Welcome to the winter 2017 edition of Two by Four, the first since last September's Annual General Meeting!
Included in this issue will be a report from our new president, a poem about the latest class at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, a Toronto Star columnist's take on a one-of-a-kind museum in Winnipeg, a tribute to two people who died last year, and another story from Patti in what we like to call her Guide In The Classroom series.
How about you? Do you have any stories about experiences with your guide dog, or anything else for that matter, that you would like to share with our readers? If so, don't hesitate to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. After all, this is your organization, and your newsletter.
One little bug I've been authorized to drop in your ear is that our 2017 Annual General Meeting will take place in Brantford, Ontario this coming September. Needless to say, many more details will be released as they become finalized. We encourage you to stay tuned.
In the meantime, happy reading!
Devon Wilkins, Editor
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There are several topics on which I would like to touch, which begs the question, where to begin?
Let's start with the 2016 Post Conference Survey. This was an important opportunity to give clear feedback and direction to your Board of Directors. A big thank you goes to the 17 of you who gave us that feedback on last September's weekend in London. Your comments were greatly appreciated. Constable Rob Wilson's presentation about PSD Vegas got the highest marks, with 14, or 82% of you rating it as excellent. Your AGM/Conference Committee has the survey results, and pledges to use what you told us to make our 2017 event even better.
A complete copy of the survey results can be obtained by emailing email@example.com.
It is certainly easier and more comfortable to stick to things that one is good at. With this in mind, I think that advocacy is one area on which we need to pull up our socks, especially at the Board level. Alan Conway has made Herculean efforts to lead the Fake Service Dogs Committee, but now he feels that it may be time to suspend those activities. We believe that this initiative cannot continue unless more of you get involved.
How will the development of standards around guide and service dogs by the Canadian General Standards Board affect our work? What impact will the possible creation of national disability legislation have on the Committee? Should we scale back our efforts on the elimination of fake service dogs and simply focus on advocacy? These are all weighty and complex questions for which we don't currently have all the answers. Although we touched on them in London, we're not there yet. One thing is for sure though, we cannot afford to just sit back and let things unfold. What do you think?
Since Christine Duport stepped down as our Secretary, your Board has been struggling to close the gap. According to the lyrics of an old Joni Mitchell song, "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." This couldn't be closer to the truth. Thank you Christine for your efforts, time, and for giving GDUC a piece of your very big heart. All the best!
Christine continues to support GDUC by serving as liaison on the Service Dogs Standards Project, and as our primary representative on the Consumer Access Group, CAG.
While we have not yet managed to find an Interim Secretary, we invited Jen Richards, first runner-up in the 2016 director elections, to join the Board. Jen graciously accepted our invitation, and we ask that you give her a very warm welcome.
In the meantime, the Secretarial duties have been split up among several of us, with Chris serving as minute-taker, and yours truly taking back several of the Treasurer functions, so as not to overload Chris's already full plate.
As we're now in early 2017, it's time for me to remind those of you who bought annual memberships to consider renewing. Ten of you have already purchased 2017 memberships for which we are grateful. To the 63 of you who have demonstrated confidence in the organization by opting for life memberships; your support means more than we can say.
An annual membership costs $10, and a life membership costs $50. The latter gives you the freedom of never having to worry about renewing your membership again. And, yes, we can arrange a payment plan if $50 is too much for you to pay at one time. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or to obtain assistance in renewing your membership.
We challenge all of you to spread the word about GDUC by telling at least one friend. If you are attending one of the guide dog schools in the next few months, please don't forget to inform your trainers and classmates about us. By getting the message out, we can help the organization to thrive, and, at the same time, strengthen our collective voice. People and their guide dogs are what this organization is all about, and more members mean more opportunities to espouse what we stand for.
Now, I'll make an appeal for more responses to the Members and Friends Feedback Survey. At the end of 2016 we had 96 members, but only 30 survey responses. If you have not done so already, Please take 10 or 15 minutes to help us set our future course. The survey is available at http://gduc.ca/feebback. Please email email@example.com or leave a message at 1-877-285-9805 if you require a copy of the survey in Word, or in the body of an email. The survey will be available for completion until Friday, February 17, 2017.
So, what else has your Board been up to? One thing I'm excited to tell you about is a possible large donation to our Wellness Fund. We're currently gathering the information needed to make a funding proposal, and we're aiming to have it in the hands of our potential corporate sponsor by the end of February. While these things are never cast in stone, we dare to hope!
I've saved the best for last, which is to convey my sincere gratitude to everyone for their time, commitment, support, and efforts in furthering GDUC in the 4 months I've been at the helm. Through triumphs and challenges, ups and downs, and everything else in between, we stand together, united by our mutual desire to improve the lives of guide dog handlers across this great country of ours. That, my fellow members, would seem to be a recipe for success.
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Editor’s note: Devon was recently a student at Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind.
There was once a young dog named Bree.
"A rose among thorns," observed she.
She was only two,
But she was queen of the crew,
A fact she rubbed in gleefully.
Then there was Dixon and Stanley.
Alone, each looked handsome and manly.
They had the same mother,
And when with one another,
The resemblance was truly uncanny.
Albert and Henry were amazing.
At least, that was their handlers’ phrasing.
It was obvious to others,
That they, too, were brothers,
But their handlers were more interested in praising.
The smallest male’s name was Cooper.
His work in harness was super.
He liked to be sociable,
But his mom said: "Not negotiable,"
So he tried to be good like a trouper.
The largest of the seven was Frankie
Whose frame was lean and lanky.
If tempted to sniff,
There was a bit of a tiff,
So he tried hard to avoid hanky-panky.
From the members of Class Two Ten,
Thank you, and thank you again.
Our eyes have cold noses,
And life’s coming up roses.
We each have a loyal new friend.
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By: Devon Wilkins
Our 2016 AGM and Conference, held last September at the Lamplighter Inn in London, Ontario didn’t officially begin until the Saturday. The fun, however, began the previous evening with a delicious supper put on by several surrounding Lions Clubs at London’s CNIB building. Following supper, GDUC held its first-ever auction, which raised $444.
Next morning, proceedings were kicked off by The Honourable Irene Mathyssen, NDP M.P. for London-Fanshawe.
Following the first session of our Annual General Meeting, which included reports from the outgoing Board, the first round of several draws for door prizes was held, and we had the first of several opportunities to purchase raffle tickets.
The Board was delighted when we were approached last summer by AMI - Accessible Media Inc. - to ask if they could cover our conference in London. Following a coffee break on the morning of our AGM and Conference, we listened with interest to a presentation by AMI’s Karen Magee. During Session 2 of our AGM, two resolutions were introduced, and nominations from the floor for President, Secretary, Treasurer, and five directors were accepted. Prior to breaking for lunch, we heard presentations from five guide dog school representatives, including Chuck Faruja from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Jim Dugan from Leader Dogs for the Blind, Lisa Derleth from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Laraine Locklin from Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Alex Ivic from Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
Presenters for our afternoon workshops included Windsor Police Constable Rob Wilson and his canine partner Vegas, Sara A. Hawe from Global Pet Foods in Brantford on pet grooming products, techniques, and ideas, and Dr. Karen Lucas from Southside Animal Clinic in London on age-related health conditions in dogs.
The third session of our AGM included adoption of both resolutions, and election of our new Board. The second of the two resolutions doubled annual membership dues from $5 to $10. Life memberships, however, remain the same at $50. The first resolution introduced a Code of Conduct which follows.
This Code of Conduct outlines the behaviour and expectations of Guide Dog Users of Canada's officers, directors, members, volunteers, stakeholders, supporters, and friends.
As GDUC has a public presence, it is essential that everyone associated with the organization conduct themselves with the highest standards of courtesy, dignity, transparency, inclusiveness, respect, and above all, integrity.
GDUC does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of age, colour, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.
There is zero tolerance for intimidation, coercion, bullying, harassment, or any other type of behaviour generally unbecoming of a responsible adult.
Please see the Last Section of this Newsletter for a list of current Officers and Directors.
Last but not least, there was a discussion and introduction of our Members and Friends Feedback Survey, which we hope all of our members will fill out. It’s important to understand that we would very much like to hear from you whether you attended our AGM and Conference or not.
Fifty-one people and twenty-three dogs were with us in London. We hasten to add, though, that attendance would undoubtedly have been considerably lower without our sponsors. Via Rail provided free train transportation for our members. CNIB provided lunch for us. Accessible Media Inc. gave us excellent coverage, and $1,000 for our Wellness fund. HumanWare donated a second generation Victor Stream for our raffle. Guide Dog Users of Canada wishes to extend sincere gratitude to our sponsors, and to everyone who gave us assistance, auction items, and door prizes.
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It's official; mark your calendars! Guide Dog Users of Canada's 18th Annual General Meeting And Conference will take place on September 29 and 30 at the Best Western Brantford Hotel And Conference Centre in Brantford, Ontario.
What your AGM/Conference Committee needs from you at this time are thoughts as to what workshops you'd like to see us put on during the afternoon of Saturday, September 30. Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, February 15 so that we have time to make the necessary arrangements. Your ideas as to social events and dining are welcome as well.
All of us look forward to welcoming you to Brantford for what promises to be our best conference ever!
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By: Neena Saloya
I have heard it said by many people that 2016 was a dreadful year. The World lost an unusually large number of entertainers such as David Bowie, Prince, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Debbie Reynolds, and Carey Fisher to name just a few.
We at Guide Dog Users of Canada have lost two people who will be sadly missed by many of us. Join me in reflecting for a short moment in time on the legacy they left to all of our members and friends.
Those we have lost include Richard Quan, a friend of GDUC, and Sandy Brooks, a life member. There are several commonalities I will touch on in their lives to celebrate them as people.
Richard loved to bring people together. He was a Past-President of AEBC's Toronto chapter. He also ran well-attended trivia events, and his Christmas/holiday parties can only be described as legendary. On the professional front, Richard was one of a handful of totally blind lawyers, which was no small accomplishment. On the personal side, he was truly happy in a long-term relationship with his beautiful and gregarious Michelle, to whom we extend our condolences.
Sandy Brooks had something in common with Richard, in that she used music as a gift to bring people together as part of the Sweet Adelines. She also brought people together with her fun-loving nature, and her courage in advocating for better conditions at what is now the W. Ross Macdonald School, despite being seen as oppositional to school authority figures.
Those of you who attended our 2015 conference in Kingston may well remember M.P.P. Sophie Kiwala's extremely touching remarks concerning Sandy, and how they met all those years ago when Sandy worked as a physio-therapist.
Both Richard and Sandy were passionate about improving the lives of blind people. They both lived life to the fullest, enjoying the World around them with their guide dogs by their sides. They remind us, as GDUC members that we, too, should stop on a more frequent basis to smell the flowers.
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5 reasons to love this museum; no need to worry that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg is a downer. This $351-million national museum, dreamed up by the late media mogul Izzy Asper, has become a game changer for tourism after just two years.
The Toronto Star, Jan. 21, 2017
You could come for the architecture and design alone.
New Mexico architect Antoine Predock references the Canadian landscape, complex geometry and human rights symbolism, "weaving light through darkness." The striking museum has been built on First Nations Treaty One land and boasts a glass "cloud" made of 1,300 panes of glass to resemble the wings of a dove embracing the building. Inside, criss-crossing ramps connect 11 galleries on six exhibit levels. You may climb the 100-metre Israel Asper Tower of Hope (or take the glass elevator) and spend time in the indoor Garden of Contemplation, inspired by Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Number crunchers, marvel at this counting job:
More than 300 artifacts/works of art, 2,543 images, 19 digital interactive elements, seven theatres, more than 100 hours of video, three feature films, a 360-degree film, 26 small-format films, 37 large-scale linear media projections, 512 video clips and 100,000 words of original text. Technology helps tell human rights stories at this museum, which has been built around an idea, not a collection. Immerse yourself by downloading the interactive Journey of Inspiration app that features a self-guided audio tour, images, videos, visitor mood metre and touchable "hot spots" that explain nearby landmarks.
Inclusive is the buzzword at the world's only dedicated human rights museum, and staff will help you figure out what's age appropriate for kids, from toddlers to teenagers. On the fun front, there's a motion-sensor light game in the Canadian Journeys gallery, a digital interactive table in the youth-focused Actions Count gallery, a chance to think about ordinary objects in the Rights Today gallery and music-listening stations. In the Inspiring Change gallery, you can write a human rights message on a blank "Imagine" card (or just read everybody else's).
Media relations manager Maureen Fitzhenry took me to see some of her favourite things, such as a red dress worn to the first integrated prom at a Georgia high school - in 2013. We saw the school uniform that activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai had been wearing when the Taliban shot her in Pakistan. We teared up watching a Médecins San Frontières video featuring a boatload of refugee children. "There's a perception that this is a little shop of horrors," Fitzhenry said, "but we hope people leave feeling inspired by the amazing people and groups that have made big and little differences."
I had weirdly delicious carrot fries - beer battered carrot sticks with jalapeno buttermilk dip - and panko-crusted pickerel cheeks with caper remoulade at the museum's ERA Bistro, after an approving nod at the fancy poutine and baked falafel board. Lovely and locally minded restaurants are a must at every modern attraction, and this one should be a benchmark. The boutique (no, it's not called a gift shop) is filled with ethically sourced gifts and your souvenir money supports the museum.
Jennifer Bain was hosted by Travel Manitoba, which did not review or approve this story.
Editor's note: we are hoping for an opportunity to visit the museum as part of the CAG's next face-to-face which is scheduled to take place in late March. We look forward to telling you all about it in the next issue of this newsletter.
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By: Patti Ellis
One warm, spring afternoon, I sat at my desk, quietly reflecting on the unusual sense of peace and tranquility that seemed to envelop my classroom. Half the class were pretending to read their novels, while taking occasional furtive, longing glances out the windows. Others were working on an assignment which had been due several days previously, and which probably wouldn’t be done today either, and nine or ten desks stood empty, forlornly awaiting their occupants who had urgent appointments at the beach that particular afternoon.
As usual, Dottie, my golden retriever guide dog was lying on her back beneath the chalkboard ledge at the front, her legs trailing up against the wall. As a sense of drowsiness began to steel over me, possibly due to the large burger and Fries I had consumed during lunch, I decided to get up and walk around. That was the point at which the peace shattered.
One of the group who had skipped class - let’s call her Charlotte - entered the classroom and quietly told me that her friend had fainted in the bathroom. Not wishing to cause undue excitement, I left the class under the protection of my fearless, faithful canine, and entered the girls’ washroom next door. I had only been gone a moment or two, and I had quietly whispered my whereabouts to a reliable student who’s desk sat nearest the door, when Dottie woke up and noted my absence.
According to a young boy in my class who spent more time in watching the dog than in working on his very late assignment, Dottie sat up, casually looked around, then simply strolled out of the classroom. It was later that I heard from a former student who was working in the corridor that Dottie wandered down the hall, briefly stopping at each open classroom door with a look of polite enquiry on her face, as if to ask, "is my mother there by any chance?"
Apparently, and much to the amusement of the student watching from the hallway, each teacher, correctly interpreting the look on the dog’s face, calmly answered her with "Are you looking for Mom, Dottie?"
"Sorry Dottie, she’s not here."
"Mom's not here. Sorry Sweetie."
"Hey Dottie, does your Mom know that you are out socializing?"
Finally, one teacher, possibly noting some sense of rising concern in the dog’s eyes at finding that her mom was nowhere to be found, excused herself to her class and walked down the hall to my classroom. The student next to the door gave her the information that she and Dottie were seeking.
When the teacher and dog entered the girls’ washroom, they found me and the young lady who had fainted, sitting on the floor calmly discussing the importance of eating and drinking every day. Dottie, who had been trying to look like a cool dog, leaped joyfully into my lap, franticly licking my face. Somehow, she made me feel as though I had been the one who had skipped class.
We all laughed, and together, the student, the teacher and I, with Dottie now walking meekly beside me, returned to the classroom where little had changed on that drowsy afternoon. It was at that point that I mildly wondered, who really was the one in charge of my class. As I considered the answer to the question, I smiled.
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Members of GDUC in good standing are eligible to obtain a free download of the CD by Devon Wilkins entitled Gone to The Dogs and Loving It. Get your copy by clicking the above link, logging in with your email address and password, and pressing the Place Order button on the resulting form. You can also email email@example.com.
If you in turn plan to give it to friends, we encourage you to purchase copies for ten dollars each so that GDUC can benefit from the fundraiser as Devon intended.
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