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Bikers ride to support Guide Dogs of America

Posted: May 18, 2014 10:22 p.m.
Updated: May 18, 2014 10:22 p.m.

Guide dog Spirit relaxes on the grass in front of Old Road Harley-Davidson on Centre Pointe Parkway in Santa Clarita on Sunday as bikers come and go around him at the Guide Dogs of America Rides for Guides event.

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Guide dogs in yellow vests and bikers in black leather met Sunday for the 11th Annual Ride For Guides to raise money for Guide Dogs of America.

About 500 bikers rumbled out of the Old Road Harley-Davidson parking lot on Centre Pointe Parkway Sunday morning, setting out on a 100-mile return road trip all in an effort to raise money for the training of guide dogs to assist the blind.

“What’s not to love about this? It’s guide dogs for the blind,” said biker Michelle Ahrens, who participated in the event with her husband, Dave.

The Ahrens, of the West Coast Weasels motorcycle club, made the trek from their home in Thousand Oaks.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Dave said. “It’s a great event for a good cause.”

The whole point of the dogs and bikers event is to benefit Guide Dogs of America, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1948, located in Sylmar, which breeds, raises and professionally trains guide dogs, then provides them — free of charge — to blind recipients.

Lorri Bernson started the annual “Ride for Guides” 11 years ago, wanting to help raise money for the costs of raising and training a special breed of dog that could assist those who cannot see.

“I’m blind,” Bernson said, holding onto the leash of her guide dog, Carter.

Bernson became blind in 1995, she said. She was matched with her first guide dog, Nigel, in 2002.

“When I received him (Nigel) my life changed,” she said. “When you lose your sight, you lose your independence. “There’s not a lot you can do on your own, safely.

“I trust them more than I trust people,” Bernson said about guide dogs. “Every time I leave the house, is an ‘ah-ha’ moment because I don’t know how many open manhole covers I’ve been steered away from.”

Sunday’s 100-mile ride — which cost each biker either $25 or $30 depending on when they bought their ticket — included lunch and a raffle ticket.

Guide dogs and their handlers manned five pit stops along the ride route.

At 9:20 a.m. Sunday, handler Dave Mckenzie and his dog, Augie, headed out to their post at the #2 pit stop on the Angeles Crest Highway.

“Everything’s good,” he said about the event.

Husband and wife handlers, Jeff and Debi Jewell, and their golden Lab, Spirit, picked their way among bikers lining up for raffle tickets and those perusing the raffle items.

“We definitely need more puppy handlers,” Debi told The Signal. “You’ll see about 50 dogs here today.”

Handler Nancy Feldman called guide dog training a “win-win” situation.

“If they make it as guide dogs its a win and if they don’t, it’s a win because they become available (as pets),” she said.

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