Guide Dog Users of Canada
Two by Four, Winter 2016


Editor's Notes

As we gear up for the holidays, we hope that you can find time in your busy schedules to peruse this edition of Two by Four. Please think of it as a sort of break from whatever you are doing to prepare for the festive season, be it baking, decorating the tree, or wrapping presents.

In this issue, Matt relates some of his Experiences as he obtained his first dog. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Chris offers up a touching Tribute To Nike, her 15-year-old retired guide who recently passed away. On the educational front, Christine shares A Short History Of The Dog, and Bob Brown reminds us of some Tips and Suggestions as we travel with our guides through another harsh Canadian winter. Last but not least, Patti's story entitled Dottie The Classroom Monitor will probably make you laugh out loud, and it certainly gives a whole new meaning to the term "working dog".

Many of us tend to think of retirement as something that will eventually happen to our guides, but what of their human partners? Patti Ellis spent almost thirty years teaching high school English. Over that time she helped to shape many a young mind, and shared with her students her passion for writing and literature. On October 30 2015, Patti taught her last class. Congratulations on a long and successful career, and all the best as you move into an exciting new chapter of your life.

We would be remiss if we did not mention former editor Bob Berrigan, who, after producing some of the finest issues of this newsletter GDUC has ever seen, decided to put down the proverbial pen. Bob, thanks for your hard work and dedication, and please know that we will do our humble best to fill your very large shoes.

Whoever said that "it is more blessed to give than receive" was really onto something. In the spirit of "the season of giving," GDUC has a Christmas Gift for our members in the form of a free digital download of Devon's Gone to The Dogs and Loving It collection of poetry.

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

Now, off the soapbox and on to Two by Four. We'll talk again in a few months, by which time, Jack Frost should have loosened his icy grip. In the meantime, we extend our best wishes for the festive season to you and yours.

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President's Holiday Message

We have so much to look forward to during 2016. We’ve already seen what Greg Thompson and Matthew Dierckens can do with our website, and we can look forward to so much more, I’m sure. Speaking of Matt, I’d like to pause here to welcome him to the Board. The talents and skills he brings will be invaluable. Meanwhile, Greg will keep a watchful eye on GDUC’s purse strings, and will be our Vice-President, always ready to step in if, as, and when necessary.

All of us know how hard our Advocacy Committee works, so we have a good idea of the good things we can look forward to from them.

We can only hope that all of our guides will remain hale and hardy, but in the event that someone doesn’t, we know that there will always be the Wellness Fund to turn to, especially if we continue to work to maintain the Fund’s well-being. By the way, Lynn has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons, but Chris Trudell-Conklin has taken the reins for the time being, and you can rest assured that the Fund is in good hands.

Speaking of funding, Bob Brown is investigating the feasibility of a few fundraising projects. He’s looking for any members who might like to join his committee.

I’m chairing the Publicity Committee, and I, too, would like to hear from members who are interested in finding ways of keeping GDUC in the forefront of the public’s consciousness.

We know that we can always count on Patti Ellis to continue to work quietly on keeping current members happy, and recruiting new ones whenever possible.

Christine Duport will continue to do her magic with our minutes in her position as Interim Secretary, and as time allows, she will get GDUC’s archives in order.

The big event of 2016, of course, will be our AGM and Conference which will take place in London. Sue Neveu-Bhatti and her Committee, some of whom live right there in London, are working hard, and will let us in on details as they are finalized.

But for now, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of your Board to wish all of you, person and pooch alike, a merry, safe, and blessed Christmas, and everything you’re hoping for in the coming year.

Devon Wilkins, Interim President

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Kingston Welcomes GDUC

Guide Dog Users of Canada's 16th Annual General Meeting and Conference took place on September 18 and 19 at the Ambassador Hotel in Kingston, Ontario. The AGM Committee did a great job getting the weekend organized helping to ensure that a great time would be had by all!

The event began with an optional, late Friday afternoon social activity. In what was almost certainly a first for this organization, the Museum of Health Care opened its doors to 16 guide dog teams and several volunteers. All who participated enjoyed themselves, and came away having learned something new. We were invited to touch many antique medical items, including an early version of the stethoscope, and dentures from the late 18th century, hand-crafted out of ivory.

Aunt Lucy's was Friday evening's spot for dinner, and what a treat it was! We dined in a private room where everyone mingled. There was even someone playing the piano providing dogs and handlers with entertaining background music. The food was excellent, with quite a variety of tasty treats to choose from on the menu.

Saturday's festivities began early with breakfast at the hotel, and then it was down to business. Besides those members attending the Conference in person, we were able to engineer the participation and voting of some members via Skype. Sophie Kiwala, M.P.P. for Kingston and the Islands, welcomed us to Kingston, and made opening remarks. Ms. Kiwala shared something of herself, and left many of us with the feeling that we have a valuable supporter in the Ontario Legislature.

All work and no play would make GDUC a very dull organization indeed. So, we lightened up by conducting lively door prize draw sessions during coffee breaks and lunch. Please see the end of this article for more about door prizes.

Saturday afternoon's workshop on assistance dogs was the highlight of the Conference for many of us. Three assistance dog handlers, Matthew with diabetic alert dog Zoe, Louise with mobility support dog Bruce, and Shirley with PTSD assistance dog Katie made up the panel along with three trainers, Lisa-Marie, Caroline, and Alex. The handlers explained in intimate detail how their dogs were making a positive difference in their lives, and the trainers provided valuable insight as to how these dogs are taught to perform their important duties. There followed an opportunity for GDUC members to ask questions of the panel, and vice versa. At one point, Lisa-Marie came right out and asked us if we were united by the common bond of being handlers, and the answer was a resounding "yes".

It is definitely in our best interest to stand together with our colleagues who are partnered with assistance dogs, as we all must deal with common issues such as the increased prevalence of fake service dogs, the development of standards for the training/certification of assistance dogs, access refusals, and the fundamental need to educate the public about what it is like to live and work with a guide or assistance dog. There's strength in numbers, and working together is the best way we know of to bring about positive change.

GDUC is fortunate to have had the support of five guide dog schools. A big thanks to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Guide Dogs of America, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, Leader Dogs for the Blind, and Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides for sending representatives to share information about their schools.

Immediately before closing remarks, a raffle was held. The grand prize was a Victor Stream (New Generation) courtesy of HumanWare. This year's lucky winner was Patti Ellis who, in a spirit of generosity typical of this organization, publicly gave it to Greg Thompson, recognizing him for his contributions over the past year.

Putting together an event of this magnitude requires many hands and lots of teamwork. Our capable contingent of volunteers were instrumental in providing directions, serving food, and helping out with whatever needed to be done. A huge thanks to all of you, and please know that we could not have pulled it off without your assistance and support.

The weekend gave us an opportunity to connect with old friends, and make new ones as well. Despite the rainy weather, many folks returned to Aunt Lucy's on Saturday evening for more good food and conversation. Some participants capped off the evening by visiting the hotel's water park where several volunteers and handlers enjoyed a very tall slide. Unfortunately, due to the usual health stipulations, the dogs were not allowed to avail themselves of these wonderful aquatic facilities. It might have been kind of fun to see sixteen dogs frolicking in the pool, but then again, perhaps not.

On Sunday morning, everyone said their good-byes and went their separate ways. We all look forward to next year's AGM which the new board is already beginning to plan. If you have never joined us, we sincerely hope you will. Let's all try to bring along someone new next year to increase attendance even further, and make the 2016 AGM our best ever.

Santa Was In Kingston

Christmas definitely came early this year, as all conference participants will remember!

We had a record number of door prizes, and Sue Neveu-Bhatti hardly had enough time to give them all away. As a matter of fact, we had so many donations from pet stores, restaurants, veterinary clinics, etc. that, by mid-afternoon, we had to recycle our raffle tickets in order to keep the draw going.

You will find below the complete list of door prize donors, some of whom sent several gifts for you to win. We thank all of them for their generous contributions to the 2015 Conference!

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A First Look at The 2016 Conference

As Devon has already told us in her President's Holiday Message, Sue Neveu-Bhatti, and her Committee, have already started planning our 2016 AGM and Conference. We look forward to welcoming you to the Lamplighter Inn in London, Ontario, on the weekend of September 23-25.

We have a contract with the hotel which means that you can book your rooms now if you wish. To do so please call 1-888-232-6747 or 519-681-7151, and be sure to mention that you will be attending the GDUC Conference. A room with two queen beds costs $139.00 plus taxes per night.

The Committee is now focusing its attention on social activities, dining, and workshops. Please keep an ear on our website and future editions of this newsletter as more information becomes available.

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A Short History Of The Dog

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

When we look at all the types, shapes, and colours of dogs that surround us, it might be difficult to believe that dogs actually are wolves in dog’s clothing. And yet, from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane, from the miniature Yorkshire Terrier to the Saint-Bernard, all dogs belong to the same species, regardless of their physical attributes, and it is now generally accepted that they evolved from the wolf.

All dogs , crossed with other dogs, will produce fertile offspring, and, if crossed with wild wolves, these offspring will be fertile as well. That is the biological link between animals of the same species.

Interestingly, it is the wolf’s characteristics that make the dog man’s best friend. Our domestic dogs are not actually descendants of the wolves we are accustomed to seeing in movies or in zoos, which are the wolves of the north, such as Russian, Scandinavian and Canadian Timber wolves, usually very furry and tall. Rather, our dogs have evolved from the Asiatic wolf, a less furry and less stocky animal who populated warmer areas.

Much like prehistoric humans, wolves lived, and still live, in packs that are defined by hierarchy and organization. Both humans and wolves established home territories, hunted prey bigger than themselves, were competitive, and raised their young as a group. They also used body language and facial expressions to communicate.

If taken young enough, a wolf pup growing with humans would have identified with its human pack, and therefore would have acted as guard dog and helped during a hunt when it grew up. It is believed that the separation between wolf and dog occurred when some wolves became able to digest carbohydrates, which they would have learned to eat with their human companions or neighbours as they developed agriculture.

However, after domestication, some dogs did return to the wild, and still exist today. Two examples of these wild animals are the Australian Dingo, and the New Guinea Singing dog, one of the rarest breeds.

In some parts of the globe, particularly in the Middle-East, domesticated dogs reproduced and proliferated to the point of making large packs, threatening human life. It was the start of human dislike for dogs who became scavengers, and fed in the outskirts of villages and cities, sometimes being very aggressive in their search for food.

The dogs who ended up living in close quarters with humans always performed important tasks, particularly in rural settings. They guarded property, protected humans, herded, and hunted. Some dogs were even trained to collect eggs without breaking the shells. They were also useful for destroying rodents and other vermin.

During their conquest of what is now France, Roman soldiers were confronted by war dogs. The ancient Gauls equipped their dogs with armour, and gave them collars fitted with razor sharp blades that literally shredded the legs of the horses carrying the Roman legions. Regrettably, fighting dogs have not disappeared and are still used today, illegally, by some blood thirsty gamblers.

In Europe, In the middle ages, there were only about a dozen types of dogs, who were the result of some breeding, but many new breeds and pedigrees became more popular around the industrial revolution in the 19th century, which saw the first dog shows, and the expansion of dog breeding businesses. There are now several hundred breeds of dogs.

Gradually, as many people migrated to urban settings, the working dog was replaced in many cultures by the pet dog, who offered companionship to their human owners. Walking a dog in the park soon became the only link to rural living, and contact with nature for many people trapped in cities hemmed in by pavement and brick buildings.

Although some dog lovers are attracted to pure bred and new pedigree dogs, many people prefer mixed race dogs as pets. These animals usually enjoy better health, tend to live longer, and are less aggressive.

Selective breeding produced dogs with specific traits. For example, dogs bred for racing developed longer legs over time, and those meant to be lap dogs were the result of repeated breeding of the smallest canines until they achieved a body size that allowed humans to pick them up, and carry them around easily. However, breeding had somewhat of a negative effect on the dogs' health because some of their initial traits were modified through excessively refined breeding. Some of them started developing issues such as difficulty breathing in dogs with flat faces, while others suffered from hip or heart problems. This means that these dogs would not be capable of doing the work their ancestors performed for thousands of years, when only the strongest survived, and reproduced.

Today, working dogs still hold an important place in our lives. Notwithstanding guide dogs for the blind, and other assistance dogs, working dogs are still very prevalent. They locate truffles in the south of France (an extremely lucrative business), sniff out drugs, rescue avalanche victims, track down criminals, act in movies, run races, and compete in shows. And, let’s not forget Laika, the Siberian husky mongrel mix who was the very first cosmonaut!

For over ten thousand years, dogs, like cats, have been the only animals living freely among humans, without any kind of separation imposed on other animals be it by a fish tank, a terrarium, or a bird cage. So many years after the beginning of their very special partnership, our dogs keep on giving us their love, and undying loyalty.

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Four Legs And a Wagging Tail - My Experiences Getting My First Guide Dog

By Matthew Dierckens

On 29 August 2015, I boarded a flight from Detroit Metro to Laguardia in New York to go to guiding Eyes for the blind, to finally get my first guide dog. I was a mix of excitement and nerves. I was thinking to myself, "What if I flunk out of dog school?", "Am I ready for this?", and "What are they expecting me to do?". Now keep in mind, I’ve had many years of O&M training both in Canada, and at the Colorado Centre for the Blind, so I felt pretty confident in myself, however I for some reason do not do well in unfamiliar areas.

So we touched down in New York in the afternoon, and met up with a couple of my classmates, one of whom I had already met through a friend on Facebook. We drove up to the school, met our instructors, got situated in our rooms, and had our first lecture. We discussed guide dog equipment, different collars, and we got our leashes which we were asked to start breaking in.

The next day we did two Juno walks, and on the last one we were able to work with dogs who could potentially be our matches. I know those of you reading this who have had many dogs over the years will agree with me when I say that the first walk with that dog was like I was dying. The dog that I walked with was a little yellow female, who was so excited and wiggly, that I was praying that she would be the dog that I would be matched with.

The next day was "dog day". We all gathered in Alumni Hall, had a couple of lectures, and then the moment we all had been waiting for arrived… We got to know the names of our dogs. They told us that the dogs that we had worked with the day before were the dogs we would receive. My prayer had been answered!

I received that yellow lab female named Marilyn on 1 September around 11:00. She honestly wasn’t as excited as I thought she was going to be, but she wagged her tail either because she was happy to see me, or happy that we were giving her treats. Either way, we got to know each other, she did a lot of sniffing around the room on leash, and then about an hour later it was time for lunch. I’m writing about this meal specifically because the instructors had said that it wouldn’t exactly be an easy lunch, and boy were they right. Some of the dogs whined, a lot of them got up when they saw their instructors, or just wanted to visit with their friends on the other side of the room.

Now, I’m not going to write about my entire three weeks at Guiding Eyes. If you wish to know more, you can read about them on the Living Blind Blog. I’ll just list a few things that we did during training. These included working on various types of intersections and traffic patterns, targeting objects with the clicker, positive reinforcement as well as correction work, malls, escalators, working in a college campus (although we never actually entered a college building), and a really amazing opportunity was to go to Manhattan for an afternoon. When we did that trip, I felt that Marilyn and I had found our dance. We worked so well together. I don’t think I could walk in downtown Manhattan with a cane.

We graduated on 19 September, and myself along with a classmate who was a retrain gave speeches.

I really want to thank Guiding Eyes for the Blind for providing me with this brilliant dog. She loves her job, and is a joy to work with. I look forward to the many adventures that Marilyn and I will have together over the next 8 to 10 years.

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Poem, The Night Before Christmas At Rainbow Bridge

An old, bitter-sweet favourite for many of us, dedicated to all of you who have lost animals, be they guides or pets.

'Twas the night before Christmas, at Rainbow Bridge too.
We Bridge kids were thinking as always of you.
We'd seen how the holidays weren't bright this year,
Heard you whisper so often, "I wish you were here!"

We know how you wish you could just stay in bed
And sleep through the holiday lying ahead,
When all celebrate with their loved ones so near...
Unless they have loved ones on this side this year.

But we're no less alive here, on the other side.
If you could just see us, you'd've laughed and not cried.
The dogs all in harness, pulling the sleigh.
The cats all in Santa hats pointing the way.

The pet birds all flying back over the rainbow,
Bound homeward in spite of Earth's darkness and snow.
All the pets that you've lost, pets for whom you've cried,
Flying home on this Christmas to be by your side.

If you feel warm fur brush you when no pet's around,
Hear a soft bark or purr, just a ghost of a sound,
We're trying to tell you we're visiting this way,
And our visits, even rainbows, can be on any day.

But for Christmas we have something special to do,
A sleighful of happy dream visits for you.
On doggy, on kitty, on winged friend and ferret!
The love that you lavished, we mean now to share it!

We're fetching that love home, the way we once played,
With the closeness we shared and the memories we made.
Our Earth lives with you were too short for us, too,
And on this Christmas Eve we have so much to do.

So all through this night as you sleep in your beds,
Sweet visions of fur babies dance in your heads.
This one special night we can bring you Home for a while,
Your true home in Heaven, where again you will smile.

Over the rainbow you'll fly, for a short while this night,
Hours that you'll be happy, hours that will feel right,
Hours to cuddle and hug us, to run and to play,
Before the return to Earth in our magic way.

And when you awaken and face Christmas Day,
We pray you'll remember your trip on our sleigh,
But in case you forget, just remember our love.
Remember us watching you, your angels above.

Sending love wrapped in rainbows, shining and bright,
Love that will guide you through the darkest night,
Love found in each memory unwrapped through the year,
Replacing dark sorrows with Christmas cheer.

Leave the toys to St. Nick, we Bridge kids bring dreams,
Sweet visits to remind you all is not as it seems
When you look all around you with tired Earthly eyes.
If you saw as we do, there'd be joy and surprise.

There are fur angels waiting by those Christmas trees,
Always there for you and hearing your pleas.
We're never more than a thought away from your home,
You're never forgotten, you're never alone.

Nor are we alone here, with our Rainbow Bridge friends.
We know only joy here, the celebrating never ends,
And after our reunions with you Christmas Eve,
We Bridge kids will party like you'd never believe.

But we'll slip away often to be by your side.
Sitting there watching you, eyes open wide,
Praying you'll be able to catch a glimpse of us, too.
But whether or not you see us - Merry Christmas to you!

- Cindy Morgan (2007)

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A Tribute To Nike

May 31, 2000 - November 18, 2015

By Chris Trudell-Conklin

On October 24, 2002, I had the pleasure of meeting my wonderful, new dog. Nike, a seventy-five pound black lab affectionately known as "sneaker boy" came bouncing into the lounge at Guiding Eyes to give me an energetic greeting. Julie my trainer stayed with us for a few minutes then left to give us time to get to know each other. I can recall the scene as though it were yesterday: Sitting on the floor with this sweet dog in my lap, giving me lots of kisses. I remember running my fingers through his fur. It was so soft, and his ears felt like velvet.

Our first walk was just as amazing to me. I felt so free as we moved almost effortlessly together. It was truly incredible how we simply bonded with no struggle at all, and easily cruised through our training at Guiding Eyes. As a fellow student received a dog named Rebok, we came to be known affectionately as the "sneaker" class.

When it was time to leave the school and start our life together, it seemed as if we had been partners for a lot longer than 2 and a half weeks.

At graduation, I had the pleasure of meeting Nike's wonderful puppy raisers, who Nike and I remained in contact with for all of these years. These special people did a superb job in raising this sweet dog with whom I would spend many very happy years.

Together Nike and I did many things: We went on a cruise where he was superb, learning quickly to relieve himself inside on a ship, leading me throughout the boat, dealing with all kinds of people, and even other guide dogs after only being home for a short time. We also did a bunch of travelling while I served for three years on the Guiding Eyes Graduate Council. The council is a group of graduates who support the school by attending conferences and workshops with their guides by their sides. I also had the pleasure of speaking to grads on the phone about our mutual experiences. Nike and I travelled on many trains, as well as planes big and small. He was always wagging that tail of his in anticipation of our next adventure. I can recall a time at a hotel when I showed him the door of our room, and after that, he always knew the location and would take me right to it. I was so impressed! One year later at the same hotel, Nike happily proceeded to show me the same door. Unfortunately, we were in a different room this time. Even so, I was so amazed at Nike's ability to remember. I knew I could depend on him! He was always there for me in so many ways. He was my rock!

Unfortunately, this special partnership would not last forever. Nike had started to show signs of stress. We were at Kennedy subway station waiting for a train, and Nike froze. He began to wag his tail quickly; I got on the floor with him to see if there was something in his paws, and when I discovered there was nothing, I knew he was trying to tell me something. We went home on the bus, and that was Nike's last day of work. I did not have the heart to make him guide me any more if he couldn't. I cried like a baby.

On December 29 2007, Nike returned to the home of his puppy raiser family. Nike's retirement was wonderful, and I know the joy he brought to all who had the pleasure of meeting him. I was so glad to have the opportunity to spend time with him.

In June of this year, I travelled to see Nike, and he was my same sweet boy, just older. Two small strokes meant that he could no longer wag his tail, which was very strange indeed. Instead, he butted me with his head, and lay on my feet just as he had done during our time together.

Sadly, on November 18, at age 15 and a half, Nike's health and age took him from those of us who knew and loved him. The Rainbow Bridge now has another angel. You will forever be missed "sneaker boy!"

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"They Fake It With Fido," An Update

By Alan Conway

This column will appear in your newsletter when there is new information to report to members on our work to prevent entry into public places by people who pass their pets off as working dogs. In this issue, I will focus on the work we have done since the fall of this year.

It was clear in September that our first efforts to make provincial governments aware of the presence of imposters could best be described as producing mixed results. We have therefore undertaken to follow up with recalcitrant provincial governments.

To date, it would seem that the most positive results we received come from Quebec. I contacted my own Member of the National Assembly, along with all other party leaders and representatives who are likely to have an interest in this matter. I received acknowledgements from most of them and recently had a meeting with Mr. Gaétan Matte, who works in the department responsible for the Quebec office for persons with disabilities (l’office des personnes handicappées du Québec). Mr. Matte showed that he had read our documentation carefully. He indicates that, at the present time, no consideration is being given to issuing an ID card to Quebec guide dog handlers. He feels that failure to accept the cards issued by schools when the dog’s work is obvious would amount to a bad faith gesture. While this is not the result we hoped for, he has made it very clear that he is willing to remain in contact with us and consider any further information we can provide.

The government of Alberta is studying our response. To date, nothing has arrived.

I have a PDF file from the province of Saskatchewan that I’ll have to have scanned before I can find out what it says, but judging by past experiences, I am not optimistic about our chances of the provincial government acceding to our request for an identification card. We may get better results if Brad Wall loses the next provincial election to be held in April.

Contacts with interested people in New Brunswick indicate that a consultant is collecting material to assist the provincial government in developing some kind of legislation. The documentation we have already provided has been sent to the consultant and I am advised by Al Mouland who put me in touch with him that he will keep me informed of any progress.

Nova Scotia will apparently introduce its own legislation as of February. The province’s Blind Persons’ Rights Act will remain in force with increased fines. Further details have yet to be provided.

We still need to update the situation on PEI and contact the governments of Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon.

Stay tuned!

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Introducing The Service Dogs Standards Project

By Christine Duport

In the fall of 2015, a project to standardize the performance of service dog teams was launched by Veterans Affairs in conjunction with the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB).

This project, expected to be carried out over the next 2 years, will aim to bring service dogs and their handlers to high performance, consensus-based standards. Dogs trained by organizations not accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), or Assistance Dogs International (ADI), would be required to undergo an evaluation by an independent third party in order to be certified. Dogs trained by schools currently affiliated with the IGDF or ADI should not need to undergo that final evaluation as long as the training school has a contract with the independent third party, which is very likely to be the case, so guide dog teams would be certified upon graduation as they are today.

All certified service dog teams, of which guide dogs for the blind are a subset, would subsequently receive a Federal identification card that would contain features making it extremely difficult for these cards to be reproduced by fraudsters.

GDUC is one of the 25 voting members of a 45 member Technical Committee, or panel, involved in this process. We are represented by Mr. Michel Bourassa, an expert in standards development who has kindly agreed to be our voice during these discussions. GDUC was able to obtain Mr. Bourassa's services free of charge, and your Board is grateful for his knowledge in this very specialized field of negotiation. We are also pleased by Mr. Bourassa's ability to communicate the complexities of the initiative in clear and easy to understand terms.

Christine Duport and Alan Conway are currently serving as liaison between Mr. Bourassa, CGSB, and GDUC.

GDUC believes that its primary role in the project is to ensure that our guide dog teams continue to receive the same level of excellent training as they become part of the larger service dog family.

The inaugural meeting was held in Gatineau in October, and the next meeting will take place in February 2016. We will do our best to keep you in the loop as the project moves forward.

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A Christmas Gift For GDUC Members

GDUC has a Christmas gift for our members this year. It’s 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.

To whet your appetite, here’s the poem entitled A Canary Named Puppy. The real thing comes with sound effects.

"I’ve purchased your Christmas gift," Barbara remarked
As she grinned her most impish of grins.
And as casual as her mother pretended to be,
She was really on needles and pins.

"Yes," Barbara taunted, "it’s paid for and all,
And it’s waiting at the local pet shop."
But that was all that her daughter would say.
Not one more hint would she drop.

"What on Earth can that Christmas gift be?"
Mother wondered as she lay tucked in bed.
Then a dog outside in the kennel gave a bark,
And an idea popped into her head.

"I think I have it. Why, yes. I’ve got it!"
She announced triumphantly.
"Barbara knows how much I love dogs,
And she’s bought a new puppy for me."

With each passing day, Mother’s eagerness grew,
And her mood was ever so merry.
But when Christmas Day came, the pup she expected
Turned out to be a canary.

To be perfectly frank, Mother’s feelings were mixed,
But she vowed to remain chin-uppy,
So she smiled anyway, and declared on the spot
That she now owned a canary named Puppy.

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Winter Travel

By Bob Brown and Devon Wilkins

As we head into winter before we know it, that white, sometimes puffy, other times heavy and wet stuff will be here!

The winter can be made extremely beautiful by fresh snow on the trees, and the characteristic crunch under our feet. But we also need to think of our four-legged friends and what they need. Just as humans react differently to the weather, so do our dogs. Some are great in the cold and snow while others struggle. Here are a few tips and suggestions for winter life with our guide dogs.

There are many dogs that don't particularly like to wear dog boots. There are many different kinds of boots that you can try. You can get soft soled or hard soled ones, or rubber socks. As well, there are different kinds of wax for their feet. As for boots, it's up to you as to what kind you prefer, what price you're willing to pay, and of course, whether your dog can be convinced to wear them!

The wax provides a relatively inexpensive way to protect your dog's feet from the slush, salt, and little ice pellets that can form between their toes. You can get a jar of it, and sometimes find little tubes that you can put in your pocket when out to have extra if you need it. The wax works as an insulator that you apply to the pads of the feet as well as between the pads which keeps the salt out. It lasts several hours. You can visit any pet store, call your school, or talk with friends to see what they use. You should also remember to carry paper towels to wipe your dog's feet.

When you return home from your walk, it's a good idea to use some warm water to rinse off the feet. By doing so, you'll be warming them up, and washing off dirt and salt. You can also use cooking spray before walks in very cold weather as it is also good for dogs that have dry, sensitive paws.

Some dogs like jackets. Like the wax and boots, there are several kinds out there with varying prices. You can get them with or without reflectors, as well as some that unzip making them suitable for wear in the early spring and late autumn. Personally I would get one with reflectors as it doesn't hurt to have extra safety when out, especially if you do a lot of night traveling. Again, you can visit any pet store, talk to your school, or ask friends what they use. Keep in mind, though, that with a jacket you may need to loosen the harness or get an extension strap from your school to fit around both your dog and the jacket.

We of course always groom our dogs to make them look their very best, but in the winter we need to brush our dogs more often. The air in most homes becomes dry during the colder months, which depletes moisture from both the skin and fur. Frequent brushing improves skin, coat, and circulation. A thick-coated dog typically needs more brushing in cold weather. The fur can get wet and matted, making it an irritant. Clean fur lifts and holds air in a manner similar to layering clothes, helping your dog to stay warm.

Playing in the snow can allow moisture to get into the ear canal, where if left unchecked, it can cause a painful ear infection due to yeast and bacteria growth. Along with keeping your dog's ears dry, monitor the ears for parasites. The ear canals stay warm and damp all year long creating a perfect habitat for mites.

Just like us, our dogs can get frostbite of the feet, nose, or ears. Frost-bitten skin appears red, gray or whitish, and may peel off. Prevent frostbite by removing ice and snow from paws and fur right away. If you think your dog has or might have frostbite, take him/her to a warm place, and thaw out frostbitten areas slowly by applying warm, moist towels. Change them frequently. Continue until the affected areas become flushed. Then contact your veterinarian for further care.

Just like us, our dogs can sometimes forget about ice, be it black ice under the snow, or the shiny glass like surface you find on hockey rinks. It's always a good idea to have your dog slow down a little bit, even if the sidewalk appears to be clear, as you never know when that one step might be the difference between returning home or going to the hospital.

Another suggestion for winter travel is to take your dog to the mall. Doing laps around the mall for even an hour, then sitting down for a hot drink, and some water for your dog might sound boring, but on the other hand, your dog does get an opportunity to work. Walking in malls allows our dogs to avoid crowds and displays, ride escalators, and traverse narrow store aisles. This is something you can do to keep your dog active when cold snaps come, burning off some of your dog's energy. It is also great for us humans to get some walking in where we don't need to think about what might be under our next step. Who knows? You might even find something for yourself or your four-legged friend.

The biggest thing is to plan ahead even more carefully when traveling in winter conditions. In extreme cold, it might be better to leave your dog at home if you need to go out, eliminating the possibility of him/her getting frostbite. If you do need to go out, and you do bring your dog with you, it might be better to take a cab, or go with a friend or family member who can drive you, limiting exposure to the cold. If your city has a number you can call to find out when the next bus will arrive, use that to see if your bus is on schedule, once again limiting the exposure to the elements of winter.

Safe travelling this winter!

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Dottie The Classroom Monitor

By Patti Ellis

It was a usual chaotic morning in my, what we used to call General Level, grade eleven English class: three sheepish students stood in front of my desk, ready with their twenty-first century equivalent excuses of "the dog ate my homework" to explain their incomplete essays. A small group of girls stood in a back corner of the classroom, happily destroying the reputation of another young lady who, of course, wasn’t present to defend herself. Another young man was noisily disgorging the rancid remains of his lunch bag into the garbage pail, so that we could all appreciate the aroma of two week old tuna sandwiches. And one last group of three boys was quietly plotting a way to cause some classroom entertainment which did not involve me. All the while, my golden retriever guide dog Dottie, lay peacefully beneath my desk, her nose facing out into the classroom.

After listening to the various, uncreative excuses of the three students, and handing out three pens to students who somehow didn’t know by grade eleven that they needed to use one in an English class, I had a student read through the attendance, and began to teach a scintillating lesson on the problems with dangling participles. The boys were intensely focused on this lesson for at least the first thirty seconds, until they realized that we were discussing grammar, at which point, they began to chuck rolled up balls of paper at one another.

Almost immediately, I felt that certain undercurrent, that hushed, artificial sense of anticipation that alerted me to the fact that something was going on. For the first minute or two, I deliberately ignored it, and simply waited. It wasn’t long before the behaviour became a little more obvious. Then, one of the paper balls landed right in front of my desk, just at the tip of Dottie’s nose.

I asked who had thrown the ball. I was greeted with silence. I called Dottie’s name, showed her the ball and said, "Give it back to him." Immediately, Dottie picked up the ball and trotted happily over to one of my usual trouble-makers who sat halfway back from the front of the classroom. "Go way, go way," he whispered urgently to Dottie who was thrusting her nose in his lap and wagging happily at her success in this new game. At that point, I walked forward, placed my hand on Dottie’s head, and slid it forward until I came in contact with the young man’s knee. I tapped lightly on it and said in a smiling voice, "I would say that you are busted." The entire class burst into laughter. "He sure is," laughed his best friend, "and by a dog too. I wonder who is the smarter between the two of you? My bets would be on the dog." The boy in question laughed and announced, "I guess next time, I should wait until that stupid dog is asleep. How long is my detention?" he asked in a resigned voice. As I answered his question, I gave Dottie a rewarding little pat, saying, "at a girl, you nailed him!"

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Directors, Committees, and Project Representatives

On Thursday, October 1, 2015, Penny Leclair resigned as GDUC's President. Unfortunately, our Secretary, Bob Berrigan, also decided to leave the board at the same time. Please join us in wishing Penny and Bob all the best with their future endeavours.

The remaining directors were able to fill the gap left by the departure of these two key players by appointing Devon Wilkins as interim President, and Matthew Dierckens as interim director. Christine Duport, who is no stranger to hard work, willingly stepped up to fill the position of Secretary until the 2016 AGM.



Please use the following links to contact Committee Chairs.

Project Representatives

Please use the following links to visit project websites.