Iva Ray: Woman’s Best Friend

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photo by Clarissa Moreno

LIGHT Counselor Karen Gordon with Iva Ray

Hannah Majerczyk, Reporter

The room was quiet and dim. A small animal sat under a desk, waiting patiently for its cue to get up. Her name was called, and she knew she could get up and say hello to the new visitors. Her name is Iva Ray.

LIGHT Counselor Karen Gordon chose to adopt a golden retriever because she wanted a big dog for protection.

“We decided to raise puppies for the Guide Dog Foundation,” Gordon said. “The way that works is they had to do a background check, so it was like adopting a child. We were approved, and we got to pick whatever dog we wanted to.”

As soon as the Guide Dog Foundation puppies are born, they are chosen and trained to become official guide dogs. Gordon chose a puppy named Iva Ray.

“Within a couple of weeks they had Iva Ray on a plane from New York, and I went to the airport and picked her up,” Gordon said. “She was 8 weeks old. During that year we had her, we worked on basic obedience and went on outings.”

Gordon said the guide dog rules are very strict.

“I have to feed them what they tell us, and I could only teach what we had permission to teach them,” Gordon said. “But one thing Iva Ray always did that I didn’t teach her, was when I would open the kennel, she would always put her paws on my shoulder.”

Once a guide dog turns 1 year old, the dog goes back to the foundation.

“When I was saying goodbye to her at the Guide Dog Foundation, I was crying and acting like a fool,” Gordon said. “But I squatted down on the floor to give her a hug, and she put her paws on my shoulders.”

A Forever Person is a blind person who receives a guide dog from the foundation to keep them safe. Iva Ray graduated and was assigned to help the blind.

“Six months later, they called me and said, ‘We matched Iva Ray to her Forever Person,’” Gordon said. “It was a woman, and it turns out that the woman’s name was Loran.”

Iva Ray experienced a life-changing incident while doing her daily job as a guide dog.

“Iva Ray and Loran were at Wal-Mart one day, and the store had just buffered and washed the floors, so she slipped and fell,” Gordon said. “It damaged [Iva Ray’s] confidence, so she’s now afraid of shiny floors. When she’s coming up to work with me, the floors are shiny while walking down the main hallway, so we walk very slowly. Iva Ray doesn’t even wanna leave my office; I keep my lights dim so [the floors] don’t seem so shiny.”

Because Iva Ray developed a fear of floors, Loran decided to retire her. As a result, Gordon was given the chance to adopt Iva Ray from Loran.

“I had to go through the whole thing like it was an adoption,” Gordon said. “I had to sign paperwork and everything, so now she belongs to me.”

Iva Ray had no activities to keep her busy once she retired. Therefore, Gordon made an effort to keep Iva Ray happy by giving her a job.

“I really felt like she was getting depressed, so I decided to have her registered as a therapy dog,” Gordon said. “We had to go through classes. I had to walk her through a series of tests, which I knew she would be great at, and got her registered as a therapy dog.”

Gordon and Iva Ray also do volunteer work to keep Iva Ray busy.

“Iva Ray is also a registered R.E.A.D., which is an acronym for Reading Education Assistance Dog,” Gordon said. “So kids who are learning to read, and have problems and struggle, can read to Iva Ray, and she doesn’t care if they read it right or not. She just cares that they read to her.”

Iva Ray has impacted Gordon’s life. Gordon now sees dogs in a new light.

“Before I started training dogs, I was never really a dog lover,” Gordon said. “Iva Ray changed that part of my world. I became a dog person, a real, big time dog person. She changed the way I looked at all creatures and the importance of all creatures on this earth. If there are no dogs or animals in Heaven, I’m not interested.”