She is now retired and living a new life with her GDB puppy raisers in Oregon.

What is one of your favorite things about being part of GDB? One of my favorite things about being a part of GDB is working with people of all ages who have such an amazing commitment to our programs.

Do you have a fun or moving story from here you’d like to share? I really feel like I’ve gone full circle while working here at GDB. First working with the breeders and their puppies in the Whelping Kennel, then working with our GDB puppy raisers, and now working with the students here on campus as they train with their guide dogs.

Mick stands center stage holding the microphone at the GDB Holiday Luncheon at the Westin St. Francis in SF with two female puppy raisers standing behind him (and poinsettias on either side of the stage).

Do you have any words of wisdom for new GDB employees? When I first started in the Kennel Department at GDB I never imagined that I would go on to work with so many other different departments.

Can you sum up your overall experience at GDB so far? The many rewards I've received by working at GDB started as I worked on the “front lines” in the Kennel Department. Working with all ages and types of dogs was a good start to where I am now. And then working in the Puppy Raising department and seeing the true commitment of the puppy raisers and leaders of all ages as I would travel (at the time) those eight western states delivering GDB puppies, career change dogs and retired guides, and then returning on future trips picking up those puppies to deliver them to campus to begin their formal guide dog training. You could feel the love all along the way at each and every stop. And now working with the students and their new guides, I can fully appreciate and understand all that goes into the goal of seeing a new guide team graduate.

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