Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Reconaisance to San Rafael

What better way to spend a week-end than to travel to a really beautiful part of California. Last week-end in part as a birthday treat and in part as a recon of the Guide Dogs for the Blind facilities, my wife and I drove the three hours up to the San Francisco Bay area.

One thing that makes me realize that I have lived in Central California too long is that I now believe the weather forecast on TV or the internet. Hot and sunny, generally means it is guaranteed to be hot and sunny here, but bright and sunny in the Bay area means it may rain.

When we arrived in San Rafael on Saturday morning, at a little after 9:30am it was pouring with rain and I had not packed a coat or hat.

Never mind Guide Dogs gift shop to the rescue and they soon had me kitted out in a great sweatshirt and baseball cap.

At Guide Dogs for the Blind Campus
San Rafael California.

My wife and I joined the 10am guided visit, led by Marcia, a great docent who took us all around the campus for a couple of hours. Some areas of the campus were not accessible because it was graduation day for class 771, but we were later allowed to attend the graduation ceremony at 2pm. That was a very moving and positive experience. I learned what might be expected of me in terms of speaking in just a few weeks, as I graduate with class 774.

During our tour we visited the kennels, saw some training by a few instructors and their dogs. We also got to see some of the latest puppies, born just a few hours earlier mother and puppies were monitored on a closed circuit camera. Outside the monitor room we saw some of the older puppies. Two lovely fat little eight week old pups being prepared for going out to their puppy walkers in the next few days.

Along the way we also met a large guide dog, named Henry, he was being walked for exercise and is yet to be allocated to a blind person. Maybe me? We will have to wait another twenty-seven days to see.

After the tour we went for lunch in the Mall across the street. I had chicken parmesan at a really good restaurant. The staff there seemed very aware as to how to treat blind customers. It was great having a waiter actually speak to me and make recommendations to me rather than through my wife. Great service means I will definitely be going back sometime during my stay in San Rafael.

Back at the campus we went to watch the graduation ceremony. Three Americans and three Canadians were graduating with new dogs. There was also a new dog taken in to the breeding program.

At the ceremony each graduate gets to speak. Saying thanks to the dogs trainers and puppy walkers. As you might imagine there were lots of moving stories on both sides.

After the ceremony we also got to speak to KellyMartin ,, the head of training classes at the school. He was very nice to us, talking about how unusual it was to have so many black dogs graduate on one day, five of the six Labradors were black. He also said he was happy that we had made a visit to look around, it was not a common event to have people visit a few weeks before they joined a class, but they appreciated that people did make a special trip when they could.

I had a great time. Now I just have to wait a little longer.

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