Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Meet "Baylor"

Baylor is a handsome 20-month old labrador
and golden retreiver cross.
Meet Baylor the new guide dog and companion to our friend Ron.  I introduced you to Ron, his wife Tina and the Guide Dogs for the Blind in a previous post and am happy to bring you an update about Ron’s new guide dog, Baylor. 

Ron and Tina are blog readers that we met for lunch one day and instantly liked them.  We spent two hours getting to know them and became fast friends.  Ron's previous guide dog died a short time ago and he was in the pipeline to get another dog when we met him.  We were excited for Ron to meet his new companion and asked them to please keep us updated.  After all, we are dog people. 

Tina emailed me letting us know that Ron is currently in San Rafael, California meeting Baylor and the bonding has well begun. About the experience Tina wrote, “He's getting along great with Baylor. When they first get their guides they use "tie down" at night, which is simply a lead that is attached to the leg of their (human) bed, that is clipped to the dog's collar, so they learn to stay close to their new person and don't wander away during the night.  Ron woke up this morning to find Baylor ON the bed with him, with the lead stretched taut--there was just enough length to allow him to sneak up onto the bed.”  Way to go Baylor!

Guide Dogs for the Blind is an incredible organization that we have become more familiar with thanks to Ron.  Numerous times we have seen people with these special dogs, but hearing Ron’s story compelled me investigate the organization deeper.  So I put my fingers to the keyboard and started the internet search.  No question, this organization has an amazing mission that deeply affects and transforms people’s lives.  These animals are trained to do tasks and behave in such a way that allows sight impaired individuals to conquer tasks that they would not be able to do (or comfortable doing) by themselves.

Ron posing in front of an adorable puppy.  ( Ron you are cute too but girls just dig adorable lab puppies.)
But what is really amazing about this organization is that their services are free – which extends well beyond the pup – and is supported entirely by donations.  Those who qualify for a dog must attend a two-week session at one of the training campuses in San Rafael or Boring, Oregon.  Here individuals meet their prospective dog where they get to know them and work with them.  The campuses house students for two weeks in dormitory facilities which include dining rooms, libraries, computer centers, exercise rooms, and social areas.  And from what Ron tells us – excellent food!  During this time, there is extensive training where instructors work with prospective dog owners and dogs to ensure that the newly formed team is compatible in every way – from communication styles to personalities.  After two weeks, if the two are a match then the deal is done. (Photos courtesy of Guide Dogs for Blind website.)

Private rooms open to a sitting area and large play/exercise yard. 
Common area
Guide Dogs get excellent veterinary care and screenings.

We are so happy for Ron and Baylor and can’t wait to meet him.  If you know someone who is sight impaired and is in need of a Guide Dog, please pass along this information and their website.  Ron and Tina speak so highly of the organization and testify to the benefit of having a Guide Dog . . . or as Guide Dogs for the Blind calls them “soul mates.”



12 comments:

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  2. Hey Nancy, great post about Guide Dogs for the Blind! I'm happy to report that Ron and Baylor continue to work together as a fantastic team. Ron had his "mid-training" evaluation yesterday and was told he and Baylor are "exceeding expectations" with their excellent team work. Yesterday they did escalator training! Yes, the dogs can learn to safely guide their person up and down escalators. Pretty amazing. The guides wear their "boots" on their rear feet during this exercise.

    We're excited today, because today is visiting day and I will be able to spend the entire day with Ron and Baylor. The guide dogs are not allowed to leave campus for unsupervised outings until after their graduation day (next Saturday) so Ron and I leave for a while to go out for lunch--but otherwise we'll be there together and can play and interact with Baylor "off duty".

    I'll send you photos! You do a great service posting here about the amazing program Guide Dogs offers. Ron reports that there have been numerous updates in their training methods since his last visit ten years ago, and he is totally impressed with the changes as he finds them all extremely positive and even more effective in fine-tuning Baylor's training and their abilities as a team.

    Can't wait to see you and Betsy again one day soon so you can meet Baylor and we can share more laughs and conversation!

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    1. Thanks for sharing the update with us. Glad things are working out so well.

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  3. Sorry about the deleted post--I had to made a few corrections in my mad-dash keyboarding! :-)

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  4. What an excellent service for the sight impaired. I know a couple who have raised service puppies (for another organization), a bittersweet endeavor to be sure...but ultimately satisfying for all. Looks like Ron and Baylor are going to be a good match!

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    1. We can't wait to see them together working as a team.

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  5. Great post Nancy! A wonderful service to say the least!

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  6. Bittersweet, indeed. My single adult son started raising puppies three years ago, and he told us that the hardest thing he's ever done was to hand "his" dog over later to be trained in San Rafael. Our he-man son had a hard time holding it together. Lovely dogs, lovely organization. Did you know Guide Dogs for the Blind monitors their dogs until they die? Every year, this organization visits the dog and his owner, does a medical check, and does whatever else needs doing to make the pairing work. All free. They even keep tabs on the re-careered dogs (those that do not make it through training for whatever reason). The owners are not allowed to give them away, and when the dogs eventually pass on, the owner must notify GDFTB. What a super, super organization.

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    1. Kudos to your son for being a puppy raiser!

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  7. I couldn't do it, raise a puppy and then give him away, I'd probably drown the poor dog with my tears. Glad there are stronger people out there than me to be able to do that and keep this wonderful program going.

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  8. Today when we walked through the Guide Dog kennels we got to pet a 7 week old fluff ball Guide Dog puppy named Vector--so adorable! Yes, it would tear your heart out to hand them over for the next phase of their training, but we're thankful there are folks out there strong enough to do it! They do check in on the dogs, but not necessarily for yearly visits ongoing--it just depends on the situation, but they absolutely do keep tabs on all the dogs. You can apply to own the dog after one year of successful placement. Otherwise if something happens to their person, the Guide Dog is returned either to be put back into service in some capacity or to go back to the puppy raiser if they are able and willing to care for them as a pet. Once you own the dog, you can keep it forever even if their person passes away. When your guide retires, you can certainly keep them with you to the end, which we did with Ron's previous guide, Rusty, and will do with Baylor. But sometimes the blind person can't keep their guide after they retire, so then it goes back to the puppy raiser, or to a waiting list of people who would love to have them in their home as a pet. You can also apply to become an owner to a Guide Dog if they are what is called a "career change" dog, meaning for whatever reason they are not cut out for working as a guide. Sometimes it's a distraction issue, sometimes it's a health issue, there are a variety of reasons why they may be an awesome dog in many respects but just don't have the specific qualities necessary for being a successful Guide Dog. And sometimes that is not known until they are far into their training. So there's a program for that as well. In some cases a career change dog is trained to be another type of assist dog, or a therapy dog.

    No matter what, the dogs from Guide Dogs for the Blind are just magnificent dogs--who have a noble calling they willingly fulfill.

    Another little bit of trivia for you--each litter is assigned a letter of the alphabet and all the pups in that litter are named with that particular letter--so for example when Ron's previous guide Rusty was born, he was in an "R" litter. And once they are named, that name cannot be used again until after the dog has passed away--so someday our dear Rusty may have a namesake.

    If you dig around on the Guide Dog for the Blind website, there's a blog where you can see photos and even some videos of litters--and photos of graduates with their guides.

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