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A new dog for Lake Oswego

Patrick Blaedorn getting around again, thanks to new guide dog Hoda


Becoming a familiar sight in downtown Lake Oswego are Patrick Blaedorn and his guidedog, Hoda.Lake Oswego is known for its Gallery Without Walls for art. It could also be unofficially known for its Dog Show Without Walls, because of all the dogs walking all over town.

But there is one dog that the whole city can claim, and that is Patrick Blaedorn’s guide dog Hoda, a stunning 2-year-old German shepherd with a great future.

Hoda is just breaking in on her new job. Being a guide dog to a blind person requires a lot of training in addition to a lot of smarts. One problem that Hoda is running into is that she is so beautiful that people have a natural tendency to go up to her, start deep scratching her neck and babbling puppy talk.

Blaedorn and his partner Sarah DeMerritt soon set them straight: No petting the working dog. Yet they understand the delight Oswegans take in seeing the dog because they are more delighted than anybody that Hoda is finally here. With Hoda now by his side, Blaedorn can now make his rounds around Lake Oswego of two to three miles every day.

“She’s very friendly, she’s very affectionate and she loves to work,” Blaedorn said.

“The dog makes me worry less about Patrick,” DeMerritt said. “I feel he’s safe.”by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Guide dog Hoda watches out for her new companion, Patrick Blaedorn of Lake Oswego.

The big German shepherd seems to have everything it takes to be a great guide dog, like so many others of her breed. Hoda takes Blaedorn where he wants to go, takes him shopping and protects him from the obstacles that so often fall in his way. This can include literally saving his life as she guides her master across crosswalks.

“Sometimes drivers don’t stop at crosswalks,” Blaedorn said. “It happens all the time in Lake Oswego.”

Hoda has side talents, too, such as licking Blaedorn all over the face when he kneels down to talk to her.

Having such a fine dog by his side has been a long time coming for Blaedorn. After his previous guide dog died, Blaedorn could only rely on his red-tipped cane for eight months. Now, like the Beach Boys song, he can say, “I Get Around.”

“I’m an active guy,” Blaedorn said. “I’m out all over the place.”

The busy Blaedorn has a job doing research for Portland State University, is a member of the Lake Oswego Lions Club, is working on a historical project on the Oregon Cement Company with the Lake Oswego Public Library, and much more, such as doing his own grocery shopping.

But not having a guide dog really put a crimp in Blaedorn’s style. It bothered all of Lake Oswego, too, because everyone was accustomed to seeing Blaedorn with his guide dog Mary. Together they became local celebrities, and Blaedorn has extremely fond memories of Mary.

“Mary had a full personality,” Blaedorn said. “She was very powerful, she loved to work, she was a happy dog. Mary was so good at helping me cross streets she would even make eye contact with a driver.”

Most of all, Mary loved Blaedorn. But last year, after returning from a trip to Colorado, it was discovered that Mary had lung cancer, and she soon passed away. Blaedorn not only lost a great friend, his life was now greatly restricted.

At least until now. Blaedorn filled the big dog gap in his life last March by going to Seeing Eye Dogs in Morristown, N.J., home of the oldest guide dog training school in America. This venerated school does not simply give a person a guide dog and wish them good luck. The Seeing Eye staff works diligently to pair the right dog with the person and puts them through a regimen of training together. Blaedorn was greatly impressed by their methods.

“With Seeing Eye you don’t feel like you’re one of the kids on Jerry Lewis’s stage,” he said. “What I can’t stand is being treated like a child. They treat you like an adult and they expect you to act like an adult. They expect a lot out of you.”

Blaedorn had previously had a half dozen German shepherds as guide dogs, and he had high expectations. He wanted what he called “a bomb-proof dog.”

“German shepherds have better personalities,” Blaedorn said. “They’re very vocal, they’re very smart. They have a herding instinct that lets them really hone in on a destination. I wouldn’t have another dog.”

So far Hoda is meeting Blaedorn’s standards. The dog expertly leads him to the pickup window at Albertsons and keeps a sharp eye out for overhanging tree branches and cars and keeps him from falling into tree wells. If the pair encounters trouble at a crosswalk, Hoda will stop and get Blaedorn out of the way. Man and dog are quickly getting used to each other.

“This dog sends signals right up my arm into my brain,” Blaedorn said. “With German shepherds their ears can tell you a lot. They’re like little radar dishes. They very vocal, they’re whiners. When we walk into a room Hoda wants to check out the building and everybody in it.”

His guide dogs have helped Blaedorn lead a productive and happy life ever since he totally lost his eyesight in 1986. In the process, his dogs have become Lake Oswego icons.

Hoda got a big introduction on Wednesday when she accompanied Blaedorn at his presentation to the Lake Oswego Lions Club.

“They’re like grandparents,” DeMerritt said. “They can’t wait to see the new baby.”

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