Dec 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone

We are not a church going family, but we do try to go on Christmas Eve.  So, last night, Joey got to experience his first church service.  We walked to the church just down the street from us.  We were unknowingly lucky enough to catch the service where the Sunday School class puts on their Christmas pageant.  Joey was quite a handful in the church.  He would not just lay down and sleep like normal.  He was wide awake and wanting to play.  He would lay down on command, but then roll over on his back and try playing.  I am trying to keep his legs and tail from hitting the people in front of us.  Even with all his playing around, I don’t think anybody but the little boy sitting directly in front of me even knew he was there.  When we got to the candle lighting near the end of the service, Joey threw me a curve.  Everybody had their candles and the ushers were coming down the aisle lighting the candles at the end of each row, then we light our candle from the person next to us.  I didn’t think it would be a good idea to hold a candle with Joey acting up like he was, but he suddenly settled down.  I lit my candle, but then we had to stand up to sing Silent Night.  I stayed sitting to keep better control, but Joey was finally sitting quietly.  I tried standing, and of course Joey thought it was time to get up.  He stood there quietly until I whispered “sit”.  I knew he couldn’t hear me, but he was watching me say the word and he sat.  Could it be?  I decided to take it a step further and whispered to him “down”.  He laid down exactly like he was supposed to.  Okay, it may not exactly be the Christmas miracle, but I sure thought it was at the time. 
My family hopes you all get to experience your own Christmas miracles today. 
Wishing you all happy holidays.

Dec 23, 2010

Christmas Pictures? Think Again

I was home with my two sons today when my wife, Cindy called from work and asked if we could come meet her for lunch.  The kids got dressed and we grabbed Joey's coat and went to eat.  We picked up Cindy and went to Chili's.  With Joey in an under, down, we enjoyed our lunch and discussed some Christmas plans.  Cindy told me when we got back home, to take some nice pictures of Joey in front of the Christmas tree with a Santa hat on.  Holy Great Expectations, Batman!  It can't be done!  We can take pictures of Joey, we might get nice pictures of Joey.  We might even get nice pictures of Joey in front of the tree.  But there in no way on earth that we are going to get any picture of him in a santa hat, let alone a nice one in front of the tree.  Even if I would Photo-Shop the restraints out of the picture, the potential damage to the tree and our house prevents me from even trying this ridiculous stunt.  But she was insistant on this, so we tried.  And tried.  And tried some more.  Joey would have nothing to do with that crazy hat.  I am not going to spend a lot of time trying to condition him to the hat.  OK, Joey, relax.  I put away the hat and grabbed some reindeer antlers on a headband.  I was able to get him to sit, stay with those on just long enough to back out of the frame while my youngest son Colby was snapping pictures as fast as he could. 

                                                           I am so embarrased.

Yes, Joey, you do look ridiculous, but we still had to have the pictures. 
Before we had come home from lunch with mama, we stopped at a Walmart we hadn't been to before.  We got Joey back into his coat and walked on in.  I was surprised when I heard the greeter behind us trying to  catch up with us.  She was asking about Joey and I explained he was a guide dog puppy.  She was asking me about his collar.  She wasn't really making any sense, but was telling me that because they have food in the store, he has to have a special "medical" collar on.  After not getting anywhere with her, I asked to speak to the manager.   She then "let me off with a warning this time", but I better have the proper collar next time. 
I wasn't able to speak to the store manager while we were there, but I did talk to him on the phone later.  He assured me that was NOT the store policy.  He knew exactly who it was that gave me the hard time.  They have had this same problem with her a few times.  They train her in proper procedures, but she has her own ideas about service dogs. 
Don't worry Joey, that mean little old lady was just confused, it happens to a lot of us when we get old.

Dec 18, 2010

No, Not That Kind of Fleas

Joey had his first experience with a flea market today.  The first thing I noticed when we arrived, were the signs saying “NO PETS” .  Walking around inside, I learned that dogs that are sitting in baby strollers or handbags must not be pets, because they were everywhere.   We always seem to run into people that know all about SEGD or know people with guide dogs, and today was no exception.  We met a lady who’s sister was on her 2nd guide dog and another who’s friend tried raising a SEGD puppy.  She said her friend just wasn’t physically strong enough to control the dog, and wasn’t emotionally strong enough to handle bringing it back for training.  She still wanted a dog, and wanted to help, so she adopted one that didn’t make it thru training, and is also a dedicated puppy hugger. 
Then, there were the people we meet the most; the ones wanting to pet Joey and ask all the questions.  But today, nobody asked if they could pet him.  They just reached out to him without warning.  Now Joey has a way of backing up just a little before sitting, and it really helps in this situation.  When somebody reaches out to him, I tell him to sit and he backs up just out of their reach, and sits.  That gives me a few seconds to allow the petting or explain why they can’t.  Joey is nine months old now, so next month is when we will have to stop all petting when he is in his coat.  We are starting to break the petting routine now, but still allow it occasionally.  There was a little girl there today who obviously needed her nap.  She wouldn’t stop crying until I walked up with Joey and asked her if she wanted to pet him.  Joey became a therapy dog for a few minutes and loved doing it.  I think her mommy and daddy loved it too. 
I was surprised by a question I was asked a few times today.  People came up and asked “Is he a mean dog?”  Duh, see the coat?  Yea, guide dogs are all trained killers.  Duh, black labs make pit bulls look like baby bunnies. 
Joey, I think your size is starting to be intimidating.

Dec 6, 2010

Joey, Put it Away

Yesterday our puppy raiser group met for our holiday social.  It was at the home of one of our raisers, Tina.  She has two labs of her own, besides the puppy she is raising, and a nice fenced yard.  There were about a dozen dogs there running around playing.  Most of the time they chose the muddiest part of the yard to do their playing and rolling around.  We were trying to keep the dogs from running inside when the door was open, but Tina was saying to just let them go, it was okay.  We all had a wonderful time, dogs and raisers alike, and planned our calendar for the next year. We also previewed our group's new website, which Tina is creating.  She was a wonderful host.  By the time we were leaving, the golden retriever looked more like a black goldadore, the yellow lab looked like a black lab, and the black labs and goldadores looked like-- well, they still looked like black labs and goldadores.  And Tina's house looked like a dozen dogs had played in the mud and then ran around in the house.  Sorry Tina. 
Joey surprised me today with an act that I want to classify as a sign of how smart he is.  I was sitting at the computer and he dropped something in my lap.  It was a bow from the Christmas tree.  The ornaments and bows he had been taking before were always chewed up under the dining room table.  He brought me this bow intact, without a sign of any tooth marks.  It was as if he was telling me that he wouldn't chew up any more, or at least asking me if this is what he was not supposed to chew.
There is one command we have been working on that isn't in the book, but if he learns it well, it could be the next greatest thing for a guide dog to learn.  Joey likes to take his blanket out of his kennel and drag it around the house.  He is now learning to "put it away".  When I give the command, Joey is to put it back in his kennel.  He is actually learning it!  When he does it well enough, I will start using the command for his toys.  Just think of the possibilities!  A dog that picks up after itself.  What next?  Well, I did see a kitty litter kit that teaches cats to use a toilet.  Hmmm, I wonder---------

Dec 2, 2010

Ode to Joey

Remember when I wrote about Joey chewing up a couple ornaments?  Well, he hasn’t learned to leave the tree alone yet. 

Notice how the bottom half of the tree looks pretty bare?  Not too many bows or plastic candy canes down there anymore.  I don’t know how such a big clumsy puppy can be so stealthy and get them when we aren’t looking.  But, we did manage to catch him in the act a couple times and apply timely correction.  He has now gone two full days without touching any. 
Another SEGD puppy blog, Rudy’s Life;
is having a little contest right now to write a dog themed Christmas poem.  I have been trying to get into creative mode and come up with something to submit, but not surprisingly, I am a lousy poet.  Here are some of the ideas that are kicking around in my head.

Twas the night before Christmas----No, that’s been done to death.

Oh Christmas tree oh Christmas tree
Your branches are so barren
They were so full and brightly lit
Until the ornaments got bit……..

Joy to the world
Our tree still stands
Our puppy loves it so.
He likes to chew the ornaments
and garlands into fragments
Then he crawls underneath to sleep…..

Joey the guide dog puppy
Had some very very big paws…….

Listen my children and you shall hear
of the Christmas puppy.......

So far my favorite is;
Deck the kennels with nyla-bones
Bow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow wow
Hey,  NO NOISE!!!!

Nov 28, 2010

It's Not the Cold, You Know......

We thought Joey might enjoy some cooler weather, so we took a short trip to Kissimmee to the Gaylord Palms resort to see their “Ice!” display.  This is a big indoor ice sculpture display kept at about 9 degrees.  No, that is not centigrade.  That is walk-in freezer cold, Back home in Nebraska or Ontario cold.  Cold enough that they warn you NOT to lick the ice.  Everything in there but the floor is made of ice.  They give you a parka when you walk in, but hat and gloves are your own responsibility.  I figured that if Joey showed any sign of being cold, I would just take him outside.  We weren’t inside for more than a couple seconds when Joey went totally nuts!  He was jumping up and down like a rabbit, and even squirmed out of his guide dog coat.  We were trying to get his coat back on and found out that he did not like the gloves we were wearing.  We finally got him calmed down and he was just fine thru the entire exhibit.  I made sure I knew exactly where his tongue was at all times.  He is extremely fond of ice cubes and here we were, surrounded by millions of pounds of it. 

 I don’t think Joey ever knew it was ice, I wouldn’t let his nose get very close. 
He didn’t show any signs of being cold while we were in there, but when we walked out into warm air again, he went nuts again.  It took longer to calm him down this time.  It became pretty clear to us that it wasn’t the cold that bothered him, it was the sudden temperature change.  Once we had a normal dog again, we saw Santa Claus was visiting Kissimmee today.  Well that saved us another trip to the mall.  We were able to get our boy’s yearly photo with the great bearded one.  Only this year, we had one extra face in the picture.  Joey IS part of the family. 

He was just great with Santa.  The costume didn’t seem to affect him at all, it was just another person that he wanted to have pet him.
After a walk out to the car to put away our purchases from the gift shop, and to let Joey “busy” and have a drink, we headed back in for the “Snow” exhibit.  This was definitely a waste of money.  Anyone in central Florida considering going to this resort to see these exhibits should skip “Snow”.  “Ice!” is worth the admission, “Snow” is not.  Since we were already in there, we made the most of it.  Joey loved the snow.  He got to walk around on it, stood under the snow machine, and best of all, was able to put his nose in it. 

I was so worried that the snow might confuse him about whether he was inside or out.  There were signs warning people not to eat the snow, but they didn’t include the word “yellow”.   My worries were all for nothing, as Joey maintained his professional image.  Of course, there wasn’t a big temperature difference in here; only normal room temperature cooled down just a little by having all the snow in there.  If Joey ends up in one of the northern states, I hope this exposure today helps him get thru his first winter. 
To sum it all up, one dog, plus or minus 70 degrees, equals crazy rabbit.  Add gloves, equals confusion.

Nov 27, 2010


We are decorating the house for Christmas and Joey has shown a great interest in everything we are doing.  There are lots of lights and shiny things, musical things, jingle bell things, smelly candles, six foot soldiers, three foot Santas, oversize nutcrackers, Christmas village, and of course, the irresistible Christmas tree.  Now, years ago, we had two dogs that loved Christmas trees.  One of them in particular loved confined spaces, and would constantly crawl under the tree.  She would forget how big she was when she was ready to get up, and the tree would get knocked over.  Joey started trying to crawl under just once, and got stopped.  He hasn’t tried again, yet.  He does love the ornaments hanging there right in front of his face.  I kept him on a leash when I first let him approach the ornaments and he sniffed them, but left them alone.  But, just like a bank robber that goes into a bank a few days before he pulls a heist, Joey was just casing the joint.  He patiently waited until he was off his leash and we had our backs turned.  Next thing we knew, there was a hunk of chewed up plastic laying on the floor near the tree.  I don’t know if he pulled it off the tree, or if he happened to knock it off with his tail before chewing it.  I put him back on leash and walked him back and forth by the tree and he completely ignored it.  Later, we found another chewed up.  We need to do some more work on this. 
Joey had another first today.  We had just walked out of the mall after a short shopping trip and I took his coat off to let him “busy” before getting in the car.  He sniffed around a little bit, got right up next to a bush and proceeded to lift his leg.  Southeast Guide Dogs wants us to discourage male dogs from lifting their leg to pee.  I gave him a sharp tug on the leash to move him away from the bush.  The leg came down, but nothing else stopped.  He took a couple steps, but by the time he caught his balance enough to squat, he was finished.  Finished?  Yea, finished all over my flipflop!  I guess I caught him by surprise when I jerked that leash during his “private moment”.   A big milestone in the development of a male dog and I had to shut it down.  Sorry Joey, but you are still a big boy, even if we have make you squat. 

Nov 20, 2010

Kinda Hot for That, Isn't It?

The Old Town HOGS Poker Run was today at the Harley Davidson dealer in Brandon.  The dealership and the Harley Owners Group put on a great event to raise money for the “Paws for Patriots” program at Southeastern Guide Dogs.  My sons and I took Joey to get some good exposures for him, and to help the public understand what the program is all about.  Now I personally was never interested in owning or riding a bike, so they were last thing I was interested in looking at.  I wouldn’t have any idea what I was looking at anyway.  Shovel head, knuckle head, phillips head, they all look the same to me. I probably learned more about motorcycles from watching the TV show “American Chopper”, than from anything else.  And like a lot of people, I only watch that show for the dysfunctional family dynamics.  I can admire the craftsmanship of a beautiful custom bike, but I would have a hard time determining what parts are customized and which are stock.  I just don’t know enough about them.  I would feel a lot more at home at a MOPAR muscle car show. 
But, I had a great time talking to everybody about guide dog puppies and answering the inevitable questions about “How can you possibly give them up?”
My young sons were looking at the cool stuff at the silent auction, and checking out the Wing House girls.  The girls would come over and ask if they could pet Joey, and of course I would say yes.  They would bend over in front of me and I would feel my wife slap me in the back of the head, even though she was at work miles away and I wasn’t looking, honest I wasn’t!  My wife, Cindy, is the bike fan of the family.  When we win the lottery, she will be looking at Harleys while I am looking at boats or finding a real cherry hemi Cuda or Challenger.  She was heartbroken when she had to work today instead of coming out here. 
I got to meet some puppy raisers from the St. Pete group, but the puppy I really wanted to meet wasn’t there.  I wanted to meet meet a black lab named Elvis.  Joey and Elvis have the same sponsor and I was hoping to get a picture of the two pups together.  Elvis, if you are out there, lets do lunch sometime. 
I had a great time and all the people were wonderful.  But why are they all walking around wearing black leather jackets, vests, and chaps when it is 80 degrees? 

Nov 14, 2010

Nice Warm Campfires

Had another campout with the Cub Scouts this weekend.  This time we went to a wilderness park about an hour away from home.  Joey should have had some good exposure to deer while we were walking around, but he was too interested in the sticks and acorns we were walking over.  He never looked up long enough to see the deer we encountered.  By the time I could get his head up, the deer would be gone.  He did get to see some armadillos.  He would see them before they could see him.  As soon as Joey would change position to get a better look, the little armored gophers would spot him and turn away into the trees. 
This time, Joey got to experience a camping tradition he didn’t get at the previous campout; campfires.  Last time, he was in the tent with mommy while most of the kids and parents were sitting around the fire.  This time, I was still nursing the last days of a bad cold and stayed close to my tent and my own little fire while everybody else was at a big central campfire.  Joey loved sitting at my feet and at times was fascinated by the fire.  We stayed close enough to the fire to keep the skeeters away from us, but far enough to keep Joey from sticking his nose on the metal fire ring, or waving his tail over it when turning around.

Joey accompanied me on a little excursion to pursue a hobby I have not spent much time on since getting a puppy; geocaching.  This is like a high-tech easter egg hunt.  We use GPS coordinates to find small caches hidden by other people.  These are usually ammo cans or other waterproof containers with small toys and stuff.  If you see something in there that you (or your kids) may want, you take it and leave something else in it’s place.  No matter what else may be in the cache, there is always a log book to sign with your distinct username and date you found it.  I was hoping that Joey’s hunting dog heritage and keen nose may help me find them.  He didn’t get to  help me too much.  One cache was in a big pile of dead timber that I had to climb around in after tying him to a tree.  Another one we just couldn’t find.  It was too well hidden I guess.  Joey’s fascination for sticks, leaves, and acorns overpowered his search for human scent on a tupperware  container hidden in the woods.  Or, maybe I am just not capable of recognizing his reaction when he does get the proper scent.  I guess I will forget about trying to use him as a tool, and just stick with having him as a companion out on a nice hike.

Nov 4, 2010

You Said We Were Going to a Party

 Nov 4

On one of our walks a while back, Joey and I went down a small dead-end road that I had never been down before.  Near the end of the road, a group of peacocks crossed the road in front of us and congregated in the front yard of a house.  Yesterday, we found ourselves going down that road again and the peacocks were still there in the same yard.  Joey’s hunting dog heritage was prominent, as he watched them intently, but never broke stride on our walk.  A small tug on the leash easily got him turned back to the front, but only for a couple seconds.  He liked watching them.  As we walked, I started wondering if a flock of peacocks had a distinct name, like a gaggle of geese, covey of quail, or bevy of swan.   At home, I went on-line to do a little research.  I found a group of peafowl, (peacocks are male, peahens are female) is called a “Party”.  It can also be called a muster, pride, or an ostentation. 
I always ask Joey if he wants to go for a walk and ask him where he wants to go.  This morning we went back to see the party of peafowl.  Yep, there they were, in the same yard as always.  Across the street, a man was working in his driveway.  I stopped and asked him if the peacocks were pets, or a wild flock that just seemed to have adopted that yard.  He told me that several years ago, the old Ukranian “Dr. Doolittle” that lived there, fed a couple that somehow wandered into the area.  Nobody knew where they came from, but they never left. 
The guy I was talking to said he had seen us walk down his road before and asked me if Joey was a guide dog puppy.  Joey was not in his coat, so the question took me by surprise.  He said he thought so by the way Joey walked that specific distance ahead of me on a slack leash.  Then, when we were talking, he could see that Joey was still a puppy, and not old enough to have been career changed.  He also noticed how well behaved Joey was and that I put him in a sit when the guy asked to pet him.  I asked him if he had raised a guide dog puppy before.  He told me his daughter and son-in-law had raised a bunch up north. 
Joey, your cover has been blown.  People that know guide dog puppies can recognize you quickly.  But don’t worry about it, it’s a good thing. 

Nov 1, 2010

Joey---- little kangaroo?

I have been spending a lot of time recently out in the back yard, trimming trees, pulling weeds, etc.  Joey is enjoying this cooler weather outdoors.  I made a mistake when I picked up a stick and chucked it toward a garbage can I was using for yard waste.  Next thing I knew, that same stick was laying by my feet again and Joey was shaking with excitement.  I picked it up and threw it again and he took off after it.  He ran about halfway to it, then started hopping like a kangaroo.  I threw it a couple more times and he did the same thing, running halfway, then did the kangaroo hop.  He was having too much fun with that stick, so I went inside to get a kong toy.  He ran after the kong, but didn’t do the roo hop.  I tried holding on to the kong and threw the stick again, and the roo hopping came back.  Threw the kong-- he just ran.  Threw the stick, Do the Roo!   I figure that he only did the kangaroo hop with the stick, because it didn’t bounce around after it landed.  The kong was still bouncing around different directions when he was running after it.  I guess the roo hop makes it too hard to concentrate on where it is going. 
I don’t want him to get too fixated on the stick, so I only throw the kong now.  I know there will be plenty of sticks around if I want to see him Do the Roo again. 

Oct 23, 2010

Meeting the Graduates

Oct 23
We had a wonderful puppy raiser meeting today at the SEGD campus.  We met some graduates and the special people at the other end of their harnesses.  The people shared their stories with us and answered our questions about how they work with their dogs.  This meeting was particularly special for our family because one of those persons holding the harness of one of the graduates was Joey’s sponsor.  We got to spend some time with Jimmy and Stefanie, and their vizsla, Rusty.  It was weird to see that Joey is now a little taller, and outweighs Rusty by several pounds. 
Although we didn’t work our puppies at all at this meeting, they got some very important experience with “under, down”.   They stayed under the tables for three hours, a fantastic accomplishment for all, considering their very young age.  OK, so the collie was a little vocal for the first part of the meeting, but she quieted down very nicely after a while.   The discussions were very interesting and informative, but there were a few people anxiously watching the clock, wanting it to be over.  Who could blame them?  They were picking up their new puppies as soon as the meeting was over.  We now have two more goldadores in our group, one black, and one gold.  The rest of the group will be anxiously awaiting the next meeting to meet the little cuties.
Meanwhile, back at home, Joey is still growing larger by the hour.  We see him growing several different ways.  He lays on the floor in front of the couch.  When he stretches or rolls over, the couch gets pushed back against the wall.  I found one of the small nylabones we got him the first day.  I gave to him yesterday and in a few seconds, he bit it in half.  When he is getting a drink, it sounds like we now have a horse in the house.  He walks away from his dish leaving a big enough water trail to float a canoe across the kitchen.  OK, I admit, THAT one is a slight exaggeration.  But the others aren’t.  At the SEGD open house last month, one of the trainers commented that Joey had “quite the off-road package”.  (For those of you not familiar with that term, it means oversized tires.) 
Now, something that most puppy raisers and other people that just love dogs, can relate to. Joey loves ice cubes.  Did I say “loves”?  I mean he “LOVES”  ice cubes.  I think he could actually rip apart a cooler or tear a hole in his metal crate to get to an ice cube.  The sound of the ice dispenser in our freezer door would be able to wake him from a coma.  Now that Joey is big enough to easily reach the dispenser, I know it is only a matter of time before he figures out how to get his own ice.   We have the lock-out feature on it, but I want to see if he actually does start to get his own ice before we use that. 

Oct 10, 2010

Joey's First Campout

Joey had a very exiting weekend.  Our son had a Cub Scout picnic Saturday, so some of the scouting families took the opportunity to do some camping at the park.  I took Joey to the park Friday morning to get the campsite set up.  He did not enjoy being tied to a tree while I attempted to set up our giant tent by myself.  Our boys were in school and couldn’t help me.  Joey was very eager to help.  He kept jumping back and forth at the end of his rope, trying to get to that tent and show me how much he could help, if I would just allow him to.  I managed to get the tent up under his watchful eye, and then the rest of the campsite.  After he was satisfied that the campsite was set up properly, we went for a nice looooong walk around the park.  Then, we headed home in time to pick up the boys from school.   We got back out to the camp in time to cook dinner, and then sit around the campfire waiting for mom to get off work and join us around . 
We had a portable kennel for Joey to sleep in while in the tent, but Cindy thought he would be just fine on a blanket in the middle of the floor.  She took Joey inside and let him explore every inch of our huge three room tent.  One of the cub scouts chose that moment to run past our tent and of course, Joey took off after him.  Now, this is Joey’s first camping trip and he is about a half second away from learning about bug screening in tents.  Thank goodness he didn’t get a chance to build up any real speed before he hit that screen.  He just bounced off the screen.  By the time Joey figured out where he was, the kid was gone.  He sniffed around the doorway a little bit, watching for any more kids that might appear, then trotted over to his blanket and laid down.   
Saturday at the scout picnic, I was giving a demonstration on camp cooking for the new scouting families.  So, Joey was back on his rope, just out of my demo area.   Cindy came over to get him and take him for a walk in his coat.  I have been his primary trainer and he does pretty good with me, but won’t behave for anybody else.  So, Cindy is starting to work him more.  He takes one look at her at the other end of the leash and he thinks it is play time.  When she puts the coat on him, he knows he has to get down to business and he is easier to handle.  There is a big difference in our strides, but Joey doesn’t recognize that yet.  He tries to walk at my stride when he is with her and ends up pulling ahead too much.  Not a big problem; by the end of their walk he seems to be doing very well.  Saturday night I took Joey on a night walk around the camping area of the park.  I realized something I never thought about before on our walks.  Speedbumps.  How is Joey supposed to handle speedbumps?    I have just been walking over them without thinking about it until I tripped on one in the dark.  Will he be taught to handle them just like a curb after he is in for training?  Do I need to walk him around them?  This is a question I will bring up at our next puppy raiser meeting. 
On Sunday morning we packed up and headed home.  Everybody, including Joey, got a nice bath to remove the several pounds of camp dirt and smoke we were covered in.  We got to relax a bit before the puppy party scheduled for later in the afternoon.  A member of our puppy raiser group, Tina, invited us all over to her house with our puppies and personal pets.  The dogs had a great time running around in the fenced yard.  I figured it wasn’t a party without balloons, so I blew up a bunch and started tossing them in the middle of the riot.  The kids were all ready to rush in to pick up popped balloons before they could be eaten.  Most of the dogs ignored the balloons completely.  Joey played with a couple of them, but lost interest quickly.  None of the dogs showed any fear when the balloons were popping.  They got their exposure to balloons, but were much more interested in each other.

Sep 30, 2010

Not the Letter We Were Hoping For

I got all excited today out by my mailbox. There was a letter from SEGD.  Could this be the letter we have been anxiously waiting for?  The letter that will put an end to the raging hormones running around our house disguised as a dog?  The letter that will save our young sons’ virtue?  The letter that will put Joey one step closer to becoming a real guide dog?  PLEASE, let this be the letter telling us to take him in to be neutered!  I didn’t tear into it like a madman out on the street, I maintained a degree of decorum while I was out where the neighbors could see me.  Once I got in the house, I tore into that envelope like Joey trying to get a treat out of his kong toy. 
I got the letter out and unfolded.  I started to read.  I heard somebody screaming “NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOO”!  It may have been me.  My youngest son, Colby, asked me what was wrong.  It must have been me.  I looked at the letter again.  I read it very slowly and carefully, but it still said the same thing.  Joey is being considered for the breeding program.   
Now of course we are very proud that Joey is special enough to be considered to sire offspring for SEGD.  We are happy to do our part in raising him to do what ever they determine is best.  Joey is also very anxious to do his part.  We just have a personal preference to see him actually bring light into somebody’s dark world.  Yea, yea, I know he could help a lot more people by having pups as great as he is, but we are selfish.  We want to see him help just one. 
Congratulations, Big Joe.  You get to keep them for a while longer.

Sep 16, 2010

Slip Sliding Away

Joey is so much fun to watch around the house these days.  We have been making a few design changes, one of which, really affects him.  We have removed the carpeting from the living room, dining room, and hall, and installed hardwood flooring.  I think you can picture an energetic six month old puppy, especially one as big as Joey, suddenly deprived of the traction properties of carpeting.  It is almost like the old cartoons, where he runs in place for a few seconds before he actually starts moving.  Now we get to the old physics law that states that an object in motion, stays in motion.  That law is providing a lot of entertainment right now.  We see a big black blur sliding across the floor, appearing to be back-pedaling til it slams into a fixed object.  Non-fixed objects, like Cindy or the boys coming home from work or school, tend to fall over when he slams into them.   
Since we have the new flooring, we have to install new baseboards, which, I have learned, means we have repaint the walls.  Joey just loves to check out that funny smelling stuff in the trays, and since he seems to have his own version of a paint brush, he is spending more time on tiedown or in his kennel.  But then we go out for longer walks while the paint dries, so it all works out OK for Joey. 

Sep 8, 2010


Sep 8
Joey is six months old today.  He is weighing in at 72 lbs, so the size estimates I am seeing on-line are scaring me.  I have looked at different formulas, and they seem to agree that his adult weight will be around 144.  All the websites are very careful to mention that these are only estimates, but it does seem clear to me that we need to start calling him "Big Joe". 
We know that SEGD's goldadores always come from male goldens and female labs, but we have heard that they are considering breeding male goldadors with female labs.  If this happens with Big Joe, I can envision a line of very large dogs.  Probably not in the best interests of SEGD, unless they are planning on creating personal protection guide dogs for blind celebrities and heads of state.  Or, adding a riding stable for the kids after they come for the puppy hugging.  Not to mention the females that would have to carry his pups!
What I am getting to, is that we want to get that letter telling us to get him fixed.  Of course we would be proud if he was eventually selected as a breeder, but we would rather see him fully trained and be somebody's first guide dog.  We want him to change somebody's life.  And, it would be great to put an end to those raging hormones running rampant in our house.  The kids aren't safe getting down on the floor to play with him.  And he wouldn't be so distracted by little miss Ellie, the beautiful nine month old golden in our puppy group.

Sep 5, 2010

A New Sheet For the Doggy Bed?

Sep 5
Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and our oldest son cooked a beautiful dinner for us. The table was fully decked out with candles and ------------------------------------- wait for it------------------------------------------------a tablecloth. Everything was great last night, but this morning the tablecloth and candles were still on the table. Joey got very curious about the fabric hanging down and decided that it would be much easier to lay on if it was on the floor. I think it would be very easy to picture what the scene would have been like with a fully set table (and the good china). We were lucky that there was only the candelabra to be knocked over.
I am a little surprised that it took almost four months before Joey saw a tablecloth. But, having two young sons, we very seldom set the table that fancy. The holidays are still months away. And, having the boys, we almost never go to the finer dining establishments where they cover the table instead of just wiping it down.

Aug 27, 2010

Puppies, Attention!

Aug 27

I don’t know if I could ever be as proud of Joey as I was this morning. I took him out to watch the Honor Escort for Marine Lance Cpl. Nathaniel J.A. Schultz, who was killed in Afghanistan. He was flown into MacDill AFB and came thru Brandon on the way to Riverview. Joey sat next to me on the side of the road as the procession approached. He looked extra sharp in his blue coat. As the police cars approached, he focused his eyes on them and didn’t move a muscle. Then, just as the hearse got to us, he stood up. He stood there not moving, watching the hearse, the Patriot Riders, and the rest of the motorcade pass by. As the last police car was passing, he sat down again.
Joey had stood at attention to honor a fallen American! How could he not? His sponsor is a combat wounded Marine and a guide dog user. I am retired US Air Force. Joey somehow understands the way we feel and he paid his respects appropriately.
Now, most people would say he probably was just fascinated by the flashing lights and flapping flags, but I know better.

Aug 4, 2010

Take Off--- To the Great White North!

Aug 4
Joey’s trip to Canada started out with some fun. He was a true professional in the airport until we went thru security. There was a very long line, but we were ushered around to the front. They had the new body scanner working and it was really slowing things down. We were taken to the old standard metal detector. We were asked to remove Joey’s leash and have him go thru by himself. So, Cindy went thru first and then called Joey thru. Joey stopped halfway to check out the detector. BEEEEEP. Joey comes back to me to try again. Cindy calls him and I hold onto him until he is really anxious to get to her. I let go and he goes straight thru without stopping, tail wagging like crazy. Tail touches the detector and----BEEEEEP. The security guard started to have us send him thru again, but the supervisor came around from the x-ray station and said he would pat him down. We think he just wanted to play with Joey cause the “pat down” was more playful rubbing then anything else. We finally got thru and were putting our shoes on when we met a  friend of somebody else in our puppy raiser group who was flying out on a different flight. She had watched the security fun and had to come over to talk to us.

We flew into Atlanta and one of the wonderful Air-Tran supervisors escorted Joey and Dave out onto the ramp to a grassy area to let him “busy”. While boarding the connecting flight, a lady saw our SEGD Puppy Raiser shirts and was telling us how she has been a supporter of SEGD for years. We were already seated and Joey was under the seat, so she couldn’t really see him, but she made sure to find us at baggage claim after the flight so she could meet him. Joey was very good on the planes, just laying on the floor sleeping the whole way. Well, we thought he was sleeping. He was head first under the seat with his butt sticking out by our feet. Suddenly the lady in the seat ahead jumped and let out a little scream. Somebody was licking her ankle. Luckily, she was a good sport and thought it was very amusing.
We arrived in Buffalo, picked up our rental car and headed for the border. Crossing was as quick and easy as it should be, we just showed Joey’s rabies certificate along with our passports and we were thru with no problem.
While in Canada, we stayed in a little cabin on the shore of a picturesque lake and enjoyed the wonderful cool weather. Picture postcard type of wonderful. Joey experienced a few new things like a floating dock, (which didn’t faze him in the least), and the lake itself.

He enjoyed walking around on the rocks at the lakes edge, occasionally slipping in and getting a little wet. We also had him at a friend’s pool while the kids were playing in it. He kept running around the edge trying to play with them when the inevitable happened. It was an honest to goodness slip on the wet surface and the kids were quick to steer him toward the steps so he could get out on his own. So, we got a few new checkmarks on the exposure list.

On the plane coming home, we didn’t want a repeat of the ankle licking incident, so I tried to keep his rear under the seat, with his head (and tongue) out where I could keep an eye on it. Suddenly the people in front of us were laughing and trying to look under their seats and around behind them. That is when we learned that Joey’s tail is a lot longer than his tongue. Everywhere we went, people were very interested in Joey and the whole puppy-raiser idea. He made a lot of friends and made a lot of people smile.

Jul 23, 2010

In Memoriam

July 23

There is deep sadness in the Mihulka home this week. It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of "Squirrel", a very close, inseparable friend of Joey. Squirrel first came into the Mihulka home on May 29th, 2010 as a gift from Joey's sponsers, Jimmy and Stefanie Lannon of Sarasota. Squirrel's death came after a short case of torn stitching, followed soon after by traumatic disembowelment. Survivors include two Nylabones, three Kong toys, and a green dental chew. Services were held at the home and the body was interred in a garbage can beside the garage. Squirrel will be deeply missed by Joey.

Birth Announcements

The Mihulka family happily welcomes a brand-new bundle of joy, Chipmunk.
Born 7/23/10, the little cutie weighs in at 1.1 ounce and is 10 inches long. (not including tail)  Joey welcomed him with open mouth.

Jul 11, 2010

Road trip!

July 11

We had a great trip back to Nebraska. We drove this time instead of flying
Joey was just wonderful in the car. He laid on the floor either playing with a chew toy, or just keeping up with his beauty sleep. We stopped in St. Louis and took him to the top of the Gateway Arch. You ride to the top in what can only be described as a big clothes dryer. We got a great picture of Joey looking out the window at the top.

Then, it was on to Nebraska.

We stayed at my dad’s house while we were there. The first morning after we arrived, I was sitting at a table with Joey next to me. He started nosing around under the china cabinet. He had been nosing under there the night before, so I got down to find out if something was down there. I didn’t see anything, so I ran my hand in the carpet and felt something small. I picked some up and looked at them. They were small green pellets, MOUSE POISON. Dad had picked up all the poison trays before we had arrived, but the vacuum didn’t reach far enough under the cabinet to get some of particles that had been spread under there. I got on the internet to do some reading on the subject. Joey had to go outside to busy right about then, and I saw that his poo was bright green. There was no mistaking that he had eaten some. It was too early for the vet office to be open, so I called the emergency number. The doc assured me there was no cause for alarm, but I did need to bring him in that morning. I brought in a tray of the poison, and a poo sample. The vet examined them and confirmed that he had eaten enough to be dangerous. She gave us some medication to counter-act the poison. Joey is and will be just fine.

On the way back home, we spent some time in Tennessee. We went to an old working farm that is kept the way it was back in 1860. Joey got to meet some pigs and chickens, but was really fascinated by the horses. But, he is getting to be a true professional, and with just a slight tug of the leash, he is off to see what else there is to find. Joey also got to go in the Ruby Falls cave in Chattanooga. As we met other tour groups in the cave, people were always surprised to see dog in there.

When we got home, he quickly found his favorite toy, which we intentionally did not take on the trip with us. We knew the constant squeaky, squeaky, squeaky, in the car would have driven us crazy. This favorite toy is now a very sorry looking squirrel. He brings it to us and whines, trying to get us to play tug-of-war with him. That is one thing we can't do. For a more timid dog, tug-of-war is good to help the dog gain some confidence, but Joey already knows he is the best. No matter how much we love him and want to spoil him, we have to remember that his destiny lies in another direction. So far, his training has been a dream. He is a very smart dog. Nothing seems to faze him. Oh sure, he notices everything around him, and he will turn to look at things when we are walking, but just a slight tug on the leash puts his focus back where it should be. The only problem area seems to be whatever is laying on the ground. He will snatch up small sticks, leaves, litter, anything that is in his path. I am constantly jerking the leash up to keep his head up away from the ground. I hope that as his legs grow longer and his head is further away from the ground, it will get easier to stop him from grabbing everything.

Jun 18, 2010

Not your average puppy day-camp

June 18
Joey was out at Cub Scout day camp all week. He got to be around a couple hundred screaming kids. On the first couple days he was tied to my camping trailer and had his portable kennel sitting in the shade. But, he preferred to lay under a tree and insisted on trying to dig. I was busy teaching a cooking class for the boys and couldn’t be right there to stop him every time, so I pulled out a piece of outdoor carpet we use in the tent and layed it down so he couldn’t dig. Then he insisted on laying under the trailer. He didn’t want to stay in the kennel. I put him in his coat for the flag ceremony at the start and close of each day. Today, for the last day of camp, the boys had a big water gun fight against the camp staff. I ran Joey around in the middle of the fight and let him get wet and he was able to get some of the boys wet when he would shake off the water. Also, today was a big milestone for Joey. Maybe not in his training, but it was important for his self-confidence. He jumped into the front floor of my pickup completely on his own with no assistance. You could really see the look of satisfaction on his face.

May 31, 2010

I'm going to Disney!

Took Joey on an overnight trip to the Wilderness Lodge in Orlando. Joey went up and down lots of stairs, including some that were semi-open. Lots of elevator rides, walking over steel grates at the doors, and up and down ramps. Lots of walking on boardwalks and over small foot bridges. We rode buses, boats, and the monorail. Nothing phased him at all. Even the fireworks going off in the evening were totally ignored. Once in the monorail, the door warning chimes made him lift his head and look around, but after that one time, he ignored it. He is fascinated by anything laying on the ground. It should get easier to control that as he grows and his face is a little further away from the ground. He spent a lot of time laying under the loungers at the pool. Even the geyser going off every hour was ignored. In one of the restaurants, A waitress dropped a tray of dishes and made a very large noise, but he never flinched. At another meal in the hotel, the servers got very loud as part of their western characters, but he didn’t pay any attention to them. Only when a waitress was dancing very close to our table, did he start to scoot a little closer to where she was. Once he is laying under that table, he ignores everything . But, we haven’t dropped any food yet.

At Downtown Disney, they have little water jets in the ground that little kids play on. I got Joey standing near one just waiting for it to go off. He happened to stand directly over one just as it shot him in the belly. But, he barely acknowledged that he got wet. He met a lot of people that were interested in petting him. I swear to god I will probably scream the next time I hear anybody saying “AWE” !

I was worried about him during the night in the hotel room. I knew we might have a problem in the morning trying to get him outside in time to “busy”. He was on a tiedown at the foot of the bed, not in his usual crate. I woke up in the morning hearing him playing with his toy, not with the whining I usually hear. I got him to the elevator, down the long hall, out the door, and to the grassy area. He took care of business in a very professional manner. There were ducks that he ignored, and leaves and flowers from the trees that he found irresistible. We realized in one of the hotel stores, that Cindy has to turn over the leash to me while shopping. All I do is hold everything while she does the actual looking at stuff. Cindy had Joey right by her side on a very short leash, and talking about him to a lady that was interested in the puppy raiser program when she felt something strange on her leg. She looked down and saw that he had grabbed a stuffed toy off a low shelf and was shaking it violently. She got him to turn it loose. It wasn’t damaged, but was very wet with slobber. She figured we just bought a toy, but the other lady said that it will probably dry off before anyone besides a little kid tries to touch it again. She tossed the toy to the back of the shelf and we moved on. Hey, Disney toys are ridiculously overpriced!

May 29, 2010

Open House

Went to the open house at the campus today. Joey was a big hit as he seemed to be the youngest puppy there. He did get to interact with a bunch of older dogs. We met Cathy and her dog Angel, from one of the videos on the website. But Angel did not like meeting Joey. She snapped and started to growl. We got them separated very quickly. Cathy explained that Angel had recently been attacked by a Chihuahua and was not too trusting of other dogs right now.
Then, we got to meet Joey’s sponsors, Jimmy and Stefanie. We got to share some stories and we hope to get together again.

May 11, 2010

The First Night

Joey’s first night with us didn’t exactly go the way we were expecting. We tried to keep him awake thru the evening, but it had been a very big day for him and by 8:00 he had transformed into a limp black rag doll. He was unconscious for the evening. At around 10:30 I had to carry him outside to “busy”, but he just laid there in the grass. I put him to bed in his kennel. Then the crying started. At first it was just a couple small whimpers lasting about a minute and a half. Then, the silence. Cindy and just looked at each other in disbelief. But reality sunk in as we realized he would wake up in the night and let all the neighbors know who he was. We waited for the inevitable serenade but it never came. Then, at 6:00 AM, he started SCREAMING. I think he had a paw stuck in the bars of the kennel, but had gotten it out by the time I turned on the light.

But, we were up for the day. About an hour after breakfast, Joey walked over to the sliding door were we always go out to “busy”, and sat down. He pawed the glass a little, but stayed sitting there. We took him outside again and he gave us a big present. Cindy and looked at each other in disbelief again. Could housebreaking him really be this easy? Did the puppy staff start the training? There were no accidents or even any close calls all day. We had our first exposure outing today. We went to the vacuum parts store where they had all kinds of strange smells of carpet cleaner. Then, we were off to Lowes, to get tie-down materials. But then, I decided to go to Ace Hardware instead. I almost always find what I want there, if Lowes or Home Depot doesn’t have it. It’s a smaller store with more personal service. Perfect for a new guide dog puppy. At both stores, Joey was perfect. He sat or laid right at my feet, stayed quiet, didn’t nose around at anything. No accidents. Also, Joey pays absolutely no attention to the vacuum cleaner. Who trained this dog before we got it????? This is too easy!

May 10, 2010

Puppy Arrival Day

At our PR (puppy raiser) meeting a couple days ago, they were talking about the group getting some new puppies during May and June. I was sort of disappointed, because the people waiting for puppies already had dates to receive them. We just had our home interview two weeks ago, so I knew I was still pretty low on the list, but it still hurt a little to be left out.

Last night I started getting the feeling that I would get a phone call this week telling me that a puppy was scheduled to come to us next month. This morning, the feeling was very strong that the call would come today. I was out with my wife Cindy this morning. We were just getting back in the car to come home, but the car next to us parked too close for us to open the driver’s door. So, Cindy was trying to crawl over from the passenger side. Then we heard the cell phone ring. She was pretty well stuck with her butt in the air, trying to get seated behind the wheel and cussing the phone for choosing that moment to ring. But, it was my phone, not hers. I saw the call was from our group leader, Rita, and I got pretty excited. Then she told me she had some good news. A puppy that was supposed to go to another group suddenly became available for us. We could pick him up anytime this week. An hour later, we were on our way to Palmetto to get him. Since we weren’t really prepared for a puppy yet, we stopped at Target and picked up some dog toys and other stuff.

We were very excited and nervous on the half hour drive to SEGD. We met our goldador, Joey. We found out he was one of the four puppies we were playing with a couple weeks ago when we brought my dad there for puppy hugging.

On the way home, Cindy drove while I had Joey sitting at my feet. Soon he was up on my lap, looking out the window and getting to know me. We got home in time for him to have some lunch and check out the house. Then I had to pick our youngest son Colby from school. I didn’t say a word to him about the pup. We got home and he went in to say hi to Mom, and saw Joey laying in front of the couch. He was speechless! Now I had a couple hours before our other son gets home, so I went out to get a cage, since they didn’t have one at Target. I had the cage set up in the bedroom by the time Brandon got home. Another speechless kid!.

Throughout the day, we were getting emails from our puppy raiser group, congratulating us and looking forward to meeting Joey. It seems that Rita had emailed the group right after informing us that we were getting Joey.

We had our first housebreaking accident while I was making dinner and Brandon was playing with Joey. I had just told him to keep a close eye on Joey, that he may have to go outside. It looks like our first outing tomorrow will be to the vacuum parts store to get our little spot bot carpet cleaner working for the first time in a couple years.

Joey has spent most of his first day with us just sleeping on the floor. The kids have taken him out for a couple walks, but he tires out very quickly. He walks very well on the leash, but doesn’t like going out the door.