Thursday, March 27, 2014

About Miss Laura

By: GDB graduate Karen Strudwick
 
It is with the deepest sadness and sense of loss that I am sharing this news.We said a final good-bye to dearest Laura on Thursday, March 13, 2014. She turned 14 last month but her ongoing struggles with arthritis in her hind legs, respiratory issues, and other challenges of a very senior dog  were getting the better of her. Despite our best efforts, it had become clear that, if we wanted her to leave us on a high note, we had to help her to take this last step.
 
Last Tuesday, spring arrived on Marrowstone Island where Laura was happilly relaxing at her home-away-from-home with Jeff and Newbe. Zarek and I joined them and we all enjoyed walking in the woods , relaxing on the bluff above Heart Rock Beach, and generally spoiling our darling girl one last time. Then, on Thursday morning , Jeff's plum treee burst into bloom. That afternoon, lying on her blanket and sheepskin on the sunny lawn, nibbling at a banana, with Jeff and I and the vet kneeling at her side, Laura went into a deep and peaceful sleep and her spirit gracefully floated away, unfettered by earthly ailments. I like to think that she bounded across a field of daisies toward a welcoming committee led by my mum--with a banana in hand.

Laura (Yellow Lab) stands in grass with the sun on her back.
Laura (Yellow Lab) stands in grass with the sun on her back.
 
Jeff's student tenants helped us to lay Laura to rest beside several other canine, feline, and fish friends in a small secluded garden surrounded by 7-foot-tall ferns and shaded by a dogwood tree. Both Newbe and Zarek attended the burial. Zarek sat leaning against my leg, as if trying to comfort me. We believe that Newbe played her own special role as well. Named after the canine-like Egyptian god who guided the recently deceased through the underworld,  our own Anubis made sure that her dear old friend did, indeed, reach that welcoming committee on the other side.
 
Through Guide Dogs for the Blind, Laura and I joined forces in 2001 when she was only 18 months old. Over the next 10 years, we were seldom apart. She guided me at work, attended social and cultural events with me, made sure we collected Stephen safely from after-school activities, wrapped my mother around her little paw, and charmed the world. With Laura at my side, I confidently traveled to big and little, crowded and remote places across the United States, Canada, and Australia. She literally saved my life on more than one occasion--the first time witnessed by neighbors as we tried to cross a busy intersection only a week or two after we came home from training as a new team.
 
Laura was a "talker" who used various vocal intonations to respond to people, and she knew exactly how to get whatever she wanted in her disarmingly determined way. She didn't care much for motorcycles or German Shepherds--not even a metal sculpture of a dingo in Sydney escaped her notice. In her youth, she loved to run free on a big lawn like a thoroughbred racehorse. Throughout her life, she enjoyed water and snow in equal measure and had her share of adventures in both elements (giving Jeff and I our share of grey hairs as a result).

Laura rests her head on a lap with her eyes closed.
Laura rests her head on a lap with her eyes closed.

I couldn't have asked for a more loyal or loving partner. I never dared to get sick for more than a day because Laura refused (and could not be persuaded otherwise, even by GDB) to go anywhere on leash with anyone but me. Jeff and I eventually solved that problem and that led Laura to three wonderful years of town and country life in retirement with two people who loved her with all their hearts.
 
The past few days have been very difficult for us, Including Stephen who could only share in this long-distance. Added to thaht, Jeff is now in Cleveland with his mum, 96, who is nearing her own finish line. So if I haven't responded to a call or email, please excuse me. But I do want to sincerely thank those of you who, in one way or another, learned of what was happening and reached out to us. And I want to assure you all that, though we feel a huge void in our lives, we also are at peace with Laura's passing because we believe it was her time and she was ready. She lives on in our hearts.

Wishing you the best,
Karen

 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My First Guide Dog Kit

By: Pamela Boyle, GDB Graduate

Words cannot express the sadness in our hearts....Kit was my first guide dog. I will never forget the incredible feeling I had when I turned myself over to Kit for the first time. Life changed for me at that moment and I never looked back. She guided me for six years. She danced at Mama Mia on Broadway, got a kiss from an actor in Lion King, sang with a Barber Shop Quartet (they probably though she was howling) and then retired to the life of leisure she deserved. We will miss her sweet face greeting us at the door when we come home every day. There will never be another Kit (03/18/2000-11/12/13).
Retired guide Kit (yellow lab) wears a striped jersey and rests her head on a soccer ball.
Retired guide Kit (yellow lab) wears a striped jersey and rests her head on a soccer ball.



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Remebering Galleon

By: Larry Marcum

Galleon guided me for over nine years, and was the best guide dog that a person could ever hope for. For the past three years, in 2011, 2012 and 2013 he enjoyed a happy and much deserved retirement here as Ida and my pet. But ironically, those years would end on 11-12-13. Yesterday morning, as usual he instigated a play session with Brinkley, as happened most every morning as Ida and I sat in front of the fire drinking our morning coffee.

God blessed me with Galleon in January, 2002 at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, class #621. He turned two that month while we learned to work as a team, a team that would fly over 20,000 miles together, and experience so much in life. Galleon helped me to learn how to cope with blindness, he gave me the confidence, independence and strength to be what I am today. He touched so many of your lives as well in so many ways. He helped raise needed donations to Guide Dogs for the Blind, guided me on my path in Lions, and stood by me as Ida and I started our incredible life together, both Galleon and Ida allowing me to be the person that I have always wanted to be.

Below is a photo that I took a couple of months ago, I photo that I will always cherish because I can see it, and see the ever-present smile on his face.


Galleon

Our hearts are heavy right now, Galleon will always leave a paw print on our hearts and I know that as the days pass, our hearts will once again be filled with the joyful memories of Galleon on the path of being a great guide dog.

Larry & Ida and Brinkley

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Eulogy for a Guide Dog

By: Todd Smith
 
She was whelped on September 30, 2004 at the San Rafael Campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind. She was the third of six pups, all Black Labs. She was in the “R” litter, so she was named “Roanna”. She spent her first weeks in the GDB kennels with her siblings, being cared for lovingly by the staff and volunteers.

When the time came, she was placed on the “Puppy Truck” and sent to her raiser home in Camas Washington, and her co-raiser home in Wilsonville Oregon. There, she learned her basic obedience, was potty trained, and was prepared for her life as a working guide by being socialized in many different venues. Roanna took trips to the local stores and restaurants, went to school with her raisers, enjoyed movies at the theatre, walks in the park, and rides in the car. She even flew with her raisers to San Francisco where she rode the cable cars, walked the Golden Gate Bridge, and saw the seagulls and sea lions on the piers. Her raisers taught her well, and she had lots of fun playing with the family pets and just being a dog.

When Roanna was around 16 months old, she returned to the Boring, Oregon campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind to begin the guide task training. There she learned how to be the eyes for someone who could not see. She had to learn many things that do not come ‘natural’ to dogs, such as looking up for overhead objects, stopping at curbs and steps, and keeping her handler from running into objects that she could simply duck under. It took a long time with many different training sessions in many different venues, but she learned it all and made it through the 10 phases of training to become a real working guide. Now all she needed was to be matched to the right person.

She was matched to Candy on August 12th, 2006, and from then until August 26th, Candy and Roanna spent all their waking and sleeping hours together. They learned about each other, how to ‘read’ what the other was needing, and began the formation of themselves into a symbiotic team. On August 26th 2006, they ‘graduated’ in class number 127R at the Boring, Oregon campus. From that day forward, they were always together.

It wasn’t always easy. Newly-placed guides will sometimes ‘test’ their handlers to see what they can get away with, and Roanna was no exception. She was sometimes stubborn, strong willed, and not always ready to work. Candy was concerned that Roanna would never ‘bond’ with her, because Roanna seemed so uninterested in being with her at times. But Candy persevered and by the time the six month ‘anniversary’ of their teaming together came about, things were starting to smooth out.

 Then came the day that Roanna went blind. Roanna had an issue with demodectic mange, and Candy had taken her to the vet for treatment. The vet prescribed medication for the issue, but the dosage had been incorrectly labeled on the bottle, so Roanna had been given an excessive amount of the medication, causing a negative reaction. Candy was at a seminar entitled (of all things) “Living With Blindness”, which had been facilitated by the Oregon Commission for the Blind at Fish Lake Resort, Oregon. Right after dinner on the first night of the seminar, Candy was returning to her cabin for a short break before the first session began when Roanna refused to move forward. She just stopped dead in her tracks halfway to the cabin. Candy tried to see if there was something Roanna was alerting her to, but nothing was there. She commanded Roanna forward, but she would not move. Candy reached down to touch Roanna to try and figure out what was wrong, and noticed that Roanna was trembling and shaking uncontrollably. Roanna would not move forward at all. Candy called me to her, and I took a look at Roanna to see if I could figure out what happened. I could not see what was going on with her, so I picked Roanna up and carried her to the cabin. When I set her down, Roanna just stood where I put her, shaking and trembling. We called the emergency number for the vet, and after talking with them we were able to figure out that the incorrect dosage of medication had been given to Roanna. We left the seminar and drove home that night. When we got home, Roanna refused to go into her kennel, and this dog always loved her kennel. If she was not on tie down, she would go and kennel herself because she favored her kennel over anything else, but this night, she would not go near it. She slept on the bed that night, still shaking and trembling. The next morning, we took Roanna to the vet for an examination. The vet examined her and found that she had been rendered blind by the over dosage, however it was deemed to be a temporary condition and that Roannas vision would return to normal in a week or so after ceasing the medication. That was a long, worrisome week for Candy and me. Roanna slept on the bed, was hand fed her meals, and spent every hour close to Candy. The next week, she was taken to the vet where her vision was tested and discovered to be ‘normal’ again, and Roanna resumed her guide work. But what a difference in her personality! The stand-offish, stubborn and strong-willed guide who did not want to ‘bond’ with Candy was gone, and in her place was an affectionate, loving and attentive ‘velcro’ dog that never wanted to be away from Candy if at all possible! The world’s first blind guide dog had made a comeback. A positive corner had been turned.

That is how it was for the next years of the team. Candy went back to college and Roanna was there to guide her safely through her classes, all the way through to her AAS degree in Human Services. Vacations and fun times were had with Roanna always there to guide, even with the most mundane of tasks such as grocery shopping or visits to the dentist. Roanna was ready to go whenever the harness came out, and happily worked as long as Candy needed her to. If ever there was a "perfect" guide dog team, they were it. Along the way, we decided to ‘give back’ a little, so we became puppy raisers for GDB. We knew what it was like having a guide dog which gives a sense of safety and independence, so we wanted to try it from the other side by raising one from a pup. Roanna was all for it. She helped mentor all the pups that came in to our house, “showing them the ropes” and leading by example. From Wally, our first pup (who made it to be a guide), then Vicki, who became a K-9 Buddy, then Jerianne, who became a breed dam, then Victoria, who also became a K-9 Buddy, then Lasso, who is in training now and finally, Oprah, who is Jeriannes daughter. Roanna has helped us raise all these pups.

 Then in December of 2012, we noticed that the tip of Roannas nose was starting to turn "up". A visit to the vet in January of 2013 gave disturbing news: malignant fibrous sarcoma. No surgical option for removal, and expensive medication for treatment was no guarantee that the cancer could be slowed down. After discussing the situation with our vet and the vet techs at Guide Dogs for the Blind, it was decided to retire Roanna and keep her as comfortable as possible for the time she had left to be with us. She became a much loved pet and happily settled into her new role. The cancer grew and swelled, pushing her nose upward until it was level with the top of her snout. Roanna could still eat and drink, she adapted quickly. But we knew it was only a matter of time. The sarcoma grew, and got to the point of becoming infected and bleeding, with no relieving effect from the medications given. Soon it got so big that the blood supply could not keep pace with the growth, and tissue began to die off. Gangrene soon followed, and at our vets suggestion, we helped her cross the Rainbow Bridge on Saturday, August 17th, 2013 at 1:00 PM. She no longer hurts, and can run free and wait for us to meet her there someday, along with Mariah, who crossed in April of 2013.

Roanna was a special girl who overcame a lot in her short working life. Both Candy and I have been truly blessed to have been able to share part of our lives with her.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Angel Dog

I, Becky a yellow Lab Guide dog went to doggy heaven on April 1st 2013 and my friend Kit buried me on June 2nd 2013 in her back yard between the apple and the Asian pear trees. I rest in peace here and I bless my family in the house.

I had 14 years of a happy life. I was not just Kit’s guide dog. I was her partner, her special friend.  We had walked more than a million miles together in our life. Financial district, busy street crossings, traffic checking, looking for doorways going in and out, strolling around street fairs, playing snow balls, visiting parks, and being treated like a princess, are things of the past!

Monday early morning April 1st 2013, Kit walked into the room to find me lying on the floor motionless. She rushed me to the vet at 9:00 AM while crying. Kit told John to spread a blanket on the floor for me. The vet suggested putting me to sleep based on my prognosis. She tried to hang on to me for a few more hours by asking the vet to give me an IV. After 3:00 PM, She pet me for the last good bye and let the vet put me down. Her tears ran down like rain. I knew she had an urge to scream "Becky, Becky don’t go." However, she wanted me to have a peaceful departure and she suppressed her emotions. I heard beautiful soft music and I saw a group of angels came to lead me into heaven. "Good bye Kit, my dearest friend, good bye world. I’m going to another new life."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Dear Beamer

By: David G. Carlson

You let us down
You were supposed to live forever
After so many years of dedicated service to us
how could you just leave?

It's so hard to imagine what you thought all the years
that you led Dad from one place to another
You made it seem like a game, like a romp in the park
and all that time you were helping him be independent

You had no idea how important you were
and how you gave us such unbridled joy
You willingly gave up the lead to a younger guy
and you happily became a life partner to your Mom

How can we express to you in a few hours and minutes
all the outpourings of love and awe?
How can we possibly give back to you a fraction of what you gave to us
and all in the name of simple loyalty?

My dear Beamer, my partner my left arm
go now to where you can rest and be away from any pain
Just remember that we were always at your side,
and were your most admiring companions.

In Memoriam
8/4/2002 - 8/4/2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Power of One - A Little Golden's Big Impact

By: Maia Scott

In September of 2012, I learned that my nine year old golden guide dog Tessa had a very aggressive form of cancer. Almost a month to the day, she passed away up in the mountains in my mother's arms.  It was all so fast and devastating, it physically hurt. One moment, England, Yosemite, the world at the end of a harness and the next, an empty little fleece in the corner of my room and an apartment that echoed with booming silence. I lost myself in my woes.

Back at work after a week off to grieve, I returned to face my coworkers and clients. I posted a letter so I wouldn't have to tell the story all the time. Even so... “Where's Tessa?” I ended up repeating myself at least five to ten times a day, depending upon how many clients I had on my massage table and how many people asked outside work. At the start, I felt awkward sharing the news, expecting to be alone in my grief when I should be taking care of my clients.

Guide dog Tessa sits in front of a waterfall.

To my surprise, I ended up having to offer my clients support. When many of them learned of Tessa's passing, they teared up, cried, caught their breath...and often expressed embarrassment at getting upset when it was my loss. I did not feel slighted as I learned the loss was not mine alone. In fact, with each person who grieved Tessa with me, I felt something warm welling inside. Gratitude filled me, reinforcing the Tessa shaped hole in my heart with stays of strength and stability. I began to realize my guide dog didn't just enhance my own life - she made an impact on people I never expected.

In addition to my clients, Tessa's gentle presence, coy ways, sweet little doe face, and melty brown eyes burrowed into the hearts of people I barely took time to notice. For example, there was the checker at the hardware store who sniffled and flapped her hands in front of her as I set my purchases on the counter a couple months later. “I still can't believe she's gone!” The manager at TJ's sent me home with flowers when I came in to shop without Tessa. 

Then there's the streetcar driver who held up her busy train to lean out the window and tell me how much she missed seeing Tessa on board. “Having her on here brightened my day. She made me feel so warm and happy.” The driver went on to say Tessa was so sweet and gentle and such a good dog... Many a bus driver and rider asked me about Tessa and expressed their sadness to know she's gone.
At eleven o'clock at night after seeing a musical downtown, my mother and I waited to cross a busy street. “Where's your dog?” asked a deep and soulful voice from nearby. We turned to find out who asked and came face to face with a man in a wheelchair who frequents the neighborhood in the hopes of collecting some change. I, like so many others rushing to and fro, learned to forget he was there in an effort not to feel the sting of others' situations. But he did not forget Tessa. I thanked him for asking and told him she passed. Like others who felt the blow of the news, he curled his shoulders in and covered his heart. “I'm really going to miss her.” He said in his slow and quiet way.

Human hand holding dog's paw

It amazed me, the kaleidoscope of people touched by this little Golden I assumed was mine alone. Tessa's abundant love and excellent guide work taught me a lot about life. I didn't expect losing her would exemplify one of the most important lessons of all. We are all interconnected and even the little things can make a big difference. Indeed Tessa was trained to guide a blind person through life.  She certainly offered guidance of many sorts, enhancing my life and the lives of so many along the path. 

Here's to guide dogs and the big jobs they do – bigger than anyone can imagine.