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Tails from the Road – Guide Dogs Go West

"Tails from the Road" bus graphic featuring photos of guide dogs photoshopped into the windows of the cartoon bus

October 21, 2020 – Updates from Woody Curry, Senior GDMI

Day 7 is our final day on the road. We met up with puppy raisers in Ohio to pick up 5 dogs who are hitching a ride back to the Guiding Eyes campus to take their In-for-Training (IFT) evaluation. Chief, Delia, Gilbert, Nari, and Oksana joined our caravan headed back east. We also picked up one recently retired guide dog who is heading back to campus for evaluation before she is adopted. It’s been a long, exciting week of travel, but home is just on the horizon. We will make it back to campus this evening. Thank you for following along on our journey, and a special thanks to the village who made this trip possible!

Black and tan German shepherd Nari sits at her puppy raisers feet outside the Guiding Eyes motorcoach. Nari's raiser wears a face mask while holding a sign that reads, "Nari, good luck" with hearts.

Black lab Oksana sits beside her kneeling handler beside the Guiding Eyes motorcoach. Oksana's raiser wears a face mask while holding a sign that reads, "Oksana, good luck" with hearts.

Delia, a yellow lab, sits on the gravel parking lot in front of the Guiding Eyes motorcoach with her kneeling raiser. Delia's raiser wears a mask and holds a sign that reads, "Love you, Delia. Good luck!!"

Black lab Chief sits attentively at the side of his puppy raiser in front of the Guiding Eyes motorcoach. Chief's raiser wears a mask and holds a sign that reads, "Chief".

Black lab Gilbert sits in the gravel parking lot between his two kneeling raisers. The group pose in front of the Guiding Eyes motorcoach. One of Gilbert's raisers holds a sign that reads, "Good luck, Gilbert!"

October 19-20, 2020 – Updates from Woody Curry, Senior GDMI

Day 5 on the road was another travel day as we made our way toward Wheaton, Illinois. After 5 long rainy days on the road, we decided it was time to give the motorcoach a little TLC. Jason knew just the place to take us. Big shoutout to Nathan and his crew at the Blue Beacon Truck Wash in Walcott, Iowa. They took excellent care of us.  

We are overnighting at the I80 truck stop in Iowa. It is literally the World’s Largest Truck Stop. Made sure I took my number one driver out for a well-deserved meal. What else does one order when at a truck stop diner but steak and eggs with a side of biscuits and gravy? Jason didn’t even open the menu, he just ordered. I guess when you know what makes good road food, then there is no need to look any further! 😂

Flyer and I went out for a nice post-dinner walk. He got a bit silly when we tried to take a selfie together – he kept licking my face and shnorfaling my neck. Yes, shnorfaling is a word Okay, maybe it’s not actually a word, but it is a good description for when dogs stick their noses in the crook of your neck and sniff all around like they are trying to smell what you had for lunch two weeks agoI do love me some Labrador love, but sometimes a cold nose is a little shocking! 

Day 6 on the road – we finally reached Wheaton, Illinois with Flyer, our lone canine passenger. Flyer is the first placement for our Youth Program through “Operation Cuddle-Up”, our partnership with the Chicago Lighthouse. Flyer was excited to meet his new family, but he quickly settled. Flyer already has begun bonding with his new person, 14-year-old Isaac, and his family.  Isaac gave Flyer a few treats and learned how to ask Flyer for a touchwhich Flyer readily did. 

After we said our goodbyes, Jason and I hit the road once again for a few hundred “dog-less” miles. Tomorrow morning, we will pick up 5 dogs in Ohio in order to transport them back to campus. This crew of younger dogs, who have finished up with their puppy raisers, will take their In-For-Training (IFT) evaluation on campus in a few weeks. We will also pick up one guide dog who recently retired and is heading back to campus for evaluation before she is adopted. 

Woody stands beside the motorcoach with yellow lab Flyer in a sit at her feet. Woody smiles as she holds up the welcome mat that reads "wipe your paws".

The grey and off-white motorcoach parked at the side of a rest stop parking lot on a cloudy day.

A photo of the 1-80 truck stop taken inside the motorcoach on a rainy day.

An old-fashioned red pick-up truck display is parked inside the massive Iowa I-80 truckstop.

A hearty dinner of steak, eggs, biscuits, and gravy for two hungry road trippers! The meal looks delicious.

October 18-19, 2020 – Updates from Woody Curry, Senior GDMI

Day 3 on the road began early as we made our way to Colorado. We took an FWP break (food, water, park) at a rest stop just after sunset. When we arrived in Colorado, the volunteer fosters were ready and waiting for the dog exchange in the parking lot of a local Walmart. We said goodbye to the rest of the guide dogs – Ambrie, Bando, Bea, Odyssey, Pippi, and Ursa as they each are headed to a volunteer foster home where they will live until it is time for a Region GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor) to pick them up for home training.

This leaves just Flyer as the single canine passenger for the evening. We made our way to a beautiful campground in Cherry Creek State Park. We had time to set up camp and enjoy the outdoors with Flyer including an amazing Colorado sunset during his evening walk.

Day 4 on the road started with another chilly morning. I took Flyer on a walk around the campground while Jason readied the motorcoach. I have never been to Wyoming, so Jason took us the scenic way to I-80 with beautiful scenery along the way. At the rest area/welcome center, they had a fantastic pet exercise area, so Flyer got a chance to really stretch his legs! Today and tomorrow are travel days on the road, as we are headed to Wheaton, Illinois to drop off Flyer on Saturday.

The motorcoach on the road, with Woody and Jason giving a wave from the front.

Woody readies yellow lab Ursa to disembark from the motorcoach.

The group of foster volunteers and Woody pose in front of the motorcoach with the dogs sitting by the side of each human. Woody and a volunteer hold up the blue cloth banner with the Guiding Eyes logo in white. All the humans are socially distanced from each other and wearing face masks.

A black lab gives a hello kiss to their foster volunteer who wears a face mask.

The campground motorcoach setup in Colorado. The awning of the motorcoach is extended. Outside of the motorcoach are a few camping chairs placed on an outdoor rug. Yellow lab Flyer happily lays on the rug while enjoying the weather.

Yellow lab Flyer lays in the grass on his evening walk during a beautiful pink sunset.

Woody sits in the camping chair outside the motorcoach with yellow lab Flyer napping on the rug at her feet.

The pet exercise area in Wyoming which is reminiscent of a horse corral.

October 16-17, 2020 – Updates from Woody Curry, Senior GDMI

Day 1 on the road finished up with us checking into a KOA PA (Kampgrounds of America – Pennsylvania) on the border of Ohio. We pulled in just in time to set up before sunset and just in time for the rain. Nothing quite like a genuine motorcoach experience until you have set up your rig and all its accommodations in the rain 😉 – and let’s not forget feeding and relieving all our superstar passengers in the rain as well! The dogs were all pros and relieved quite readily. The pups then settled back in for the evening until last out around 9:30. The best part about being cold and wet was knowing that someone super awesome made us some homemade lentil soup for dinner. Shout out to Shanon Walsh for making sure that Jason and I had a warm, hearty, and healthy meal! Not going to lie, I wouldn’t have really cared if it was unhealthy – I was SOOOO happy it was hot because it warmed me right up after the bone-chilling rain and wind.

Day 2 on the road started at 0400 (4 AM) with the weather at around 56-58 degrees out and pouring rain. All the pups were super excited to eat so early, and they all parked quickly. Afterward, they all got a nice little walk around our section of the campground. Once all dogs emptied their “holding tanks” and had a little walk, this 4-legged convoy hit the road a little after 6 AM. We must have been some sight as we maneuvered the big rig around the little campground roads in the pitch black.

Most of the dogs were troopers and did all their business in the pouring rain before we left. Several chose to wait to do “their business” until we stopped in Ohio a little after 8 AM to meet up with Bob Johnson, an OH area volunteer. It was short and sweet, as we were trying to beat the massive rainstorm that had been chasing us since we hit the road. Jolee happily trotted over to him during the socially-distanced exchange.

We are currently pulled into a rest area parked with all the other big trucks. We stopped and got fuel and some dinner before pulling in. Dinner was just something quick and easy, Subway. It’s usually one of my go-to on the road meals. Jason is currently sleeping. We fed and walked everyone after dinner, and Jason plans on getting up around 1 AM to head out. The dogs and I will be happily sleeping in our respective bunks while he gets this rig on down the road with the other asphalt cowboys.

Woody opens the door of the RV with a black lab one a leash at her side after a "get busy" break.

Woody passes off black lab Jolee to her volunteer foster in the empty parking lot. Both Woody and the volunteer wear face masks and pass Jolee from a distance for safety during the pandemic.

Woody walks two yellow labs on leashes on the grass in front of the parked motorcoach.

The grey and off-white motor coach sits in a empty parking lot during a quick rest stop break.

October 16, 2020

Today, our new Guiding Eyes motorcoach hit the road manned by 2 staff members and 8 dogs. The motorcoach is headed west to Ohio and Colorado to drop off the dogs with volunteer fosters.

Meet the canine crew who hit the road with their tails a-waggin’:

Ambrie, a 2-year-old female yellow lab

Yellow lab guide dog Ambrie lays on the nature path and looks curiously toward the camera.Also known as: Ambrie
“Larger than life (Literally! She is a BIG girl!), Playful, Connected”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructors: Alyssa David, Shannon McGee, Laurel Sheets, and Kathryn Poallo

Bando, a 4-year-old male black lab

Black lab guide dog Bando lays peacefully on the nature path and looks toward the camera.

Also known as: The B
“Laid-back, Cuddler, Big Boy, Affectionate”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructors: Susan Kroha and Jessy DiNapoli
*Bando is an active guide dog returning to his handler after a 1 year stay with Guiding Eyes instructors

Bea, a 2-year-old female yellow lab

Bea, a yellow lab guide dog in harness, lays attentively on the nature path on a beautiful autumn day.

Also known as: Bibi, Bebopper, Bibbles
“Bright, Agile, Motivated”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Caryn Fellows

Flyer, a 2-year-old male yellow lab

Yellow lab Flyer walks beside a Guiding Eyes staff member during his In-For-Training Evaluation.

Also known as: Flyer
“Silly, Adventurous, Focused”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Michelle Tang
*Flyer will be dropped off in Chicago at The Chicago Lighthouse for Operation Cuddle Up

Jolee, a 2-year-old female black lab

Jolee, a female black lab guide dog, lays in harness on the nature path and looks at the camera with a serious expression.

Also known as: JoJo, Joey, Jee
“Sweet, Mellow, a Comedian”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Caryn Fellows

Odyssey, a 2-year-old female black lab

Odyssey, a female black lab, sits proudly on the nature path while in harness on a beautiful fall day.

Also known as: Odyssey
“Playful, a Serious Worker, Willing”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructors: Laurel Sheets, Nikki Wentz, and James Gardner

Pippi, a 2-year-old female yellow lab

Pippi, a yellow lab guide dog, lays on the nature path and looks directly toward the camera.

Also known as: Pip, Pips
“Attentive, Eager to Please, Teacher’s Pet”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructors: Dan Weesner and Nikki Wentz

Ursa, a 2-year-old female yellow lab

Yellow lab Ursa sits on the nature path and poses for the camera while in harness.

Also known as: Ursa Major
“Enthusiastic, Expressive, Snuggly”
Guide Dog Mobility Instructor: Nikki Wentz