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.






















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