Friday, December 18, 2015

A Guide Dog’s Night Before Christmas

By: GDB puppy raiser Jill Savino Nieglos (18 guide dog pups)

'Twas the night before Christmas, the kennels were still,
with most dogs asleep, having eaten their fill.
The labs were sprawled out, quite snug in their beds,
While visions of milk bones danced in their heads.
The Goldens and Labs were curled up on the floor,
some twitched in their sleep and some even did snore.
The dog food was stacked in the feed room with care,
in hopes that a trainer soon would be there.
Off by the window, a kennel cat lay,
surveying the lawn at the end of his day.
Something was different, that little cat knew -
something would happen, it had to be true.
That day as the workers had left to go home,
they'd wished "Merry Christmas" before starting to roam.
The dogs had all noticed that during their walks,
the trainers seemed happier and eager to talk.

In the mall where they worked amid people and stores,
there were decorations, music, distractions galore!
Most dogs pranced along without worry or fear,
some balked at the man with those fake-looking deer.
The cat was near sleeping when he first heard the sound,
a whoosh through the air and a jingle abound.
The sound of a collar when an animal shook,
but the sound just kept growing - he'd better go look.

From the ceiling there came a kind of a thunk,
As the kennel cat climbed up on a pile of junk.
But the dogs were still quiet, all sleeping so sound,
as this man dressed in red made his way to the ground.
He patted the cat as he climbed past his spot,
then made his way right to the old coffee pot.
A labrador sat up, not fully awake,
then a golden soon followed with a mighty loud shake.
That did it...the dogs filled the kennel with noise,
but in spite of the din, the old man kept his poise.
He filled the pot full and it started to brew,
then he pulled up a chair and took in the view.
Dogs all around him, so carefully bred,
he knew well their jobs, and the people they led.
Some had stopped barking and looked at him now,
while others continued their deafening howl.

Laying a finger in front of his lips,
the jolly old man soon silenced their yips.
He smiled, laughed, and took a short pause.
"You may not know me, but I'm Santa Claus,"
He filled up his mug with hot coffee and cream,
and said, "Meeting you all has been one of my dreams."
The cat jumped down to explore Santa's pack.
He said, "Sorry, kitty, I’ve emptied my sack."
Santa smiled, drank, looked in their eyes –
deep brown and gold, all wide with surprise.
Some of these dogs he'd seen just last year,
All in their homes - cute, full of good cheer.
He'd seen the effect of a pup on a tree,
but now they were here, just waiting to be.

"I didn't bring presents or bones to chew.
But I’ll tell you what’s better – and what you’re to do.
You’ll all worked hard and the trainers will share,
 both praise and correction, gentle and fair.
You'll go lots of places and face scary things,
you'll ride buses, planes, and hear sirens ring.
Cars will drive at you, you’ll know what to do,
Moving from danger, not moving into.
Then, when you think your trainer's the best,
the kindest, and funniest, just toss all the rest;
That trainer will leave you, and give you away,
handing your leash over despite your dismay.

The one who will feed you might see just a tad,
Or maybe it’s just that their focus is bad.
So you little buggers will work as their eyes
To be a great team and discover the prize.

The prize isn’t kibble, or even new toys,
It’s leading your partner, you good girls and boys.

Santa sipped coffee, looked over the brood,
But what he said next seemed just a bit rude.
“Some may not make it and won’t become guides.
But time here’s not wasted, no casting aside.
Some will be drug dogs and some will find bombs,
some will be pets with new dads and moms.

When the last drop of coffee had gone from his cup
Santa turned, and smiled at each wide-eyed pup.
"The best gift of all is to give something back.
And that's why there's nothing for you in my pack.
Draining his mug, he went to each pen,
Petting and scratching each dog yet again.
"The following years, even more after that,
you’ll all give great gifts wherever you're at.

You might lick a hand on a really bad day,
or notice a car and step out of its way.
You might catch a crook or discover some loot,
bring joy to a old man in a funny red suit.
Your master will love you and treat you with care,
knowing your training will always be there."
After the last had been petted and soothed,
He rinsed out the mug and made ready to move.

To the ladder he climbed for the door high above,
with a smile and a wave as he slipped on his glove.
All the dog's ears were pricked as he flew out of sight,
Saying, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Friday, December 11, 2015

GDB Puppy Raising Youth Scholarship Recipient: Hailey Elias Essay - Changing Lives One Puppy at a Time

Guide Dogs have a way of changing the world around them for the better. Whoever the dog is placed with, that person’s life is changed. It is not only the visually impaired who are impacted by these dogs, it is the family and community in which the puppy is raised that also benefits from a puppy in training.

I received my first guide dog puppy, Darice, when I was ten. I was one of the only raisers in my small town at that time. Everywhere I went, people stopped me on the street and asked me about my puppy. I was able to educate my community at a young age about puppy raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Within a few years, there were several people from my town that became raisers. Darice paved the way for many successful guides that were raised in my town. Darice went on to become a breeder
and whelped three litters and produced several guides.

Some raisers say that raising guide dogs is like potato chips, you can’t just have one. True to form, when I turned in Darice for her formal training, I couldn’t bear to leave empty handed. That day, I received my second puppy, Atlanta. Atlanta didn’t make it as a guide dog because she has a soft trachea, but is now my beloved pet. She has brought me so much happiness, and because she has impeccable house manners, has modeled good behavior for each puppy that has come into my house. I like to think of Atlanta as my co-raiser!

Hailey (wearing a pink t-shirt) poses next to her yellow Lab guide dog puppy (wearing the GDB green puppy coat).

My third puppy was Skyla, Darice’s daughter. Skyla was career changed in phase six for traffic sensitivity and relieving. However, Skyla has impacted one of our country’s heroes. When Skyla was in formal training, my family learned of a local veteran that suffered severe brain damage from explosions in Iraq who wanted a well behaved dog that he could train to be his service dog. We immediately knew that Skyla would be perfect for him because she is so gentle and calm. When we heard the news that Skyla was career changed, arrangements were made that day for her to be transferred to this hero’s home. Skyla now accompanies him to the hospital for his rehabilitation and is by his side when he is recovering from his numerous strokes and surgeries. I was so proud and honored to be able to provide a well trained dog that can help ease the suffering of someone who served our country so valiantly.

My fourth and fifth puppies, Vivaldi and Yolo, greatly impacted their visually impaired partners’ lives because both of my puppies went to first time handlers. Before, they relied on the use of a cane and the help of others for mobility. Vivaldi’s handler lives in Sacramento, California and works for the Braille and Audio library for the blind. Watching Vivaldi work with his handler was like watching a fine tuned car maneuver through an obstacle course. They walked speedily everywhere! I finally fully understood how much a guide dog can impact someone’s mobility. His handler doesn’t have to worry nearly as much about hazards around him with Vivaldi’s watchful paws guiding his every move. Yolo became a guide dog for a man in Scottsdale, Arizona. When I met the man he went to, my heart broke listening to his story. He had recently lost his wife and was mostly housebound because of his blindness. With Yolo, he now confidently goes on two hour walks around his neighborhood almost every day and is much more active in his community. He and Yolo have developed a very strong bond, and it is touching to receive updates from them occasionally hearing about their new adventures.

My sixth puppy, Porter, also went on to become a working guide. He just graduated this March with a man who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. His handler has had a guide dog before, and was nervous about making the transition to a new guide, but told me that he couldn’t have more happy with Porter. Once again, I was blown away with how much a guide dog changed someone’s life.

Hailey (wearing a pink t-shirt) kisses her yellow Lab guide dog puppy who is sticking out its tongue (wearing the GDB green puppy coat).

At the moment, I am raising Vashti, a wonderful dog who has all the makings of becoming a successful guide. Every time Vashti is in her jacket and I look down at her, I am reminded of how much her sweet little face will impact someone in a life changing way. I am a different person because of puppy raising, it has made me acutely aware of how much an ordinary person like me can impact the world. I hope to continue to raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind as long as I am physically able. I am enrolled in Sacramento State’s Mechanical Engineering program, and I can’t wait to introduce Vashti to college life. I know it will challenge and grow both of us. It is my hope that wherever my life will lead me, I will be able to have a guide dog puppy by my side.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Newshounds – Guide Dogs for the Blind in the News!

Charitable Crawford Shows Range Off The Field: Supports Organizations Like Guide Dogs for the Blind –

Students Win at National FFA Convention:

GDB Graduate Jake Olson – A True Trojan: I Play Football With No Sight:

Record-Setting $57,000 Raised at Sold-Out 2015 Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Oregon Fall Luncheon in Portland:

GDB Graduate Austin Clark: Visually Impaired Student Lacks Sight, Not Might – 

Flying Blind: Alaska Event Allows Blind And Low Vision Customers To Familiarize Themselves With Flying:

Guide Dog Puppies in Training Arrive at Dobie:

Dinuba High FFA Chapter Has New Guide Dog Program:

GDB Graduate Trevor Thomas – Meet the Blind Man Hiking the Country’s Toughest Trails:

New Tech Helps Handlers Monitor Health, Well-Being of Guide Dogs:

Support Roles for Dogs Go Beyond Helping the Blind:

Students Help Raise Guide Dogs:

Blind Long-Snapper Jake Olson Joins Trojans:

A Blind Football Player Joins His Trojan Heroes On The Field:

Caltrans News Flash #51 - Spirit the Guide Dog:

GDB’s Dog Days of Summer Benefit:

Petco Blog: Learning to "Dance" with Griff:

Blind Hiker, Trevor 'Zero' Thomas, Completes Colorado Trail With Dog, Tennille:

Hiker Doesn't Let Blindness Keep Him From Challenges:

For This Hiker, Stunning Vistas Aren’t Required:

Blindness Just a Part of Life For Congressional Intern:

Guide Dogs: A Powerful Partnership Thanks To Volunteers:

Ronald McDonald House Gets a New Furry Friend, Jax:

It Takes A Community Of Volunteers To Prep Puppies For Service To The Blind:

Effort Underway To Help Guide Dog Teams:

Blind Teen Asked To Leave Bakery Because Of Her Service Dog:

People Pets: Social Media Helps Missing Guide Dog Return to His Blind Owner:

Training Dogs For Noble Causes:

WSU Student Club Raises Puppies For Guide Dogs for the Blind:

Giants’ Brandon Crawford Forms Special Connection With Guide Dog Puppy: