Guide Dog Users of Canada
Two by Four, Spring 2016


Editor's Notes

As Mother Nature yawns, stretches, and does her level best to send Old Man winter packing, we offer you the spring 2016 issue of Two by Four.

In this issue, we are reminded that it is time to register for complimentary eye exams for our guides, courtesy of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and stokes Pharmacy. Sue and your AGM/Conference Committee give you some important information about our big event in London, including some changes requested by Via Rail. Chris reflects on being a blind parent of young children, and explores the very special bond between her eight-year-old son and her guide dog. In what we hope will become a regular feature, Patti takes us back to high school with another amusing story about being a teacher with a guide in the classroom. Christine and Patti, our resident canine psychologists, share some interesting insights on dog behaviours we have all witnessed, but may not fully understand. Christine also provides an update on the Canadian General Standards Board and the standardization of service dogs. Last, but not least, Bob‘s presentation to the Brantford Rotary Club put GDUC on the International map in an unprecedented way.

As for our President, Devon unfortunately sustained a nasty fall, fracturing her humorous just below her right shoulder. She is currently staying with a life-long friend, doing regular physio-therapy, and trying hard to recuperate. Please join us as we wish Devon all the best for a speedy recovery.

Our Treasurer and Vice-President, Greg, took over all Presidential duties for the time being, and kept a vigilant eye on our finances.

Some of our members expressed their sincere thanks to Chris and the Wellness Committee as they took care of some recent claims.

Correction: your Two by Four team wishes to acknowledge an omission in the last newsletter. We neglected to mention Purina as one of our 2015 Conference sponsors. We apologize profusely for the oversight.

We thank Devon once more for offering her poetry as a gift to our members.

Two by Four is your newsletter. Your stories, ideas, and comments are needed to continue to make it engaging and viable. Please email your contributions and thoughts to

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ACVO/Stokes 2016 Free Service Animal Eye Exams

ACVO and Stokes Pharmacy are again pleased to announce that ACVO boarded ophthalmologists are offering complimentary screening eye examinations to qualified Service Animals and Therapy Animals, throughout the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. Registration is now open and closes at the end of April.

The ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam event is a philanthropic effort generously provided to the public by participating board certified Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists who donate their time, staff and services to provide complimentary screening eye exams to qualified Service Animals.

This program would not be successful without the generosity of our Diplomates and the financial support of our namesake sponsor, Stokes Pharmacy, and other valuable sponsors.

Over 45,000 Service Animals and qualified Therapy Animals, have received these free screening exams over the past seven years. Please participate and support our ophthalmologists and sponsors to ensure this program continues in future years.

- Stacee Daniel, ACVO Executive Director

Please Follow This Link To Register. If you require assistance with the registration process, please Email Us or leave a message at 1-877-285-9805.

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2016 AGM/Conference Update

By: Greg Thompson

Thanks to some very hard work on the part of your AGM/conference committee, our September weekend in London is starting to take shape.

We are delighted to tell you that Via Rail has confirmed its sponsorship, and will again be offering GDUC members in good standing complimentary train tickets to and from London. The deadline for requesting free tickets for yourself and a guest is August 1, 2016.

The evening of September 23 will see us traveling to the CNIB auditorium where, for $15.00 per person, we will enjoy a home made Italian supper, auction, and an opportunity to socialize with both old and new friends.

In addition to the usual AGM business on Saturday, September 24, the afternoon will feature an eclectic mix of workshops. First, Windsor Police Constable Rob Wilson, and his canine partner Vegas, will tell us how police dogs are trained, and share some of their experiences in the field. Next up, a representative from Global Pet Food will highlight some interesting new pet products, including some designed to help keep our dogs looking their best. Finally, a vet will talk to us about age-related illnesses in dogs.

The above is just a taste of what we are planning, and so as not to spill all the beans at once, we'll keep the lid on a few surprise details.

For more information, and to register, please go to Our 2016 Conference Page.

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Through David's Eyes: a Blind Parent's Perspective

By: Chris Trudell-Conklin

I can recall the day as if it were yesterday; having to pack up my infant son Ryan to stay with family, while I headed to Guiding Eyes for my new guide. I was thinking to myself "Can I do this? Will my new guide and I work this through?" All of these questions danced in my head. "How am I going to make it for 3 and a half weeks and not see my baby? Will he remember me? Will he forgive me?"

On reflection, The next 3 weeks at Guiding Eyes went by quickly. David, my new yellow lab, and I seemed to be getting along well, and I didn't think we would have an issue once we came home.

I am sure David was thinking "what did I get myself into? I didn't know there was a 6 month old baby who would tag along!" But, I have to say David took working with Ryan and me in stride. I can recall our first walk as a threesome. I'd previously introduced David to Ryan and said "Take care of our baby," and that's exactly what David did.

The years have flown by, and now my son is 8. The relationship between David and Ryan has developed into something so very special. David has attended all of the things in life that are important to Ryan. His first steps, first day at daycare, first day at school, school concerts, doctor's appointments, and trying out bowling in a league for the first time. So, it is easy to see how much of a presence David has been in Ryan's life.

Now that David is retired, the bond he and Ryan share is even stronger. I know the memories Ryan has of David will live with him forever.

Did I ever have doubts that David and I would work things out? Yes, of course, but I trusted in our bond together, and that phenomenal match that was made at Guiding Eyes. So, just remember, these dogs are not just our eyes, but, if you have children, they may also come to mean something in their lives as well. There's always enough love to go around!

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Dottie: The Class Cop

By: Patti Ellis

Anecdotally, among many teachers and students alike, it is commonly accepted that grade ten Applied classes, formerly known as General level classes are some of the most challenging groups to handle in a high school environment. It is not just the fact that many of these classes contain more boys than girls, or that girls are stereotypically thought to be better behaved; it appears to be a combination of a disproportionate number of rowdy boys, and the fact that many of them would rather be anywhere than a high school English classroom during the last period on a Friday afternoon. Put these factors together with a blind teacher, and you could have quite a lively English class.

In the class to which I am referring, there were twenty-nine boys, and three girls who had dropped out after the first or second week. This precipitous departure of all the girls from class may or may not have been due to an overwhelming combination of testosterone laced with sweat and overlaid by copious quantities of cheap cologne. In any case, it was now just me and the boys at the end of the second week of the semester. These boys represented several different groups in the school, and they loved nothing better than to pummel one another. The pummeling usually occurred outside during the lunch hour where the school police officer could break up the fight, but there were, of course, the odd exceptions.

On this particular day, I was moving slowly towards my classroom, a hot cup of coffee in one hand, and my Golden Retriever Dottie's harness in the other. My movements were slow because I was hoping that my students would all be in class with their books opened before I got there. Right, as if that ever happened with this group! Still, there was always hope of a miracle. I must have been daydreaming, or at least not paying close attention to my surroundings because suddenly the door burst open and two boys erupted into the hall, swearing loudly and punching each other. Not seeing either me or the dog, they ran strait into us! Dottie, who was always the most gentle of dogs was startled and let out a loud, fierce growl. The reaction from the two culprits was immediate. They leapt apart, and one of them cried in a voice, rather higher than the one he usually used, "That dog's going to attack us. Don't let her hurt us, Miss."

I wanted to laugh. Dottie's growl had come from being startled, not anger, but the boys didn't know that. I told Dottie "no" and commanded her to sit and stay. I then admonished the boys not to move a muscle, and marched resolutely into the classroom to restore order. One minute later, I returned to the hall where the boys and the dog waited exactly where I had left them. Dottie was simply lying there, calmly washing her paw, but the two boys still seemed a little nervous. In a casual voice, I informed the two that they were lucky to still have all of their reproductive anatomy in-tact, and that although Dottie was not trained as a guard dog, she was very unhappy with students who wished to get into fights. I also told them to consider the consequences before fighting in my classroom ever again. They both eagerly promised to behave for the rest of the semester. Then I sent them to the office, as scrapping in the classroom or hallways was strictly prohibited. I later told the principal about what had happened and he told me that he didn't think that those two boys would cause any further problems.

The word of Dottie's sudden personality change got around the school before the next day, and for a few days after that, my class was exceptionally calm and well behaved. Proceeding down the hall between classes, I occasionally heard excited, whispered comments, "You don't want to mess with that dog. I hear she's got some pitbull in her." It was hard not to smile, but I didn't say a word; I just kept on walking. I had explained to my classes that absolutely any dog will bite, given the right set of circumstances. I left those circumstances to their imaginations.

In the staff room, we all had a good chuckle, while Dottie, my furry golden retriever/pitbull in disguise, quietly munched on an apple and wagged her tail.

It must be said here that guide dogs must never be encouraged to growl for any reason, and I did reprimand my dog, even though I realized that she had truly reacted out of fear, and not from any desire to protect me or show aggression towards the boys. I simply used the situation as what we call in the profession, a teachable moment.

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Dog Facts: Did You Know?

By Christine Duport and Patti Ellis, with source material from the book "Dog Watching," Desmond Morris, 1987.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Barking is a form of an alert message among the canine or human pack to which the dog belongs.

Much as in the case of human social situations, a bark gives the message that the young must stop what they are doing and pay attention, possibly take cover, or even look for protection. The same bark tells the adults to be ready to spring into action.

The bark does not necessarily signal danger, only that something is happening. In much the same way, humans used to sound village bells to announce an approaching stranger.

Once the approaching person or animal has been identified, the dog presents either a welcoming attitude, or goes on the attack.

So, barking is not necessarily, or even usually a sign of aggression; it is simply a warning of a change in the immediate surroundings. In other words, something interesting is happening that needs to be investigated further.

If a dog means to be truly aggressive, it will usually attack silently, lunging at its target and biting it, as police dogs do when apprehending a criminal.

In some situations, a barking dog may also be showing aggression and the instinctive inclination to attack, but the vocalization is partly mixed with some degree of fear, so the barking is merely a call for reinforcement from the rest of the pack.

The loud bark of our modern dogs has been developed through selective breeding in order to create a guard dog that literally sounds like a burglar alarm.

The bark of wild dogs and wolves is much softer, and not delivered in rapid repetitions.

The old popular saying "his bark is worse than his bite" usually turns out to be true.

Why Do Large Breed Dogs Not Respond To Frantic Barking From Small Dogs?

People who own large dogs have often observed that their dogs will remain passive, calmly ignoring a small dog barking loudly and aggressively in their direction.

Dogs have their own interpretation of another dog's size: they identify the small dogs as puppies, even though they may be fully mature. The mature dog's instinct is to not attack a puppy, so, even when threatened, a large dog will very likely remain passive in these circumstances. If, however, a small breed or a large breed puppy barks and leaps directly into the face of a mature dog, the adult may growl, curl its lip, or even snap at the youngster to teach proper dog etiquette.

Why Does A Dog Wag Its Tail?

We have often been told that the tail wag is the dog's smile, or that a dog wagging its tail is friendly.

The cause of the tail wag, however is much more complex and is the result of a conflict in the dog's mind: I want to go and I want to stay.

The dog may want to leave because it is fearful; at the same time, it may want to stay on the expectation of food, affection from its owner, or the anticipation of a serious fight with another dog. Therefore, tail wagging must be interpreted within the context of the situation.

Very young pups don't wag their tails. Typically, puppies start wagging at the age of 7 weeks. Some will start a bit earlier, but only 50% of dogs wag at 30 days. It has been observed that this happens while suckling.

The reason tail wagging does not start at birth is that it takes the pups a little while to become aware of their surroundings - dogs are born without sight or hearing - and begin to read the competition signals of their siblings. Tail wagging and other signals happen when puppies begin to play rough with one another.

During nursing, the wagging happens because of the close proximity of the pups as they suckle. They want to stay at the teat with the best milk flow, but not too close to the others who nipped at them earlier.

The wagging is loose and wide in submissive dogs, and shorter and more rigid in aggressive animals.

A confident dog will wag a tail that is fully erect, while a subordinate pooch will wag in a lowered position.

Tail wagging is also the means to disperse scent from anal glands, which is important for dogs who gather much of their information from sniffing their surroundings.

What most dog owners observe is the relationship between human and dog, where the tail wagging is the friendly welcome of the master, but tail wagging expresses more complex feelings in dog to dog relationships.

The dog living in a pack will wag when it sees its leader, both happy and somewhat fearful at the same time.

Surprising as it may be to some dog lovers, domesticated dogs show a similar behaviour: they are very aware of their dependence on what humans provide them, food and shelter, and it explains why pet dogs have a residual fear: will I be fed? Will I have to sleep rough? Is my master angry with me?

Thousands of years of domestication have not entirely eradicated the conflicts in a dog's mind.

Dog lovers don't like to think their dog might be afraid of them, but, in fact, our sheer size is intimidating for dogs, even for those who are treated with much love and respect by their masters. This is the reason guide dog trainers will often suggest that a student be seated on the floor as he or she is introduce to a new guide. The human is not towering over the dog, which is less intimidating and will encourage dog's and handler's to engage in a positive first contact.

Why Does a Dog Scratch The Ground After Defecating?

This behaviour is more obvious in males, and it has often been compared to what cats do. Cats scratch the ground after defecating to hide their feces. It was also thought to be one of the characteristics of the wolf which the domesticated dog retained. In fact, this theory is a myth, and soil scratching has other meanings.

While it is true that wolves engage in soil scratching after defecation, they don't do it to hide anything. As a matter of fact, both wolf and dog make sure they are far enough away (sometimes up to several feet) when they scratch so that their feet do not touch the feces. In addition, by scratching the soil vigorously, dogs and wolves leave physical marks for others to see.

Although they might not leave traces, urban dogs will scrape the pavement simply as a habit of their species.

Another explanation for this phenomenon is that dogs have sweat glands between their toes, and scratching the soil will add to the personal scent of the feces, thereby enhancing the mark left on their territory.

How Do Dogs Invite Play?

All young animals play, but playfulness remains part of adult behavior, particularly in dogs and humans.

The question is how can dogs indicate to humans or other dogs their desire to play?

It is a real issue, and the message must clearly convey that actions which mimic fighting and aggression are only meant in good fun.

In order to send a clear message, dogs display invitations to play, such as the play bow which all dog owners have observed. This position of lowered chest, front legs extended on the ground, with the back arching up toward hips and straight hind legs, is often accompanied by direct eye contact and small jerking motions, basically saying, "come on! Let's play" to the person or canine partner with whom the dog wants to engage.

A play fight or play chase usually follows.

When engaged in a play chase, dogs will often switch roles, which demonstrates that the play does not involve any aggression or fear from either dog.

Another, more subtle, invitation to play is the equivalent of a smile, where the dog's lips are stretched out at each corner of the mouth but without showing teeth which would be seen as a sign of potential aggression.

Pawing and nudging are also signs of invitation to play.

Offering is a signal as well. In this case, the dog simply brings a toy to its intended play partner and lays it down before him/her. If the other dog or person tries to grab the toy, the toy is quickly snatched away, and, hopefully, the pooch with the inviting toy is now being chased. Mission accomplished!

If a dominant or large dog wants to invite a submissive or small dog to play, the former will often show signs of passivity and submission by lying on its back, paws up in the air encouraging the other dog to come closer and gain confidence in the play.

Dogs learn to refine their play modalities by using the "soft bite" as very young pups after experiencing real bites and pain from their litter mates. Pups separated too young from their siblings and who did not benefit from that group experience might never be able to use the "soft bite", and their attempts at play are likely to lead to real fights.

In the wild, wolves also use play invitations, especially prancing and other body movements. But they can also be cunning, and use this particular body language to lure a prey by making it believe the intention is all about play, not danger.

Similarly, duck hunters train some dogs, generally poodles, to use the same kind of deception to attract ducks. When the poodle prances and seems to dance around, ducks actually come and approach the dog, apparently mesmerized by the sight, which leads to their unfortunate demise.

Dogs read humans far better than humans are presently able to read their canine partners. Information on dog behaviour helps to narrow the gap, just a little, but humans have a long way to go in learning to really understand their pooches.

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Update On The Service Dogs Standards Project

By: Christine Duport and Alan Conway

The Canadian General Standards Board Technical Committee on service dog teams held its second meeting on February 17 and 18, 2016, in Gatineau, Quebec.

The meeting reviewed work to date, and revisited the general topics to gain a better understanding by the members of what the Technical Committee is about, its objectives, and how it can assist society.

The Technical Committee is on-schedule to deliver a publication ready standard by September, 2017.

The next meeting is expected to take place in early June of this year.

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A Gift For GDUC Members

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

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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Sharing a Vision: When GDUC Meets Rotary International

By Christine Duport

Rotary International was founded 109 years ago as an association of business people and professionals dedicated to service to society.

Their mission is the development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service, high ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.

Each Rotarian applies the Rotarian ideals in their personal, business, and community lives.

Rotarians also pursue the advancement of international understanding, good will, and peace through a World fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

Members are involved in many other community projects, non-profit Boards, and fund-raising endeavours outside of Rotary. As a testament to their commitment towards the Rotary International goals, they support international projects such as "Polio Plus," "Fresh Water Wells," and the "Eye Sight Programmes."

The Brantford Rotary Club will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2017, and is known to be one of the most active Rotary clubs.

Brantford resident and GDUC Director Bob Brown had the opportunity to give a presentation to his local Rotary Club on February 12, 2016. Mr. Brown talked about GDUC, guide dogs in general, and his own training school (Leader Dogs).

To thank their speakers, Rotary Clubs perform a service in the name of the presenter and the organization he/she represents, and, unprecedented in GDUC’s existence, an eye surgery in India was funded in both Bob’s and GDUC’s names.

Your Board is keeping the lines of communication open with the Brantford Rotary Club in the hope that we may engage in a future project together.

Thank you, Rotarians, for having a vision, and the courage to make it a reality!

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Directors, Committees, and Project Representatives



Please use the following links to contact Committee Chairs.

Project Representatives

Please use the following links to visit project websites.