Dec 7, 2011

Not Knowing is the Worst

Since Joey was my first guide dog puppy and he is still in training, I haven’t had the chance to experience everything a raiser can face.  Until now, I thought the hardest part of puppy raising was IFT day, when you take your not-so-little-anymore pup back to the school for the next phase of his life. This last week, especially the last couple days, have been pure torture.

With IFT day, you know when it is coming.  Not knowing what is coming, and waiting for news can be much, much worse. 

Joey is in the final stage of his training and could be matched with a student anytime.  I have heard that Southeastern Guide Dogs normally does not have a class in December because of the holiday season.  But there IS a class this month.  I look at this month’s students as receiving one of the greatest Christmas presents ever and I was hoping Joey was going to be one of those presents.  This month’s students were matched up with their dogs last week, but nobody outside of the school knows which dogs those are.  I know that occasionally, but not very often, a match just doesn’t work out and a dog may be returned to the training kennel and a replacement brought in.  Southeastern Guide Dogs will not let the puppy raisers know which dogs are matched for about a week, until they know for sure that every student and dog are the perfect match.  So any day now, hopefully any hour now, I will get a phone call or email telling me if my Joey is indeed part of this class.  Sometimes it is six days after they are matched, sometimes it is longer.  Of course, now that it is possible that Joey has been matched, it is longer.  Every hour of not knowing is agony. 

Well, I had to walk away from writing this post for an appointment. I came back home and found the email I had been waiting for.  Joey has not been matched yet.  The agony of not knowing is over.  Joey not being matched isn’t even a disappointment.  Even if he is ready to be matched up with a student, that guy just hasn’t walked through the door yet.  Yes, I said “that guy”.  I am 100% sure that Joey will go to a man.  He is just too big and too strong for most ladies.  Like Southeastern Guide Dogs, I want Joey to be with somebody that is a perfect match, not just the next one in line. 

Joey doesn’t understand the concept of Christmas anyway.  He will love anybody, anytime.  Unconditionally.  I love that about dogs.


Oct 14, 2011

Great Report Card

I just got Joey's progress report for September.  He is doing very well!
He is now in phase three- polishing and blindfold walks.  The comments by the trainer said---
"Joey was able to ride the bus this last month and we had a fun time trying to fit him on there since he loves to stretch out when he is in a settle. He has excellent obedience and very good turns. I can tell he truly cares about me because he is cautious when moving around obstacles and tight spaces. "
There is his extra large size coming into play. He is a big boy and can definately take up a lot of floor space when he wants to.  The only item not checked off on his report is the one that says " Accepts physical handling/grooming."  I know exactly what this means.  Joey has NEVER accepted getting his toenails clipped.  No matter what or how much I tried, he would not let me close to his feet when I had a clipper.  I would lay it on the floor next to him while playing with him, and work up to holding it in my hand while playing with his foot with my other hand.  But as soon as I moved the clipper toward his foot, he would pull away.  I tried getting him used to a Dremel tool, and the noise never bothered him.  But, if I got it close to his foot, running or not, the game was over.  The only successful method of trimming his nails was to use an emery board.  I even made my own Joey-sized one by glueing coarse sandpaper to a paint paddle. 
Even with the board, I could only get one paw done at a sitting.  He was just too fidgity.  But, Joey seems to be doing very well with his training.  I think if he was going to be career-changed, it would have happened by now.  It looks more and more like he is going to make it as a guide dog.  Keep it up, Joey.  Continue making us proud. 
In other news, our quiet house is back to what we have come to accept as normal.  We have another pup now.  For just over three weeks now, we have had another big black blur slipping and sliding around on the hardwood floors.  He is a nine month old lab named Mick, that we have taken over the job of raising.  He is a lot different from Joey, but we love having him.  But, his name is a bit of a problem.  I am sure that the Mick he was named for was a great person that meant a lot to somebody, but when doing obedience with him, I sound like a McDonalds commercial.  Mick sit, Mick down, Mick stay, Mick switch, Mick in, Mick out---go ahead, say it out loud and you will understand. 

Aug 20, 2011

Guess What Came Today

We hadn't received Joey's harness picture from SEGD yet and I had been anxiously awaiting the mail all week.  When I saw the mailman come by today, I immediately sent my son Brandon out to get the mail.  He came back in very excited.  I didn't realize that he had been waiting for this delivery as much as I was.  He showed me a birthday card that came for him from his godparents in Canada.  My spirits started to sink.  Darn!  Well maybe sometime next week.  After all, there are a lot of dogs going IFT all at once now.  It takes a while to take all the pictures.  Then he handed me an envelope, saying, "Oh, I think you were waiting for this".   It was from Southeastern!  The little stinker had been holding out on me!  Here is what I had been waiting for:

  Like I have seen mentioned in other blogs about Southeastern Guide Dogs, he looks very mature and professional in this picture, not like the big pup we took back to SEGD.  Maybe he understands what his future is all about and is very proud to wear the harness.  Maybe the SEGD photographer is very good at getting just the right shot.   Well, his latest report card said that he gets very excited when the harness comes out, so I think I know the answer to that.  You're looking good Joey!  Keep making us proud!

Jul 13, 2011

Getting Closer

Tonight we got an email that brought varied reactions and emotions from the family.  I found that I was not as happy as I thought I would be when I got this news.  Joey is NOT going to be a breeder.  We were mentally preparing for the disappointment of losing the chance to be a guide, but the joy of bringing him home.  So, now we are accepting the disappointment of Joey NOT coming home, and the joy of him being that much closer to his ultimate goal.  Fortunately, the joy outweighs the sorrow. 
This Saturday, I will be leading some Cub Scouts families to the campus for puppy hugging and dog walking.  Southeastern Guide Dogs differs from other guide dog schools by allowing the general public to come in and play with young puppies that are not yet ready to go home with raisers.  This helps to socialize the pups and give them more confidence.  You can also walk some of the dogs that are in training, to give them a  little break from the kennel with somebody new at the end of the leash.  I can't have any contact with Joey while he is at the school, so I need to avoid the training kennel and the dog walking areas while I am there.  Of course, if any of my scouting families happens to get lucky by walking Joey, they will know that they have to give him a special hug from me.

Jun 28, 2011

Another Hurdle Cleared

During the first month that SEGD puppies are back in for training, the dogs do not get any training.  They are in an adjustment period where they get aclimated to kennel life without the added stress of training.  They get a complete medical checkup, including xrays.  We received word today that Joey passed his hips and elbows evaluation, so he has reached another level in his journey to becoming a guide dog.  But, he is also still a breeder candidate.  If you have been following this blog, you know how we feel about that.  We would be very proud of Joey for being special enough to be selected for breeding, but we would rather see him fixed and become the great guide we know he can be.  Cindy and I avoided talking about what we would do if Joey was selected as a breeder, because we just don't want that to happen.  Since the time is drawing nearer that we would be hearing something, we finally sat down and discussed it.  It was a very short discussion.  If Joey is not going to be a guide dog, then yes, we do want him back in our home.  A lot of SEGD puppy raisers live too far away from the school to be breeder hosts, so we need to take advantage of our proximity to the school and have Joey come home to us. 
We have been keeping a close eye on the Blue Coat Journal blog hoping to catch a picture of Joey, but we haven't been able to positively identify him in any of the pictures yet.  I could spot his blonde brother, Deni, very easily.  But, all the black dogs jumping and playing together look too much alike.    The pictures show bunches of dogs having fun playing together, so even if we can't single out Joey, we know he is having fun.

Jun 4, 2011

A Very Quiet House

Today was the most feared day for puppy raisers.  IFT Day. (in for training)  We took Joey back to Southeastern Guide Dogs for him to begin his guide dog training.  I have to admit, SEGD did a wonderful job of preparing for this day.  They had about 25 dogs coming in today.  As we drove onto the campus, the street to the parking lot was lined with signs.  Each sign had the name and picture of a dog that was coming back in for training.  Of course we had to get pictures with Joey’s sign. 




We got more pictures at the main sign in front of the Administration Bldg, then headed for the event area to meet and greet other pups and raisers.  While talking to some of the staff, we found out that the missing brother of Joey was indeed scheduled to be there and that his name was Deni (pronounced “Denny).  We kept an eye open and soon saw a large yellow dog having pictures taken at the Admin bldg sign.  Our boys walked over to ask if that was Deni.  We got the thumbs-up from our son and started walking over as they started toward us.  Deni is every bit as large as Joey and just as sweet.  But the similarity ends there.  Joey’s fur is just a little longer than a lab’s but is silky soft.  Deni’s fur was longer, like a golden, but coarse.  Joey has the pointed face of a golden, only black, and Deni has the more squared classic look of a yellow lab. 
The meet and greet was followed by the turning in of our dogs at .  They called a dog’s name, he came forward, and they took him away.  Joey was the second dog called.  Just like they said he would, he walked away with the trainer without a backward glance, anxious to see where he was going. 
After 5 dogs were turned in, those families were taken over to the puppy kennel for some therapeutic puppy hugging.  After playing with the puppies, we got back to the event area for refreshments and blindfold walks.  That is where you put on blacked-out goggles and go for a walk holding the harness of a dog in training, to give you an idea of what it is like to put your faith in a dog.  Very enlightening! 
Then, presentations by a trainer, and some guide dog users.   
In all, it was a very nice morning.  It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to a dog that you have lived with and loved for the last year. 

May 30, 2011

Last Call for Photos!

Since Joey is going back to Southeastern Guide Dogs this Saturday to start his official guide dog training and we have less than a week left with him, today we had to take lots of pictures.  We took turns posing with him, both in and out of coat.  Everybody got lots of pictures taken today.   







Joey did a wonderful job of posing, but once he decided he was done, we knew the session was over. 



Next Saturday should be a lot of fun before the tears start flowing.  There are a few dogs with blogs that I follow, that will be there.  If you follow my blog, then I am sure you also read about HRH Berkeley.  She will probably be the smallest dog being turned in, and Joey will be one of, if not the largest one.  Joey has two brothers that have been back at the school for some time, but there is one more out there somewhere that should be coming in Saturday.  We will be keeping our eyes open for a large yellow goldadore.  I don't know why, but I really want to meet his siblings.  Maybe it is just my competitive side wanting to make sure that my dog is the biggest.  (No comments from any of you Sigmund Freuds out there.) 

May 6, 2011

College Bound

Yesterday, we got the official word.  Joey goes back to Southeastern Guide Dogs on June 4th to start learning how to be a guide dog.  Up until now, our family has had the task of teaching Joey how to be a sociable, well behaved dog, exposed to as much “life” as possible.  Soon, Joey will start learning the skills that will help him change somebody’s life for the better.  There are several paths Joey’s life can take, with being chosen as a breeder at the top of the scale, to being removed from the program and being put up for adoption at the lower end of the scale.  No matter which path he ends up taking, he will have a great home with a loving family.  We don’t want Joey at the top of that scale.  He has demonstrated his desire to be selected as a breeder, and we understand that only the best dogs get selected.  We would be very proud if he was selected, but hope he is passed over for that honor.  We want him to be a guide dog.  We want him to be somebody’s first guide dog. 
Southeast Guide Dogs is changing the way the dogs are turned in for training.  They are turning it into a more festive event, “Freshman Orientation at Guide Dog University”.  The always tearful turning-in of the dogs is quickly followed by a walk to the puppy kennel for some therapeutic play time with the young pups.  Then, some blindfold walks with dogs nearing their end of training, presentations by trainers, guest speakers representing graduates and handlers of career-changed dogs, and words from the CEO.  

Joey is back home with us after 10 days with a puppy-sitter.  During our vacation at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, we enjoyed our freedom away from the responsibilities of having a dog, but we also missed having the big lugnut with us.  SEGD does not want the pups at the big theme parks, but the days we spent at the water parks and Disney Quest would have been great exposures for Joey.  You should all be familiar with water parks, whether you have actually been to one or not, but some of you may not know about Disney Quest.  This can very simply be described as an arcade, but there is nothing simple about the place.  Remember, this is Disney! 
We ran into a service dog at one of the water parks.  He was a peanut detector for a child with a very severe allergy.  This is one type of service dog I had never heard of before, but I can easily see the importance of it.  We ran into the same dog at Disney Quest a couple days later.  I think Joey would have enjoyed both places.  We are returning to Ft. Wilderness next week for a weekend with the Cub Scouts and Joey will be going with us this time.  One last camping trip before going off to college. 

Apr 24, 2011

Puppy Camp and Disney Camp

Our boys are out of school for the next week for spring break, so we are taking a Disney vacation.  Ten days at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campground.  Since we are going to be doing the parks, Joey is NOT with us for this trip.  Southeast Guide Dogs does not want the puppies exposed to the theme park setting.  Joey does very well in large crowds.  He does very well with constant loud noises.  We help him do very well in the hot sun.  But, put all those together along with all the other distractions a theme park has to offer and even the most highly trained guide dog can be overwhelmed. 
We were looking for a puppy-sitter that could take Joey for those ten days, then a week before we were to leave, our AC decided to set up a full-blown three week puppy camp with somebody in another puppy raiser group near us.  Two days before we were leaving on vacation, I called the guy that would be taking Joey to make arrangements to drop off the dog.  Well, guess who is in the hospital?  I am not in panic mode yet, but I need to get some other arrangements confirmed before I let the wife know that there is a problem with puppy camp.  She is really looking forward to this vacation and I don’t need to let her get upset.  I got a call from somebody else in the group that was going to be camping Joey to let me know they had a replacement home for him.  Since we were planning on leaving Friday morning for Disney, it was much better logistically to transfer Joey on Thursday.  I called the new sitter, Doreen, and it turned out she would be driving home from Orlando on Thursday afternoon, which would put her driving thru my area.  I made arrangements to meet her at a truck stop in my town, right along the interstate she was driving.  Any apprehension I had about leaving Joey with a stranger, disappeared when I met Doreen.  She was great with Joey; not allowing him to get too excited to meet her, playing with him when he sat and tried to control his excitement, rubbing his belly, etc.  She talked about other people in her group that would be handling Joey during the period.  By the time we went our separate ways, her with Joey, and me without, I knew Joey would be in capable hands. 
It has now been two full days without a dog.  I haven’t gone this long without a dog since we got our puppy almost a year ago.  He has been with me almost 24 hours a day.  Even when he was at his first puppycamp, I was camping another dog in his place that was so much like him.  These last couple days I have only told my boys “sit”, “drop it”, and “no noise” a handful of times.  I guess I kind of miss the big guy.


Apr 11, 2011

Polo Anyone?

Last month at the Southeast Guide Dog Walkathon, I met a few of the people and dogs in another puppy raiser group from the St. Petersburg area.  One of them writes a great blog about her puppy, Berkeley.  You can see her blog here.  Their group frequently goes to the Sarasota Polo Club to watch the matches and party.  They say it is also a great exposure for the puppies.  Think of it as a tailgate party with horses.  Cheryl invited us to join their group at a match.  Yesterday was the day!   
Now, the closest we have ever been to a polo match before was watching the movie “Pretty Woman”, staring Julia Roberts.  Cindy was looking forward to going, but ended up having to work that day.  She might work just one Sunday a year and it happened to be this one.  I got the boys and Joey into the car and headed for Sarasota.  We got to the polo club and started looking for the people we were supposed to be joining.  We didn’t see any dogs or the green shirts that SEGD puppy raisers wear when at public functions.  I finally parked and sent the boys out to walk the line of tents to see if they could find puppy raisers.  I got Joey out of the car, let him relieve himself, then put on his coat and started walking after my boys.  I met them at the far end of the field right after they turned around to come back.  Then I sent them to walk on the other side of the tents while I walked this side.  I hoped that somebody would see Joey in his coat and me in my green shirt and let me know where to go.  Sure enough, somebody saw me and walked out to talk.  They were just setting up their tent and didn’t have any dogs there yet.  I had brought my own sunshade in case in was needed, so I pulled it out of the car and got it set up alongside of their’s.  I was looking around at some of the other people there.  On one side of us was a group where the ladies were all in their dresses and big hats, just like in "Pretty Woman".  On the other side was a tent with a bunch of palm fronds and bamboo and people dressed like Gilligan’s Island.  It was a theme thing.  There were prizes for the group with the best décor, food, drink, etc. 
Eventually, puppy raisers started showing up with puppies.  The subject of the blog I mentioned above, Berkeley, was there along with a couple others. 
Now, Joey has been sort of heart-broken since his girlfriend, Elle, went IFT in January.  Yesterday, he was his old self again with a new target in his sights.  He was totally infatuated by that sweet little Berkeley.  The other pups, Commodore and Bruce, hardly got more than a glance from Joey once she showed up.  I was constantly correcting Joey, and getting him to lay down.  He even ignored the occasional ice cube he was given because he just wanted to be with Berkeley.  She was being very well behaved, occasionally getting nose to nose with him, then turning around and laying at Cheryl’s feet.  When the polo match was getting ready to start, they had a flag bearer on horseback circle the field along with all the players.  I got Joey out to the very edge of the playing field to get a good look at the horses.  He sat there very nicely, looking at them, then ignoring them.
At one point in the afternoon, the group next to us, (the castaways, not the ladies in the hats) started making drinks with a hand-crank blender.  Berkeley did NOT like that blender.  A little growl came out of her, which quickly escalated into a full-blown outboard motor type warning to stay clear.  I never heard such a loud growl come out of a puppy like that.  I think everybody was as surprised as I was.  She seemed to settle down pretty quickly, as more drinks were made and she stayed quiet. 
Oh, I just got an email from Berkeley’s raiser.  She has gone into heat (the dog, not the raiser) and is spending the next two or three weeks at the SEGD campus.  No wonder Joey was so distracted!

Mar 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Joey

I have to apologize for the lack of new posts recently.  Things are definitely happening in Joey’s life right now, but not too much at a time that was worth writing about, I guess.  We celebrated Joey’s first birthday a couple weeks ago, which should have been a big enough event to write about.  But, I just wasn’t able to get into a creative mindset to post something about it.  It really wasn’t a big deal, Joey wasn’t constantly bugging us for days, reminding us his birthday was coming.  I guess that is just our sons that do that.  But, I just realized that very few one-year-olds understand when their birthday is.  They are just happy to get some cake.   We were going to have Joey’s party after dinner.  Cindy wanted me to get him a party hat for the occasion.  I went down to the grocery store on the corner, but they didn’t have any hats in the party aisle.  They used to have a party store in this plaza, but I had never been in it and never really understood the need for a store that just sold cheap costumes, balloons, and birthday candles.  Wow, I bet they used to have party hats when they were open!  I knew better than to come home without a hat, so I headed for a bigger grocery store further down the street.  Again, no hats in the party section.  Oh, I didn’t mention that I left Joey at home while I was trying to find his hat.  It was supposed to be a surprise party.  After two unsuccessful stops, I knew I had to grit my teeth and go to the dreaded Wal-Mart Supercenter.  They have everything there.  I was surprised to find only three different hats there.  Now I had to make a decision.  Do I get the red Hot Wheels hat, the blue Superman hat, or the yellow Spongebob Squarepants hat?  I decided that the yellow hat would look the best on a black dog in the pictures we would be taking, so I grabbed a package of them (Of course I have to get 8 hats, not just one) and headed for the checkout.  This is the worst part of shopping at Wal-Mart Supercenter.  I wonder why they go through the expense of installing 57 checkouts when they only hire enough people to run 3 of them.  Why do they have a person at the door just to say hello to you when you come in?  That same person can say hello when while running a checkout station, can’t he? 
Anyway, I finally got home with the hats.  We had dinner, then started Joey’s party.  We didn’t make him a special doggy cake, but did get him some ice cream.  This was very special ice cream we never heard about until we became puppy raisers.  This was Frosty Paws doggie ice cream.  We even stuck a candle in it so we could sing happy birthday properly.  Putting the Spongebob Squarepants hat on him wasn’t nearly the ordeal I expected it to be.  I think he was too focused on that ice cream in his bowl to worry about a stupid hat on his head.  After singing, our sons blew out the candle and removed it so the dog could enjoy his treat. 


                                                    Joey also got a new Kong toy.

This last Saturday our puppy raiser group was at the Fun Fest at Sun City Center.  For those of you not from west central Florida, Sun City Center is a very nice, large retirement community.  Our group sold strawberry shortcake in the food booth area, and had another tent set up for all the pups on the other side of the fest.  One of the SEGD trainers was there with us and led a couple obedience sessions.  Several interested people stood around watching and asking questions.  I, not Joey, was the one that got distracted when answering questions and almost missed our turn at walking in front of the other dogs. 
 Our area coordinator brought a couple harnesses since we now suddenly have 7 pups that are a year old and ready to start getting familiar with them.  Joey sniffed it a little bit when I held it in front of him, then calmly allowed me to slip it on him.  I buckled it on and let him get used to it.  He never paid any attention to it.  I took him for a little walk around the fest .  As puppy raisers, we do NOT hold the handle of the harness when our pup wears it, we still walk him with the leash.  Joey wore that harness proudly, just like when he is in his coat.  Puppy raisers will agree that their pups act differently when they are in coat, more mature, more professional.  Somebody remarked to me that Joey looked like he was born for that harness.  Uh, yea, he was!  A couple people in the group took some pictures of him for me. 

 After wearing the harness for a while, I took it off to make it more comfortable for Joey to lay down back in the tent area.  Don’t want to overdo it the first time.  Joey seemed to stay in that mindset though.  The other pups were playing with each other and fighting over the toys, while Joey just laid there and watched them.  It hasn’t been that long since Joey was the most doggie-distracted of the bunch.
 
The newest pup in our group, the one we sponsored and named in memory of our former AC, Dave Kelly, was there and expecting a special visitor.  Kathy, Dave’s widow, came to meet the puppy for the first time.  It was a very special meeting as you may expect. 

I promised to put a link to Dave’s new blog and here it is.  http://daveyseverydayadventures.blogspot.com/

Hey Wheat Thins!  If you guys start following blogs as well as Twitter, we could use some cheese and crackers at one of our group meetings.




Mar 6, 2011

2011 Walkathon

We went to the Southeast Guide Dog Walkathon yesterday. 






This was our first one so we didn’t know what to expect.  We were surprised at the huge number of people and dogs that were there.  Of course there were lots of puppies in training, but there were also lots of working guide dogs, therapy dogs, and SEGD breeder dogs.  Then there were the dogs that are not part of the SEGD program.  Every kind of dog from chihuahuas to great danes were there.  We hoped to find Joeys parents and littermates so we could get some family pictures, but there were so many people and dogs there that it would be like finding------well, you get the idea.  We know Joey’s father is a golden retriever named Norm, and we checked every golden we saw there.  No Norm.  Joey’s mother, Janie, is a black lab.  Good luck finding her in this crowd where 75 % were black labs.  We did ask everyone that had a “Breeder” coat on their dog, but couldn’t find Janie.  OK, how about the littermates?  Joey has three brothers;  one black and two yellow.  We knew the black one, Kenny, would not be there.  One of the yellow ones is named Albert and is in another group near us.  I found one of the raisers in that group and found out that Albert was not at the walkathon.  The other yellow pup is still unknown to us.  I checked out every large yellow dog that looked like it might be a goldadore pup, but couldn’t find him. 
Oh, this is supposed to be Just About Joey, isn’t it?   OK, Joey must have thought he was at Doggie Disney!  He is so distracted by other dogs and here he was in the middle of hundreds!  He is getting better all the time at controlling himself around them, so he wasn’t too hard to correct when he got distracted. 
We were just starting our third lap around the park when the boys started whining about how tired they were.  Instead if listening to them complain for the rest of the day, we decided to go sit in the shade and watch the people and dogs walk past us.  Almost right away, I saw somebody I had been wanting to meet.  Joey’s sponsors also sponsored another dog they named Elvis.    I had been wanting to get pictures of the two dogs together. 


I recognized his raiser from pictures on their group’s website. When I was introducing myself, a lady walking with him introduced herself to me.  She was the raiser of HRH (Her Royal Highness) Berkeley, a sister of Elvis.  Please check out her blog if you haven’t done so yet.  So, we were in the presence of royalty.  Between the King, and Her Royal Highness, Joey needed to act respectable.  To him, acting respectable is not sniffing their butts. 

   After a few pictures, the royal siblings continued their walk and I took Joey back over to the main tent to check out more possible family members.  My family went to ride the little train that was running around there.  I still didn’t find Joey’s family, but staff members of SEGD recognized him from his days at the school during his puppy camp, and stopped to say hello.  Lots of people were surprised that Joey was still a puppy in training.  At his size, they all thought he was older and must have been career changed or something.  We were taking to the handler of “The Don”, one of the largest dogs to graduate from the school in recent history.  Standing side by side, Joey actually appeared to be just a little taller, but is definitely outweighed by the Don by about 25 lbs.  The Don is NOT overweight, just very well filled out.  Picture Arnold Schwarzenegger  at 6” 2”, standing next to a normal tall man who was just an inch or two taller.  Arnold would still be considered the larger person.  And so it is with the Don. 
When my family was done riding the train, they started looking for me.  I, along with 90% of the people there, was wearing a white Walkathon t-shirt. 

My son remarked to my wife, “OK, white t-shirt and a black dog, this shouldn’t be too hard”. 
In other news, our group’s new puppy goes home with his new raisers tomorrow.  They, along with all of us, are very excited about “Dave”.   There will be a new blog out there very soon about him.  Those of you that followed “Ellie’s Everyday Adventures” will soon see a new post there that will direct you to the new blog.  I will be sure to post a link to it as well.    

Feb 27, 2011

We got an award!



We have been given the above award by Fred and CD McLean, along with their guide dog pup, HRH Berkeley.  We are very flattered to receive this award from them as it was their exploits with their previous pup, Bingo, that inspired us to start our blog about Joey.  As a condition of accepting the award, we have to list seven things about Joey.

1. Joey is very fluent in what have we have learned is called “goldadore speak”.  When we are watching TV in the evening after work, homework, and dinner, he comes to us with a toy in his mouth, whining very loudly, wanting somebody to play with him. 

2. Joey is very talented in being able to pick up his kong, nylabone and blanket at the same time.

3. Joey will not remain in a stay for very long, but will sit by his food bowl for hours waiting for the OK to eat. 

4. Joey is a very big puppy, surprising everybody that at 90 lbs, he isn’t even a year old yet. 

5. Joey enjoys ear rubs.  He will lay his head in your lap, and force his nose under your hand, making you rub his ears.

6. Joey considers himself to be our sons’ guardian as well as a play-pal.  He escorts the boys to bed and patrols the hallway to ensure they stay put in their rooms. 

7. Joey LOVES ice cubes.  The only sound that will get his attention faster than kibble being poured into his dish, is the ice dispenser in the fridge door, which, luckily he hasn't learned to use yet.

We are sending this award on to another blogger we enjoy reading: Rebecca and her pup, Joe.

Feb 21, 2011

Joey is Growing Up

Joey seems much more mature since he came home from puppy camp.  His doggy distraction issues have definitely improved.  That was not surprising since his sitter has another dog at home and also works part time at SEGD.  So, Joey was around other dogs a lot, as well as professional doggy people.  Any first-time puppy raisers worried about puppy camp, this IS a very good thing for the dogs.  Yes, you will miss your dog, but if you are camping somebody else’s dog at the same time, you will have that void filled.  Maybe not completely, but close enough.  It’s fun to compare your dog to their’s. 
A couple days after he got home, Joey went with me and my youngest son, Colby, to his Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet.  For most of it, he stayed in a down-under at the table.  Most of the Cub Scouts already knew they couldn’t pet him, but there were some brothers and sisters that very politely asked, and I had to turn away.  It is very hard to tell a very polite young child they can’t pet him, but they seemed to understand.  Now if Joey was a cute little 9 week old puppy, the child might get a little upset that he can’t play with the puppy, but when Joey is much bigger than the child, I don’t think the kid is too upset about it.  The kid is probably relieved!   I still get surprised every time an adult asks me if he bites. 
During the ceremonies, I knew I would have to go up front with my son when it was time for him to get his badge, and I thought about leaving Joey under the table with a STAY command.  But, the badge presentations were taking longer than I knew Joey could remain in a stay.  So, we went up there together.  Joey was perfect and cameras were flashing like crazy.  Back at the table, after the meal, Colby had sat still as long as he was able, and had to go vent some energy.  He was running around with a bunch of the other boys.  Every few minutes he would run back to the table and fly into his seat.  Then he would jump up and be running full blast again.  That was more than Joey could endure  and he tried to chase after Colby.  He caught me by surprise, but I was able to stop him, catch the chair, and keep the table from flipping over.  It was such an amazing display of dexterity that nobody even noticed my fantastic feat. 

Oh, I found another one of Joey’s brothers in another group near us.  Kenny is the other black one in the litter.

His raiser was thinking that another dog that came to the group for finishing might be the last one of the four, but he ended up being from another litter born 9 days later.  So there is still one yellow goldadore out there somewhere that I still want to find.  Joey, find the goldadore.

Feb 18, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Joey is home!  Last night we had our raiser group meeting, so Barkley’s raiser and I met there early to switch dogs.  We wanted to give them a chance to settle down a little before going into the meeting.  As I pulled in, I was wondering if Joey was going to be more excited to see me, or another dog.  It turned out that his doggy distraction was stronger than his love for me.  He went after Barkley first.  I was a close second though.
After the dogs got a chance to get reacquainted with their raisers and calm down, we went into the meeting.  SEGD trainer Karen Mersereau was the focus of this meeting.  She talked to us about leash management and handled a couple of our pups to demonstrate her techniques.  She took the leash of one of the more “rambunctious” pups in our group and in just a couple minutes, had him behaving  very nicely.  It was clear that he knew the commands, he was just very distracted by the dogs and probably the people.  Karen’s lecture and demonstration was a very big help to us.  Thank you Karen!
In other business at our meeting, our AC (area coordinator) dropped some very good news on us.  We have been fundraising as a group for the Walkathon, in the hopes that we will be able to sponsor a puppy.  Our former AC passed away recently and we were planning to name a pup after him.  He and his wife host a breeder that has a litter ready to go to homes in a couple weeks.  We have been offered one of these pups!  One of the raiser families in our group that is between pups right now will get this new little black lab male named “Dave”.  ( I think this is a wonderful name.)  The rest of the litter will be going to Texas after the walkathon, so we feel very lucky to have gotten one of them.  I think everybody in the group will be anxious to puppysit this special guy.   And if I know his raisers, there will soon be another new blog out there, probably called "Dave's Everyday Adventures".
After the meeting, I got Joey home to rest of the family.  Everybody was very excited to see each other again, then Joey quickly settled down into his old routine.  It’s good to be home, eh Joey?

Feb 13, 2011

Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

Our youngest son was coming home from a Boy Scout campout today, but would get home too late for us to go to our puppy raiser meeting this afternoon.  So, this morning I drove out to the camp to pick him up a little early.  I took Barkley with me to let him experience a little bit of nature and more importantly, kids.  One of the reasons Barkley and I were paired up for puppy camp is that I have young boys at home and his raiser, Leslie, does not.  He gets limited exposure to kids.  I did not have him in coat while at the campground, so the boys got to pet him and Barkley got to play with them a little.  He was very fond of the kids and was trying to jump on them.  I let him have some fun, but insisted on him keeping all four paws on the ground. 
Our puppy raiser meeting today was at an Applebee’s Restaurant in Lakeland, which is a ways outside of our regular puppy raiser area.  The restaurant was hosting a “Dining to Donate”  with part of the proceeds going to Southeast Guide Dogs.  We did some obedience in the parking lot and were joined by a few puppies and raisers from the local group.  Before we started, I was talking with one of the ladies from the other group.  We were talking about the size of some of the pups.  She mentioned a goldadore that was in her group and how big he was, and not being a year old yet.  My ears perked up at that!  After a few questions back and forth, we both thought that Joey and this other dog might be brothers.  I think somebody made a phone call, because a little later, they were saying Joey and the dog in the other group, a big yellow boy named Albert, were indeed litter mates.  Too bad he wasn’t there today.  I made sure we got an email address of somebody in the group so they could forward my messages to Albert and we can establish direct contact.  I have pictures of the litter we took at puppy hugging two or three weeks before picking up our puppies.  I also have pictures of the litter the day we picked up Joey. 

One of these is Albert at 9 weeks

Albert did not have any other littermates in his group.  So there are still two other goldadores out there I haven’t found yet.  I hope that if they are in Florida, that I might meet them at the Walkathon next month.  I also hope to meet his parents. 
Meanwhile, back at the meeting, since we are puppy camping Barkley right now, and his raisers are camping Joey, we tried to avoid each other as much as possible to prevent our dogs from getting too distracted.  I don’t think Barkley ever realized that Mama was there. After obedience and the meeting, we headed inside to eat.  We were scattered around the restaurant and I don’t think that anybody that walked in after we did had any idea that there were about ten dogs in there, laying under the tables.  But there were probably some surprised looks when we started walking out, first one, then another, and another…….

Feb 12, 2011

Just About Barkley

Our youngest son is at a Boy Scout campout this weekend, and this morning the rest of us were sitting around the house discussing what we should do today with Barkley.  Cindy came up with the idea of going to St. Armand’s Circle, a nice little touristy shopping area in Sarasota, about an hour south of us.  I piggybacked on that idea, saying we could go to the SEGD Discovery Center, then have lunch at a place we saw on TV, then hit the shopping area, and finish with a piece of pie at another place we saw on TV. 
Barkley didn’t act like he was too interested in going.  That is one big difference between Joey and Barkley.  Joey is very excited about getting in the car.  He sits very impatiently while I open the car door, waiting for those golden words; “Joey, IN ”.   Then he jumps right in and lays down.  Barkley doesn’t really seem to care for the whole “get in the car” thing.  We say “ Barkley, IN “ and he walks over and put his front feet in, then just stops.  He looks back at me as if to say “You really want me to get in this car?”  He finally slowly climbs the rest of the way in.  By the time I get in, he is usually asleep.  We get to the Discovery Center and have to wake him from his beauty sleep.  He is a lot more anxious to get of the car than get in.  I try to get him to “busy” before going in, but there have been dozens of dogs here every week and their smells are just too heavenly for Barkley to think about relieving.  I give up trying and take him inside.  There just happened to be a couple other dogs from our raiser group inside, so they had a nice little reunion.   Barkley has doggie distraction issues, not as strong as Joey’s, but they are something to work on.  He did get to play with the other pups, but also had to spend some time sitting by me and not playing with them.  The place started to fill up with non-SEGD dogs coming in for an obedience class, so we decided it was time to go.  Soon, we were looking for our lunch spot, a little place we saw on the Food Network show, Man Vs Food.  We followed my GPS and couldn’t find it.  We did find an empty building.  We got out the smartphone to look up online where they may have moved to.  We finally found it and we had been in the wrong place to begin with.  The place is called Munchies 420 Café.  Guess what the 420 stands for.  The place doesn’t open till .  Barkley doesn’t care, he is still sleeping.  There is a shopping center nearby where we can kill the last hour before we can eat.  Barkley was a perfect angel while shopping.  Lots of kids were telling their parents that they can’t touch the working dog.  Anyway, we get back to the café for opening time.  I thought this place would be a lot bigger than it is.  Only four tables in the place.  The food is great as long as you aren’t a cardiologist.  One of the popular items on the menu is a sandwich they call the Fat Sandy.  This is two cheeseburger patties, chicken fingers, onion rings, mozzarella stix, and macaroni and cheese, all in a sandwich.  Yea, heart attack just waiting to happen.  But, boy is it good!  Barkley was perfect under the table.  We never did make it to St. Armand’s Circle, and never made it to Yoder’s Amish Restaurant for the pie we were looking forward to.  But Barkley got to see some friends, go shopping, and sleep under a table and in the car.  Life is good. 

Feb 4, 2011

Puppy Camp

Yes, puppy camp started today for Joey and his friend, Barkley.  Joey and I drove down to the SEGD campus, where Barkley’s raiser works part time.  We traded dogs and beds, exchanged info about medications, and I headed home with my little camper.  In the car, I was surprised at how much Barkley looked like Joey when looking straight into his face.  Joey is a goldadore and Barkley is a full lab.  Barkley’s profile shows the classic squared muzzle, while Joey’s is more pointed.  But looking straight into their faces, they look very alike, at least to me.   I will have to see if Barkley’s raiser, Leslie, notices the same thing. 
After getting home, Barkley checked out the house and yard, then starting acting exactly like Joey, staying right at my feet.  The kids came home from school and played with him a little bit, happily surprised that he is so much calmer than Joey.  When they went into their rooms to do homework and play on the computer, Joey, I mean Barkley, laid in the hallway, exactly where he, I mean Joey, always does. 
I hadn’t told the wife yet that we started puppy camp.  She came home this evening after a very long 13 hour day.  The kids were biting their tongues, just waiting to see when she would notice it was a different dog.  I, of course, knew she was barely keeping her eyes open as she ate dinner.  She wouldn’t notice anything until she sat down in the living room.  That’s when Joey would normally be right in front of her with a toy, moving back and forth, and whining for her to play with him.  To my surprise, Barkley came over to her with a toy in his mouth, wagging back and forth exactly like Joey, but not whining.  Cindy was too tired to notice the difference.  I could tell that the boys were busting at the seams, trying not to give it away, but dying to say something.  Before going to bed, Colby, our youngest, just had to tell her that it was Barkley, not Joey.  She was very surprised, and embarrassed that she hadn’t noticed.  She got down on the floor to play with him and found a big difference in the dogs immediately.  Joey loves to have his ears rubbed and Barkley definitely does not.   I hope Leslie reads this or Joey may have a difficult time, going at least two weeks without his ear rubs. 

Feb 2, 2011

Trainer's Workshop

Today I took Joey down to the SEGD Discovery Center in Sarasota for a “Trainer’s Workshop”.  This is a time when the general public (and puppy raisers of course) can talk to the guide dog trainers about dog training.   When we got to the center, we were greeted at the door by one of Joey’s old friends from our puppy raiser group, Jeannie.  I first met Jeannie last April when I attended my first raiser meeting.  She was a normal energetic puppy of about 10 months, one of the oldest in our group at the time.  I was surprised at almost every group meeting after that first one, by how mellow Jeannie was becoming (without pharmaceuticals).  She was very nicely maturing into the guide dog I am sure she will become.  Anyway, Jeannie was just laying on the floor at the center when we walked in.  Joey of course was dying to go play with the dogs, but he was in coat and I had to keep an air of professionalism around him.  I kept a very close eye on him as he strained to get closer to them.  Jeannie calmly got up and walked over to meet Joey, only to be stopped by the volunteer that was handling her.  I took Joey around the corner into the puppy hugging area with a three foot high wall so he couldn’t see Jeannie and the other dogs that were behaving very nicely.  I was hoping Joey would calm down enough that I could go out and join some of the other people in there.  Every once in a while, Jeannie would get up and just mosey on over to where I was keeping Joey in a down, stay.  She remembered her friend from the meetings and just wanted to come over and see what he had been up to the last few months since she went IFT. 
Anyway, I was the only person who was there for the workshop, so it was some real nice one-on-one time.  I was able to discuss with the trainer, Lynn, my concerns about Joey’s doggie distraction issues.  While we were talking, she was observing how Joey was reacting to the other dogs in there and probably even more important, how I reacted to the  situation.  I was pretty good on how I applied timely and consistent corrections, but Lynn wanted me to stop petting and soothing Joey as much as I was.  Apply correction, get Joey to sit or down, stay, praise him for that, then leave him alone.  This was hard for me.  At that first raiser meeting last April, they were discussing puppy stress.  It doesn’t just come from fear, any excitement can be stressful to the puppies.  Reaching down and stroking your puppy, letting him know you are there, can be very calming.  I do it without thinking.  Lynn let me know that he is not the little baby puppy he used to be, he doesn’t need that much comforting anymore.  And in those few moments of me not constantly comforting him, he seemed to be able to tolerate being close to those other dogs a little better.  Lynn did take his leash for a little bit when he did act up, applied correction and had him sit or down, and stay.  She observed how Joey tried to get to me.  She recommended that we set up a puppy camp to help break the bond between Joey and I.  Now, at our last group meeting just last weekend, we were taking about camping and were going to get something started, so that was already in the works.  As we were driving home from the center, I got a call from our area coordinator, about Joey starting his camp.  I just need to contact the person he will be going to and arrange a time for us to swap our puppies.  She will be getting Joey, and I will take her dog, Barkley.  They are the two largest dogs in our group.  Barkley is four days younger, and about 5 pounds lighter, so there is very little difference between them. 
So, Joey.  You are going to live with somebody else for a couple weeks.  Better be good. 

Jan 22, 2011

In For Training Poem

No, Joey is not IFT for a few more months.  I found this posted on another blog and just had to pass it along to other guide dog puppy raisers.  Please enjoy.

I Send You Like a Prayerby Emily Overcarsh

I send you like a prayer
To shine in a land without sun
Where scents and sounds bloom
Like thunder over the expanse
Of the impossible black horizon
Could you have known where you were headed?
That all along you were a hero?
You were never mine to keep
So I held you just long enough
For you to grow into a savior
For the lost
And now I let go

I send you like a prayer
Like a fulfilled promise
I hang on to your scent in your blanket
That you're too big for now
And as the tears every mother has wept fill my eyes
Know that you carry my heart with you
To the land without sun
So don't look back now
Instead, look ahead
To the impossible black horizon
And shine with the knowledge
That you were born for this moment
Where you set a blind man free


(taken from "Two Plus Four Equals One - Celebrating the Partnership of People with Disabilities and Their Assistance Dogs" by Kathy Nimmer ISBN: 978-160844-716-9)

Jan 16, 2011

Looking at Manatees

This weekend, the manatee viewing area at the TECO (Tampa Electric) power plant celebrated their 25th anniversary.  It had been a few years since our family had been there, so we decided it would be a great outing for the whole family, as well as Joey.  We got there to find that the parking lot was closed and we were directed to another lot about a half mile down the road.  But, that next lot was full and we were directed to yet another one at an elementary school another mile down the road.  But, “Don’t worry, there is a shuttle bus to transport you” they said.  We parked at the school and I got Joey out expecting to let him “busy” before getting him into his coat and onto the bus that probably wouldn’t be there for at least 30 minutes.  WRONG!  The bus pulled up and people started hurrying to get in line for it.   Since it was only a mile and half back to the viewing center, Joey could wait.  Now, before I start getting comments about how Joey’s needs are more important than catching a shuttle bus, I must add that Joey had done his business about 15 minutes earlier, before we got in the car to come here.  We just make it a habit to give him the opportunity every time he gets out of the car, before we put his coat on.  He did a very nice “Sit, Forward Up” onto the bus like he had done it all his life.  Maybe he was just anxious to follow my wife and kids who got on in front of me.  We reversed the procedure for getting off the bus and went to find a place to pee.  After taking care of that business, we got some beads from a pirate that Joey determined did not require a second look, were handed some cookies that he likewise ignored, and we attempted to go look at some manatees.  This is a very nice place that the electric company built to allow people to come see the manatees, learn about them, buy manatee related products in the gift shop, enjoy butterfly gardens, and even experience a hurricane simulator.  But, it was built for the normal crowd of maybe a couple hundred on a single day.  With the few thousand that were there today, it was squeezing room only.  We made our way onto the main viewing deck over the water but there weren’t any manatees in the area.  We did see a lot of activity in the water a few hundred feet away.  There was another walkway heading out that direction, so we squeezed our way off the main deck to work our way down that way.  Joey did very well, only paying attention to the smallest kids, the ones about as tall as he is.  In this sea of bodies, everybody else was just legs and butts to him.  There was a small open space where people were taking pictures of their kids with somebody in a manatee costume.  I walked Joey thru that space in between pictures, allowing him a good look at the costume.  Joey gave that manatee the same attention he gave the pirate, none.  Out on the walkway to the other viewing area we were heading to, it was just as crowded.  A few manatees swam fairly close to us, but most were still on the far side of the channel.  We saw a bunch of fish and stingrays swimming, and even a couple sharks.  To be honest, it was probably the same shark, twice.  Joey either didn’t see, or didn’t care about what was in the water.  He was very interested in the pelican that flew very close in front of us.  The only other thing to merit any attention from Joey was the popcorn being dropped all over.  He didn’t seem to care how many people had stepped on it, he wanted it.  And I wouldn’t let him have it.  I’m sure he was able to snag a few pieces when I wasn’t looking, but I did my best. 
Maybe he should have been named Hoover.