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Harness & Leash Edition 9 – February 2012 Letter from the Editor

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Harness & Leash

Edition 9 – February 2012
Letter from the Editor

A slightly belated Happy New Year to everyone (and every dog). We are starting this year with a BANG with an expected 25 puppy deliveries by the end of February. That is a lot of happy, wagging-tailed Future Leader Dogs!

We had a bit of a slow down over the holidays since we don’t hold a guide dog class during this time, and you’ll notice that there are only two classes listed at the end of this newsletter. But the residence facility wasn’t quiet since maintenance took the opportunity to deep clean—carpets, floors, walls, just about every nook and cranny. I must say I admire how well they attend to our entire campus.

We also had a special accelerated mobility (AMP) class in the very beginning of January that brought together Leader Dog’s O&M’s, AMP clients and graduate O&M students from Western Michigan University. This unique program allows the O&M students to get hands-on experience with clients under the close supervision of our O&M’s.

Feel free to send me your comments, suggestions, stories or poems for inclusion in the next issue of Harness & Leash. As always, I will print them as space allows. I can be reached at or 888-777-5332 ext. 1158.

Take care,

Rachelle Kniffen, Marketing Specialist
Moving in the Right Direction

A message from Rod Haneline, Chief Programs and Services Officer

Over the past couple of years we’ve been very open about the issue we were having with lower than normal dog numbers. I’m not going to re-cap everything here, but if you’re interested you can read some of the old issues of Harness & Leash online at Today’s update on our dog numbers is a good one. Over the past four quarters, and for the upcoming quarter, our class-ready dog numbers have risen. This means that our client numbers have risen. In fact, the February class, which includes six clients training in Palm Beach, is back to maximum capacity.

Another piece of good news is that three of our apprentice instructors are now full-fledged guide dog mobility instructors (GDMI). This brings our GDMI number up to 19—which we’re extremely happy about. We’re also pleased to announce that we’ve hired a new Manager of Residential Services. You’ll read more about her, and our new apprentices, later in this newsletter.

We will soon start working on our strategic plan for 2013—2015. As a part of this process, we are conducting client focus groups to make sure that we include the “voice of our customers” in our planning process.

We’re definitely starting 2012 moving in the right direction.
Meet Some of our New Team Members

Over the past year we have hired a few new team members that we’d like you to know more about. We’ll start with Dave Meyer, our most recently hired apprentice instructor. Prior to coming to Leader Dog, Dave was a school teacher for seven years in Charlotte, NC and one year abroad in Ecuador. He received his bachelor’s and teaching degrees from Appalachian State University. His dog experience includes working as a dog musher for a dog sledding company in Montana, as a dog handler in a kennel and as a volunteer for both the Humane Society and the Coalition to Unchain Dogs in Charlotte. In his spare time, Dave enjoys hiking with his dogs, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking and traveling. Dave’s passion for helping people, working with dogs and being outdoors is what brought him to Leader Dog. He is currently a Level One apprentice.

Natalie Rutoski is currently a Level One apprentice instructor. Natalie earned her Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education from Central Michigan University and soon began substitute teaching at schools in her home town while also exploring other career interests. Her desire for a rewarding career helping other people along with the opportunity to work with her favorite animal led her to Leader Dog. Though she currently does not have a dog at home, she looks forward to the day she can open up her home to a new four-legged friend. In her free-time she enjoys reading, watching movies, playing board games and relaxing with friends and family.

Our last new apprentice is Shelby Zimmerman who is currently a Level One. Shelby moved to Michigan from California where she studied sociology at the University of California—Berkeley and received her Master’s Degree in Orientation and Mobility from San Francisco State University. She has a golden retriever, who is a great hiking companion, and a cat (but we won’t hold that against her). Besides hiking, Shelby enjoys playing board games, shopping and spending time with friends.

Our new Manager of Residential Services is Sulixa Valiente-Rubin. Sulixa has over 15 years of human resource experience serving clients from diverse backgrounds and countries. She speaks fluent Spanish, which will allow her to work effectively with our Spanish-speaking clients. Sulixa is very dedicated to providing all LDB clients with the best quality service available. She has a busy home with four children and four dogs. She likes to say that their house is full of love and extra fur!
Hero Dog Awards

Enter your dog in the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Dogs can be entered in eight categories: Law Enforcement, Service (not guide), Therapy, Military, Guides, Search & Rescue, Hearing, and Emerging Hero Dogs (for personal pets). Stories must be 250 words or less and be accompanied by a photo. Submissions must be in no later than March 26, 2012. The voting period is from April 1 to June 30, 2012. The winning dog in each category gets $5,000 donated to their charity of choice (of course, Leader Dog is one of the charities). The winners will be flown to Los Angeles, California in the fall for the awards ceremony, which is broadcast on the Hallmark Movie Channel. During the ceremony a grand prize winner will be announced and $10,000 will be donated to their charity of choice. Go to to enter. Good luck!

$3 Discount Coupon from Purina

Go to, click on “feeding your pet,” then click on “coupons and offers.” You’ll have to fill out a questionnaire to get the $3-off coupon. If you do not have internet access, you can receive a coupon by calling 1-800-7Purina.

5th Annual National Service Dog Eye Exam Event

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) will again be offering free eye exams for service dogs throughout the U.S. and Canada. The exams are held during the month of May and registration begins on April 1, 2012. You can go to the ACVO website at and click on “Remind me when the 2012 event registration opens” and send an email asking to be put on their list.

Sven (an excerpt)

By Puppy Raiser Michele Anderson

On November two eight, two thousand and ten,

While someone was watching ESPN,

Six puppies were born, but not for show,

A little more than one year ago.
Those pups lived with mom for a six week span,

They were a very cute, Labrador clan.

Then to new homes those puppies were sent,

To four different states those puppies went.

When into our life, one puppy came,

We were happy to give him a name.

After a king, we named him Sven,

And Svennie he’s called every now and then.

He’s our fifteenth lab, our eighth black one,

Labrador puppies are so much fun.

Our job? To raise him. Our job? To train.

So that a blind person, won’t need a white cane.

We taught Sven commands like ‘down’ and ‘wait’.

For one piece of food he will run to his crate.

Sven goes most places that we go,

To church, to school, even a show.

Though Sven lived with us for almost a year,

Sven’s Leader Dog trainer takes over from here.

In Leader Dog’s kennel he’ll live for a while,

Then to a blind person he’ll bring a big smile.

A Leader Dog for the Blind our Svennie will be,

For a special blind person our Svennie will see.

Sven, ‘Godspeed,’ your future looks bright,

And through someone’s darkness, bring joy and bring light.

TSA Cares

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has introduced a helpline number called TSA Cares to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Travelers can call toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. The TSA Cares helpline is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST, excluding federal holidays. Travelers who are Deaf can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail

Circle of Life


Capri (hosted by Patricia Young) x Blitz (hosted by Colleen Said) – 7 Labrador retrievers

Chime (hosted by Janet & Sterlie Miller) x Gus (hosted by Katherine Stamm) – 4 Labrador retrievers

Claire Reesa (hosted by Sibyl Simpson) x Shiloh (hosted by the Chenoweth Family) – 10 golden retrievers

Madeline (hosted by the Smith Family) x Jonah (hosted by Shari & George Sprouse) – 5 Labrador retrievers

Dreamer (hosted by Kelly Crake) x Cruiser (hosted by Julie & Tim Gardner) – 1 Lab/golden cross

Tag (hosted by The Zauel Family) x Ollie (hosted by Jackie Raffler – 9 Labrador retrievers

Angel (hosted by The McLean Family) x Sully (deceased, past host Judy Campbell) – 8 German shepherds

Serene (hosted by Francine Kaminski-Pynnonen) x Cruiser (hosted by Julie & Tim Gardner) – 9 Labrador retrievers

Knickers (hosted by Anne Kowalec) x Paradocs Obsidian (services donated by Dr. Karen Helmers) – 4 Labrador retrievers

Koni (hosted by Nancelee & Roger Halle) x Cruiser (hosted by Julie & Tim Gardner) – 9 Lab/golden cross

Breeding Stock Retired

Brenna – Karen Sjogren

Rave – Beverly Blanchard

Rocky – Jean Jacquin

Stella – Gail Alcorn
Breeding Stock Deceased

Maggie – The Zuckerberg Family

Robyn – Julie Kerton

Sadie – The Pagan Family

Leader Dogs Retired

Ace – Jose Amaya

Allie – Fiorella Cespedes Marchena

Birch – Tracy Root

Carmen – Karen Burke

Edison – Thomas Sullivan

Guia – Jose Medrano Ruiz de Loizaga

Hope – Irma Pena

Iris – Rodney Shaw

Judge – Olman Ugalde Gonzalez

Katelynne – James Cabrey

Kobe – Joan Pons Munni

Maddy – Nancy Buhre

Montana – Terry Remaly

Payton – Ryan Riffle

Quetzel – Donald Peterson

Riley – Mercedes Sanchez Luque

Riley – James Crall

Skyler – Johnnie Maddux

Wynston – Margaret Sutton

Leader Dogs Deceased

Abbey – Adrienne Haugen

Balto – Grace Scullin

Bravo – Jacinto Toran Ortigosa

Emma – Allan Rupel

Hanna – Xinia Jiminez

Libby – Elke Wagner

Luc – Norman Jones

Molly – Marilyn Ellerhorst

Tico – Sarah Calhoun

Classes (note that GDMI stands for Guide Dog Mobility Instructor)

Class 12-05

Director of Canine Training and Deaf-Blind Keith McGregor & Deaf-Blind Apprentice Instructor Jennifer Sanderson: Jose Amaya and Arlo, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raisers: Danielle Webb and Danielle Unternahrer); Virginia Olliff and Kelly, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Leon Tice)

GDMI Paul Meister: Jo Sheehan and Kira, black Labrador retriever (puppy raisers: Al and Jo Whitman); Patrick Kwanashie and Phoenix, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: David Carpenter); Matthew Bennett and Bonnie, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: James Merical); Joseph Wood and Trigger, black Labrador retriever (puppy raisers: Mike and Brenda Lasecki); Gregory Osborne and Tove, German shepherd (puppy raiser: Deb Hall)
Deaf-Blind Apprentice Instructor Taryn Mountain: Leslie Mintz and KeAnna, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Sibyl Simpson); Jerry VanSickle and Carbon, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Marisa Blank)
GDMI Katie Stamm: Esteban Segura Penaranda and Kali, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Sharon Blattert); Roberto Sancho Alvarez and Bella, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Janice Eaton); Alexander Sanchez Granados and Lucille, yellow Lab/golden cross (puppy raiser: Jessica Hembre); William Osorio and Kienzle, German shepherd (puppy raiser: June Parmeter)
Team Supervisor/GDMI Jessica Bimmerman: Dan Hillyer and Canyon, golden retriever (puppy raiser: Linda & Tony Gimble); Coreen Faulkner and Kaiah, German shepherd (puppy raiser: Penny Joyner)

Class 12-06

GDMI Jill Vani: Claudia Bonillas Romero and Harley, black Labrador retriever (puppy raisers: Austin Mulder and John Mohr); Carl Daily and Tyson, Lab/golden cross (puppy raiser: Annette Christiansen); Zacarias Hernandez Palafox and Hunter, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Jonathan Kelly); Lola Velazquez and Jaden, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raisers: Tom and Alisa Duthler)

Apprentice Instructor Natalie Rutoski & Supervisor/GDMI Phil Griffin: Earl Dickey and Abel, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raisers: Keith and Judy Thess); Meredith Miller and Brinkley, golden retriever (puppy raisers: Gary and Sandy Frick); Daniel Saynuk and Mack, golden retriever (puppy raiser: Cindy Hesselbein); Nancy Wood and Danka, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Cindy Hoffman)
GDMI Randy Horn: Vernon Abfalter and Finn, golden retriever (puppy raiser: Douglas Lyon); Simone Chiodini and Pauling, golden retriever (puppy raiser: Cheryl Hach); Christopher McCain and Artie, golden retriever (puppy raiser: Annie MacAskill); Tracy Rector and Tank, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Roberta Windus); Laurie Scott and Gavin, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raisers: Joe Hoin and Hayley Orlowski)
Home Deliveries: Ozella Tate and Josie, black Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Kalie Wissner); Tina Gruchow and Jetta, yellow Labrador retriever (puppy raiser: Melvin Manning)
Questions, Comments or Suggestions

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for this publication, please send them to or call 888-777-5332 ext. 1158.

Client Services Contacts

Your client services coordinator should always be you first point of contact for anything pertaining to Leader Dog. If you need to check on an application status, are having an issue with your dog or need other information, please call your client service coordinator and she will make sure you get the information you need or will put you in touch with the correct LDB team member. One exception, questions regarding the Kapten PLUS should be directly to Ron Molles at extension 2059. You can reach your coordinator by calling 888-777-5332 and requesting them by name or contact them via the following phone numbers.

Carol Macey 248-650-7103 – Last names A-G

Stephanie Steele 248-659-5006 – Last names H-R

Barb Upmeyer 248-650-7112 – Last names S-Z and Spanish


Ron Molles 888-777-5332 ext. 2059 – Client GPS Support

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