|Class 393 - The First Class of 2016|
Today we went back up to Sylmar for the 393rd GDA graduating class. Nine dogs with nine new graduates. During the ceremony, each recipient of a dog gets to speak about their experience on the campus in Sylmar. They spend 21 to 28 days with their new guide dogs and trainers. How the trainers interact with them in a way that both the new owner and the dog learn how to work together. Then the puppy raiser gets to speak a bit about how the puppy they raised had changed so dramatically from the tiny 8 week old puppy received 18 months prior to the confident dog now guiding these visually impaired folks.
The pairing of each takes on its own dynamic as fast paced dogs are placed with athletic or active people and older people are paired with, shall we say, less than over eager dogs. The ages of the graduates, the people, varies from early teens to one graduate who is 81. They come from all over the USA and Canada. The dogs during this graduation varied from Black Labs, to Yellow Labs to a Lab/Retriever mix and lastly, a pointed ear dog commonly called a Shepard. German Shepard's, having been so in-bred in the past, have now started to be reintroduced back into the guide dog world.
Speaking of confidence, one of the graduates spoke directly about that. How the GDA trainer gave her so much confidence while she was on campus that in the three weeks they were together her whole world changed and her own self confidence blossomed for her. This was even without the guide dog she had just received.
I wish you could all be a part of this. You can if you want. Go to this link: www.guidedogsofamerica.org and read what incredible things are accomplished. You will also see pictures that better illustrate more that any pictures I could have taken. They even have a live "puppy cam" that allows you to see the new puppies with their moms. All of this is done without government funding. All money raised by GDA are the direct results of donations or sponsorships. I hope you will consider becoming a part of this, even if its by purchasing a harness for one of the graduate dogs or biding on a silent auction item to help raise funds.
But, if you ever get a chance to observe a graduation, and they are open to the public, I know you will be like me, crying with tears of joy and the satisfaction that comes with helping others.
We hope to have Dylan back with us by the end of next week. We could not see her today as all the staff were busy with the graduation.