What happens when you invite a group of international conference attendees to come and tour your campus in sunny California, where we're in the midst of a historic drought? It rains, naturally! This past weekend, GDB had the pleasure of hosting more than 100 people attending the Assistance Dogs International annual conference held in Concord, Calif. The unseasonal deluge didn't dampen spirits in the least, and attendees, assembled in small groups, were treated to an insider's view of our California campus facilities where they learned all about GDB and our work.
Assistance Dogs International, Inc. (ADI) is a worldwide coalition of non-profit organizations that train and place assistance dogs, and is the leading international authority in the assistance dog industry. Guide Dogs for the Blind is proud to be a member. The mission of the organization is to foster a collaborative global community dedicated to the highest standards of excellence. ADI shares that an assistance dog is a generic term for guide dogs, hearing dogs, or various types of service dogs that are specifically trained to do more than one task to mitigate the effects of an individual’s disability (tasks can include but are not limited to: pulling a wheelchair, bracing, retrieving, alerting to a medical crisis, and providing assistance in a medical crisis).
Our guests had the opportunity to watch a demonstration of guide dog training techniques provided by GDB guide dog mobility instructors. The demonstration was held in our new courtyard, and utilized our sculptural, purpose-built training exhibits that mimic obstacles a guide dog team may encounter on a sidewalk such as gates, bicycles, and overhead tree limbs and leaves.
In addition, visitors got to see parts of our client residence, spend time in the Learning Lab at our Puppy Center, walk through our kennel complex, tour the puppy truck, and purchase souvenirs in our gift shop.
The tour was organized by Jennifer Bernstein, GDB's Volunteer Engagement Manager, and Susan Armstrong, GDB's VP of Training, Client Services and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Susan also serves on ADI's Board of Directors for its North America Regional Chapter.
"It's so important for us to be able to share the knowledge and experience we've learned and built over the past 80 years," Susan said. She explained that many of the member organizations are small or just getting started, so to be able to visit our campus and see some of the best practices we've put in place can be both beneficial and energizing.
"A number of people shared how wonderful it was to come here and see what an established organization looks like and how it operates, and get inspiration for how to start or grow their own programs," she said. "For us to be open and collaborative within the industry is both our opportunity and privilege to help create standards that will benefit people worldwide."
GDB certainly benefits from our membership in ADI as well. It gives us meaningful opportunities to grow and learn from other member organizations and broaden our global perspective.
"ADI is recognized worldwide as leading the way in achieving the highest standards in the assistance dog industry, with a commitment by its members to excellence in both dog training and client service," Susan said. "For us to be involved, we not only get to share knowledge, we benefit from the experience of others as well. When I think of being a leader in the guide dog industry, yes, that means helping others along, but it also means being open to learning and collaborating with other people and organizations that have so much to offer. It's a wonderful and supportive community, where everyone is dedicated to creating a better future for people in partnership with assistance dogs."
Thank you to ADI for including us in your conference lineup. We look forward to many more years of partnership and collaboration.