Birthday Loot

I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m 31. I don’t think I ever really got used to being 30 even, but this just feels surreal. Anyway, I’m not one to lament growing old nor am I big on boasting about the things people gave me. But I haven’t posted in awhile — even though I do have a bunch of things to blog about — because I’ve felt like crap for the last week or so. And I have wanted to share this one gift from Zach:

Plush black-and-tan German shepherd wearing a brown leather guide dog harness

GDUI used to have a catalog of merchandise, including plush guide dogs in harness like this. But awhile back they stopped selling most everything. Raechel was actually the one that alerted me to this when her husband had tried to get one for her. So after a bit of sleuthing I got the information for the toys and harnesses and bought her one. (And one for Kimberly, who is currently in training with her new guide dog at GDF.) In doing so I sort of fell in love with this divine plush GSD from Douglas Cuddle Toy and Zach being the awesome guy he is snatched it up for me.

Thanks again to everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes and thoughtful gifts and cards! Yara and I both truly appreciate them. Well, probably Yara only cares about the things for her but she hasn’t said so specifically.

Four Things

Thing #1: Please spread the link about EDF! As I receive new information on what we all can do, I have been updating the post accordingly. But the most important thing is to get word of the situation out to as many people as possible. (Also, many thanks to everyone who has helped in any way regarding this cause.)

Thing #2: Since I can no longer automatically crosspost entries (and a bunch of other reasons), I have deleted my old LiveJournal account. Sadly this means LJers will have to venture past their cozy friends’ page to comment on my posts, but you can add this syndicated feed to your friends to see my updates. I’ll still be commenting, etc. via this OpenID account.

Thing #3: I decided to try NaNoWriMo once more. I’m hoping it will be effective in getting me motivated to work on the several other projects I’ve not been working on. The only promise I am making in regards to it is that I won’t be spamming my blog with word counts and other nonsense. Anyway, my author profile is here if you have an urge to add me or something.

Thing #4: (This one is actually several “things” but as they’re all marginally related to books, I shall save myself the trouble of continuing with arbitrary numbering.) Among the many awesome books being released in the next month, Leviathan is out today! This is the first in Scott Westerfeld‘s new YA steampunk series and I’ve heard much good about it. I’ll be toddling off to my favorite little bookshop after work to snatch up my copy.

Relatedly, I have heard news that not a small number of the very good books I’ve read in the last year have sold movie rights. These include Carrie Ryan‘s The Forest of Hands and Teeth and Maggie Stiefvater‘s Shiver. I’m crossing my fingers that they do justice to the wonderful books upon which they are based and don’t make my eyes bleed or cause me to froth with rage. I also saw that Stephenie Meyer‘s The Host is being made into a movie. I have no words. Only fear.

Lastily, I’ll take a moment to once again plug Cherie Priest‘s Boneshaker because I read it and it was awesome on every measurable level of awesome there is. Really. It is so awesome in fact that I have a draft post in the works where I review said awesomeness in great detail.

EDF and the Dropped Ball

For the sake of the cause, I have attempted to remain as objective as possible, but this entire situation disgusts and infuriates me. I’m sure neither feeling is a surprise, and I’m even more positive I am not alone. But why I am specifically boiling mad isn’t so much because of the events taking place — it’s because today I discovered that this is not new information to the guide dog user organizations and yet nothing but “discussion” has taken place.

Yes. The first response I received stated plainly that the issue had been discussed several times. And then went on to advise me that the only thing I could do was to complain to the CA guide dog board. Like there was nothing else that could be done about the whole thing. As if it was so beneath us, as blind individuals and guide dog users, to work towards making things better.

Really, people, am I the only person who sees what this is really about?!

Maybe. So I’ll explain. And I’ll use small words so as not to confuse all the simple-minded blind folk out there.

The very root of this entire fight with EDF is about keeping blind people safe. The school has been continuing to raise money to train guide dogs, even though they haven’t placed a dog in years. Instead those dogs remain in the kennel while EDF tries to replace its head trainer. To fill this position they have an instructor who does not even meet the industry’s standard in terms of qualifications — and it’s not the first time the school has done that. In fact, that is entirely why the school’s training facility is in Arizona, while its headquartered in California. This kind of practice puts every graduate of EDF at risk, obviously. But more importantly it shows the WORLD that blind people are too stupid and subservient to care and stand up for their right to and requirement of a properly trained guide dog.

The fact that this has gone on for years is appalling. The fact that the organizations alerted to the crisis allowed it to go on is absurd. The fact that those same organizations didn’t see the need to readily share this news is absolutely unforgivable. And the fact that seemingly no one cares to delve deeper into finding out more information and how to set things right makes my blood boil with suppressed rage.

One of the main reasons I stopped being an active member in either ACB or NFB was because the meetings and conventions I did attend could in essence be defined as constant complaining about how unfair the world is for treating blind people like second class citizens. Here, in this fight with EDF, we have a prime example of just that but rather than take the opportunity and show everyone how capable, smart, and engaged we are, we sit around and talk about it and decide we can’t do one damn thing. How will change ever happen if we can’t be bothered to take action when it falls in our laps? Who do we think will do it for us? And why would we expect them?

Frankly, I think it’s a testament to the faith those puppy raisers have in us to have taken up this fight in the first place. Because from what I’ve seen, we don’t deserve it. We can’t manage to find a way to contribute help. Instead, we’ll sit on our respective butts and do nothing.

I’m so ashamed of the blind community right now. And absolutely disgusted to be associated as part of such a lazy and ignorant class of people.

EDF Has Lost Control

Last year I posted a news article about the very disturbing fight that Eye Dog Foundation puppy raisers were having with the training school. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like things are improving at EDF, at least according to this article:

Residents living near a controversial guide-dog training facility in south Phoenix say that it has gone, well, to the dogs.

They complain of frenzied barking and growling that can be heard throughout the day and night in the blocks surrounding the non-profit Eye Dog Foundation for the Blind. Certainly that was the case Thursday morning, when one resident recorded the cacophony of barking from her backyard just after 6.

“This is what we what we have to put up with every morning,” resident Barbara Tristan said over the racket. “It is just horrible.”

The California-based foundation, which runs its only training facility in Phoenix, hasn’t placed a single guide dog with the blind in two years. A recent Arizona Republic investigation found that it has placed an average of three dogs a year since 2000 despite raising millions of dollars in donations and interest from investments.

But the lack of dog placements doesn’t mean the kennels have been empty. And that’s where neighbors who live near the facility on 15th Avenue south of Baseline say the dogs are kept most of the day and night, locked in kennels where they bark and bark.

“It’s just that they are trapped in there all day long,” Tristan said. “There doesn’t seem to be any training going on at all. They are kept in pens.”

Tristan says she has attempted several times to contact the facility and the foundation about the dogs. But she said staff ignores her calls and in two cases, taunted her. “The last time I called, the woman said, ‘They’re dogs. … Do what you have to do,’ and then she hung up on me.”

At the foundation office in Claremont, Calif., a staff member said Thursday they have never received any complaints from residents. The staff member refused to identify herself and hung up when asked about the barking.

Foundation President Gwen Brown has not returned repeated requests for interviews.

Jean Anderton, who also lives near the facility, said she has heard the dogs barking at all hours. Worse, she said, when she walks her own dogs anywhere near the facility’s grounds, the dogs inside growl ferociously.

“They go berserk,” Anderton said.

It hasn’t always been that way, said neighbors, adding that they have contacted Phoenix officials and are considering putting together a petition. In the past, they said, trainers would walk the dogs through the neighborhood and let them interact with residents. Anderton and Tristan both said the dogs were well-behaved, managed with sincerity and did not bark.

They said the facility was open to the public and you could watch dogs being trained throughout the day. Now, they said, the facility gates are locked, they rarely see any staff, aside from maintenance crews, and the dogs are left to bark.

They say changes occurred about two years ago, which coincides with the time that Brown took over operations.

Since 2007, the foundation has gone through a series of trainers, padlocked the gates of its facility multiple times, and has become embroiled in lawsuits with local volunteers who raise puppies in their homes until the dogs are ready for training.

At the same time, records show that the nonprofit foundation has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and interest from stocks and bonds; giving it more than $7 million in assets.

The volunteer puppy raisers say they are concerned the dogs aren’t being trained for the blind and say they are worried about how the dogs are being cared for at the facility. Residents living near the training facility are equally concerned.

“Poor animals,” Tristan said. “It is not their fault.”

I really don’t have words to describe everything I feel about this. I’m beyond appalled. But what I really want to know is WHY there isn’t anything being done about this?! Where is GDUI or NAGDU regarding this? Or even IAADP? How about the other schools throughout the country? The only thing I’ve heard in the last year was that The Seeing Eye was going to do follow-up support for EDF graduates. But I haven’t heard anything regarding what would happen with the dogs. And clearly they are not being treated well. And even if this article is exaggerating about the dogs, and I think it’s more probable that it’s omitting even more grotesque details, why hasn’t the ASPCA or The Humane Society stepped in and done something?

I’m the first to admit that I can get pretty damn preachy about animal rights and humane pet care. And that when it comes to a handler I am even more hypercritical. Dogs especially are an animal that live their entire lives trying to make their humans happy and it goes tenfold more for a handler. And in the case of a guide dog user, we’re talking about an dog by it’s very job description trained to keep that blind person safe! I may have some qualms about certain schools practices, but I generally keep my mouth shut because I feel those schools are at least doing some right by their dogs. This? This is not doing right in any possible definition.

I’m disgusted beyond reason. And incredibly worried about the health and well being of those poor GSDs. There’s just no reason for such a thing to be allowed and overlooked for so long.

Birthday Goodies

Painting of a GSD guide dog from my book of artAnd now a brief interruption in the ongoing retelling of my most legendary vacation so I can babble about some of the really neat gifts I received for my birthday. I’m not usually hung up on the whole gift-receiving thing — and I’m certainly not one to gloat — but I thought I’d share a bit of my glee with you at a couple things.

First off, Jess gave me a most wonderful book on dogs in artwork while we were at the Met. I was quite filled with squee about this just because dogs plus art is cool on any level. And I was quite surprised and pleased that there were in fact a few representations of the GSD in some pieces. But I was absolutely not expecting to see this photo (to the left) of a German shepherd guide dog. How completely cool is that?

My desk at work with all my stuffed GSDsSpeaking of the GSD and guide dogs, though, I’ve apparently started a small shrine to them on my desk at work thanks in most part to Raechel and James who gave me the very cute GSD . . . actually both of those have been presents from them — the little guide dog puppy to the far right in the photo was my birthday gift last year. I think I need to get one of those harnessed guide dogs from GDUI to round out the collection. Hehe!

Anyway, thanks again to everyone for the birthday wishes, thoughtful cards, wonderful gifts and, of course, to those that helped make my 30th such a great birthday! I totally heart you all. :-)