THE BULLETIN

of the

San Mateo County Council of the Blind

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March. 2002 Vol. 3 No. 2

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President's Message

by Frank Welte

2002 is an election year, and the tumult of another political campaign is in the air. As March 5 the date of this year's primary election looms nearer, we members of SMCCB, must study the candidates and the issues in order to cast an informed vote. At our March meeting, the speaker Kathy Tysen from the League of Women Voters, will tell us about the six propositions on next month's ballot, so we can be better prepared to vote responsibly.

Speaking of politics, I will miss the March meeting because I will be in Washington, D.C., our nation's capitol, participating in the annual American Council of the Blind Legislative Seminar. During this event we will learn about federal legislation that impacts the lives of blind and visually impaired Americans, and then, armed with this knowledge, we will ascend to Capitol Hill to share this important information with members of Congress. I've all ready begun making appointments with congressmen. While in Washington I also plan to spend a day sightseeing.

When I get back from the East Coast, I'll be ready to have some fun. We've talked for some time about possibly organizing a bowling league. We'll take the first step toward that goal on Saturday, March 23rd at 2:00 P.M. when we will meet at AMF Redwood Lanes Bowling Center at 2580 El Camino Real in Redwood City. We briefly shall discuss future athletic activities at this next meeting. Please call me if you plan to attend this activity and are not able to attend the meeting, so I'll know how many bowling rails and lanes we'll need.

I'd like to thank all of you who are participating in our fund-raiser by selling "World's Finest Chocolate candy bars. Special thanks are in order to our contingent of students at the College of San Mateo. At the time I am writing this message, they have sold at least six boxes of chocolate on campus. Many thanks to Bill Hobson, Phil Kutner, Pui and Wai Chan, David Hunter and Lana Lee. Please call Bill Hobson at 593-9191 if you need more candy to sell. Last year we sold 12 boxes, and this year we are up to 15. Each box has 40 chocolate bars.

We continue to grow rapidly, and our membership stands at 41. Our 2002 annual dues are due. If you haven't as yet paid them, please do so at our meeting or send a check made out to SMCCB. It is only ten dollars, and membership includes the local, state (CCB) and national (ACB) organizations.

As I noted in my last message, SMCCB has some very exciting events coming up. This is besides our wonderfully, informative meetings. Again we shall be exhibiting at the Volunteer and Health Fairs at the College of San Mateo. Then we shall be the hosts at the State Convention in San Mateo. Finally we have our 2nd Annual Picnic in Belmont Twin Pines Park.

Remember that our meetings take place on the first Saturday of the month at 11:30 A.M. in the Bank of America branch on El Camino Real and 3rd Avenue in downtown San Mateo. For further information contact Frank Welte at (650) 508-8329 or send an e-mail message to fwelte@sbcglobal.net.

Training at Guide Dog School at San Rafael, California

by Pui Chan

The Guide Dog School at San Rafael is 60 years old, having just churned out its 621st class, of which I am a proud member.

The School admits both American and Canadian residents, offering free training to the blind and visually impaired for them to work with guide dogs. Upon satisfactory completion of training, each student will receive, absolutely free of charge, a fully-trained guide dog.

I entered the guide dog school this past January 6 for four weeks’ training. The campus is very well landscaped with lots of facilities. Our dormitory is separated from the administrative building and the kennel.

One bedroom is for two students, each of whom has his or her own area with wardrobe, furniture, own telephone, a radio clock and sink. However, the toilet and shower are shared. Attached to each room is a fenced porch, where students may groom or play with their dogs. Also in the dormitory building are a cafeteria, a beautiful day room, where many lectures are given, a library, a music room, a fitness room, a laundry and a computer room, where students have access to several computers and CCTVs. Each student has his or her own e-mail address. For all these, students need not pay a dime.

For the first few days, we just "played Juno" with our instructors, sometimes on campus and at other times in downtown San Rafael, where the school has a lounge. San Rafael residents apparently are accustomed to seeing Guide Dog School students running around with their instructors while "playing the game", one in which the student "works" with a toy dog held by his or her instructor.

We were introduced to our future dogs a few days after the start of the training. The bonding process between the dogs and us started immediately. When we slept, the dogs were just beside our beds. When we went to the cafeteria, we were expected to bring our dogs with us, a measure designed to teach us how to handle our pals in restaurants in the years to come. Each of the 28 days began at 6.30 a.m., when we relieved our dogs for the first time, and ended at 9.00 p.m., when we relieved them for the sixth time of the day.

Generally speaking, we went to the day room for lecture shortly after having had breakfast or lunch. Occasionally lectures were also given after dinner. Morning lectures were usually followed by obedience exercises for the dogs. In the morning, we usually headed out around 9 o’clock, coming back at noon for lunch. In the afternoon, we left the campus around 2 o’clock, and returned at about 4 o’clock to feed and relieve our starving and exhausted guides.

In the first two weeks, we basically worked with our dogs on campus or around the downtown lounge, learning all the basic skills. When our training was in the third week, our instructors began to take us elsewhere in order that we could work our dogs in different environmental settings. We went to busy places like downtown San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf and Berkeley as well as to a few quiet towns near San Rafael. Escorted by instructors and accompanied by our dogs, we took public transport and used elevators as well as escalators.

Initially, instructors were "hot on our heels". As time went by, they became less and less visible. Each student was required to complete two night routes and not to get lost on a self-orientation mission. On several occasions I was allowed to do free-lancing with Beanie, my yellow Lab guide, going to shops or venues of my own choice. To be able to maneuver in an area not too familiar to me was unthinkable before the start of the training program.

On the evening prior to our graduation we met the staff veterinarian of the school, who briefed us on how to take proper care of our pals. Each of us also received a large folder containing valuable information about our dogs and assistance available to graduates.

Our graduation ceremony was very well attended–partly due to the beautiful weather. Our dogs were briefly re-united with their long-missed raisers, many of whom were in tears. Beanie’s raiser came all the way from Southern California to bid him farewell. With Beanie in her arms, she recalled the fun that she shared with her kids when Beanie was with them. I thanked her for raising such a wonderful dog for my use, and promised to keep in touch with her.

I am now a proud licensed guide dog user and will hit the roads with renewed confidence in the years to come.

The Bulletin

San Mateo Council of the Blind

Phil Kutner: Editor

1128 Tanglewood Way,

San Mateo, CA 94403

Web Site: www.smccb.org