More on EDF

Expanding a bit on the news I posted a few days ago about the Eye Dog Foundation’s puppy raisers winning in court, I finally have had some time to go through the HUGE email that I was sent. First, let me reitterate that the summary judgment is still pending. So these are preliminary findings as the judge still has yet to rule on the lawsuit. And all of this only pertains to the seven dogs that were not returned to the school.

The findings begin with the”first right of refusal” agreement the puppy raisers were given — meaning that if their dog was released from guide dog training they were given the option to take back their dog before any other possibility. The judge found that EDF did not follow through on this agreement. (Dogs were released to the police, for instance, rather than returned to their puppy raisers.)

Much information was presented about the “ideal age” a dog in training should be. And based on testimony from EDF staff, the judge concluded that dogs over the age of three are “too old to be trained.” All the dogs that were part of this lawsuit are presently over the age of three. One is four.

It was noted that EDF has not followed through with their mandatory number of classes (two per month) and in providing the proper staff to care for and handle the dogs. The school was closed for at least four months and staff were not on hand to carry out “the necessary training.” The puppy raisers voiced much concern over the new staff due to the lessened amount of training. The court concludes “that EDF has breached its contract with the volunteers by failing to maintain a continuing program of training and support.”

There’s a whole section on the specifics of a good faith agreement, which lists the following conditions that EDF should meet:

  • Remain functioning (i.e., not close for four months)
  • Make dogs the number one priority
  • Acknowledge dogs which are obviously unacceptable as guide dogs due to health or temperament or obedience
  • Not kennel dogs unnecessarily
  • Place dogs with the blind (i.e., more than a single one in the last several years)
  • Provide trainers with experience and competency and additional staff
  • Taking dogs back from the trainers at the optimum age (12 to 18 months) and placing them with the blind

And concludes with the following statement: “The Court finds that EDF has failed in the above-stated obligations and has thus violated its implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” Furthermore, “the Court finds that the volunteers have fulfilled their obligations, express and implied. The only claimed violation of the agreements is not to have returned the dogs upon demand, but this is justified by the findings and conclusions of this Court.”

With regards to those dogs that were returned to the school — and not part of these findings — puppy raisers are still fighting with EDF. The agreement, as I understand it, that the puppy raisers had when they returned their dogs was that they would be returned to them if they were not placed as guide dogs within six months. None of the puppy raisers have had their dogs returned and some of the dogs have been released to other programs, e.g. the sheriff’s department. Without the consent of the puppy raiser. I’ll update with further information on that as I find out more.

In conclusion, the pièce de résistance, for various reasons Gwen Brown’s own lawyer wants to quit. Take from that what you will.

April 3, 2010

I woke up to a very long email from an EDF puppy raiser this morning, along with a worsening migraine. But headache or no, I actually have an update on the situation at EDF. The judge’s summary judgment is still pending, but he has ruled in favor of the puppy raisers. So those seven who have not yet returned their dogs to EDF are completely within their rights to keep their dogs out of the school. There’s still the issue of the dogs being “warehoused” at the school, but there’s a ton more information in the email I was sent so when I have a bit more time (and feel better) I’ll post more details.

Still, congratulations to the volunteer puppy raisers of EDF because this is a BIG win for them.

In completely unrelated news, second batch of ducky cupcakes went quite smoothly. And that first batch was a very big hit at work yesterday. The consensus is that they were adorable and yummy, so I’m quite pleased. Batch #2 is coming with me to Dad’s for Easter dinner. Yara and I are headed out there “sometime” today and from the sounds of it my father has a literal feast in the workings. Also, I get to see Dolly.

2010 Walk for Fidelco

Our entire group assembled for the 2009 Walk for Fidelco; from left to right: Sarah and Fay, me and Yara, Raechel and James with Scarlet and Otis, and Tom and Patty with Remy

For the third year in a row (2008; 2009) Yara and I will be attending the Walk for Fidelco. Please consider sponsoring us with a donation to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. All proceeds go towards helping breed, raise, and train guide dogs for the blind and aide in follow-up support for graduates of the training program. Your support is sincerely appreciated!

Think, Think, Think

The other night I was reading a book before bed, a common practice of mine, and had Yara join me for a bit of snuggly warmth. At some point amidst the pages, I happened to glance down and see her positioned such that the entire length of her body was snuggled up against me, including her tail which was wrapped around my back, and she was using my legs as a pillow. In fact, she had her left leg wrapped snugly across my legs, so as to pin me into this position lest she loose out on her human body pillow.

Then it dawned on me, though it wasn’t entirely a new or foreign concept, but shepherds I have learned almost never do anything without several reasons. Whether it is something as simple as a bit of snuggling with their human or even playtime, Yara always seems to have a list going on in her head of how and why she’s doing whatever. And believe me, sometimes her reasons don’t always mesh with mine! A lab on the other hand I would say by comparison has an absolute one track mind. Food, water, sniffing . . . yeah, that about covers it and if any of those tracks happens to cross their path while on a different track it’s a good bet they’ll go after those three main tracks.

It’s an interesting quirk about the shepherds, I think, that they really do need to have things to think about. And if not given those opportunities they can be quite imaginative – or destructive in other cases. I’m thankful that Yara is of the first variety, but I’ve never left her to her own devices for any great length of time, so this is probably why I’ve never witnessed the destructive end her thought process could take her to. But I’ve stated it to others that she would never make it as a pet, she absolutely needs the stimulation that guide work provides. Case in point, she was really annoying while I was out sick with my cold/migraine combo to the point of randomly waking me up at all hours of the day and night while I tried to recuperate. And when we did go out she was practically unmanageable, even in harness.

I think this is why so many people have trouble with shepherds because of not understanding this exact thing. Because on top of all this thinking, they also are just as much in need of physical things as any medium-to-large sized dog. They need exercise and all that. And many can be some powerhouse chewers. It still boggles my mind that there were two other people in the building when I moved in with shepherds. One couple had two and they both worked. I just can’t imagine what they must have done to keep those dogs from destroying — or eating — their entire apartment, sofa included.

But translated to harness work, it’s really a very intriguing thing to behold. I am often shocked at how intricately Yara will work around something or decided a course to take. It was actually one of the main things during training that I had to be reminded of – to let her think through a problem and find a way. And if after giving her the chance, she still balked, then and only then should I attempt to lead her myself. To say it sounds simple, but don’t let us forget that I had a decade of Guiding Eyes’s training ingrained in me and that had made it quite habitual to grab the leash in my right hand and lead my dog when we were stopped for no particular reason. It hadn’t been taught to me as a form of correction – though, Yara absolutely reacted to it as such – and I can’t say if it’s still the method they teach.

Surprisingly, I managed to forget to notate this rather obvious difference when I posted the excerpt from my Nano comparing breeds. An oversight which I plan to rectify during the editing process, I promise.

The Breed Effect

This post is due to a couple factors: (1.) I’ve been getting a not small number of requests to read what I’ve been writing for my Nano; and, (2.) It (sort of) answers a rather often received question of mine: “Which breed is the best suited guide dog?”

It should be noted that this has not been edited, so it may well make little sense and contain some atrocious grammatical errors. Even still, I hope you enjoy. [Read more…]