Harness Up

Spring, 2004

A Publication of the National Association of Guide Dog Users A division of the National Federation of the Blind Editor: Eugenia Firth


President's Message By Suzanne Whalen 2 Editorial By Eugenia Firth 16 A Matter of Perspective by Suzanne Whalen 19 Guidelines for Feeding and Advance Preparation for Air Travel by Paul Keasberry, Field Representative, Graduate Services, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. 23 Please Pet Me! By Toni Eames 24 A Nose for News By Toni and Ed Eames 27Opening Great Britain's Skies to Guide Dog Teams By Peter Donahue 34 Division Officers 46


by Suzanne Whalen

Hello, everyone. March came in like a lion here in Dallas, and all indications are that it's going out like a very nice little lamb. Spring and fall are my favorite seasons here. If we could bottle this beautiful weather and sell it in six-packs to the snowbound Northeast and Midwest, we would have no financial problems of any kind in this state.

There is only one thing to spoil my joy this particular spring. It is with deep regret and sadness that I must announce that I will not run for another term as NAGDU president. At our last Board meeting, both Vice-President, Dana Ard, and Secretary, Eugenia (Gigi) Firth, also announced they would not seek another term as well. There are several reasons for my decision, both personal and political, but none of them lessens the pain of the decision. Dana and Gigi have their own reasons which I will not discuss here. The biggest personal reason for me is financial. Since I am still medically unable to work, I have lost my health insurance through the Dallas Public Schools, and my health benefits on Cobra have also terminated. Generally, the only reasons I visit the doctor or go to therapy are the injuries I sustained when I fell in the manhole in Baltimore. Of course, health insurance companies regard these as "pre-existing conditions," and they either won't insure me at all or they'll pay for everything except treatment of my manhole-related injuries. I finally found very good coverage from the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool. The state created this entity specifically for people with pre-existing conditions who also meet a variety of other eligibility qualifications. In spite of having created it, however, the state provides no funding. The funding to pay claims comes totally from members' premiums. Therefore, I am helping to subsidize those with AIDS, cancer, lupus, and a whole host of other conditions which are very expensive to treat over time. My monthly premium has risen three times in the year I have been enrolled in the plan. Who knows how much more it will increase? I am currently paying $674 a month just for my own health insurance coverage. Also, my apartment complex raised the rent $50 a month, beginning with the March payment. My income will not change, even though expenses, including health insurance and rent, will go up. Add to that the complication that, due to my inability to sit for long periods, I must buy all the seats in my row on the plane. This allows me to change positions frequently, or even to lie down in flight. If I don't do this, I will experience severe back spasms by the time I arrive at the convention hotel. When I am no longer a division officer, I will no longer be obligated to bear the expenses of attending convention.

Now let's get to the hardest part, the politics. If you are very new in the Federation, you may not know that a resolution was passed, supporting clients' right to exercise "informed choice" in selecting the place to receive their training. What clients can't do is select what is taught, and I understand that. However, I can't support the limited use of guide dogs that is permitted at our centers. Diane McGeorge recently told me that the Colorado Center's policies have changed. Many of you will remember how pleased we were when Julie Deden spoke at our NAGDU seminar. At that time, students could choose whether or not to use their guide dogs during the day. Of course, students were encouraged to use their canes during cane travel class. Julie did tell us that if students wanted to use their dogs instead during mobility lessons, and if they really insisted on this, they could do it. Now, according to Diane, Colorado has gone the way of our other centers. Students may choose to work their dogs during evenings and weekends, but at no other time. This is definitely an improvement over the days when students were required to leave their dogs locked up in their apartments all day long. But there are serious problems remaining.

During the months since convention, I have tried my best to answer letters, phone calls, and e-mails from frustrated, and in some cases, fearful division members. These questions were asked honestly and in good faith. Example: At some of the worst NAC accredited agencies in the sixties and seventies, clients had to leave their dogs on tie-down or in cages during mealtimes and class times. Why are our centers behaving in the same way? Another example: If I go to my state agency's center and they tell me I can't use my dog during classes, will the Federation side with the agency? Along similar lines, many people have wondered whether they can count on our movement to stand by them and assist them in other arenas when they face discrimination because of their guide dogs.

I sent a lengthy letter to Dr. Maurer in which I asked him the very questions many of our fellow division members are asking me. I was seeking his help in an honest attempt at discussion. I want him to know about the concerns felt by some in our movement. I wanted us to know his thoughts on these matters. Unfortunately, he has not answered my letter. If he answers it before we go to press, we will publish my letter to him and his response. If he does not, my letter will appear in "Harness Up." In this way, you will know that I have earnestly tried to communicate your issues to our President. Some of you have asked how I plan to respond to the inaccuracies in Jim Omvig's article in the October, 2003 Monitor. I wrote an article for submission to the Monitor. So far, the Federation has not published it. We are publishing it here in "Harness Up."

Even though Dr. Maurer has not answered the letter which appears elsewhere in this issue, he and I have had some interesting correspondence. For example, in one of his letters to me, he stated, erroneously, that I had called the Federation NAC. Of course I have never done such a thing, nor would I. Dr. Maurer evidently misunderstood a point I made in the letter he has not answered. I wrote that several people have asked me why the Federation centers are behaving the way NAC agencies did, and why our centers' policies concerning guide dog use by students in training are so similar to the policies of some of the most reprehensible NAC agencies.

In light of all this, my decision not to run is a question of my integrity. One's personal integrity is, to state the obvious, very personal. It goes without saying that I have no right to decide for any other individual what the standards of his or her integrity should be. Speaking only for myself, my integrity will not allow me to continue to serve as NAGDU President. As everyone knows, divisions of the National Federation of the Blind do not make policy. But it is more than that. Once a resolution is passed by the national convention and therefore becomes Federation policy, divisions and their members and especially their officers must actively support that policy and help in implementing it, where appropriate. I can't do that. I can't lie to myself and to others and smile and say that I agree with this policy when in fact I have grave misgivings and concerns about it. I can't say that this resolution is the right course for the Federation to take when in reality I believe just the opposite: that in the long run we will be hurt by the stand we have taken. Don't misunderstand me. I'm all for blind people learning the skills of blindness, and that includes cane travel.

But one of the chief arguments used to get the resolution passed is patently false. Furthermore, the people who put forth this argument know that the logic for it is flawed, or at least they should know it, especially since some of them have used both dogs and canes. The argument goes something like this: I can't use my cane when I go to guide dog school, and therefore I shouldn't expect to use a dog when I go to a center that teaches mobility with the white cane. Here are the weaknesses of that logic. First and foremost, a person is at guide dog school for a month at most, and while there, he or she is focused on mastering only one skill: bonding with and working with a guide dog. By contrast, students typically spend several months at a rehab center, and cane travel is only one of the skills being taught. The others include cooking, home management, sewing, Braille literacy, computer literacy, woodworking using power tools, and a host of others. Second, a cane obviously has no thoughts or feelings. You can stand it in a corner when you're done with it for the day, and that's the end of it.

By contrast, a dog's whole life and reason for work revolves around pleasing his or her owner. With some dogs, leaving them alone all day every day, except for lunch times, evenings, and weekends, or even leaving them beside a staff member's desk, can be a recipe for misbehavior at best and a ruined team relationship at worst. Students separated from their dogs cannot prevent the dogs from learning bad habits. An example would be a dog's constantly whining and crying because of the anxiety of being separated from his or her owner. Staff members who don't know better will actually make this worse by sympathizing with and petting the dog while he is crying. That will lead in turn to crying whenever the dog is bored (let's say by a chapter meeting, for example) and uses whining to get attention. Other possible bad habits include but are not limited to chewing, barking or growling when someone passes or becoming too hyper in harness because the staff member is playing with the dog too much. I know that there was a time when BLIND, Inc. made the students heel their dogs while using their canes when going from class to class. This is better in one way because at least the dog is with its owner. But too many hours of heeling every day create boredom and confusion in the dog's mind, thus encouraging bad behavior. Unfortunately, I know some people who have been told by center staff that their misbehaving dogs are unsuitable for guide work, even though these staff are not knowledgeable enough to assess a guide dog's suitability and even though the policies of the center brought about these misbehaviors or accentuated previous problems the team may have had.

Another area of concern is some dogs' fear of canes. After all, students coming to a center to learn cane travel, or any other skill, for that matter, are presumed to be inexperienced. Many inexperienced cane users are likely to lift their canes too high off the ground or swing their arcs much more widely than necessary. This puts the long canes right at the dogs' eye level and makes some dogs fearful of being hit. If students are allowed to work and control their dogs all day long, with the possible exception of cane travel class, then the dogs will not have time to be bored or to focus on their fear. As an example, when my dogs and I went to Manhattan during training at The Seeing Eye, my dogs, though inexperienced, did far superior work than sometimes happened with the old, familiar training routes in Morristown. Sometimes in Morristown, dogs become momentarily distracted by cats or squirrels, for instance. But in Manhattan, so many things are happening and so many challenges are thrown at the dogs that they literally don't have time to concentrate on being bored or afraid. They are doing what they have been trained to do: take initiative and solve problems. Dogs at our centers are deprived of sufficient opportunities to be stimulated, challenged, and to use their skills. Over many months, this almost total lack of a positive work environment is bound to affect even the best teams.

In the early eighties, Gigi and I attended something called a Job Readiness Clinic. We lived at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center and attended seminars in the Education Building of the University of Texas at Austin. I had a 90-pound, very fast, hard-pulling Seeing Eye male German Shepherd named Vinnie. His pull was made all the faster by some fears that he had, which eventually were resolved. I was a lot younger and stronger then, and I had no trouble keeping up with Vinnie just fine. Nonetheless, program staff pressured me every day to give Vinnie up. They told me that he was too big, that he pulled too hard, that I would be stared at in restaurants because of his size and his speed, that I would never find a job because employers would be too afraid of him. They told me that he was "dragging" me, and that traveling with him was "dangerous." At no time did they call The Seeing Eye or suggest that I do so. If they were really concerned for my safety instead of harassing me, that's what they would have and should have done.

I have spoken to ex-students from all of our centers. Far too many people have told me they were subjected to this kind of pressure. No one is ordered to send the dog back to the school, so far as I can tell. However, the students have reported hearing comments from staff and fellow students, such as, "You're traveling so much better with your cane. Wouldn't it be easier to leave your dog here and use your cane during this activity?" "Your dog is having too many accidentss in the building. We just can't have that." (I digress from the comments to say that those accidents can be due in large part to the stresses our centers place on the teams.) One final example of the comments I have heard from center students: "They told me that all I needed was a cane and a brain." I think it's highly likely that students who for one reason or another lacked confidence in their dogs or in their abilities to handle them were easily talked into returning the dogs to the schools. It's useless to speculate, but one wonders: If they had had more positive support from the centers and if the guide dog schools had been asked to intervene more quickly, how many of these teams could have been saved?

Aside from the potential damage to guide dog teams, I believe this resolution will ultimately hurt the Federation in two important ways, and I cannot stand by as a division officer and watch that happen. First, I predict that we will see an exodus of talented people leaving the Federation. Several people left after the October 1995 Monitor that was so negative about guide dog use. I fear that the same thing will happen this time, and there is no way to know how many people we will ultimately lose. We have already lost Ed and Toni Eames. I realize no one is indispensable, but when hardworking, smart people feel driven away, whether they are right or wrong in that perception, it would seem to me that this is detrimental, not helpful, even to the strongest organization. Diane McGeorge and I were discussing the resolution recently, and she said, "People will just have to get over it." She also stated, "The world moves on." Hopefully, the majority of people who have misgivings or personal disagreement with this policy will choose to stay in NAGDU and also to remain in the NFB, contributing their talents as they have always done, working shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues to make the movement stronger and better. But, sadly, we will lose some outstanding people, who will decide either to leave NAGDU, or to leave the Federation altogether. Personally, I hope we can all work together to modify our centers' policies toward guide dog use. But until that time, I feel I would be a hypocrite if I continued, business as usual, to be an officer in this division, pretending that I am supporting policies which I feel have the potential to do great harm, both to guide dog teams and to the NFB.

There is a second way I feel this resolution could hurt the Federation. If either the Department of Justice or a court rules that our centers' policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we could have problems, because then we would be violating the law. I think there is at least a possibility that limiting the use of a guide dog only to certain times of the day could be considered discrimination.

So, I shall not seek re-election. I want to end my last President's Message on a positive note, with a brief recap of the accomplishments we have made over the past six years. Before I do that, I must make you aware of some housekeeping matters that affect this year's convention in Atlanta. In some years past, I have helped Ed and Toni recruit volunteers, and Gigi and I matched up sitters with dogs on banquet night and tour day. Though Gigi and I helped somewhat, Ed and Toni did the vast majority of the work, calling and e-mailing, training volunteers, scheduling people, co-ordinating shifts, etc. In addition to the time they devoted at convention, they literally worked hundreds of hours in the months prior to convention. Diane McGeorge has volunteered to handle anything related to the relief area and cleanup. She and I had conference calls with Toni so that she could use Toni's vast list of Atlanta contacts, if she chose to do so.

Diane was very surprised to learn that, in fact, through Ed and Toni's efforts, NAGDU provided volunteers for the whole convention. NAGDU volunteers showed dog users how to get to and from the relief areas. But they did far more than that. They escorted people from their rooms to the elevators, and to and from the restaurants. They helped people find meeting rooms. They actually spent more time and effort helping more cane users than dog users. Along with our members, volunteers manned the NAGDU Table. They dog sat during the banquet and tours. They assisted the paid staff in monitoring and cleaning the relief areas and cleaning up accidents elsewhere. Diane has decided that, what with all her other convention responsibilities, she can only assume charge of relief duties. She will instruct her volunteers and paid staff to keep the relief areas clean and to walk through the hotels and monitor the halls and walkways outside, cleaning up any accidents they find.

However, her volunteers will not help with orientation, dog sitting, or the NAGDU Table. The NAGDU Board met. We voted not to have those services this year. Therefore, there will be no free Advantage flea control. There will be no NAGDU Table. There will be no dog sitting. If you know that your dog will be too stressed during the banquet, please make other arrangements. Even though we are unable to provide so many of the services members have come to depend on, it is still Federation policy that guide dogs may not be left in the hotel rooms unattended. We deeply regret having to curtail these services.

I want to thank each and every one of you, the members of this division. You have given the officers unparalleled support. Whether you're speaking to a school or a civic group, or helping a friend through a rough time during the retirement or death of a beloved guide, or participating in your state affiliate of NAGDU, or writing for "Harness Up," or remembering this division and its officers in your prayers, or attending our meetings at national convention, or in a hundred other ways I can't mention here, you, the membership, have made NAGDU the great division it has become. It is because of all of us working together that NAGDU has become one of the fastest-growing divisions in the Federation family. What you do matters. I hope you will give the new officers the same level of support we have enjoyed, perhaps even a higher level.

I also want to thank the guide dog schools who have stuck with us throughout this past six years. I hope that some schools (such as Pilot, the Eye Dog Foundation, and Guide Dogs of America) who began coming to convention for the first time in 1999 or after, but who stopped coming for whatever reason, will resume coming. I hope that the others who have continued to come time after time will keep coming. These include The Seeing Eye, Guiding Eyes, the Guide Dog Foundation, Fidelco, Leader, Southeastern, and Guide Dogs for the Blind. I appeal to the schools: Please don't stop coming just because the administration is changing. Your graduates, both human and canine, look forward to seeing you at convention, and your presence provides much-needed stress relief for the dogs.

We can be proud of many accomplishments. We have quite a few more guide dog schools attending our meetings than used to be the case. It has been constructive, and a great pleasure, for NAGDU to work with the schools to improve their programs and services. The schools have helped this division in so many ways during convention. Two examples of this help: Some schools have provided volunteers to assist with registration prior to NAGDU'S business meeting. Instructors have conducted orientation tours of the convention hotel. The schools deserve special thanks for the variety of ways in which they work with our division during convention.

So many people have complimented us on the informativeness of our seminar "A Guide Dog in Your Life," and many of these people have told me that nowhere else could they obtain the amount of factual information we provide: not from our centers, not from other rehabilitation agencies, not even from guide dog schools. Because so many of our members are accomplished cane travelers as well as experienced and knowledgeable guide dog users, we have been able to really help many people decide, objectively, whether or not a guide dog would be right for them. Due almost entirely to Pete Donahue's skill and hard work, our division has an excellent Web site with information on a wide range of topics, including efforts to make it easier and more comfortable for guide dogs traveling between the US and the UK, and between the US and Ireland. Our number of state affiliates has dramatically increased, and I still hope to see the day that there is a NAGDU affiliate in each state. We were able to supply information to the authorities in Alaska, who were able to prosecute a fraudulent person who has no business even attempting to train guide dogs, service dogs, and police dogs. We assisted in closing one substandard Georgia program, Canine Vision, and we helped prevent another, Paws Abilities, also in Georgia, from getting started. We advocated for a lot of people battling discrimination from all kinds of sources: hotels, marinas, airlines, restaurants, doctors' offices, and apartment complexes. We made a presentation to the Council of U.S. Guide Dog Schools. We convinced our National Office to build a dog relief area on the grounds of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind. We have appointed a committee to draft model legislation which states can pass to protect working dogs from being attacked. My hope is that once the model legislation is drafted, we can get our Federation affiliates to support it with the same enthusiasm they have shown for passage of Braille bills. The committee has not concluded its work, and I hope that the new officers will allow this work to continue. On a purely personal and emotional level, the accomplishment which means the most to me is this. When I had my accident, Southeastern was the only guide dog school in the US that trained blind people in wheelchairs. Now, because of two educational presentations Caddo and I were privileged to do, two more schools now conduct this training: The Seeing Eye and Guide Dogs for the Blind. True, they are starting with their own graduates who must use a wheelchair at least part time due to accident or illness. But over time, we can encourage other schools to do this training, and we can hope that The Seeing Eye and Guide Dogs for the Blind will eventually open their doors to capable students using wheelchairs, maybe even first-time guide dog users. Also, I would like to thank Reading and Radio Resource for the great job they've done recording "Harness Up."

I have truly found that my six years as NAGDU President were both challenging and very rewarding. I am saddened by the fact that I cannot continue. But I am proud of this division and everything we have stood for. I wish the new officers much good luck and continued success.

Editor's Note:

The following is a letter written by Suzanne to President Maurer. There is a correction, however, to the information contained in the letter. Since its writing, we have learned of the change in policy by The Colorado Center for the Blind toward guide dogs.)

9411 Mixon Drive, Apartment 127 Dallas, Texas 75220 September 19, 2003 (214) 357-2829

Dr. Marc Maurer, President National Federation of the Blind 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Dear Dr. Maurer:

I have your letter in response to my post on the listserv of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), and I thank you for it. I had hoped to be able to discuss some points with you at the Texas Convention. Unfortunately, I have had more medical expenses than I counted on throughout the summer, including a very sudden and dramatic rise in my health insurance premiums. I was unable to attend the convention. By all accounts, I've heard it was an outstanding convention.

Before I get to the points I need to cover in this letter, I want to thank you for three things. First, I understand you were very generous with your time at the Texas NAGDU meeting, and very willing to exchange ideas and points of view with the members. NAGDU in Texas has more members than were able to attend the convention. I regret that they could not be there.

Secondly, I understand that at the Texas NAGDU meeting, you commended me for seeing to it that the resolution about Southeastern Guide Dogs was withdrawn by its authors because it contained some inaccuracies. Thank you for your praise. Really, it was the only responsible thing for me to do. Since resolutions are policy statements of our organization, the facts have to be correct. We can't go on record with resolutions containing misinformation.

Finally, I understand that the guide dog school Ivy Creek was discussed. You supported us when we had to assist in closing down Canine Vision, a totally substandard and dangerous program. I am researching Ivy Creek, and this effort includes trying to get with the Director of Training. He is not being evasive; we're just playing "telephone tag." When I have more of an idea about what's actually going on, and about the school's willingness (or lack thereof) to listen to us, I know I can count on your assistance to work with the division in whatever ways are necessary, and I thank you for that.

Okay, now to respond to your letter. First, I want to clarify two points you misunderstood from my post. Then,, I have several questions I'd like to ask you.

You commented in your letter to me about my sentence, "I'm sorry it has come to this in the National Federation of the Blind." You said I had made it sound like the Federation is in a desperate situation. Goodness! The Federation is the strongest force in work with the blind today. There's no way I'd ever consider the Federation "desperate." I meant two things by my statement. First, one of the greatest tasks my board and I have faced is erasing and changing the misconception that the Federation's leadership is "anti-dog." We've made real headway in correcting this false notion. You have shown yourself willing to work with us to resolve problems at convention by inviting the NAGDU Board to Baltimore and seeking our input. The National Office continues to pay the considerable expenses for the guide dog relief areas at convention. You asked for more submissions of Kernel Book stories by guide dog users. (How is that coming? Are you receiving submissions?) Since you have been President, and since the current NAGDU Board has been elected, we have enjoyed the chance to speak to NFB Camp about guide dog use. We also had the opportunity to present factual information about guide dog use to parents at the drop-in forum, "Kids and Canes." Perhaps most important, our own Colorado Center for the Blind has changed its policies, allowing students more choice about when to use their guide dogs while in training. By the way, Mrs. McGeorge stated during the debate about the informed choice resolution that Colorado is no different from the other centers. I'm not sure why she said that. We have the Colorado Center's policy about guide dogs in writing. Julie also made a presentation at last year's NAGDU meeting. Unless she has been forced to change this policy (and I'm not aware of that), the Colorado Center has indeed been more welcoming of students working their dogs while in class than have any of our other centers. In fact, Joyce Scanlon told me once that she tells her students at BLIND, Inc., that guide dogs are just a hassle. She also told me she was tired of the damage done to the apartments by guide dogs. Well, of course there was damage! Dogs are not furry canes. They are highly intelligent animals who love to work. It's understandable that, when separated from their owners every day all day for nine months, they would feel confusion and anxiety and boredom, and some may demonstrate this by exhibiting behavior problems. Joyce's solution to this dilemma is to allow students to "heel" their dogs. This is better, because at least the dog can be with the person, but it is still an unsatisfactory solution. There is the strong likelihood that the dogs and handlers will lose their skill in working as a team if the dogs are not guiding for so long. It seems to me that Colorado students who can use their cane skills during part of the day but who also can have their guide dogs actively guiding them for part of the day will gain in one skill (cane travel) without losing the other (guide dog use).

Anyway, judging from the e-mails I have been told about and the many of the phone calls I have received, this informed choice resolution has re-ignited the idea that Federation leaders are "anti-dog." As you know, we have lost some talented people because of this idea. I am sorry, indeed, that it has come to this. My second regret is that Priscilla Ferris authored the resolution, along with Jim Gashel. The attitudes at our centers toward guide dogs have been a concern in NAGDU long before I became President. Then, as now, this concern has been discussed at NAGDU meetings. As a courtesy to me and to the rest of the board, if nothing else, Priscilla should have consulted us before preparing this resolution. I realize she's not obligated to do this; any Federationist in good standing can submit a resolution without anyone else's input if he or she chooses. However, she should have known that this issue would cause contention. And it wasn't just her failure to consult with us that has many people, including myself, a bit upset. At the NAGDU meeting, when we discussed the resolution, she came across with arrogance, as though this were a "done deal," as though her attitude were, "We don't care whether you like this or not. This resolution will pass!" Indeed, what she actually said was, "This will go through," even though the convention had not voted yet. She also told us that she had been approached to withdraw the resolution, but she would not. You are right when you tell me that some people are looking for slight in this resolution, though you say none was intended. That feeling is only intensified when a NAGDU officer, a long-time guide dog user, writes the resolution. So again, I'm sorry it has come to this.

I want to clarify one more point raised in your letter before I move to my questions. You mentioned that you take every opportunity to introduce people to the National Federation of the Blind. I gather you got the idea from my post that I don't introduce people to the Federation, and that I don't encourage people to stay in the movement if they're thinking of leaving. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have gained immeasurably from my membership and participation in the Federation. I, too, take every opportunity I can to introduce blind people to the NFB, to help parents, blind teachers, guide dog users, and others when they find themselves discriminated against, to make students aware of our student division and our scholarships, and to refer people for training to our centers. I also try to influence people to rethink their decision to leave. What I was referring to in my post are the people who say that I am the only one who can "talk" them into staying in the Federation, and the people who tell me that if I don't run for NAGDU President again, they will either leave NAGDU or leave the Federation or both. I may not have done it very well, but I was trying to convey the point that I am not responsible for singlehandedly determining whether or not someone stays in the Federation. We all have to assess our priorities and our commitment to the movement. I don't want to think that anyone would base his or her decisions only on what I said or did. I want people to base their decisions on their overall commitment to the organization. As I reflect on this whole question, I will admit that one area I do need to improve in is recruiting associates. The Dallas Progressive Chapter, of which I am now President, needs to work on this also.

Okay, now for my questions. What was your purpose in writing your letter? I know you don't have time to respond to every post on every list. Was your purpose to reprimand me for expressing my concerns "within the family?" I hope not. Unless you tell me otherwise, I will not take your letter as a reprimand, but rather as an opportunity to engage in dialogue. I know the Federation is under attack in Iowa. It is also possible that some members who disagree with this resolution will leave the Federation and join the ACB and its guide dog users' division and become part of the attack. Incidentally, it is ACB'S guide dog users' division (Guide Dog Users, Inc.), who is mainly behind this complaint to the Department of Justice and not ACB'S national office or its Iowa affiliate. But I'd like to believe that most of us who have concerns about this resolution won't do that. Most of us are not planning to try to destroy the movement from within or to leave it. Certainly, I intend to stay and to continue to work positively within the movement. I'm not the enemy. Please don't interpret my opinions as an attack. You and I may never agree about this informed choice resolution. However, I know that the Federation is a democracy, and within that democracy I have the right to express my opinions, as does anyone else. I hope you know that I would never attempt to do anything to undermine the Federation's reputation.

I have been asked whether our centers would have to hire guide dog instructors. Where are people getting that idea? That's preposterous! At the reputable guide dog schools, instructors must successfully complete a rigorous three-year apprenticeship in order to become fully qualified instructors. NAGDU has never insisted that our centers hire instructors. Staff members at rehabilitation centers (ours or anyone else's) are not in the business of training guide dog teams, and we feel strongly that center staff are not qualified to evaluate a guide dog's work. All we have ever said is that students should be encouraged to contact their guide dog school if there is a problem. By the way, forcing a student either to leave his or her guide dog, or to "heel" it all day long, not allowing it to guide, is a recipe for problems to develop.

I have been asked whether NAGDU supports the idea of blind people learning cane travel. Of course we do! To my knowledge, neither NAGDU nor the guide dog schools have ever said otherwise.

A related question: Doug Elliott called me one day, and we had a long, thoughtful, and pleasant conversation. He asked me why anybody would want to take a guide dog to one of our centers, since our centers run a cane mobility program. I was not at the Resolutions Committee meeting, but the NAGDU Secretary, Eugenia Firth, was. Eugenia told me that, even Priscilla, in her presentation to the Resolutions Committee, said that when she goes to The Seeing Eye, she is not allowed to use her cane, so why should people insist on the right to use their guide dogs at our centers, which are cane mobility programs? This is a flawed comparison, rather like comparing apples to oranges. First of all, students attending guide dog schools for the first time are there for slightly less than a month, whereas those attending our centers stay for several months in most cases. Furthermore, at The Seeing Eye, students focus only on one skill: traveling with a guide dog. At our centers, cane mobility, as important as it is, is only one skill that is taught. Students also learn Braille, computer use, wood shop, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and all their other skills of blindness. Even more important, they learn a positive philosophy about their blindness. Calling our centers a "mobility program" undervalues what they actually do. They are much more than that.

As you may imagine, I've received a lot of calls about this resolution. It was not uncommon for people to tell me about their experiences at a rehabilitation center in the sixties and seventies. They were forced to kennel their guide dogs, or to tie them down somewhere before going to classes or meals. Several of the people who told me these stories asked me, in light of this resolution, if the Federation would defend someone's right to use a guide dog while in training at a rehabilitation center other than the ones we operate. What is the answer to that? I told these people that I hoped and believed we would, but I'm not sure. I was then asked by some of these individuals why it is that we seem to have the same attitudes about guide dogs in some of our centers that so many NAC accredited agencies demonstrated two or three decades ago. I couldn't offer a convincing answer to that, and I can't now. I hope you can help me. It was common for people in rehabilitation to spread misinformation about guide dogs. I was told in 1975 by my rehabilitation counselor that guide dogs are only for lazy, incompetent blind people who don't know where they're going and can't travel with a cane. I would hope the days of misinformation are over, but they are not. When you and I spoke by telephone about the Iowa situation, you told me that if you ran a center, you would not allow guide dogs on the premises. You also told me that the idea of a bond between guide dog and handler is nonsense. But you are mistaken; the bond is real and is not nonsense. It is only because the dog loves its master, wants praise, and wants to please that the dog is motivated to work at all for that person. If there were no bond, there would be no truly effective guide dog team. You went on to say that you wouldn't tell "those guys in Morristown," as you put it, what was wrong with their program. By the way, I have not shared your comments with my members, because to do so would only make them angry, and to what purpose? Also by the way, "those guys in Morristown," as you called them, have a name. It is The Seeing Eye. With all due respect, you don't know enough about guide dog use and training to be able to tell them what's wrong with their program. Joyce doesn't know enough to tell her students that guide dogs are "a hassle." We in the Federation (cane users and guide dog users working together) are the ones who discredited NAC. We rejoice as the number of agencies accredited by NAC continues to decline. We will ultimately kill NAC. Since, obviously, we in the Federation in no way resemble NAC, what do I tell the people who say from their experience that our centers are just as discriminatory as NAC agencies were when it comes to allowing them to use their guide dogs?

I will ask a related question here, even though only one of my members asked it of me. Why don't our centers employ more instructors who are guide dog users? Certainly there are guide dog users who understand and live our philosophy and are knowledgeable enough to teach anything (except cane travel) that we teach at the centers. I can see some obstacles to a guide dog user being a cane travel instructor, even if the instructor is an excellent cane user but chooses a guide dog as his or her method of mobility. If you wish to explore this further, I will dialogue with you about those problems at some other time. They are not relevant to this letter. But again, why don't we employ more instructors who use guide dogs? Is it because they don't apply for jobs at our centers? If that's the reason, how can we get the word out to them that they would be welcome? When we do employ guide dog users, are they allowed to use their dogs throughout the day, or do they have to lock the dogs in an office? Certainly, guide dog users on staff could accurately answer students' questions about guide dog use, while still supporting the students' acquisition of cane mobility skills. I realize that the Director of the Louisiana Center is a former guide dog user, and that's fine. But what could we do to encourage more current guide dog users who are qualified to teach certain skills to work at our centers?

One of my callers posed an interesting fantasy. Of course, it is purely a fantasy and will never happen, but let's stop and examine feelings for a moment. Suppose NAGDU were to open a new Federation center. Suppose we taught all the same skills (except cane travel) and conveyed the same philosophy as existing Federation centers do. The only difference: We wouldn't allow anyone with canes to enter. We would only allow two types of students: those who want to learn to use their first guide dog, and experienced guide dog users who want to learn other skills of blindness. In fact, at this hypothetical center, what if we were even to hire guide dog instructors and take first-time guide dog users through the month-long training course to learn to travel effectively with a guide dog, and then they would remain there for as many more months as necessary to acquire a sound philosophy and learn the other skills of blindness? What if we were then to announce that all students who brought white canes had to leave them in their apartments or lock them in an office and use only their guide dogs? I suspect that a significant number of cane users would feel just as slighted as some guide dog users do with the passage of this resolution.

You said in your letter to me that the Federation's position as stated in this resolution is not new. It is decades old. I assume we are talking about the Federation's position on informed choice. I hope we are not talking about a Federation position of excluding guide dogs or wishing everyone in the organization who uses a guide dog would stop doing so or saying that guide dogs promote second-class citizenship among the blind. The resolution doesn't say these things. But does it imply them? It wasn't very long ago (October, 1995) that Floyd Matson and Ramona Walhof and Dr. Jernigan and others expressed those and other negative and, I feel, incorrect opinions about guide dogs. The Federation lost a number of talented individuals who lost sight of the fact that the authors were merely expressing their own opinions. The people who left our movement thought that, because some of those authors were and are Federation leaders, and because their words appeared in the Braille Monitor (the Federation's official publication), they expressed official Federation policy. Under your leadership, all of us in the movement (dog and cane users alike) have done much to heal misunderstanding and develop mutual respect. I thought we had come a long way toward looking at each other as colleagues and friends and not worrying about each other's choices for independent travel. I hope this resolution does not set us back. I hope it does not result in an exodus from the Federation. If the resolution doesn't state new policy, why was it necessary to write it in the first place? Am I correct to assume that the need to defend Mr. Harris and the Iowa Commission for the Blind fostered this resolution? I am sorry about the mess in Iowa for a number of reasons, not the least of which is, if the Federation's hand hadn't been forced in this way, it is possible that over time NAGDU could have worked with the centers to create a more acceptable policy on guide dogs: a policy that would have taught cane travel skills but done so in a manner not detrimental to guide dog skills. This could work, because many of the skills are the same with both methods, including judging traffic, staying oriented, and being aware of environmental cues such as topography, wind, and sun.

And while we're talking about informed choice, I have been asked one final question to which I don't have a satisfactory answer. It is wonderful that the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, provides for informed choice. But more and more states are adopting the Federation model of rehabilitation, including not permitting guide dogs. If they're going to do that, I wish they'd at least pattern their programs after the Colorado Center, but some of them don't. So a guide dog user doesn't like his or her own state's training philosophy and wants to go out of state for training that places no restrictions on his or her use of a guide dog. Of course, the opposite scenario also occurs. Somebody wants to go to a Federation center in another state. In theory, because of the informed choice amendment, the counselor will accommodate such client requests and send the people to the providers they select. In fact, with the economy as it is and state agencies' budgets slashed and other state agencies being swallowed up into a big umbrella agency, there may not be enough money to send people out of state, and their request may be refused. Certainly, such clients have the right to appeal, but in the meantime, their training is put on hold, for who knows how long? Without the necessary funds, isn't it at least possible that, for some clients, informed choice will be an unfunded mandate? This was precisely Dana Ard's main point during the debate over the resolution.

I apologize for the length of this letter. I am writing to you as a colleague. I am serious about the questions I have presented, because the people who asked them are serious. In closing, I would like to extend two invitations to you. First, we would welcome an article from you in either addition of the NAGDU newsletter "Harness Up." In your own words, you could help people see that no slight was intended. The deadlines for submissions are: for the fall "Harness Up," October 31, and for the spring "Harness Up," April 15. The editor is Eugenia Firth. She will accept any medium except handwritten print. You may send your article to her either by e-mail or "snail mail." Her e-mail address is firthg@mindspring.com and her "snail mail" address is: 1019 Martinique Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75223. As for the second invitation, you have a standing invitation to visit and speak at any and all NAGDU meetings. Our first meeting is always a business meeting. It is always from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. It always occurs on Seminar Day (the day before registration). Our second meeting is the very popular seminar, "A Guide Dog in Your Life." It is always the evening of Tour Day from 6:00 to 10:00 PM. During this seminar, in addition to topics for experienced handlers, we also provide much useful and factual information to cane users who are considering whether or not to switch to guide dog mobility. We recognize that neither cane use nor guide dog use is for everyone. Since most guide dog users have also traveled extensively using the white cane, we are in the best position to know the advantages and disadvantages of both methods and to present them objectively. You might be interested in how we present the facts and in the range of questions we answer. In any case, you are always welcome to join us. I know you are extremely busy at convention, but I hope you will come whenever you can.

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this letter. I value your input as I answer the honest, searching questions of members of this division.
Suzanne Whalen, President National Association of Guide Dog Users


by Eugenia Firth

Usually when one sees the title of Editorial, it leads the reader to believe they are about to learn the position of the publication or the organization being represented. This is not the case here. The following comments are my opinion only, and I am making no attempt to represent anyone's views but my own. This article is a rather painful one for me to write because to do so I must revisit some unpleasant experiences.

As Suzanne already mentioned in her message, I am not seeking another term as secretary of this division. I have found my duties as secretary for the division rewarding, and I am proud to say that I played my part in our accomplishments these last six years. I once told someone on our NAGDU list that members had an obligation to support the organization's policies or take positive steps to get them changed if a position was one with which the member could not agree. I believe in most of the Federation's public views on blindness, but I cannot support the organization's attitude toward guide dogs as stated in Resolution 2003-101. Since I can't support it, my only other option is one I don't believe I can accomplish, to get the resolution changed.

My belief that I can't be an instrument for change comes from the very reality of the Federation's swing from advocate to rehabilitation agency. This past year, from time to time, I have been forced, as a division officer, to relive an experience which underscores the very direction toward which this organization is headed.

In 1973, The Seeing Eye had a grants program. As part of the program, Robert Whitstock, a graduate and field representative for the school, had gone to Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind to assist them in starting their Optacon training. The Seeing Eye had also provided funding for the program as well. AEB had followed, until that time, a no dogs allowed policy. I know this because in 1969, when I went to my required college preparation class, I was told so by staff members. I had asked because I was scheduled for The Seeing Eye's August class, and I wanted to know if there were any guide dog users on site for me to talk with about their experiences.

In 1974, I attended Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind again in order to take a class called the Civil Service Information Specialist. I was led to believe that I had been hired for a job in New Orleans with the US Civil Service Commission. I did not know, and was not told, that someone else had also been sent to take the evaluation for the job as well. Although by this time dogs were allowed at the center, they were anything but a welcome sight for the Director of Training. My dog and I worked well together, but we were a new team. She did not like the way the inexperienced students handled their canes. I am convinced that if I had followed some of our center's suggested methods for handling the situation I would have had a ruined guide dog. My dog was allowed to work. In fact, we went on mobility trips together.

However, the agency had a few restrictions which caused me problems, and these restrictions were imposed with no forethought on the part of the staff. Students were required, for example, to leave their dogs at their tables while going through the cafeteria line. Unfortunately, there was no way for the dogs to get under the tables, thus putting them in danger of being trampled by other students as they returned to their tables with their trays. In one instance, a staff member told a student to place her dog next to another unattended dog, and the dog took exception to it. A dog fight almost ensued.

I was a very enthusiastic praiser back then, and I was a little too loud with it. I was told so by the Director of Training, but I was told so in such a way to make me almost fearful of giving my dog praise. However, the man must have decided that I was not taking his advice seriously enough because he decided to call a conference, a conference in which I had no way to win. Present at this so-called skills assessment meeting were myself and about nine staff members who took it upon themselves to tell me all the reasons why I should not have a dog and all the reasons why I should give her up. They had me crying, but I had already made up my mind that, no matter what, I was keeping my dog. At the end of the meeting, the Director of Training said: "I'll tell you one thing. If you keep that dog, you're not getting into this class."

This conference was the culmination of several events which, fortunately, I had been describing to Mr. Whitstock at The Seeing Eye. The agency couldn't stop me from talking on the telephone, even though I'm quite certain they heard what I said and didn't like it. I'm sure my conversations on the phone caused the conference because earlier in the week an attempt had been made privately to convince me that a guide dog was not for me. If so, they must have been horrified to hear me tell one of their grantors that I had just been given an ultimatum to either give up my dog or my job, a dog which I had gotten from that very grantor. I didn't put all this together until later. The Optacon classes, which I had attended the previous year, never even once entered my mind.

The very next day, after telling all to Mr. Whitstock, I was informed that I was excused from mobility and that a Seeing Eye instructor, Dick Krokus, was arriving to work with me. It developed that The Seeing Eye did my mobility evaluation for my job, another bone of contention at that horrific meeting. I had had the audacity to tell the staff, as they were criticizing my dog's work, that they were not qualified to evaluate me.

Although I kept the job in New Orleans for only three years, I recently was able to pay back my time into the retirement system. The Seeing Eye is responsible for that because they put a stop to the discrimination which was occurring by performing the mobility evaluation. Mr. Krokus expressed it well at the time when he said "They are going to have to make up something for you not to get in now."

I don't know if the Federation of the seventies would have helped me then, but I wonder if the Federation of today could justify it, especially after passing Resolution 2003-101. The Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind of today, which is now called Lions World, has a superior policy toward guide dogs than our own centers. It was suggested to me that I listen to Alan Harris give an interview on ACB Radio in which he defended the state of Iowa's position regarding the presence of guide dogs in rehabilitation programs. In this interview, Mr. Harris set forth the idea of building accessibility versus program accessibility, the idea that a center cannot forbid someone to bring their dog into a building but may forbid a student from bringing a dog into a rehabilitation program. That idea, my fellow Federationists, is not new. I was subjected to it in the seventies. Those in the know may recall that the state of Iowa, through the auspices of an agency headed by Alan Harris, has forbidden a returning student to reenter its Adjustment to Blindness program with her dog. We now have the very interesting situation that our very own organization has passed a resolution which supports a state against an individual blind person. Therefore, I wonder if the Federation of today would have helped me to resolve the problem I had back in 1974.

In conclusion, I believe we must re-examine, if it's not too late, where we are going. No one organization can effectively accomplish it all, rehabilitation, advocacy, and certification. Sooner or later, a conflict comes up, as it has with guide dogs. Who wins, the organization or the individual? Who loses, the organization or the individual?

(Editor's Note:

This article was originally written for publication in the Braille Monitor. I believe most of our members will agree with the sentiments expressed herein.)

A Matter of Perspective

by Suzanne Whalen

I have been working with guide dogs since January, 1975. Prior to that time, I traveled extensively with my cane. This travel included study abroad in Spain for a semester, a month-long internship in Mexico City, and vacation travel in England, Scotland, Portugal, Canada, and the US. I have also used my cane "between dogs," to do necessary things like going to work, while waiting to get into class at The Seeing Eye. I am glad of the cane travel skills I have acquired. i am also glad I learned cane travel before getting my first dog. It is generally accepted that this is the best way to do it, though I have known people who had virtually no cane travel training and have nevertheless achieved independent travel very well with their guide dogs.

I reflected on all this as I read, and reread several times, Jim Omvig's article in the October, 2003 Braille Monitor. My purpose in writing this article is to respond on three levels: as President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), as a long-time guide dog handler, and as Mr. Omvig's colleague in the movement. I shall address two specific key points in Mr. Omvig's article.

First, Mr. Omvig asserts that anyone who has not experienced rehabilitation conducted on the Federation model is therefore not qualified to speak on Resolution 03-101. Please refer to the August-September, 2003 Braille Monitor for the text of this resolution and the background information about it. Second, Mr. Omvig maintains that, when he travels with a white cane, there is no doubt that he accomplished the trip by himself, whereas, if he were to travel with a guide dog, he would always be asking himself whether he accomplished the journey, or whether the dog did it.

Let's deal with the issue of who was and who was not qualified to participate in the debate over Resolution 03-101. I have never attended a center operated with Federation philosophy. The overwhelming majority of Federationists, including most NAGDU members, have never attended such a center. We believe that our centers provide the very best training currently available. However, there are other ways to acquire the skills of blindness. Many of us have mastered the alternative techniques we need and are going about our lives doing the things we need and want to do. Whether we travel with guide dogs or canes, we are deepening our Federation philosophy through work in the Federation. What most NAGDU members lack in firsthand experience at a Federation center, we make up for in our years of experience working with guide dogs. We bring to the discussion an accurate understanding of what guide dog travel is, and perhaps more important, what it is not. In addition, most guide dog users have at least some experience with cane travel, while very few cane users have ever used a guide dog. Based on their own experiences at a variety of rehabilitation centers, many members of NAGDU also bring to the discussion a wealth of ideas about how guide dogs can be integrated into a student's work at any center, without sacrificing the student's opportunity to learn to travel with a cane.

On the other side of the coin, as we continue to discuss qualifications, let us examine what Mr. Omvig brings too the table. To my knowledge, Mr. Omvig has never used a guide dog. Therefore, he has no firsthand experience with this travel method. Mr. Omvig can speculate, butt he realistically cannot know what his thoughts would be if he were traveling with a dog. He lacks the knowledge to determine how a guide dog would help him. Never having experienced the training, he cannot be expected to know how to use a guide dog most effectively in any situation. He cannot say for certain what the advantages and disadvantages of a guide dog would be for himself. Nevertheless, what Mr. Omvig lacks in guide dog experience and knowledge, he makes up for in his long and distinguished career in rehabilitation. Over many years, he has worked with and on behalf of blind people as they achieved their independence and learned how they could work as part of the Federation family to change what it means to be blind. This experience, of course, includes his dedicated service as a staff member at the adjustment to blindness center in Iowa during the years Dr. Jernigan was Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. The experiences and the perspective of most guide dog users are different from Mr. Omvig's, but that does not make them any less valuable. NAGDU members are no less qualified than Mr. Omvig is to debate this resolution.

The second point to address is Mr. Omvig's speculation that, after going somewhere with a guide dog, he would always wonder whether he or the dog was responsible for the success of the journey. In many ways, using a guide dog is like using a reader. Do you remember those research papers you had to write in college? When I attended college and graduate school, the reading machines developed by Raymond Kurzweil were still in their infancy, and the Internet wasn't even an idea germinating in somebody's mind. I could get most of the textbooks for my courses either transcribed into Braille or taped. But when it came to perusing the stacks in the library, it would have been impossible without the assistance of good readers. However, as helpful and essential as my readers were, I was responsible for directing the whole operation. I chose the topic, unless it had been assigned by the professor. I scheduled the readers. I selected where we would work. I decided what I wanted read. I instructed the readers on what to read and what to leave out. I took my own notes on the material, organized my notes into an outline, wrote the rough draft of the paper, made all necessary revisions, and prepared and handed in the final draft, on time, to the professor. Sometimes, my readers offered suggestions or pointed me to resources they thought might be useful. If I liked their ideas, I used them. If not, I didn't. Fortunately, I never got a grade below a C on a major research paper. But whether my grade had been an A-plus or an F, there would never have been a doubt in my mind that I had achieved that outcome myself. I directed the project from beginning to end. The reader was just one of the alternative techniques I used, along with the Braille writer, the cassette recorder, and the typewriter.

When I work my guide dog, as when I work with a reader, I am the one in charge. I decide when we're going, where we're going, and how we'll get there. I do this by means of the directional commands left, right, and forward. There is some variation among the schools in the commands they teach. Some of the commands The Seeing Eye taught Caddo are: find the stairs, find the elevator, inside (which means find the nearest entrance), outside (which means find the nearest exit), and straight. Incidentally, straight does not mean to go straight. It means that, no matter how crazily angled the intersection is, the dog must find the most direct path to take the handler to the other side of the street. Many of the skills that make a person a safe traveler with a cane also apply when traveling with a guide dog. The ability to judge traffic is an excellent example. It is true that, once in the street, a guide dog must maintain a safe distance from traffic. Depending on the speed of a car and how it is behaving, the dog must use its judgment and decide in a split second whether to speed up, slow down, stop, or even back up or swerve. That having been said, the handler must still initiate the crossing, since the dog doesn't know whether the handler wants to cross the street or turn to go down the street. The handler listens to the traffic, just as a cane user does, and gives the forward command when it is safe to cross. It is possible to confuse and maybe even to ruin a guide dog if the handler hasn't learned to judge traffic accurately and continually gives forward commands which the dog must disobey.

I like to carry my dog's training beyond where the school has left off. One way I do this is by teaching my dog to reverse the route we have traveled. Once we have arrived at a destination and are ready to return to the starting point, I give the necessary directional commands to get us back there, but along with each left or right command, I say a new command, "Show me." After a while, I drop the left and right commands and simply say, "Show me," with the expectation that the dog will get us back to where we started. Of course, I do this only in very familiar areas at first, so that if my dog makes a mistake, I can correct it and can begin using the directional commands again until he consistently demonstrates that he understands what I mean when I say "Show me." If I am consistent enough in my teaching over time, the dog will correctly retrace his steps when we are in unfamiliar areas. Suppose I am attending a conference in a hotel I've never seen. I get directions from the meeting room to the restroom. I convey these directions to the dog, using the left and right commands. When I am ready to return to the meeting, I simply say, "Show me," and my dog guides me, not only back to the meeting room, but usually back to the place we were sitting.

Once, my third dog Jesse and I were shopping at a mall. We visited several different stores on every floor. By the time we were ready to leave, I wasn't exactly sure where the entrance was that we had used to enter the mall. I could have explored. I could have gotten directions. Instead, all I had to say was, "Jesse, outside, show me." If I had simply said, "Outside," he would have taken me to the closest exit. As it was, he found the catalogue entrance to J. C. Penney's, where we had started our shopping four hours earlier.

Now that I am in a wheelchair, my dog must do a lot more problem-solving. If it's my first time in a building, I won't know where the entrance with the ramp is, but if I tell Caddo, "Find the ramp," he does it, which means that I don't have to get directions. If he sees that an aisle in a store is too narrow for my chair to pass, I trust him to find an alternate path. Also, I have always encouraged my dogs to indicate, with a turn of the head, if we are passing places we've visited before. Yet, they don't actually turn to go to those places until I validate it with a left or right command.

None of this should be taken to mean that I am cluelessly being dragged about at the end of a harness. I must remain sufficiently aware of environmental clues to correct my dog if he drifts into a parking lot or doesn't find the ramp or otherwise isn't paying attention. Some guide dog users don't encourage their dogs to take this kind of initiative. They wish to give every single command. In my opinion, these people forfeit one of the chief advantages of using a guide dog.

So let's bring this back to the analogy with using readers. There have been times when readers have suggested certain data bases in my research when I didn't know these data bases existed. I could have chosen to ignore their suggestion, but if I had, my research paper would not have been as complete. However, the decision was mine to make, and I remained in charge of and responsible for the outcome of the entire project. The reader received my money and my thanks, but I received the grade. I quite rightly got the credit or the blame for the outcome. My best readers were the people who took the initiative to make suggestions, but they would not have felt free to do so if I had not encouraged it. Guide dogs also vary in their abilities and the amount of initiative they take. But they will all do more thinking if they are encouraged and shown how to do so by the handler.

In conclusion, really good rehab programs realize that, whether the student chooses to travel exclusively with a cane, exclusively with a dog, or use both, the student is ultimately responsible for the degree to which he or she succeeds as an independent traveler.


by Paul Keasberry, Field Representative, Graduate Services, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.

If your trip is going to take several hours, it is advised to modify your dog's food and water intake. If you have an early morning departure, feed your dog a half-ration the evening before, and then none before departure. For a midday or later flight, feed 1/4 normal portion two to four hours prior to leaving the house.

Water intake before flying should be limited to a few laps to quench thirst. Do not allow your dog to "tank up" like a camel. In flight or during a stopover, provide a cup of ice cubes as a snack and to satisfy thirst. This food and water is adequate to maintain comfort for a healthy dog in normal temperatures for up to 12 hours. In extreme temperatures your dog may require more frequent watering. For longer trips, such as to Asia or Australia, you could take a small bag of kibble (or a couple of biscuits), and feed it piece-meal about halfway through the flight, along with another cup of ice cubes.

Here are some suggestions you might follow in advance of your trip.
1. If your dog has special medical issues, be sure and check with your veterinarian for food and water requirements.
2. Leash-relieve the dog at least twice in the last few hours prior to departure to ascertain evacuation.
3. Call ahead to find out about relief areas at stopover airports and hotels; make arrangements for airline or hotel staff to assist you in finding those areas.
4. Intestinal upsets due to a change in water or the stress of the trip are not uncommon. As a precaution, carry 10 or 12 sheets of paper towels in a plastic bag for mop-up. Also carry plenty of pick-up bags for upcoming excursions to a park or lawn at the airport or hotel relieving areas.
5. As quickly upon arrival as possible, put your dog back on its regular feeding, watering, and relieving schedule.


By Toni Eames

(Published in Off Lead, March 2002.)

I sat in the cancer center lounge awaiting my first post-surgery chemotherapy treatment. In a nervous state of anticipation, I bent down frequently to caress my Golden Retriever guide dog Escort lying at my feet. "May I pet your dog?" asked the patient sitting on my right. Without hesitation, I invited her to gain comfort from my silky canine stress reliever. Realizing that as a guide dog partner, I had the right and privilege to have Escort with me at all times, I felt compelled to share my dog with others who could benefit from his presence.

When I trained with my first guide dog, a Golden Retriever named Charm, in 1967, the prevailing advice given by trainers was never to allow anyone to pet a guide dog in harness. That view still dominates the guide dog movement to this day.

For the first few months after graduation, I strictly adhered to the no petting in harness policy. However, after entering graduate school I needed to take a revisionist stand. The theory behind the no petting policy is that dogs will get too excited and distracted, ignoring or neglecting their work, endangering the blind partner. The harness, according to this thinking, should always be regarded as a symbol of work mode to the dog. During team training, my classmates and I were advised to remove the harness before allowing our dogs to interact with members of the public, giving our canine assistants the off duty signal.

Wanting Charm to be able to associate with friends, family, and classmates without the hassle of removing her harness, I developed my own approach to this issue. Recognizing the fundamental problem was keeping Charm focused on her work as guide, I trained her to remain in a SIT or DOWN STAY while accepting hands on attention from others. Rather than removing the harness, I gave her the off duty signal by dropping the handle. She was not allowed to solicit attention by pulling toward a stranger's reaching hand, or toward a person she knew or liked. Of course, at home, where she was out of harness and functioned as any other pet dog, Charm was free to greet, play and cuddle with anyone visiting our home.

Another part of the training regimen was teaching Charm not to respond to strangers calling to her by whistling, clucking or offering her food. My perceptive partner quickly learned she would receive plenty of affectionate pats only when given the off duty signal and calmly assuming a SIT or DOWN position. When I held the harness in my hand and Charm was performing her role as guide, she regarded outstretched hands as obstacles to be avoided.

After completing graduate school, I was employed at a psychiatric hospital where Charm was the focus of attention from many fellow workers and patients. Her early training paid off, and she was able to enjoy an active social life without compromising her guide dog duties. I was an early pioneer of the therapy dog movement without even realizing it. Although Charm was not in harness in my office and patients could play with her there, many did not understand the prohibition of touching her while she guided me in the building and on the hospital grounds. Because of the conditioning I had done with her, Charm was not distracted by these friendly overtures. Incorporating her love of people into my counseling sessions, Charm was able to provide solace to patients by letting them pet her, brush or comb her on occasion and even play with her. Recognizing the value for me and my guide dogs of controlled interaction with members of the public, I subsequently trained Charm's successors, Flicka, Ivy and Escort, to the same standard.

Ed Eames:

Unlike Toni, who could not keep her hands off any animal entering her personal space, I did not consider myself an animal lover. Therefore, when I trained with my first guide dog, a black Labrador named Perrier, in 1981, the strong admonition never to permit anyone to pet my dog in harness, was never questioned.

All that changed one day when I was in a center city bakery in Philadelphia buying doughnuts and muffins. Perrier was sitting quietly at my side near the counter when an elderly woman approached and asked if she could pet him. Before I could get out my usual, "No, he's in harness and can't be petted," she said in an emotion-laden quivering voice near to tears, "I used to have a dog, but had to give him up when my husband died and I moved into an apartment building where they won't allow pets." Responding to her obvious need for a furry fix, I said, "Of course you can pet him. His name is Perrier." Taking his cue from the exchange, Perrier calmly leaned into her hand as she petted him on the head for the next two or three minutes. Stepping up to the counter, the sales person commented that the woman left the store all smiles. From that time on, Perrier's guide dog role was expanded to include short-term therapy for people in need of a doggie fix!

My continued relaxation of the "no pet" rule had unanticipated consequences. While soliciting support for a blindness-related bill in Sacramento, I breakfasted at the state capitol dining room. The day before I had walked the halls of the assembly with a friend who never allowed anyone to touch her guide dog. The committee vote was going to be very close, and we needed the support of one committee member, who was never in his office. As I put my breakfast tray on the table, I contemplated various strategies to get to this elusive politician.

As soon as I sat down, a friendly voice asked if he could pet my guide dog Kirby lying under the table. Welcoming the intrusion, I invited the stranger to join me for breakfast. Shifting the conversation from our mutual love of dogs, I asked him what he was doing in the capitol. To my delight, he was the elusive politician, and, over a cup of coffee, I was able to discuss my issue with him. He was the swing vote and our bill passed, thanks to Kirby! Had the assemblyman approached my blind colleague, he would probably have felt rebuffed and the opportunity to lobby him about the bill, would have been lost!

Toni and Ed Eames:

Since our marriage and move to California, our careers have literally gone to the dogs! We lecture at veterinary schools and at veterinary conferences, and our dogs are like magnets to those folks. As we wander around the exhibit hall and hotel lobby, Escort and Echo attract lots of attention enabling us to meet and network with scores of people in the animal health care community. Strolling through the mall or waiting for trains, planes, and buses, we have the opportunity to speak with many people who otherwise may have avoided talking to a blind person. Children can be educated about the need to always ask before approaching a dog, how to be gentle and why our dogs are with us in public.

Even the most committed dog lover should ask before approaching a guide, hearing, or service dog. Just as you would not hug a stranger, the same etiquette should be extended to working canine assistants. Many disabled people feel their dogs are an extension of their bodies and resent unsolicited attention showered on their teammates as an invasion of their personal space. Some dogs sport signs saying, "Please don't pet me, I'm working." Of course, if you run into us and want to say hello to Echo and Escort, please come over and give us the opportunity to settle the dogs for a visit!


By Toni and Ed Eames

British Rules and the IAADP Conference.

A major issue we have been working on during the last several months has been trying to get the British government to change its current policy about the transportation of guide, hearing and service dogs in the cabin of an airplane. Last year, we were delighted to hear that the British had eliminated their traditional six month quarantine for all animals entering the United Kingdom. This was welcome news since the last time we had flown there in 1990, we had to leave our guide dogs at home and travel using white canes. Unfortunately, in relaxing the quarantine under the Pet Travel Scheme, the government put in place a policy stating that no animals, including guide, hearing and service dogs, would be allowed to fly in the cabin of the plane if the flight lasted more than five hours! It was felt that confining an assistance dog to the cabin for more than five hours without providing an opportunity for relief was cruel and inhumane treatment!

The regulation was brought to our attention by Mike Osborn, a graduate of Guide Dogs for the Blind, who was taking on the lead role in changing this mandate that obviously discriminated against anyone living in North America and wanting to visit the UK. It also worked against assistance dog partners residing in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, etc. We decided to join forces with Mike and do what we could to change things. We also involved the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners in this advocacy effort.

Working with Mike, we helped recruit veterinarians willing to state that placing assistance dogs in the cargo hold on long distance flights was more cruel and inhumane than transporting them in the cabin. It was certainly more dangerous! Since we had flown from Atlanta to Capetown last year, a nonstop flight lasting 15 hours, South African Airways wrote about the ease with which our dogs handled the flight. Many United States guide dog training programs joined the fray, as did Assistance Dogs International, a coalition of guide, hearing and service dog training programs.

ON April 3, at the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners(IAADP) Tenth Anniversary conference, Mike reported he had presented a 200 page document to the British government containing testimonials from long distance disabled air travelers, veterinarians, airline officials, humane society representatives from all over the world protesting the policy. Mike Hingson also described his attempts to bring public notice to the issue based on his inability to be accompanied by guide dog Roselle on a fund raising trip to Ireland to help the Irish guide dog program. After hearing the two Mikes, IAADP passed a resolution calling on the British government to change its policy.

Three days later, at the Assistance Dogs International conference, Tom Pey, spokesperson for Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, the British guide dog training program, announced beginning April 13 guide, hearing and service dogs with proper health certificates will be permitted into the UK without any ceiling on the time spent in the cabin. This is a major victory!

Another event at the IAADP conference was an award presented to Charles Ganley, an attorney, who represented Darlene Kriner in a case against a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, hospital. Darlene, allergic to bee stings, called her doctor when she was stung. He told her to get to the emergency room as quickly as possible. By the time a neighbor drove her to the hospital, she was going into shock. Staff at the hospital refused to let her enter the emergency room with her guide dog, and she was forced to have her neighbor stay outside the facility with Trisket while she was treated.

In the ensuing jury trial, the hospital's staff and attorney claimed Darlene had received the same treatment as any other patient showing the same symptoms. Ganley showed the delay in actually being cared for endangered Darlene's life. They also stated the hospital was only trying to protect patients with allergies. The jury came back with a unanimous verdict for Darlene. Unfortunately, the case had to be heard as an ADA case and there are no penalties or damages that can be obtained from the hospital. In fact, the hospital is still fighting the verdict and has filed an appeal!

Both of us were among the six original founders of IAADP and Ed was both delighted and surprised when he was presented with a special lifetime achievement award by Joan Froling, another founding member. What a fantastic climax to IAADP's Tenth Anniversary Awards luncheon. Later that day Ed announced a new benefit for Canadian members, free microchips from Avid Canada. Canadian members now receive free Advantage, Bayer Animal Health's flea control product, and rebates from Wyeth Animal Health when Wyeth vaccines are used. United States members also receive free Advantage, free Avid microchips, free cosequin from Nutramax Laboratories and enrollment in the Veterinary Care Partnership program.


The trip to Vancouver was the first flight for Toni's new guide Keebler. Several months earlier, Ed's new dog Latrell took his first flight when we went to San Diego in August. Latrell handled the small prop plane flights well, overcoming his initial restlessness and settling down quickly. Our friend and fellow IAADP board member Carol King picked us up at the airport and took us for lunch at a Jewish deli. We really miss some of this New York food and very much enjoyed the things we ordered. Outstanding chopped liver and wonderful hot pastrami!

Besides seeing all of our San Diego friends, a motivation for the trip was to give Ed the chance to be buffeted and tossed around by ocean waves. He had three such chances during this trip. Our hotel was near a beach and Carol made the ultimate sacrifice and took Ed for a swim on Friday and Saturday. Toni stayed back at the hotel with Latrell and Escort, reading a good book. Boy, does she hate sand and seaweed!

Our hometown of Fresno is very much inland and the nearest ocean is 150 miles away. The water is extremely cold and most adults use wet suits to swim. San Diego not only has warmer water, but also has several sections of beach where dogs can run free and swim with their human family members. Making a fun day of it, Carol King and we took a ferry to Coronado to lunch with Carol Davis, Charly King and other folks from Pawsitive Teams, Carol and Charly's service dog training program. Sister Pauline Quinn, who has received national recognition for her work in establishing prison dog training programs, had driven from Los Angeles with her friend Sister Theresa to visit with us. Pauline was accompanied by her Golden Retriever demonstration service dog Pax. Pax was bred in Fresno and donated to Pauline by our friend Deb Harper.

Most of us then car pooled to the beach. When Toni's guide Escort realized where we were going, he couldn't wait to get out of his harness and into the waves. Toni's former guide Ivy loved to swim for swimming sake, but Escort wants to swim and dive in order to retrieve a thrown object. When we got tired of tossing a ball, he ran around the beach employing strangers to play with him.

We had several sighted friends with us who kept their eyes on Ed jumping the wave and the Golden boys. The beach was a long distance from the road, so we weren't worried about traffic.

Latrell appointed himself social greeter and attempted to introduce himself to the more than 150 dogs on the beach. Our friends feared losing sight of him in the mass of Golden Retriever bodies, so Latrell was put on a 20 foot long line. This did not deter him from swimming and jumping the waves.

After two hours of water ecstacy, we took the boys to a nearby dog wash where they were bathed and made ready for the ferry and car ride back to the hotel. The only downside to this adventure was that both dogs swallowed a lot of salt water resulting in diarrhea for Latrell and long peeing sessions for Escort.

In September we combined lecturing at the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University veterinary schools with the semi- annual IAADP Board meeting outside of Detroit. This gave us the opportunity to visit Leader Dogs and check out their new student dormitory. Larry Heflin, a Leader Dog supervisor drove us from our motel to the facility. We were able to meet several students in training when we lunched with them. One woman reminded Ed of his experience when training with his first guide dog. Like Ed, she has retinitis pigmentosa and has lost considerable night vision. That night the class was doing a night walk and she was really frightened at the prospect of really having to depend on her dog. Ed tried to reassure her that all would be well!

Larry gave us a tour of the new student residence. What a magnificent facility! It appeared that the building contained everything a student could want! Ed, who has recently joined the North Fresno Lions Club, was delighted with the support Lions Clubs all over the country have given to making this dream a reality. It also was fun showing off 11-year-old Leader Dog alumnus Escort to the folks at his training center.

A month later we took a similar tour of Guide Dog Foundation's new dormitory. We traveled to New York after doing a presentation at the Virginia/Maryland Regional School of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg. Wells Jones, CEO of the Foundation, showed us around this amazing facility. Dogs and humans will be delighted with the care taken in designing the building.

Ever since Latrell joined our family, we have been in touch with his puppy raising family, mom Julia, children Daniel 17, Amber 13 and Ashley 9. The Creeches were so excited about meeting us and seeing grown-up Latrell, they drove 7 hours from Bellingham, Washington to meet us in Pullman where we were speaking to the veterinary students at Washington State. With adjoining hotel rooms, it was easy to put a plan we had developed into action. As soon as the front desk told us the Creeches had registered, we put Latrell in their room. With our ears to the door, we delighted in their excitement when they unlocked the hotel door and were greeted by an exuberant and welcoming Latrell! When we introduced ourselves, Latrell felt like his world was complete, the joining of his first family with his current one!

Love and Loss. Toni Eames

There is a scene in our Partners in Independence video where I am sitting with my arm around Escort saying: "My Friend, my partner, my independence!" I will never here these words again without extreme sadness, because my partnership has been severed. It's hard to believe he's physically gone, because he is such a strong physical memory.

For nine years, this loving Golden Retriever brightened my life, kept me safe and always made me laugh. His vibrant, always happy, ready-to-play personality did not allow me to be idle. He could lay quietly during meetings, but was ready with toy in mouth when given permission to play. At home, when Ed and I worked on the computer, Escort would remind us that play breaks made for healthier, more active brain cells. How could this strong spirit be physically gone?

On Sunday Feb. 1, a week after the initial episode in Florida, fluid returned to Escort's chest with a vengeance. He was extremely uncomfortable, unable to rest with labored breathing. He stood in front of me, nuzzling my hand, as if to ask me to make him feel better. After all I was the love of his life and always made good things happen for him. Many people told me that Escort always gazed at me lovingly despite numerous distractions. His devotion and attachment were so great that he followed me around the house as usual and wanted to stay in petting distance despite his obvious discomfort.

Toward late evening I was getting frantic as the fluid seemed to rapidly collect in his body. We were scheduled to see a veterinary cardiology specialist the next day, but that was hours away! We are blessed with many loving and caring friends. Beth Shea, who would be driving us to the veterinary specialty practice in Fremont the next day, came over late Sunday night with some diuretic pills to help ease Scortie's discomfort. I spent the night downstairs with my boy so I could take him out to urinate every few hours. It was a long and anxious night!

Monday morning when Debbie came to clean, Escort greeted her with his usual burst of high pitched shrieks of joy. He brought her a toy, but was too tired to play for long. When Beth arrived, we loaded everyone in the van and began the 3 hour drive to the Bay area. Due to heavy downpours, the drive took even longer!

One of the remarkable things about my Tweedle Deedle was his ability to be a totally undistracted and calm worker in harness, and a total flake when off duty. He was a large, powerful dog, who never used his strength to pull in harness, but often threw his weight around in play. In his youth, he was always stepping on me or forcibly using his paw to demand attention. He pitted his strength against anyone willing to play tug, but could have a gentle pull with small children and tiny dogs.

Monday afternoon Escort guided me into the veterinary hospital, carefully avoiding the other canine patients. He didn't particularly like other dogs, so I never had to deal with dog distraction, or any other distraction for that matter. Friends nicknamed Escort the robot dog, because of his total focus on his work. His dislike of other dogs was often a problem in social situations, but not an issue at this time.

Dr. Helen Hamilton, the internal medicine specialist who cared for Kirby and Disney a decade ago, took over Escort's case. She came in on her day off to handle the situation. Helen had arranged for cardiologist, Richard Kienle to ultrasound Escort and offer a possible diagnosis and reason for the fluid build-up. Unfortunately, the ultrasound was not conclusive although both doctors strongly suspected cancer. Several terrible options were presented, the most awful was to euthanize him that day. Both doctors agreed there was a very small chance it was not cancer and open heart surgery, if it wasn't cancer, could continue giving him a good quality working life.

The surgery was schedule for the next day and Helen drained 4 pounds of fluid from Escort's chest to make him comfortable overnight. We went to a nearby hotel and out to dinner Monday night. Escort masterfully guided me and was almost himself. Back in the hotel room, he slept and did not ask to engage in play. We all slept well that night!

Tuesday morning, Escort was bright and alert. He retrieved my shoes and found the door to the grass area. When we drove to the hospital, he guided me into the facility and into Helen's office. I had not wavered in my decision to give him the chance to beat the odds and continue to do what he most loved. It was inconceivable that he was dying from the inside out!

Dr. Helen Hamilton is an extraordinary person, brilliant, caring and decisive. Her staff radiates competence and kindness. Shelly, the veterinary nurse took time to make friends with Escort before taking him out of the room. When I gave him a final hug and kiss, I knew I might never see him again. Walking out of that office carrying his empty harness, leash and collar, was one of the hardest things I ever did. On the drive home to Fresno, the three of us distracted one another by chatting about all sorts of things. Although I knew his chance of survival was slim, a small part of me toyed with the idea that he would be cancer-free and I could show him off as my miracle dog!

When the call came, Helen broke the news that Escort's heart was covered in nodules and there was no doubt in her mind that it was mesothelioma. Shelly promised to give him that final hug and kiss and I now had to face life without my toy boy! We arrived home with the knowledge that never again would Scortie guide me up those steps, then, undressed from his work clothes, dart into the living room to retrieve a favorite toy. Never again would he shriek in delight when a special friend rang the bell. Never again would he race up the stairs with a toy, encouraging me to play when I reached the top of the flight. The energy in the house is deflated. Echo and Latrell are quiet boys and do not exude that powerful life force.

Living with animals is a cycle of love and loss. It's the end of an era, but my love and devotion will soon be shared with Escort's successor. I'm so grateful I shared my very being with this marvelous creature for nine wonderful years, but the pain of loss is incredibly awful and I miss my Escort from the bottom of my heart. Beth shared a letter from a dog magazine. The writer said that when she died, the autopsy would reveal a heart, like a fine China plate, with many cracks in it, one for every animal she loved and lost. The crack left by Escort will be long and deep!

March 1 marked the beginning of a new era. My new partner, a little Golden girl named Keebler entered our lives and our hearts! Despite carefully made plans to have the kitchen cabinets painted and everything put away before Keebler's arrival, things went awry. Since the paint job was postponed, this cute two-year-old came into a chaotic environment with boxes and utensils strewn all over the house!

Emily Simone, field trainer for Guide Dogs for the Blind who had worked with Ed and Latrell, arrived around 2 p.m. She brought with her the most plush feeling Golden I ever touched. Keebler and Latrell immediately fell in love and haven't stop playing since they met! This cute Golden, a rich gold color, grew up with cats, so was very gracious when the four felines were finally allowed out of their lock-up. After settling the new dog into the chaotic household, Emily went home for some well deserved sleep.

Emily and I worked out an arrangement that made me more comfortable walking with a new dog. Emily took Keebler on the first route to work out some possible glitches, then Keebler and I walked the route with Emily's continuing input. Itt was a wonderful way to handle my fears of tripping or falling.

During the next three weeks, the training continued with Keebler being introduced to the routes we use for exercise, to get to City Hall and work in the mall and shops we frequent. On some days, Ed and Latrell joined Keebler and mee in training. Keebler is quick to learn and works with a serious demeanor. Her big problem area is squirrels! She completely loses focus when she spots one of these critters, but we all have temptations in our lives! Emily was fun to work with and we miss her daily visits.

By the time training was finished, Keebler had been to a folk concert, attended a presentation we did at Fresno State for a group of seniors, laid quietly under the table for all-day ADA committee meetings at City Hall, attended a spaghetti dinner sponsored by the Valley Center for the Blind, accompanied us to several restaurants, and spent many hours wrestling with Latrell!

The final aspect of home training is traffic work. The fateful element this time was that Jim Power was the driver for the traffic checks. Ten years ago, he was an instructor at Leader Dogs and trained Escort to be the excellent worker he became. Now employed at GDB, Jim drove to Fresno for this all-important test. While Emily and I strolled a designated route, Jim tested Keebler's steadiness by pulling out of driveways, backing up, cutting us off in the middle of the road and idling the car in the crosswalk forcing Keebler to refuse the forward command. We passed with flying colors and went to celebrate at Doug-Out Cookies, the shop owned by friend Marsha Eichholtz. Jim was given a huge box of cookies to share with the training staff in San Rafael as a thank you gift from all of us!

Unfortunately, we will not have the opportunity to introduce Latrell and Keebler to many of you in Atlanta in July. Have a wonderful convention!


By Peter Donahue

Several years ago pet-loving Americans rejoiced when news was received that England added North America to its Great Britain Pet Travel Scheme. Those of us who use guide dogs initially welcomed this news with the same enthusiasm as did all other pet owners wishing to take their dogs and cats with them to England for business, or vacationed, or moved to the United Kingdom to pursue educational, or career opportunities. It also meant that those living in Great Britain would be able to take their pets with them on vacation without them having to go into the six-month long post arrival quarantine upon their return home. However, guide dog owners soon learned that one regulation concerning pets entering the UK by air did not change. All animals entering England by air must travel in the cargo hold of the airplane on in-bound flights to England, and there would be no exceptions. This is especially true of animals coming from countries like the United States among others.

About a year ago a world-wide effort began to urge the British Government to end this cruel practice by changing this narrow regulation to permit guide and other assistance dogs to accompany their owners in the passenger cabin on flights into England. The following paragraphs will tell the story of this struggle in more detail and will include the latest information we receive before this issue of Harness Up goes to press. We'll look at the origin of Great Britain's quarantine laws, how the Great Britain Pet Travel Scheme came to be, and how recent changes in this law will allow guide dogs and their handlers both within, and without the UK to travel more freely without having to be separated from each other on flights into England.

The reason for these long-standing laws was the fear of rabies. Since no cure for rabies exists the emphasis has been on control and prevention. The British Quarantine for animals arriving in the United Kingdom was introduced in 1901 following a rabies outbreak, which killed 173 people. Since that time the British Isles have been free of classical rabies for many decades, but because of the existence of the disease elsewhere there is concern about rabies being reintroduced by imported animals. Rabies has a six-month incubation period from the time an animal or human is infected to the time clinical symptoms appear. Since the effectiveness of the early rabies Vaccine was questionable, and since there was no way to determine if an animal's immune system contained enough antibodies to prevent it from being infected by rabies all rabies susceptible animals entering the UK would be required to spend six months in quarantine. For more than 100 years this quarantine program remained in effect with little, if any changes, or any regard for the welfare of animals undergoing quarantine and for their owners. Any warm-blooded animal can contract rabies. Interestingly enough livestock, horses, and commercially-traded dogs and cats were exempt from the quarantine, but bring in a pet dog, a guide dog for the blind, cat, guinea pig or rabbit, and they had to spend six months in one of 80 quarantine kennels in Great Britain, with virtually no exercise and with only the kennels' contracted veterinarians to check them out. There were no uniform statutes governing these kennels whose conditions were not unlike those of Nazi concentration camps. The kennel owners voluntarily agreed to provide respectable care, but this often was lacking. The last case of rabies known to be intercepted by Britain's quarantine program was in 1972. Since that time not a single case of rabies has been detected in Great Britain's quarantine stations. This is due in part to improved rabies vaccines, blood tests which allow one to measure the level of rabies immune titer in an individual animal, and improved control programs of many countries world-wide; especially in North America, Western Europe, and in various Island countries. Despite these developments Britain's quarantine laws remained unchanged since their inception in 1901. No human has died from rabies contracted in Britain since 1903. However reports of wide-spread abuse of pets by quarantine kennel personnel, the increased danger of rabies being introduced by animals illegally smuggled into Great Britain to circumvent the quarantine requirement, and numerous deaths of beloved pets began to surface in the British press. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (RSPCA), says more than 1,200 animals have died in UK quarantine kennels in the last 10 years.

Even something as innocent as one's flight landing in a rabies-prone country in an emergency could still land a beloved pet into quarantine for six long months. With the increasing number of complaints of abuse and mistreatment by quarantine kennel operators in Great Britain the winds of change began to blow.

Lady Fretwell & The Great Britain Pet Travel Scheme

"My husband was in the Foreign Service, so this meant that each time we returned to England from a post our basset hound had to go through that awful quarantine,? says Lady Mary Fretwell. "Over the years, we could see how the quarantine conditions got worse and worse. The final straw came in 1987, when Lady Mary and Sir John Fretwell returned to England from their final post in Paris." "We came back with our basset hound," Lady Fretwell says, "And it was a terrible quarantine experience. Our beloved Bertie, our favorite of all the bassets we've had over the years, was a different dog after this horrible experience, and died soon afterwards. This pushed us into doing something about the quarantine situation in the UK."

The result was an organization called "Passports for Pets," and because of the untiring efforts by the Fretwells and 10,000 members and many volunteers who pushed for changes in the pet entry system, there is now in place a specific method of bringing cats and dogs into the UK without going through quarantine. She said: "We have thousands of members, including deaf and blind people and members of the armed forces, who have suffered a great deal of unhappiness over the years because of this old-fashioned voodoo over rabies and quarantine. It is a disgrace that guide dogs and working dogs have been barred from traveling with their owners. I would also add that it is a disgrace that when the Pet Travel Scheme was first introduced that guide dogs were barred from flying in the passenger cabin with their owners on long haul flights into England.?

The Great Britain Pet Travel Scheme, (PETS), was introduced for dogs and cats traveling from certain European countries to England on 28 February 2000, following a successful pilot program. Passports for Pets took part in the inauguration of the Pet Travel Scheme on 28th February, to try out the new system. Lady Fretwell traveled to France with her basset hound Claude on 26th February and returned on the first Shuttle train to carry pets into England on Monday 28th. One hour after the old ring of mandatory quarantine for animals entering England from certain countries was destroyed, and the new regime came into force, Frodo Baggins, a five-year-old pug sailed into Dover, southern England, by ferry from the French port of Calais to a celebrity's reception. But Claude, the dog who inspired the scheme, missed out on the occasion after swallowing his lead. Instead of joining the fellowship of the PETS consisting of Lady Fretwell, his owner, 16 other dogs and a cat called Heloise, the basset-hound was recovering after an emergency operation in a central London veterinary clinic. Baroness Hayman, Minister of State at MAFF, was there to welcome the largest party of pets as they disembarked the Eurotunnel Shuttle Service at Folkestone. For the first time in nearly 100 years cats and dogs could enter the UK without going into quarantine provided they fulfilled certain criteria. Under this new government scheme individuals and their pets can travel more freely while maintaining protection against rabies in the UK.

The Scheme was extended to Cyprus, Malta and certain Long Haul countries and territories on 31 January 2001. Bahrain joined on 1 May 2002. Mainland USA and Canada joined on 11 December 2002.

Animals from non-qualifying countries must still spend 6 months in quarantine. The UK classifies qualifying PETS countries into two categories. European Countries are those countries on the European Continent which are a part of the European Union, (EU), and Non-European countries. Countries which fall into this second category are more commonly referred to as "long haul" countries. Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United States of America are all classified as long haul countries. Originally pets entering Great Britain could only travel to England via an approved sea, rail, or air route in the case of European Countries, and in most cases by air only from long haul countries. They could only travel to England directly from their country of origin. When North America was added to the Pet Travel Scheme many guide dog users rejoiced. It was the light at the end of the tunnel we wanted to see for many years.

This joy was short lived upon learning that one provision of the Pet Travel Scheme effectively prevented airlines operating routes to England from long haul countries from letting our guide dogs fly with us in the passenger cabin. The original PETS regulations required any pets being transported by air from a long haul country such as the United States to travel in the cargo hold in a sealed crate. To make matters worse pets coming to England from abroad had to come directly from their country of origin, and not via any other PETS country. Any animal which came to England by a PETS country other than its country of origin would need to "reprepare" for final entry into Great Britain. Guide dog users once again found themselves in the dark tunnel with no end in sight. If we were to have the opportunity to travel to England accompanied by our guide dogs something would need to be done to remove this barrier to our visiting the UK, and to protect our guides from possible mistreatment and/or injury by airline personnel, and the trauma such treatment would cause to guide dogs effecting their ability to work. Bad experiences aboard an airplane can cause humans to develop a fear of flying, and can do the same with animals. Complicating things even more is the fact that airlines will not transport live cargo during extremely hot or cold weather.

Then there's the matter of that business of "sealing" the crates in which pets entering England must travel. This requirement conjured up images in the minds of many assistance dog users of their dogs crates being wrapped in plastic, or some other material with little, or no way to breathe, and being pronounced "Dead on arrival" once they reached England. In reality the "Seal" referred to is simply a device used to secure the door of the dog's crate to prevent its being let out prior to arrival at its final destination. It does not hinder ventilation thus the dog is able to breathe without any trouble. The mechanism is affixed to an animals crate by a country's agricultural service veterinarian, or other designated official prior to the animal being loaded on to the plane for its trip to England. A similar official "Breaks the seal" by cutting it off allowing the animal to be removed from its travel container. The theory behind this practice is that if a pet's travel crate is sealed in this manner it cannot be opened until the animal arrived in England. Thus the animal can't be removed from its travel container reducing the possibility of it coming in contact with other animals which may have rabies. Fortunately provisions exist to permit animals to be removed from their crates by breaking the seal should it become ill and need medical attention, or in the case of extremely long flights, for the pet to be relieved and have its other needs attended to while in transit.

It is not unheard of in the blindness field to find those resistant to change; even if these changes would mean greater freedom of travel for the blind, and in this case, guide dog users. It is a bitter irony that the very agency in the UK which provides guide dogs to its blind citizens would attempt to buck any effort to permit guide dog teams to travel together in the passenger cabin on long-duration flights. According to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, (GDBA) the maximum time a guide dog could fly in an airplane cabin in comfort is seven hours. There's a kicker here. If two hours are figured to be needed for boarding, and deplaning the actual flying time then goes down to just five hours. Currently the air routes to Britain on which guide dogs may be accepted in the cabin is considerably less than five hours. Many of them last one to two hours.

I believe that if there is to be any restriction on the length of time a guide dog can accompany its blind owner on a long-duration flight it should be figured only on actual flying time. Boarding, and deplaning time should be excluded when determining such figures. Perhaps this belief stems from the GDBA's severe lack of experience in this area. Guide dog teams from other countries around the World have taken long-duration flights lasting as long as 14 hours or more for years with little or no discomfort to either dog or owner.

My wife Mary and I had the opportunity to host a young woman who flew here with her guide dog from Australia in 2001. Her dog was allowed to fly with her in the passenger cabin on all legs of her trip without any problems. She and her dog were the hit of the flights between Los Angeles, California, and Melbourne, Australia, which is 14 hours each way. Neither the passengers nor the crew objected to her dog's presence in the cabin on these flights.

Thanks to the hard work of Lady Fretwell, and her associates that at least now it was possible for a guide dog user from specific countries to import their dog into England without its having to undergo quarantine. But in reality we were only half way there. There was still an enormous dragon to be slain; namely this policy of not allowing our guide dogs to fly with us in the passenger cabin on long haul flights into Great Britain. Someone would need to take our case to the British Government to press for modification of the Pet Travel Scheme to permit assistance dogs to fly with their owners instead of in an airplane's cargo hold. Who would rise to the occasion to help us open up Great Britain's skies for guide dog teams?

The Battle of Osborn and Hastings:

In 2003 members of the disabled community rallied to urge amendment of the Pet Travel Scheme to give airlines the freedom to determine how pets, namely assistance dogs would be transported into the UK. A central figure to emerge in this struggle was a 48-year-old businessman from California named Michael C. Osborn. Osborn had experience with taking long-duration flights with his guide dog Hastings. Together this team has traveled to such far-flung destinations as Australia, New Zealand, and France. They made regular trips to Hawaii. With the exception of France which does not have a quarantine period for newly-arrived animals, all of these states and countries now exempt guide dogs from their quarantine requirements provided the dog meet specific criteria for the exemption to be granted. For many years Osborn wanted to visit the UK, but not if his guide dog would have to fly in the cargo hold on the in-bound leg of their trip. He vowed to work for change to this discriminatory policy which inhibits the free travel of those who use assistance dogs, and in some instances has ruined, a well-working animal.

For much of 2003 Osborne gathered information to submit to government officials in England to press for change to this repressive policy. This information included statements from airlines, and air travel-related organizations as well as data from the International Federation of Guide Dog Schools for the Blind which supported our contention that transporting assistance dogs with their owners in the passenger cabin was preferable, and safer than carrying them as cargo. He included information about the successful programs of Australia, Hawaii, and New Zealand which permit a guide dog to fly with its owner in the passenger cabin on in-bound flights, and to enter the state or country without quarantine. The picture wouldn't be complete without including written testimonies of assistance dog owners who have successfully taken long-duration flights to distant lands, without difficulty. After gathering this data he drafted a "Formal Proposal" which he submitted to Mr. Richard Ackroyd; Manager of the PET Travel Scheme. The agency which operates this scheme is the British Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, (DEFRA.)

Osborn submitted this proposal on September 8th 2003. He and Mr. Ackroyd kept in touch almost weekly to work out fine points before the amendment was laid in Parliament in March of this year. I received an update on his progress with this matter as well as a very nice Christmas card last Holiday Season. He also took that opportunity to thank those of us helping him with his campaign. The amendment contained two key provisions which would clear the way for the in-cabin transportation of guide dogs with their owners on flights into England. The most important of these was removal of the sealing requirement. Animals that arrived in the UK whose crates were not sealed prior to shipment would be eligible for early release from quarantine pending the passage of this amendment. Another significant provision of interest to guide dog users was elimination of the regulation which stated that animals entering England under the Pet Travel Scheme were required to be transported as manifest cargo. The impending launch of the European Pet Passport prompted another significant change to the Pet Travel Scheme. Under the EU Pet Passport Program pets may travel freely between member nations however some nations will retain their quarantine requirements. In an unexpected move this too was applied to long haul countries. When the new legislation came in force pet and assistant dog owners could now enter England via other qualifying PETS Countries.

For example one could fly from the U.S. to France, and then enter England via sea, the Eurostar, or on an air route which permits guide dogs to fly in the cabin with their handlers. At least there would be a back door open for entering England and avoiding having to transport the assistance dog in cargo. I awoke one morning and checked my e-mail to find joyous news in my inbox. Although DEFRA had not formally announced the changes to the Pet Travel Scheme the Scottish Press got wind of it and new stories began to circulate world-wide announcing the changes which would clear the way for permitting guide dogs to fly with their owners traveling directly to Great Britain.

The Next Phase:

We in the National Federation of the Blind know that battles to win true equality and freedom for the blind are not always won in a single skirmish. Rather they are won through a series of battles. It is also true that we often need to engage different foes to obtain final victory. This war is one of those which will be won in phases. The first significant battle has been won. The British Government has modified the Pet Travel Scheme by eliminating the requirement for animals to be transported from a long haul country in a sealed crate, and by air only. It also allows air carriers to determine how animals, including assistance dogs will be transported to England from long haul countries clearing the way for them to fly directly to England with their owners in the passenger cabin. It also opens up the possibility of sea routes to Britain from long haul countries to be established giving guide dog owners the option of cruising to England rather than flying. Great Britain has cleared the way for the in-cabin transport of guide dogs and their owners to occur. The next phase will be to urge airlines to modify their policies to allow guide dogs to fly in the cabin with their owners on their routes to England, and to make their intentions known to DEFRA officials for approval of this contract.

As previously stated above the British Government has cleared the road block to our guide dogs being able to fly in the passenger cabin with us to England. The task is now for all of us in our respective nations to urge our country's airlines which operate flights to England to allow guide and other assistance dogs to fly with us in the passenger cabin instead of in the cargo hold. Besides making direct contact with airline officials which Osborn, and others including myself are doing we as an organization of the blind can do much to encourage U.S. air carriers to modify their PETS contracts to permit guide dogs to fly in the cabin with us on their routes to England.

I have suggested to Suzanne Whalen, the President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users that a resolution should be introduced at our 2004 National Convention to urge our airlines to make this modification to their PETS Contracts. The NFB has had a long, and sometimes turbulent relationship with our airlines so they know us well. If they hear from us in sheer numbers the chances of them making the required changes to their PETS Contracts will come quicker than we think. We would also urge organizations of the blind in other qualified PETS countries and our blind brothers and sisters in the UK to urge their airlines to make these changes to create travel opportunities for guide dog users who reside in these nations. There are two races to be run in the months ahead. The first is to see which airlines will begin allowing guide dogs to fly with their owners in the passenger cabin on their flights into England. The second will be to see who will be the first guide dog team to take advantage of this newly-won freedom to fulfill a life-long dream to visit, or to move to the UK to pursue an educational, or perhaps a vocational goal. It will be our responsibility to make wise travel plans, and to ensure that our guide dogs fulfill all of the requirements to enter the UK without quarantine, and to ensure that all goes smoothly. I believe there is a lot of good will towards us on the part of DEFRA and the British Government. Like us they too want very much to see the new provisions work to create greater freedom for guide dog users both within, and without the UK. It will be up to individual guide dog users to make that happen.

Let me conclude by taking you through a hypothetical scenario. I've chosen a pretend blind couple and their guide dogs for my scenario. I'll explain the preparation procedure for guide dogs entering Great Britain as we go. They plan to visit England for a vacation in early 2005. Since their goal is to leave in January they will need to begin preparing their guide dogs for entry to England at the end of this month. They begin by visiting their veterinarian to have their dogs microchipped if they have not all ready done so. Since microchip standards in Europe are different from those of the U.S., our couple has strongly been advised to bring their own scanner capable of reading their guide dogs? microchip number. They will also have them vaccinated against rabies. They had this done on April 30, 2004. They will need to return to the vet on May 30 for the dogs to be blood tested to ensure they have the required level of antibodies to protect them from a possible rabies infection. These tests can only be carried out by a DEFRA-approved lab for the results to be acceptable for entry into England. They were sure to tell their vet to send the blood samples to the correct lab for this test to be performed and for the results to be considered valid by DEFRA. The tests came back on June 1, the results are acceptable. They will fill out the required PETS forms for their dogs to enter the UK, and will fax, or mail them to DEFRA for review and to receive the proper permit for the dogs to be imported. They will also receive other certificates to be filled out by the vet shortly before they leave for England indicating that the required tick and tapeworm treatments were done in accordance with the PETS rules. Remember that an acceptable blood titer result was obtained on June 1 of 2004. Since pets entering Britain must wait six months once acceptable test results were obtained their guide dogs won't be eligible for entry into England until January 1 of 2005. Their window for entry is good from that time to April 30, 2005; exactly one year from the date their dogs last rabies shot was given. Since the dogs won't be eligible for entry into England until after January 1 of 2005 life will go on as usual. They will need to remember that during the six-months waiting period their guide dogs must not travel to any non-PETS country. Our couple will plan the other aspects of their trip during this time. This will give them plenty of time to plan, and dream about what they want to see, and do while in England. They will need to obtain passports for themselves and their children if they plan to take them. They will also obtain any medical documentation and immunizations if required although I believe shots are not necessary for humans to enter the UK.

It has come time for them to make their plane reservations for their trip to England. They'll need to remember that their guide dogs can only fly on approved PETS routes, and on those approved to transport guide dogs in the passenger cabin with their owners. They will be able to obtain this information from both the DEFRA, and the NAGDU Web Sites, and willl need to notify their travel agent that they need to fly on these routes since they're bringing their guide dogs with them. By the time they make their trip several airlines will be able to transport their guide dogs with them in the passenger cabin. From where will they leave on the leg of their trip to England? There are many possibilities. Since no guide dog team has made this trip from the U.S. they stand to be the first to make this historic journey to England with their guide dogs in the passenger cabin. I'm sure a number of air carriers will be vying for the recognition such an event would garner for them. Several cities come to mind from which this historic first would depart. Chicago is the transportation capitol of the U.S. Boston, Dallas, Miami, New York City, Orlando, and Washington D.C. are also strong candidates as they are not strangers to historic firsts. Another strong contender is Houston. Of course no one knows for sure where this first guide dog team to fly together to England will leave from, or if it will be just one team. Perhaps it's our imaginary couple. Or just as Lady Fretwell led the first fellowship of pets into England which would not have to undergo quarantine upon their arrival a "fellowship" of guide dogs and their owners will make the journey together in the passenger cabin to usher in a new era of freedom and opportunity for guide and other assistance dog users.

The time has passed swiftly. Our couple and their children have begun packing and making final arrangements for their trip. Since they live in Texas they have decided to leave from Houston and will enter England via London's Gatwick Airport.

Our couple has been instructed to fax their paperwork, to DEFRA so they can make sure that it is in order, and is filled out properly. This should be done close to the departure date so any improperly filled out forms and certificates can be corrected. They were also asked to notify DEFRA as to which airport they will fly into, the airline, and flight number and the arrival time of their flight. DEFRA will arrange for one of their agents to meet their flight to escort them to Gatwick's animal reception center so the dogs and their paperwork can be checked to be sure the dogs are free of any diseases or parasites, and to be sure all is in order before their dogs are cleared for final entry into England. DEFRA is concerned that as the number of assistance dogs entering Britain increases airline personnel could become lax in their scrutiny of "assistance dogs" which arrives in Britain that fly with their owners in the passenger cabin. Having their agents meet each and every assistance dog and its owner when they arrive will prevent this from happening hence the need to notify them of their arrival time.

Two days prior to departure our couple's guide dogs must be treated for ticks and tapeworms. The treatment must be carried out not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before the pet is checked in to travel to the UK. When their guide dogs have been treated, the vet will give our couple official certificates to show that this has been done.

All is finally in order, our couple and their guide dogs are all packed and ready for their historic flight into guide dogdom history. Most flights to Europe, including the UK leave the U.S. in the late evening for an early morning arrival. After checking their luggage they will relieve the dogs prior to clearing airport security, and having their passports and certificates for the dogs checked prior to boarding their flight to England.

Since this flight will last about 10 hours they may remove their dogs harnesses so their animals will be more comfortable, but will keep them handy in case they need to put them on to move about the plane, and for when they land in England. Soon everyone is on board and the plane begins taxiing out to the runway. The captain's voice comes over the P.A. system saying, ?Flight attendants prepare for take-off!? The plane makes that final turn on the ground and begins to taxi down the runway. It begins building up speed and momentum. Excitement among our family and the other passengers grows as the engines get louder and the plane reaches take-off speed. Suddenly the flight is airborne, and rises into the black of the midnight sky. The dogs pick their heads up in alarm, but soon settle back down after some reassuring words, and pats from their owners. The plane climbs higher, and higher. The dogs, and perhaps some of the passengers fall asleep. Our couple and their guide dogs take with them the hopes, dreams, and desires of all guide dog users who want to visit England, and those in the UK who want to travel abroad without subjecting their dogs to undesirable flying conditions, and the lengthy quarantine period when they return home.

Their plane begins its descent into London as they approach the British Coastline. Before long the flight attendants are picking up the service from the morning breakfast and helping the passengers prepare for landing at Gatwick Airport. The captain's voice is heard again. This time he says, ?Flight attendants prepare for landing.? Soon the plane touches down and begins slowing to taxiing speed. At last they have arrived at Gatwick's International Arrivals Terminal, and the plane comes to a stop at the jet way. Like the other passengers our couple gathers their belongings in preparation for deplaning while also harnessing up their guide dogs. They are sure to keep their entry documents handy along with the permits for their dogs to enter England along with the tick and tapeworm treatment certificates, and the scanner so their dogs' microchips can be read by the DEFRA Officials who will check these documents, and examine their dogs to clear them for entry into the UK. A DEFRA Official will meet their flight and will escort them to Gatwick's animal reception center so these checks can be performed. After the paperwork is reviewed, and a quarantine officer examines the dogs and is satisfied that they are disease free, they are cleared to enter England. On that day we will tell guide dog users throughout the World that Great Britain's skies belong to us today.

A final note:

Some countries charge fees for processing of the required documents, and for quarantine clearance services for assistance dogs. I am not aware of any such charges levied by the UK for animals entering under the Pet Travel Scheme. This information can be gotten from the DEFRA Web Site: http://www.DEFRA.gov.uk

We will also have updated information concerning the pet travel scheme on the NAGDU Site as well. NAGDU's Site URL is:http://www.nfb-nagdu.org

President Whalen has also asked me to include a contact address to which we can send letters of thanks to DEFRA Officials for their work on modifying the pet travel scheme so our guide dogs can fly with us in the passenger cabin instead of in the cargo hold. Below is contact information for Mr. Richard Ackroyd who is the Manager of the Pet Travel Scheme. I do not have an e-mail address for him, but will include the other contact information:

Mr. Richard Ackroyd
PET Travel Scheme Manager
DEFRA - Area 211
1A Page Street
London, SW1P4PQ
United Kingdom


President: Suzanne Whalen Address: 9411 Mixon, Apartment 127 Dallas, Texas 75220 Phone: 214-357-2829 Vice-President: Dana Ard 301 Bruce Avenue Boise, Idaho 83712 E-mail address: mikeard@myexcel.com Phone: 208-345-3906 Treasurer: Priscilla Ferris Address: 55 Delaware Avenue Somerset, Massachusetts 02726 Phone: 508-673-0218 E-mail Address: nfbmass@earthlink.net Secretary: Eugenia Firth Address: 1019 Martinique Dallas, Texas 75223 Phone: 214-824-1490 E-mail address: firthg@mindspring.com

You can download this issue as an ASCII Text File by selecting the link below: Download as an ASCII Text File: Spring04.zip

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