[nfbwatlk] Independence Guide Dogs
b.butterfly at comcast.net
Sun Jan 27 17:41:10 UTC 2013
Independence Guide Dogs Quest
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In this issue:
Home to Harness
Dogs in Training
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Photo caption: IGD Founder & President, Toby Willis with guide dog, Zakai.
As I patted Zakai on the head, kissed his warm, dry nose and walked out of
the ER this past October, I choked back the huge lump in my throat. Zakai is
my 9 year old German Shepherd guide dog. He was experiencing what is
commonly known as bloat. Zakais stomach had rotated, effectively cutting
off his digestive track. This usually results in a painful death if not
immediately treated with major, emergency surgery. I left the Access Vet
Emergency Hospital at 1:30 in the morning wondering if I would see Zakai
again. Not only struggling with the thought of losing my best friend and
companion, I was also concerned with losing the independence that Zakai
brings to my life.
While my girlfriend, Allison and I spent the rest of our sleepless night
waiting for the call from the surgeon, Dr. Fiddler, I thought about what I
would do without Zakai. Not just emotionally, but practically. Zakai does so
much more than keep me safe in my travels. He gives me the confidence I need
to fully participate in my personal and professional community. Of course,
the question of where will my next guide dog come from is a lingering
thought in all handlers minds, but this tragedy brought that thought to the
forefront of my conscience. As my thoughts raced, I mulled over my options.
Almost all guide dog training programs require that the handler put his or
her life on hold for weeks while living in a dormitory on a faraway campus.
They then return to a familiar environment with an unfamiliar guide dog.
And, most of the programs that offer a more personalized training schedule
no longer train German Shepherds-my preferred breed.
All of these racing thoughts reminded me of exactly why I founded
Independence Guide Dogs. I want to pass along the life changing experience
of increased independence to any qualified blind individual who wants to use
a guide dog. Of course, I had no idea that I would be facing the prospect of
being one of IGDs first clients. There is a need for all the programs that
are training guide dogs in the United States. Actually, theres a shortage!
With more than 1.5 million blind people and only an estimated 8500 guide dog
teams, I knew there were deserving individuals who were waiting for their
key to increased independence. The year and a half waiting list at most
programs reflects the severity of that need.
I also knew that I wanted to create something different. Not only did I want
to use the German Shepherd breed (most programs prefer Labradors) I wanted
to build an organization that was kennel-free, socially conscience,
environmentally friendly and, most importantly, client focused. I surrounded
myself with like-minded, passionate people who truly believe in our mission
of increasing independence for blind individuals. We knew that, in order
to be successful, we would have to build a solid network of friends...like
Our network of puppy raisers, volunteers and friends allows us to operate
the first kennel-free training program in North America that we are calling,
Home to Harness. This model increases the success of our guide dog teams
and helps us hold down costs, operate with a minimal physical footprint, and
makes for much happier German Shepherd dogs. When it comes to placing guide
dogs with their new handlers, we went outside the box with our LIFE
Training Program. LIFE Training is a highly personalized, individual
instruction that is folded into our clients day-to-day routine. No
interruptions, no major transitions and no dorms. Our volunteers and donors
have demonstrated appreciation for our innovative model as have our guide
dog pups and future clients.
You may be wondering about Zakai. Perhaps you noticed at the beginning of
this article that I referred to the independence he brings to my life. Yes,
I said brings! Because Zakai, like the rock star he is, made it through
surgery smoothly and rebounded in a matter of days! Dr. Fiddler said that he
had never seen a dog bounce back so miraculously. Now, as I pat his head and
kiss his cold wet nose, Im proud to say that I will be a client of
Independence Guide Dogs, but not just yet!
On a Quest,
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Home to Harness
IGDs puppy raiser program offers customized support to match the skills of
the puppy raiser and the progress of the pup. In order to smoothly
transition the pup into the formal training program, an IGD guide dog
mobility instructor (GDMI) regularly visits puppy raisers to coach the
family and evaluate the progress of their pup. This ensures that pups are
prepared and well-socialized before they begin their formal guide dog
IGDs Home to Harness program (TM pending), is groundbreaking in the guide
dog industry. At approximately 1½ years old, pups are ready for their formal
training. In nearly all guide dog organizations, the dogs are kenneled
during this next and extremely important phase of their development. As the
name Home to Harness implies, IGD puppies in training remain with a puppy
raiser family while receiving training from a certified GDMI.
Formal training begins when the pups are mature and ready to learn. The Home
to Harness program allows the opportunity for the GDMI to begin introducing
fundamental concepts to the pup at an earlier age to advance the pups
training and increase the likelihood of successful completion of the guide
dog training program. The training continues until the pup is ready to be
matched with a handler.
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Give the Gift of Independence
Would you like to help Independence Guide Dogs achieve their mission to
increase independence for blind individuals?
Visit www.igdogs.org to make a secure online donation & learn other ways you
IGD is a 501c(3) organization.
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Dogs in Training
Ammi travelled from Seattle to Connecticut in August of 2012 where she
settled in with her puppy raiser family, Gerry and Fran Kehoe. Donated by
IGD Board member, Donna Morgan Murray, Ammi was
born on April 1, 2011. She began her formal training in December 2012.
Ammi is on track to become IGDs first working guide dog.
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Quest is one of IGDs first two pups. Donated by Jody Potter of Rochester,
NY, Quest was born on January 6, 2012 and has been raised by Toby Willis,
IGDs founder and president. Days after her first birthday, Quest travelled
from Seattle to Connecticut where she will live with Terry and Jon Edwards
while she prepares for her formal training.
Donated by Mother Isihia of the Russian Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir in
Loomis, CA, Rostov is being raised by Andrea Crispin in Washington. The
handsome Rostov is scheduled to enter his formal training mid to late spring
Littermate to Quest, Quincey was also donated to IGD by Jody Potter. Over
the next few months, Quincey will continue to develop her basic obedience
skills and socialization abilities in preparation for her formal training.
Throughout this process, she will remain with her puppy raiser, Janis
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Tip 1: Preventing the Great Escape
Does your dog bolt out the door as soon as it is opened? Maybe even before
its open all the way? Well youre not alone. This is a common problem. And,
the remedy is easier than you might think. With your dog on leash, have
him/her sit each time they approach a door going inside or out. The dog
must stay while you open the door. If the dog breaks the sit, close the door
and repeat. In time, your dog will look to you for approval before going
through the door.
Tip 2: Breaking Bloodhound Behavior
Walking your dog can be frustrating if he/she constantly has their nose to
the ground. To help stop the incessant sniffing, choose a clear wide
sidewalk or path where trees, grass, snow and garbage are not in easy reach
of your dogs nose. Walk with a business-like, purposeful stride with your
dog by your side. If your dog gets distracted by a scent, call the dog away
from the distraction and reward them heavily with praise, treats, etc. for
responding to you.
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Recognizing those whose contributions have had a major impact on helping IGD
achieve its mission to increase independence for blind individuals.
Jody Potter became interested in the German Shepherd breed in 1984 when she
began working for Charles and Roberta Kaman, founders of the Fidelco Guide
Dog Foundation. For the next 16 years she was mentored by Roberta Kaman
until her passing in 2010. Jody began breeding German Shepherds in 1992. Her
kennel name, Sitz von der Hose, loosely translated as Seat of the Pants
reflects how she approached life at the time.
The first priority for Jody in her shepherds is nerve strength. She firmly
believes that if a dog has solid nerves it can do most anything. Jody also
notes that structure is key for working dogs. Without it they cannot excel
at work or sports. All of the Sitz von der Hose breed dogs are breed
surveyed, X-rayed, and have passed endurance, temperament and health tests.
Over the years Jodys dogs have had many jobs including Search and Rescue,
Police K9, competitive obedience and tracking dogs, the sport of IPO
(Schutzhund), family companions and guide dogs. In fact, IGDs first two
guide dog puppies, Quincey and Quest, were donated by Jody Potter. They are
two pups from the first litter from Nike von Sitz vd Hose, IPO 3, KKL1. A
strong female with excellent nerves, Nike competed in her first National
championship in 2012. Of the eight pups born to Nike in January 2012, two
were donated to IGD, one is in wilderness SAR work, one is an agility dog,
two are in IPO training and two are excellent family companions. Certainly
an accomplished litter.
IGD is grateful to Jody for starting off our program with the precious gift
of two beautiful, strong nerved German Shepherd pups.
Photo caption 1: Jody Potter with Nike von Sitz vd Hose, mom to IGD pups
Quincey and Quest.
Photo caption 2: Nike von Sitz vd Hose, IPO 3, KKL1.
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A distinguishing difference in IGDs placement program is our LIFE (Local
Instruction Familiar Environment) Training Program (TM Pending). LIFE
Training is the process that IGD uses when placing a guide dog with a
client. Most guide dog organizations require that the client travel to the
organizations campus where they live in a dorm setting for several weeks
while learning how to handle and work with their new guide dog.
In LIFE Training, the clients new guide dog and trainer travel to the
clients home. Training is conducted in his or her community their own
home, work and places of recreation. With this approach there is no need to
leave home and family or take time off from work to train with their new
guide dog, avoiding any disruption to the clients life.
IGDs LIFE Training Program provides a better experience for the client and
offers cost savings to the organization. Perhaps even more important, the
team learns to work effectively together in the clients everyday routine.
When the trainer leaves the newly formed team after two to three weeks,
client and guide dog are able to maneuver through daily activities with
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Dedicated to donations made in memory of the 2 and 4-legged friends and
family that have contributed so much to our lives.
Kassy von Fernheim
In loving memory of Kassy von Fernheim, TD, HCT from Gillian Salling,
Fernheim German Shepherds of Sherman, TX
Kassys lineage included a great-great-great grandmother who was from the
Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Kassy was just the sweetest girl with the best
temperament and a great work ethic. She had two super litters of pups and
had just been bred again, but had a massive pyometra which went undiagnosed.
Unfortunately, several trips to the vet were not enough to save her. Kassy
was just 5 days shy of her 7th birthday when I had to let her go on March
15, 2012. It was a terrible loss, and even more so because I had not kept
one of her pups as I always thought she would have another litter.
To learn more about Kassy, please visit:
Remembering Stout, from Georgetown Brewing Co. of Seattle, WA
Stout was a special friend to IGD sponsor, Georgetown Brewing Company. His
companionship, love and loyalty will be greatly missed.
In memory of our Jackson from the family of Sookyng Shutoff of Seattle, WA
Jackson was a dog of unknown age. He was rescued from a high kill shelter by
a family friend who rescues dogs, evaluates and trains them to be service
dogs. He had an extremely sweet demeanor and a very calming presence. He was
a loving, affectionate Belgian Shepherd mix (at least that was our best
guess at his breed). Our friend soon began to notice some behavior that
would make him an unlikely service dog candidate, exhibiting signs of past
abuse. While he was loving and affectionate, he was timid and shy. It soon
became clear that Jackson would not be happy as a service dog and he should
be adopted out to a loving family - ours. He enjoyed cuddling and being
outside, and he LOVED playing with our dog, Sydney.
We will always love and remember Jackson.
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Our puppy raisers are a vital part of the IGD organization. They are key to
the early development of our future guide dogs. If you are interested in
becoming an IGD puppy raiser please visit www.igdogs.org/raise-a-pup and
complete an application. An adorable IGD puppy is waiting for you.
Janis & Quincey
Janis Jerman is currently raising IGD puppy, Quincey who just turned one
earlier this month. Quincey is Janis' sixth guide dog puppy. She raised five
pups for the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation (four are out working and one is
back home with her) and is now honored to be IGD's first puppy raiser with
Quincey is a smart, sweet, energetic, and fun pup. She loves to run and play
and to chew on a bone snuggled up with big sis, Sheila.
Linda & Dazzler
Linda Evangelisti is raising IGD pup, Dazzler. A people dog for sure,
Dazzler is especially fond of children. As a very young pup she began
attending Lindas grandaughters sporting events. A very social pup, Dazzler
loves to do whatever her puppy raiser is doing. Starbucks is amongst her
favorite destinations, quite possibly because theres a good chance mom
will share her bagel with her. She also likes to visit her aunt at a
popular West Hartford pub where she recently had the opportunity to meet
Rebecca Lobo, star of the first undefeated, national champion UCONN womens
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Feb. 11th 6:00 p.m. Mixer at The Maple Leaf Bar & Grill
Feb. 14th 5:00 p.m. Happy Hour at The Royal Room
March 17th St. Pats Dash, Seattle, WA Join the IGD Team!
Contact: toby at igdogs.org <mailto:toby%40igdogs.org>
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Independence Guide Dogs
3923 S. Burns Street
Seattle, WA 98118-5229
A 501(c) 3 organization
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