Thursday, April 28, 2016

Out of the Tent, into our Hearts

Woke up Tuesday, thinking it was time to see if Dylan may be able to come home this week.  GDA does a swab to see if she is still in heat.  Chris had sent an email Monday asking when they were planning on doing this.  We got a phone call the next day and she was swabbed and she had passed.  YEA! She passed!!  No more "in heat" which meant we could come and get her.  That was about 10 in the morning.  Driving up through West LA, we made record time and only had to wait a few minutes for Dylan to be shown in by their handlers.  We were told she was in the spa in anticipation of going home.  In other words, she had a bath and was wet when she came in.

The video inclosed is how excited she got upon seeing us.  She about knocked me on my ass and ran around not knowing where to go first.

They told us she tolerated her 3 week stay very well.  It was exciting to think she really remembered us.

Staying close on the Sylmar Campus

Once home, she ran around, wanting to play with all her toys and torture Bailey and Maggie.  But she finally settled down and when I asked her if she wanted to "cradle" she went right into the cradle position and ended up snoring as her belly was rubbed.

Home sweet Home!

It was great to have her back!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Getting Satisfaction

Class 393 - The First Class of 2016

Today we went back up to Sylmar for the 393rd GDA graduating class.  Nine dogs with nine new graduates.  During the ceremony, each recipient of a dog gets to speak about their experience on the campus in Sylmar.  They spend 21 to 28 days with their new guide dogs and trainers.  How the trainers interact with them in a way that both the new owner and the dog learn how to work together.   Then the puppy raiser gets to speak a bit about how the puppy they raised had changed so dramatically from the tiny 8 week old puppy received 18 months prior to the confident dog now guiding these visually impaired folks.

The pairing of each takes on its own dynamic as fast paced dogs are placed with athletic or active people and older people are paired with, shall we say, less than over eager dogs.  The ages of the graduates, the people, varies from early teens to one graduate who is 81.  They come from all over the USA and Canada.  The dogs during this graduation varied from Black Labs, to Yellow Labs to a Lab/Retriever mix and lastly, a pointed ear dog commonly called a Shepard.  German Shepard's, having been so in-bred in the past, have now started to be reintroduced back into the guide dog world.

Speaking of confidence, one of the graduates spoke directly about that.  How the GDA trainer gave her so much confidence while she was on campus that in the three weeks they were together her whole world changed and her own self confidence blossomed for her.  This was even without the guide dog she had just received.

I wish you could all be a part of this.  You can if you want.  Go to this link: and read what incredible things are accomplished.   You will also see pictures that better illustrate more that any pictures I could have taken.  They even have a live "puppy cam" that allows you to see the new puppies with their moms.  All of this is done without government funding.  All money raised by GDA are the direct results of donations or sponsorships.  I hope you will consider becoming a part of this, even if its by purchasing a harness for one of the graduate dogs or biding on a silent auction item to help raise funds.

But, if you ever get a chance to observe a graduation, and they are open to the public, I know you will be like me, crying with tears of joy and the satisfaction that comes with helping others.

We hope to have Dylan back with us by the end of next week.  We could not see her today as all the staff were busy with the graduation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Counting Down the Time.

Dylan kisses
Tuesday we went back out to Sylmar to once again visit Dylan.  This is just the second time we have been out there and it gets a bit hard to see her, play with her, rub her belly, get kisses and then have to leave.  She barks and cries when we leave.  But, its what you do and we try to remember its only for three weeks and only about 10 days are left on her red tent sentence.  So I thought I'd show you a few pictures of this visit.

It is great to see how excited they get when you show up.  But then you realize its only for a short visit.  Luckily, dogs don't think in linear time and time is not the same for them as it is for people.  Doesn't make it any easier for the people, however.  You enjoy the time you have and just love them the best you can.

Happy to be with Mom.

There were a few others in the kennel and they were eager to see what was going on.

Note the red canopy....

Looking to see what all the commotion was about
We were happy to hear that Dylan was eating well and seemed to be adjusting to her short stay.  The techs who volunteer there are great and you can tell they so love these dogs.

All meat burrito and tacos with cheese.

I made the decision to drive back through the Sepulveda Pass which takes you through West LA and right onto the Venice off-ramp.  Two quick lefts and we're at Tito's Tacos in Culver City.  

Had too!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Visiting the Red Tent

In her temporary tent
Chris and I made the trek up to Sylmar today to visit Dylan.  Getting there is really a pain.  You have to either drive through downtown, up the westside through Mulholland, drive just east of downtown up the 5 and past Dodger Stadium or go through Pasadena.  With opening day today for the Dodgers (hope they won), we left a bit early and missed the heavy traffic up the 5 but came back through Pasadena.  Traffic sucked, but it always does in L.A.

You have to call ahead to arrange your visit and then check with the area leaders to see if anyone has a puppy that either needs to be dropped off or picked up or if there is medicine to be picked up or a leash that was left.  It's a common courtesy for all puppy raisers to do this because of the traffic.  We did the latter two.  Picked up medicine and a left leash.  We were hoping that one of the puppies, Bravo, was out of heat and we could bring her home, but the stars were not aligned and she was still in heat and in the red tent.

We arrived around 11:30 and were lead to the area where they keep the females in heat.  To say Dylan was happy to see us would be understating her response.  She peed all over herself and ran around for 15 minutes.  It looked like she had grown or filled out or something in just the 6 days since I left her.  She just looked bigger.  Once she settled a bit we played and played and gave her some treats and played some more.  We worked in a couple of sit/stay and down/stay commands just to be sure she had not forgotten everything we had taught her.  The treats helped.  The staff there are great and make sure you have all the time you need to see and interact with your puppy.  We took up one of Dylan's toys but really didn't need to as they have a bunch of toys there.  Plus a swimming pool.  Pretty cool!

When it was time to leave, we put Dylan back in her kennel area and left.  She seemed ok and didn't cry or bark.  However, I made the mistake of leaving the toy we brought and instead of just leaving it, I went back in to retrieve it.  BIG MISTAKE!  When she saw me again she would not stop barking and cried like crazy.  Damn, I should have left the toy.  We plan on going again next week.

Some pictures of our visit:

Happy to see us and wanting to play

A few sit/stays and down/stays

Some more play time

Doing the frog...

Trying to get a selfie with Dylan.  Forget it!

At our area meeting last night, we agreed to puppy sit this weekend for Jefferson.  He's a 17 month old Lab who is being turned in for formal training in May.  That is a big milestone and we all are hoping he makes it through formal training to become someones guide dog.  That's what its all about!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Heat is on!

Four days away from Dylan's evaluation and a 5 day stay in Sylmar has just become history.  Barking at every dog who comes within a sniffable distance from her, licking like crazy at the swollen area that we don't like to talk about has confirmed our fears; Dylan has gone into heat.  It's like Dylan got a memo: how to get out of your evaluation.  Now normally, you lock up your dog, like they used to lock up daughters during a Viking plundering, but this is no normal situation or dog for that matter.  GDA is very specific about this.  Dogs that go into heat stay a minimum  of 3 weeks.  In a kennel by themselves with no toys or blankets or binkies from the raisers.  No other dog visitors.  Nothing to remind them of life on the outside.  It's like solitary confinement for no other reason than they are like women who are going into that red tent.  We men are such ass*****!

Our hope is Dylan doesn't forget every command we have been working on so hard for the last 6 months.  Chris and I will get to go and visit her and even play with her in a confined isolated area.  So, until then, not much will be shared unless GDA decides to share something with us.

A last bit of fun in the sun before weeks of solitary.

We'll stay tuned and hope you do as well.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


On the bus, ready to go.
Saturday was Service Animal Training Day sponsored by the Orange County Transportation Authority.  They allow all service animals and their trainers and friends to ride for free on busses to and from Disneyland.   Now, GDA dogs had to be a minimum of 10 months old.  Dylan, just 9 days shy of that cut, was allowed to go.  So off we went with our area leaders Nancy and Brian along with their dog Morgan and a raiser I had not met, Mary and her dog Asia.  Mary and her husband have raised 16 dogs for GDA in their 16 years with this organization, but their claim to fame is bringing on board Nancy and Brian to GDA 13 years ago.  We were somewhat miffed that therapy dogs were included in this exercise.  Therapy dogs, by law, are not allowed to enter places like buses, stores or restaurants, but are allowed in homes, hospitals and schools.  I know this, our Maggie was a therapy dog for 4 years.

We all met at the ARTIC, which is across the way from the Honda Center in Anaheim. ARTIC being an acronym for; Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center.  In the old days we would call it a train station.  There with hundreds of dogs of every size shape and breed, we checked in. We then set out in an articulate bus towards Disneyland.  The idea being that we could ride for free, get on and off as many times as we wanted so the dogs would get used to riding public transportation.  The blind depend largely on public transportation to get around.  I thought that's what the plan was, but we road non-stop to the park and walked towards the entrance, through a security check and on towards Downtown Disney.  Being the end of spring break and a Saturday, the place was crowded very early.  Dylan was in a world she had not seen or been a part of before.  She was stressed.  Loud music, legs and feet coming from all sides and too many dogs to smell made for a taxing 30 minutes as we walked along.  Brian sensed this and took over walking Dylan and said it was time to find a quite place to sit and chill.

Brian, chilling with Dylan
We walked a bit further and came upon the Leggo Store and posed for another photo.

Beauty and the Beast and also characters from the play.

Then a place to snack at the New Orleans coffee shop for beignits and some chicory coffee.  

Morgan in the back, Dylan resting on Asia and feet.  
This photo gives you a hint what the dogs got to view all morning. 

Going back was a nightmare, as we had to go through security again and the lines were 100 people deep.  Finally making our way through we decided to skip the on and off portion going back and just get the girls back to the car and home.  So all in all, I learned what Dylan looks like when she is stressed.  What to do in this event and realized that you can over stimulate your dog to the point that it can harm them.  

Besides that, I learned it will be an ARTIC day before we ever take Dylan to Disneyland.