Autumn



14 Apr 18

By Randy Pierce

Image of Randy on a mountain looking out into a sunset, overlaid with these words: The Ninth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Silent Auction

Hopefully, Jose is guiding me to a fourth consecutive Boston Marathon success for April 16, 2018 even as we are announcing some exciting new twists to enhance the success you help us achieve with our Ninth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction Gala.

Save the Date: November 17, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
Proudly returning to the Courtyard by Marriott

Tickets will officially go on sale June 1 and we encourage you to begin organizing your tables early. For the first time, we are inviting you, our generous supporters, to pick your table location. All of the normal on-line sign-up will still be in place, and we’ll reach out to table purchasers in the order that the payment is received with the layout of the available tables, allowing you to select where you and your fellow supports will enjoy a great meal and event festivities.

We are also keeping our early purchase pricing in place at the same $500 for a table of 8. There is also a limited number of larger tables for those of you whose group is 10 or 12, available on a first come, first served basis.  So start your table coordination now  and be among the first tables booked to use our new location selection feature!

We have begun preparation and planning for sponsorships, auction items and many event specific planning, so we invite you to visit our updated website:

Ninth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction Gala

As always, we understand how fortunate we have been for the incredible support of our community. We continue to work hard to ensure our mission and effort are always worthy of your support. This year we believe we’ll be delivering a few additional surprises to take this event and our appreciation of you to the highest peak yet.

We hope to see you in November. Please help us to spread the word!

Autumn in her harness with her collapsible bowl.

Autumn hopes you’ll join us!

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31 Mar 18

By Randy Pierce

“Achieve a vision beyond your sight!”

– Randy Pierce at the founding of 2020 Vision Quest in 2009

Many Guide Dogs for the Blind working teams and dogs in training, highlighting their robust community. Their logo is also visible.

I believe that you achieve vision not from sight, but from viewing the world mindfully. Our 2020 Vision Quest team strives diligently to serve our collective vision to our best ability, or as we prefer to phrase it: peak potential! One way we achieve this is through an open-minded view of all the opportunities the world presents to us. As such, we recently did a thorough exploration of new opportunities and found to our overwhelming appreciation an obvious and worthy one to share: We are excited to announce a new partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

Guide Dogs for the Blind is more than an industry-leading guide dog school; they are a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. With exceptional client services and a robust network of trainers, puppy raisers, donors, and volunteers, they prepare highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are blind or have low vision.

We were impressed to learn Guide Dogs for the Blind produces roughly twice as many working teams each year than other US schools. They also have an enviable financial efficiency, with an average cost per team that lower than most if not all other schools, making them an excellent value for our donation. All their services are provided free of charge and they receive no government funding. GDB is headquartered in San Rafael, California, with a second campus in Boring, Oregon. Since their founding in 1942, they have graduated more than 14,000 guide teams; today there are approximately 2,200 active teams in the field across North America. For more information, please visit guidedogs.com.

We will continue to equally split our charitable donations between two outstanding vision assistance organizations — Future In Sight and Guide Dogs for the Blind — with full confidence that we are conscientiously serving our mission.

With this announcement, we will have a cross-country partnership with a team eager to work with us on our shared vision. This is also a reunion with the school from which I received my very first Guide Dog, Ostend — but don’t worry, Autumn and I are doing fine. She is healthy, happy, and working very well with me. I expect that she and I will continue our successful work together for many years ahead.

We are excited for our new partnership and the increased impact that our support will achieve. We think you will find many reasons to appreciate their work and find them deserving of our support. Please join me in celebrating the inclusion of Guide Dogs for the Blind in the mission of 2020 Vision Quest!

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12 Mar 18

By Randy Pierce

The first picture of Autumn, Randy's Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

Here is the first picture of Autumn, Randy’s Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014. Happy Anniversary!

It is so easy to celebrate every single day with such a joyous, loving lady as Autumn! She is far and away the most affectionate pup I’ve had the fortune to have in my life and I’m told it is to my benefit that I cannot see the “look” with which she would otherwise put me at her bidding!

March 16 will denote four years of our being matched as a team, which includes not only the wonderful relationship as a great dog but also some pretty solid guide work.

Most dogs love the opportunity to step out for a walk and Autumn is no exception. What makes her and all of our Guide Dogs particularly exceptional, however, is that for them each walk is a true labor of love as well. All the wonderful distractions of the world are mitigated by her training to ensure she tends the responsibilities of keeping me safe.

Thus when a winter Nor’easter named after her predecessor, Quinn, has deposited more than a foot of snow on our roads, things get a little more interesting. As such, I thought this week I would take you on a short half mile audio/video walking tour of Autumn’s work with me. I hope you enjoy as much as I certainly enjoy having this wonderful girl in my life.

Thank you, Autumn, and Happy 4th anniversary!

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11 Feb 18

By Randy Pierce

Autumn rests on a recent plane trip.

Autumn rests at our feet on a recent plane trip.

Delta Airlines recently announced a new disappointing policy for all animals traveling with them effective March 1, 2018. It creates unreasonable travel restrictions for teams like Autumn and me. Several other airlines are evaluating how to follow suit and I want to credit United Airlines for excluding trained service dogs from these policies.

Specifically, this new policy requires anyone traveling with their animal to download a form from their website, have it filled out by their veterinarian to confirm the animals rabies and similar vaccinations, and then upload this form through the Delta website within 48 hours of traveling.

While this doesn’t seem an inordinate burden for a particular planned flight, it is compounded tremendously by the possibility of unexpected travel on Delta. Airports reroute a traveler due to cancellations and missed connections routinely and if any of these required a new Delta leg, we could become stranded by this policy. Bereavement or emergency travel would obviously be beyond consideration for them and all of this ignores the ability to have stored the form with them or to note that her rabies information is always on her collar. If my journey has multiple airlines and they all have similar policies, I’m getting multiple forms downloaded, printed, out to my vet, home, scanned, uploaded to the various websites for each and every trip. All while knowing any change in plans could leave me stranded anywhere around the country depending on how extensively the draconian Delta policies are adopted! At the very least, these need to be standardized for all airlines to accept the same form for the entirety of any trip!

Why did they make this change? While most of the country operates under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), airlines operate under the Air Carrier Access Act. In this they have opted to allow a much broader support animal. I do not have the qualifications to know the need or training for all the variations of animals and need in this situation. I do know that under the ADA businesses have been managing a large amount of false service dogs as people choose to forge the process in order to bring their dog where they want.

This problem is only intensified with the broader definition of both need and types of animals allowed. Peacocks, pigs, and tarantulas are all recent animals which may or may not have been legitimate but illustrate the diversity in progress. All this said, it was a non-service dog attack on a flight which likely sparked the most recent change. While the paperwork policy will not add any protection from such attacks, it may provide additional liability benefit. I absolutely acknowledge there is a problem and I want to see a resolution. I believe when Delta chooses to be a Maverick they take the risks of their failings as well.

For now, I want to simply applaud the better choice made by United Airlines than the disappointing choice made by Delta. My personal experience suggests Jet Blue is trending towards a little additional airport paperwork which can be managed at the airport, more in line with United, but still more delays and challenge for me. Trying to discern what all the various rules may be for all the individual airlines is going to make the challenges exponentially more difficult.

There was progress made in an initial conference in 2016, but reports make clear the airlines are having a problem, though it is not with service dogs. I hope the parties making policy would consider bringing a conference of stakeholders together to ensure a more reasoned and consistent policy may be planned and implemented with an expectation of more reasonable results than the risks ahead for Delta leaving customers stranded even after expecting them to take on some unreasonable amount of work.

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30 Dec 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn in the winter, with an icy blue filter“I always loved the idea that a photograph was a memory frozen in time.”
Ed Gass-Donnelly

Just as the Winter Solstice begins the lengthening of the day, so too does the arrival of the New Year bring about reflection for many of us. So many moments over the last year or even many years captured in our minds as a frozen moment of experience we can no longer change or affect.

Nostalgia can be emotionally potent and despite the myriad marvels of 2017. I will not hide that the most powerful images for me are the bitter-sweet recollections of my beloved and now deceased mother. Sweet because so many of the memories are richly laced with the love and attention we chose to share our lives; bitter because I know 2018 and beyond will not hold the possibility of creating new moments together as we did so well most of our lives.

As an icy cold winter has presently embraced New England, Autumn and I are not frozen in time as the above photograph might suggest. We are in the prime years of our work together. As we shelter in the warmth of our home and hearth, we are planning the possibilities for the year(s) ahead. We often share the goals of 2020 Vision Quest through our school presentations and our corporate keynotes. For this blog I wanted to share just the simple goals which warm the moments, days, and year for Autumn and me.

  • Each and every morning begins with Autumn crawling onto my chest to lay stretched atop me in either affection or dogged determination to convince me by gravity to feed her sooner than later!
  • Each morning she hopes to inspire me to put the harness upon her and take a walk of at least 2 miles and hopefully 4.
  • Each morning the Playment (payment) plan ensures that following that work is a round or seven with a favorite toy of which she has roughly 54!
  • Mid-morning she wishes to interrupt my computer work to remind me there’s an opportunity to play, groom or, weather permitting, take a cup of coffee out to the back yard! She all too often gets her way.
  • When we visit a school or virtually any social excursion she almost patiently awaits the opportunity to be told she is off duty so she too can greet her friends old and new with the wagging tail and joyous burst of energy which is her natural grace. A reminder to me so often of the treasure of kindness and friendliness in our world.
  • Each evening she eagerly greets the arrival of Tracy (Mom!) with the enthusiasm of someone gone for weeks. This is only partially because Mom’s arrival heralds the serving of Autumn dinner, mind you.
  • Each evening she encourages the opportunity to be a lap dog and curl up with her family whatever the activity of the evening. Yes, she is undeterred by cross training on the schedule.
  • By 8:00 pm she begins facing us with enormous yawns of Snoopy fame as her not-so-subtle hint she would like us all to retire to bed.
  • She is first to the master bath to sit ever so pretty facing the counter where her treat jar sits. Ever hopeful that we will provide her the nightly reward for being her awesome Autumn self, she will resort to Jedi mind powers if necessary and has been known to still be sitting there waiting when we have gone to bed determined that not every night is treat night. Occasionally we have relented and gone to get her and a treat!
  • Each night she sleeps comfortably in her giant Taj-Mahal of beds in our bedroom unless we make the slightest of entreaties at which point she will, ever vigilant, leap to our request and ensure our pillows and people are snuggled with the lightest and cutest of snores until all are asleep… and then she will mystically spread to take up the entirety of a king size bed!

Such is the typical day in the life of Autumn and from such simple roots do I grow the rest of my plans for the new year. Happy New Year everyone, treasure all the little moments frozen in time even as you move forward!

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4 Sep 17

By Randy Pierce

Dog having its teeth brushedWhat is this Wags to Whiskers World Record All About?

Save the Date!

Wags to Whiskers Festival
Saturday, September 30
11 am – 3pm

Budweiser Brewery
221 Daniel Webster Hwy
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054

We will be attending and hope you will consider joining us!Dog having its teeth brushed

We already brush Autumn’s teeth regularly to promote her best health and happiness. We also support our friends at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua who have invited Autumn to be Bib#1 in the charge for the world record attempt at their incredible festival this year. While there are many great reasons to attend the festival and we hope you will do so vor all of those reasons, we especially want you to bring your dogs along as we need your team to add up our number tally of most dogs simultaneously having their teeth brushed.

RSVP now! or get more information on the festival.

Dog having its teeth brushed“Whoa, Randy!? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?” I absolutely do and not just for this festival, though that’s the first focus to help us reach the goal. I think it would be great for you and your dog for a long time to come and I’m willing to show you how easy this can be for both of you.

First, understand that toothpaste for a dog can be found at your pet store. They have such delicious flavors as liver or chicken, though you may be tempted by the ever refreshing mint! The toothpaste is enzyme-laden so that even just licking the toothpaste, which most dogs will love, is a benefit to their dental hygiene. Still there are multiple types of brushes for the plaque which can otherwise build-up. My favorite is the finger brush. While admittedly Autumn does not love that I’m trying to brush where plaque builds up at the gum  line, she loves the flavor enough that it’s a special treat.

When we finish I let her lick a little extra toothpaste and if she’s been patient a Greenies toothbrush treat helps to work into those hard to reach places as well. All this sounds simple and I’ve even made a quick video to show you.

Dog having its teeth brushedSo please take this lesson to heart and consider the better health of your pet as well as the quality bonding time added to your time together. I also strongly urge you to join us for the Wags to Whiskers Festival where we’ll have a chance to finally get over the top and reach the world record with your help. Remember that the RSVP and registration will help us know we have the numbers to reach our goal. I’ll look forward to taking the time to let Autumn meet all of her friends when we are not actively working and we can team up to help the Humane Society of Nashua continue their great work!

Photos in this entry depict the toothbrushing Guinness World Record attempt at the 2016 Wags to Whiskers Festival and are courtesy of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.

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17 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

While we travel to Machu Picchu and into the Andes mountains, the elevation is sufficiently high to give us pause in bringing Autumn along as my guide. She is too valuable a companion and guide to put into unnecessary risk, so as we did on our trip to Kilimanjaro, we have found her alternative accommodations.

While I love the care, attention and bonus training provided by Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes for the Blind last time, we are staying closer to home with another friend with strong Guiding Eyes connections. Bill Leblanc is the Regional Coordinator for Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising here in NH, a fellow Hudson NH Lion, a friend, and for many who know him: the dog whisperer. Autumn adores him and she will get the attentive and knowledgeable care blended well with playful puppy play breaks throughout our time away. That’s the real fun and secure news which will allow us to travel with confidence Autumn will be well loved and well tended.

On the lighter side, you may recall the magic of Greg Neault releasing Autumn’s World Tour while we were away at Kilimanjaro. Every few days of our travel, a new photo appeared of Autumn traveling somewhere new in the world. They were so fun and popular that I crafted a blog afterwards to showcase the images.

Now I challenge all of you to give us some worthy suggestions of where Autumn might “visit” on her second tour while we are away in Peru! We just may put some of your suggestions to use with Greg’s creative photoshop magic once again.

If you need a little inspiration, let’s remind you of her first world tour.

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1 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

“But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be, whenever and wherever the hour strikes and calls to noble action.”
– Joshua Chamberlain

I am a student of history and found particularly powerful the tales which highlighted the nature of those brought together 154 years ago on the fields of Gettysburg. It is not the awful brutality of battle and war which captures my interest, but the notion of causes which are so intense, the dream of learning better methods of resolving differences and the many testaments of the human spirit which can emerge in times of tremendous challenge.

Joshua Chamberlain shared many thoughts I admire greatly and with a rich language that sings to me still. Many will have diverse opinions on what was contested on the battlefield; a likely reality is many agendas were being realized throughout the war.

I believe firmly in the right of all people to be free and equal, judged foremost by the merit of their choices and actions. I similarly believe this battle did much good to advance that notion ultimately, although to this day it is a work in progress we strive to better achieve. Still in celebration of those people who chose to make a stand often with the ultimate personal sacrifice on the line, I will be traveling to Gettysburg with Tracy, Autumn, Gene, and Coach to delve deeply into the history while walking the pathways of such vital historic significance.

I’ll stand on Little Round Top and consider the many charges faced by so few. I’ll walk Pickett’s Charge and wonder how the human spirit could have done so with the thunder of cannons and the nearly certain death. I will know that my life is different because of those people who took a stand for ideas which though costly were also worthy. Mostly I will think myself fortunate to live in this country where I too may lend myself to ideas and causes in which I believe fervently and yet do so without significant risk of my life.

I will celebrate the birth of our country for all those ideals which are often challenged and challenging but always rewarding for the ultimate freedom to pursue with a plan the means to make it a better country and better world. I am glad that our fireworks are for celebration more than the aspects of battle they simulate. I will remember the cost though… and be grateful.

Fireworks

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18 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

An early picture of Autumn, Randy's Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

An early picture of Autumn, Randy’s Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

Autumn’s joyous exuberance was evident as she bounded into me on our first meeting on March 16, 2014. Her affectionate, loving approach won my heart immediately but she had some legendary paws to fill in the working world.

I was determined to keep an open mind and remove expectations to let our working relationship develop based upon the skills and qualities each of us brought to the team under the supervision of Guiding Eyes Trainer Chrissie Vetrano. I had some success in this approach as I had transitioned from Ostend to Quinn and understood the benefits of being open minded to the strengths and challenges which each of us bring to any partnership.

I was not without a little baggage of my own I needed to address for the journey. It wasn’t entirely seamless out in the working world and that’s why we have trainers and the guide school support system to help us manage the many possible challenges and ensure we have the skills and tools to work through the difficult days in a steadily improving fashion. Autumn wanted to please me and I wanted my special little girl to succeed with me as well.

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn on a mountainside, one big happy family!

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn on a mountainside, one big happy family!

Three years later I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. I’ve learned to understand her body language to tell when her exuberance is driving her more than her thinking and she’s learned to realize when I’m allowing myself to be a little distracted and need a little correction to her warnings for me. Yes, we both still make some mistakes on our journey but we’ve built an understanding of when we are smooth together, when we are challenged and how to address it so we can do the necessary work even amidst challenge.

Better still, the challenging days are the rarity and the smooth days are so very common. I step out of my home with confidence each day and harness her expecting and receiving the freedom and independence which is such a part of a dog guide team. She gives me hours back each day in the efficiency with which we can do our tasks. Using my cane I find walking to the bus stop is 15 minutes normally, 30 minutes on trash day and “just stay home” on trash and recycle day.

Autumn looking bashful

“Stop, dad, you’re embarrassing me!”

Working with Autumn it is a five minute relaxed and mentally free stroll. She strides eagerly ahead of me and slightly to my left watching for the obstacles and trying to determine which destination is next for us. I try to keep her guessing a little and reflect that it is not just the hours she gives me back each day but the quality of the hours improved by spending my time with her.

So as I celebrate my third year with my wonderful Black and Tan Labrador Retriever, I realize we are in the sweet spot. Our bond is complete and deep, our skills have come to a great understanding, and our eagerness to adventure together is buoyed by our mutual (ahem) youthful approach to the world. I love her work, I love the impact of her work on my life, I love her impact upon my life and so it is not surprisingly how completely and proudly I love my Autumn. Thank you for three wonderful years and I look forward hopefully and eagerly to many more ahead!

Autumn lies on top of Randy, pinning him to the floor.

Autumn’s love and exuberance bowls us over!

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11 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn amidst the heavy snow banks pose with the traditional "we want your help" pointing gesture.

“We want YOU to help us with our goal!”

I am attempting to give you all a little notice as I ask you to consider helping me reach for a daunting goal.

On Monday, April 10, I’ll release a blog with some exciting news about the  event sponsor for our signature event, Peak Potential Dinner & Auction held every November. In celebration of that announcement and my week of preparation leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 17 (Patriots Day of course!), we will be kicking off the ticket sales for our November 18 event on that day as well.

It is the earliest we’ve begun sales for our event and the timing is key to my stretch goal. While we sell tickets individually, in pairs, and by tables of 8, the most common purchase and best value is the table sale.

What is my goal? To sell 1 table for each mile of the historic 26.2-mile course of the Boston Marathon which I’ll be running during that week. Tracy and I always immediately purchase a table of our own so I’ve got the first mile covered and several family and friends have suggested a few more miles along the route are likely secured as well. Whether I know in advance of the race or catch the mile by update tributes and acknowledgements we’ll send out in appreciation, I will get some significant motivation from all the support which arrives from the various table and ticket purchases.

People having fun at tables at the Peak Potential 2016For that one week (April 10-17), we will offer the lowest table price, $500 for the table of 8 guests. As of April 18, the price will increase to $600/table until June 18. After June 18, the price will increase to $700/table.

Your choice to attend our event would benefit our worthy mission a great deal. Our venue holds 30 tables very comfortably and thus 26 tables at this point will effectively assure us a sell-out at the very start of our outreach. It would allow us to work on obtaining sponsorships and donations to help make the event the most successful yet.

Already in our 8th annual event our success has continued to strengthen and grow fantastically thanks to all of your support. This is why I feel so certain it is worth asking you all to consider joining into the stretch goal now and be preparing for that April 10 opportunity.

Jose and Randy with their hands up running the Marathon.Now, we’re calling this a stretch goal because I do absolutely understand how high I’m setting this goal. When I run a marathon, I take the lesson of my friend Greg Hallerman to set three goals for myself each time: the stretch goal which is hard to reach but incredibly rewarding, the secondary goal, and the comfort goal.

You already know my stretch goal; my secondary goal would be to have 26 distinct purchases even if they were not all tables because it’s still an overwhelming support at this early juncture. My comfort goal is that when April 10 arrives and we make the announcement officially launching this year’s Peak Potential website, many of you will help us share it and inform us you are coming even if you are unable to purchase tickets at that time.

So as I run Boston this year, I have a few goals in mind. I hope to run it under 4 hours once again and I hope to learn that our Peak Potential Celebration on November 18 is matching my efforts stride for stride and mile by mile – perhaps one table at a time as we close in on our goals together.

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