Advocacy, Athletics & Adventures
Welcome to our second newsletter! It has been a busy month and we are excited to share our work. Last month, we asked for your burning questions and promised to highlight one winner, who will receive a #ZoesPack bandana. All other questions will be responded to via social media or email.
Congratulations to this month's winner, Keisha Anderson! She asked an excellent question about traveling overseas with a guide dog. Here is Keisha's question:
I am writing this email partly to ask a question, and partly to tell you that I think that you are both awesome and that I look up to you with great admiration. I am a young adult with Retinitis Pigmentosa and am nearly fully blind. I currently navigate solely with a white cane, but am deeply interested in partnering with a Seeing Eye dog guide. I was raised on a farm and have always loved animals, and am an avid adventurer and think I could be a good candidate. I would have looked into it sooner, but I just went on exchange from Canada to Australia and I thought it would be hard to put my guide through so many hours in the air as well as mandatory quarantine. This leads me to my question. How is it for Zoe to fly with you? Do you have tips for air travel for guide dogs?
Thanks for writing, Keisha. Sounds like an amazing adventure you just returned from! I believe that one of the main benefits of having a guide is what they can do in new places. Zoe is able to take me back to my hotel room after we have been there only once. Guide dogs also take you straight to door handles, entries and exits, and identify places you have been before. For example, I was in Geneva with Zoe and we had been there a year and a half earlier. We were walking down the street and Zoe turned her head to indicate that I might be interested in a shop. I stopped to figure out what it was, and realized it was a coffee shop we had visited on our previous trip! We had only been there once! Working this well with a guide dog takes time and hard work, but it is something I was never able to teach my cane to do!
When you are matched with a dog, you have already told the school that you will be an adventurer and you plan to fly a lot. This helps them ensure that they will match you with a dog that is ok not having a routine and does not mind flying. It can take a lot of planning to take a dog internationally. If you are just going to one country in Europe it is fairly simple. The more countries you add on to the trip, the harder it gets because you need paperwork for each country or need to obtain an EU pet passport in country. In some countries, like Australia, you will need to have your dog tither tested, to show that they are rabies free. In most countries the tither testing exempts the working dog from quarantine, but it must be done several weeks/months in advance and all dogs are still inspected upon arrival. I have never had any issues with inspection.
As far as the dog’s comfort during travel, Zoe does well. She has never had an accident on a plane and she has gone as long as 15 hours. I have offered her pee pads in the accessible bathrooms on flights, but she has never used them. I take her to park if we have layovers, I give her ice cubes instead of lots of water, and feed her normally (otherwise she would panic!) She sleeps nearly the whole flight.
There might be times and places that it doesn’t make sense for your dog to travel. Like a quick trip where you are in the air more than you are on the ground. This is ok. But, if I were studying overseas I would definitely take my dog! There are lots of students in the Guide Dog Handlers Groups that are study overseas now. We are excited to see where you go. We know you are going to go far, with a cane or a dog. Check out this photo of me with a towel from the Guide Dog Handlers of Australia!
I have had a busy month of advocacy, new challenges, and training. Zoe and I had the opportunity to talk to the entire first grade at Lost Creek Elementary School and to Mrs. Jacks class at Hoosier Prairie in my home town of Terre Haute, Indiana. These were both special experiences. Lost Creek was my primary school and I spoke in the very class that was my first-grade class and Mrs. Jacks is a special (third) cousin. I absolutely love speaking to kids and think it is one of the most important things I do. One of my favorite questions from the Lost Creekers was if Zoe had guided me in outer space. The Hoosier Prairie kiddos were most interested in my tandem racing and if I had ever won. Read more about my visits here and here!
I was honored to learn that Zoe won the Companion Award for the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies. The Companion Award pays tribute to an animal who exemplifies the value and strength of the human/animal bond. This award is presented to an animal who has made an extraordinary difference for a person or community by saving, preserving or improving human life. Zoe was nominated by the Chief Animal Control Officer in Arlington who responded to the 911 call when she was attacked by the pet that was not controlled on leash close to our house last year. Chief Toussaint started following our advocacy online and nominated Zoe for this special award. What made the award even more special is that our friend Sheila Raebel, who owns Dogma Bakery drove us to the ceremony in Virginia Beach and we had the opportunity to thank over 150 animal control officers, animal advocates, and others for all the amazing work that they do. I met Sheila a few years ago in her store and she has become a close friend. Looking back on this weekend and how Jen and Sheila turned that horrible event into something positive for us reminded me of the concept of interconnectedness in meditation. During our most difficult times we often feel scared and alone, like Zoe and I did when she was attacked and we worried she might have to retire. But, Jen and Sheila’s actions both then and a year and a half later proved the importance of community and support. Thank you Jen for this amazing honor and for Sheila for helping make it a special weekend.
We also had the opportunity to visit American University and speak to the Delta Gammas, who philanthropy focuses on blindness. Learn more about our visit here. We also honored #ZoesPack member and DG Chris Johnson who passed away after being diagnosed of cancer this month. Chris will be greatly missed. Cycling training is ramping up for road season and I am counting down the days until I am back in Indiana with my road tandem. I mentioned in my last newsletter that I was eagerly awaiting its delivery—it arrived and was everything I knew it would be! Thank you to everyone that support me on this journey. Click here to support me on my para cycling goals.
I continue to have an amazing team working on my website and Zoe’s social media. Please check out and follow our Twitter feed for policy updates and continue to follow us on Instagram and Facebook. We are also looking to work with someone on a logo. If anyone in #ZoesPack has this experience, please reach out via email@example.com. We are also looking for contacts at Medtronic if anyone is able to make connections to this company for us.
The upcoming month is busy with more work on accessibility and advocacy for companies and non-profits, and of course more cycling. Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter!
Don't forget to check out the Seeing Eye online auction which opens tomorrow! All kinds of exciting things like Phantom of the Opera tickets, a guitar autographed by Garth Brooks, and of course lots of cool dog items. Check it out here.
Please feel free to submit your questions about any of my work on policy, accessibility, Zoe's page, cycling, or speaking to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to highlighting more questions!
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