Monday, September 27, 2010

GDB Homecoming!

Morgan holding Vienna as she has her front paws on his shoulders and she gives him a big puppy kiss on the face.  Morgan is laughing.

This past weekend I went to GDB’s Homecoming with Glenda who has my third puppy Wendy. We also decided to take Vienna along at the last minute. I had to work on Friday, so we didn’t get to the Hotel in San Rafael until around 5:30pm or so. We checked in and before we even had our bags in our room the phone rings and it is Vickie Kennedy and all I hear on the other end of the line is “Aloha”! Yes, Vicki is from Hawaii and she has been a GDB board member for many years. She invites us to come have cocktails and cheese in her room. You just got to love her! Glenda, Wendy, Vienna and I finally made it down to Vickie’s room where we enjoyed a glass of red wine and a cheese plate and just visited together. Vickie’s puppy raiser Gayle (who is my good friend) was also there with us. It wasn’t long before Morgan Watkins and his puppy raiser Nona joined us as well as Susie Cherry who was later crown “Homecoming Queen” at the dinner. Fun! We all visited and chatted and Morgan wanted to hold Vienna. So here are few photos of Morgan and Vienna together!

Morgan holding Vienna in his lap with a huge smile on his face.  Vienna is smiling too. Morgan holds Vienna while he kisses her on the head. Vienna settles into Morgan's lap.

We all hung out together until about 7:45pm, then we went to dinner together. At dinner, a few others joined us. Barry Stone who produced the move “Sniff” and his wife Kim, as well as the star of the Sniff, guide dog “Mikey” and his handler. Paul Walker, GDB’s alumni board chair and his guide dog “Avanti” also joined us. Here is a photo of some of us at dinner.

Vickie Kennedy, Nona, Glenda Johnson, Morgan Watkins, Susie Cherry and myself at the table during dinner.Vienna did not come to dinner with us. I left her in the hotel room in her crate so she wouldn’t be too overwhelmed! When we arrived back in our room after dinner, Vienna was sleeping. Vienna did such a great job in the hotel room during our entire stay. Here are a few photos of Vienna our hotel room:

See, Vienna REALLY is an angel! Look at her halo. No Photoshop involved :)

Vienna chewing a sterile bone with the whites of her eyes showing as she looks up at me and there appears to be a halo of light over her head. Vienna sitting near the bed in the hotel room looking cute.And here is my all time favorite photo of Wendy from the entire weekend. I love, love, love how spoiled she is. She deserved it!

A close up of Wendy's face surrounded by covers as she lays on the bed. This is a picture of Vienna's first ride in the elevator. She was so good!

Vienna in a sit riding an elevator for the first time.  Such a big girl!

After Glenda and I chatted in bed for a while, we both fell asleep well after midnight. Room service called and woke us up at 6:45am asking us how we wanted our coffee! So we got up and went to relieve the dogs. No accidents! Yay Vienna. After we had our coffee we went down stairs to breakfast, and as we were looking for a place to sit I saw Lynda and Tamera. Tamera is the first puppy I raised and I have not seen Lynda or Tamera since their graduation three years ago. I walked over to Lynda and gave her a hug, but I did not greet Tamera because she was still working. At first I thought maybe Tamera forgot who I was because she was so serious and she didn’t not acknowledge me at all until……..Lynda took her harness off and handed me the leash! Wow…what a reunion we had. Tamera reacted the exact same way she did when I saw her at graduation. She was jumping in the air, slamming herself into me with excitement. She would not stop giving me kisses. Over and over and over again. She went so wild, that people around us commented on how crazy she was acting, and then someone (I don’t know who) told them I was her puppy raiser and we had not seen each other in years. The people stopped and one started crying saying it was the sweetest and most emotional thing they had ever seen. Pretty soon I had an audience watching of guide dog volunteers and guide dog users. One of the volunteers from GDB actually held Vienna for me while Tamera and I reunited. Eventually, I had to make Tamera calm down, because she was getting a little too nuts. She rolled over on her back and I laid on the floor and rubbed her tummy. After she settled, I was able to get a picture of her. Boy, did we really miss each other!

A close up photo of Tamera as she is smiling.After all of that excitement, I barely had time to eat before the panel discussions began. Glenda and I did manage to scarf down some breakfast though. I saw Megan and Pasta and Sarah and her pup at breakfast. The discussions lasted about three hours. Vienna was an angel in a room full of 80 guide dogs. She stayed right at my feet and did not fuss or make a sound. Everyone around us was so impressed she was able to do that being only three months old. And so was I quite frankly. There were active guide dogs whining and having more trouble than Vienna. I couldn’t believe it! Take a look for yourself.

Vienna sound asleep on the floor with three dogs curled up next to her.

Vienna and Wendy sleeping face to face.

Vienna sleeping with her paw over Paros's paw.

Vienna sleeping in a tight ball.

Vienna sound asleep.

Vienna sleeping under the chair in the conference room.

See what I mean? No whining to go outside……nothing. She just hung out with the big dogs like it was no big deal! After the panel discussions, we met Lynda and Tamera for lunch. My husband and my son joined us, as well as Glenda and Wendy. We had to drive two cars to the restaurant, so I ended up taking Lynda and Glenda. It was quite comical as we were walking from the parking lot to the restaurant as I attempted to give two blind ladies directions at the same time. It sounded something like this. Glenda turn left. A few more steps, ok, now Lynda take a left. Then one of the dogs would just think they knew where we were going and they would start off in a totally different direction. Then it was “Everybody Halt!” I would go get the one that was off track and resume our walking. Pretty darn funny to anyone watching. But it was pretty stressful for me. I am completely used to directing one blind person and a guide dog because I do it all of the time. But directing two at the same time really challenged my verbal navigation skills! Needless to say, we all made it safely into the restaurant. We had a wonderful time catching up with each other. Lynda and I talk on the phone every now and then, so we didn’t have three years worth of catching up to do, but there was plenty to talk about. Here is a photo of me, Glenda and Lynda with our dogs outside the restaurant.

The three pups and their moms.  Glenda and Wendy, myself and Vienna and Lynda and Tamera sitting on a bench outside the restaurant.

I think they are both very beautiful people, don’t you? I am so lucky to have them in my life. I felt very honored to have THREE of my dogs at Homecoming! My first, my third and my fifth!

After lunch Glenda and I went back to Lynda’s hotel room and we visited. It was nice to have this special time with both of these wonderful ladies. While we were there, I took a picture of all three of the dogs together.

All three pups in a sit looking at the camera.

They took the harness of both Wendy and Tamera and the dogs played for a bit.

Tamera, Wendy and Vienna playing with a bone together.

Wendy and Tamera sitting together looking up at me.

We made it over to GDB around 5:30pm, went to the gift shop and then got a glass of wine and visited with everyone. I saw Dianne and Hibiscus, Marybeth and Tennyson, as well Jen and Nixon. It was so nice meeting everyone from the GDB Lounge, and I hope everyone enjoyed Vienna! We took our seats for the dinner and sat for awhile and visited. Then a student in class came out and asked if she could sit with us. We welcomed her to our table and heard about her first week of class. She was matched with a dog named “Rhea”. I am not sure if I am spelling that correctly. She was a very nice lady who had tried to find out if her puppy raiser would be at Homecoming, but no one would tell her. She was a retrain student and we very much enjoyed talking with her. I went over to see a few other friends at other tables, and they asked me to bring Vienna over. So, of course, I did. Before long, I had requests from every table around me to see Vienna. I went around to everyone one by one and let them hold Vienna. It was so wonderful because just holding Vienna brought such great joy to each person who held her. I love how puppies do that. People were even holding Vienna on their laps getting and posing for pictures. It was a lot of fun to be a part of. Vienna handled it very well and did not get stressed in the least. She was happy to just be flopped from one person to the next!

After dinner and the awards were over, we went back to the hotel and went to the hospitality suite, which was so packed you couldn’t get in. So Glenda and I went to the bar for a drink. Not long after we were there, Lynda called and I went over to get her so she could join us. Glenda and Lynda have the same eye disease, and they have a lot in common so I just sat back and listened as they both talked about their lives and their experience with blindness. This is a photo of Tamera while we were at the bar. Yep, she’s tired!

Tamera sound asleep at Lynda's feet while we were visiting at the bar.

Glenda left when her husband came to pick her up around 9:30pm or so. Then Lynda, Tamera, Vienna and I went back to the hospitality suite and chatted with some very nice people until around 11:30pm or so.

Tamera sound asleep stretched out on the floor of the hospitality suite.

Lynda took the harness off of Tamera and she gave me the leash and Tamera and I just sat on the floor together snuggling. I had Vienna snuggling on one side, and Tamera on the other. Life doesn’t get much better than that!


  1. O wow that sounds amazing and your reunion with your pups sounds so sweet!
    Wow glad it was such a good time.

  2. It sounds like you and Vienna had an amazing weekend! :) How wonderful you ran into Tamera. I love the picture of Vienna with her "halo". :)