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Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Behaviors--He Must be an Adolescent!

(Or, FLD Gus Finds His Big-Dog Voice.)


Our last full day downstate starts out busy.  Andy and I (with dogs in tow) drive over to the Habitat ReStore warehouse first thing after breakfast to finish assembling a big shipment due to Gaylord next week.  FLD Gus and Gypsy like to snarf around under metal shelving and pallets; I hope they never retrieve anything disgusting (like a rat).  Usually they drag splinters of boards off decrepit pallets, or pull packaging material stuck between racks.  A sweep-up of wood shavings and ripped apart cardboard is on my list of things to do before leaving.  Oh.  And brushing the dogs--it seems they do a fairly good job of dusting the gritty place!

The order gets put together and Andy needs desk-time to email invoices, so I buzz over to Anne's.  Two things on my agenda:  pick up our van seats and compressor that we have stored in her garage, and tire Gus out for later.  Lab-wrestling is a great puppy-wearer-outer!  (Watch this video of Mike and Rosie!)

Later, Andy and I, accompanied by FLD Gus, take our friends Linc and Sally to Loui's Pizza in Hazel Park (THE best pizza--AND antipasto salad--in Michigan!) before returning to their apartment for a lively round of bridge.  (Which reminds me, does anyone younger than age 55 even know how to play bridge?  Seems this is a dying game...)

FLD Gus is well known at Loui's.  Gus especially loves the carpet under the tables; along with the rest of the decor, we doubt that it's been changed since the 1970's!  I place Gus along side my seat and concentrate on limiting his tongue action on the floor with "leave its," name recognition, and finger pokes.  I intersperse morsels of his dinner as a reward when I catch him paying attention to customers, waitresses, the television playing above the bar--anything except licking through the carpet down to China.  By the time the pizza steams to our table, FLD Gus is content to leave the carpet alone.


Back at Linc and Sally's and unclipped from his working vest and leash, FLD Gus is off-duty, but I still expect good manners.  He politely sniffs around, then "settles" on a rug by the sliding glass patio doors.  He thinks it is his "mat."  All that Lab-wrestling earlier is paying off.

Good mat, Gus, I say and give him a Kong stuffed with part of his dinner.  The bridge game proceeds.  My partner, Sally, and I make two contracts and get a leg on before the guys even win a bid.

Out of the blue we are startled by a deep-throated "WOOF!"  I  twist in my chair to see Gus standing at attention, his nose almost kissing a ring of fog against the cold glass door.  A second "WOOF" puffs him up and he is no longer a puppy.  He is a BIG DOG! 

Gus, quiet! I command, surprised at his intensity and not at all sure why he is so worked up.  Gus glances back at me, then whips his head back around to gaze outside, puffing out an indignant "huff."  I follow his gaze and notice a man walking from the parking lot to the building entrance.

Gus, settle, I say.  As the man moves out of sight, Gus eases into a "down," but his posture is all about being "on guard."

Andy smiles across to Linc and Sally and says, "That is a new behavior."

Excitement over, the bridge game resumes.  Sally and I win the first rubber but the guys rally to take the second.  While we play, more people come and go from the complex.  Gus, although vigilant, remains settled.


The adolescent bridge from puppy-hood to adult dog brings, sometimes, surprising behaviors (like Gus's flying leaps--see my post from Monday).  As a puppy-raiser, it is my duty to be attentive to these behavior changes, to intercede before they develop into trouble.

FLD Gus will be eight months old next week.  It seems as though he is starting to move past his "teenage" testing.  He no longer backs away in the van but eagerly leaps out to "work."  He is getting more relaxed when I clip on his baby-blue working vest.  His "downs" are far from perfect, but I see progress.  He has not landed unexpectedly on my lap again (although I don't think it would take much to goad him on).  And his BIG-DOG bark seems to come out now only when trying to get Gypsy to play.

Andy used to say (to reassure me, when his two youngest kids were teenagers), "Statistically, they will make it through just fine."

They did.

I am certain that FLD Gus will survive this crazy time too!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Jen (and her guide dog, OJ) left this comment in response to my post "FLD Gus Goes to a Concert" from last Thursday.

Great idea to bring a future guide dog puppy to a concert.  I wish OJ had been to more of them as a pup.  He's going to one with me on Wednesday, but will stay in another room while the main band play, as he is afraid of loud things like drums and it will be very loud!

Jen's inability to have OJ with her during a loud concert underscores why it is important to expose all Future Leader Dog puppies to concerts.  I have taken all my puppies to middle school concerts, outdoor performances, and other indoor music gigs, and all behaved very well (although once we were worried about FLD Mike's snoring distracting a piano trio at the Clinton-Macomb Library!).

Carleton Area Concert



You don't have to spend a lot of money on tickets to a big name concert, especially if you want to fully enjoy the performance (after all, you MUST keep close attention to your puppy's behavior).  Here are some local, low cost ideas:
  • Local middle or high school band concerts--even if you don't have a child in band.  Ask your neighbors or check school calendars on their websites.  Spring is a popular time for concerts as well as during the Christmas holidays.
  • High school football games often feature their marching band during half-time.
  • Parades with marching bands.
  • Outdoor performances at neighborhood parks in the summertime.
  • Many libraries offer free music during winter months.
  • Community celebrations during the 4th of July.


Call ahead for permission to bring your FLD puppy.  I have always been warmly welcomed with my puppies!
  • Tire out your puppy BEFORE attending an event.  Take a long walk or schedule a "puppy-play-date."
  • "Park" your puppy before entering.
  • Be prepared to focus on your puppy.  Put your puppy back into a "down" each and every time he or she gets up.
  • Reward your puppy for "settling."  If your puppy is very young, withhold a meal and use that kibble as "rewards."
  • Bring a special chew toy to occupy your puppy.  Put some smooth peanut butter in a Kong and freeze it ahead of time for a long-lasting treat!
  • Always be willing to educate the public, especially about not petting your puppy while he or she is "working."  We are ambassadors after all!

Don't hesitate to take your puppy to a public concert.  One day a handler will be glad that you did!

FLD Gus about to tackle the bleacher stairs at the end of the concert.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Poetry: A Flying Puppy FIB


FLD Gus has this flying-thing going on lately.  Everywhere he goes, he LEAPS.  LEAPS onto his mat, LEAPS through the snow to find a place to "park," LEAPS over puddles of slush at the corner when we cross the street.

It is as if he has springs for legs.

The other morning, he decided that a comfortable place to chew his Kong was ON MY LAP.  I was sitting on a low rocking chair and he sat facing me, red Kong hanging out the side of his mouth like a cigar.  Without warning, without coiling to spring, he SPRANG straight UP and landed on my lap, light as a feather!

What control!  What precision!

Andy was relaxing on the recliner across from me.  After a few moments of uncontrolled giggling, I said, I wish you could have seen him from this angle!

After a few more moments of unabashed guffawing, Andy replied, "I was wishing you could have seen him from my angle!"

Oh silly puppy.  Those aren't wings, but springs! 


          "puddle-jumping puppy"

          take air--
          in 53 pounds--
          Labrador learns levitation

Thursday, March 24, 2011

FLD Gus Goes to a Concert

FLD Gus is improving--he leaps out of the van with abandon, no longer hesitant.

I heel him across the Sterling Heights High School visitor lot to "park."  A robin alights on a low branch of a thick pine just beyond the chain line fence.  Gus freezes, one front paw curled to his inflated chest, his blocky-Lab head held high.  Leave it, I say.  He snorts and goes back to sniffing the ice-coated grass.

I'm glad we are early to Sofia's first public concert.  FLD Gus is wired and I'm forced to backwards-walk more than usual.  Note to self:  a 20-minute walk three hours before concert time is NOT long enough to burn-off an adolescent, testosterone-filled Lab!

Sofia playing trumpet in her 5th-grade band.

The spring Carleton Area Concert includes Fillmore Elementary's fifth-grade band (Sofia plays trumpet), Carleton Middle School's sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade bands, Sterling Heights High School's band, and Cousino High School's Marching Band.  This will be old hat for Sofia's sister, Elaina, who plays French horn in the eighth-grade band.

FLD Gus sniffing passing feet.

FLD Gus finally settles down at my feet in the gym bleachers, sniffing the air at passing feet, but the corner of the bench in front of us proves too tasty for him to resist.  Several "leave its" later, he teases me by resting his lips on it (without chewing).  Scary-smart.

FLD Gus thinks, "Ok, I'll leave it!"

A calm and relaxed FLD Gus.

The music holds little interest for FLD Gus.  Until.  BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!

Cousino's drum corp entering the gym.

Gus springs into a SIT as if startled from a deep sleep and gazes down on the bands grouped below us.  The Cousino drum corp RAT-A-TAT-TATs aross the gym, stops right in front of our stection, and proceeds to thunder us so we feel like we are in the movie Drumline.

FLD Gus likes the drum corp.

Good boy, Gus, I say when he stays calm, watching the red and black gilded Cousino Marching Band file in behind the drum corp for the grand finale.  FLD Gus remains calm, even when the spectators swarm down the bleacher aisle brushing his nose, even when Sofia and Elaina join us in the stands, even when a woman exclaims, "Hey, I have one of those at home!" just as we step onto the gym floor.

It doesn't seem to matter where we go, we always run into someone else who is raising, has raised, or knows someone who is raising a Future Leader Dog puppy!  "I mean it," she says, "I'm raising a yellow Lab female for Leader Dogs!  She is my first one."

Why isn't she here? I ask.

"She's only five-months-old and I didn't think she would sit through all of this."

Two hours of crowds, kids, commotion, concert songs, clapping, cheers, not to mention negotiating slick floors and bleacher seating--what a fantastic experience for a Future Leader Dog puppy!

I'll bet she'll bring her puppy next time.
Proud aunt patti with Sofia in the stands.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: SETBACKS

Once again, my "Tuesday" TIP is late.  My excuses?  In spite of our move north, we are still living in two places--between the travel and settling in (and all the fun we have in our new digs) I am not doing very well keeping up with my writing.  But thanks for still reading!


Two weeks ago I received a phone call from Wayne, the handler that had been paired with LD Mike last month (see my post from February 14, 2011).  Wayne had been curiously quiet on his new blog, My Leader Dog Journal.  I wondered how he and LD Mike were doing in their journey to become a new team.

As soon as I answered the phone, I knew there was a problem.  Wayne told me that LD Mike was not performing correctly in traffic.

What do you mean? I asked.

"He almost got me killed!" Wayne exclaimed.  He related that LD Mike failed (at least twice) to refuse his FORWARD command when a car was present.  Luckily, Wayne was not hit, or even hurt.

Refusing a command to keep a handler safe is the "Intelligent Disobedience" that a Leader Dog must demonstrate in order to function as a guide dog. 

Wayne wanted me to know he called Leader Dogs for the Blind and that the trainer would be back out the next week to assess the situation.  In the meantime, Wayne was not to use LD Mike as a guide.

Wayne was devastated.  It can take up to two years for a team to "gel," but his partnership with LD Mike was progressing better than he could imagine.  He was learning to read Mike's signals, which, according to Wayne, were more subtle than those of his previous Leader Dog, Patriot. 

Often a handler with a new guide dog will encounter a glitch or two on their way to solidifying as a team.  Perhaps other dogs may distract the Leader Dog too much and a firm hand is necessary to bring him back on task.  Obedience work or extra attention from Leader Dogs for the Blind staff can frequently solve an issue like this.

Loss of handler confidence is not so easily restored.

The trainer from Leader Dogs for the Blind did, indeed, come back to Wayne's home to help work through this problem.  Unfortunately, Wayne could not regain confidence in LD Mike.  The decision was made to return Mike to Leader Dogs for the Blind.


The steps that Wayne took to deal with this problem are similar to some of the things I've done to deal with the disappointment of this unsuccessful pairing. 


First and foremost is the safety of the handler.  The handler MUST be able to trust their Leader Dog.  My role as puppy-raiser is to do my best to socialize, teach basic obedience and good behavior, and to love my Future Leader Dog puppy in the hope that one day he will go on to live the exceptional life as a guide dog.  But the dog cannot be forced--in the end HE decides to become a Leader Dog.  Or not. 


Wayne absolutely did the right thing by calling Leader Dogs for the Blind for help.  (It was also nice of him to keep me informed.)  When I have questions about puppy-raising, I call on fellow-puppy-raisers, my puppy-counselor, and Leader Dog staff for assistance.  When I am worried about my puppy-in-training, all of these people give me support and encouragement.  None of us are in this alone.


Confidence lost may be impossible to regain.  For the handler in this case, the best thing is to remove the Leader Dog and work to find another suitable match.  The handler's stress is certain to negatively effect the dog's performance; the best thing for LD Mike is his return to Leader Dogs for evaluation, and if he is capable, more training.  If he is unable to perform, then career-change becomes the only option.


Both Wayne and I cannot let this setback cause us to lose our resolve.  I will carry on with raising FLD Gus (my third Future Leader Dog puppy), and trust that LD Mike will one day step up to the task of guiding a new handler, safely.  If he doesn't, I accept that becoming a Leader Dog wasn't meant for him. 

I hope that Wayne will reapply to Leader Dogs for the Blind to finally find his ideal match.

LD Mike is now back at Leader Dogs for the Blind.  He will get checked out by their vet and evaluated for suitability to be placed with another handler.  It might be days or weeks before I know anything more.
FLD Gus weighed in at 52 1/2 pounds last week at his puppy-class!  He is three pounds heavier than his brother, Raphael.  Big boy!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Poetry: FLD Gus Heels Down a Country Road

On Brady Road, looking south.

"Future Leader Dog Gus heels down a country road"

no wild romp in the woods today

baby-blue working vest on
we walk south along Brady Road
which ripples past our house like a shaken rug
stones scattered across the ditch
the snow plows thrust, we hear traffic
long before it arrives
and have time
to step off the pavement onto the shoulder

Gus's nose drops

deer tracks
gouged in wet gravel are like magnets pulling steel
I say leave it
his head jerks up
as if the magnet just flipped over

Gus straightens, detecting
a pair of geese circling above a pond
honking to announce a threesome launch from water laced ice,
wings whacking wind
for lift

he bounces,
and does not break his heel

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Tired Out FLD Gus?

A very tired FLD Gus.

Not the hour-and-a-half drive after a weeks visit at Margaret's.
Not Lab-wrestling with Rosie.
Not puppy-class at Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Not the late-night hanging out at Anne's afterwards.

Not the 6:00 am wake-up the next morning.
Not the hours waiting in the truck while I visited my mom and dad.
Not the short walk we took around my folks' condo complex.
Not the shopping trip through Meijer's.
Not the 2-mile walk through our old neighborhood.
Not our puppy-group meeting at the Clinton-Macomb Library.

A worried Gypsy in the townhouse as I pack.

Not Gypsy's anxiety as she worried about me packing up the truck.
Not the long drive north to return home.

FLD Gus does not want to be bothered.

Nope...could not have been any of these things.  No sirrreee.

"Just leave me alone!"

Hmmmm...could it have been the check-out-the-dead-trees-for-next-winters-wood hike through old snow around our "patch" with Andy and Gypsy?

THAT must have been what tired out FLD Gus.

Yes, most definitely.

FLD Gus drags himself up, turns, and flops down to a spot of sunshine.


Monday, March 14, 2011

The Return of FLD Gus

I'll be picking up FLD Gus tomorrow from his mini-vacation with fellow puppy-raiser Margaret.  That is, IF she'll give him up!

FLD Gus, BEFORE his vacation with Margaret.

I wonder if he has grown noticeably.

Two weeks ago before his puppy-class at Leader Dogs for the Blind, Gus weighed in at 49.5 pounds.  My guess is he will top 50 at tomorrow's class, maybe even 51.

Gypsy has spent the last few days with cc'd Rosie and my nieces.

I'm thinking there might be a "puppy party" tomorrow night!

Mom is recovering well and doesn't need my around-the-clock-assistance any longer.  I'm glad she is getting her strength back.  And I'll be glad to head home to my "patch" in the beautiful north woods in a few more days.  But.  I'll miss her and Dad.  In spite of her pain, it has been a very special week.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: A HAPPY DOG

Okay, so it isn't Tuesday...but I started this post on Tuesday, that should count for something!  I've been a bit distracted caring for my mom this week.  She is doing better every day, but recovery from a total hip surgery is a slow process.  So, here's my belated TIP!

FLD Gus is a typical Lab--a wiggly-waggly, tail-wapping food-worshiper with a wickedly-licky tongue (see my niece Elaina's poem "Licky Lab Lickers" from December 6, 2010)--and our twice-a-month trips downstate to our city townhouse never seem to bother unflappable FLD Gus.

Last week was a different story.

I'm sure that Gus picked up on my concern over my mother's hip surgery.  Then, my time spent with her subsequent care caused this budding adolescent to get LESS-than-his-typical exercise and MORE-than-his-typical crate time.  An equation like this is always trouble.

The evening that Andy and I met Jen and Jeff for dinner, FLD Gus shied away from having his blue "Puppy Being Raised for Leader Dogs for the Blind" vest clipped on--he laid down right on the wet macadam of the parking lot!  As we waited for our table he kept turning toward the door; once seated he settled, but when we rose to leave, he jumped up from his "down" and strained against the leash to exit.

My happy-go-lucky Future Leader Dog puppy was showing signs of stress.

I needed to do something.

  1. A Sound Dog
  2. A Friendly Dog
  3. A Happy Dog
The first page of the on-line application to become a puppy-raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind describes three traits that a raiser must groom in their Future Leader Dog puppy.  (To read more, click on this on-line raiser application page.)


Soundness refers to the ability of a dog to tolerate noise and unusual conditions without fear.  Leader Dogs are placed all over the world and in diverse situations; they must be comfortable walking on all types of surfaces (slippery, shiny floors to rough pavement); working next to busy traffic or on country roads, riding in elevators or airplanes; vacuums, umbrellas, grocery carts, or stray cats must not sidetrack them off task.  Exposing a puppy from a very early age to as many different things as possible forms a sound dog.


The job of a Leader Dog is to safely guide its handler.  While the relationship between a Leader Dog and its handler is intimate, "protection" is not in the job description.  Working Leader Dogs need to be easy going and friendly to ALL people (and animals) that they are likely to encounter, but not so overly friendly to get distracted from their duty.  Young puppies must meet people of all ages, shapes, colors, and males and females, in an assortment of settings.  Careful breeding also contributes to this quality.


FLD Gus, even "stressed" is SOUND and FRIENDLY, and seems HAPPY.  But "happy," as described by Leader Dogs is more than just the dictionary definition of "feeling or showing pleasure."  The "happy-dog" trait spelled out on the puppy-raiser application is:
By HAPPY we mean a dog that is content and relaxed wherever it may be.  Some dogs are only happy in their own surroundings.  A Leader dog travels and should be relaxed and content in a strange environment. Frequent walks in new areas and exposure to strangers is required.

It was obvious that FLD Gus was not going to be content while I am caring for my mom and unavailable to him.  The best thing I could do for Gus was to remove him from my stress and into an environment where he could get consistent exercise and "work."

Thank goodness for the "support group" that grew among the puppy-raisers of LD Mike's siblings!  (Read my post from July 23, 2010 about Julia, the girl whose family hosts breeder mom Reece, LD Mike's mom.  Julia has kept our group of "Reece's Peeps" together during the year raising Reece's 11 puppies--and now, beyond!)

FLD Gus spent one overnight (when my mom had her surgery) with Kristina, who raised Molly, LD Mike's sister.  (Molly is currently in training at Leader Dogs.)  On Monday, Margaret, who raised LD Mike's sister Claire (now LD Claire--she was placed with her handler Wednesday!) offered to take FLD Gus while I stay with my mom as she gets on her feet.

Reports from Margaret reinforce my decision that sending FLD Gus with another raiser was the right thing to do.  Gus made himself right at home with her and he had his first close-up experience with her cat!  As she said in an email Wednesday, "He found out about cats yesterday, way too funny.  He was quite cautious going to the 2nd floor this morning, that is where the cat 'terrorized' him yesterday. She didn't do anything to him but he definitely got a warning."

FLD Gus accompanied Margaret to McDonald's, Babies R Us, and Target.  At a beauty shop, Gus was the entertainment for the day as he played with a huge pile of discarded hair.  He had great interactions with kids:  at the beauty shop, the Secretary of State, and a second-grade classroom!

Letting your puppy stay with someone else for an overnight or extended visit is a good way to help your puppy stay HAPPY!

Thank you Margaret for taking Gus for the week--it seems that he is enjoying the "exposure to strangers" in a new environment with you.  I only hope that he stays content when he returns to me!

Monday, March 7, 2011

FLD Gus's Overnights


Last Wednesday afternoon FLD Gus popped up onto my seat, eager to exit the van.  I parked on the snow-banked street across from Kristina's house; there was no room for me to open the passenger-side door where Gus had been lying on the floor during our drive.

Gus, wait, I commanded, blocking him from leaping out of the driver's side before I clipped my darkly softened leather leash to his collar.

The street was clear.  Okay, I said.  Good thing I had a strong hold on the leash as Gus barged past me.  He pulled toward the house like he remembered spending a fun few days here in the fall.

Kristina and her family raised FLD Molly, sister-puppy to LD Mike. (Molly is currently in training at Leader Dogs for the Blind; way to go, Molly!)  Kristina decided against raising a second puppy right away--schedules for four kids keep this family very busy through the school year.  Even so, she graciously agreed to squeeze in an overnight visit for FLD Gus while I kept my dad company on Thursday at Beaumont Hospital--my mom had her left hip replaced.  Ouch.

Mom's doctor reported that her operations was "textbook."  She was happy when he told her, "You were easy because you are SO THIN!"  Surgery was successful, now for her recovery...


It has been a jam-packed, difficult week for FLD Gus since we came south last Tuesday; here is a look at Gus's schedule:
  • TUESDAY--long drive to our townhouse; Lab-wrestling with Rosie at the girls' house in the afternoon; puppy-class in the evening at Leader Dogs for the Blind.
  • WEDNESDAY--early morning shopping spree at Sam's Club; overnight at Kristina's.
  • THURSDAY--a busy day with Kristina and family; late pickup by Andy.
  • FRIDAY--crate time after breakfast (while I visited at the hospital) until early afternoon; two-mile-walk with me, Andy, and Gypsy through the neighborhood; working dinner at Pei-Wei's with Jen, Jeff, and Andy.  (I always choke back a snicker when, after I ask permission to bring my Future Leader Dog puppy into a store or restaurant, the manager says something like, "Well, as long as the dog is up to date on his shots and he doesn't bite anyone or anything like that.")
  • SATURDAY--crate time after breakfast (another hospital visit for me) until mid-afternoon; crate time after dinner while Andy and I visited friends.
  • MONDAY (today)--a short walk with Andy after breakfast (I stayed at my folks' overnight to assist my mom, who came home from the hospital Sunday!); crate time while Andy worked; a one-mile-walk and run in the park with me and Gypsy after lunch; more crate time for the afternoon when I returned to my parents' condo.


This evening Andy is dropping FLD Gus off for a stay with Margaret, a veteran puppy-raiser who raised another one of LD Mike's sisters, Claire.  (Claire is scheduled to be placed with her handler this week...congratulations!)

Thank you, Margaret, for coming to Gus's rescue.  This seven-month-old puppy needs to be worked and exercised, more than I can do for him during my "care-giving" mission the rest of this week.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Awesome Blog Award!

Handsome Jack, a chocolate Lab guide dog for L^2 (her blog is Dog's Eye View), nominated my blog, plays with puppies, for an "Awesome Blog" award!  This is my very first blog award and I am honored.

Thank you Jack (and L^2)!

In accepting this award I must do three things:
  1. Link to the person who gave me the award (Guide Dog Jack and his girl, L^2, at Dog's Eye View).
  2. Share seven things about myself.
  3. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs.

Okay, here's the link to Dog's Eye View:

Here are seven things about me that heretofore I have not blogged about:
  1. My first dog was a big, black Lab mix (maybe Irish Setter?) female named Aero.  I got her when I was 25 years old.
  2. Not only did I bicycle across the United States in 1976, I rode across again in 1987.  The trip in '76 was with Bikecentennial (now called the Adventure Cycling Association) and it took 84 days.  In '87 I rode PacTour on a tandem with my friend Lou and it took us 17 days!
  3. I've broken my nose twice.  Once at age 11 by a softball; again at age 50-something by the hard head of an energetic young Weimaraner.
  4. I once ran away to work (briefly) for the Norfolk Southern railroad.
  5. My second dog was a small, yellow Lab mix (maybe Beagle?) female named Stoker.  She made all our customers (we owned a bicycle store at the time) feel like they were her best friends.
  6. I am the middle kid of seven.
  7. A big golden retriever mix male named King befriended me when I was a 10th-grader in Clare, Michigan.  Every day he met me in front of his house as I walked by on my way to school and accompanied me to the door; he was at the door again when school let out and he walked me back.  One day he stopped me from crossing Main Street when I didn't see a semi-truck roar by!

Finding 15 "Awesome" blogs is a challenge for me because I am so new to the blogging world!  Here are nine (I also didn't want to repeat any from Jack's list), in alphabetical order:
  1. Cura's Corner:  The blog of a service dog user and her service dog, Cura Aebon.
  2. In the Center of the Roof:  Follow Ro and her Guide Dog, Jayden.  Ro loves to write and often posts her stories.
  3. Outdoor Wood Furnaces:  The official blog of Hawken Energy, a Shelby, Michigan company that builds the BEST outdoor wood furnaces ever!  (We have one!)
  4. Lake Superior Spirit:  Kathy lives in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan.  Take a breather and visit her blog.
  5. Richard Brehler's Photography:  Okay, so he's my brother...but, he is also a very talented photographer.  Check him out!
  6. Rock Paper Lizard:  A quirky blog by a Canadian naturalist (so I assume).  Great photos of wildlife, and an interesting, funny series of short stories he calls "The Interpreter Stories."
  7. Rududu's Semitropical Adventures:  This blog about "knitting, birding and eating in Costa Rica and Wisconsin and other interesting places" is by a woman I met on that cross-country bicycle trip back in 1976--she rode across too!  Thanks to FaceBook, we've recently reconnected.
  8. Safe & Sound blog:  Beth Finke is an award-winning author, teaches a memoir writing class in Chicago, and works with her Seeing Eye dog, Harper, a yellow lab.
  9. Wilma & Friends:  Wilma is a retired breed mom (Golden Retriever).  Most of her 22 puppies went on to train as assistance dogs.  Laura is now raising the adorable Future Leader Dog puppy, "Charlie," a Golden Retriever!

Thanks again, Jack and L^2.  And I hope everyone enjoys checking out these blogs! 

My first two pups, Aero and Stoker.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: AROUND

During my nieces' recent visit, I leashed up Rosie, Gus, and Gypsy to go outside to "park" on more than one occasion!  Every time I gave them the OKAY to head out, Rosie immediately dashed around behind my back to exit the door on my right side.  FLD Gus followed suit.  Gypsy got out however she could.

Rosie was a great example for FLD Gus, who is still learning what Rosie so obviously remembered from her training at Leader Dogs for the Blind.  The AROUND command.

"Around" is a command specific to guide dogs.  This command is to assure the safety of the dog when passing through doors that open from the right side, like our back door.  Think about it:  a door hinged on the left side (where the dog heels) can potentially hit the dog as it closes.

We teach our Future Leader Dog puppies to go AROUND behind us at a door that opens from the right, to heel through the doorway on our right side instead of our left, and to return to the proper heel position after completely passing through.

  • Heel your puppy to a door that opens from the right.
  • Stop and touch the doorknob with your right hand.
  • Say your puppy's name, then the command AROUND.
  • Tap your right leg with your right hand.
  • Pass the leash from your left hand to your right hand, behind your back.
  • When your puppy is in a "heel" position on your right side, open the door.
  • Heel through the doorway as "one unit."
  • When you get completely through the door, say your puppy's name, then the command HEEL.
  • Pass the leash from your right hand to your left, behind your back.
  • Continue on your way, with your puppy in heel position at your left side, with a loose leash.

  • Use the leash to guide your puppy behind you to your right side when he or she is first learning.
  • If your puppy tries to rush ahead of you through the doorway, close the door and wait until he or she stands calmly.  Don't say anything.  Try again.  Close the door again if necessary.  Try again.  Eventually your puppy will learn that you aren't going anywhere until he or she walks on a loose leash at your side.
  • Pause briefly after getting through the door to make the pass back to the "left" heel position.
  • Remember to praise your puppy when he or she correctly executes the AROUND command.