Sunday, July 16, 2017

Guide Dog Book Reviews

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust by Michael Hingson. Thomas Nelson, 2012.

On September 11, 2001, a guide dog led a blind man down 78 flights of stairs and safely out of the World Trade Center's North Tower.

Roselle, Mike Hingson’s guide dog, was raised in California at Guide Dogs for the Blind away from storms. Now living on the East Coast, thunder frightened her - but not much else.

Mike tells the story of that September day from the morning thunder, to their taxi ride to the train station, and trip to his office. Preparing a sales presentation, he felt the building sway. He shut down computers until it was clear he and Roselle must leave with his colleague David. Mike was prepared, had taken training, and knew how to exit the building in an emergency. From Room 7827 down 1,463 stairs.

Burn victims pass them. Mike jokes that if the lights go out a blind man and his dog with help them, His humor calms the fearful . Roselle breaks her training and kisses a firefighter’s hand. Perhaps his last touch. Sightless, Mike describes the chaos around him. And trusts Roselle to do her job and lead him to safety. Outside he describes the smoke, falling glass, and ash.
An inspirational story, showing the trust and courage of the man and the dog and that saved them both. Truly an heroic team.

Running with Roselle: How a Blind Boy and a Puppy Grew Up, Became Best Friends, and Together Survived One of America’s Darkest Days by Michael Hingson with Jeanette Hanscome. Roselle's Dream Foundation, 2013.

Written for children age 8 and up, Running with Roselle is the story of Mike Hingson and his guide dog Roselle and their 9/11 escape from the World Trade Center. The book does not talk down to kids and adult dog lovers might like it even more than Thunder Dog, for it contains more information on the training of a guide dog.

Told alternately, by man and dog, the story begins with a boy growing up with parents who worked hard to ignore their son's disability. He never let his disability hold him back and shares what blindness is like. As a boy he rode a bicycle and later drove a car (with a sighted friend’s assistance). He went to public schools, received his first guide dog at 14, attended college, and earned a graduate degree in Physics.

Roselle tells her story through the imagined eyes of a soon-to-be guide dog at GDB headquarters. From birth as a Guide Dogs for the Blind yellow Labrador Retriever puppy, through meeting her puppy raisers, her rigorous training, graduation and being matched with Mike. They become a team.
The issues of 9/11 and their escape is presented in a thoughtful manner and teaches appreciation of what service dogs can do.

Guide Dogs for the Blind retired the name “Roselle” as a guide dog name in 2007. Roselle lived until the age of 14.

Michael Hingson lives in Novato, California with his wife, Karen, his guide dog Africa, and Africa's mother Fantasia. When he isn't traveling the world with Africa speaking and teaching, he enjoys playing with his dogs and cooking.

In 2011 Hingson started Roselle's Dream Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to help society understand that blindness is not the characteristic that holds anyone back from achieving all they wish to be. It provides scholarships to assist blind students, especially elementary and high school, to secure needed assistive technology to help them further their education.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Guide Dogs for the Blind & Doris McFadden - 75 Years of Loving Dogs

 Doris McFadden & Guide Dogs for the Blind

In 1942 long time Camp Verde, Arizona resident Doris McFadden lived in Richmond, California. A 12-year-old dog crazy girl, she helped at a Dalmatian kennel near her home. The kennel owner gave her the opportunity to learn about the world of dogs. At a San Francisco dog show she heard about the new organization called Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). At the time GDB accepted dogs to be trained and Doris even wanted to donate her own pet to the program.
The Dalmatian kennel’s owner brought two young pups into her home and Doris came daily to care for a 2-month-old Belgian Shepherd. From this solid beginning her love of dogs and dog training blossomed. Doris says, "It was a great experience. And taught me responsibility and stimulated my serious interest in dogs."

In June Doris traveled back to California to be honored by Guide Dogs for the Blind during their  75th (1942-2017) Anniversary celebration. She toured their facility and was participated in puppy socialization, met volunteers and toured the campus. She had lunch with staff, including a class supervisor trainer, where she asked questions and shared her history of dog training and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

In 1942 when wounded servicemen were returning from World War II, Guide Dogs for the Blind was the first West Coast school to train guide dogs. GDB has provided 14,000 guide dog teams (2,200 currently active) and 1,015,000 volunteer hours of service at no cost to students.

A key part of GDB’s program is volunteer puppy raisers and puppy raiser clubs. Pups aged 2-14 months live in a home and learn about the world. Puppy raisers receive a pup at approximately 8 weeks old and teach the puppy good manners and basic obedience in a home environment. CocoPups of Flagstaff is a GDB puppy raiser club. Their members expose pups to a wide variety of experiences including puppy socialization parties, public transportation, city traffic, even a Diamondbacks game.

Back in California after formal training in guide work learning over 35 commands, such as “Find the Door,” successful dogs begin a residential course with their blind partner. GDB estimates it costs about $40,000 to graduate a team. After that GDB provides lifetime support.

Over the years, Doris owned many dogs and trained even more for others in the Verde Valley. She taught dog obedience in Camp Verde and competed in trials most recently with her Australian Shepherd, and became active in Greyhounds of the Verde Valley after adopting a retired racing Greyhound.

Her interest in animals includes wolf advocacy. She serves on Board of Directors of the U.S. Wolf Refuge in Sparks, Nevada and helps with visitors at the Medicine Wheel Lodge wolf refuge in Rimrock.

Seventy-five years after training that pup for GDB, Doris is still dog crazy and still teaching owners to train their dogs. Although Doris’s pup never graduated, the Guide Dogs for the Blind’s CocoPups of Flagstaff puppy raising group recently honored Doris with a pin awarded to a puppy raiser when their dog returns to San Rafael for formal training.

Amber Polo

A form of this article was published in the June-July 2017 issue of the Flagstaff-Sedona Dog.