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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Short-timer" FLD Gus--a good-bye poem

"what might be FLD Gus's last walk down Brady Road"

puppy pants steam a curl of pink tongue
and it's not even hot
today maybe a little muggy, clouds cling like lichen
I'm the first to spot the asphalt deposit, two-dollars and nine cents
in change, a motherlode of luck I think,
"A good omen
for his journey?  Or extra cash for dogfood
if he returns?"

I'm avoiding, distracting
with other words, other worlds like Gypsy--
if I can't see it, it isn't
really there, so I'm ignoring another
good-bye, a river and a ditch!

I wish
him dogspeed and
I haven't ruined him, showing him
how to clear the woods trail
I hope
he doesn't decide one day to grab somebody's ankle
and rip them out of the way for his handler to pass
carrying a long stick might be a better way
bruised calves and shins will part the crowds
like water

he brings me shoes again he knows something is up

a coyote serenade beyond the hill
screams my puppy breath addiction

one goes on
one more will pounce paw prints
on my heart

behind us
a lone loon moan
so long

FLD Gus winks at me. "Don't you worry about me, kid!"

Friday, August 26, 2011

What FLD Gus DOESN'T Know


Unknowingly, FLD Gus rests after a walk in the woods.

...within the half-hour, Rosie (and Anne & Co.) will be here!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

FLD Gus Shares His Crate

Downstate last week, dog-sitting for Andy's daughter Jen and her husband Jeff.  

"Monster," a rescued kitty, took over FLD Gus's crate.

He didn't know what to think.

Here's a short video...


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: My Puppy Has DIARRHEA!

FLD Gus is back to normal after a recent bout of intestinal-something-or-other.

You really don't want to know the dirty details.  Suffice to say that he's had good "poop reports" for the last few days and after tonight's dinner he'll be back on his regular food.

Puppies get diarrhea for many reasons.  They might eat something that upsets their digestive system.  They might have parasites, or a "doggy-virus."  They can even develop diarrhea when they are stressed out or in a new environment.

A mild case of diarrhea that lasts just a few days can sometimes be managed at home, but if it is peristent and you're not sure what to do, never hesitate to call your vet for advice.  Dehydration is always a concern.

So, just what do you do when your puppy wakes you up in the middle of the night to sprint outside like he's just prepped for a colonoscopy?

First of all, don't panic.  In fact, if your puppy does what FLD Gus did (alerting me that he had to GO), praise your puppy for his self-control!

Then, follow these guidelines.

  • If your puppy's stool is bloody or black, take him to your vet as soon as you can.
  • Palpate your puppy's stomach to see if it is painful; if so it might indicate that he swallowed something.  Take him to the vet immediately.
  • If your puppy's diarrhea is severe (explosive with watery squirts) or persistent, call your vet for advice.
  • If your puppy is not throwing up, you can give him some Pepto Bismol.  For puppies under 20 pounds, 1-2 teaspoons, over 20 pounds, 3-4 teaspoons.  Administer with a syringe every 4-6 hours.
  • If the diarrhea is mild, keep food away for 12 to 24 hours.  Allow water so as to avoid dehydration.
  • If your puppy has no other symptoms (like lethargy or vomiting), put him on a bland diet for 3-5 days to rest his stomach.  Gradually reintroduce his regular food when he's had normal stools for 24 hours.
BLAND DIET--Three parts cooked rice to one part boiled hamburger or chicken, or cottage cheese.  Start with small portions and work up to the amount of what he normally eats.

When FLD Gus had me racing him outside for a few days earlier this month, he had no other symptoms.  I put him on a bland diet of rice and hamburger, but his stools weren't normal for more than one week.  When they finally were I started to remix his regular food.  His diarrhea returned.  I scheduled an appointment with the vet at Leader Dogs for the Blind as I wasn't sure what was wrong.

At first I suspected that his food might be bad.  It was a new bag, and I usually use morsels of his food as treats, both for Gus and for Gypsy.  This time I was downstate and gave a few to Rosie as well.  Both Gypsy and Rosie had loose stools for a day, but otherwise recovered quickly.

The vet at Leader dogs wasn't sure what was wrong either, and Gus's stool sample came out negative.  The vet thought that Gus was pretty lean (60.3 lbs) for as much food as he eats daily--over 5 cups, so he gave Gus a dose of worming medicine.

I was advised to keep FLD Gus on the bland diet for 5 more days (with the addition of a pro-biotic to aid in digestion) and then gradually introduce a different version of the dry food he had been on.  Because I ran out of hamburger, I used chicken and cottage cheese with the rice this time.

And it worked!

Coincidently, we received a letter from Sam's Club yesterday, warning that a batch of hamburger sold in their store (and that I bought) might have been contaminated with E. Coli.  They asked that we return the meat for a refund, and assured us that if the meat had been cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees that it would pose no health hazard.

Yikes!  That was the batch that I fed to Gus!  I don't know if this hamburger aggravated Gus's condition or not.  After all, it was cooked.  I'll be sending a letter to Sam's Club about it anyway.

Thanks FLD Gus, for throwing yourself on the hamburgrade so we didn't have to find out ourselves that it was bad!

And thanks to the vet at Leader Dogs, Gus is now back to his regularly scheduled poop regime.  YIPPEE!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Dog Ate It

The remains of my first check.

Embarrassing email to the editor at the Ogemaw County Voice, after receiving my very first payment from my new freelancing job:
          "My dog ate my check."

His email response:

"LOL...............and he also ate your homework?"

Note to self:

"Never leave a check on the kitchen table on a breezy day with the window open and a puppy in the room."

FLD Gus says, "What?"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FLD Gus LOVES Visitors!

Monday morning FLD Gus had no idea; he thought it was a day like any other.  He was in for a surprise.

FLD Gus had never met anyone from Connecticut.  But suddently on Monday evening, there she was.


Petal enjoys the water at Grousehaven Lake on Tuesday.

Petal, originally from Michigan, was rescued two years ago by patti's friend, Linda.  This week Linda drove all the way from Connecticut to visit and see the "patch" for herself.

Oh, and also so that Petal could meet FLD Gus.

Petal and FLD Gus check each other out in Grousehaven Lake.

FLD Gus was VERY happy to meet Petal.  They swam and played together all day on Tuesday.

FLD Gus chases Petal, who just retrieved a stick that Linda threw.

Gypsy got into the action, too.  (Swimming is her favorite thing to do!)

FLD Gus chases Gypsy in the water.

Once again Gypsy fends Gus off of her stick.

FLD Gus doesn't care, he's just happy to be in the water with his new friend.


By the end of the day, the house was full of tired puppies.

Petal opens her eyes just as I click the camera!

FLD Gus lies paw-side-up on the living room floor.

Monday, August 15, 2011

See Michigan!

Andy and I went bicycling under cloudy skies along the wide and smooth Pere Marquette Rail Trail.

Approaching a bridge on the Rail-Trail.

FLD Gus hung out with puppy-counselor Tammy at Northwood Univsersity in Midland, the start/finish of "See Michigan," a benefit ride for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

FLDs, one cc'd FLD, one retired LD, and one LD mom (with their volunteers), pose in front of the "See Michigan" sign at Northwood University.

Andy and I didn't pedal the entire 30 miles to Clare (and 30 miles back).  Wafts of coffee and frying bacon snagged us off the trail in Sanford.  We caved for breakfast at Alex's Railside Restaurant (deeeeeelicious), and a much shorter ride.

Andy gestures "no handed" from his recumbent bicycle.  Luckily, my next picture was not of him lying on the ground!

Meanwhile, back at Northwood, Tammy had her hands full.  More than one Future Leader Dog female puppy "in season" flirted with FLD Gus.  He was VERY interested!

Tammy holding FLD Gus at bay.

"Gus did well especially around all those girls!!" said Tammy, although she did have to remind him to LEAVE IT every time one of the girls sauntered by.

FLD Gus kept his eyes on me when we returned to Northwood.

FLD Gus with Lion.

Thanks, Tammy, for giving FLD Gus some excellent training while Andy and I got to ride!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Fellow blogger L^2 (at Dog's Eye View), wants to give back to Guide Dogs of America, the organization that partnered her with Guide Dog Jack this year, so she's running an on-line auction to raise money to sponsor a puppy.  Her auction has over 60 really cool items on which to bid, including a "chap book" of puppy poetry and photography by ME!  There's still plenty of time to head on over and make your bid--the auction runs through Sunday, August 14 at 10:00 pm Central Time.  (L^2's first guide dog, LD Willow now retired, came from Leader Dogs for the Blind.)
Please visit L^2's on-line auction here:!

(at least that's what FLD Gus thinks)

Yesterday, while Andy visited the Ogemaw County Habitat for Humanity ReStore in West Branch, I worked FLD Gus up and down the main drag.  Loose leash heel, holding SIT, DOWN, and STAY each for 30 seconds, staying comfortable next to heavy traffic.  Believe it or not, West Branch is a busy place!

Even though there is only one traffic light in the downtown area, FLD Gus and I made the most of it.  Do you know how many times we crossed with the light within 45 minutes of walking through town?

More than a few (I think I can count six times).

On the drive home, FLD Gus took his usual position in the back seat.

Looks like FLD Gus is ready for the weekend.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

4th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

The 4th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC) is up!

Click on over to Kali's blog, Brilliant Mind Broken Body to read submissions from service and guide dog handlers, trainers, and puppy-raisers on the topic of THE DIFFERENCE.

This summer edition of the ADBC couldn't come at a more appropriate time--this week is the International Assistance Dog Week!

Thank you Kali, for hosting this engaging event!

My post for the ADBC is titled "Living the DIFFERENCE."  Click on the title and you'll be right there.

To learn more about what a "blog carnival" is (and catch up on the first three ADBCs), visiit Sharon Wachsler's website:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Introducing: JESS, Guest Blogger!

Fellow blogger Jess and I might have unknowingly passed each other in the halls of the Polk Residence at Leader Dogs for the Blind last April.  I was visiting with LD Mike's new handler, Eric (see my post from April 20, "REACTIONS") while Jess and her 2nd Leader Dog, Glacier, were attending a "12-day retraining excursion" (to quote Jess).

Jess and I met in the virtual world of Internet blogging!  (Catch up on Jess's blog:  At a Glacial Pace.)  As time progresses, both of us are amazed at how small our world is--one of the members of our UP Puppy Group (Frank) works with Jess's uncle in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.  And FLD Gus is LD Glacier's half-brother!  (They share the same father, Sy.)

When Jess commented on my "HELP WANTED" post last week, I asked her to write a "guest" blog for me.  I thought that perhaps her story, in HER voice, would inspire readers to consider raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  Jim Platzer's talk last year at Puppy Days did just that to me; well, he inspired me to KEEP raising puppies!  (See my post from August 5, 2010.)

'Nuff said from me.  Get out your handerchiefs....
.......heeeeeerrrrreeee's JESS!

There are two people in this world who will probably never realize just how much they have impacted my life. They are both strangers and I have never even talked to them in person or over the phone. They live far away from me and our paths have never and probably will never cross. Their influence has touched my life so intimately and I don't even know what their voices sound like, what they look like, where they live, their hobbies, their likes or dislikes, their interests.

And yet, a part of me is closely linked to them. These two people have changed my life forever and they will never know just how truly grateful I am to them.

"Because she's stubborn and always hungry-just like you."

This is what my first Leader Dogs for the Blind trainer told me when I asked him why he had matched me with a 53 pound, Black Labrador named Jetta. He wasn't kidding when he said she was stubborn, but it was this hard headedness, her confidence and zest for life that bonded us in such a way that words cannot describe.

She was my companion, friend, eyes and safety net for six wonderful and action packed years. She guided me around the world-literally-and made being a blind, independent person much easier. I was never good at staying in one place and Jetta made my dreams more of a reality. She accompanied me to swimming training camps and competitions all over Canada and the United States and in Belgium and Greece; just to name a few places.

She never ceased to amaze me.

Once we were in an airport and she guided me back to my suitcase when I exited a bathroom. If my bag was moved in the change room, nine times out of ten Jetta could take me to it. We went to the Grand Canyon together; clamored through ancient Greek ruins; went whale watching in Vancouver British Columbia; and she pulled me out of the way of a semi-truck that almost ran us over on my university campus.

It was through my experiences with Jetta I learned that life must be lived and it is  much easier with a four legged set of eyes jauntily trotting by your side.

When Jetta retired herself in August of 2008, I spent a month without a guide dog.  It was a strange feeling and I recall refusing to attend some outings because I was not comfortable traveling without a guide dog. 

I always knew, from the first time I picked up the harness handle, that I would not go back to using a White Cane. Guide dog travel was more of my style, but it was this time that I spent guide dogless that I realized just how much of an impact little Jetta had had on my life.

On September 24th of 2008 the next life altering being came bounding into my room at Leader Dogs for the Blind and planted his gigantic paws on my chest. He covered my face in kisses and danced in tight circles about my knees.

His name was Glacier and he was a 75 pound, Yellow Labrador who thought the world was his chew toy. He also thought putting his harness on and taking me places was even better than pulling toilet paper off the roll in my room.

Glacier was and still is a huge contrast to little Miss Jetta. Jetta was/is reserved and had an independent streak, whereas, Glacier is a big goof who just wants to please you. He's fit perfectly into my life and although we've run into a few hiccups along the road, our bond as a working team is stronger than ever.

In fact, it is with this big Yellow Fellow at my side, I have the confidence and courage to move from my comfortable home in the United States to Scotland where I don't know any of the laws, streets or customs. We are moving to the bustling city of Edinburgh and there is no doubt in my mind that if Glacier and I weren't a strong working team, I would not be embarking on such a huge adventure.

Both of these dogs have come into my life and changed it for the better. They have taught me about loyalty, love and commitment.

Jetta didn't leave me standing alone in the parking lot with the semi-truck backing up at me: she dragged me into the lawn and planted her paws, refusing to move until the truck had stopped. She didn't say,"too bad for you. I'm saving my own furry behind."

Glacier never lets me go out the front door without him. He insists on thrusting his head into his harness with vigor and this small act lets me know that I do not have to travel, physically and metaphorically, alone.

And even though these two have impacted my life so much, I know their faces, voices, interests, likes and dislikes. I know where they live and their hobbies.  I am grateful for both Glacier and Jetta, but there are two other people who have made our relationships possible.

It is to these two people I say thank you. It is to these two people that I know I could never explain just what they have done for me.

When these two people made the decision to raise a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind, I really don't think they knew just exactly what they were providing.

They couldn't have known that their dogs would be world travelers. There is no way they would know that their puppies would grow up and pull a person out of the way of oncoming traffic.

They couldn't have known the magnitude of the gift they had given by dedicating a year of their lives to raising a little fluff ball into a full fledged working dog. They couldn't have known all that.

I don't know if they even know it now, but if they don't, I want them to know that my life is better because of their efforts. I am safe because they decided to raise a puppy and give it back to Leader Dogs for the Blind. They have given me the greatest gift of all, independence, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Even when Glacier retires and I get a new working dog, I will never forget what his puppy raiser did for me. I don't forget Jetta or her puppy raisers.

I know taking on a puppy and raising it to be a future Leader dog can be intimidating. I know the thought of having to give it back is excruciating. I can understand the hesitation people may feel when considering taking on such a large responsibility, but please know that if you do decide to do this incredible thing that there are not words to express the gratitude that the future handler will feel.

Without puppy raisers there aren't potential guide dogs, without potential guide dogs there aren't guide dogs and without guide dogs there isn't independence, confidence and quality of life for those of us who choose to work with guide dogs.

Thank you, Jess, for a wonderful post!  I hope that someone, somewhere will read this and decide to take on the "incredible" challenge of raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  At the very least, your words inspire those of us already raising a special puppy.

If you are inspired by Jess to consider raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind, please apply HERE, or call  888-777-5332 for more information.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Loon Fishing

It was a cooling evening after a hot, sunny day.  Andy wanted to go fishing.  I wanted to bring FLD Gus along because he's never been in Andy's boat and it was about time.

Those weren't the two birds I wanted to hit with my stone again.

We went to Sage Lake because Andy said almost every lakefront cottage has a big sign that shouts, LOON LAWS IN EFFECT, and I wanted to play with my new 200-500mm lens.

"Captain" Andy waves good luck!
Managing a strong 65+ pound Lab, who didn't mind the small boat but really wanted to be in the water, and trying to shoot pictures with my lens and camera on a tripod (repeat, in a small boat) proved to be a task. 

Luckily, we didn't find loons until we'd been on the water for a while and FLD Gus settled down.

"Captain" Gus just wants to get into the water!

The fishing report?

No luck on Andy's end; he graciously gave it up to maneuver the boat for my more successful photo-capture.

One beautiful loon.

The loon turns to look right at us.  FLD Gus was not interested in him...

...or these adolescent loons, who weren't too sure about Gus!

This group of 3 loons looked like Loch Ness sea-monsters.

The 3 loons grouped together when we cruised closer.  Having a meeting?  I wanted to ask.

One by one they ungracefully flopped across the surface of the water and flew away.

Thanks, Andy, for a marvelous evening!

Friday, August 5, 2011


FLD Kepler, returning to Leader Dogs for the next step in his journey.  Dogspeed!


Call 1-888-777-5332 for information, or apply on line:  On-Line Puppy-Raiser Application.

Position:  Volunteer Puppy-Raiser

Location:  In your home

Job Status:  24/7

Salary:  Puppy kisses, with the added bonus of making the difference in the life of a blind or visually impaired person.

Ad expires:  Never


Welcome a seven-week-old Lab, Golden, or German Shepherd puppy into your family to love and socialize.  Be prepared for the most amazing year of your life!

For more information, visit Leader Dogs for the Blind's website:  Raise a Puppy.

Or check out my posts from April 21, 2010 and June 14, 2010.

Take the step, and join the Leader Dog family.  Your life will be enriched in ways you cannot imagine!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shoe Delivery Update

No more shoes.

FLD Gus, caught with sock-in-mouth.

Now it's SOCKS!

An innocent looking FLD Gus looks up, "Who me?"

Way back in December, I posted "Fixing a Miscommunication" about FLD Gus's shoe-delivery habit.  

My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to:
  1. Ignore Gus.  Don't give any eye contact and only remove the shoe if he's chewing it.
  2. Divert his attention by replacing the shoe with an appropriate toy.
  3. Reinforce the TAKE/GIVE command using the shoe and hope he loses interest in the shoe.
  4. Clarify the TAKE/GIVE command periodically with different things.
  5. Exercise him!

I thought I did all of these things.  I really can't remember the last time that FLD Gus brought me a shoe.  But the other day I caught a photo of him with my sock.  And it dawned on me.  Gus has replaced his shoe-delivery with SOCK-delivery!

What did I do wrong?

Without realizing it, sock-delivery has become a common habit.  Gus brings me a sock.  I don't look at him as I take it away.  I close our bedroom door.

Andy says, "It's really weird.  He doesn't ever chew it.  He just has to HAVE it."

And I just keep taking it away.

I believe that FLD Gus knows the TAKE/GIVE command.  He did lose interest in the shoe.  He does get more exercise.  

BUT.  I did not IGNORE him enough.  I did not give him a chance to just HAVE the shoe and lose interest in it when I did not come and take it away.

Now I have a new mission!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, FLD Gus!

Hard to's Gus's birthday!  The year has flown by.

One more month to go, and then he heads off to Leader Dogs for the Blind.


FLD Gus--his first week at home.

and NOW

FLD Gus chillin' out this evening after a fun day.

FLD Gus Goes to the UP

FLD Gus perks up in the back seat as we cross the Mighty Mac into the UP.  ("Mighty Mac" is the Mackinaw Bridge and "UP" is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)  He casts a longing look out the window at the water some 200 feet below.  FLD Kepler (German Shepherd), who is resting quietly in an XL crate behind Gus, lifts his head like he's wondering, "What's the big deal?" 

Puppy-counselor Tammy and I are on our way to meet the UP puppy-raisers group for a picnic at Rotary Park in the Soo (that's Sault Ste Marie).  Funny how many of our Michigan places have nicknames.

Rotary Park is an island situated next to the channel where huge Lake and Ocean freighters travel through the Soo Locks.  The freighters slip by deceptively close, seemingly close enough to reach out and touch.  Their booming horns only garner a glance from our puppies, who are tied up to trees around our picnic area while we chow down on Kentucky Fried Chicken, pasta and potato salad, fruit and veggies, cookies and brownies.  YUM!  (Sorry pups.)

FLD Gus watches a freighter cruise by.


We take advantage of the situation and practice "meet & greets" with all the puppies after lunch.  (See my posts from November 9, 2010 and January 12, 2011 for tips on how to teach this important skill with your puppy.)  We leave our puppies tied up and take turns approaching them--if they get up or get excited, we turn away until they sit down.  (You can do this with your puppy too, anytime, anywhere!)

FLDs Toby and Atlas sit nicely, tied to trees while we eat lunch. 


Tammy and I run each puppy through Leader Dogs' new IFT (In-For-Training, here we go again with the nickname) readiness standards.  These standards are guidelines to help us puppy-raisers know what is ideal to teach our puppies during the year we have them.

Katia and FLD Atlas hold still while Tammy does the Handler's Exam.
Gary and FLD Atlas, with me giving the Handler's Exam.  (Photo by Tammy)

FLD Gus needs work on the Handler's Exam.


Working Leader Dogs sometimes wear protective booties--in hot climates on scorching pavement, or in cold climates where salt is used to melt the ice.  Tammy brings a selection of dog booties for us to try on our puppies.  We can hardly keep from giggling as our puppies dance, trying to keep their booted paws off the ground.

FLD Toby dancing in dog-booties!  (Photo by Tammy)
FLD Rudi can dance too!  (Photo by Tammy)

FLD Gus only tolerates the booties on his rear feet, he keeps shaking his legs like he's stepped in something sticky.  I feel like we've made progress when he finally lies down quietly with the booties just touching his front paws.

FLD Gus, just barely tolerating dog-booties placed on top of his paws.  (Photo by Tammy)


Tammy has us work our puppies through an Obedience Rally course.  We weave around bright orange cones on a loose-leash (hopefully), make turns, stop and SIT, walk a figure eight, do "puppy-pushups" (sit, down, sit, down, sit, stand, down, stand, etc), try a "leave it" by a jumping ball distraction, and eventually step our puppies through a PVC ladder.  Puppies don't realize they have back feet and walking them through a ladder like this helps their coordination.

Tammy and FLD Kepler show us how it's done.
FLD Rudi holds a SIT for Frank.
FLD Liberty isn't too sure about stepping through the ladder!


Gary drives his school bus to our outing (thank you Pickford Schools!) and graciously agrees to drive our now-tired puppies around the Soo to get some bus experience.  His black Lab puppy, Liberty, takes her place at the front of the bus like an old trooper and waits for the rest of us to take our seats.  

FLD Gus is distracted between Rudi (a German Shepherd that is returning to Leader Dogs next month) and Toby (a young and normally energetic yellow Lab, who by this time just wants to take a nap and not be bothered).

Tammy with FLD Kepler, Katia with FLD Atlas, me with FLD Gus, Frank with FLD Rudi, Gary with FLD Liberty, and Mary with FLD Toby pose in front of Gary's bus after our ride through town.

Thank you Tammy, for another fun outing!  It was a gorgeous day and Rotary Park was cool and relaxing.

Good luck to FLD Kepler and FLD Rudi when they return to Leader Dogs for the Blind to begin their next step toward becoming a working Leader Dog!