National Guide Dog Month

Well, September has arrived and it seems that a lot goes on at this time of year! September marks a whole new year for school folks. Kids and teachers. There’s Labor Day, football, and birthdays at our house. This is the month to celebrate lots of good things. Like Chickens!!?? Did you know that September is National Chicken Month? Now you do! It’s also National Library Card Sign-Up Month. And best of all – it’s National Guide Dog Month.

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Guide Dogs, or Seeing Eye Dogs, are dogs specifically trained to assist a blind or visually impaired person in navigating through their world. They become that person’s “eyes”. The dog takes instructions from the human, but must watch out for obstacles and dangers in the path. They alert to steps and doors. They help find things – like doors and stairs and bathrooms and chairs. Guide dogs must be alert and vigilant in their job. Never reach out to pet a Guide Dog or interfere with their work.

National Guide Dog Month was established in 2008 as a fundraising event to help non-profit guide dog organizations that are accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation. There are a number of these organizations throughout the country. You can see a list of qualifying Guide Dog schools at the Guide Dog Users, Inc. website here.

img338I, myself, and my buddy Walker were born at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida. Most all working Guide Dogs are bred by and born at an accredited Guide Dog school. As puppies they are usually placed with volunteer puppy raisers who keep them for about a year to a year and a half. It is the puppy raiser’s job to socialize the pup and teach us good house manners. We wear some kind of jacket or cape to identify us as pups in training and this allows us to go lots of places. After our time with our families we go back to our place of birth for work training. Ideally, after 6-8 months we get placed with a blind person and become their companion for the rest of our lives. It’s a lot of transition! Some dogs don’t handle all that moving around very well. Only about 50% of pups actually become working guides. And it’s been said that by that time, a guide dog is worth about $45,000.00!  And the blind person doesn’t have to pay for his/her dog. It is a gift to them from the school.

So Guide Dog schools depend on donations. Southeastern Guide Dogs allows supporters to name puppies. I was sponsored by Petco and named after one of their employee’s  favorite German Shepherd. You can find out more about Petco and their involvement in National Guide Dog Month here.

I’d like to share with you some pictures of me and Walker from our lives as guide dog pups in training –

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And I’ll send you off with a little music video from Southeastern — enjoy!

and go learn more about how you can help!

I wish you JOY during this fine month of September!
Rhythm

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12 thoughts on “National Guide Dog Month

  1. So Rhythm, if you’ve been through a lot of training and are certified, do you have a specialty? I know you work with kids and you went to help during a disaster? This was an excellent piece and I enjoyed the photos and video.

    A girl who attends our church has a guide dog. She has trouble with anxiety, paranoia and occasionally dissassociates. Her dog picks up on her anxiety and gets up and places his head on her lap if she sitting — if there are people behind her his presence reassures her he’s got her back. They almost didn’t give her the dog, because is a disassociative state she would not be in charge. But, they were amazed at how the dog went to her, handled the situation, put his own leash in her lap and layed close to her until she returned. So, they realized that the dog knew what was going on and actually saved her from harm. I’m one of the few people she talks to at church. I’m impressed with her dog, who reminds me a lot of you.

    • I have had a lifetime of training. It seems to be an eternal activity! I did not become a guide dog tho because I had some health issues that were a concern. I was career changed and went back to live with my puppy raisers — the Mom and Dad Persons. Now I am a registered Therapy dog which means that I go visit facilities that invite me to come. There are distinctions between guide dogs and service dogs and therapy dogs. Guide dogs are specifically for the visually impaired. They are sometimes cross trained to help with other disabilities as well. A service dog is trained to help an individual with other disabilities – hearing or mobility or PTSD, etc. Your friends dog sounds like a service dog. And sounds like it is an awesome one. Guide dogs and service dogs have access rights per ADA. Therapy dogs do not. When I was a pup in training I could go everywhere with my people. But now I can’t. But I enjoy my work and the places that I do get to go to! Glad you liked the video. It makes the Mom Person cry.

  2. Our house fleshlings sponsor a guide puppy…Looks a bit like Walker, in fact. That’s a good song – I imagine the first few trips out with a new dog would be pretty scary for all involved! Enjoy our well deserved month of recognition 🙂

    • Well, what an excellent thing that your fleshlings are doing!! How did they get involved? I’m sure that the beginning of that dog/person relationship is not easy on both sides. It requires a great deal of trust from both parties. And from what I’ve seen and heard, the trainers at the schools do an unbelievable job matching up the right dog to the right person. They rarely get it wrong.

    • Nothing wrong with a black dog!! We have a friend who is blind with slight vision – shadows and movement. He prefers a black guide dog because it’s easier for him to “see” on his light colored floor.

    • Those trainers at Southeastern are pretty special. They don’t sing real good, but they sure have their big hearts in that song. It makes the Mom Person cry. I’m glad I can be enlightening! That’s always a good thing!

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