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Caddo, shown in these pictures died on Tuesday, 1/15/2008, during diagnostic procedures that determined that he had cancer in his lungs and other parts of his body. He had been hospitalized with apparent pneumonia five days earlier. As a result of his work and demonstrations several additional schools have started wheelchair guide programs, including his starting school, The Seeing Eye. 2008-01-16.
A heartfelt description of Suzanne Whalen in her wheelchair and her Seeing Eye/Southeastern guide dog, Caddo at a public demonstration.
[Edited by Mike Firth for posting on his site, removing things not related to Caddo's work. Since it is not totally clear, the demonstration was being done at a meeting of people involved with service dogs, which unlike guide dogs, are trained to obey while also responding to specific stimuli in special ways - bouncing around at doorbells for deaf persons, retrieving things for paraplegic persons. ]
Dear Folks: Gigi read me this post. I am sending copies of it to several people. I am not mentioning the names here because the list is too long. I knew Caddo had done well at the conference in San Antonio, but he did even better than I thought! I knew people were taking pictures, but didn't know they were jumping in front of us. I had asked for obstacles to be set out, but I had no idea the result was as tricky to navigate as it was. There were other things I was unaware of at the time, like missing the greyhound by inches and having somebody jump over obstacles in an attempt to move stuff out of our way. But they were too late because we had already passed through it successfully. I had told the audience that Caddo and I had been separated for a year. Obviously, Ms. Froling misunderstood and thought Caddo was being trained for wheelchair work that whole time. I also told them that I was at Southeastern for a month, and had received assistance in Dallas for several months from both The Seeing Eye and Southeastern. In spite of these mistakes, Ms. Froling's post is clearly complimentary. All of you receiving this at The Seeing Eye and Southeastern share a large measure of the credit for our success. Thank you so much for everything. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did hearing it. Go Caddo man! Sincerely, Suzanne Whalen
From: "Ed and Toni Eames" <eeames@xxxx>
To: "Gigi Firth" <gigifirth@xxxx>
Subject: pass this on to Suzanne
Date: Wednesday, March 06, 2002 10:37 AM
Joan Froling is looking for a GSD [German
Shepherd Dog] for her next service dog. Below is a
post she sent to a breeder about her impression of Caddo.
>Date: Wed, 6 Mar 2002 02:27:41 EST
>Subject: Joan replies - A different kind of Service Dog
> The demonstration given by a black and tan German Shepherd named Caddo
>was unforgettable. Placed with a blind teacher by the Seeing Eye, he was
>retrained by Southeastern Guide Dogs when she had the misfortune to fall down
>an open manhole a couple years ago, sustaining severe injuries to her spine.
> This sight of this GSD guiding a blind woman in an electric wheelchair
>held the assistance dog training programs and teams in attendance,
>spellbound. It was for most, the first time we'd ever witnessed this
>extraordinary kind of guide dog work.
> Even when the press and some conference guests disobeyed the rules I set
>up, by jumping in front of the team with cameras to capture photos of this
>outstanding duo "in action," the German Shepherd, Caddo, never lost his
>focus. I thought it was disgraceful to see all the flashes going off,
>practically in his face as he had to make judgment calls about how to guide
>his mistress around the obstacles we set up in the main aisle and one of the
>side aisles. Caddo gave the audience some reproachful looks and hesitated a
>couple times, wondering if the idiot with the camera was going to move or if
>he better make a wide circle around the interloper(s). But bless him, he kept
>going in the face of overwhelming distractions, till he completed the circuit
>of the room as planned.
> After giving him a hug, Suzanne Whalen, his handler, said she wanted to
>go down the far right aisle.
> I told her that she couldn't as it was blocked off by the CART
>stenographers. This group of ladies we hired were using laptop computers to
>transcribe what the guest speakers said onto a movie screen so it could be
>read by deaf and hard of hearing guests partnered with hearing dogs.
> Suzanne said she wanted to do it anyway, to show people what would
>happen when she got into a tight corner and Caddo found their path totally
> My sister argued with her that it would be dangerous, for we had not
>cleared a pathway for her through that crowded side aisle before the
>conference started. We never dreamed she'd want to go down there.
> Carole argued to no avail. Suzanne gave Caddo a command and suddenly
>they were off and running. She was a very independent and determined lady
>with a lot of confidence in her German Shepherd.
> I was worried it would be a disastrous end to a demo that up till now,
>had been going splendidly.
> In retrospect, I didn't fully appreciate the fact Suzanne had flown
>from Dallas to San Antonio with Caddo and they'd made their way from the
>airport to the hotel, without any help from me or other IAADP board members
>two nights before. I felt responsible for her safety while she was at our
>conference. I had arranged escorts to accompany the team everywhere. I knew
>she wasn't helpless but I wanted to make sure she didn't get lost or injured
>.....not on my watch!
> To make a long story short, Caddo dazzled us with his prowess as he took
>her up the main aisle of the ballroom. He again skirted a greyhound who
>again lazily refused to get up and move out of his way while the audience
>held its breath.....that greyhound put a lot of faith in this pair's teamwork
> The enormous electric wheelchair missed him by merely six inches. Thanks to
>Caddo, Suzanne also missed crashing into the unseen chairs and wastebaskets
>we'd strategically set out at the start of this workshop.
> In the back of the room, Caddo handled the tables, the crowd, the people
>who froze up afraid to move and my loud booming voice through the microphone
>( "Ladies and Gentlemen, PLEASE give them some room to work!") as if he had
>nerves of steel.
> As they navigated the right side aisle, my sister clambered over the
>objects barricading her path into the aisle from the front of the room.
>Carole arrived out of breath and too late to pull things out Caddo's way,
>though she frantically tried to get there in time when I appealed to her for
>help. This left Caddo and Suzanne totally on their own. Many in the
>audience assumed this was all part of a well planned demo, not really
>conscious that we were seeing the real thing in action. .....Caddo had to
>figure out how to get around tables jutting out at weird angles, tall
>pillars, black speaker boxes and other unexpected obstacles without Suzanne
>ramming into them. The communication through the harness was exquisite.
>With every slight turn he made or shift of his weight detected through the
>harness handle, her finger moved the joystick on the electric wheelchair in a
>display of perfect synchronicity.
> They had almost reached the front of the room when Caddo discovered the
>opening behind the CART ladies seated at a table full of electronic equipment
>was too narrow to permit both Caddo and the wheelchair to go through it
>unscathed. He came to a halt. He looked from one side to the other, seeking
>an alternate route around the CART table. There wasn't one. He looked over
>his shoulder at the long distance they'd traveled from the back of the room.
>He took another look at the CART table, estimating that gap again. Then he
>turned around, twisting the harness out of Suzanne's hand, planting his
>forepaws on the footrest of the electric wheelchair. This is the way he was
>trained to signal her that he'd come to a dead end and further progress was
> I think you could have heard a pin drop in the room at that moment.
> Suzanne took a deep breath, quietly told him what a good boy he was,
>then asked him to retrace their path. It was a long, long way to the back of
>The obstacles were just as challenging, for this time, all them were jutting
>into their path from the opposite side. I couldn't believe the dog and his
>handler would make it through without one nick or scrape between them. It
>took exceptional teamwork. It is so easy to overshoot something in an
>electric wheelchair, for braking is never instantaneous. It takes a few
>seconds for the chair to respond when when you try to stop. Caddo didn't work
>alongside her chair, he worked over to one side but out in front, risking
>being run over if she misjudged his signals through the offset harness handle.
> While Caddo made it look easy, Suzanne later explained to the audience
>that it had taken nearly a year of training for Caddo and several months at
>the school for Suzanne for them to master the techniques and coordination
>necessary for successful teamwork.
> I remained tensed for the telltale scrape or crunching sound. I don't
>think I stopped holding my breath till they were safely out of that aisle.
> Caddo appeared much more relaxed when told to make a left, then another
>left in the rear part of the room. On the way back, he treated the main
>aisle like a piece of cake instead of a treacherous bog. In just a few
>minutes time, they returned to the front of the room, where they received a
>standing ovation. Every dog trainer in that room knew this partnership
>epitomized the human / animal bond at its finest.
> As the audience applauded, Caddo put his paws on the footrest so he
>receive the only reward he asked for, a hug of appreciation from Suzanne. He
>put his black muzzle on her shoulder, briefly closing his eyes in bliss, his
>sensitive ears straining to catch every nuance of her voice.
> Then she asked Caddo to sit so she could continue her speech about
>pioneering the use of guide dogs for electric wheelchair users. Caddo
>instantly obeyed. He calmly sat there facing the crowd with dignified
>nonchalance. He ignored my old white Samoyed and the eager young Goldens and
>Labradors as well as the small mixed breed hearing dogs as if he were alone
>in the room with her.
> THAT's the kind of dog I'm looking for. His ability to cope with the
>limelight, to keep his focus under very trying circumstances, the laid back
>demeanor when his human partner is speaking into a microphone.......what an
>ambassador he makes!
> If you wish, you have my permission to forward this post about the
>unusual demonstration I was so fortunate to witness.
> I think any admirer of this breed would have experienced a thrill watching
>this GSD's ability to do problem solving. We have seen so many Shepherds who
>were not a credit to their breed, many have forgotten what this breed is
> When they're good, they're REALLY good!
>Sterling Service Dogs
>(586) 977 - 9716
Federal Law extract.
VII. ACCEPTANCE OF WHEELCHAIRS/MOBILITY AIDS
This air carrier will accept battery-powered wheelchairs/mobility aids as baggage. Wheelchairs/mobility aids will be not transported if they exhibit evidence of previous leakage or damage.
Wheelchair batteries are either spillable or non-spillable. A non-spillable battery will normally be labeled as such. In the absence of a label, a battery whose caps or cover cannot be removed is considered to be non-spillable; if the caps or cover can be removed, it is considered to be spillable.
Wheelchairs/mobility aids non-spillable batteries may be accepted for carriage with the battery attached when properly prepared for shipment (the battery is disconnected and terminals and ends of cables are insulated to prevent short circuits). Batteries manufactured after September 30, 1995, must be marked on the outside of the battery case, NON-SPILLABLE or NON-SPILLABLE BATTERY. If the wheelchair cannot be loaded/stowed in an upright position, it is advisable that the battery be disconnected and terminals are insulated to prevent short circuits.
If this requirement cannot be met, the battery must be removed from the housing by qualified airline personnel only, and transported in strong, rigid packaging under the following conditions:
The packaging must be leak-tight and impervious to battery fluid. An inner liner may be used to satisfy this requirement if there is absorbent material placed inside of the liner and the liner has a leak proof closure;
The battery must be protected against short circuits, secured upright in the packaging, and be packaged with enough compatible absorbent material to completely absorb liquid contents in the event or rupture of the battery; and
The packaging must be labeled with a CORROSIVE label, marked to indicate proper orientation, and marked with the words Battery, wet, with wheelchair; and
The PIC [pilot in charge?] must be advised either orally or in writing prior to departure as to the location of the spillable battery aboard the aircraft.