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Let's ride. This is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about everything here on this show, including your story. Send them to OurAmericanStories.com. They're some of our favorites. Dustin Black is a group creative director for an ad agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2007, he published The Book of Spam, a most glorious and definitive compendium of the world's favorite canned meat. It was a collaboration with his advertising partner at the time, Dan Armstrong, when they worked for Hormel as advertisers.
Shortly after the book was published, it was internationally recognized and distributed. Here is Dustin Black with the story of Spam. Right off the bat, it was a lot interesting.
You'd be going to work and you'd pull over and call a Korean radio show or something like that to talk about it. You know, what's great about Spam, and I think why it had the appeal is it's got that, it's been around for forever. And everybody has a story about it. Like there's very, there's nobody in the world that you can't sort of like spark up a conversation around Spam.
You know, any corner of the globe, there's an experience with it. I was on production with Tim Gunn a couple of years ago and he and I bonded over Spam stories growing up because that was part of his like heritage. And I mean, Spam is fascinating. And I think that what Hormel maybe doesn't even get as much credit for as they should is sort of revolutionizing the meat process or the meat packing process.
Spam itself is a result of, you know, 100 years of technology of trying to preserve meat to get it shelf stable for longer periods of time. And strangely enough, like Napoleon, when he was moving his armies, was really fascinated with how do I feed these these armies through really cold Russian winters and keep them fed and they're getting tired of salted and dried out food. So he started playing around with some of his scientists, I guess you can call them, with packing meat in glass jars and putting fat on top of it. And they would boil it for an hour.
And that boiling was basically an early version of pasteurization. And from there it went to cans, metal, thick metal cans. And it got to the point where the cans were larger and heavier than the meat itself. And so it wasn't very easy to transport. It was very difficult to open. There are stories of the war when they would use their guns and muskets to shoot open the cans. And there was a lot of problems back then because they would they would make the cans too big. And so they couldn't cook the middle. So there was botulism and there was problems with, you know, spoiled middle and the outside was good. And so eventually through sort of, I don't know, his brilliance, Hormel, he came back during World War Two and said basically like we put it in this smaller size, cook it for three hours.
You get a you get a top that you can open. It's a way of preserving the meat of pasteurization that keeps it shelf stable. And that was really like revolutionary and kind of in 1937 was the start of this sort of processed meat. And for him, too, it was at the time like in World War One and when he was serving in World War One, they were shipping meat with bone in it. They would ship the cow or they'd ship the pork and it would have bones in it. That's not very efficient for weight.
It's not very efficient because there's a lot of scrap pieces left over. So he said, look, if we take the bones out, if we grind it up, we put it in a smaller can, we pasteurize it, it'll ship. And in 1937, that was kind of the start of Spam was born. So what was fascinating in 1937, then he helped revolutionize World War Two was just on the verge of starting up. It was kind of Spam was sprinkling in.
It wasn't as ubiquitous as it is today or it wasn't quite as popular. But quickly, you know, the military recognized the advantage of it. And so they started shipping it to all the military overseas.
And what's fascinating is that I think that's kind of where the reputation of Spam started and was solidified. You had people on these bases in Guam and around the world and they're getting fed Spam constantly because it was kind of such an easy food to send. But also what happened is the government had them overcook it essentially for safety. Like they wanted instead of just cooking it for three hours, they cook it for five and that kind of mush the meat. So they're getting fed this lesser quality processed meat around the world. And then because the idea and because during the war they needed as much protein sent over as possible, other manufacturers were doing it in sizes that weren't as reliable.
So you'd get 12 pound sizes and six pound sizes and that flexing up of different quality standards and of different processing and of different cooking. You kind of ended up with a perfect storm of these soldiers that that were stationed around the world getting overfed, something they were tired of eating, getting mixed quality, getting bad quality. And then, you know, in a perfect marketing storm, then they were all sent home to spread the word. And so that's how we ended up with Spam so popular in Guam and Spam so popular in Hawaii. But also, I think what started the bad name and reputation for Spam was because it was such a mixed bag. And so, you know, here we are 80 years later and it still kind of has that reputation of being something that's like weird or strange animal parts or gross, which is which is really interesting and unfortunate because at the end of the day, Spam is actually a really good cuts of meat. Like it's really just ham, pork shoulder, salt, water and a little sodium nitrate. And sodium nitrate is found in any processed meat.
It just keeps it safe. But it's the better cuts of meat that the byproducts that you don't use go into hot dogs and sausages. Like that's the real like if you eat a hot dog or a sausage, you should really have no problem with Spam because it's actually better cuts and quality of meat. And for years, it got the reputation of like the gel.
Right. Like that's one of the first things people a little bit less less so now. But like people are like, oh, it's got the gross gel on the outside and it makes that funny noise. And what's interesting is that was actually that's pure protein.
That's actually not that bad for you. And it's a byproduct of the cooking process. Protein goes towards heat. If you're pasteurizing meat in a can, the heat draws the protein out.
It stays there. But then people open it up and it looks gross and looks like petroleum jelly or whatever. So back in 2001, they ground up a little bit of potato starch, stuck that in there. The potato starch traps the protein and you don't have any gel anymore.
So since 2001, it got rid of the gel, which has helped with the reputation of it. And you're listening to Dustin Black tell the story of Spam. And I'm a big hot dog lover.
I also love liverwurst and bologna. So, of course, I can eat Spam when we come back. More of the incredible story of Spam with someone who knows a lot about it and wrote the book of Spam. We continue with Dustin Black's story about this inimitable American product here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to OurAmericanStories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.
That's OurAmericanStories.com. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.
And I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious. And there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done.
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Purchase All-Free Clear Mega Packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we return to our American stories and the story of Spam. Yes, the canned meat. We've been listening to Dustin Black, author of The Book of Spam, a most glorious and definitive compendium of the world's favorite canned meat. And he's telling the story of the creation of Spam. During World War II, Hormel realized that there was a great need for shelf-stable meats to be sent to our troops, and thus Spam was created. We left off with Dustin talking about people's hesitation with buying the canned meat product.
Let's return to Dustin Black. But I still think people have trouble thinking about buying meat off a shelf. But, you know, it's a state of mind because there's so many, you know, cans of soup, you know, have meat in it. And, you know, there's plenty of examples of shelf-stable. And it all just goes back to that pasteurization, back to that idea of, you know, 200-, 300-year-old technology of if you cook it and kill everything and don't let any air and bacteria in there, it's shelf-stable for a long amount of time. And Hormel's actually continued, and I think they don't get the credit they deserve for, you know, revolutionizing a lot of the packaging processes they do. A lot of their lunch meats are now high-pressure pasteurized, and that kills, it basically squishes all the bad stuff in there.
And so it can be all-natural without having to add a lot of extra preservatives, but they do it through a pressure and a technology, you know, like just shelf technology, which is really interesting. The book, we go through a lot of different chapters of how it's made, the origins of spam, the origins of processed meat. It goes through the spam museum, it goes through the spam mobile that used to travel around the country giving out samples. But throughout there, we weave in a lot of photos from people that get sent in to Hormel. That was one of the more interesting parts about working on the ads is we had access to their archive and to the people down there that were getting the fan mail. And, you know, you would have people that would send in the fan art, they would make costumes out of spam cans, they would do weddings with a spam-themed, you know, cake.
From around the world, you get people that would send in, you know, just their rooms that are painted like spam or their car is spam painted. And it's just, you know, it's had such, for such a long time, a devoted fan base. And whether you love or hate spam, you know, you kind of have a story or you kind of know about it and have an affinity. You know, it's a brand that I think you sort of have to unabashedly love. You know, I know that there's a bit of a stigma out there with it. So if you're a spam fan and you're proud to wear a shirt, you sort of take that as a, you know, a badge of honor that you're someone that thinks differently. You're someone that is not scared to go against the grain.
And, you know, you have your taste and you're not scared to share it. You know, in Korea, it for a while was used as a wedding gift. It was an acceptable wedding gift because it was sort of something of such great esteem and honor. It's that universal sort of story device that I think was most interesting. You know, for years with the advertising, we had the tagline, we did crazy tasty.
It's not around anymore, but I really loved it when we did it because it was all, to me, it walked that line. As someone who loves it thinks, yeah, it is crazy tasty. Like I really, you know, I can put it in between two slices of bread.
I can cook it with eggs or put it, you know, and then I spam sushi and it's amazing. It's tasty. And then the people that didn't like it or didn't get it kind of related to the crazy part, like it's crazy tasty. Like, and the crazy was like, I don't get it, but it's kind of fun and it's weird.
And I see people, you know, wear a shirt and I can strike up a conversation. So we kind of walk the line with that. But at the end of the day, like it's, you know, when it's prepared and cooked properly, like it's it's really good. And I think we're starting to see a resurgence of that. There's a lot of fancy restaurants that are using it as an addition to a, you know, a protein option. And, you know, we've seen food trucks pop up with it. It's kind of has a bit of a resurgence in that sort of way that like PBR has a resurgence.
You know, it's that nostalgic sort of brand that people love and kind of has a familiarity to them. So, yeah, you can see a lot of lot of menus and you look at like French cuisine. You go to a really fancy French restaurant and you're going to get served pork roulette. But essentially it's a it's a fancy French version of spam. It's the same thing. They grind it up, you know, they put it into a can or, you know, often into a dish, cook it, slice it and serve it.
And it's exactly what spam is. It's just, you know, not pasteurized for as long. It's a classic brand that's been around for 80, 90 years and it's gone through all the same phases that advertising has gone through. So it came back was, you know, the sort of solution to to to dinnertime problems. So for a really long time, that was the sort of like, let me show you different ways to cook it. Let me let me give you recipe ideas. You know, I love the classic 60s casserole recipes and things like that, where it's like spam jello and, you know, just things that like probably shouldn't have ever seen the light of day.
So it went through that phase. You know, they did, you know, some soap opera and sort of that like detergent soap, sort of like sponsorships. And in the 80s, it was all about, you know, help and help and solve dinner.
You know, what are we going to have for dinner tonight? It's a spam night. And they went then through a phase of the sort of spam lot where they kind of leaned into the can nature of it, where they had that little character that kind of popped up. He was on the cans and he gave you recipe ideas and told you to don't forget spam. Pre 2001, there was a lot of hacks or sort of urban wives tales around like what to do with the gel. So use it on a squeaky hinge. You know, you could use it to buff a table, like all sorts of things like that. You know, and then I think there's a whole culture and art around the cans. You know, they're these nice little tin cans. You can use them for painting or pot, you know, put some some flowers in or something like that. And so there's kind of a whole art collective around what happens with the cans.
And now I from what I see, they're in kind of a classic mode. It's been through all the phases of food advertising from, you know, weird ads. You probably shouldn't have seen the light of day to sponsorships. You know, thousands of products you can buy today with, you know, if you need spam key chains or spam flip flops. You know, they got you covered. I mean, because everybody's got a connection to it.
Like you would get on the phone with someone in Korea and they would talk about, you know, getting it as a wedding gift or you get on the phone and they talk about making it as a kid or, you know, how much they loved eating it in college. And it's it's one of those brands that just sparks, you know, it. And I think it's because of its its lore in pop culture right back in the 70s when Monty Python did the spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam. Like that continued to ratchet up the lore. And it you know, now we call, you know, email junk email spam email.
And that kind of comes a little bit off of the Monty Python. And Jim Henson had a spammy character in some of the movies and saw spam a lot. Eric Idle came out with the version of the Holy Grail that went to Broadway, which was brilliant. It was a lot of fun, but he recognized the value of the spam brand. And at the time, you know, Hormel recognized value in branded content. They partnered with Eric Idle and they had spam a lot and it toured the globe and was very, very successful and a lot of fun. For years, they had the spam mobile that toured. You know, they gave out, I think, one point seven million samples in 2007 or something like that.
And there's five of them. And they would go around and you get lines two blocks long and people could get a little sample of spam because it's one of those things that like if it's cooked properly, it's really good. Like you don't take hamburger and just like, hey, let me cook hamburger and just give you a spoonful of hamburger. Like that would be weird. But like that's what people often think about or do with spam. They're like, here, put a fork in it and try it.
It's like, no, it's not right. Like grill it. You're going to get the Juilliard effect and get some nice caramelization and you're going to put it between two buns or put it between two slices of bread.
And it's really good. You know, you put it with some pineapple and rice and it's really tasty. Or put it with some mashed potatoes like that. You know, you just have to prepare it properly. And I think that's why we're seeing a resurgence in food trucks and in some sort of boutique sort of restaurants because the chefs realize it's, you know, it's easy.
They can get a lot of it and store it and have it ready right there. But you grill it up or cook it properly and it makes a dish really tasty. I mean, next time you're in the store, pick up, you know, a 12 ounce can or, you know, they do singles now, a three ounce, which is a little bit easier to get into. You don't have to, you know, have the commitment of a 12 ounce can and you can get a little slice and try it. Like, you know, put it, grill it up, put it between two pieces of bread or, you know, put it with some buns and some American cheese and have yourself a tasty little sandwich. Because, you know, it's, it's you that had it, you know, it's good or you are scared of it and you get over it and try it.
And great job on that piece as always by Faith and a special thanks to Dustin Black. The story of Spam here on Our American Story. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious. And there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done.
I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100 percent free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs.
My family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back. Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we continue with our American stories. And up next, we're going to have a little fun. If you're having a rough day, this story is sure to make you smile. Guide Dogs for the Blind is the largest guide dog school in North America and the second largest in the world. Christine Beninger, CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind, is here to share her stories about some possum friends and all that they do. Please forgive me for all the dog puns.
Here's Christine with this beautiful story. Guide Dogs for the Blind was founded in 1942 to serve individuals who were blinded during World War II. The very first founders of Guide Dogs for the Blind were military dog trainers. They had the idea that dogs could make a real difference in people's lives and helping them negotiate life with more freedom and more independence. We breed labs, golden retrievers, and then we breed a cross between the two. Dogs are individually just as different as people. So dog personalities, wants, needs, the way they act, each dog is unique.
But that works for us and the reason is our clients are unique. Part of the magic of Guide Dogs for the Blind is the matching process and finding exactly the right match. And that match is based on what your lifestyle is.
If you're somebody who works in downtown Manhattan and takes a train and then a bus to get into your office every day, you have to walk the streets of Manhattan. That's a little bit of a different dog than if you're living in a suburb and maybe you're doing volunteer work every day or you're meeting friends for coffee. Dogs like to work in different environments. We match by personality. If you are somebody who's super outgoing and really likes talking with people, we're going to match you with a dog that's super outgoing and is going to elicit that interaction for you. If you're somebody who's a little more reserved and you just want to get from point A to point B, you really don't want to be talking with a lot of people along the way, we're going to match you with a dog that's a little more reserved and won't elicit as much. We also make certain that we match our clients' preferences. We have clients that their visual impairment allows them to see dark colors, so we'll match them with a black lab or allows them to see lighter colors, so we'll match them with a yellow lab or a golden retriever. The matching process is complicated, as you can well imagine. You've got a lot of different traits that we have to match for the person, and dogs each have their different traits as well.
And that's why I say there's always a bit of magic in every single match that's made. We were the first service dog organization ever to employ positive reinforcement training methods. Traditional training methods basically set a dog up to fail and then you punish them for failure, with the theory being that the dog remembers that and doesn't want to be punished again. Positive reinforcement training is setting the dog up for success and rewarding them for success. It feels a lot better to be set up for success and being rewarded for that versus being set up for failure. It's made a huge difference for our dogs. So the interesting thing is that the skills of a dog trained with essentially punishment-based training versus positive reinforcement training, their skills are just as good. The difference is the excitement about working. So a punishment-based dog who's been trained in that methodology isn't excited about going to work because what they're thinking is that, oh my God, if I get something wrong, I'm going to be punished. Dogs that are trained with a positive reinforcement methodology are so excited to work. It's like, oh my God, the harness is out.
Yes, yes, yes, let's go. And honestly, that makes a huge difference. And it just makes you feel better too. The other interesting thing is that when we were using punishment-based training, it took us 24 weeks to train a guide dog in their skills. Positive reinforcement training, it now takes us 12 weeks. So you can see there's so many benefits to it, not only from the psychological aspects to the dogs, but they learn much faster. And that allows us to be able to train more guide dogs and train more clients. People have to really commit to the guide dog lifestyle. In order for a guide dog to be successful, you have to get them onto a routine. Guide dogs are trained not to relieve themselves and harness. So we all need bathroom breaks, right? You need to make certain that you're consistently feeding at the same times, that you're consistently relieving at the same times.
You have to take your dog to the vet. I mean, so even the way that we interface with our clients is all unique. We don't charge for any of our services. We fly people out to our campuses. They live with us for two weeks and train with their dogs.
We fly them home, and then we continue to follow up with our clients to make sure that things are working well. And in addition to that, we also pay for all the veterinary costs over the dog's lifetime to make certain that no one is put in a position of saying, do I pay my rent or do I take my dog to the vet? Our dogs are trained athletes, have to be kept in peak condition. So we want to always make certain that our guide dogs have the best medical care. And all of our work is supported through donation. It's a huge community that supports Guide Dogs for the Blind.
We have approximately 300 staff members and over 4,000 volunteers. So we actually start training our dogs at three days of age. We have a whole group of volunteers called cuddlers who start cuddling our babies, and that's literally what they do. They cuddle them so that these babies become used to people, become used to human touch, and there's nothing scary about a person, starting very early on with very gentle, loving touch, which the puppies react to, obviously in a positive way. It says a lot about our breeders. A brand new mama allowing somebody to sit with her babies and hold her babies at three days of age is pretty remarkable.
Our clients range in age from 14 to 94. What the qualifications are for getting a guide dog are that you are legally blind, that you have a need to go somewhere every day. That doesn't mean that you have to have a job.
You know something, every day, at a minimum, I get out and I go for a walk. And the reason for that is the team needs to work together every day. Otherwise, you as a handler lose your skills or the guide dog loses their skills.
In order to keep that team working seamlessly together, you've got to get out and work every day. The third requirement is that you already have the orientation and mobility skills. Guide dogs are not GPS systems. You can't just say to your guide dog, take me to the nearest Starbucks. You have to know essentially where that Starbucks is, and then you need to give your dog the commands for how to get there, and your dog will get you there safely. And the fourth requirement is that you are living somewhere that will support a guide dog. Oftentimes, particularly in rural environments, there are a lot of off-leash aggressive dogs. If a guide dog feels that they're going to be attacked every time that they walk out their door, typically, then they're going to stop working.
So if people meet those four criteria, then we bring them into our school and they get a guide dog. Nearly 16,000 teams have graduated since our founding. Very proud of that. And you've been listening to Christine Benninger, CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind. And my goodness, what a scaled operation she's running. And it's at the behest of so many donors who want to see this happen. When we come back, more of this great American story of Guide Dogs for the Blind and so much more. By the way, that whole cuddling thing sounds like we could all use such an endeavor or such a week.
When we come back, more of this great story here on Our American Stories. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year. And UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.
It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.
And I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin. Which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs.
Which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back. Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. And we return to our American stories and to Christine Benninger's story, the CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Here's Christine to talk about the dogs and all that goes into the unique training for these very special animals. When you look at service dogs and all the different things that service dogs do, guide work is the most complicated for two reasons. One is that guide dogs have to get everything right 100% of the time. They can't just walk their person into traffic once or they can't walk you into a light pole once. So guide dogs get no second chances, they've got to do it right. Secondly, they have to evaluate whether the command they're given is going to keep the team safe or not. And if the guide dog believes it won't keep the team safe, it'll have to disobey the command and do exactly the opposite. Now that's even tough for humans.
I don't know how often you say no to your boss, but that's a hard thing to do. And dogs live in a hierarchy, so basically saying no to their boss, it takes a special dog to be able to do that. If a dog is given a command to cross the street and that handler is not hearing the electric car that's coming around the corner, the dog has to pull their handler away from the street rather than walking into the street.
So that's an example of what we call intelligent disobedience. Guide dogs are trained to do all kinds of things. When you walk into a room or you walk onto a bus, they are trained to find you an open seat.
So they'll take you to the first available open seat. Many of our clients train their dogs for very specific things, like we have a client. She said, wherever I go, I've always got my water bottle with me, and so I'm always looking for recycling bins. So she's trained her guide dog when she needs to to find a recycling bin so that she can get rid of her water bottle. You can train your dog to take you to Starbucks. Once your dog knows where Starbucks is, and that's where you go on a regular basis, you can just say, take me to Starbucks.
All kinds of things like that. What I'll call the magic of guide dogs is that the team becomes so close because the team is together 24-7 and relies on each other. Our guide dogs are not trained in being able to sense medical changes in our clients. Somehow they get to know their person well enough that they do. This happened about two years ago.
We have a client that does work in Manhattan. She works in one of those buildings that is like a gazillion floors, and so you have to take a very specific elevator to your bank of floors. And so her guide dog knows exactly which elevator to go to, and one particular day, her guide dog didn't take her to the bank of elevators, but took her to a group of couches that were sort of off the lobby. And when she got to the group of couches, she realized she wasn't feeling very well.
She sat down and had a stroke. So did her guide dog, I cry, sorry, did her guide dog know that she was going to have a stroke? No, but the guide dog knew something was wrong. What our guide dogs do is take care of their people. So the guide dog knew getting in that elevator probably wasn't the best thing to do.
Getting her to a safer spot was the best thing to do. Those kinds of stories happen all the time, not through training, but through that relationship that grows between a guide dog and their person. What I find really remarkable about our clients is the different types of things that people do. Our clients are mothers raising three children. We have people who are business people.
We have people who are chefs, who are musicians, who are teachers. We actually have a couple of clients that have just competed in the Paralympics over in Japan. What a guide dog does is give people confidence to be able to do what they want to do in life.
And so as a result, you see these just remarkable things that our clients do. We have a client that, he's a professional hiker. He's hiked with his guide dog, the Pacific Crest Trail. He's hiked the Appalachian Trail. I mean, he's hiked all over the world. And he does that as someone who's blind with a guide dog out for days and days and days by himself.
All of that in my mind is truly remarkable. Guide Dogs for the Blind has made a concerted effort to target youth. Kids have a tendency to not want to be sort of called out as different, right?
And so much of who we become as adults is based on what we experience as a young person. So canine buddies, they're not guide dogs. They are companion dogs, well-trained companion dogs for individuals who are too young yet to get a guide dog.
We do have a lower age limit, but we don't have an upper age limit. We're giving canine buddies to families with children as young as five. And what a canine buddy does is not only start to orient kids around dogs, but most importantly is building their confidence. You know, hearing from parents about how their five-year-old was not making friends in school, afraid to dress themselves, wouldn't go to the bathroom on their own.
Mommy had to be there. And once they had a canine buddy, all of a sudden wanting to be independent, getting dressed on their own, starting to make friends. They're the kind of coolest kid on the block with this really neat dog. Some kids have night terrors with a canine buddy.
Those night terrors go away. So canine buddies, while they're not specifically service dogs, make a huge difference in the life of very young children. Then we have a whole host of programs that are targeted towards high school kids. That's a very sort of vulnerable time, right?
It wasn't my best years if I think about high school. So we have things like what we call GDB camp for high school kids to get together with other kids with similar disabilities. They actually have the opportunity to work with a guide dog, sleep with a guide dog overnight, plus just have a great time just being campers, just being kids. We fly kids in from all over North America, and there's all kinds of fun things to do, tandem bike riding, canoeing, swimming. This last year we actually had the kids visit a llama farm and have the opportunity to walk a llama.
They all agreed that walking a guide dog was a lot easier than walking a llama. Oftentimes kids that have a visual disability don't know anybody else who does. So lifelong friendships are made. It's a great place. It's a fun place. We've grown from a very small fledgling organization to really the largest guide school in North America. That's not easy, so I'm very grateful to my counterparts who were a part of this organization and set the stage for who we are today. Because of their efforts, we've been able to grow, we've been able to fund ourselves, and really become the leader in the guide dog industry. It's a huge community that supports our work. I've always been inspired by the difference that animals make in our lives. It's really an honor to be a part of this organization because this is an organization that saves lives.
It gives people their independence and allows people to live the life that they want to live. And I can't think of anything more inspirational than that. And a great job as always on the production and the storytelling by Madison. And a special thanks to Christine Benninger, the CEO of Guide Dogs for the Blind. To learn more and to help support their mission, go to guidedogs.com. And by the way, this is just a perfect example of American generosity at work. She's working at a nonprofit. People are donating money. People are volunteering.
They're cuddling with dogs. All of these things they're doing to help a stranger's life just move along a little better. And my goodness, what she said about what the dog's mission was, what our guide dogs do is take care of their people. And they do it not through the mere training, but through the strong relationship they build with their client.
And anyone who has an animal knows what that relationship means. And a special thanks to all the people who support this great organization. Again, go to guidedogs.com if you love the mission and go ahead and help them do what they do.
The story of Christine Benninger, the story of Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the story in the end of the generosity of the American people here on Our American Stories. Viator is the world's leading travel experience marketplace, offering everything from simple tours to extreme adventures and all the niche, interesting stuff in between. Extensive options, ease of selection and flexibility at your fingertips help make sure your time is wonderfully spent. Viator is the place to go to book experiences that will create long-lasting moments, that make lifetime memories. And Viator has over 300,000 bookable experiences to choose from in over 190 countries. In fact, just last year, Viator helped my family put together this amazing adventure on the island of Kona. Swimming with the manta rays, trying to avoid the barracudas, whatever your wildest dreams, if you can imagine it, Viator probably has an experience just for you. Download the Viator app now and use code VIATOR10 for 10% off. Use code VIATOR10 for 10% off your first booking in Viator's world of wonderful experiences. Viator. One site, over 300,000 experiences you'll remember.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 06:49:52 / 2023-02-16 07:07:17 / 17