Leader Dog Blog

Living with Retinitis Pigmentosa: When is it Time for a Cane?

I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in my twenties. RP is an eye disease that causes the retina to slowly deteriorate. The light sensing cells called rods and cones begin to die off and leave you with tunnel vision, blind spots, night blindness and an overall diminished ability to see. Early on, the visual changes were subtle and sometimes I was unaware when I lost more vision in my peripheral fields. By the time I was 30 yrs. old, I could no longer drive. This called for making adjustments to a new way of living life without wheels!

Among my biggest challenges as I lost more vision was the ability to move about safely. I started doing some very annoying things like walking into doors, missing curbs, and bumping into people while in public. Sometimes funny things happened, like once I asked a mannequin for help in a store. Another time, I got so lost and turned around in a large public bathroom that someone had to help me find the door out. Awkward, right?

Pet Fire Safety

While you might not think that pets have much to do with fire safety, an astonishing 1,000 fires are started by pets each year, with another half-million pets are affected by home fires.

As dog lovers, here are our top tips to help prevent fires and to be prepared in the event of a fire:

Macular Degeneration: A Family Affair

Client Gretchen Preston is pictured from the waist up, sitting and smiling with her arms around her black Labrador Leader Dog Floyd, who is in harness

I adored watching sunsets, scanning the sky for shooting stars and summer fireworks. Never did I consider these simple things would become only visual memories. In the fifth grade I began having problems with my vision. Two years earlier, my younger brother had been diagnosed with an inherited eye disease. The specialist told my parents to watch for signs of visual difficulties in their other three children. Both brother Chris and I were diagnosed with Stargardt disease. This rare inherited eye disease is a juvenile onset form of macular degeneration. Similar to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the resulting loss of central vision, they are two different diseases.

We could not read normal print, street signs or see the details of faces. We used magnifying machines, talking books and volunteer readers to help with homework. With the support of low vision professionals, visual aids and daily help from friends and family, my brother and I adjusted to having low vision.

Tips for Traveling with Your Furry Best Friend

Client Jeff Hawkins and Leader Dog Gracie, in harness, stand in front of a billboard with text in French. The billboard shows a woman walking with her black lab guide dog in harness

Gracie and I have traveled to France, Italy, Toronto, Chicago, Wyoming, Colorado and annually to Florida over the last several years. We’ve been together through a lot.

But Gracie isn’t a human traveling companion – she’s my Leader Dog! As a Leader Dogs for the Blind client I’m forever grateful that Gracie has allowed me to be mobile and adventurous – the opportunities are endless.

Each trip is a little different but my packing checklist rarely changes. I thought I’d share some packing tips, whether you’re a Leader Dog client or not, if you’re considering bringing your dog along to your next trip.

Partner Spotlight: Chief Financial Credit Union

Leader Dog Rewards Visa card

Leader Dog Rewards Visa card

As the saying goes, it takes a village, and it certainly takes a village to make the work that we do here at Leader Dogs for the Blind possible. An important community within the village is our corporate partners, and one of these valued partners is Chief Financial Credit Union. Chief Financial moved into the Rochester Hills community in 2015 and has supported us from the very beginning—even stepping up to be the very first official credit union of Leader Dog.

When I approached Chief Financial about being the presenting sponsor of our inaugural Bark & Brew event, they immediately agreed. Their contributions were crucial in the event’s success (we had over 2,000 attendees!).

10 Tips for Take Your Dog to Work Day

Denise Atler’s three pet dogs

Denise Atler’s three pet dogs.

A furry office mate?

Don’t worry, it’s a good thing!

During national Take your Dog to Work Day on June 24, 2016, employees all over the country will bring their furry friends along to the office.

Here at Leader Dogs for the Blind we are surrounded by dogs and have a dog-friendly office space at all times, so we can share some of our experience to ensure your pet’s visit isn’t just fun for you, but enjoyable for your colleagues and safe for your dog, too.

If you’re thinking about participating, consider the following tips:

Thanks for Making the First Bark & Brew Event a Success!

Bark and Brew 2016

On Saturday, June 4, we held our inaugural Bark & Brew presented by Chief Financial Credit Union. More than 2,000 attendees came out to Rochester Mills Beer Co. in support of Leader Dogs for the Blind, making our first year a resounding success!

Attendees enjoyed live music on the Sellers Subaru Stage from Single Shot Steve and Oakland University Gold Vibrations and danced the night away during Parallel Fifth’s set. Children had a blast in the Kids’ Play Area enjoying a bounce in the Andrews Realty Bounce House and other inflatables, face painting, a coloring station and five carnival games.

A Leader Dog is Not Always Working

Seated photo of Paul Teranes and Leader Dog Morgan

Judge Teranes and Leader Dog Morgan

The average day in the life of a Leader Dog varies as much as the life of its user. Some dogs spend most of the day in a work environment which may consist of lying under a desk or beside a machine. Some dogs may be partnered with a person who is unemployed or retired, and spend much of the day in a home environment. Some dogs may be working in a busy city or college campus environment leading its user on and off public transportation, and down crowded sidewalks and across busy intersections. Other Leader Dogs may be working in quiet neighborhoods enabling its user to run errands, and to have the freedom to get out and walk whenever the user chooses.

No matter what circumstances or environment the Leader Dog finds it is working in, every Leader Dog has a home life. As a Leader Dog user for over fifty years, I consider the behavior of the dog at home as important as the working ability of the dog when out in public. It is likely that the dog will spend more time in the home than working outside the home. You want a dog who can relax around the home spending much of the time lying quietly, without pacing around or barking at the window every time another dog walks by the house. You also want a dog you can trust that it will not get into food left out in the kitchen if you leave the kitchen.

Training Corner: Tips on training your new puppy

Pictured here we have some of our future Leader Dog puppies snoozingSpring is finally here, and for many families, this is a popular time to get a puppy. To help you successfully train your puppy, here are our top five tips, based on our experience training and successfully placing over 123 dogs this year alone:

  1. Be vigilant. You can use the world around you as reinforcement. Every interaction you have with your dog is a learning opportunity. By giving your dog praise, touch, opportunities to play games, walks and more your relationship will only strengthen. Keep your relationship strong by paying attention to opportunities for praise and/or correction.

International Guide Dog Day

Canine Center FrontOn April 27th, we recognize International Guide Dog Day, a holiday near and dear to our hearts here at Leader Dog. As you may recall, we publicly announced the Canine Development Center Capital Campaign on this day last year - and what a year it has been!

This year, we’re proud to introduce the official Leader Dogs for the Blind blog!

We are kicking off this blog to share news about Leader Dogs for the Blind, including updates on our dogs and clients, and expert tips beneficial to you and your dog. This is also a place for you to ask questions about Leader Dog, especially the ones you’ve always been curious about.