Written by Stephanie Ruggerone

November brought two exciting œevents  to ACC employees.  Dr. Evans received her long awaited guide dog puppy, œPayton , and Practice Administrator Stephanie Ruggerone ™s guide dog puppy, œRecco , represented Guide Dogs of America at a four day Las Vegas fundraiser!

Jennifer Evans and new Guide Dog puppy, Payton (currently 11 weeks old).

œPayton  is an adorable female yellow Labrador retriever proving to be extremely full of energy and running poor Dr. Evans ragged.  She is a real love bug and staff is sometimes finding it difficult to follow the guide dog rules, as they would like to hold and play with her all day.  Come on by and meet little Miss Payton or maybe you saw her in the San Luis Obispo Holiday Parade on December 3rd.

œRecco  was one of approximately thirty guide dogs, and the only Golden Retriever, to saunter down the strip, spend a day lounging on the 18th tee of the Angel Park Country Club and smooze with over six hundred donors at the Paris Banquet Hall in Las Vegas.  The Guide Dogs of America annual golf tournament and awards banquet is a major fundraising opportunity for the school and brings donors from all over America and Canada.  It was indeed an honor to be asked to represent puppy raisers and the dedicated work involved in bringing a well-trained dog to assist someone sight impaired.

At eleven months of age, œRecco  is showing many qualities needed to become successful in harness.  His Vegas adventure began with a long bus ride from Sylmar, CA. to Las Vegas.  Imagine a charter bus filled with twenty-five people and fifteen dogs!  Legroom was at a premium but the dogs were all on their best behavior.  The Paris Hotel & Casino was our home base and graciously even created a special œrelieving  area for our dogs near a side exit.  A 7:30 AM potty call isn ™t exactly easy when going from the 5th floor (for some the 33rd floor!) to the lobby, across the casino and out to the relief area.  In the early AM many visitors wondered why all the dogs appeared to be walking like they were œdogs on a mission !   After arrival we had some free time and decided to walk the strip.  Easy enough you might think, except when you are walking dogs wearing bright yellow jackets and weaving in and out of huge crowds of people, many of us being just slightly intoxicated.  It took us approximately two hours to walk from the Bellagio past the Mirage and to Treasure Island!  We must have been stopped at least fifty times to explain the dogs and allow for some petting and answer questions.  But that is exactly what it was all about, educating the public on these precious gifts to the blind.

The noise and heat from the Mirage Volcano were apparent to us, but Recco hardly twitched an ear.  He actually took initiative to weave through the crowds without my direction and remained focused even when bombarded with people touching him while he was heeling.  We just don ™t have this type of activity and distractions in San Luis Obispo so it is amazing that Recco took so much in stride.

Gary Ruggerone (Stephanie's husband) with Recco and Watson in Las Vegas.

The golf tournament also presented a few new experiences for Recco.  Each tee is assigned a dog or two and we were stationed at the 18th hole.  Recco can officially claim to have been fully trained with regards to loose rabbits!  Now these were not your normal run and hide rabbits, these guys are used to people and bold as brass.  I am sure a few of them had a great time just taunting the dogs all day long.  Add to the rabbits, several covey of quail, flocks of pigeons and flying golf balls and they had their share of visual distractions.  We also found out golf carts were not made to hold two people AND two guide dogs.  Somehow we made it back to the clubhouse without falling or jumping, out of the golf cart, leaving all the wildlife on the tee, and making friends with 100 or more golfers.

Saturday evening brought the banquet, the highlight for most donors.  Recco and other dogs were asked to sit still for what seemed like hundreds of photos and again were asked to remain calm and collected while being pet and talked to for hours by total strangers.  Even for dogs who love people, this can prove stressful but Recco again proved he has great guide dog potential.

Traffic noise, casino bells and buzzers, bright disco type lights, loud music, œunstable  people, not to mention having very few places to potty can really stress a dog out!  Now multiply that by four for a puppy raised on six acres in San Luis Obispo and it is understandable that Recco, and all the other dogs, came home a bit tired.  We all had a wonderful time and hope that we were able to spread information about Guide Dogs to others to ensure these programs, supported entirely by donations, continue in the future.

Recco will be with us for approximately six more months and due for his one year of age evaluation at Guide Dogs of America in January.  We will keep you posted on his progress and his upcoming evaluation score!