At Guide Dogs for the Blind, we have a culture of collaboration and problem solving that is inherent to all that we do. This spirit of teamwork was on full display recently when our Kitchen team on the California campus worked with our Veterinary, Training, and Foster Care Departments for a unique partnership to care for one very special now-retired guide dog.
The dog came to our campus veterinary clinic experiencing gastrointestinal issues and was not tolerating commercial dog food diets very well. Following consultation with the dog's GDB client and outside veterinary internal medicine specialists, GDB's Medical Director Dr. Kate Kuzminski and Staff Veterinarian Dr. Alex Philippine approached our student residence team - which boasts a full kitchen staff, who normally prepare healthy and delicious meals for our clients - if they would be open to preparing home-cooked meals for the dog.
"I think I responded with, 'Well, this is an unusual and fun request!'" said Kelsey Gilbert, manager of the California campus residential programs. She took it to her kitchen staff, headed by Chef Supervisor Baptiste Pierru, and following Dr. Philippine’s instructions, they got down to the business of preparing gourmet meals for the dog. The recipe consisted of ground turkey, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. All the meals were individually portioned, prepackaged, and frozen. They could then be reheated as needed for the dog's daily meals.
"The home-cooked diet allowed us to establish a healthy baseline for the dog, and a jumping off point for the rest of her GDB work up," said Dr. Philippine. "The collaboration with the kitchen has been priceless."
Baptiste was thrilled for his team to be part of the solution for the dog's care. "Knowing that we could directly impact the well-being of a retired guide dog was a great feeling," he said. "We also thought that of all departments, ours was best equipped to accomplish this mission as we are already set up to make specific recipes. To get the opportunity to interact with and directly help other departments that we don't normally work with on a daily basis was really nice."
It was one thing to get the meals prepped and ready for the dog, it was quite another to see the dog's care through on an ongoing basis during her time with us. That's where GDB foster care volunteer extraordinaire Mary Ross came into the picture. Over her 20 years of volunteering, Mary has cared for 62 of our dogs. Our Foster Care Department knew that she would be a good fit to provide the specialized attention this dog required.
"On prearranged days and times, I picked up the frozen food containers from the kitchen. The kitchen really made it easy," Mary said. "The dog's food smelled great and she loved it!"
When the time came to transition to dry dog food, Dr. Philippine provided Mary with very specific instructions on the quantity of kibble to add to the home-cooked mixture, gradually increasing the ratio of kibble. The dog has now completely transitioned to a specific, commercially-available diet, and is thriving.
"The dog's special dietary need was a new challenge for me," Mary said, "and the Kitchen staff played an important role in the dog's recovery. As a foster care provider I am always impressed with the teamwork and communication that is required for the coordinated care given to every dog at GDB. I am honored to be part of the team."
Dr. Phillipine said that the collaboration and attention ultimately led to a successful recovery. "The dog is doing really well, and with her treatment plan should do very well in the future, with an excellent quality of life," she said. "Her future is quite bright!"