Thursday, September 15, 2016

Remembering Jerri

By: Susan Zubillaga - leader of Gold Rush Guides of Sacramento

Jerri Bitler was my best friend for 18 years. It seemed like we knew each other forever until recently, now it seems like it was only a short while.  I first met Jerri when she came to a puppy club meeting.  I was raising Ultra, an unruly black Labrador that seemed to love Jerri!  I remember handing Jerri the leash and her saying “What do you want me to do with this?” We both laughed, and that started the best friendship anybody could ever ask for.

We would talk every day; she is the one person I could call with anything on my mind and she would just listen – sometimes that’s all you need to feel at peace.  No matter how my life was going, Jerri was there on both the sunny days and through the thunderstorms. She was someone that you could always count on to be there.  She was a great person to be around, somebody that would take the time to talk to everybody in the room, no matter how long she had to be there.  She always made people feel like they knew her forever, even if it was the first time they had met.
My heart hurts, I feel so lost without my friend, my “other mother.” I miss her so much already and wish I could hear her voice and laughter just one more time. I love you.

Jerri (wearing sunglasses) smiles with her arms around yellow Lab guide dog puppy Ursalyn in front of the pond on the San Rafael campus.
Jerri with guide dog puppy Ursalyn

Jerri passed away peacefully on September 5, 2016. She was a puppy raising leader with the Gold Rush Guides of Sacramento for almost 15 years and raised several puppies for GDB. We are forever grateful for her dedication to our mission and we extend our deepest condolences to all who knew and loved her. Thank you, Jerri – you are truly missed.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Remembering Michelle Miller

Michelle and her guide Golden Retriever Tango on a beautiful beach
“Happiness is like a butterfly.  The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.  But if you turn your attention to other things, It comes and sits softly on your shoulder” – Henry David Thoreau

 Remembering our friend Michelle Miller –

Guide Dogs for the Blind Alumni Association Board Secretary

 Memorial by Becky Andrews, Past Chair GDB Alumni Association Board, and Leanne Bremner, Vice-Chair GDB Alumni Association Board
It is with great sadness we said good bye to our dear friend Michelle Miller who died unexpectedly this February.  Michelle was devoted to her golden retriever guides, first Tuft who she worked with for 11 years, then Tango who has been her partner since 2008.  

Michelle was well connected to the GDB family.  She was involved in her local Alumni Chapter and puppy raisers.  Michelle served as a dedicated member of the GDB Alumni Board from June 2011 until her passing in February 2016. 

Michelle was respected and loved by our Alumni Board and all who knew her.  She quickly became a leader in this organization serving as our secretary for the past three years and on various committees.  Her ability to capture the notes of a busy meeting were appreciated and admired. Michelle was a gifted and articulate writer not only as she served on the board but in her professional life as well.

Michelle served on numerous committees and was the one you could count on to step in and go above and beyond.  Michelle was the chair of the last Alumni Reunion, Paws Around the World in September 2015 which was held for the first time in Portland.  She kept the Board on task with her organizational skills, sense of humor and leadership.  Her email closing line reminded us the value of working together as it read:  ‘teamwork is dreamwork.’
Michelle flashes one of her beautiful smiles and has her arm around her guide


Michelle had a warmth and genuine kindness that was infectious.  She was patient, confident, resilient and tenacious.  She truly embodied her guiding principles – a life filled with constant enrichment, integrity and a love of sharing life’s gifts. 

Michelle had a way of lifting your spirits whether you were with her in person or connecting with her online.  She was known for her encouraging emails that always included an inspiring quote at the end.  One of her most recent ones was from Mark Twain:  Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.  She would often insert *smile* into her email message, which brought a sparkle and a warmth to the message she was conveying.  If you were fortunate enough to have been around Michelle, you left your time with her feeling good about yourself. 

Michelle had many hobbies and interests, including writing, urban ministry, cooking and shopping, and a love for travel.  She visited many exotic places throughout the world. 

She had a passion for butterflies - their uniqueness, colors, and exquisiteness.  She felt that butterflies were symbolic for all new endeavors and adventures.  Another favorite quote she would often share, “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you” - Nathaniel Hawthorne.

While Michelle had a soft voice, she was a strong advocate.  She inspired us all to find our voice and be heard.  We are committed to keeping her beautiful spirit and memory alive.  We can do this by being kind and inclusive to those around us just like Michelle showed us.  We can share our voice in a positive way advocating just as Michelle demonstrated to us.

We love you Michelle.  We miss you.  We thank you for your many contributions to the GDB Community. 

2015-2016 Guide Dogs for the Blind Alumni Board

GDB alumni board