Wednesday, October 14, 2015

GDB Puppy Raising Youth Scholarship Recipient: Gina Phillipsen Essay

Raising Guide Dog for the Blind (GDB) puppies has provided many and varied opportunities for me to impact others in my community, and one particular instance stands out from the rest. Training of Carnival, my second GDB puppy, began at the start of summer so that by my second day of sophomore year I was able to introduce her to the challenges of attending high school. Walking into my last class of the day, Carnival was ready to fall asleep. Luckily, the teacher was still trying to figure the year out, and we were able to relax. At the end of the period, an earnest classmate I had never seen before approached me. Assuming she would just ask for Carnival’s name like countless others, I prepared myself to answer quickly and clearly. Instead, she surprised me by asking me about the program I was involved with and expressed interest in joining. I invited her to my club meeting that Friday, and Lexie has since become my best friend. We enjoyed a sleepover after every Friday GDB club meeting, working together to train Carnival to become the best GDB puppy imaginable. As Lexie’s parents were unsure whether or not their family would be able to raise a GDB puppy on their own, Lexie and I planned to submit a co-raising application once Carnival had returned to San Raphael. In the meantime Lexie became almost a co-raiser for Carnival, puppy sitting to get her hours, and working Carnival at meetings. Once Carnival returned to GDB, Lexie and I turned in our puppy raising application and waited patiently for word, while stressing together about Carnival’s phase number. After a few short weeks, we were informed of Carnival’s selection to become a breeder, and her graduation ceremony date at Guide Dog Fun Day. Lexie and her family attended Fun Day as well, to better prepare for their puppy and to enjoy the festivities. After presenting Carnival to her breeder keepers, Lexie and I were surprised with a puppy! This fluffy bundle of joy was Lloyd, a puppy from the Vernon and Carsey litter. We were so excited; we could not wait to begin training him! All too soon Lloyd was old enough to return to GDB, and although we are no longer co-raising a puppy, our friendship has remained as strong as ever.

My willingness to invest a large amount of time and emotional involvement in raising and training puppies that I know I will be giving up to improve a stranger's life places me in an elite group. Making the difference between dependent and independent lifestyles, a guide dog is truly a gift of love. What really makes me stand out from the crowd is that in addition to all the responsibilities associated with raising a puppy to specific standards, I also work very diligently to promote the GDB program. I am very proud of my guide dog puppies Jamaica, Carnival, Lloyd and Nepal and the GDB program, so I have invested significant time and effort promoting the program locally to help secure donations to GDB and to recruit volunteers into the program. Jamaica, Carnival, Lloyd, and Nepal have been present in all of my high school classes. I have taken each of my puppies-in-training to classrooms at nearby pre-schools, elementary and middle schools for promotional talks and presentations. I have also attended business networking association meetings to introduce Jamaica, Carnival and Lloyd and speak on behalf of the GDB program in order to raise funds for the program.

Over the past twelve months I have become greatly attached to Nepal, and have learned about the responsibility of taking care of a loving, living creature. I have taught her all of her commands and continue to reinforce her training if she encounters difficulties with a command. When my family and I take her back to GDB, tears of separation will become intermixed with tears of pride. For the next six months we will be happy if we do not hear any news of her, as that means she is doing well in her training. If Nepal becomes a Guide Dog I will not see her very often, but I will know that the blind person who receives her will love Nepal just as much as I have and she will still be in a good home. Every blind person who receives a Guide Dog seems overwhelmed with gratitude, and many aren’t able to imagine life without the dog once they have had one. I am involved with GDB because of the happiness of everyone whose life is touched by the puppies: the raiser, the raiser's family, the trainer, the blind person, and all of the people who have ever interacted with the puppy along its journey to a life of service.

Learning is one of my favorite activities, and I aspire to further my learning to the fullest extent in order to build upon the foundation of knowledge in my field. I plan on obtaining my degree at a 4-year university starting next year to major in engineering. As an Engineer, I will be able to invent solutions to fascinating problems, which will in turn benefit my society. I will be able to work towards safer lives and a cleaner environment. Once I have completed training in my chosen field of study, I would like to continue on the path of knowledge, either going into the field of research or teaching others such that they may love the subject as I do. I have tutored mathematics for three years, and I enjoy using my passion to help others. Raising GDB puppies has taught me the importance and responsibility of caring, selfless and meaningful contribution to others in my community, country and world. I aspire to become an engineer and dedicate my life to the goal of turning ideas into reality to increase quality of life for people while taking care of the earth.

Gina (wearing a red sweatshirt) smiles holding a young black Lab puppy in her arms.