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Motorcycles Ready to Rumble in “Ride for Guides” PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 01:30

Courtesy Photo

Motorcycles will rumble in Santa Clarita this Sunday, May 18, as an estimated 500 riders come together for the 11th Annual “Ride for Guides” event to raise money for the Sylmarbased Guide Dogs of America

“We have motorcycle riders who have preregistered, and those who register at the site, and we send them on a 100- mile route with three stops on the way,” described Lorri Bernson, Media and Community Liaison for GDA.

“We call it a ‘poker’ route, where they pick up a card when they leave and pick up other cards on the stops until they head back to the site.”

Bernson said there would also be puppies in training at the event, as well as a band and raffles, and that lunch would be provided for the participants. “It’s a fun day for the riders because of the puppies,” she said.

Last year the event raised more than $36,000. Registration is only $30, and all the money raised goes back into the organization’s efforts to help blind people remain mobile and active by pairing them with a trained guide dog.

People like Bernson herself who, at age 33, lost her sight 19 years ago because of diabetes. The self-proclaimed “Valley girl” received her first guide dog in 2002. “Nigel” was a red Golden Retriever and Bernson’s companion for the next 10 years, until his "retirement" from service when he went back to live with his puppy raiser.

Now she’s got “Carter,” a sixyear- old half Lab and half Golden Retriever.

Each dog had its own peculiarities and attitudes. Bernson and the dogs had to adjust to each other, but the bond created among them is not something easily described with words.

“It's like no other bond,” Bernson said of both her dogs. “I trust him with both our lives. He makes sure we’re both safe when we’re out there. It’s an incredible sense of trust. I love him and I trust him like nobody else.”

The Training

The trust placed on guide dogs comes from years of training and socializing.

The dogs live their first yearand- a-half with a puppy raiser, who socializes them and takes them out to different places to get used to being among people. They are then placed in the program and trained by licensed instructors for up to six months.

Upon completion of the training, each dog is matched to an individual who needs him, taking into consideration the person and dog’s abilities, attitudes and mobility. The initial matching process lasts 28 days.

“There’s a lot that goes on in the matching process,” Bernson said. “Your first dog is the one that you attribute to making your life change. It’s like your first love.”

It was a love she had to readjust to her second dog. Bernson had been used to Nigel’s smooth and fluid walk; Carter’s walk is more bouncy and animated.

“After a little while, you realize it’s like your second child, you love him just as much," she said.

But there's also a mutual respect to maintain. "We don’t want guide dogs to become pets,” Bernson emphasized.

A Free Service

Guide dogs are provided free of charge to those who are legally blind and able to move. It starts with filling out an application; once approved, the matching process begins —does the person need a faster or slower dog, do they live in a house or an apartment, are there other animals in the household, are there children living there.

While there’s no charge to the recipient of the dog, the training costs an estimated $42,000 per dog, which the organization must pay for since it receives no government funding.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1948 by Joseph Jones, Sr. a retired member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Since its inception, GDA has graduated more than 3,000 successful guide dog teams throughout the United States and Canada.

The Ride for Guide takes place Sunday, May 18. Registration, which costs $30, is from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The event starts and ends at Old Road Harley-Davidson, 21130 Centre Pointe Pkwy., in Santa Clarita. For more information, call (818) 599-3592, or visit www.