Monday, March 15, 2010


Friday morning we left bright and early. The car was packed, the dogs were fed, and it was time to leave. We dropped Marley off at my parents house and started on our trip. We were about 30min in when I realized I had forgot my phone! So we backtracked, grabbed my phone, and re-started the trip. We drove through northern Utah, the bottom part of Idaho, and across Oregon. We battled tumbleweeds, drove past many farms, and marveled at the drive through the Columbia River Gorge (getting very excited for rafting and kayaking this summer in the process!). After about 12.5 hours, the last 2 of which were spent in pouring rain, we arrived at the hotel. Exhausted and excited, we went to sleep early.
Tom and I stand next to the Columbia river.  There are pink blossomed trees on our right and a large black bridge over the river on our left.  Rafferty and Hugo stand at our feet

A spray of pink blossoms against a light blue sky dotted with white clouds
Saturday morning I woke up early, excited for the day ahead. After a quick breakfast and park session for Rafferty and Hugo we drove to downtown Portland to checkout the sights. We drove around looking at all the cool bridges and finally found a market along the river's edge. It was the Portland Saturday Market. We walked along enjoying the gorgeous morning and looking at the city in general. I grabbed an awesome crepe with Marion Berries while we both ogled the Rogue Brewery booth.

A photo of a banner that reads Rogue Ales
Rafferty a black lab with Copper colored eyes gleams in the sunlight with a fountain in the background
Next we set out to head to Boring and the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus. We arrived right at 11:30 and headed down to the kennel kitchen to check in Rafferty. Next we met up with other raisers in the visitors center and prepared to head over to the dorms to meet our puppies and their new handlers! There were 6 dogs graduating, and with 4 of the raisers being local, there were some larger groups waiting for their reunion. We settled in a corner and waited for Millie and Mike to appear. Other guides walked by, and many happy reunions occurred.
Mike walks down the hall with his hand on an instructor's shoulder heeling Millie at his side
Finally Millie appeared with Mike and an instructor walking down the hall. For this first reunion they have the graduates heel the guide dogs without a harness as they know how excited the dogs will be when seeing their raisers. When Mike reached us I had just enough time for a handshake and "Mike, I am Sarah" before Millie went wild! She was so cute: wiggling, jumping, sniffing, and licking all in a burst of excitement. I sat on the floor for a couple of minutes loving on her. Then she went over to Tom and had another excited reunion. Afterwards we sat down with Mike and just got to know him. Millie is his 6th guide dog over the last 3 decades. He seemed very happy with her, and she with him.

Millie jumps on me in excitment

Millie with her front paws on Tom's shoulder gets a hug

I sit in a chair visiting with Millie
Millie was on a different collar than the other dogs graduating. She only had a martingale because she was just so easy to handle. This is perfect for Mike as he has some other health issues that would not work well with a very strong dog. He kept describing walking with Millie as "taking a relaxing walk in the park." We did formal pictures and then I was left alone with Millie before the actual graduation ceremony. We hung out in a small room with the other raisers and guides while we waited for our chance to go on stage and present our pups. I don't actually remember all that I said. Something about how we always hear about how great of a match GDB makes, and just how amazing it is to see with a pup you had raised. I also joked about people asking me why I was driving 13 hours for a dog graduation and my response that is was not just any was Millie!

Millie in harness sits in front on the Guide Dogs for the Blind sign
After graduation we hung out and chatted a little more with Mike. I gave Millie her presents (a sterilized bone, Nylabone, and Kong with peanut butter stuffin), and exchanged phones numbers and addresses with Mike so I could send a completed photo album later on. Mike lives just about 2 hours from campus, and by this time his son in-law had arrived to pick him up. We said our final goodbyes, snapped a couple of pictures, and watched Millie walk away.

Mike and Millie walk back towards the dorms.  Millie is heeling on Mike's side as he does sighted guide
Afterwards we went down to the kennel kitchen to pick up Rafferty. There I met Martha and Kristin, her current puppy. After chatting and getting the customary picture of the board we headed back to the gift shop, where I met the couple who had volunteered and driven down to pick up Millie and the other "recalled" dogs back in October. Finally, all good-byes said, we headed back into Portland.
A picture of the board used to track all the dogs at the Oregon campus
I sit on the GDB bench sign with Rafferty standing on the ledge next to me.  There are green plants in the background
There we had a great dinner at the Rogue Brewery public house. We loved the growlers you could buy (they had a lab on them!). Then it was time to go back to the hotel and sleep so we could make the long drive back the next day. Graduation was such an amazing experience...I would not have missed it for the world!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Class!

Thats right, Millie is in Class with her new person. She is in a two week class with her future partner. She is set to graduate next Saturday. Now, something can always happen, but right now she is with her person and in the final stretch to becoming a Guide Dog! I am working to figure out how I will get there...either fly or drive. My first graduate, I am so excited! What do you do when you find out your pup is in class?
Mille sits next to me wearing her green training vest  I am wearing a dark red shirt and jeans  We are both sitting on an old wood table with trees in full fall colors of orange and yellow behind us.