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.|
MEET & GREETS
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)|
OBEDIENCE RALLY COURSE
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!