Thursday, August 28, 2008

VisionWalk 2008 Denver - Please Support My Team!

Good evening friends of Richard,

Richard had me set up a team for the 3rd Annual VisionWalk Colorado, which will be held on September 27.

Richard could use one of these treatments or cures that the Foundation Fighting Blindness is working on. Then I could go on vacation for the rest of my life! This is purely selfish on my part.

If you help fund the research to find a cure for my Dad, Richard, I can just chase ducks, balls and sleep!

VisionWalk will be in 42 cities this year so if you can, please get involved in an area near you!

If not, you can join our team and support our efforts here in Denver, Colorado.

Just click the link in the upper right of the home page of my blog, Zane Train, to join my team, Zane Train II and make a donation once you get to the Team page, click "Make a Gift" under our thermometer. It's tax deductible, too!

Your gift will make a difference in the lives of many, not just Dad.

If you would prefer, you can also send your contribution to:

FFB Denver
6565 S. Dayton St, Suite 2100
Englewood, CO 80111

Our goal is to raise $1,000 this year for our team.

I want to thank you in advance for your consideration of this appeal. With your support, a cure is in sight!

Hugs, Big Licks and Tail Wags,


PS Call Richard at 720-207-8362 if you want!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sense - Abiities #10 - A Whole New World

Good day my friends,

Dad hopped on board the Zane Train! Now, I get to look back over my shoulder every now and then and see what Dad is doing while I walk along the streets or sidewalks. It is so great to see him so relaxed and calm and just enjoying the ride.

Dad says that having a guide dog is truly a major change in his life. He is more relaxed because he has such confidence in me and my ability to keep him aware of possible dangers.

He is able to listen more carefully to the birds that are chirping along the way. His sense of the sounds around him are like music to his ears, like listening to the wind whistling through the leaves and rustling the branches as we walk through them. There are times that he gets so relaxed that I can tell that he is almost surprised that we have reached a particular corner.

Now THAT'S relaxed!

His sense of sight can now be more focused on things that are going on around him. When using a cane, he has to stay pretty focused on the task at hand.

Dad only has about two degrees of central vision remaining so I am so proud that I give him the opportunity to use that sight to enjoy the surroundings while he still can.

He now sees the flower beds and shrubs that he is passing and can actually look at them for more than a split second.

That's what I contribute . . . makes me feel great.

Dad and I are a real TEAM.

Go, Team!

Love and licks,


PS Stayed tuned for the next series: we go back in time to when I leave my puppy raiser family and head off to "college" - I get my final training in becoming the best darn guide dog on the planet, and end up with Richard!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sense - Abilities # 9 - Approval Process at GDB

Happy Days are coming soon,.

Dad submitted his application for a guide dog in July. He had no idea how long it would take to get an answer. He had discussed it with his company and felt the mid November class would work best for his schedule.

In early August, a representative from Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) called to confirm they had received his application and had a few more questions.

In early October, GDB sent a representative named Emily to our house to meet Dad, Mom and Cuzzie, my soon-to-be doggie sister. (See how excited Dad was about getting a guide dog?!)

"Emily wanted to learn more about where I would live and work. She wanted to assure herself that I could provide a good, healthy and safe living environment for my guide dog," said Dad.

She also wanted to learn more about Dad's eye condition, how well he could use his cane and did he have the required orientation and mobility skills?

She checked his orientation and mobility skills while walking with him around the neighborhood. He was very nervous as they walked down the street, with Emily right behind him watching his pace, the sweep of his cane, his skill at crossing streets, how he handled changing grades along the way, and much more.

"Emily also wanted to know how well I monitored the traffic flow at intersections to determine the best time to cross the street," he said.

She also wanted to see how he negotiated obstacles and how well he knew the streets in the area where a guide dog would regularly walk with him.

In addition, Emily wanted to know the type of work he did, what types of mass transit he might use, the frequency of his out of town travels and the size of the cities that he visits as part of his job.

Before she left, Dad said that she did “Juno training” with him, which means that she pretended to be a guide dog, named Juno, and asked him to give her the commands like the ones he would learn at guide dog school.

When they got home, Emily said, “You really learn fast!” That made Dad feel very good.

The interview took about three hours and Dad passed the test.

Emily told him, "Only about 35% of the students that apply actually qualify for guide dog school.I think you have an excellent chance of being accepted, but the ultimate decision is not up to me. It's decided by a committee that weighs all the factors.

"A board reviews all applications and your application will have to go through the normal process."

However, she felt very positive and said she would "pencil" Dad in for the mid November class.

There was yet another call from GDB late in October. All they needed was for Dad to pass a physical. He got a physical the next day, and the doctor faxed the report to GDB.

Then the wait began. It was already late October and the class would start on November 19, so time was short.

Well, we all know what happened, right? Dad was approved on October 27. He recalled the emotion and excitement of being approved.

He screamed out loud in the office and his assistant wondered what was going on.

"I'm just excited and thrilled. I have been approved for guide dog school!"

Ah, isn't that nice!


PS One of Mom's friend's said, "Gee, I didn't know Richard wanted to be a guide dog." (ha ha ha)

Journey to Grand Junction, Colorado

Colorado National Monument, SW of Grand Junction

Good Morning from Colorado's Western Slope!

I have been well-trained to ensure that Dad does not step into any holes and to let him know when there is a grade change along the walk way. Check out this picture of Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction. Dad didn't even let ME out of the car here! It was a VERY long way down.

Last weekend, Mom, Grandma, Dad and I really enjoyed our trip to the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The purpose of our trip as to enjoy the Palisade Peach Festival. And we did. We went to Palisade on Thursday night for peaches and ice cream. I did my best to get a lick into that bowl, but was not successful. Darn!

There was a big band orchestra playing on a stage set up right on Main Street, swinging a lot of tunes that Mom & Dad really enjoyed. (They took dance lessons when they lived in Pagosa Springs.) Mom and Dad went right out into the street and were swinging all over the place.

Dad kept tapping his foot really close to my right paw and I had to keep an eye on that foot.

Grandma watched with joy on her face as she comfortably relaxed in her new transport chair that we had bought for her earlier in the day. Now, she can just keep rollin' along and not get tired!

We drove up to the Grand Mesa and saw many beautiful high mountain lakes. We were at 11,000 feet and I was really high on the fresh air and all the great smells. I found a great bush to crawl into and go potty. Ah . . . heaven.

That afternoon, we attended the Peach Festival again in the town's park. It was fun checking out all the booths and goodies. I got to drink some water from a water fountain that had a doggie bowl at the bottom. Cool beans!

As the sun set in the west, we visited the Colorado National Monument which was unbelievable. I had to keep pulling Dad away from the edge as he tried to look down into the canyon to see the amazing rock formations.

Gary, the geologist, (and my puppy raiser Dad) would have been in heaven! For some reason, he loves all rocks! I was so scared that Dad was going to get too close. That's a BIG hole Dad!

At one of those high mountain lakes, Dad let me off the leash for a while and I found some kind of strange tasting stuff. Mom saw me eating it and I had to cough it up. My tummy was a little upset that night. Ugh.

The trip back to Denver was exciting for Mom and Grandma. As we drove up over Vail Pass, it was snowing, sleeting, raining and the roads were slushy. Mom said that her hands were sore from gripping the wheel so tight.

Grandma was amazed at all the white-covered mountain slopes that had been green on the way out. Remember, she's been in Texas for quite a long time, so seeing snow in August was quite an exciting sight.

As they say in Colorado, if you don't like the weather, wait 10 minutes and it's sure to change!

Check out our photo gallery of our trip at:

It was good to be back home and fight Cuzzie for chew time on the bones. (MY bones, by the way. I'm such a prince when it comes to sharing.)

She came home from Aunt Jenny's with a brand new stuffed bunny. My eyes just lit up at the sight of this new toy! I got my mouth on it after a while and was running all over the house, keeping it away from Cuzzie. She chased me, and Dad finally took it away from me. Bummer. I was having such a good time.

This was a great getaway weekend for all of us. It's really a great state, Colorado!

I think I want to see the beach next . . . like in LA! How about it Gary?

Hugs and Licks,


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sense - Abilbilities #8 - Is a guide dog for me?

Dad in Georgetown, CO, at the edge of a cliff - YIKES!
Boy, did moments like this make Mom nervous!

G'day mates,

I bet you're wondering how Dad ended up at guide dog school in the first place. It's not like you just arrive at the front door and announce you want a guide dog! There is a process that can take many months. Here's how it happened for Richard.

He went to a business meeting in Ogden, Utah, and several working guide dogs were there. There were also some puppies in training from the Guide Dogs for the Blind school in California.

Different guide dog owners shared what a difference having a guide dog had made for them, such as how their lives had been saved so many times when the dog did "intelligent disobedience" and disobeyed commands that would have put their partner in danger.

"Wow," Dad thought, "what a sense of safety and security that would give me."

He knew it was time to get serious about applying for a guide dog. He had a few near misses with cars at intersections, run himself into some sign posts . . . you get the picture. Ouch!

But getting a guide dog is a BIG decision. Any dog requires 24/7 maintenance, lots of grooming and weekly care. Having a guide dog is a whole new level of responsibility.

"With a white cane, you just fold it up and put in the corner of the room. You can't do that with a dog!"

But Dad loves dogs and felt that the responsibility would not be anything new (he already had one dog, my sister Cuzzie), and decided to go for it.

He picked up an application for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) from Mr. Boulter, an alumni student right at that meeting in Ogden.

When he got home, he told Mom, "It's time for me to get a guide dog. What do you think? I feel that this will provide me with more independence, freedom, a sense of security and safety."

Do I feel proud! I provide all of that for Dad. I'm so glad that he chose to come to guide dog school and that I was the one that got to go home with him.

Claudia, my new Mom, was thrilled and relieved as this would give Dad not only more freedom, but make his life safer as well.

You see, it's not just the blind person who is taken care of by guide dogs like me. "The family members get their stress levels reduced when their loved one is protected," Mom said.

By mid-July he had completed his application and mailed it to GDB. He was so happy that he had started the application process because he knew it would change his life forever.

The initial application has several parts: a section that requires information from an eye doctor and three references of people that know you. He got that complete, faxed it in and waited with intense anticipation.

Gosh, how long do we have to wait to know when Dad got approved?! This suspense is killing me!

Thanks, Dad, for having confidence in Guide Dogs for the Blind, the college that I graduated from.

Lots of Big Licks,


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Visions Conference, Washington DC

Hail to the Chiefs,

Dad and I flew to Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, and spent four days in Crystal City, VA participating in and supporting the Foundation Fighting Blindness with their annual Visions Conference.

It was an EXCITING time for Dad because he learned about many new advances that have been funded by the Foundation which are having remarkable success in restoring or saving sight . . . not in the future, but right NOW!

Dad asked me to share some of these with you:

1. Gene Therapy - sight was restored in three young adults who have LCA and they can see again after being blind for almost 20 years. This gene replacement therapy is only in phase one trials, so the future holds great promise.

2. Dr. Radtke announced last week that his retinal tissue transplantation trials were successful in improving visual acuity in two adults from 20/1000 to 20/160 in one adult; and from 20/1200 to 20/400 in another.

3. Dad spoke with one individual in the encapsulated cell therapy trial where a small device is implanted in the eye and continuously provides new proteins to the retina. His visual acuity has improved in both eyes from 20/30 to 20/20 in one eye; and from 20/40 to 20/25 in the other eye. Also, a great side effect is in light adaptation time, as in when entering a dark restaurant; it has gone from 3 minutes to 30 seconds in this one person. AMAZING!

I was in heaven at the conference. There was a hot-looking Labradoodle, several good looking Yellow Labs, a frisky German Shepherd, and some lovely Golden Retreivers. There must have about 25 dogs at this conference, so I felt like a stud in a diamond mine.

On Sunday, Dad and I took a cab to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Wow, this was one BIG place, with big airplanes hanging from the ceiling. So that's how we got here . . .

We were given an escorted tour of Orville's Kitty Hawk, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the first Ford Tri-Motor Tin Goose, a DC-3 (Dad said that he has flown in one), a 747 front end, the X-15, X-1 and the Apollo 11 capsule that went to the moon. Wow, someone flew to that "white dot" in the sky?!

We took a trolley tour around the area and saw the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, White House, Capital Building and much more. In fact, we got off the trolley at Ford's Theater where President Lincoln was shot. For me, it was a much needed potty stop!. When you gotta go . . . .

We took the trolley to Union Station and Dad had lunch in the big hall. I was so hot that I laid on the marble floor to keep cool. We passed the Pentagon on the way back to the hotel - that is one BIG building!

The flight home seemed to take forever. Dad said that we were having to wait for thunderstorms to pass, both in DC and in Denver, but finally got home safely.

Boy, I was tired. I did not get to eat until 9 PM which was 11 PM on the clock that I was coming from!

I have heard a lot about presidents lately since I think I heard there is an election coming soon. They have a pretty cool place to do work and it was great to walk around Washington, DC.

Hail to the Chiefs, and may we all be wise in our decisions,


Monday, August 11, 2008

Sense - Abilities # 7 - Sense-Abilities Tested

Good day fellow canines,

These guys and gals with their white canes were all over the college campus as we were training and going through our paces to be top-notch guide dogs.

Some were tapping, some were sliding back and forth and others were just rolling them along. I really wondered what was going on here.

Now, as Dad shares his stories, I can really appreciate the change from a cane to a guide dog. Here he is with his cane, walking to work, before he found me,

Dad said that he carried and used a collasible white cane. Why? It made it easy to put away when he got to wherever he was going. Dad shared about some of his experiences while using the white cane.

His first experience in a shopping mall was very funny. Dad said that he was walking through a mall around the Christmas shopping season and the aisles were very crowded. As he walked and moved his cane back and forth, feeling his way along, the crowd would just start parting in front of him. He said that he felt a lot like Moses parting the Red Sea.

I wish I had that power some times when I have to chase toys into the water. It would have been nice to just walk out to them and not have to go through all that water to get them.

OK, OK . . . the truth . . . I'm a Labrador Retriever who doesn't like to swim or get wet. So what?!

It was now much easier for Dad to go into restaurant. Most of the time, as he moved through a dark restaurant or bar, he would run into or bump people and they would see his cane and say "excuse me" to him!

"It was pretty funny," he said, "I ran into them and they tell me, "Excuse me." Dad was quick to point out that he replied, "No, please excuse me!"

Some other funny times happened when Dad would be standing in a long line, as in for a movie. As the line would snake forward, Dad might get too close and his cane would come between the legs of the person in front of him. They would go, "Wooooh!" He was embarrassed, but did not realize that it had happened until it was too late.

One time he was walking and his wife was on his right side. He uses the cane in his right hand. As they were walking, the cane hit a big crack in a sidewalk and stopped the cane in its tracks.

Unfortunately, the cane spring back and hit his wife in the belly. It happened so fast that he could not stop it. He then began holding the cane closer in to his body so it would hurt anyone, including himself.

The sense of touch is very strong with a white cane. You can feel the grade change, up or down, you can feel holes, bumps or cracks as they are coming at you and be ready for them. You have to concentrate pretty hard sometimes, especially at night, if you have some vision, and this can get pretty stressful if you are not really sure where you are.

Dad shared that the sense of hearing is also at play. You are hearing the sound bounce off of objects that you are passing or sensing as you get near to them. You are constantly monitoring what you hear as clues as to what is going on around you.

The sense of smell becomes very acute, also. You can smell cars that you are getting close to, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries . . . any place that has a distinct odor. That lets you know that you may be close to your destination.

"We use our "sense-abilities" in many ways when using a white cane," he said.

After 16 years of using a cane, Dad said that he made a decision to upgrade from a cane to a guide dog.

Oh boy, now I get to find out why he came to Guide Dogs for the Blind looking for me!

Lots of puppy love,


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sense - Abilities - #6 - White Cane is Able

Howdy all y'all doggies,

As I listed to Dad sharing with Mom about going blind, he started to talk about making that BIG move to a white cane.

After he signed a purchase agreement to buy Uncle Walter's business, Keith Distributing, Dad hired two sales people to take over the daily sales calls.

"Anthony, my driver, became my warehouse manager. Now I could stay at the business as president, sell from the inside and manage the operation."

Dad said that this worked well as the years went by and the business doubled its sales volume.

He joined a Houston Rotary Club in 1987. He went to many meetings, struggling with not being able to see in lowly lit rooms and restaurants, often with bright sunlight coming in the windows.

"It was tough," he said, "I ran into people all the time and banged into chairs as I tried to negotiate tables at lunch."

My wife asked me, “Why don’t you consider learning Braille and maybe even using a white cane?”

His first reaction was swift and direct.

“I can still read fine and I don’t need that stinking white cane!”

This is a typical reaction for someone losing their sight. Those who are dealing with vision loss are more worried about what everyone else will think about them rather than the benefit that a white cane might provide.

Dad thought that everyone would wonder, "What's wrong with him?" or "Why does he need that cane?"

Dad’s reaction was based on what he thought every one would think. He was worried about “looking good, and not disabled.”

“Wow,” he said, “the stories we make up!” He knew that no one actually said that, but he had made up a lot of stories about what he thought people were saying and thinking.

This sounds like some of the stories I make up about big dogs when they are barking at me. "They must want to eat me alive!" Silly, huh? But it sure feels real at the time!

Dad said that it’s amazing how many stories we can make up . . . stories that end up controlling our lives and separating us from reality. And for him, not having the independence and freedom he could have had if he were using the white cane and not worrying about what anyone thought.

Finally in 1991, he called the Lighthouse of Houston and made an appointment with an orientation and mobility instructor to learn how to use a white cane.

"Wow, what a change that made in my life!" he exclaimed.

Oh boy, I can't wait to hear what happened next. This is the step just before he got me!

big licks and lots of belly rubs,


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sense - Abilities #5 - Driving No More

Barks and bow-wows,

What's this briefcase doing here . . . keep reading!

Hearing about when Dad had to give up driving really gave me a sense of importance in the job that I now do for him.

Dad was 34 years old and in the prime of his life when he became a Sales Representative for Keith Distributing Company, his Uncle Walter's company. In the beginning, he was driving every day to make sales calls on his clients and customers.

He really needed to drive. How could he give it up?

After about six months the company’s auto insurance agent found out that he had RP just like his uncle, and even though his loss of vision was not as severe as Uncle Walter's, that was the end of his driving.

Uncle Walter was totally blind from RP and had been since the age of 25, he was 63 when Dad went to work for him. He could not drive even if he wanted to try it.

Uncle Walter had been using a guide dog from the Seeing Eye since the mid 50's.

Wow, Dad has known about guide dogs all his life! I wonder why he waited so long to get a guide dog? I bet he was just waiting for me!

He explained, "Going blind slowly requires many adjustments along the way."

Dad was 34 years old and in the prime of his life. Now, he had to adjust his life to a new reality.

What did he do? He hired someone to drive him around!

His new driver, Anthony, picked him up at home, drove him to work, drove him to his sales calls and then drove him home at the end of the day.

"Challenges just mean that we must be creative," said Dad.

As his guide dog, I find that I do that all day long, finding clear and level paths for Richard to have safe passage. I really get the picture here.

Anthony did a great job, especially considering that it had to be very boring for him. He eventually got promoted to warehouse manager when Dad took over the company. Starting in this position was a good thing after all!

“I was losing my peripheral vision and I could tell that it was difficult for me to walk into a variety of different company offices,” said Dad.

He knew that he had to learn their layout quickly and find the receptionist. This was his first real use of his other senses.

“I carried a hard sided leather brief case (like the one pictured at the beginning of this post) which was a great for carrying my three ring binder of sales information, samples of products that I sold, quotation sheets and other specialty advertising. But I also it to help me navigate people's offices.

"Here's how my briefcase played an important role. I held it in my left hand and it found the coffee tables and chairs that I could not see, preventing my shins from getting banged up. The case would also help me cross a somewhat dark office area and find the receptionist."

Dad's sense of touch was being employed big time!

"When you can't see so well in low light, your hands become like an antenna, and you feel your way around a room or through an office."

"Your sense of hearing also becomes very important," he said emphatically.

"You hear where people are talking and shift his direction to move that way, like I saw them, and I would say, 'Hello, how are you today?' "

Why is this so important? Because Dad had not yet begun to use a white cane! But that's a whole other story . . .

Dad talks about going to the Bonneville Salt Flats and driving like crazy one day . . .

Oh, if only all our dreams could be fulfilled. You see, there's this Poodle . . .

Lots of love, Zane

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sense - Abilities # 4 - Going Back to Houston

Happy Days to all,

I have heard Dad talk about tunnel vision and night blindness a lot at work. He keeps sharing that he has only 2 degrees of vision remaining.

When he still had about 10 degrees of vision and was still driving, he had an opportunity to purchase his Uncle Walter’s business in Houston. He was excited about the chance to be an entrepreneur and to be president of his own company.

The excitement of this new future in some ways mitigated the concern that he felt about going blind. He knew, deep inside his heart, that he still had plenty to give and having some challenges with vision was just another challenge that he would overcome.

In 1953, Uncle Walter had started his distribution business when he was totally blind from RP at the age of 25. He learned to make mops and brooms at the Lighthouse for the Blind in Houston. This gave him an idea. He felt that he could start his own business selling mops, brooms and maybe some other cleaning products. He did just that, starting in his garage.

Uncle Walter was a real inspiration to Dad. He did not let anything stop him. He would attempt almost anything that a sighted person would do, except driving.

He had five guide dogs during his career, all from The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. Dad said that he really loved getting to know those dogs, playing with them cautiously - they were all German Shepherds and looked pretty mean.

Moving back to Houston in 1983 was like going home again for Dad. He was still a very capable and able driver of automobiles, but the clock was ticking. "Should" he be driving? That was a totally separate question.

"Those who have driven and had to give it up really understand the grief that is felt when you lose that form of independence." Dad drove as long as he could.

The feeling of driving is one of true freedom. You get to move quickly around town, go shopping when you need something and travel quickly to many places. A lot had started to shift as he lost his sight. It was much tougher to see at night, a sense of real awareness of what was going on around him was being lost.

Gosh, I was feeling so bad for Dad. This was really a defining moment in his life. He was having to deal with shifting from total independence to dependence on others. And it was still 25 years before he would meet me!

Keep chugging along with,

Zane Train!