Clallam Transit takes guide dogs around Sequim for training

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Helping with grocery shopping, ferry rides and more, Sequim Puppy Raisers with Guide Dogs for the Blind continues to find new experiences for their dogs to better serve a visually impaired person in their daily activities.

The group’s latest adventure was via Clallam Transit and one of its paratransit buses.

Driver Jim Paradis brought a paratransit bus to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Thursday, April 14, so four puppies could climb the wheelchair ramp, get on the bus, and get a general feel for what their future owners might need.

Scott Gossard, a Clallam Transit supervisor, said they wanted to help because they have service dogs on fixed routes and paratransit every day.

“A lot of people with visual impairments use paratransit and big buses,” said Deb Cox, organizer of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

“It was a good opportunity with the lift component.”

Babs, a 7.5-month-old Lab, was guided by Karen and Jon Tyson, and 6-month-old Leora Lab by Kandie and Darrell Whitley. They were the new puppies and breeders on the bus.

Cox brought her 13-month-old Vespa Lab, and puppy sitter Barbara Surber escorted one-year-old Lab Saffi.

The small group took two hikes up the bus ramp and stairs before driving to meet Kyle Parrish, a retired transit worker, and his guide dog Brie, through the city.

The bus drove to Walmart and allowed the dogs to get off and back before returning to Parrish’s house and church.

Whitley’s Leora had nerves coming down the steps at Walmart, but treats and kind words got her down the stairs with no problem.

All welcome

Just over a year ago, the Sequim Group lobbied for new breeders and keepers with great success, Cox said.

“The two newest puppies are being raised by sitters for the first time,” she said.

Kandi Whitley, a type 1 diabetic, said she was considering a dog to help alert her to low blood sugar until she saw a flyer for the guide dog program. She felt comfortable making the switch because she and her husband felt helping a dog on his journey was something special.

“It’s overwhelming to know that this is going to help someone,” Kandi Whitley said.

Darrell said the experience has been difficult at times.

“(Leora) is learning faster than us new coaches,” he joked.

“Luckily we have a wonderful group that we can learn from and are ready to help.”

Breeders receive California puppies between the ages of 8 and 10 weeks and train them for about a year before sending them for further training at the Guide Dogs for the Blind facility in Boring, Ore.

Upon successful completion of the four-month, eight-phase program, dogs can be matched with a visually impaired partner on site.

Coming

Over the next few months, Sequim Puppy Raisers will be outdoors gaining new experiences while promoting guide dogs for the blind, including trips to Seattle, Port Townsend and Victoria, BC.

They will also be present at the Sequim Irrigation Festival Grand Parade on May 14 and at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market on June 18 and August 6.

Cox said Sequim puppy breeders can always use more volunteers for guide dogs for the blind. This summer marks the 15th anniversary of the Sequim club and the 80th anniversary of guide dogs for the blind.

The Sequim Group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave.

To learn more about the program, see guidesdogs.com/puppyand facebook.com/GDBSequimpuppyraisers/.

Sequim Gazette photo of Clallam Transit mobility coordinator Matthew Nash Delaney Ronish, left, speaks with Karen Tyson about breeding Babs, a 7-month-old Lab in training for guide dogs for the blind, April 14. Tyson and three other breeders brought their guide dogs aboard a Paratransit bus to familiarize them with its ramp and experiences.

Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash Paratransit driver Jim Paradis helps Deb Cox's dog Vespa up the bus ramp April 14 during the Sequim Puppy Raisers meeting for guide dogs for the blind.

Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash Paratransit driver Jim Paradis helps Deb Cox’s dog Vespa up the bus ramp April 14 during the Sequim Puppy Raisers meeting for guide dogs for the blind.

Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash/ Leora the dog makes his first trip up a Paratransit bus ramp on April 14.  The experiment was part of efforts by local group Guide Dogs for the Blind to acclimate the puppies to the routines their future owners might do.

Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash/ Leora the dog makes his first trip up a Paratransit bus ramp on April 14. The experiment was part of efforts by local group Guide Dogs for the Blind to acclimate the puppies to the routines their future owners might do.

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash Kandi Whitley encourages dog Leora to descend the stairs of a paratransit bus.  Whitley first considered bringing in a dog to help alert her to low blood sugar, but felt drawn to help train a dog with her husband and help someone who was visually impaired.

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash Kandi Whitley encourages dog Leora to descend the stairs of a paratransit bus. Whitley first considered bringing in a dog to help alert her to low blood sugar, but felt drawn to help train a dog with her husband and help someone who was visually impaired.

Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash/ Vespa the dog takes a moment to rest in a paratransit bus during a training exercise for other puppies with guide dogs for the blind.

Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash/ Vespa the dog takes a moment to rest in a paratransit bus during a training exercise for other puppies with guide dogs for the blind.

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

Photo from Sequim Gazette by Matthew Nash

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