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Leader Dog Willow Celebrates Birthday with Press Conference

October 18, 2017


Guest Blogger Willow Celebrates Birthday with Press Conference


translated from Canine to English by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



NOTE:  The following is a transcript of a Press Conference held in the Geranium Garden on this October 18, 2017.  Leader Dog Willow took the PAWdium (aka podium) early this morning to answer questions after her preliminary statement.  Thus, Willow becomes only my second guest blogger:  Leader Dog Zoe was the first guest blogger on Wordwalk.




Willow:  (happily wagging her tail)  Thank you, thank you.  Good morning, everyone.  Thank you for coming today.  First, a few preliminary reBARKS–I mean, remarks.

On this auspicious occasion of the eve of my fourth birthday, I want to begin by thanking my canine mother, Holly, and my canine father Sergeant.  Next in line, I want to thank my puppy raisers who gave me such a great start in life to prepare me for all of my training at Leader Dog School.  I had lots of fun with my puppy raiser family, but I also learned a lot.  Turning to my magna cum Leader Dog education, I want to especially thank guide dog mobility instructors (GDMI, professional trainers) Sue Hackman and Christie Bane, as well as all the other wonderful and kind employees and volunteers of Leader Dogs for the Blind.  Additionally, I am very pleased to thank my veterinarians and vet techs.  Finally, although someone does not want me to mention her, I must use my “intelligent disobedience,” which I was taught so well at Leader Dog School, and thank my beloved handler Alice to whom I am tremendously devoted.  My first four years have been very happy ones, and I am looking forward to many more years of working as a Leader Dog for Alice.


Now, I am ready to take your questions.  Katie Corgi, you are looking mighty perky this morning:  you may ask the first question.


Katie Corgi:  How did you feel about having such big paws to fill?


Willow:  Well, you wasted no time:  you went right to a “ruff-ruff” question.  Yes, as many of you know, my handler had three magnificent Leader Dogs before I came along.  Keller, the beautiful Golden Retriever who absolutely loved to work, was first.  Then came Heather, the Yellow Labrador, who was the largest and strongest who worked beside Alice for ten years.  Just before me was Zoe–the statuesque Black Labrador/Golden Retriever Mix who was practically perfect.  I proudly walk in the pawprints of these three remarkable Leader Dogs.  While I know and understand that Alice still misses Zoe, my handler gives me her undivided attention, admiration, and love.  Twice in the past week or so, someone asked my handler which of the four guide dogs she liked the best.  Can you imagine a stranger on the street asking my handler this question?  I gave a big Labby smile when I heard Alice say, “Just like children, among my guide dogs, I cannot pick a favorite:  each one is special in her own way.”  Isn’t she a DOGlomat–I mean, diplomat?  Yes, she makes me feel so special.  Next question … Ms. Norah O’Doggell.


Norah O’Doggell:  I know your handler is retired from teaching now.  So, how many blocks did you walk yesterday, for example?


Willow:  Despite all the construction, I am proud to say that we walked fifty-four blocks on Tuesday.  At one unexpected construction location, I spotted that construction tape and did not even turn toward the out-of-doors stairs where Alice wanted to go.  I just stood still parallel with the construction tape.  When she reached out and felt the construction tape, she gave me lots and lots of praise.  Then, a man ran across the street to check on us.  He was very nice, but I had everything well in hand–or paw.  He also really praised my work.  I was pleased, but missed going to Metro Market.  Even though the supermarket has many, many temptations, I behave perfectly and am grateful for all the compliments which I receive at the store.  Next, of course, Mr. Matt Labrador.


Matt Labrador:  In your opening statement, you mentioned “intelligent disobedience,” can you elaborate on this quality?


Willow:  Yes, at my alma mater, I was certainly taught to be obedient; however, I also had to learn when not to obey for the safety of my handler–and me, too.  For example, one afternoon when the wind gusts were very strong, a “Construction Ahead” sign had fallen onto the sidewalk, near the curb.  Although Alice had told me a couple of times to “Find the curb,” I used my intelligent disobedience and did not go forward.  I did not think we could even safely go around the large sign.  Usually, after my handler tells me the command or suggestion two or three times and I continue to stand firmly in place, Alice knows something is in our path.  Then, she either does a little tactile investigation or just tells me to “Do a U-turn” so that we can take a different route to our destination.  Actually, on the day of my initial specific example, a jogger came along and confirmed my finding.  Yes, this human being told my handler that the sign was completely blocking our path.  Later, Alice made a few phone calls so that the sign would be uprighted and so that sandbags would be used to help secure the temporary signs in the future.  Oh, I see John Dachshund, from FACE THE DOG NATION.  Mr. Dachshund, you may ask the next question.


John Dachshund:  Well, we have heard a great deal about all that you do so well; however, I heard that you had some challenges with some fallen leaves last autumn.  What do you have to say about the falling leaves situation?


Willow:  Yes, I will admit that last autumn, I was a bit overly concerned about the falling leaves, flying leaves, dancing leaves, and piles of leaves on our path; nevertheless, I have heard Alice boast a few times already this month that I am doing significantly better in the Leaf Department this autumn.  From her praise, I know she is quite proud of my being much more accepting of autumnal debris this year.


John Dachshund:  Ms. Willow, I have a follow-up question.  If you are not so challenged by the leaves this year, what do you find most challenging?


Willow:  Good question, Mr. Dachshund.  The ever-changing, very long-term, and multiple construction projects for the streetcar (trolley) system in our area of the city are definitely the most challenging for my guide work.  We try our best to stay away from the areas with the noisiest construction work; but where we do walk, I have had a fair amount of practice with using my “intelligent disobedience.”  Thankfully, Alice does follow my lead.  She says that she is a “magnet for construction,” and I have come to realize that she is precisely correct.  Most guide dogs fortunately do not have all the challenges that I have had since moving to Milwaukee in June of 2016.  I work very hard, but relish all the praise and pets which Alice gives me while we are working, when we arrive back home, and when she puts me to bed each night.  She does appreciate me fully and always.  Now, Ms. Maltese Kelly.


Maltese Kelly:  What say you about what most annoys you while you are working?


Willow:  Skateboarders and bicyclists zipping around us at an unsafe, high speed.  You-know-who sometimes reprimands the most awful skateboarders and bicyclists who pass so very close to us, especially on sidewalks that are not in the best of conditions.  Please encourage any skateboarder or bicyclist you know to act more responsibly and respectfully.  Thank you.  Just time for one more question–Ms. Jane Poodley.


Jane Poodley:  How has your relationship changed since you first met Ms. Massa on June 7, 2016?


Willow:  Throughout these past sixteen months, Alice’s trust in me has grown tremendously.  I am honored to be a Leader Dog who is trusted in such an extraordinary way.  She places more trust in me than any person.  Similarly, I trust her–that she will take extraordinarily good care of me, give me a wonderful forever home, and always praise and love me.


Jane Poodley:  Thank you for your awesome work!  We all wish you a very happy fourth birthday on October 19.


All reporters:  Happy Birthday, Willow!


Willow:  (sitting and raising a front paw)  Thank you all!  I must get back to work now.  Enjoy this beautiful and warm autumn day in Wisconsin!






With thanks for your reading our happy “tails” and tales,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow–the “birthday dog”


October 18, 2017, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Happy birthday, Willow! So enjoyed reading the transcript of your press conference in the Geranium Garden. I did notice that the canines who questioned you had names similar to humans in the business. You shared a wealth of information in a most entertaining manner. Thanks for this gift on your birthday, and I wish you many, many more.–Sue

    • Hi, Sue–I am PAWticularly happy to thank you for the birthday wishes!  Alice will write more to you later.

      Enjoy this beautiful day!  Your friend, Willow

  2. Oh Alice, I think this is a brilliant post, and Willow? Such a wonderful interview! I smiled the whole way through! Fifty plus blocks? Why, if I walked that far, I would end up in, um, well, probably New Hampshire! Grin Thank you Lady Willow for such a wonderful description of your fair town, your loving handler, and I wish you many treats and pets, well deserved if I might say. Bravo! Bravo! dp Sent from my applauding Windows 10 Creators machine

    • Hi, Deon–I was smiling while reading your comment, and Willow was giving her Labby smile also.  We thank you and wish you a wonderful autumnal day.

      Best always, Alice and Willow

  3. mfanyo permalink

    Happy 4th Birthday, Willow! I certainly enjoyed your well-delivered interview with all the famous dog celebrities. You and Alice make an outstanding team! I will be thinking of you today and sending all my best wishes for you on your special day.
    Love, Mary

    • Hi!  Thanks a bunch for all the birthday wishes!  I am glad you recognized all the reporters who came to the press conference, but I was a little disappointed that no one came from MEET THE PUPPY PRESS.  PAWhaps, next time.  My birthday morning is starting off in grand fashion, and I know I will enjoy this beautiful and warm day with long walks with you-know-who.

      Love and thanks, Willow

  4. Carole permalink

    I love your creative humor, Alice! This was excellent and so fun to read! Happy Birthday, Willow!

    • Carole–Many thanks for your earlier e-mail and this comment!  We have enjoyed Willow’s birthday on this amazing autumn day in Wisconsin.

      Hoping your Florida day was as nice as the Midwest–Alice and Willow

  5. Wow, Alice, has it already been four years? It seems like yesterday, you lost Zoe. My how time flies.

    • Hi, Abbie–Thanks for your “like” and comment for this blog post.  When I received Willow on June 7, 2016, she was already two years and seven months old.  Yes, I can hardly believe that she is already four years old.

      Have a good weekend–Alice

  6. What a wonderful perspective from Willow. And 54 blocks!!! You’re motivating me to get back into the gym! Thank for sharing these delightful Willow-Words.
    Is it Spring yet?

    • Jim–I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment on this post–one of my favorites.

      Happy Thanksgiving to all on Blind Faith Farm!

      Alice and Willow

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