by Guiding Eyes President & CEO, Tom Panek
You may remember the iconic mouse named Gus-Gus who saves Cinderella and becomes royalty. Well, I am proud to introduce my new Guiding Eyes dog named Gus!
Like in the movie when that little mouse overcomes all obstacles, Guiding Eyes Gus is loyal. His number one priority is taking care of me – and of course, I make sure his belly is treated right!
Now, Gus is full grown at 67 pounds of soft yellow fur, and while I have to wait until after graduation to meet his volunteer puppy raiser, I can tell that he was raised with love and great care.
When he was as small as a mouse, our Canine Development Center volunteers and staff massaged and socialized him to help him become well adjusted. Then, after his puppy raiser sent him in for training from Annapolis, Gus spent months mastering his guide skills with Caryn, one of our trainers here in Yorktown Heights.
Out of 175 dogs in our kennel, Gus was selected for me. Supervisor Ben looked at our pace, lifestyle and personalities and decided we would be a good team. I am a fast walker and I tower above Gus at six feet tall with an extra long harness handle. But despite his size, like Gus-Gus, my new guide has a tough mind and a desire to serve.
As a person who lost my eyesight twenty years ago, I have had several great dogs from two other schools that kept me safe. But I want you to know that Gus is the best guide dog I have ever worked with.
Why? It’s certainly not magic; it comes from our trainers’ positive reward-based techniques and our innovative STEP Program – not from corrections and compulsion. My trainer, Graham, explains how Guiding Eyes dogs are taught how to target curbs and door handles, and that they learn to properly work around objects rather than to just avoid them. These skills make a big difference.
Next time I write, I will tell you about our adventures in the big apple, Manhattan!
Tom will be running Boston 2014! Learn more or support his efforts.