Friday, October 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

A fetching job: Locally raised pup guides blind hiker

GuideDog1w

Trevor Thomas, with Tennille by his side, talks to Girl Scouts on Wednesday at the Holmes multipurpose room. The inspirational speaker continues to make extreme hikes even after losing his sight. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | December 13, 2013 |

Trevor Thomas has been the first blind man to reach the end of many of America’s longest hiking trails. But his guide dog, Tennille, usually arrives a few steps ahead of him.

When Thomas finished his trek across North Carolina’s nearly 1,000-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail in June, instead of claiming the title of the ninth person in history to complete it all in one go, he said Tennille was the official No. 9, and he preferred to think of himself as No. 10.

Thomas, who lost his sight in 2005 due to a rare autoimmune disorder, shared tales from his hiking expeditions with Davis Girl Scouts at Holmes Junior High on Wednesday night. He recounted how his now figuratively decorated pup has steered him clear of hazards in rather extreme environs on these solo excursions.

Though Thomas hails from North Carolina, Tennille has local roots; she was raised through Yolo County’s Eyes for Others, a program that fosters puppies until they are ready to undergo professional service dog training.

Gail Bimson, who leads Eyes for Others, explained that Tennille was one of the more than 75 pooches reared by the county’s residents that have gone on to successfully graduate from a training program administered by Guide Dogs for the Blind, a San Rafael-based organization.

The local puppy caretakers follow guidelines prescribed by Guide Dogs for the Blind, in an effort to properly socialize and teach basic obedience to the future service dogs, until they reach approximately 16 months old.

“There’s rules regarding stuff like how a dog should relieve itself, or interact with other people and dogs,” Bimson said. “It’s relatively strict compared to how one might raise a pet dog. But in the end we’re also there to provide a loving and fun environment. We’re not exactly formal trainers.”

She added that the number of puppies being raised at any given time in the county fluctuates from five to more than 20. Like Tennille, most of the dogs are Labradors, but there are golden retrievers as well, and mixes of the two breeds.

Janet Gift, a Davis resident who has helped raise about puppies for Eyes for Others, was Tennille’s caretaker in the pooch’s infancy. This was long before Tennille was Thomas’ partner for his lengthy hikes.

Gift’s sentiment upon having Tennille sent off to be trained as a service dog two years ago speaks to the bittersweet cycle that the temporary caretakers accept as part of the job: “For me, it’s exactly like having your first child be sent off to college,” Gift confessed with a grin.

But Tennille’s calling as Thomas’ companion on sometimes six-month-long adventures through woods, swamps and tundra has made the letting-go worthwhile.

As Thomas told members of Girl Scout Junior Troop 171 and Cadet Troop 2586 on Wednesday, he had done the more than 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail and the similarly long Pacific Crest Trail without a dog. His ventures earned him a lot of attention, and a total of 17 companies decided to support him financially.

“When I started distance hiking, I did it in an effort to get my life back,” Thomas said. “I feel kind of special being blind, and not a lot of people would say that, but it has afforded me something cool in life. I have a really interesting and unique career — getting paid to go on long hikes.”

What Tennille offered to Thomas was an opportunity to make the lengthy trips more self-sufficiently, without relying on a guide or anyone else to accompany him on trails that are primarily empty.

Tennille was able to learn how to seek out sources of water, trail signs and obstacles on the ground that Thomas might trip over. The utility of this guide dog extends to seemingly impossible feats:

“She keeps things from hitting me in the head,” he said. “When they told me that, I thought they were crazy. … She’ll stop me with a branch inches from my face, so much that I can literally feel the edges of the leaves.

“Tennille is the only guide dog in the world that can do this: She can switch modes from doing all the normal stuff I need her to do when in town, and then adopt a completely different set of skills when we’re backpacking.”

Thomas is consistently impressed with what Tennille is capable of, and says he awaits the day when his furry comrade is confronted with a task too difficult. Going up and down stairs? Even that’s not too much for her.

Most of the Eyes for Others’ eventual guide dogs won’t be expected to perform such a wide array of tasks, nor travel such long distances, but Thomas said these would-be service pups will be exceptional in their own way.

Part of the Girl Scout Troops’ purpose for hosting the talk was to encourage interest in Eyes for Others. To make an inquiry about how to get involved with the volunteer group, email Bimson at gbimson@gmail.com.

– Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    A-Z: Downtown Davis is the place to celebrate

    By Kimberly Yarris | From Page: C1

     
    Courageous Thompson tapped for cycling shrine

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    UC researchers: How low-water can our landscapes go?

    By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Gardner murder trial gets underway

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
     
    Yoga and chanting workshop planned

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Downtown menu: coffee, boba tea, dessert

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: C3

     
    Can you give them a home?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Scientists work to save endangered desert mammal

    By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Host families needed for students and teachers from Mexico

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Halloween Dance set Friday for teens

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Day of the Dead folk art class set

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Flea Market planned Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Enjoy A Taste of Capay at historic ranch

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Red-hot tunes set at Blues Harvest

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Learn how to fill a cornucopia with flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Video highlights Props. 1 and 2

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    ‘Homeopathy at Home’ program planned

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Celebrate origami at Davis library

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Garden sale and open house features water-wise demos

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C4

    Meet Poppenga at dog park Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Bay Bridge art project needs $4 million to keep shining

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Weir honored, a year early

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    For a good cause

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A6

    Americans, internationals make connections

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Explorit: Poison-proof your home with free lecture

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6

    Sutter auxiliary seeks volunteers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    School board hopefuls discuss homework policy

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

    Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Project Linus seeks donations

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    The magic is long gone

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    What’s next with Ebola?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    More theories on the abstention

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Rights beget responsibilities

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Water returns to its source

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    A solution to the drought

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Experience nature’s treasures

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Subs have other concerns

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    DHS footballers take on Pleasant Grove

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Bye No. 2 comes at perfect time for nicked-up UCD

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Shhh. Are Aggie women BWC’s best-kept secret?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Bump, set, playoffs: Blue Devil girls clinch spot in postseason

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggies expect a bonny meeting in Sacramento

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    UCD roundup: Preseason awards roll in for Aggie hoopster Hawkins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Sharks suffer from road woes

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    DMTC plans ‘My Fair Lady’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to perform

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Calling all artists for upcoming show

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘St. Vincent:’ Quite a character

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Rumpledethumps to play at Village Homes Performers’ Circle

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

     
    Car Care: Five things to ask yourself when shopping for a new vehicle

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B7

    .

    Obituaries

    Lewis Melvin Dudman

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Ann Foley Scheuring

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, October 24, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B3