Heide Illgen–a dog trainer at Southeastern Guide Dogs, where she’s worked for nearly 20 years–discusses some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding guide dogs. She also explains the process and attendant timetable of a dog potentially becoming a guide dog, a tightly-scripted saga that begins with puppies that Southeastern breeds at their facility, volunteer puppy raisers and more, long before Heide or a fellow trainer would begin their work.
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Heide also addresses the sort of behavior or other traits that might identify a puppy as ineligible to continue down the path toward work as a guide dog, and the sorts of alternative programs those dogs might enter, including Paws For Patriots, which among other facets, pairs trained dogs with veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She also outlines the costs associated with training these dogs and their humans, which can be upwards of $60,000, and the myriad ways that volunteers are central to the Southeastern operation. (www.GuideDogs.org)
ALSO: We spoke briefly with Connie Brooks, a locally-based and nationally-recognized expert on responding to disasters that affect animals–from hurricane to oil spills– about DART (Disaster Animal Response Team), how she developed the interest & expertise in this realm, notable disasters the DART team has deployed to, the related talk she’ll deliver at the Talking Animals Festival, and more. (www.BayAreaDART.org)
COMEDY CORNER: Todd Barry’s “Prairie Dogs” (snippet) (www.ToddBarry.com)
MUSIC:Was (Not Was)’s “What Up Dog,” R.E.M’s “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter,” instrumentals
NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken”