Day 5!

Mike-and-Tiffany-seated-Alamo-looking-sideways-and-Perla-head-down

It is hard to believe that I have known my new pup now for almost a week. In some ways he is different than all previous dogs and, in some ways, there are tremendous similarities. It all goes to show progress I guess.

Similarities include basic command structure and footwork. When telling a guide dog to go “forward” the user moves the left foot out to near the front of the dog to provide a good body cue for the dog. Then as the handler gestures forward with the right hand the command “forward” is given. Of course, the user is holding the harness and leash in the left hand. Especially with new dogs they snap right out and briskly go down the street or wherever. Of course, every dog is different. Some move out faster than others depending upon the pace of the person and thus the dog.

As I write this I am sure some are asking “what about left-handed people where the harness would thus probably go in the right hand”? Good observation. Some dogs are indeed trained to walk on the right side of the person. It’s all in the training, but the appropriate footwork and operations are adapted. Continue reading

Day 4!

Alamo Looking Straight ahead

Alamo Looking Straight ahead

Here it is the day after Valentines day and all is pretty good with our world. I won’t comment on the world as a whole; too many crazy things going on.

We were up at the usual 0 dark 30, (6AM) to get ready for the day. I think Puppy and I are settling into a good routine. He is eating a bit faster even with the stuff GDB is putting into the afternoon feeding to prevent loose stool. Even so, he is not the eating terror I see in Fantasia and Africa. When I get home, I suspect I will feed him separately from Fantasia just to keep his intake pace at a moderate level and thus not permit him to become fearful that the other dog will grab his food. Continue reading

Day 3 – Valentines Day

Alamo Sitting On Mikes Lap

Alamo Sitting On Mikes Lap

Before telling you about our Valentines day I want to update yesterday. I had not yet bought Karen anything for Valentines day. I know, a typical man, but not really. It also happens to be Karen’s birthday on February 14. Anyway, I decided yesterday to send her a bunch of flowers. I called 1-800-flowers.com to place an order. Unfortunately, I did not get any helpful information from the staff there concerning possible arrangements to order. No surprise, but I thought it worth trying so I could then go to the next step and tell you about it.

Since I didn’t get anything out of 800-flowers I called Aira and spoke with agent Ryan. He went to the 800flowers.com web site and began describing arrangements to me. We settled on one and ordered it on the spot. This is one of the tremendous services offered by Aira and one of those services I really can’t get easily in any other way. Ryan was great! With that in mind now onto today, Valentines day and Karen’s birthday.

We got up at the usual 5:30 time and did all our usual morning ablutions. Mr. Puppy Dog again was unwilling to relieve so off to breakfast we went. This morning the GDB chefs made home-made bagels. Pretty good they were. Continue reading

Day Two!

Michael Hingson Gets A New Guide Dog!

Michael Hingson Gets A New Guide Dog!

Before discussing my first day of guiding with my dog let me explain why I am not yet revealing his name. I have discussed previously the puppy raisers who give so much of their time to raising these wonderful dogs and who teach the dogs basic commands and how to behave in public. Puppy raisers give from a year to fifteen months of their time to each charge. The results are well behaved confident dogs who then go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind where they are trained to guide and do the work everyone sees. Most people never see what goes on behind the scenes with the puppy raisers. Most people never experience the strong emotional ties created between the raisers and these dogs as they grow.

We all want the puppy raisers to hear first who get to receive the fruits of their labors. For that reason, we do not give out the names of our dogs until we know that the puppy raisers have heard that their former charges are in class. Once I am notified that the word has gone out to the raisers I will reveal my dog’s name to the world.

Up and at em at 5:45AM. By 7AM dog has been fed and taken outside for relieving. No relief here. Is he going to attempt to beat Klondike’s record of three days before relieving? Exciting times ahead.

At 7:30 we headed into breakfast now with fed, watered and, uh, relieved dogs. The animals all seem to get along well although they all do not know each other as they were housed in different kennels.

Continue reading

First Day!

my new guide dog alamo

Meet Alamo! My New Guide Dog

It began as a nice crisp cold day here in Boring. This morning we are up and in the dining room by 7:30AM. The plan for the day was to eat and then begin discussions and meetings with our instructors. As I mentioned before the student/instructor ratio now is two to one. My instructor is Nancy. My student team mate is Sandy.

I have known Nancy for quite a while. She accompanied Karen and me and 16 other guide dog users on an Alaskan cruise in 2004. The cruise was sponsored by GDB and was one of the first of its kind where guide dogs traveled with their handlers on a cruise on a very accepting Princess Cruise Lines. Unfortunately, Roselle had begun exhibiting symptoms of the immune related disease which later was the cause of her retirement. So, Roselle did not get to go, but instead stayed at GDB for examinations. Continue reading

National Federation of the Blind Receives Grant from National Science Foundation

Five-Year Grant Will Allow Blind Youth to Explore Engineering and Yield Innovative Research in Informal Education

Baltimore, Maryland (February 13, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will allow blind students to explore the field of engineering and provide useful educational research.

Working with researchers from Utah State University and educators from the Science Museum of Minnesota, the National Federation of the Blind will gather blind high school students from across the country to attend weeklong summer programs called “NFB EQ” (Engineering Quotient). These programs will teach engineering through hands-on activities and connect students with blind adult mentors. The NFB and its partners will research the spatial abilities of blind youth and develop model practices and nonvisual tools to strengthen those abilities. Toolkits based on project activities will be produced so that other parents and educators will be able to use these practices. Continue reading

Africa Retires

In February of 2017 I decided to retire my seventh guide dog, Africa. Affie, as Karen and I call her, was not seeing quite as well as I would like. Also, she seemed to be more easily distracted than in the past. So, I began the process to retire her and to obtain a new guide dog. I have explained this elsewhere.

As you may know, Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds their own dogs from the GDB breeding pool. Dogs are selected to be guides based on many characteristics including temperament, walking pace, ability to work in all kinds of situations, work without being distracted by outside issues and size. This is a simplistic list, but you get the idea.; Not every dog can be a guide dog. In fact, even with the most popular breed, the Labrador Retriever, only %50 of the dogs who begin the process ever succeed and go on to work with blind handlers. I like to describe it this way: Just as with humans not every dog is cut out to perform a job. Guiding is extremely stressful work for a dog. The chosen dogs take their jobs very seriously. They need a tremendous amount of praise as well as other kinds of rewards which I will describe later.  Continue reading

It Begins…

Today has been a year in coming. In early 2017 I determined that it was time to begin the process of retiring Africa and seeking a new guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Last February I contacted GDB Admissions and started the process. I completed the application process and sent off all paperwork. Although I have received seven dogs from GDB, each time I, or any returning student, goes back to school we go through the same application process. In one way this makes a lot of sense as the school needs to learn about me now, not just how I lived my life when I received my previous guide dog. Continue reading

NFB President Receives Automotive Innovation Award

Baltimore, Maryland (January 22, 2018): Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, has received one of the inaugural Autos2050SM awards. The awards are being presented by the Auto Alliance and the Alliance for Transportation Innovation.

President Riccobono is among twelve state and national political leaders and automotive innovators who will be honored at a dinner and awards presentation in Washington, DC on January 24. The new awards and dinner are part of the larger Autos2050SM event. Continue reading

Blind People Condemn Nepal’s Ban on Blind Everest Climbers

National Federation of the Blind and World Blind Union Call for Rescission of New Ban on Blind Mountaineers

Baltimore, Maryland (January 2, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the World Blind Union (WBU), which represent the United States and global blind communities respectively, today stated their opposition to a new ban on blind climbers participating in expeditions on Mount Everest, recently announced by the government of Nepal. Continue reading