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!!!!