Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ringing in the New Year

2015 ends and we sail into next year with Dylan planning on going to obedience training in January.  This should be fun as working with Dylan at home with just Bailey to distract her, her attention span is very good.  We shall see how it holds up with 10 or 15 other dogs all just learning to sit, stay and come.

Christmas was quiet and I give our darling little girl high marks for ignoring the Christmas tree.  Not once did she take an ornament or drink from the water bowl below the tree.  Luckily, there wasn't a squirrel hiding out in the tree, and Snots was nowhere to be found.

My better half suffered mightily with sciatica and still is in pain.  Of course this came about December 24th.  You realize that when doctors take the holidays off, and I'm sure they deserve the time off, the only other option is urgent care or the ER, you are hosed.

But, all in all, the time spend with family and friends was fun.  Dylan is progressing and ever worming her way into our hearts.  If all goes as planned, she will be going back to GDA sometime in November for her formal training.  Lots to do until then and I'll keep you all posted on her progress.

Happy New Year to you all.

Party on Dude!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Graduating Feeling of Acceptance

Saturday, GDA held their final graduation for 2015.  Five dogs making the grade and being awarded to 5 owners.  The owners come from all over the U.S.  Texas, Colorado and California were represented this day.  All of these current new owners have previously had at least one guide dog, some 2 or 3 dogs.  Usually, after about 5 years, guide dogs are retired.  (at no cost ever to the recipient)  So after 18 months with a puppy raiser, 4 to 6 months with a professional trainer and being paired with their new owner for 3 to 4 weeks, it was time to celebrate.  Puppy raisers from all over Southern California come to graduations.  Not just those people who have dogs that are graduating.  Also present are dog breeders, who along with their male and female dogs, make for a fantastic site of dogs and people.

Now we get asked all the time, "How can you give up your dog after raising them for 18 months?".  Well, if this graduation is any indication, it is not easy for the puppy raisers.  After turning in your dog for advanced training, you are not allowed any physical contact with the dog.  Upon graduating, the raiser and the recipient with their dog sit onstage together, each telling their story of acceptance.  One of accepting their new guide dog, trusting completely their new canine friend, and being eternally grateful to the raisers and GDA for their gift.  On the other side are the raisers stories of knowing that by accepting their roll as a puppy raiser, they have made a tremendous difference in someone's life.  More than one raiser told of learning so much more from their puppies and this experience then they ever dreamed possible.   There weren't many dry eyes that morning.

A potluck followed the graduation.  Eating with a lump in your throat was not easy.

Chris with Dylan who is getting big!
Our area leader Nancy with her puppy, 7 month old Morgan.
Our newest puppy Link, a Shepard, with raiser Dave.
Why we do what we do.  Graduation Day!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Going off to College

Thursday, Chris took Dylan along with 6 other puppies in training to the campus of USC.  Setting up at the Disability Services and Programs inside the Grace Ford Salvatori Hall, they were there for a very important service.  This past week has been finals week and these puppies provide stress relief for the students.  Now you may ask yourself, why would kids need this service?  Well, if you have ever been to college or had to participate in a stressful event, there isn't anything I can think of that will relieve that stress better than a puppy.

Waiting for stressed out kids.

Just a touch makes all the difference.

The smiles say it all.

No stress here!
Having participated in these events with Maggie at UCI and at Chapman college, I appreciate how much this means to the kids.  With finals just about complete, it's almost time to "Party on Wayne...  Party on Garth!"

Friday, December 11, 2015

Looking Back - Dylan at 6 Months

All puppies are cute.  Even the ugly ones that win those "most ugly dog" contests start out as cute puppies.  Which brings me to our puppy, Dylan!

August 6, 2015 is when Dylan came into our home and our lives.  Born June 11, 2015 from a breeding stock of Labs that become some of the most important canines in our society.  Four yellow and four blacks, all with the potential to make a difference.  They guide the blind, making their lives more normal and giving love as only dogs know how to, unconditionally!

During our time with Dylan, she has learned commands to sit, stay, down (on most occasions), heal and of course LEAVE IT!  She has taught us when she needs to get busy by jumping on us or heading for the back door.  Currently,  we're working on the formal "come" and even that is showing promise.  The formal come is when the dogs comes to you when called, Dylan Come!  She circles outside and comes to your left side and sits.  This is taught so when the blind person needs to put on their dogs harness, they come to the same side and position each time.  No easy task for a puppy of six months to learn with just a one word command.  At times when she is wearing her "in training" vest, she performs wonderfully.  Other times she is in La La land and frustrates the heck out of us!  Acting like the adolescent she is, forgetting everything and stubbornly doing her own thing.  (CIP)  Consistent, Insistent, Persistent keeps ringing in our ears.

So at six months,  I thought I would go down memory lane a bit and recap our time with Dylan so far.

Like I said, puppies are cute.

Puppy Breath

Meeting her canine sisters Bailey and Maggie.

Meeting her "big sister" Erin.

Her human cousin, Kelsey.

With Bailey, looking for that ball.

Doing what she seems to do best!

Freeze Frame!

Bringing joy to a classroom.

Meeting the outside world.

Sit! Stay, command.

Meeting Lorrie and her guide dog Carter.

One Sudsy Dog!

Ready for that parade.

I hope you have enjoyed our blog about raising Dylan.  As much as we hope to teach her, she is the one who is teaching us.  To be tolerant and persistent in our goal to make sure she graduates as a guide dog. Leading a person from darkness into light.  I can think of nothing more noble coming from our puppy Dylan.  The next year should be one exciting time.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Parade Time

With Morgan and Dylan
The Downey Christmas Parade was Sunday and GDA has marched in this parade for the past 20+ years.  Our contingent consisted 19 dogs from 6 month old puppies, (our Dylan) up to 14 month old dogs almost ready to be turned in for advanced training.  There were also a few breeder dogs present with about 30 people there too.  Puppy raisers, friends of puppy raisers and breeder owners made up the human contingent.

The morning started with breakfast at Hometown Buffet.  All the dogs had on their working bibs with Christmas garland.  Quite a site when 19 dogs parade in as we paid and then found our tables with the dogs being told to sit under the tables while the puppy raisers meander thru the 8 buffet offering stations.  Without any incidents from our dogs, we all enjoyed breakfast and then made our way up to Downey.

Once there, we had to walk about a mile to the staging area and then wait for the 1:30 start of the parade.  Of course, right in front of us was a drum band and they were busy practicing while our dogs were going a bit crazy from the noise.  Behind us was a Salsa dancing group who were playing Salsa music and practicing their dance moves.  Quite a site

When the parade started, we were all in a group forming a Christmas tree walking down the parade route.  That lasted about 30 seconds then it was every person and dog for themselves.   But, they all settled in and we paraded down the street waving to people and having a grand time.  The dogs were great!  Sitting when we stopped and keeping pace when we, well strolled down the parade route.  When we passed the grand stand, the announcers read about who we were and gave us volunteers kudos.  We got a loud ovation for our service.  Then the dog I of was walking, Morgan, decide it was time to poop.  An even bigger cheer went up for us as I stopped and scooped up the poop and went on our way.  Dylan was being led by Chris who both did a fantastic job.

Then it was a short walk back to our vehicles and quiet ride back home.  Dylan was really tired but all in all it was a fun day.

Chris and Dylan at the staging area

Under the table, being so good.

Waiting patiently at Hometown Buffet

Dave with Morgan and me with Dylan

Ready to walk up to the staging area
Which way did they go?
Can we go home now?
One tired puppy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Training Day

Our first obedience class

Obedience Day!  GDA is really insistent on making sure the guide dog puppies and their puppy raisers attend obedience training.  Both inside the GDA campus and by signing up for an outside class as well.  A few Saturday's ago, Chris and I drove out to Sylmar to attend Dylan's first obedience class.  They run the classes by the dogs age.  Our age group were the 5 to 8 month old puppies and their raisers.  Now you need to understand that many people have raised multiple puppies for GDA over the years.  This was our first!  I also understand why they keep coming back to raise more puppies.  There were about 20 dogs, all 5 to 8 months old with their family of people on a grassy slope under the pine trees. You would think this an ideal setting for an obedience class.  Think again.

Facing the wrong direction, this black lab was a button pusher.
While the instructor was telling us all about how dogs get to their raisers and know how to push all the right buttons to get their way, every dog there was eating pine cones.  Pine cones are not on their diet.  You heard a cacophony  of "leave it" the entire time.  Every dog there was antsy, fidgety and disobedient.  The instructor even took a puppy from one frazzled raiser and showed us how to keep the dog from pushing our buttons.  (they make it look so easy).  Dylan was not impressed and kept finding more pine cones to eat.

"Leave it"
Then we went on a walk around the campus, where they had placed items to distract the dogs while following in a line-up of puppies, all distracted by the items they placed there to distract them.  Dylan seemed to be in a hurry to lead this group as she would not slow down and kept racing in front of me to lead this merry band of pups.  Stopping only long enough to sniff out the distracting agent (leave it) and then racing to the next one.  Needless to say, I was not doing a good job in keeping her in line.  To the point that I asked one of the staff there to help me.  She took Dylan and as Dylan raced to lead, she would yell the command "heel" and do an about face.  She did this about 10 times.  I'll say this, Dylan is as hard headed as she is cute.  Handing her back to me saying, "That's what you need to do."  Ok then!

A merry line of pups.

"That's what you need to do"
So most of the day was spent training the puppy raisers to be more obedient in training their puppies.

Chris and I did discover one important fact at obedience training day,  every puppy raiser there expressed the same doubts, fears and insecurities in doing a good job in raising their dog.  Every staff member there told us what a great job we were doing.  I guess that's why they keep coming back.  That and it is a great program.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sudsy Dog

Today we took Dylan for a bath.  Since acquiring her in August, she has been living the life of Riley or Dylan if you will; lounging, eating, playing with just a bit of obedience sprinkled in.  Dylan only had a bath the day before we picked her up from GDA in Sylmar but since has been bath free.  Nancy, our area leader, recommended we take Dylan to Sudsy Dog.  It's a "do it yourself" dog salon.  They provide everything you need to bathe your dog.   Also, the owner has raised two guide dogs and gives puppies in training a special rate of just $10.  We couldn't pass that up, so off we went.

The facility is very neat with 5 bathing stations.  They provide shampoo, conditioner, face wash, ear wash and brushes to comb out your dog.  More importantly, they provide rubber aprons to keep you dry.  Also towels and a blower to dry your dog, of which Dylan would have nothing to do with as it was way too loud.  So I just showed it to her and let her sniff the hose, finally being able to turn it on and point it at her from about 3 feet away.

Some of the other dogs were not happy to be there and let everyone know by howling and/or crying while their owners tried to hurry along to get them done and out of there.  Dylan didn't cry, or howl.  She did try and jump over the wall to escape, but afterwards was pretty calm, all things considered.

This isn't too bad!

Get me outta of here!

We also learned a valuable lesson from the owner.  While trying to get Dylan use to the blow dryer, she was cowering away and Chris, like a good mom, was telling her, "it's all right Dylan, its ok" and cuddling her.  The owner told us that by doing just that, we can instill in the dog that if there is anything that she doesn't like, she will look to us for comfort.  A blind person is not able to do that.  
Instruction comes from many places.  We just need to be aware and raise Dylan like we are blind.  

Easier said than done!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Meeting a recipient!

Monday was our monthly meeting with the South Bay Puppy Raisers and we had a guest speaker.  Lorri Bernson is a spokeswomen for GDA.  Lorri is blind from childhood diabetes and is now with her second dog, Carter.  Carter is a Lab/Golden mix and is in the 80 pound range.  While listening to Lorri, I understood how special these dogs are and how important puppy raisers are to the program.  Lorri has been on different local news shows spotlighting GDA and service dogs in particular.  Just last night, she was on KNBC news talking about how people who are not really disabled are using the ruse of their pet being a service dog.  ADA is for "people" with disabilities, not for dogs to be taken everywhere for their owners pleasure.  Unfortunately, it really puts people with true disabilities in the awkward position of sometimes having to prove to shop owners and others that they have a service dog and not a therapy dog.  Here is a link you can copy to see this story.  Also, about 56 seconds into the story, our Dylan is shown with our puppy sitter Georgia.

Lorri has a sense of humor that puts everyone at ease.  Her stories about sighted people's interaction with her were hilarious.  For example, while talking on the phone to a customer service rep, the rep discovered Lorri was blind and complimented her by saying, "you don't sound blind."  The other is a common mistake people make when greeting blind people whom they know.  "Hi Lorri, how are you?"  She said,  "I can play 20 questions, but it's easier if you identify who you are."

Us with Lorri and her guide dog Carter

The other topic discussed was fund raising.  GDA supplies dogs free of charge to their new owners.  The cost of training just one of these dogs is about $42,000.  And, as many as 50% of the dogs don't make it due to a number reasons; temperament, distractibility and sometimes health reasons disqualify these great animals.  

Our night was a great insight to GDA and the many puppy raisers here in SoCal that made our commitment in doing this even stronger.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Get Down on it!

Today is my day with Dylan.  Chris is out playing golf with her girl friends and my job today is work with Dylan.  At 5 1/2 months, Dylan is way ahead of any puppy we have ever had.  She's smart, stubborn, and inquisitive.  All the things guide dogs are supposed to be.

Smart; she sits and waits for her food with me saying Sit...Stay!  Labs by nature are voracious eaters. She knows food is worth sitting and waiting for.  She does this just about every time.

One focused Dylan
Stubborn; if she gets an idea in her head, like being determined to pounce on Bailey, you can't stop her.  She's going for it.

Pounce time!

Bailey responds with a head lock
Inquisitive; when she sees something new, she studies it, without barking or charging at it.  That's what happened when we went to the pier and she saw a seagull and pigeons for the first time.  Not one time did she bark.

Pigeon time at Seal Beach Pier
So what does she need to work on?  Following through on commands!  That stubborn part of her seems to take hold when you want her to go from a sit to a down position.  The one time command is, Dylan - Down!  After the command, and she is NOT doing it, you take her lead and give it a quick jerk downward from her chin.  Not a pull, but a quick jerk.  She's still upright.  So then its to see which direction she is leaning while she is sitting.  Then nudge her slightly in that direction until she falls over.  Then you praise the heck out of her.  Good job Dylan, good DOWN!  I seem to be saying this in my sleep.  We, as puppy raiser, are taught one command said one time only.  Remember C.I.P?  Consistent.  Insistent.  Persistent.  And don't get commands confused.  OFF is the command when they jump on the sofa.  Down is when you want them to lay down next to you.

So I'm off to work on her downs.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

No day at the Beach.

Our job as puppy raisers is to expose as many different situations to Dylan as possible.  Even if it means having to take her to the beach, walk on a boardwalk and watch waves roll in.  Tough job, I know.

The fun part is seeing how Dylan reacts to new stimuli. While there, huge earth movers were building sand berms to keep out an impending high tide due later this week.  Then of course there are other things that are totally foreign to Dylan.  We had waves crashing into pier pilings, fishermen casting lines, families with strollers, all new to Dylan.  Under normal circumstances, your puppy would be going crazy.  What's so special about these dogs is they cannot go crazy.  They have to guide their human safely to their next destination.  When she is wearing her vest, we both can see she takes this job seriously.  So should puppy raisers.  That is the tough job.  Knowing you have a puppy, but you have to put that out of your mind and do your best to socialize and make your puppy obedient by using love, not threats.  Our group leader Brian says it best.  C.I.P.  You have to be consistent, insistent and persistent.

Walking the boardwalk on Seal Beach Beach pier 

Checking out the earth movers.
Pigeons, so close, yet so far.  
Maybe not a day at the beach, but we will continue to our best!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Just visiting with Rugby and Rosie

Monday, Chris took Dylan to our daughter Erin's class room.  Her class was reading a book about guide dogs called "Rugby and Rosie" and what better example than to show them a real one.  Even if Dylan is still in training, her kids loved seeing and touching a real guide dog puppy.

Even the aides got some Dylan loving'

Thanks to Erin for letting us share Dylan with her kids.  Both young and old!