A Publication of the
National Association of Guide Dog Users
A Division of the National Federation of the Blind
Editor: Eugenia Firth
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EDITOR'S NOTES by Eugenia Firth 1
PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE by Suzanne Whalen 2
OUR GUIDE DOG RELIEF AREA by Ed and Toni Eames 4
LET'S GO TO THE AIRPORT AGAIN by Gaylen Kapperman 6
VETERINARY CARE PARTNERSHIP by Ed and Toni Eames 9
ROUGHING IT by Eugenia Firth 12
DOG DAY EXPERIENCES by Julie Acton 15
THE GUIDE DOG FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES CAMPUS EXPANSION 17
THE WHEELS OF FORTUNE by Suzanne Whalen 20
A NOSE FOR News by Toni and Ed Eames 26
MINUTES, 2002 by Eugenia Firth, Secretary 31
by Eugenia Firth
I have tried to fill these pages with a variety of articles on different subjects. As always, I can always use your submissions, and I would appreciate receiving your articles at either my home address or my e-ail address. At least one person sent his article to Suzanne, and I have somehow mislaid it. Although Suzanne and I live in the same city, we reside several miles apart, thus requiring an extra step in getting articles to me. Although my mailing and e-mail address is at the end of this issue as always, I will repeat it for your convenience. My mailing address is: 1019 Martinique, Dallas, Texas 75223. My e-mail address is: email@example.com and I will accept anything but handwritten print. Computer disks and e-mails are particularly welcome because it saves me a lot of time.
Originally, I had thought to publish columns such as PFUI (Pretty Funny Unplanned Incidents), and What Do You Do When. However, I am finding that, with the notable exception of Ed and Toni Eames' column, A Nose for News, that I am unable to procure enough material for the above-mentioned columns for each issue. Therefore, I must reluctantly, conclude that "Harness Up" can only feature these columns whenever adequate material is received for them.
by Suzanne Whalen
Hello, everybody! As I write this, mid-October temperatures in Dallas are delightfully cool and refreshing. But before we bid a final, mental farewell to summer, let's think back to our convention for a couple of minutes.
First of all, our Division enjoyed record attendance yet again, both at our business meeting and on our seminar night. It was great to see old friends again, and I'd like to extend a special welcome to our new members.
It was indeed a pleasure to hear from Dr. Maurer during our business meeting. Division members will be especially pleased at one event which transpired during his visit. We had a very frank discussion with Dr. Maurer and Mrs. Jernigan about the necessity for a guide dog relief area on the grounds of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind. Once he understood the Division's desire and the reasons for it, Dr. Maurer asked me to appoint a committee to make recommendations for the relief area's design. Naturally, since Ed and Toni Eames have done such an outstanding job, year after year, with relief at our conventions, I appointed them to chair the committee. Susan Jones and David Loux from The Seeing Eye also served on the committee. There will be a more detailed report on the relief area elsewhere in this issue. Speaking as one who has had to leave the Center grounds and cross the street to the city park to relieve her dog late at night, I am personally extremely happy that I will no longer have to do so when I visit our national headquarters.
During our seminar night, we were honored with a presentation by Julie Deden, Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). CCB is one of three adjustment-to-blindness training centers operated by the Federation. Of course, CCB encourages students to develop their cane skills. But at the same time, their attitude toward guide dogs is very welcoming. Students may use their dogs during all classes, including mobility if they so choose. Students may also use their dogs as they choose during evening and weekend activities. We shall invite the directors of our other two centers (BLIND, Inc., and The Louisiana Center for the Blind) to speak to us at our meeting next year. We commend CCB for respecting the mobility choices of its students, whether they use canes or guide dogs. We need to work toward the day when all rehabilitation centers, whether the Federation operates them or not, practice the same respect.
As you can see from the Minutes and from the list of officers' names which appears elsewhere in this issue, all of the Division's officers were re-elected for another two-year term. Thank you, once again, to my fellow NAGDU Board members. Without you, this Division would not be nearly as effective as it is. All of us on the Board stand ready to receive input from Division members. We need to know how the Division can better serve guide dog users. We need your ideas for projects. We look forward to your comments, complaints, criticisms, suggestions, and (if you think we deserve them) compliments.
To conclude this message, elsewhere in this issue is an article by Gaylen Kapperman. All of us understand the need for security following 9-11. But security personnel also need increased training, so that we will know what to expect every time we pass through a security checkpoint. Some security workers don't know what to do when they see us coming with our dogs. But I am convinced that there are a few security screeners who get off on a "power trip" and use their newfound authority to bully people with disabilities. And it's not just security at airports. Have any of you had unpleasant experiences when entering sports stadiums, or federal buildings, or the like? Furthermore, there is a lack of consistency, both in the training security personnel receive and in the standards they are required to follow. Due to this lack of consistency, meeting with security people can sometimes be an adventure and is always unpredictable. Sometimes we're treated as ordinary citizens. At other times, the response can range from extreme overzealousness on the one hand to practically pretending they don't see us on the other hand. Two recent examples from my own experience come to mind. Traveling back from Louisville, I was hauled out of my wheelchair and literally every part of my body was searched by means of the agent running her hands over me. Furthermore, this was done right there, in public, beside the security checkpoint. On the other hand, one time when I entered the Federal Building in downtown Dallas, I had to argue with the security worker who was going to let me bypass Security altogether without searching my backpack. True, I only had cassette books to return to the post office, documents to review with the IRS, my lunch, and two bottles of water in my backpack, but he had no way of knowing that. He couldn't understand why I insisted that he search my backpack. This took place just a few months after the terrorist attacks, and everyone else was being very carefully scrutinized. Apparently this security screener felt that a blind person in a wheelchair with a dog couldn't possibly be a terrorist. But we should be required to meet the same security clearance standards as everyone else, no more and no less.
So let's talk about this. E-mail, call, or write the Division Board with your experiences. Perhaps some Federation resolutions are in order. Let us know if you would be willing to help write them. In the meantime, for problems with airport security, you can call the Transportation Security Administration's Disability Assistance Hotline at 1-866-266-1368. Also, Ron Gardner is collecting information for the Federation about any type of problems people have with air travel, including security screening and escort services. Ron's number in Utah is 801-299-0349. He also spends a great deal of time at Louisiana Tech. If you can't reach him in Utah, try calling him at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Their number is 318-251-2891.
Those attending the NAGDU meetings last summer will remember that the California Hotel and Lodging Association CHLA has produced two videos. One is aimed at police departments. The other is aimed at hotel and restaurant owners. Both videos seek to provide education about the access rights of people accompanied by guide, hearing, and service dogs. Jim Abrams showed these videos at a conference I attended. He explained that CHLA is trying to get funding in order to disseminate these videos throughout the country. He is planning to make a presentation at our meeting in 2003. In the meantime, several members requested contact information for Mr. Abrams. Here it is.
Address: Box 160405, 414 29th Street, Sacramento, California 95816
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since we won't be chatting again till spring, please accept my wishes for a happy, safe, healthy, and blessed holiday season, for you and all your loved ones, including those with four legs and fur.
OUR GUIDE DOG RELIEF AREA
by Ed and Toni Eames
At the NAGDU meeting in Louisville addressed by President Maurer, the issue of creating a guide dog relief area on the grounds of the National Center in Baltimore was raised. President Maurer suggested the division place before him a detailed proposal for consideration. NAGDU President Suzanne Whalen appointed a three person committee consisting of Ed Eames, David Loux and Susan Jones. As a result of their deliberations, the following letter dated July 23, 2002 was sent to President Maurer.
Hope you and the rest of the folks at the National Center have recovered from the outpouring of energy and emotion that accompanies the annual convention. As one who has attended and continues attending many conferences and conventions, I am always impressed with the organization and breadth of coverage of the NFB convention.
At the NAGDU business meeting the issue of a guide dog relief area at the National Center was raised, and you suggested we look into what was needed and get back to you. Last week I contacted John Cheadle to discuss our recommendations and figure out where the relief area could be set up. I'm waiting to hear from him and learned from Miss Mooney that he is on vacation this week.
The suggestion of the NAGDU committee was that a 10 foot by 10 foot area be set aside. Within this perimeter, hedges would be planted on three sides taking up one foot on each of the three sides. The un-hedged side would be the entrance. Within the remaining 8 by 9 foot area, the initial five feet at the entrance would be concrete and the next 4 feet would be wood shavings. Some dogs refuse to relieve on concrete, but will relieve on shavings, as we have demonstrated at the relief areas Toni and I set up at the annual conventions. Drainage could be either natural, running off to the curb or a drain installed at the lowest point of the concrete. Preferably this would be an outdoor area, and require little maintenance.
Susan Jones, who is working with me on this matter, indicated she has always used a grass area on the block where the National Center is located to relieve her dog. I was not even aware of this alternative and raised it with John. He indicated that area was owned by the city of Baltimore but was maintained by NFB. John also said that as a result of the new building for the training center, that grass area was no longer there. However, he added there is a strong possibility that it or a similar area will be planted in grass. If that does occur, then there may be no need for an additional relief area, such as the one described above.
I look forward to hearing your comments as soon as possible.
Ed Eames, Ph.D., co-Chair Canine Concerns Committee
cc: Suzanne Whalen, President, NAGDU
President Maurer responded on August 8:
Thank you for your letter of July 23, 2002. I will work out a guide dog relief area on the property. I will see that there is grass and concrete. If you feel that there is still a need for hedges, I will see that they are added. I am willing to add hedges if they are needed for appearance value. If they are needed for anything other than appearance value, I would like to know.
It was clear at the National Association of Guide Dog Users meeting that I had some misunderstanding of what was needed. I should like to be certain that my misunderstanding has been changed to comprehension.
LET'S GO TO THE AIRPORT AGAIN
by Gaylen Kapperman
By way of introduction, I am a 58-year-old university professor who is blind. I teach at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb near Chicago. On September 20th while on a business trip and while traveling with my guide dog, Xarby, I experienced one of the most horrendous, most humiliating, most degrading experiences in my life at the hands of the security personnel at the United security station in the Baltimore airport. The following is a detailed description of this most unfortunate incident.
I approached the security station accompanied by a colleague, Ms. Jodi Sticken. My dog, Xarby, was with me. We had gotten our boarding passes and had checked our luggage with the ticket counter personnel. I was carrying a briefcase. My colleague carried only her purse. As we approached the security station, we were directed to station six, the "handicapped station." I had never before been instructed to do this. I have traveled considerably throughout the United States via air, and have had little difficulty. My colleague and I have developed a very effective and efficient method for moving through the normal security stations. I do this, perhaps 20 times per year.
This day, we changed our usual procedures and followed instructions as directed by security. I was confused because I have never before been taken out of line for special treatment. I asked my colleague, who is sighted, to describe what was happening. She told me the security personnel were huddled talking with one another. Apparently they had enlisted the assistance of a supervisor. We were instructed to stay where we were standing. I could overhear snippets of their conversation. I heard words such as, "dog" and "blind."
Then we were approached by the supervisor. He directed my colleague to leave and go through the regular security station which she did. The personnel took my dog away from me. Now I started to become somewhat agitated. I told him that I could do this without help. I thought there was a metal detector in the area and I just assumed that these people did not understand that my dog and I could make our way through it without help and without difficulty. I have him sit, and then I walk through on my own without assistance. Then I call him and he comes through. I also empty my pockets so I do not set off the detector. Of course, he does set it off because he wears a harness which contains metal fittings. Many times, I am asked by the security personnel if they can examine him and I always indicate that they can. This method has worked for perhaps fifty or sixty times in many different airports in the nation.
I asked what was going on. I was told I would be patted down. I do not like the intrusive nature of a pat down. Then I asked why I could not be treated like everyone else and be allowed to proceed through the regular security station. The supervisor became very agitated with me at that point. I assume he thought I was an obstreperous traveler who was going to resist being examined. I assume that he is trained to become aggressive at that point. He moved closer to me---I assume again to intimidate me. I believe the other two men manning the station also moved closer to me. I felt that I was surrounded. Once again, I believe they are trained to "move in on" a reluctant passenger to intimidate him.
The supervisor then said in a pretty aggressive tone that this was "procedure, sir! Now sit down sir!" I continued to try to make my point that I wanted to be treated like everyone else, and that all of this was absolutely unnecessary. I was ordered to give up my briefcase and to sit down. He said, "Sir, sit down now!" To avoid a conflict that seemed to be escalating, I complied reluctantly.
At this point, I was very angry and very irritated. Now the treatment became even harsher. The supervisor ordered me to stand up and "walk over here!" Well, being blind, I did not know where "over here" was. The guy grabbed me by the arm and started to pull me over to a mat, and it was explained to me that a man would pat me down and would be touching me. I asked, “Why do they not use the wand.” I was told, "The wand will scare you!" I was stunned at that statement.
The experience became even worse. One of the gentlemen brought a plastic bucket to me, and the supervisor ordered me to empty my pockets into the bucket. At this point, my colleague had made her way through the regular security station and had returned. I had a wallet, a Chap Stick and a plastic comb in my pocket. I deposited my belongings into the bucket showing disgust and much irritation. The supervisor ordered my colleague to watch while someone examined my wallet. Now, my question is, what would have happened if I had been traveling alone? Who would have watched them as they examined my wallet if I had not been accompanied by a sighted person?
Next, one of the other men began examining me. This was the ultimate in degradation. He ran the wand over me and he touched me with his free hand. He put his hand or the wand between my legs approximately one to two inches below my testicles. He moved the wand or his hand across my buttocks. He put his hand below my belt and slightly above my pubic area. He touched me with the wand and his hand across my back, my shoulders, down my legs on my ankles. I felt defiled! I felt as though they treated me like a piece of meat, like a nonentity.
Now that my sighted colleague had returned, the supervisor began talking to her about me rather than addressing me directly. I cannot express adequately in words how humiliating and degrading this very intrusive experience was.
I was angry for hours afterwards. I contend that a blind, middle-aged, university professor traveling on business should not be subjected to such treatment. I was angry for the remainder of my trip to Chicago, and remained angry until the next day. I had a sleepless night because of it also.
As all guide dog users know, there is a very simple solution to this problem. Allow me to choose whether I want to go through the "handicapped" station or to go through the regular metal detector. It takes no longer for me to move through the regular detector than anyone else. Xarby and I do this very, very quickly without any hassle, without any delay, without any extra effort on the part of the security personnel. I want to be treated with a modicum of respect. I want to be treated like a normal human being.
Finally, I would make the point that, in my opinion, the training these people undergo is severely lacking. I cannot understand why they have undertaken such a grossly ill-conceived approach to dealing with disabled persons. The individuals who designed the "procedures" are in need of a considerable amount of help. These people lack any kind of common sensitivity. They seem to believe that because one is disabled, one presents some kind of threat. As all guide dog users know, traveling with a guide dog is a complex affair which requires considerable training on the part of the dog and the blind person. If security personnel received training concerning guide dog teams, it would be impossible for the average sighted person to take a dog, put leather straps on him, and pretend to be blind.
Something has to be done about this. Steps must be taken to correct this untenable situation if it is common across the nation. Therefore, please contact me if you or someone you know has had a similar unfortunate experience. You can reach me using the contact information below.
Gaylen Kapperman, Ed.D.
Professor and Coordinator
Programs in Vision
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
E-mail Address: email@example.com
VETERINARY CARE PARTNERSHIP
by Ed and Toni Eames
In 1993 we joined a group of people with disabilities partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs gathered in St. Louis to found the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP). Our overall goal was to foster the assistance dog movement throughout the world. We have been extremely proud of the organization's accomplishments during its ten year history.
For us as guide dog partners, working with trained dogs has revolutionized our lives. Not only do our dogs provide greater independence, mobility and safety, they also provide round-the-clock friendship and are the vehicle for breaking down social barriers. The magic of dog power is a shared experience that is one of the unifying forces for IAADP members.
A source of grief for all dog lovers is the relatively short life span of our beloved companions. For a disabled person, the loss of a beloved canine assistant comes with the additional grief of coping without the canine partner's assistive functions. The death or retirement of an elderly dog is traumatic, but the tragedy of having to part with a young assistance dog due to the disabled partner's inability to pay for diagnostic tests and treatment is truly tragic.
Although most training programs provide dogs at little or no cost to the disabled person, the health care costs of the canine assistant after the team graduates is usually borne by the human partner. In addition, many disabled people hire trainers or train their own assistance dogs. Meeting expensive veterinary care interventions is beyond the reach of many disabled people.
One of our dreams in founding IAADP was to make sure no disabled person/assistance dog team would be torn apart due to financial reasons. In January, 2001, our efforts to make this dream a reality began paying off. At the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) in Orlando we began putting together a support program. Initially we met with Chris Jacobi, Director of Marketing for Bayer Animal Health. Since 1997, Bayer has sponsored our lectures at veterinary schools and conferences, and we have developed a wonderful relationship with this caring corporate sponsor. Chris indicated Bayer would provide an initial grant to establish the Veterinary Care Partnership (VCP) program, and suggested we approach other members of the animal health care community for matching grants. Suddenly our roles shifted from advocates and educators to fund raisers!
Our first approach was to Ian Parker of Nutramax Labs, and to our delight, they signed on as our second sponsor. Wow!!
Next, at Chris' suggestion, we approached Fort Dodge Animal Health. Like most participants at NAVC, Fort Dodge decision makers had little time for unplanned meetings, but we did manage to speak to the CEO by phone. He directed us to Scott Bormann, their director of marketing. Fort Dodge saw the need for the Veterinary Care Partnership program and was happy to become our third sponsor. Now we were getting there!
Over the years we have met many veterinarians and veterinary students, and one of their universal attributes is concern for all creatures, large and small. Dr. Guy Hancock, director of the veterinary technician training program at St. Petersburg Community College, exemplifies the nurturing quality of this caring profession. After sharing our dream of financial help for assistance dog partners whose canine assistants require high cost medical intervention, Guy introduced us to Dr. Dan Christian of Friskies. Acting on behalf of IAADP, Guy made a convincing presentation which persuaded Friskies to become our fourth sponsor. We were on a roll!
Stopping by the Iams booth at the conference, we obtained the name of the director of the Iams Foundation, Connie McKamey. Convincing this leading dog food company of the value of VCP was not difficult. When Iams became the fifth sponsor, we were ready to launch the program! With such fund raising success, we wondered whether we should try our hand at real estate sales!
Several important issues confronted IAADP at this juncture. Who would be eligible for financial support and to what extent? How would the recommended treatment or diagnostic tests be evaluated?
We had raised the money, now it was the IAADP Board's turn to tackle the difficult issues of eligibility and limits. At IAADP'S next board meeting, the following policies were established:
1. Applicants for VCP grants must be IAADP members partnered with a guide, hearing or service dog.
2. Application for a VCP grant can only be initiated by a veterinarian prior to treatment.
3. The assistance dog must be at least 18 months old. Dogs in training and retired dogs are not eligible.
4. Grants would only be considered if the health problem interferes with the dog's ability to work or had the potential of shortening the dog's working life if left untreated.
5. The proposed treatment should have a high probability of restoring the canine assistant to an active working life.
6. Routine expenses such as annual exams, vaccinations, flea prevention, heartworm products or heartworm tests will not be considered for a grant.
7. The referring veterinarian must indicate that the cost of treatment would be a serious financial hardship for the disabled client.
8. The referring veterinarian should be asked to partner in this effort by reducing hissther fee. However, the IAADP member and canine partner will not be penalized if the referring veterinarian is unwilling to discount services.
9. The member must agree to permit IAADP to publicize the impact of the grant on maintaining the working partnership.
Now that IAADP had formulated the guidelines, who would administer the program? Certainly, the IAADP board was in no position to make judgments on the medical protocols being suggested. Once again, Bayer came to the rescue in the form of Dr. Erin Evans, Director of the Bayer veterinary staff.
We first met Erin under what non-dog people would consider an awkward situation. Escort and Echo were taking a relief break at the North American Veterinary Conference, when we were approached by a veterinarian wanting to say hello to the boys. Learning Erin was with Bayer, we shared our dream with her. She assured us that once the program was funded, her staff would be happy to administer it. Once the funding was obtained and the guidelines were in place, Kim Mathews, registered veterinary technician, took on this pivotal role.
Since VCP'S inception, grants have been provided to more than 15 IAADP members whose dogs have had a variety of medical problems. Some of the health issues addressed by grants have been repair of a cruciate ligament, repair of a patellar subluxation, surgical removal of a malignant tumor followed by radiation, surgical removal of a spinal disc, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy, dermatological intervention, surgical repair of a puncture wound caused by chewing a stick and emergency surgery for bloat. Unfortunately, not all cases result in assistance dogs being able to resume their working careers. In some cases diagnostic tests revealed terminal illnesses and sadly nothing could be done to save the canine assistant. End of life decisions are distressing for both the veterinarian and the disabled partner.
Perhaps the best comment on the program comes from an IAADP member whose dog was helped. She writes:
"By helping RockyToo you have truly saved my life. There is no way I can really express my appreciation to all of you who have sponsored this program with the IAADP. We want our service dogs to bond with us, but RockyToo really took this concept too far. I have autoimmune diseases which have left me with disabilities that he helps me with. Now he has developed an auto-immune illness which is exceptionally rare in dogs', it would have been impossible for me to have paid for the initial diagnostics required for RockyToo while paying for his medicines too. The prognosis is exceptionally high because we are a close working team."
by Eugenia Firth
Since September first, I have been "roughing it" without Dolly. My experiences underscore why instructors work so hard to train our dogs and why we keep returning to guide dog school time after time.
As some of you may know, I have had problems with my knee for quite some time. I could walk, but I kept having recurring problems. Finally, my doctor and I agreed that I needed surgery to repair torn cartilage. I had the surgery in April, but kept having difficulty with the recovery process. Eventually, I came to the decision that the additional pull of the harness plus the added walking needed to care for Dolly was hindering the healing process. Therefore, I reluctantly asked The Seeing Eye to board Dolly.
I had also made another decision. I needed to stop walking for a while until my leg could recover. I started pushing a manual wheelchair around my workplace, the federal building in downtown Dallas. I discovered that I'm a pretty good driver in a familiar area, especially since I didn't have to worry about falling off of stairs unless I went to the fourth or seventh floors. I wasn't brave or stupid enough to do street work, so I needed to use DART Paratransit to get to and from work.
For two weeks, until The Seeing Eye could arrange for Dolly to go to Morristown, we had to ride the wheelchair lifts together, and I needed to heel Dolly while pushing the chair. I did have one terrible fright when Dolly almost got killed in an elevator.
The very first day we went to work in this manner, I was being pushed in my chair by a co-worker. He and I both failed to notice that Dolly was trapped behind the chair. The elevator door closed on the leash, thus leaving Dolly outside the elevator. Larisa Scharikin, Caddo's instructor, had once told Suzanne about a dog that had been killed in this way. That incident flashed through my mind in one horrifying picture. I screamed, and my co-worker immediately pressed the "Open Door" button. We got Dolly inside. From then on, when I rode the elevator, I made sure to caution anyone pushing the chair. With proper precautions, Suzanne doesn't have the same problem when using a power chair. However, I needed two hands to push my manual chair by myself. When others pushed my chair, we made sure to allow Dolly to go first and prevent the door from closing until everyone was inside.
I really began to appreciate Dolly's adaptability during this experience. Nothing bothers her! She used to be skeptical of wheelchair lifts because of the noise they make when being lowered. However, once she got used to them, you would have thought she had been trained on them from the start. I was more worried about it than she was. When your dog rides one of those things, you have to watch out for the both ends of the lift to be certain your dog's feet are not too close to the sections that are being lowered. I had a couple of bad moments when I thought Dolly was too close, but I discovered I could use the wheelchair to protect her. This is a different procedure from that used by Suzanne because she has a power chair and must put Caddo in her lap to ride up and down most lifts.
During this interim period, my boss and co-workers were essential to my ability to keep Dolly with me until she could go to Morristown. My boss asked people to volunteer to escort us to park. This involved a three block trip each way. The interesting part about these trips turned out to be the street crossings and getting the chair up the curbs which were supposed to be wheelchair accessible. Caddo and Suzanne would not have had a problem with them, but my manual chair had to either be lifted up some of the curbs and bad spots on the sidewalk or I had to be turned around and go up backwards. One of the street crossings required this procedure, and I was concerned that Dolly would acquire a bad habit from this unique method of street crossing. I finally came to the conclusion that she was going to be with the instructors soon enough, and they could work on any acquired bad habits later if necessary.
After Dolly left for Morristown, I rolled around the federal building without a cane for about six weeks. After the first four weeks, I started pushing the chair ahead of me while walking in an attempt to become stronger and walk further without any support aids. About this same time, I started water and physical therapy, gradually increasing my activity. My physical therapist had a lot of questions about working with a guide dog. She needed to understand how the pull of the harness affected the amount of pressure placed on my knee. I gave her a copy of one of The Seeing Eye's videos so that she could observe dog teams at work. Finally, she and I were ready to start Juno walks.
The poor lady received a lot of teasing from her co-workers about playing the part of a dog, so I thought I'd help her out. I said to her fellow therapists, "I want you folks to know that Juno is the oldest and most respected dog in the world. Born in 1929, she has evaluated many blind people for guide dogs." Unfortunately, Lisa, my therapist, laughingly informed me that she is the oldest therapist at the hospital.
Currently, I am using a white cane and not using support aids for walking. After I was able to walk further, I started walking to the bus stop twice a week with my cane. I can make myself do it, but I don't particularly enjoy using my cane. Some people have said that if you don't want to use a cane it's because you have a problem with your blindness. Well, that's not me at all. I just hate the mechanics of using my cane and the concentration I must use when traveling with it. Also, I tend to veer, and this causes me a great deal of trouble.
Veering creates another problem for me, street crossings. There is a road near my house which I will not cross with a cane. It is the road necessary for me to reach my bus stop when going to work or to go to the grocery store. I will not cross this road with my cane because there was at least one instance that, if I had been using a cane, I would have been dead.
Accidents can happen whether you're sighted or blind and whether you use a dog or a cane. I suspect that traffic judgment when using a cane varies from person to person as well. I have become unwilling to trust my own traffic judgment completely because of an incident that happened about six months after I got Dolly.
The road I mentioned earlier has gotten busier since I moved into my neighborhood. Also, drivers have several blocks before encountering a traffic light, a situation that causes some of them to be more careless about watching for any person daring to cross.
Dolly and I had gone to the grocery store, and I was returning with a full cart. Stopping at the corner, I listened for traffic and gave the "forward" command when I heard nothing coming. Dolly failed to leave the curb and froze in place. About a second later, I heard a speeding car coming on our left at a speed which would have made it impossible for the driver to have stopped for anything. If I had been using a cane, I would have stepped off that curb because I failed to hear this vehicle. I had crossed this road a few times with a cane, but never again!
In addition to continuing to reinforce her already great traffic skills, The Seeing Eye is teaching Dolly the "find the ramp" command. They are also working with her to encourage her to consistently locate chairs where she must search for them, and to show me stairway railings where ramps are not available. She already knew some of this, but I decided she might as well have those skills sharpened anyway. I have not been able to work Dolly much for quite a while. Therefore, The Seeing Eye's training manager, Pete Lang, and I have decided that I will be going to Morristown for a week to get Dolly back. As I write this, I have three more weeks before I fly there. That plane can't fly fast enough!
DOG DAY EXPERIENCES
by Julie Acton
I'm not generally one for sappy or sentimental stories, or I never admit to it anyway, but I have a real soft spot for this particular topic, meeting your dog.
My first dog, Tess, was a pint-sized super spirited little black lab who exploded her way into my life when I was eighteen and full of that raw hope, giddy jubilation and pathetic naivety so characteristic of teenagers. I knew her name, colour etc. prior to arriving at the training centre on a Monday morning, as this info had been given to me about a month previously when I had received the magic phone call and news of my acceptance and class date.
Dog day was not to be until the following morning, and so day 1 was spent engaging in those dearly beloved juno dances with my instructor, something which my pride stubbornly screamed at me was a most undignified and thoroughly humiliating experience, but nonetheless, one which I would have to endure as gracefully as possible if I was ever to have something other than an instructor on the end of the harness. Day 1 also included a mandatory session of campus orientation, which included a walk around the centre's walking track, an exercise walk path spanning the perimeter of the training centre. Ah, Tessie and I were to clock up a few miles pounding the pavement of that track in the next three weeks, but this first circuit was undertaken with my instructor and not with my dog at all. We were about halfway round the track when he suddenly informed me that some trainers were coming towards us from the opposite direction working dogs, and so could I please step off the path to let them pass. I dutifully obliged and watched in fascination as the three dogs and their handlers approached and drew level with us. At the exact moment that the leading team was level with me, I heard a voice utter, "Straight on Tess", and realised in one paralysing second that my own dog had just walked within about three feet of me. My instructor later confessed to me that he had thought for a second that he would have to physically restrain me, lest I should leap onto the path and attempt to snatch my dog from her poor unsuspecting trainer, who, blindfolded at the time, had no idea that he had just walked straight past me.
Needless to say, Tuesday morning finally came hot on the heels of an endless and sleepless night, and after what seemed like an interminable session of dog allocation discussion with the instructor, followed by a morning tea which nobody ate. We were sent back to our rooms to wait for our dogs. My instructor came to get my leash and check chain after having delivered the first dog. So frazzled with nerves was I, that I could not for the life of me remember what I had done with them, only to have him casually inform me that they were lying on the desk where I had left them. I also remember that the cleaner, a lovely English guy whose melodious singing voice and cheerful whistling were always a much-loved feature of class life, echoing up and down the halls to the accompaniment of his vacuum cleaner, was cleaning my room just moments before Tess was brought to me. As lovely a guy as he was, I remember begging some higher power to please make him go away lest he should distract me from the magic moment itself.
As hysterically delighted as I was to meet Tess when she finally arrived with my instructor, she evidently did not share my jubilation or enthusiasm. She sniffed me briefly to decide whether or not I was interesting, decided immediately that I wasn't, and then proceeded to lie on the floor at my feet, staring fixedly at the door through which my instructor had left. Whining with gradually increasing intensity, she reached a point at which she was all but yelping by the time he returned about a half hour later. Still, I was actually not the least bit deterred as I sat on the floor and patted and talked to her, and she could probably have bitten my hand off in those first few minutes and I would not have been the least bit deterred.
My second dog, Josh, a male yellow lab, was home trained with me, and so was brought to my house by my instructor on a Monday morning. I was still very much grieving the loss of Tess at the time, and so he had been trying to cheer me up with enthusiastic stories of what a fabulous worker Josh was, not to mention what superb off leash recall he had. Upon arriving, he led Josh to my front door, removed the leash and instructed me to call him. I did. Josh bounded eagerly off in the opposite direction, disappearing down the hallway with nose glued to the ground. In spite of my repeated attempts to call him back, my little explorer was finally retrieved, quite literally, by my instructor. He proceeded to sniff me daintily and finally position himself at the end of his leash, as far away from me as he could manage. He had an air of stubborn detachedness which quite clearly told me that Josh was busy doing Josh things, and I'd better keep that in mind. It was about a week before Josh would even consent to acknowledge my presence on the face of the earth. He even point blank refused to respond to the forward command on the first morning I began working him. He chose instead to stand stock still, staring straight ahead and pretending he could neither hear nor see me. Poor Joshie gave me some heart trouble in those first few days, but that earnest stubbornness and dogged determination became just some of the things I fell in love with about that dog in the end.
My third dog, Usha, was a female yellow lab, and came to me as the result of a somewhat less than conventional training process. The short version of the story is that my dog had not been chosen when I arrived at the school, with the result that I worked several dogs over a few days before reaching the mutual decision with my instructor that Usha was the right dog. That first afternoon saw me drive to a suburban neighbourhood with the trainers and a van load of dogs, at which time I would take my leash to the back of the van and call a particular dog by name when instructed by the training manager to do so, with absolutely no knowledge or warning about what was likely to come leaping out of the van. Each and every time I called a dog, however, one other dog, invariably not the one I wanted, would always appear first, trying to push her head into the chain and attempting to jump out of the van ahead of the desired dog. Just at the point at which I was wondering as to the name of this particularly pushy, extroverted dog, I walked to the back of the van for the fifth time and was instructed to call Usha, and this time, only one dog, the obnoxious pushy one, came bounding eagerly to greet me as I did. This time when I glanced questioningly at the training manager, he simply laughed and said that yes, that was her.
Usha was personality plus. From the very first moment she tried leaping enthusiastically into my lap as I knelt to harness her. While first impressions aren't always everything, that extroverted charismatic little labbie who climbed all over me on that first afternoon, showed me from that very first moment that life and work with Usha was going to be a very unique ride. She was just one of those dogs who somehow always made you smile and love her, no matter what she did, and Usha gave me some of the finest memories I have to this day of guide dog mobility.
All right, that's enough wandering down memory lane for now. Everyone take care of yourselves and those wonderful pups you met on that heartwarming and always exciting day, dog day!
THE GUIDE DOG FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES:
(Editor's note: The following is a combination of two press releases by the Guide Dog Foundation. I have taken the liberty of combining them into one and also editing it for a blind readership.)
The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc., has opened the doors to its expanded and renovated eight-acre campus. A project years in the making, the Foundation's campus capital expansion is the largest of its kind in the not-for-profit's 55-year history. "Over the years, the demand for our services has been increasing," said Wells B. Jones, the Guide Dog Foundation's Chief Executive Officer. "In recent years, the increase has been at a faster rate than ever before. More and more people who are blind are contacting us about receiving a guide dog. As a result, we had to expand our resources and capabilities so that we can breed, raise and train more guide dogs to help these deserving individuals."
The first phase of the $10-million project consisted of four projects: the creation of a National Administrative Center, a Student union, and an expanded Student Residence Hall. Each of those projects is now complete, and the state-of-the-art, new indoor Training Center and Kennel is weeks away from completion. Planning is underway for the second phase; that will consist of converting the original office space and kennel into a breeding and development complex.
This past year, the Foundation conducted a study of trends affecting the blind and visually impaired population. "Our goal was to obtain information to help us be more responsive to the changing needs of our blind consumers," Jones said. "The results indicated that this population will grow in number, grow in age, and have more specialized needs. For the Guide Dog Foundation, this means that there will be an increased number of consumers -- older people, in particular -- who need our services, and that those individuals will need different types of dogs, training environments, and aftercare services. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, 1 in 6-- or 5 million -- Americans age 65 and older are blind or severely visually impaired, and this population is expected to more than double by the year 2030. And the National Federation of the Blind reports that 75,000 Americans become blind every year.
The waiting list for a guide dog from the Guide Dog Foundation grows every month. Thanks to the generous donations from individuals, service clubs, corporations, and private foundations, the Foundation has been able to increase the number of dogs its breeds and students it serves each year. With this in mind, the Foundation moved forward with the largest and most innovated expansion in its history. To help make the project as successful as possible, the Foundation obtained input from a variety of sources, including graduates, volunteers, and staff. Numerous experts in the animal world and construction industry were brought in for consultation and advice.
The National Administrative Center, a new, three-level building, will serve as the national organization's headquarters; it will house the administrative offices and meeting space. "Workspaces in the new building are grouped by department, which will enable the staff to work more effectively and efficiently," said Cathy McDougal, the Foundation's Office Manager. "The old offices were cramped; people didn't have sufficient space to do their work, and we were always bumping into each other. Some on the office staff didn't even have their own desks! Now, everyone, including our volunteers, has the space they need -- plus there's room for growth."
The Student Union was created to resemble the meeting areas on a college campus; it was designed to enable students, staff, and volunteers a place to meet and share ideas. Blind individuals from across the country come to the Foundation for a 25-day in-residence training program. The Student Union will provide ample locations for the consumers to rest and relax during the program.
The student residence hall was expanded and renovated, for the first time in 20 years. All of the rooms were converted from double rooms with shared baths to single rooms with private baths. This not only will make the consumers' stay more comfortable, but it also will provide more opportunities for the students to bond with their guide dogs. The first class to stay in the new residence hall arrived in September, and the students were delighted by the new amenities and overall quality of the residence. "It's like a college campus," said Samuel Torres, who traveled to the Foundation from Florida to train with his third guide dog. "I was very surprised by the quality of the changes. It is more than an improvement; it is very significant." Samuel's personal favorite modification from his last training visit to the campus, which was at the old dormitory: the private rooms. "Having a private room is much better than sharing a double," he said. "It is a better atmosphere to bond with the dog."
The state-of-the-art indoor training center will house a specially designed kennel for guide dogs in training. It will be all-enclosed, with special heating, ventilation, and sound systems. The dogs will be comfortable, and the Foundation's neighbors will not hear dogs barking during the day or night. The kennel will be complete and operational later this year.
THE GUIDE DOG FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES:
NEW BREEDS TO BE TRAINED
The Foundation announced it has successfully trained Smooth-Coated Collies and Labrador/Poodle cross dogs as guide dogs for the blind. This marks the Foundation's success with its pilot program involving these breeds as guide dogs. The guide dogs now are living and working with their blind handlers throughout the United States.
"We are delighted with the progress of our pilot program and the success we have had with the dogs that have graduated," said Bruce Benzler, the Foundation's Executive Officer for Program Services. "The Collies and Lab-Poodle crosses we have seen are very intelligent, very gentle dogs. They will make wonderful guide dogs."
The decision to look into new breeds came after the Foundation commissioned a market research report to study the trends, usage, and attributes of guide dog users. The goal of the research was to obtain information to help the Foundation be more responsive to the changing needs of its blind consumers. The report findings indicated that having more options available for consumers could help the Foundation better serve the blind.
The Foundation's internationally renowned breeding colony consists primarily of Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. These dogs are well-suited for guide work, as they are intelligent, gentle, and love to work. While the Foundation plans to continue using Labradors and Goldens for the majority of the guide dogs it breeds and trains, it plans to continue working with the new breeds.
"Sometimes, a Labrador or a Golden Retriever might be too much for someone to handle, especially our older consumers," said Wells Jones, the Foundation's Chief Executive Officer. "Having dogs with slightly different temperaments and of slightly different sizes can only help us match our blind consumers with the dog that is right for them."
THE WHEELS OF FORTUNE
by Suzanne Whalen
Months before the April, 2002, Graduate Forum at The Seeing Eye, I was on the phone with Pete Lang, the school's Training Manager. I had a proposal for him. My end of the conversation went something like this: "Pete, I have an idea. As you know, I'll be in Morristown attending the Forum. I could arrive a couple of days early. You could set up a demonstration route, and Caddo and I could work it. Any trainers who wanted to could come along on the trip to see how this wheelchair guiding thing is done."
"Oh, I'd love that!" Pete exclaimed. It wasn't until after I'd hung up that I realized the enormity of what I had just done. I was, in effect, putting my money where my mouth was. I commented to more than one friend that I was either being exceptionally brave or exceptionally crazy!
As "Harness Up" readers know, I obtained all five of my guide dogs, including my current dog, Caddo, from The Seeing Eye. After an accident made it necessary for me to use a wheelchair most of the time when I travel outside my home, Southeastern Guide Dogs trained Caddo and me to work safely with a power wheelchair. As "Harness Up" readers also know, Southeastern is the only guide dog school which, in addition to its other services, provides instruction to qualified blind people in wheelchairs. Since it is the only school currently meeting this need, Southeastern has a very long waiting list for students using wheelchairs.
I have made no secret of the fact that I want other blind people in wheelchairs to share the same blessing of increased freedom that I now have with Caddo. I also would like for them not to have to wait several years for a dog, as may be the case with some people now on Southeastern's waiting list. In order for these dreams to be realistic, I am proposing a two-part solution, and I believe both parts are necessary. The first part of the solution involves Southeastern. Southeastern currently strives to serve one to two students using wheelchairs a year. They have talked about eventually expanding the program so that serving four people a year may be a realistic target goal. I applaud them for this initiative.
The second part of the solution involves other guide dog schools. Before I was reunited with Caddo, all the other schools, including The Seeing Eye, had serious reservations about a totally blind person's ability to be guided safely by a dog while traveling in a power wheelchair. The fact is that wheelchair guide work is still very new. Southeastern began wheelchair guide training in the early 1990's, and I believe I was the ninth person to be trained. However, power wheelchairs were not used from the beginning. The first student was trained using a modified manual wheelchair, which his dog had to pull.
Therefore, staff at other schools had no real opportunity to observe or question a handler working with a guide dog from a power wheelchair. I decided early on that the best way I might be able to help bring freedom to more blind people in chairs was for me to be a resource for instructors, directors of training, and administrators. To that end, I have done several things. A few instructors have had the chance to observe Caddo and me at NFB conventions and to talk to us. I have also fielded questions from most of the schools by phone or by letter. I have written articles for several publications.
However, I became convinced that this was not enough. I felt that no school other than Southeastern would ever even remotely consider eventually undertaking wheelchair guide training unless its administrators and instructors could overcome their apprehensions and misconceptions about this work. I also felt that, in order to help them do this, I would have to provide an opportunity for them to see it demonstrated in their own communities. In order for this to happen, I knew I would have to interest them in inviting me to visit their schools. I would have to allow them to design a trip which would really be an acid test of Caddo's and my skills as a team. I would have to allow anyone who wished to do so the chance to observe us work.
So far, I have been privileged to conduct demonstrations at two campuses: The Seeing Eye and Guide Dogs for the Blind's San Rafael, California facility. I hope to be able to visit even more schools. As I mentioned earlier, with The Seeing Eye, I more or less invited myself! In the case of Guide Dogs for the Blind, during our 2001 convention in Philadelphia, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Dr. Patty Olson, Director of Canine Health and Training, and Bob Phillips, President and CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind. They invited me to conduct a continuing education seminar for their trainers. Continuing education is required for guide dog instructors to maintain their licenses in California. I would like to relate a little about my experiences visiting both schools.
Our demonstration at The Seeing Eye took place the afternoon of April 4, 2002. Pete Lang mapped out our route in advance of our arrival. During the trip, he walked behind me, giving me directions as an instructor would to a student in class. Meanwhile, many of the other instructors and several of The Seeing Eye's top administrators followed along and observed. After we finished the street work, we gathered in the lobby of the hotel where the Graduate Forum would be held, and I answered a wide variety of questions from those who had come on the trip.
Probably because he had spent a day observing me in class at Southeastern, and also probably because he had read the reports his instructors had sent after visiting me in Dallas, Pete had a very good idea of the types of obstacles and situations Caddo and I are able to negotiate. The route he took us on was a tough but very doable test of our abilities. We crossed a variety of intersections, including a very busy T intersection, some intersections with islands, and intersections with all sorts of ramp alignments. We worked through a construction zone. Pete told me later that at times there were mere inches between my wheels and either the obstacles we were avoiding or the edge of the sidewalk, but neither my wheelchair nor my body touched one thing. For the benefit of readers who have graduated from The Seeing Eye, Epstein's will no longer be the only department store in Morristown. Another is being built, and it was through this construction area that we worked. We went into Rite Aid Drugstore, and our clearance work down those congested aisles was flawless. One time, an aisle was so narrow that Caddo made the judgment that there was no way he could guide the wheelchair down it. He did an about-face signaling me to make a 180-degree turn, and we chose another aisle.
We worked several blocks of very busy pedestrian traffic. In fact, a couple of times Pete changed his plans when he saw that a block he had intended to direct me toward was not busy enough. "Let's go another way," he'd say. "I want to take you where the action is!" We also worked through the park, so that the staff could see if Caddo would remain focused despite the presence of birds, squirrels, and other distractions.
Perhaps the most valuable thing Pete planned for the instructors to see was the example of intelligent disobedience. By now I am accustomed to all sorts of interesting designs for wheelchair ramps at intersections. Some are wildly offset. Some are built on a diagonal. Ramps and curb cuts are by no means uniform in height or width, but instead vary considerably in size. The list goes on. But the one good thing that can be said of all the ramps and curb cuts I've seen in Dallas is that, no matter how crazy they may be, they are at least located in the vicinity of the intersection! Ah, not so for one Morristown intersection I had the good fortune to encounter.
We were cruising down a street with parallel traffic on our left. As we got close to the traffic on the intersecting street in front of us, I commanded, "Caddo, find the ramp." Caddo slowed, then stopped and looked back at me. "Hupp, hupp," I said encouragingly. "Caddo, find the ramp." Still, Caddo stood there looking at me. Normally, if there's no ramp or curb cut, he'll make a move to find a nearby driveway we can use to enter or leave the street, but apparently there wasn't one readily available in this instance.
I so very much wanted this demonstration to go well, to be impressive, and up to this point, it certainly had been. I know what I would do when facing this situation in unfamiliar areas at home. I would ask directions to see if the intersection is accessible. If there were no one to ask, we would try going a different way. But all I could think to myself at this moment was, "For months I've been bragging to The Seeing Eye about how well we're doing. Now, with so much on the line and all of them watching us, my dog is coming unglued. Why is he zoning out like this?" In other words, I panicked.
I heard Pete's voice behind me. "Tell him left," he said.
My face felt flushed and my hands felt clammy. Somehow I managed to get the command past the knot in my throat. "Caddo, left, find the ramp," I ordered, expecting, of course, that he would make a 90-degree turn to the left and line us up with the ramp. He looked over there but still did not move.
This was too much! I dropped my harness and was about to give a correction when Pete's hand on my shoulder stopped me. "Let me tell you what's going on here," he said. It seems that this ramp was installed almost as an afterthought at this intersection. Normally, I command my dog to find the ramp when I hear that I'm almost at the street, just as a walking person does with, "Find the curb." But that obviously doesn't work at this intersection. This would probably be one of those rare intersections where a guide dog user in a wheelchair living in Morristown would need help. It's necessary to begin encouraging the dog to find the ramp several feet further back. We did a complete about-face. For what seemed like forever but I'm sure wasn't, I kept suggesting, "Right, right, find the ramp." He did, and we made a perfect crossing.
Later, back at the hotel, Pete told me that he felt certain that if we were to take Caddo to that same spot the next day, he would remember it and "nail" that ramp perfectly. He also told me that, if Caddo had in fact made that 90-degree left turn when Pete had instructed me to tell him to do so, we would have been trapped between an impossibly high down curb and a post, with nowhere for the wheelchair to go. As Pete and I talked about this episode after the fact, and we discussed the way he had directed me through it, I came to realize that the way it was done helped achieve a very important objective: The staff was able to see for themselves that, just like any other guide dogs, dogs guiding wheelchairs can be taught intelligent disobedience to keep their handlers safe.
Now for my visit to Guide Dogs for the Blind. Not fully realizing the possibilities that exist for a capable team working with a power wheelchair, Guide Dogs for the Blind agreed to my doing a demonstration as part of my continuing education presentation, but they at first felt it would have to be limited to running the obstacle course on campus. Even though I knew it would give me a good case of nerves, I also knew it was only fair for Guide Dogs for the Blind's staff to watch Caddo and me work in real-world situations in the community. I knew this would be the only possible way for them to be convinced that wheelchair guiding could work with the right student matched to the right dog. Buoyed by my success at The Seeing Eye, I explained the details of that trip to Terry Barrett, Guide Dogs for the Blind's Director of Training. Plans were changed, and Caddo and I did a trip on the streets of San Rafael with most of the senior trainers in attendance and Terry behind me giving directions.
We were out on the street for over 45 minutes. Like The Seeing Eye demonstration, the San Rafael trip which Terry designed was a challenging, realistic test of our skills as a team. We crossed a variety of intersections. Some had nice, wide wheelchair ramps. Others had scooped out curb cuts so small that, if Caddo had not lined up the chair or angled our crossing correctly, or if I had not followed him precisely, we would have missed the curb cut and been confronted with the curb. Of course, we negotiated heavy pedestrian traffic, made all the more challenging on some blocks by the presence of outdoor tables which took up much of the sidewalk at some of the restaurants. We went into the Bank of America building and rode the elevator. Our last task was to navigate an alley and avoid trash cans, signs, emergency ladders hanging from the backs of buildings, and other obstacles.
This trip, too, featured an opportunity for Caddo to decide to disobey a command that would have led to danger. To get into the Bank of America, we had to traverse an outdoor plaza. There was a choice of paths to take, but as I understood the situation, only one of them would get us to the bank. Later, as we were leaving the bank, Terry told me that he didn't expect us to know which path to choose to return to street level but would direct us.
I followed Terry's directions. Suddenly, Caddo stopped dead. We've all experienced this with our dogs.
"What is it you guys say when you want to encourage your dogs to get moving?" Terry asked. "Hupp, hupp?" I don't know whether this phrase is unique to The Seeing Eye, but I do know that Guide Dogs for the Blind does not use it.
I tried it. Caddo got going. He did not, however, move forward. He pulled very assertively to the right. Terry had deliberately directed us to a flight of cement stairs going down. Needless to say, Caddo's intelligent disobedience in avoiding the stairs impressed the watching trainers. But Caddo had another surprise in store for them. Without waiting for further direction, Caddo chose the correct path and got us back to street level.
During the class I conducted for Guide Dogs for the Blind staff later that afternoon, and also through the detailed handouts I distributed, I explained the pre-class practice strategies I used to become comfortable with my power wheelchair and to increase my ability to follow signals from a harness handle while seated. I helped them understand the techniques that Southeastern trained Caddo and me to use in specific situations, including going through narrow places, working through doors, riding elevators, using wheelchair lifts on buses, and many more. I answered questions about our training, based on my class experience. I tried to demystify wheelchair training. It is intensive. It does require one to one instruction. The training time for the dog is longer than is the case for a dog being trained to guide an ambulatory person. But it's not rocket science. An experienced instructor who can "read" a dog and a student can do this work, if he or she is willing to take extra time to slow the pace of training to avoid undue stress where necessary and to invest the effort to find creative ways to re-teach concepts. Good instructors who can teach platform work and traffic safety to walking teams can figure out how to teach a team using a wheelchair to stay safe in traffic, to find ramps, to avoid stairs, to avoid escalators, and to steer clear of dangerous drop-offs. Instructors with the desire to do so can learn how to teach a dog guiding a wheelchair to problem-solve, exercise initiative, and intelligently disobey a command.
Many people, including several using wheelchairs, have asked me when I think other guide dog schools will establish wheelchair programs. I know that to people in wheelchairs longing to regain their independence through the use of a guide dog, the wait must seem like forever. Knowing what Caddo's work means to me almost every day, I wish I had a magic wand to make it happen as quickly as so many people would like. But it is helpful to view this from the historical perspective of the guide dog movement as a whole. I honestly don't believe that in the foreseeable future, any guide dog school will establish a wheelchair program in which it throws its doors open from the beginning to all comers. Historically, most schools have not proceeded in this way. Initially, schools have expanded their services to new categories of students by starting with their own graduates on a case by case basis. Historically, this is often how it happens. An active graduate acquires a new disability in addition to blindness. In spite of that, this graduate still wants desperately to continue working with guide dogs. The graduate contacts the school. The school has never trained a person with this particular disability and does not know for certain how to proceed. But there are some things the school does know. Experienced instructors know what skills guide dogs and students must learn to work safely as a team. The school staff also knows the work ethic of this specific graduate.
Over time, the school trains this graduate, and the team achieves success. More time passes. The school trains other graduates with this disability, evaluating them, selecting dogs for them, and modifying training as needed on a case by case basis. After considerably more time has passed, and the school has a few successes under its belt, it may then open its program to other qualified students with this disability, including graduates and non-graduates alike.
Service to the deaf-blind is a good example. For the first few decades guide dogs were used in America, no school, to my knowledge, trained deaf-blind students. Now several schools do, including Southeastern, Guiding Eyes, and Leader.
I think there are definite advantages for a school to undertake wheelchair guide training in a limited way at first, serving specific graduates for a while. For one thing, schools can fine-tune their skills at determining the qualifications of students and dogs for wheelchair work, matching the right student to the right dog, selecting the best power chair for each student, and training both partners of the team. Also, where necessary, schools can extend service to certain graduates by means of home placement while they tackle the modifications required to make their campuses wheelchair accessible. I truly believe that as schools achieve success with their own graduates in wheelchairs, they will eventually open their programs to others. This conservative, responsible approach will go slowly at first. But I suspect it is the best way to guarantee success for each individual team and for the establishment and maintenance of a long-term, comprehensive wheelchair program.
After a year and a half of working with Caddo using my power wheelchair, my dream remains the same. My fervent wish is that someday blind people in wheelchairs who want to work with guide dogs and who can benefit from doing so will have a choice of schools to attend, just as walking blind people do.
A NOSE FOR NEWS
by Toni and Ed Eames
Two exciting new ventures are keeping us busy these days. We have signed a contract to revise our book, Partners in Independence, releasing it as a paperback. Although the print version has not been available for the last two years, the cassette and Braille versions are still circulating and can be obtained from NLS and RFB&D. In fact, we just heard from a guide dog partner in Australia that she read our book on web Braille! The second exciting event is a grant from Hills Pet Nutrition to produce a new version of our video for the airline industry. In early October we shot the new footage and had the new segment recorded by the actor who narrated the first version. We will be premiering it in November when we do presentations for Delta Airlines at the three metropolitan Washington, DC airports.
As reported in our last column, during the 2001 NFB convention in Philadelphia, Toni's guide dog Escort was showing a decided breakdown in his working ability. Under the care of Dr. Karen Overall who has him on an anti-anxiety medication, his initiative has been restored and he did an outstanding job in Louisville. Talking about Louisville, we loved our rooms and the location of the hotel right in the downtown area. Our Fresno friend Shirley Harper, president of our local chapter, discovered a White Castle burger place within walking distance and made several forays into this unique pre-McDonalds fast food outlet which does not exist in California. Growing up in Ohio, eating these miniature steamed burgers was one of her favorite childhood memories. On the day we returned to Fresno, Shirley purchased six dozen burgers to bring home for her children and grandchildren who obviously suffered from White Castle deprivation!
Debbie, her mom Delores and her cousin, Mary, did their usual great job at taking care of the relief area. The corps of more than 60 volunteers did an outstanding job. Those doing the dog sitting during the banquet reported a fun time was had by all.
More than 100 guide dogs registered and Connie Woods won the NAGDU $50 registration prize. Once again, Bayer provided Advantage, its flea control product. PETCO donated portable plastic water bowls and Friskies provided dog treats. Our goal for next year is to see the guide dog registration figure exceed 150!
At our California state convention held in late October, Guide Dogs for the Blind sent two representatives to speak at the Guide Dog Committee meeting. We were horrified when Teresa Duncan, one of the representatives, described how her guide dog Blossom was attacked by a Pit Bull when she left her apartment in San Francisco. An irresponsible dog handler was walking down the street with two pet Pit Bulls off leash. One clamped on Blossom's cheek and would not let go. Fortunately, a neighbor, responding to Teresa's screams for help, got a mop handle and pried the Pit Bull's jaw open. Blossom required emergency veterinary care and the attack dog is in custody. While listening to Teresa's description, all dog handlers in the audience had an empathetic feeling of terror!
Later, in the general session, we did a skit based on our "Braille Monitor" article called "Out of Sight Guide Dogs." Toni, who headed the school, played the part of Mrs. Make-a-Buck, while Ed took the role of John Easy Mark. The names gathered meaning when Mrs. Make-a-Buck stated the program was free, but a donation of at least $50,000 was required to obtain a guide dog from this non-profit organization!
Back to Work.
With a respite of five weeks at home after the Louisville convention, we were on the road, or more accurately, in the air again. Our destination was Kansas City, Missouri for the Central Veterinary Conference. The three days were filled with friends, food and fun activities.
Although this was our seventh year at the Kansas City Marriott, would you believe the restaurant manager was hesitant about seating us when friends joined us for breakfast. He seemed unfamiliar with the concept of guide dogs and was uncertain how other restaurant guests would react to the presence of dogs in their midst. The poor man was overwhelmed when many of the veterinarian customers expressed their support of our being there!
Although it's been a year since Escort and Echo were at the Marriott, they deftly traversed the underground tunnel from the hotel to the convention hall! Poor Escort, who did so well during this trip, had to contend with a thunderstorm, causing him to totally break down and opt out of his guide dog role. Luckily, Toni had a friend to guide her, and Escort was fine as soon as the thunder stopped.
At the reception prior to country singer Colin Raye's concert, while eating a piece of quiche, one of Ed's crowns fell out! Fortunately, we retrieved it and he was in no pain. The rest of the week, he walked around like a six-year-old child, missing a front tooth!
On the last day of the conference, we spent half an hour at the child care center talking about Escort and Echo. It was wonderful to be in a room full of kids who weren't afraid of dogs. After all, these were the offspring of veterinarians and veterinary technicians!
From Missouri we flew to North Carolina where we were scheduled to do a presentation for the veterinary students at North Carolina State University. Wanting to get a progress report on Echo's eye infection, we had the NCSU ophthalmologist look at him. Things are going well and the uviitis is under control.
September was an exciting, but exhausting month! We had three six-day trips separated by three days at home. Our bodies didn't know what time zone we were in!
On September 7, we were scheduled to fly to Toronto in time to have dinner with Devon Wilkins and her friend Marg. We have been corresponding with Devon, editor of a cassette magazine called "The Harness" for years, but had never met her in person. Devon is partnered with a Labrador guide dog named Oak, trained at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. However, our meeting with these folks had to be put off until the next day.
Things did not start well on this trip. The gate agent at Fresno airport was unable to create tickets from our reservation file and we ended up missing the flight. Since American Airlines was paying for the trip, they felt bad about the mix up and upgraded us to first class for the remaining legs. Not a bad deal for missing one dinner and arriving a few hours late!
Networking is an activity we enjoy and frequently has led to the expansion of our circle of friends. Just before the Canadian trip, we began every-mailing to Bobbie Osborne, a Toronto puppy raiser, and she and her Labrador Jewel, joined us and Devon and Marg at Black Creek Pioneer Village, an 1860 restored museum. Bobbie spoke with the curator on our behalf and we were permitted to touch many artifacts. Ed's favorite was a fire engine pulled by manpower not by horsepower. We took tactile glances at equipment used by the carpenter, blacksmith, medical doctor and shoe maker.
One of the things that made this sightseeing especially fun was our means of transportation. The four of us and three large dogs wouldn't have fit in a standard taxi, so we negotiated with a limo driver for slightly more money to get us around in a stretch Mercedes. What fun! Toni always fantasized about coming out of a Broadway theater in New York and being whisked home in a limo. It never happened there, but did in Toronto!
Since the purpose of this trip was to speak at veterinary schools in Canada, we did a presentation at Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, about an hour drive from Toronto. As always, students were enthusiastic and welcomed the material we presented about assistance dogs and disabled clients.
After Toronto, we were off to Prince Edward Island, the site of Atlantic Veterinary College. Most of the time we stay in Holiday Inns, but this time we splurged and stayed in a fabulous bed and breakfast. The Shipwright Inn retained the flavor of the 1800s with beautiful old wood furniture. Our room had a Jacuzzi and a gas fireplace. After enjoying a medicinal bath and drying off in the large terry cloth towels provided, we warmed up by the fire.
Unlike Toronto, the weather on Prince Edward Island was absolutely awful. During a wonderful dinner with 7 of the veterinary students, it began raining and things got worse as the evening progressed. Always delighted to spend private time with future veterinarians we especially enjoyed this meal.
All of our Thursday plans were dampened by the hurricane winds and heavy rains. Surprisingly, since there was no thunder, only 90-mile-an-hour winds and torrential rains, Escort was not frightened. Our plans for Ed to go kayaking and for us to tour a garden of miniature castles providing hands on experiences were washed away, but our spirits were not. Toni shifted gears into shopping mode and we hit several gift shops instead.
The presentation that evening at the veterinary school was fabulous! The student in charge did a great job in advertising the lecture and we had over 100 people in the audience, including two of the four guide dog users living on the island.
On our way back to Fresno, we had a long layover in Dallas where we did a presentation for American Airlines. Most of those in the audience were being trained as Complaint Resolution Officers (CROS) and they had lots of questions about assistance dogs and disabled passengers. Since Ed has been working with the National Council on Disability in developing new guidelines for gate agents confronted by unusual service animals, we were able to explore some of these issues with this group of supervisory employees. Following the presentation, we spent some time in the Admirals Club, the VIP lounge, waiting for our fourth and final flight of the day. Arriving home at 11 PM California time, we were exhausted.
Generally, on trips from California to the eastern part of the country we fly out early in the morning and return late at night, but on our next trip we did it in reverse. Arriving in Detroit after midnight, we settled in at an airport hotel for a few hours of sleep before returning to the airport for three presentations for Northwest Airlines staff. Would you believe, we had a taxi access issue on the way back to the hotel? It was resolved when we threatened to call the police and Northwest is pursuing the matter. Although our major purpose for this trip was attending the mid-year board meeting of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, we added a presentation at the Wayne State University veterinary technician training program. In addition, we negotiated a discount fee policy with Michigan Veterinary Specialists, a major facility in the Detroit area. In the future, all assistance dog partners will receive a 25% fee discount on any service provided for a guide, hearing or service dog.
Our final September trip was to Indiana for a presentation at the Purdue Veterinary Conference. We kept hearing the auditorium door opening and feared we were losing the audience, but learned afterwards that people kept coming in to join the standing room only crowd!
With no specialty practices in Fresno, we take advantage of the expertise at the veterinary schools we visit. The next morning, we took the opportunity to see a veterinary ophthalmologist to update us on Echo's eyes. There was no improvement since he was seen at North Carolina State, but no decline or worsening. Later that afternoon, both boys had laser surgery to remove growths from their skin. Escort had two warts and Echo had large cysts. Would you believe, just as the surgery began, the smoke alarm went off and everyone exited the building except the surgical team! It was a false alarm triggered by a popcorn machine malfunction. Both dogs were model patients and Echo's stitches have already been removed.
We revisited the Wolf Park we had initially gone to four years earlier. Unfortunately, there were no cubs in residence and the adult wolf we got to touch on our prior visit died about a year ago. However, they now have some foxes in residence and one was tame enough to be fed and petted. The fox had a face like a Corgi and fur like a long-haired German Shepherd Dog. His feet were dainty like a cat's and his tail was thick and bushy, but somewhat straw-like in texture. What a neat tactile glance!
The next part of our trip was to Niagara in New York state where we spent a couple of days with friends Carol and Don Fleischman, and Escort and Echo enjoyed the company of Carol's Seeing Eye dog Nadine. One afternoon, we took a walk in a nearby park and were able to admire a tree memorial and plaque dedicated to Carol's previous guide dog. Don is a bicyclist and Ed and he took a spin on a tandem later that day.
Don and Carol accompanied us to Ithaca, where we did a presentation for the veterinary students at Cornell University. Since that's Ed's alma mater, he enjoyed walking around the campus which has changed drastically since he left 45 years ago!
News of the Schools.
A growing trend in the guide dog movement is the recruitment of Standard Poodles into the mix of preferred breeds. Guide Dogs of the Desert and Guide Dog Foundation are the newest programs to incorporate these curly-headed beauties into their programs.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind announced the appointment of Kathy Zubrycki as director of training. They are now giving $100 veterinary stipend annually to be paid directly to the veterinarian. These funds cannot be used for grooming or boarding. The program received a $330,000 grant for its special needs training program from Readers Digest. A fund raising campaign is being developed to build a new dormitory providing single room accommodations.
Guide Dogs for the Blind celebrated its 60th anniversary with a series of special events. They are now giving unconditional ownership of the dog after a one year probationary period. In Louisville, we saw Bill Archie and learned he has moved to Tennessee where he is working as a GDB field representative.
The Seeing eye is now teaching dogs the command go to your place and training dogs to be comfortable wearing booties to protect their feet in very hot or snowy weather. Student instructor ratios have now been decreased to four to one. CEO Ken Rosenthal has been elected president of the International Federation of Guide Dog Schools.
Leader Dogs has hired a second O&M staff member. A remedial O&M class was conducted with six students who would not have been accepted into the program because of poor skills. Three are now partnered with guide dogs, one is awaiting a class, one did not improve and one became a skilled cane user and decided not to train with a dog. A certified sign interpreter has been hired to assist with the training of deaf-blind students. Also, Leader now permits puppy raisers to meet the students paired with the dogs they have raised.
Southeastern Guide Dogs is building a new dormitory providing single rooms for students in residence. They are continuing their wheelchair training program and report a huge influx of requests for this accommodation after the widespread publicity provided by NAGDU president Suzanne Whalen.
Guide Dogs of the Desert is still looking for a new CEO. They have developed refresher and assessment classes for graduates and potential students. An assessment course lasts three to four days. The Desert is providing full lifetime dog insurance policies through Veterinary Pet Insurance for those who graduated in 2001 or after.
Guide Dogs of America has started a capital campaign to build a new dormitory.
News in the Assistance Dog Realm.
We'd like to extend an invitation to all NAGDU members to attend the annual conference of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners in San Antonio on January 11 at the St. Anthony Hotel. Ed is president of IAADP, and both of us were founding members and serve on the board. Dr. Bob Taylor of Animal Planet fame will be the keynote speaker, and Dr. Karen Overall, Escort's therapist and veterinary animal behaviorist, are on the program. Devon Wilkins, a guide dog partner from Canada and publisher of "The Harness" is also scheduled to speak.
by Eugenia Firth, Secretary
The meeting of the National Association of Guide Dog Users began at 7 PM, July 3, 2002. President Whalen welcomed everyone to the meeting.
Next, Ed and Toni Eames talked about the relief area issues at the hotels. Toni introduced the paid staff, Dolores, Linda, Debbie, and Mary. She gave the number for the NAGDU Information Desk. Then she urged people to sign up for the NAGDU raffle.
Ed Eames introduced the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) and its services. Ed described Suzanne's participation in the IAADP Conference in San Antonio in January, 2002. The IAADP has, for example, a vet payment plan for working dogs. He gave its website for people to use and passed out IAADP membership applications. Questions were taken.
Next, elections were held. First, Dana Ard came to preside for the election for President. Suzanne Whalen's name was submitted, and no others were nominated. She was re-elected by acclamation. Suzanne asked for nominations for Vice-president. Dana Ard was nominated, and she was re-elected by acclamation when no one else was nominated. Then nominations for Secretary were taken, and Eugenia Firth was re-elected as Secretary by acclamation when no other names were presented. Suzanne told the members that Priscilla Ferris could not attend the convention due to her husband's serious illness. However, she had expressed her wish to seek re-election as Treasurer. Suzanne took nominations for Treasurer, and Priscilla's was the only name submitted. Therefore, she was re-elected by acclamation.
Suzanne asked whether people wanted to increase the size of the NAGDU Board. The members indicated that they would like Suzanne to find out if we could do this and what the procedures would be.
Suzanne then told the members that Julie Deden from the Colorado Center for the Blind had agreed to speak to the division, and she did so on Saturday evening during the seminar. We discussed CCB'S policy on dogs as it was understood.
Suzanne introduced the school personnel attending the convention. Attending the convention were the following representatives from the schools:
Seeing Eye: Ken Rosenthal, Doug Roberts, Will Henry, Lukas Franck, Walt Sutton, John Bertran, Guy Margolin, Brad Scott, Chelsey Morrow, Mike Moran, and Dave Loux.
Guiding Eyes: Graham Buck and Julie Angle.
Guide Dog Foundation: Phyllis Harrington and Stacie Sodano.
Southeastern: Rita Princivalli
Leader: Judy Campbell, Kathy Levick, and Michael Graves.
Guide Dogs for the Blind: Teresa Duncan, Bill Archie, and Beth Hamilton
Guide Dogs of the Desert: Robin Gurula and Debbie Kesler.
Suzanne then introduced Dr. Marc Maurer. He spoke about the NFB'S guide dog policy, especially as it pertains to leaving dogs in rooms. He talked about the history behind the formation of the policy. Toni thanked the organization for its assistance with our relief areas. Members then asked about whether there were plans for a dog relief area on the grounds of our new National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, now under construction. Dr. Maurer said that there were no plans at the present to construct such a relief area. Members objected to this lack. Among the objections raised was the safety risk for unescorted women going across the street alone at night. It was also stated by several members that the Federation is sending a mixed message, and that people might conclude that the Federation values guide dog handlers and their dogs less than others who visit the Center. Dr. Maurer suggested that Suzanne appoint a committee to make recommendations to him for its construction. Suzanne asked for volunteers for this committee. David Loux agreed to be on the committee. Ed and Toni Eames also agreed to serve. Following the meeting, Susan Jones called Suzanne to offer her services.
Toni then informed us about the upcoming fireworks events.
Suzanne asked schools like The Seeing Eye and Guide Dogs for the Blind about their breakfasts. Other schools were asked if they had any planned events during the convention. None did, except The Seeing Eye and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Next, Suzanne discussed changes to the topics list which had been sent to the schools. First, we were unable to get a veterinarian to present the information about first aid for dogs. However, Dr. Sandy Merchant has agreed to do this next year. The other change concerns a planned discussion on access issues in hotels, motels, and restaurants. We had been hoping to have Jim Abrams from the California Hotel and Lodging Association give a presentation on the accessibility rights of guide and service dogs. His group has prepared two excellent videos, one for hotels and one for law enforcement. He is trying to obtain funding so that these videos can be disseminated throughout the country. He was unable to attend this year but is planning to attend next year. We will show his videos then. Several members expressed interest in contacting Mr. Abrams directly. We decided to publish his contact information in "Harness Up." While we were on the subject of hotels, Junerose Killian said she will be doing a seminar for a group of hotel owners. She asked members to contact her about their experiences, both positive and negative, while staying at hotels.
As requested by Priscilla, Gigi Firth read the Treasurer's report. A motion was made and seconded to adopt the Treasurer's report, and it passed unanimously.
Suzanne talked about her demonstration of wheelchair guiding work which she conducted for The Seeing Eye on April 4, 2002. She has also been invited by Guide Dogs for the Blind to do a continuing education presentation for their instructors. This is currently set to take place August 1.
We then discussed the issue of referrals by guide dog schools. An instructor from Guide Dogs of America had referred an applicant to an unqualified trainer in her area. We discussed this matter in great detail. We regret that Guide Dogs of America was not present at the meeting. They were invited, but did not attend.
We also discussed the reasons why blind people in wheelchairs wishing to use guide dogs should not be referred to service dog schools. The members felt that one or more resolutions should be written for next year on the issue of guide dog school referrals.
Then Suzanne mentioned the Department of Justice website. She encouraged members to keep up with this website so that they could make comments about access issues in a timely manner. Ed explained to members the terminology used in the new regulations of the Transportation Safety Administration. There is disagreement among individuals and agencies about when to use terms such as service dogs, assistance dogs, guide dogs, service animals, etc. The Department of Justice wants to set up guidelines which will affect access for guide and service dogs. We discussed the legal aspects and the problems over this confusion in language, especially with regard to its affect on our access.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:57 p.m.
Address: 9411 Mixon, Apartment 127
Dallas, Texas 75220
E-mail: President: Suzanne Whalen
301 Bruce Avenue
Boise, Idaho 83712
E-mail address: Vice President: Dana Ard
Address: 55 Delaware Avenue
Somerset, Massachusetts 02726
E-mail Address: Treasurer: Priscilla Ferris
Address: 1019 Martinique
Dallas, Texas 75223
E-mail address: Secretary: Eugenia Firth
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