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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chance Meeting

Whenever someone asks me about becoming a puppy-raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind, I always tell them that they can't be shy.  Puppy-raisers bring their Future Leader Dogs with them wherever they go, and strangers always want to talk about that fuzzy ball of fur.


SATURDAY

I run into Glen's Market in Rose City to pick up a few things for Sunday's lunch.  My sister Cathy and her husband Charlie were stopping by with their daughter Cori and her boyfriend Eric.  They spent the weekend in Oscoda, which isn't THAT far away, and were heading downstate after visiting us.

Anyway, on my way out of the grocery store, with FLD Gus heeling in his blue-working jacket, I stop to chat with two Rose City Lion's Club members selling raffle tickets.  Wilbur, who is the second-longest-standing-member of the club, and Kathy, club-treasurer are excited to meet FLD Gus.  So much so that I interrupt Kathy's petting of Gus with a polite, It's best if you don't pet him while he's working.  Luckily, FLD Gus is disinterested in her advances.  She politely obliges.

"Are you coming to our parade?" Kathy asks.  This Lion's Club sponsors Rose City's annual 4th of July extravaganza--a parade at 4:00 pm, followed by kids games at the park, and fireworks at dusk. 

Yes, I answer.  It will be great training for Gus.

"You're bringing him along?  Would you want to march with the Lion's Club?  You'll be right behind the banner at the front of the parade!  I know the club would love to have you join us!"

Of course we would.  FLD Gus has two parades under his jacket--the Rochester Christmas Parade and the Lilac Festival Parade.   What's one more?  I give Kathy my phone number, I'd also be happy to talk to your group anytime about Leader Dogs for the Blind.


SUNDAY 

We have a nice visit with family in the afternoon--a tasty lunch and a short hike through our woods, and soon they are on their way.  Later, couch-time.  The sky stays light late this far north during these long summer days, but our bodies know when it is time to relax.

At 9:45 pm, the phone rings.  It's Kathy from the Lion's Club, with an invitation. 

"I hope it's not tool late to call, I figured it was alright because there is still light in the sky.  We are having a dinner meeting tomorrow night and the club would love to have you and your husband attend.  Of course, bring the dog, if you think it's okay.  It will be a busy meeting because the District Governor is coming to swear-in the new club officers, and we also have a new member.  But we'd be happy to have you come.  It's at the City Park in the pavilion, weather permitting, of course.  And we'd love it if you'd consider joining the club!"

Whew!  I have the idea that life in the north country is lived at a slower pace.  Guess it just depends on the person.  This Kathy-person is a real go-getter! 

Well, I edge in, Andy will be downstate, but Gus and I can come.

"Great!  We start gathering at 6:30.  Dinner's at 7:00, and the meeting starts about 7:30.  As I said, it will be a busy meeting; we usually finish up about 8:00, but we'll probably go until 8:30 tomorrow.  We are so excited to have you come.  If you get here around 6:30, you'll have time to chat with our members.  Maybe your husband could come to our next meeting.  We meet the 2nd and 4th Tuesday every month.  Usually we meet at our little Log Cabin at the park, but we're having this catered dinner in the pavilion tomorrow instead.  Okay, see you tomorrow!" 


MONDAY

The rain starts about 3:00 in the afternoon.  By six it settles into a steady drizzle.  Fall-like temperatures are in the low 60's.  I am glad to put on my Leader Dogs fleece jacket as FLD Gus and I head out to Rose City. 

The rain does not deter the hearty members of the Rose City Lions Club gathered under the protection of the pavilion.  When FLD Gus and I arrive, Kathy is busy setting up picnic tables for dinner.  Lion David, who is in charge of membership, steps up and introduces himself.  Like I mentioned, having a jacketed puppy at your side makes it difficult to go unnoticed.  He bends over to give FLD Gus a pet; Gus stretches out with his nose and licks his hand.

This is Gus and he's in training  I think it's best if he isn't petted tonight.

David straightens.  "Okay!  I'll let everyone know.  Are you and your husband thinking of joining the club?"  He hands me a couple of applications.  Before I can answer, David takes me under his wing and brings me to each and every one of the 15-some club members, including their spouses and a few grown children (and grandkids).

"This is Patti.  Don't pet her dog-in-training," he says.  "She's here to check us out.  She and her husband are thinking of joining the club."  The Rose City Lions Club currently has about 29 members.  They are eager for two more.

FLD Gus is a big hit, and per David's instructions, no one tries to pet him.  All Gus is interested in is whatever scraps are on the floor.  I keep a tight leash to keep his tongue off the cement and tire myself saying, Gus, leave it.  Finger pokes and name recognition help.

As a guest, I am first in line for dinner.  Everyone is curious how FLD Gus will manage the tables of food, but he heels nicely and doesn't nose the goods.  And I don't overload my plate!  I sit at the nearest picnic table and place Gus on a DOWN behind me.

A Lion's member shuffles by with a dinner plate loaded with lasagna and roast beef, a salad bowl, and a desert plate piled high with strawberry pie and whipped cream all balanced in one hand and a coffee cup in the other.  I see it coming.  SPLAT!  Strawberry-upside-down-pie.  Good thing I am sitting on Gus's leash.  He doesn't bolt for it, but strains to lick a taste.

The poor fellow's wife runs to help and says, "Tom, what are you doing?"

I answer, Trying to test my dog!

After dinner the District Governor does his thing and the meeting gets underway.  With FLD Gus standing calmly at my side (and eyeing the floor), I get a chance to talk to the Lions about Leader Dogs for the Blind and answer many thoughtful questions.  I only have to redirect Gus's attention a few times.

Before we leave the amicable group, almost everyone makes sure to invite Andy and me to their next meeting.  We'll see, but for sure FLD Gus and I will be marching in their 4th of July Parade next Monday!
 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poetry: Puppy Walks

Yesterday's walk on country roads prompted me to revisit a poem I've been brewing.  I don't think it is finished, yet,  but here is "part 1."

puppy walks

1.  city walk

keyed-up morning puppy percolates testosterone

Who's there?          What's that?

block-head dodges the downshift scream
of a semi
passing
close
          in the city
crows CAW raucous
just to be heard above the drone
of radials
on concrete
          in the city
rabbits snack on tended tulips
and grow COLOSSAL under
weathered redwood
          in the city
backyard hounds HOWL jealous
detained
by chain-link fences, fur-raised
in complaint

3 miles later

the key turns abandonment
into calm coffee--
a 3rd bunny          bursts out ahead
draws notice,
nothing
more

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: WALK YOUR PUPPY!


BEFORE

Up early.  FLD Gus stands still only long enough for me to snap on his collar and tags as he exits his crate.  OK, I say to release him.

Black-Lab-freight-train leaves the station!

Da-thump-de-da-dump, la-thump-de-da-lump...  He heads for the back door and somehow Gypsy and I get outside with him, unscathed. 

Monster paws thunder like a herd of buffalo.  Get out of the way!  Good thing Andy was right about our square-foot-garden posing an obstacle; Gus leans into a turn between them (instead of through them), spewing wet sandy soil in a rooster-tail behind him.

Something must be done.  FLD Gus was a very patient puppy yesterday as I waited for our driveway contractors to show up.  He isn't going to be content to lay around today!


MY MISSION:  TIRE OUT THE PUPPY!

We head north down the big hill on Brady Road, veer right onto Shady Shores Drive and follow south along the cottages that ring Rifle Lake, turn left at the corner of Wiltse Road, and turn left again on Brady Road--a mile-long grade back UP to our house.  All-in-all, three miles.

Along the way I change pace, stop, and give SIT, DOWN, and STAND commands to FLD Gus to divert his attention from deer-track scent and assorted country sundries.

Halfway to Wiltse Road we meet another walker, Noreeta, who is vacationing for the week at her family cabin on Rifle Lake.  Just then I spot a bald eagle circling overhead, almost brushing the treetops.

"The other day we saw a small fawn curled up by a tree stump near the lake.  It lay there all day in the sun," Noreeta tells me.  "You should have seen all the cottagers taking its picture!"

FLD Gus isn't interested in chatting, but Noreeta and I share our walk for awhile on this beautiful morning.  We part ways at the corner where the Cedar Bar still hasn't reopened after their kitchen fire the night before New Year's Eve.


AFTER

FLD Gus slurps from his water bowl like he barely survived a trek across the Sahara.  He flops down as I sit to write this and briefly looks up when I grab my camera.

Mission accomplished.

FLD Gus resting on soft, green carpet, too tired to even chew his Nylabone.


To tame a dashing, zealous morning Lab, try a long walk!

Monday, June 27, 2011

What a Good Boy He Is!

Lately I've been feeling like all I've been doing is picking on FLD Gus.  Getting his own mind, guard-barking, testing...

But.  Adolescent behavior doesn't define this energetic, scary-smart, happy Future Leader Dog puppy.  Gus has more than a few positive traits and there are some things he does extraordinarily well.  Here are three that instantly come to mind:


HIS BUTT DROPS IN A FLASH

Before Gus and Gypsy eat, they must SIT at the entrance to our eating area--Gus on his mat and Gypsy on the carpet.  When I say, Do you want to eat? Gus twirls around and around until he bumps against the wall where his mat is stationed, his butt nailing the mat at attention.

Gypsy, on the other hand, tiptoes to her place, eyeing me to make sure I really mean for her to SIT.  (Her food does NOT go into her bowl until she sits.)  Finally, she complains under her breath, leisurely lowering her rear end to the floor.

On our way outside, I tell both dogs, SIT, before I open the door.  Again, Gus drops instantaneously.  Gypsy moves as slow as molasses in January.


HAPPINESS ABOUNDS

Gus is the happiest puppy I've known, even for a Lab, those notorious happy-making-machines.  He is thrilled to greet Gypsy every morning, and races from his crate to engage her in play.

Gypsy wakes up crabby.

The other morning I noticed a small cut on Gus's face, no doubt from Gypsy putting him in his place.  Undaunted, he bows and gyrates before her, his long Lab tongue snapping the air between them.  She snarls.  He dodges, but always comes  back for more.


FLD-IN-TRAINING TRANSFORMATION

Put that baby-blue "Puppy Being Trained for Leader Dogs for the Blind" jacket on Gus and enter a grocery store, Home Depot, restaurant, library, you name it, and he is all business.  If strangers reach to pet him uninvited, he is not fazed (as I am).  In restaurants, Gus settles under the table, or at my side, sighs, and snoozes while we enjoy a peaceful meal.



I SO want Gus to succeed as a Leader Dog graduate that I often forget he's still a puppy in a big-dog-suit.  And a Lab at heart.  As his time to return to Leader Dogs nears, I must remember to take pleasure in his puppy-Labness, and celebrate the many things he HAS learned and how happy and eager he is to please. 

FLD Gus, my teacher-of-so-many-things!

FLD Gus, comfy in any position!  Here he is at the end of a busy day--chillin' where he lay on the living room floor.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Field Trip to the Detroit Science Center

FLD Gus sure got around during the two days we were downstate.  Monday we attended our puppy-group's outing at the Macomb Fire Station.  Tuesday we went with my sister Anne and her girls, Sofia and Natalie, to the Detroit Science Center.  FLD Gus highly recommends it.

FLD Gus heels through a bright orange tunnel, no problem.

EXCELLENT SOCIALIZATION

The Science Center is a popular destination for families, kids' summer camps, and birthday bashes.  Couple these swarms of six-to-nine-year-olds in matching neon t-shirts with three floors of hands-on science ranging from manufacturing to music, electricity to physics, alternative energy to space exploration and you've got instant chaos.

FLD Gus checks back with me as we enter the "Kid's Factory."

Chaos-theory notwithstanding, toss in shiny floors, open staircases, a replica of the Mighty Mac Bridge, and a glass-walled elevator and you've also got a puppy-raiser's dream.  And this is just the museum proper--for an additional charge we could have exposed FLD Gus to grunting, swaying dinosaurs!

We chose, instead, to take a rest in the Planetarium for the "Guide to the Night Sky" presentation.  FLD Gus was surprised out of his nap by the wild ride through the universe during the last few minutes of the show.  No bark, but he popped up and took notice!


A WELL-BEHAVED PUPPY

FLD Gus was complacent and non-reactive during our long afternoon visit at the Science Center.  He was curious at the air-compression handling of big, colorful balls in the factory exhibit, but did not chase after the orange one that escaped Natalie's grip and bounced noisily away.

FLD Gus supervises Natalie.

Bowing his head under the shadows of waves, FLD Gus posed calmly with Sofia and Natalie, even though he looked like he was sure the water would splash down on him.

Sofia and FLD Gus.
Natalie and FLD Gus.

In the "Life" section of the museum, Natalie sat down between a pair of couch potatoes; when one of them said "Hi!  Yes, I'm talking to you!"  FLD Gus turned his head to sniff, but did not bark.  He soon lost interest in the plastic display.

Nat and FLD Gus checking out a couch potato.

It was difficult to tell who was more tired during the fight through rush-hour traffic back to Anne's: me or FLD Gus.

Turns out I was definitely more tired--FLD Gus quickly engaged cc'd Rosie in a Lab-wrestle as soon as we arrived!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poetry: Puppies in the Fire Station!

Monday, June 20, 2011


Puppies in the Fire Station!

Puppies in the fire station
puppies in the fire station
who rang the bell?

Puppy-counselor Nance leads her puppy-group.


Canvas-coated monster
looms breathing hard like Vader
char-blooy-ee smell!

FLD Lincoln sneaks a treat.


Golden puppy looks away
wants to play, wants to play
Nyla-in-the-dell.

FLD Misha would rather play than meet the fireman.


Sirens wailing side to side
not one puppy bolts to hide
aren't the puppies swell?

Puppies and raisers unfazed by loud Engine #3.


Round and round the engine goes
dogs' heads follow with their nose
ring the bell, we won't tell!

FLD Gus and FLD Buster calmly watch the fire-truck race by.


Up and down the stairy-scares
wrinkles whiskers on their hairs
open-grated stairwell.

FLD Gus descends the scary, open-metal stairs.


 Puppies in the fire station
puppies in the fire station
who rang the bell?

Did you?
 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Belated Happy Father's Day!

FLD Gus wishes his dad, Sy, a very HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, if just a bit late.

He has a good excuse.

Yesterday, FLD Gus marched in the Lilac Festival Parade on Mackinac Island with a contingent of Future Leader Dog puppies representing Leader Dogs for the Blind.


Here is a parade of pictures!


First, a boat ride to the Island.

Thank-goodness I took Dramamine--it was a white-capped-roly ride on the Arnold Transit Company ferry.  Gus didn't seem to mind at all.

An unfazed FLD Gus looks up at me as if to say, What's the problem?

FLD Gus took the milling tourists on Main Street in stride as we wound our way to the parade staging area in front of the Mission Point Resort.  Like most of the other puppies waiting, Gus was more interested in the other Future Leader Dogs than the horse teams and other parade participants around us!

FLD Gus ignores the draft horses and keeps an eye on the other puppies.

Keep your own eyes open for a nice picture of our "calm" puppies posing in front of the Leader Dogs for the Blind parade banner; you won't see it here, though.  This is what it looked like as puppy-raisers maneuvered their puppies for a group shot.

FLD puppies and raisers trying to line up for a picture!

At last, underway!

A few quiet streets before the mayhem on Main Street.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mackinac Island, there are no motorized vehicles allowed.  Only horses.  Which necessitates a great need for street cleaners armed with shovels.  Which also means when you walk in a parade on Mackinac Island, there is always the risk of road apples.  Which many of the Future Leader Dogs thought were treats left just for them!

FLD Gus thinks about it.

Can you guess what was the most repeated phrase heard from our group?
(Yup: LEAVE IT!)

Another technique to avoid retrieving road apples from a Lab-puppy's mouth.





The street was cleaner on the main drag.  Good for tourists.  Good for puppy-raisers!


The jammed-with-tourist sidewalks on Main Street.

After our prance downtown, we pressed our way back to the boat docks through thongs of people who kept pawing at FLD Gus.  Gus took no mind, but I said GUS, LEAVE IT, in a commanding voice, hoping that the offenders would take offense and keep their hands to themselves.

Again, FLD Gus looks back at me like,  "What's the big deal?"

Boarding the boat brought excellent training opportunities besides exposure to crowds of strangers.  Undulating gang-planks, narrow stairs, and slippery surfaces.

FLD Gus handles the gang-plank like an old salt.

Stairs?  No problem.

FLD Gus was calm and confident on the swaying boat, but he did show concern when I left him with Andy so I could take a picture of the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

"Hey, where are YOU going?"

The Mighty Mac.

FLD Gus must have figured out I was okay--when I returned from my picture-taking expedition, he was fast asleep at Andy's feet.

Andy and FLD Gus, relaxing after a good day.



Happy Father's Day, Sy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Intercepted Letter


Hey there, Rosie-Dosie!  Gus here.  Dudette—just want you to know how much fun I had last week staying with you and your girls.  Gypsy’s ok, but between you and me, I think she’s getting old.  She acts like she doesn’t want to wrestle and chase with me, but I think she just can’t keep up anymore and doesn’t want to admit it.

I really miss our water-fights.  Patti and Andy take Gypsy and me down to that lake through the woods sometimes, but it isn’t the same.  Did you know that if you keep jumping pretty soon your paws don't touch?!  Anyway, all Gypsy wants to do is race after her stick.  Swim, swim, swim.  It’s like she has a one-track mind.  Personally, I have more fun ripping around your yard and jumping in and out of your little blue pool.  We make a mess of it, don’t we?

I was glad to have you next to me when Patti kenneled us up—it sure was cooler in the basement, wasn’t it?  Be sure to let those girls know you’re ok with staying down there if it gets hot; I won’t mind if you sleep in my crate that we left at your house.
cc'd Rosie, FLD Gus, and Nat

My favorite part was when we snuggled up on the front room floor with Natalie.  You are so lucky to have her as your girl (and Sofia and Elaina, too), but there’s no way I’d let Nat dress ME up like she does you!

It’s not so hot up here.  You would really like it here.  Patti takes us on a hike in the woods every day!  She makes me work when we go into town, but I don’t mind it so much.  I really like when she takes me to the restaurant.  Lots of good sniffing on the floors in there!

Well, thanks again for all the fun!  I think I heard Patti say something about coming down again next week.  I can’t wait to see you again!  Get ready, ‘cause this time I’m going to win!

Licks, licks, licks to you, Rosie!  I miss you!

your buddy, Gus

ps, give your girls a slobber from me, ok?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: IGNORING UNWANTED BEHAVIORS

FLD Gus is 10-months-old.  Sometimes it seems like my adolescent puppy has forgotten everything I taught him--he stands defiant when I ask for a "SIT' or a "DOWN," or he refuses to "COME" when he always ran to meet me at first call.

This testosterone-making time usually means the development of unwanted behaviors like "marking" (lifting a rear leg to pee on things).  Luckily, the only time FLD Gus gave me this problem is at puppy-class at Leader Dogs for the Blind, and he is improving.  Last Tuesday he actually went through his entire class without "marking" on the weigh-in scale, or in the training room and entry halls.  Yay!

But.

FLD Gus has developed at least one new behavior I attribute to his rising testosterone levels:  guard-barking.  A second behavior, trying to get onto my lap whenever I sit down, may or may not be attributable to his hormones, but nonetheless, it is undesirable.

I described FLD Gus's barking to our trainer at puppy-class, hoping for some ideas.  He started this when we visited friends.  They live in an apartment with patio doors overlooking the entranceway, and Gus barked at anyone he saw outside.

In my post from March 31, I stated that Gus seemed to be past his "big-dog-bark," and only barked at Gypsy in play.  True, for a while; recently he's taken to barking at other things:  sounds outside, at the neighbor boy when he rides his bike past our house, from the car if he sees someone.  Gus is my first Future Leader Dog puppy to take such a protector stance.  The diverting techniques I employed (name recognition, finger-poking, giving a "SIT" command) weren't doing the trick.

The trainer at Leader Dogs said, "Ignore him."

That's easier said than done.  When FLD Gus puffs up and lets loose, he's hard to disregard.

"Just ignore him.  And be quick to reward him any time he does NOT bark in a situation where he's likely to bark."

Okay....

Not long later, we were in the van and got stopped at a red light.  (Andy swears that there are cameras hidden that identify him as he approaches.)  While we waited for the light to change, I glanced at Gus sitting in the back seat just as he "puffed up" at the sight of a pedestrian.  Gus muttered under his breath, but did not bark.  I immediately praised him, Good boy, Gus!  What a good puppy you are!  And proceeded to talk to him like this as a means of diverting his attention from the unsuspecting stranger.

It worked!  FLD Gus lost interest and did not bark.

Last week we had an opportunity to bring FLD Gus to our friends' apartment where his barking began.  I made extra effort to pay attention to whatever caught his attention, and praise (and treat) him when he was quiet.  While Gus did burst out a few times at people in the parking log (and we all ignored him), he did much better observing and not protecting.

Today I tried this same technique when FLD Gus tried to get on my lap.  (Typically I say, OFF! and remove him if he doesn't step back.)  I sat on the couch; Gus bounced over and put his big front paws on my legs.  I averted my eyes and hugged my torso to keep my hands inaccessible.  When Gus didn't remove himself, I twisted to face away from him.  Finally, Gus put four paws on the floor.  I turned back to him and gave him a pet.

Maybe this ignoring stuff does work!


HINTS FOR IGNORING UNWANTED BEHAVIOR
  • Be consistent.  Every time your puppy barks, or jumps up, completely ignore him.
  • Anticipate.  Try to catch your puppy BEFORE the behavior--and give a diverting command such as "sit."
  • Be quick to reward the appropriate behavior.  Your puppy is smarter than you think!
  • Be safe.  Certainly, if your puppy's behavior creates an unsafe condition, take steps to physically stop the behavior and/or remove your puppy from the situation.

And good luck!  Eventually your puppy will "relearn" what he already knows and be ready for his real training at Leader Dogs.  Return time comes quickly!  (FLD Gus returns to Leader Dogs at the end of August.)
 

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Surprise Card for FLD Gus

I wonder if Leader Dogs for the Blind intentionally mailed me a 5x7 photograph of LD Mike and his new handler Eric a week before sending me FLD Gus's first birthday card?

Yep, Gus's first birthday card arrived today.

The front of FLD Gus's birthday card.



Now I must start making definite plans for when to take Gus back to Leader Dogs so he can begin his "formal" training.  (And I begin the long wait until he graduates, all the while dreading any "career-change" phone calls from Leader Dog.)

The turn-in procedure is a bit different now; puppy-raisers schedule an appointment time for return, or have a time assigned.  We are taken to a special, private room to say our good-byes, instead of embarrassing ourselves in the kennel-lobby.

The inside of FLD Gus's card, with return date.



To save myself a second trip to Leader Dogs, I hope to give Gus back and take a new puppy home the same day!

I'll keep you posted...in the meantime, I will enjoy FLD Gus for another couple of months, knowing that he will soon be one step closer to fulfilling his special purpose!
 
FLD Gus, his first week home with us.  He sure has come a long way!

 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Poetry: "Monster Paws" by Sofia

As promised, here is Sofia's poem about FLD Gus and his MONSTER PAWS!

Monster Paws


Boom!  Boom!  Boom!
Boom!  Boom!  Boom!
Guess who's come'n
Monster paws it must be
Tromping through the forest
And through the trees,
Monster paws
Monster paws
It must be,
But who is monster paws?
Only a puppy, you see
Guster buster
Guster buster
The forest Gus
Tromping through the forest
With his big, huge...
MONSTER PAWS!!!!!!!!!

-Sofia Bicego
2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guess What Came in the Mail Today!

Eric and LD Mike



Leader Dogs for the Blind sent me a nice thank-you letter with this photograph of LD Mike and his handler, Eric.  LD Mike is now working with Eric in Spain.

Way to go, Mike!  And congratulations Eric!


(To read more about Eric and LD Mike, check out my post from April 20, 2011:  Meeting LD Mike's New Handler.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

FLD Gus Learns to Swim

The early morning stillness of Grousehaven Lake is Zamboni-smooth.  Gypsy barks her way through the ice-like surface, keen on the cock of my arm as I ready to throw a stick.  She twirls before I set the stick free, bounding somehow, always, crazily, intuitively in the direction of the inevitable splash.

Gus leaps close behind, but freezes when his belly breaks the surface.

Come on, Gus, I call and wade in after Gypsy.  The clear water isn't as cold as ice, but almost.  Guess I'll think of it as icing my legs after our mile-and-a-half jaunt through the woods to get here.  The bottom is sandy and leads to deeper water in a gentle descent.  When Gus loses footing, I support him so he is swimming.

Gypsy speedboats by us toward shore, her gay tail whipping side to side like a rudder, clenching her stick and snorting water from her nose.  When Gus turns to follow, I let him go and he drops under.  Monster-Lab paws* batter the surface and then his head is airborne like a submarine that dropped ballast.  I buoy him up until he calms into a crawl and this time when I let go he finds the bottom. 

Now Gypsy and Gus are like brown and black porpoises as they curl their bodies to launch their back paws out of the water and splash back in, over and over until they regain shore.

Gypsy shakes herself off at water's edge, stick twirling like a propeller between her teeth.  Unwilling to have my fingers nipped off, I tell her, Drop!  I have to act fast--Gus dives in almost before the stick hits the sand.

I let fly the stick.  Gypsy blasts off into the water with Gus hot on her tail.  He falters at the point of swimming, but I catch up to keep him afloat.  Suddenly he GETS IT.  I take my hands away. 

Gus is SWIMMING--a controlled, Lap-paddle heading out to where Gypsy nabs the stick.  He turns back to shore when she does, but as they pass me by, he circles round as if to show off his newfound skill.

Good boy, Gus!  You learned to swim!

FLD Gus first swam on Saturday.  Sunday evening we took Andy back with us to Grousehaven to show what Gus had learned.  These pictures were taken on Sunday, when Gus readily swam after Gypsy--and came with me into deeper water, too!

FLD Gus heads right into the water.

And takes off after Gypsy!

Here's Gus swimming in the deep water with me.

"Yahoo!  Swimming is great!"


*"Monster-Lab paws" I stole from my niece, Sofia.  She wrote a poem about FLD Gus and his "monster paws."  Look for her poem to be posted soon!