[nagdu] Fwd: [acb-l] Fw: Meet Klinger, the First Certified Running Guide Dog | Runner's World

Danielle Ledet singingmywayin at gmail.com
Thu Oct 15 20:10:45 UTC 2015

Since we previously discussed this here, and I saw these 2 featured on
CBS This Morning, but I wasn't sure where they were trained at.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jeanne Fike via acb-l <acb-l at acblists.org>
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2015 09:07:50 +0000
Subject: [acb-l] Fw: Meet Klinger, the First Certified Running Guide
Dog | Runner's World
To: acb-l at acblists.org

for those of you with guidedogs

Meet Klinger, the First Certified Running Guide Dog | Runner's World

A pilot program is exploring how running guide dogs can be a safe option for
visually impaired athletes.

By Ali Nolan <http://www.runnersworld.com/person/ali-nolan>  Friday, August
21, 2015, 1:30 pm

Richard Hunter, a former United States Marine and avid runner, started
losing his sight in 1989. Klinger, a German Shepherd, will be his first
running guide dog. Photo by Yanush Sanmugaraja

On Saturday, the Guiding Eyes for the Blind <https://www.guidingeyes.org/>
school in Yorktown Heights, New York, will hold a graduation ceremony and
welcome a new fleet of guide dogs to their homes outside the academy. Among
the pack is a special German Shepherd named Klinger, who will graduate as
the first-ever certified running guide dog.

Klinger, at 2 years old, is the only dog to have been raised and trained
through the school's Running Guides pilot program. After six months of
specialized training and more than 200 miles logged, Klinger will finally
get to start living with his new handler, Richard Hunter.

Hunter, 48, was a second lieutenant in the United States Marines when he was
diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 1989. The condition causes a gradual
decline in vision and left Hunter legally blind. As Hunter's sight
diminished, he found his life changing in dramatic ways, but it didn't
prevent him from setting goals and continuing to race in endurance events.

"There were a lot of things I couldn't do anymore," Hunter told Runner's
World Newswire <http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/newswire> . "But I knew I
had to focus on what I could do, especially as an example to my three
daughters. The Marines taught me to love running, and one thing I could do
was run."

Hunter built up a solid record racing. He qualified for his first Boston
Marathon <http://www.runnersworld.com/boston-marathon>  in 2008 by running a
3:18 at the 2007 California International Marathon. He's run four more
Bostons, and now does triathlons, finishing the 2011 Florida Ironman in 11
hours and 55 minutes, making him the second visually impaired athlete with a
guide to complete an Ironman in less than 12 hours.

But in 2013, two hours into a five-hour bike ride while training for Ironman
Lake Tahoe, Hunter and his guide were struck nearly head-on by a vehicle.

"I went all the way through the windshield headfirst and woke up inside the
car," he said. "I had my helmet broken in two. I was helicoptered to the
hospital and later sent home in a neck brace with a hospital bed that I had
to use for three months."

Despite suffering two facial fractures and a broken neck, Hunter trained for
and ran the 2014 Boston Marathon
<http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/boston-marathon>  nine months after the
accident. Still, Hunter knew something needed to change.

"My middle daughter, Lindsay, had grown increasingly concerned about my
safety after the accident and started asking when I was going to get a guide
dog," Hunter said. "I told her if a guide program would ever allow me to jog
with a dog, I would do it right away because I would be able to train more

* * *

It was at that Boston Marathon where Hunter met Thomas Panek, the CEO of
Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit that provides services for
individuals who are visually impaired and have special needs. Panek was also
a marathoner who used a human sighted guide for racing, but for day-to-day
activities he had his guide dog. The two discussed Hunter's idea of a more
dedicated guide dog running program.

>From there, Panek brought the idea to his board and staff members at Guiding
Eyes. His team decided to explore the best way to make running with a guide
dog safe for both the handler and animal.

"What we realized was that people were running with their guide dogs
anyway," said Ben Cawley, a trainer at Guiding Eyes. "A lot of handlers were
taking their dogs running, and we wanted to make this a formal program to
increase safety. So we took a really conservative approach as we developed
the program."

Knowing that an increased pace would magnify the challenges the dog faced
when navigating busy streets, Cawley and the other trainers decided on a
walking pace in areas of high traffic. They also limited the number of
routes the dog would learn to two, and they started with a 5K as the goal

The handle was modified in consideration for the ergonomics of the dog and
human, and the handle allows the dog's front legs full range of motion. The
school also knew it had to choose the right dog.

Besides his love of running, there were other things that made Klinger an
obvious choice. "Klinger has a nice drive to work," said Jolene Hollister,
another trainer who worked closely with the dog. "He wants to have a job and
purpose and wants to please his handler. He also has an undying amount of
stamina. He loves to play ball, and that was our first step in building up
his endurance."

After lots of games of fetch and retrieve, Hollister started taking Klinger
on mile-long runs, gradually getting him going. The team would introduce
distractions and things like intersections and street crossings for Klinger
to clear. Once he was able to navigate those obstacles, they increased pace.
To ensure total safety for when Hunter would become Klinger's owner, the
trainers ran 25 percent of the runs blindfolded.

Hunter has been running with Klinger for three weeks on the routes near the
Guiding Eyes school. After graduation, Cawley will travel with Hunter back
to his home outside of Sacramento to help Klinger adjust to two set routes.
In addition to normal guide dog duties, Klinger will guide his new handler
through three to four slow runs per week.


<img class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image"
alt="" />

Klinger will run with Hunter three to four days a week and, just like human
runners, have designated rest days. Photo by Yanush Sanmugaraja

"On a busy sidewalk, we go at about a nine-minute pace," Hunter said. "But
on a clear trail, we can get down to eight-minute miles."

All of Klinger and Hunter's runs are primarily for training. Because guide
dogs do their best work away from large crowds, Klinger will not be Hunter's
eyes in races.

The Guiding Eyes team will be monitoring the new running duo's progress and
looking to see how many years the pair can run together. But even if the
exploration phase takes time before they bring more dogs into the running
program, Hunter is hopeful that this will change running for the visually

"One of my greatest passions is helping my fellow visually impaired and
blind peers," he said. "I know blind runners who have trained for races
exclusively on treadmills. This could get them outside or get some to lace
up sneakers for the first time."


Email: singingmywayin at gmail.com

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