“How I ended up with a pup who, at 10 months of age, already outweighed me, and who also was as blind as a bat is a story for another time. Suffice to say I added him to my small pack of dogs. I’ve had dogs all my life and all my dogs have been gentle, well-adjusted, and well-mannered, so I knew I did something right when it came to dogs. Yet when I adopted Nootka I knew I needed help. I knew he needed more support than other dogs to keep him safe and to enable him to live a life as normal as his handicap would allow, and, without experience with blind dogs, I wanted guidance as to how to make that happen. I also felt strongly about a training system that was strength based, positive. I don’t believe people respond well to negativity or punishment, and I believe this to be true for dogs as well. This was extra important to me because Nootka came to me with anxieties and fears, and my wish for him was for him to learn to move through the world with confidence, not fear and anxiety. I believed that a strength based, positive approach was what we needed. I talked to my vet, and she strongly recommended Valerie. I called Valerie that same day and Nootka, Valerie, and I went to work.

Now, only three months later, Nootka not only is walking the trails with confidence, free of anxiety, he does everything my other dogs do—safely and joyfully. Valerie has coached us to break down complex tasks into bite-size pieces in a positive and rewarding way, and this is exactly what we’ve done.

As a result, Nootka, completely blind, can wrestle and play with other dogs, run up and down challenging mountain bike trails, even join us backcountry skiing. Many people say when they hear Nootka is blind, “aw, poor dog” but he’s not a poor dog. Because of the right training and support, he is a very happy dog who can and gets to do as much as, if not more than, many seeing dogs. In fact, many people we meet on our adventures can hardly believe that Nootka is blind!

It is absolutely amazing what a handful of simple commands and a positive attitude can achieve. Nootka, my other dogs, and I started off on an unfamiliar road a few months ago, but with a few easy commands, a positive approach, and Valerie’s immeasurable support, we have come a very long way in a very short time.”

-Nootka and Gerda