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!!!


Anna said...

WHOOOA! Dallas, Oregon eh? Small world, I'll let you know if I see Millie around, which I'm sure I will! Does he get out often? I'm so excited! We never have guides in Dallas (well, we have one, but they pretty much never get out of their home).

Anna said...

Hmm, actually do you know if his last guide didn't work out?

Heather and Ellie said...

What beautiful pictures of Millie! She looks excellent. Looks like a great match, you must be so proud.

Anna said...

Wait, I just checked and it was the person I was thinking it was (who just graduated almost a year ago), therefore I probably won't see him around at all, despite Dallas being a tiny town! Anyhow, congrats on Miss Millie graduating.

Ro said...

Man this brought back memories of my own graduation just over a week ago. Sounds pretty identical to grad in San Rafael. It's an amazing and emotional experience, that's for sure! So glad you got to go!

Becky said...

Congratulations! How fun to hear it from your perspective as a puppy raiser. Sounds like such a wonderful match. Beautiful. Love Oregon -- so many special memories there.

Megan, Paris & Fullerton said...

Sounds amazing!! Millie looks fantastic in her harness and it sounds like Mike is a great match for her. It's amazing how that works out. :D Congratulations!

Erin and GuidePupPompei said...

CONGRATS!!! love the photos!!!

Brittany said...

I love that they are putting some of the dogs in martingale collars instead of the standard training collar!

Millie looks great, and is so beautiful in harness. Hopefully they have a long happy working career together.


Sarah and the Pack. said...

Thank you everyone! I am so proud of Millie and the work she is going on to do!

Anna, yes his previous guide did not work out he said. Hmmm...he sounded like he walked alot. I hope Millie is getting out!! Let me know if you see them around at all. I would to here of my girl working!

Lisa, Ellie and Hosta said...

Thanks for leaving me a note! Got you added! Congrats!

Emily and the Labradors said...

Sounds like a fantastic graduation! Millie looks wonderful and all your pictures are beautiful!

BTW, when did Rafferty get so huge???

Sarah and the Pack. said...

I am not sure. Now I wish I had tracked his growth!!! Copy your idea of a graph. Last time he was at the vet he was 54lbs. But thats was over a month ago. Not sure where all the growing is coming from...and he is only just turned 7 months!

Mandy and Cancun said...

congratulations Sarah! This was an awesome post and sounded like a fun weekend.

Had fun pouring over the "board" picture and trying to figure out what all the colors meant. My club has a pup "Polo" in the kennels right now so it was cool to see his name!

Martha G said...

We spent some time trying to figure out the colors, too. Sarah found the explanation - Dark green = black Lab; light green = yellow lab, then there are 2 colors for crosses, which I can't remember at this moment.

Was it sunny on Saturday? I can't even remember, but your pictures say it was, Sarah. It sounds like you had a great time and a memorable experience. It was good to meet you!

becka said...

Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your graduation experience with all of us. I'm hoping I'll have one to share sometime in the next couple of years.

Thank you for your comments on our blog... we're trying to find more "failures" to report on, but Beale is so much easier than Trego ever was! Watch for an update on Trego, though... I just met her new family (she was career changed earlier this month).

It's so nice to "meet" you,
Becka and Beale

Sarah and Vance said...

What an awesome time you guys had! Not to mention the great feeling of seeing the dog you raised graduate! Millie looks so happy to see you :)