Friday, April 17, 2015

Countless Acts of Kindness, Generosity, and Service

By: Guide Puppies of Seattle Leaders Heidi Hespelt & Robin Roselle

We at the GDB puppy raising club Guide Puppies of Seattle recently hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Event during National Volunteer Week 2015. Several other local puppy raising groups were also in attendance: See Dogs, Paws 2 Guide, Paws for Independence, and Puppy Guides of Snohomish County. Our goal was to honor puppy raisers, puppy sitters, and all of our local volunteers that give so generously of their time and hearts. They are a big reason that Guide Dogs for the Blind is successful. Our volunteers help raise puppies that have a purpose in life, whether that purpose is to become a guide dog, or to follow another career path such as becoming an assistance dog for a person with a disability, helping others as a therapy dog, or becoming someone's best friend. All of these paths are important and our volunteers help these sweet puppies to get there.

 Here are a few of the highlights:

  • GDB graduate Marlaina Lieberg and her brand new guide dog, Nisha, spoke on the importance of GDB volunteers. Nisha didn't say much ;), but if you have ever heard Marlaina speak, you know we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • GDB graduate Terry Blankenship belted out an "Ode" to his guide dog, Tennessee.
  • Summit Assistance Dogs had a couple of volunteers present and gave a short demo on some of the skills that dogs in their program learn. Who doesn't love a dog demo?
  • Volunteer, Judy Toole shared GDB puppy genealogy charts 
  • Guide Puppies of Seattle provided pizza, beverages, and cookies for everyone. YUM!
  • Fun door prizes and GDB Puppy Raiser pins were given out to attendees.

a puppy raiser gets a kiss on her cheek from a young guide dog puppy

a puppy raising volunteer smiles holding the microphone at the podium

a volunteer holding the microphone on stage addresses the crowd of volunteers (guide dog puppies with their handlers are behind her).

GDB graduated Terry Blankenship holds the microphone belting out an "Ode" to his guide dog, Tennessee (black Lab in harness)

GDB graduate Marlaina Lieberg stands at the podium addressing the crowd of volunteers

GDB puppy raising leader Kelli Reiter stands on stage with GDB graduate Marlaina Lieberg and her guide dog Nisha (black Lab)

Image of the back of the blue and green shirt "Guide Puppies of Seattle" with the Space Needle and cartoon puppies.

two volunteer have a discussion with several volunteer cards on the table.

a puppy raiser speaks with Marlaina Lieberg and her husband.

Table sign that reads "We LOVE our volunteers!"


Monday, April 13, 2015

To Volunteers, With Love

By: Rebecca Hornick

To all the volunteers who support GDB and beyond, Happy National Volunteer Week!

This is a very special week to share GDB’s appreciation to our many volunteers. As the San Rafael Campus Foster Care Coordinator, I have had the privilege of working with dozens of volunteers who support the needs of our foster dogs each year. As I reflect on the significance of this week of appreciation, I wondered, how can we show the immense gratitude we feel to recognize the contribution of our dedicated volunteers? I know we all love CHOCOLATE, but beyond putting out a bowl of sweets, how can this message be given in a way which it is truly felt by each volunteer?

Then I realized that for many volunteers, the act of giving itself provides them a sense of intrinsic value that comes from deep within and continues to fuel their drive and compassion. It seems to me, by reaching this state of personal reward through the gift of giving, is the very essence of human evolution through kindness. By giving of themselves, each volunteer is doing his/her part to make the world a better place for us all. Who wouldn't be moved by witnessing or participating in these selfless acts?  These are not JUST volunteers, but modern day heroes with invisible superhero capes!

Many quotes have been collected over time that speak to the essence of volunteerism and this one addresses that sense of the profound human evolution I see every day through the hard work of our volunteers: “Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin. And another, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” ~Albert Pike (Thanks, Carl) and lastly, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt. How true! What our volunteers do today will continue to plant the seeds for success in the future. So there it is; VOLUNTEERISM IS EVOLUTION IN ACTION.

Another quote I found seems to resonate particularly well for those connected to our mission here at GDB: “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ~Variation of a saying that has been around since at least 1861, author unknown. And another which has significance here, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~Edward Everett Hale.

How fortunate we are to work among such kind and giving soul’s on both of our campuses, as well as the volunteer puppy raisers in so many states! Wherever they reside, our volunteers touch lives, strengthen communities, and build connections that reach even farther. “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” ~Author Unknown. Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

I would love it if every volunteer, both on campus and beyond, feels the deep and sincere appreciation GDB feels for their contribution. Every effort they offer changes our world for the better, each and every day and GDB thanks you all for the precious gift you give. Volunteers humbly show us every day that we should, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Young Volunteers from San Ramon Valley Guide Dog Club Honored by Town of Danville with Award of Merit

By: Sharon Gitchell

My daughters Grace and Giordan were recently honored by the town of Danville, CA with the Award of Merit. This award was given by the Danville Town Council and Mayor Newell Arnerich at their annual town award and mayoral installation ceremony. 

(left to right) Giordan Gitchell, Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, Grace Gitchell, and guide dog puppy Vidal (yellow Lab).
(left to right) Giordan Gitchell, Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, Grace Gitchell, and guide dog puppy Vidal (yellow Lab). 
Our family's involvement with Guide Dogs For the Blind began when our oldest daughter Grace was in 2nd grade. She would spend much of her recesses at Montair Elementary School around her science teacher's (GDB Puppy Raising leader Leslie Graham) guide dog puppies or one of the school's therapy dogs, often walking/exercising them and giving them love and attention. At a Montair school assembly, Grace learned all about GDB and what it means to raise a guide dog puppy. When the GDB San Ramon Valley Guide Dog Club was formed four years ago, Grace begged our family to join as puppy sitters and we have been members who attend the required weekly training meetings ever since. Whenever our family is asked to puppy sit one of the puppies in training, Grace takes charge, cleans her room, and prepares a safe place for the puppy to visit. During any visit, she is responsible for feeding, cleaning up, and practicing training sessions so that the guide dog puppy knows that whomever they are with and wherever they go, the rules are the same. Grace has been responsible for several guide dog puppies ranging from age nine weeks to 17 months old.

Grace's sister, Giordan has also played a large role in the San Ramon Valley Guide Dog Club. Giordan was six years-old when we joined the club, too young to actually work one of the guide dog puppies in training. Since she was a bundle of energy, the club leader put her to work as the club assistant.  As the club assistant, Giordan is responsible for passing out materials like pens and papers, cookies, equipment we use for training, etc. She also helps set up and clean up, always cheerful doing all the tasks that the leaders ask.  We really appreciate the fact that she runs around at the end of every meeting with a dust mop, getting all the hair that 10-15 dogs can shed in an hour. Now that Giordan is 10, she is a regular member and can puppy sit on her own and work with a guide dog puppy at the meetings.  

I am proud of the commitment that both of my girls have made to the San Ramon Valley Guide Dog Club for the past four years. They have spent hundreds of hours at meetings, club outings, fundraising for the club with their own lemonade stands, and puppy sitting on weekends and school vacations. They love being part of this club not only because they love each and every dog, but they know they are helping people in their own small way. Their goal is to raise a puppy of their own when they get to high school and we look forward to that as a family.

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.