Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dazed, Confused but Victorious - Check!

Graduating with honors!
Tuesday was a tough, but rewarding day.  It actually started Monday night.  Being of the age where certain medical procedures are required, I had to prep for a colonoscopy.  Now nothing is less descriptive than the solution required to prep for this procedure, GoLytely.  I don't think so.  After starving all day, eliminating all night, I had my colonoscopy at 11 AM on Tuesday.  Tuesday night was also the final obedience class for Dylan where all the dogs are tested and graded.  Getting home around 2:30 with the those wonderful drugs they give you to go through this procedure, I was naturally a bit woozy.  The class started Tuesday night at 6:15, which came way too soon, but I was going to press on.  As soon as we got there, Dylan was restless and inattentive.  We had no warm up or the ability to watch a few run throughs when we were called to be tested.

First was the figure 8.  Start in the middle and go around two cones placed about 8 feet apart without correction or verbal commands other than "heel".  Dylan started out wide and was sniffing the ground the entire time.  We lost points.  Then came the "stand for inspection" command.  Dylan stood and as I walked away, and in my somewhat altered state, I started with my left leg.  WRONG!  Dylan started walking with me because I did not start with my right leg.  She broke her stand and we lost points.
We did some heeling and about turns and she sniffed the ground like someone had scattered kibble all over the ground.  No points lost, but I knew she could do a whole lot better.  Then came the sit stay for two minutes and the down stay for three minutes.   All the dogs are lined up in a straight line, told to sit/stay and then told to down/stay.   It was like the light came on and she was at her best.  She did not budge the entire time as dogs were breaking all around her.  She was one of only two dogs to pass both these tests.

The finally tally showed Dylan was best in class with only 4 points lost out of a possible 200.   She pulled me through just like I know she will pull her new owner through when the time comes.  What a great finish to a less than great day.

Chilling' after a tough obedience final.

I have to say though, she is still a puppy and what do puppies do when not in your sight and left all alone to their own devices?  

They eat your check book...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Westminster! What's your reason?

Tuesday night after our obedience class, we sat down to watch the Westminster Dog Show.  Watching this show does three things for us.  We love hearing what the different dog breeds are bred for.  Hunting, herding, etc!  Two, the outfits the handlers wear.  I know it's petty, but we are amazed at how ugly some of those outfits are.  It definitely is form over style.  And lastly, it always reminds us of the movie, "Best in Show".  A classic improv movie that never gets old.

What we didn't know, but found out, was that Dylan became bewitched watching the dogs parade around the arena floor.  She didn't bark, but just stared in wonder and wagged her tail at each dog that was shown.  Watching the hound group, she could not take her eyes off the TV.  When the terrier group was on, she could have cared less.  We figured these small dogs held no fascination for her.  The herding group came on, and again, she was transfixed on the TV watching these dogs go through their paces.

What's this, dogs on TV?

Play Ball?  Not when I can watch this!

Ooh, Elk Hound time.

Nice form!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Dylan at 8 Months

Dylan reached 8 months old on February 11.  Her weight is now 50.1 pounds.  According to our GDA guide book Dylan should be able to accomplish the following:
Dylan at 8 Months
  • Sit when asked 100% of the time with distractions present.   Well, this does happen but there are times that I have to coax her with a gentle tug on her training collar.  
  • Down when asked 100% of the time with minimal distractions present. Dylan's downs are almost too easy.  She gets lazy sitting and goes into a down.  Then she likes to roll over and have her tummy rubbed.  (this is not in the manual) and a big no-no!  I need to stop being her accomplice. 
  • Demonstrate a good foundation to the "formal recall or come" 50% of the time.   The "formal come" is when the dogs comes towards you when called and then goes to your left side, does a u-turn and sits at your left side.  She does this most of the time on leash.  Off leash, she wanders a bit and then forgets I called her.  
  • Come to her name off leash 100% of the time with medium distractions.  This is not an issue in the house.  Outside is a completely different story and is troubling when she is playing outside and when called, ignores you completely.  Argh!
  • Demonstrate a good foundation of loose-leash walking.  Walks rather well on a loose leash, but likes to race ahead.  When she does this, we do a quick about turn.  But it still has not sunk in yet.  We'll keep working on this one.
  • Responds to obedience commands when given by someone other than the primary raiser.  This is another opportunity for us to get better.  I have been doing most of the obedience training, but Chris tells me that when she works with her, she does well.  
Dylan also spent three days at the Sylmar kennel over Super Bowl weekend.  Kennel stays are most important for these dogs so they get used to going there, staying there and not become stressed when they are dropped off by the raisers.

We are also in the fifth week of obedience training with Long Beach Recreation Dept.  When I get frustrated working with her, I'm brought back to reality when I see how the other dogs in this class behave.  She has two more weeks of this training before she graduates and is doing rather well.

So that's the latest update.  Not perfect, but not totally ugly either.  She still likes to steal Chris' bras, slippers and tea towels off the stove.  She also likes to chew on toilet paper rolls, so we have to keep the bathroom doors closed.  And, we have lost two pairs of reading glasses.  Well, not really lost because we found them.   They were just chewed beyond recognition.   

Bailey walking in front of Dylan as I try to capture Dylan's picture.

Dylan demonstrating a "down" with minimal distractions.

Not to be outdone, Bailey goes into her down.  (with ball)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Following our Lead

Thursday, Chris took Dylan to St John Fisher School in Palos Verdes.  There she met with their 5th grade kids to talk about Guide Dogs of America and the process our dogs go through.  The good news for Chris, these kids were reading about guide dogs and were about half way through "Follow My Leader".  A book by James B. Garfield recounting how an eleven year old looses his sight from a fire cracker accident and his adjustment of living blind and learning to work with a guide dog.  As eleven year old 5th graders, this book had special meaning for them.

Regardless if the person is blind at birth or later in life, the recipient of a guide dog has quite an adjustment to make.  At GDA, they spend a month with their dogs.  This is after the dogs go through a year of formal training and the blind person learns to walk with a cane.  There are dorms set up on campus in Slymar to learn how the dog responds to them and how the people respond to the dogs.  It has to be a perfect match or the dogs are matched up with another person.  Or if it's a problem with the dog, say an attention issue or health reasons, the dog is careered changed.

To set up an example as blind person, one of the students was given a puzzle to put together.  Sighted, he took about 7 seconds.  Blindfolded, in those same seven-seconds, he couldn't put one piece of the puzzle together.   In another example, the blindfolded kids were given paper money.  How can you tell the denomination of paper money?  They're all the same size!  A blind person folds their money a certain way to help them know the difference between a $20 and a $10 bill.  Now a guide dog wouldn't help here, but the adjustment needed was not lost on the kids as they saw how difficult it is to be without sight.

Putting the puzzle together blindfolded was not easy.

Dylan was accompanied by Bruno, a one year old Black Lab puppy in training.  Any day you can spend some time with a puppy and learn something too, is a good day.  Our hope is one day, they will volunteer to be a puppy raiser for GDA...teaching how to "Follow My Leader".

The 5th Grade Class at St. John Fisher School with Bruno and Dylan