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 d├ęcor, 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!