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Friday, July 29, 2011

FLD Gus and Gizmo

I open the weathered door of Mary's Salon and Gizmo greets us before we even get inside.  FLD Gus stretches to touch noses with the mop-top Shih Tzu.  It's a standoff.

Can I get a haircut today?  I ask as Gizmo finally backs to let us enter.  The last time we were here, Gizmo wasn't too excited about a big, strange dog in his business--after Gus and I were situated, Gizmo went under Mary-the-owner's desk and promptly relieved himself.  (See my post "FLD Gus in the Beauty Salon" for the whole story.) 

Today, Gizmo wants to play and FLD Gus is all for that.

I'll hook his leash to my chair, I say while Mary leashes Gizmo to the hair-drying chair out of nose-reach across the room.  FLD Gus settles right away, although he keeps a keen interest on Gizmo.  Our three-mile walk this morning pays off!

Meanwhile, Gizmo plops down looking even more like a mop and rests his chin on the floor between his front paws.  He whines.  And whines again.  And keeps on whining.  "Oh wow is me," he seems to lament.  Mary says, "He's not used to being tied up, but he'll live." 

Suddenly, a bass-voice whine echoes from Gus.  He sits up and raises his snout to the sky with a deep WOO--WOO--WOOOOF!

Gus!  Quiet!  He glances at me but now he's standing, tail wagging as if it can help him bridge the gap to Gizmo.  Gus.  DOWN.  With slight downward pressure on his leash he lies down, ready for action.

Hey, I say to the gal trying to cut my hair through all of this, you have a spray bottle don't you?  (Silly question, given she's just wet my head with it.)  Mary, busy giving a perm to another customer says, "Here, give her mine."

FLD Gus takes notice of the bottle being passed to me, and even though I've NEVER sprayed him before, he seems to understand that it means no good news for him.  He rolls his butt onto his side and proceeds to sniff the reddish hair clippings left on the floor from the previous client.  He licks one lock up and immediately spits it out.

Good leave it, Gus!  I say.  He sighs and drops his chin to the floor in much the same position as Gizmo, who is now silent.

Andy's timing is impeccable.  He pulls up from running his errand just as FLD Gus and I exit the salon.  "You look nice," he says as we get into the van.  Thanks, I say and laugh when he backtracks, "Well, you look nice all the time..."

He laughs when I tell him the story of Gus and Gizmo.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

FLD Gus Goes to the Iosco County Fair

Andy said, "Let's go get second breakfast."

Today was "Agriculture Day" at the Iosco County Fair over in nearby Hale.  That meant a free breakfast between 9:30 and 10:30 am.  We'd been up for hours; 2nd breakfast sounded like a great idea.

As we stood in line for sausage links, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and coffee, FLD Gus thought it was a good idea, too.  (He definitely needs more work on the LEAVE IT command whenever dropped eggs are involved!)

Ground smells through the fair were almost more than FLD Gus could endure--I doubt a three-mile hike would have taken the edge off.  We worked hard to divert his nose attention using name recognition, sits, downs, stays, and posing for a picture on a tractor!

"Farmer" Gus wants to take a ride on a tractor.

In the exhibition buildings, FLD Gus was a calm and wonderful ambassador for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  I was particularly impressed with one 4-H entry--a mock up of a cow's stomach, complete with windows into each part showing the contents.

A 4-H display of a cow's stomach.


FLD Gus stretches to sniff a huge black cow under the 2011 Iosco Fair sign.

In the Poultry Barn, we find this sign:  "EAT MOR RABBIT!"  (Guess those roosters don't know how to spell.)

In the Rabbit Barn, FLD Gus looks back as if he's thinking, Really?  I'm supposed to eat more rabbit?

The girl in the cow costume startles FLD Gus, but he warms up to her (after a few morsels of dog chow).

Baby goats in the Sheep Barn share FLD Gus's shyness, but curiosity wins.

"Got Milk?"  FLD Gus is nose to nose with this sheep.

The petting pen outside the barns was a HUGE distraction to FLD Gus at first.  I had to take a wide berth around to keep him on task.  However, after he sniffed his way through the animal barns, FLD Gus did not pull and approached the pen with caution.

FLD Gus sniffs a goat in the petting pen.

Gus!  Are you eating straw???

A lamb and a pony gaze out at FLD Gus in wonder.

All in all, a very enjoyable morning.  And fantastic distraction work for FLD Gus!

A very tired FLD Gus in the back of the van on the drive home.  Yippee!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FLD Gus Goes Loony

I am definitely not a bird-killer, but if I have a chance to check off two things on my "to do" list at one time, I'll go ahead and throw that rock.

  1. Tire out FLD Gus.
  2. Find a story to write about for the "Ogemaw Voice," our local paper published twice a month.  (I'm their new freelance writer/photographer covering the Rose City/Lupton area!)


Hike two miles through our woods to the beach area in the Rifle River Recreation Area (RRRA), interview "Explorer Elizabeth" and take a few pictures, hike two miles back through the woods home.


FLD Gus was not interested in the patch of wild raspberries I found en route to the park, but was more than happy to sniff around whilst I nibbled.  As we emerged from the woods at the beach area, he pulled toward the water.  He gave it up when I walked us backwards back into the woods.  Several times.


FLD Gus reluctantly settled while I chatted with Explorer Elizabeth before her engaging presentation about loons.  (There are two nesting pairs in the park.)  Born and raised in Mio, Elizabeth's summer job is hosting Michigan's DNR "Exploring Nature Programs" at RRRA.  Her topic this day was "Feeling Loony."

Explorer Elizabeth, dressed like a loon, posing with her stuffed loon.

FLD Gus was not interested in the stuffed loon Elizabeth displayed on a picnic table next to the beach, and he did not react when she played the loon's call on her "Birdsong Identiflyer."  He was not perturbed when wayward bubbles from a nearby youngster went floating by in front of him.  Gus did perk up at a Jack Russell Terrier that was dragging its owner past us, but he didn't break his position.  And when Elizabeth played "loon tag" with her young audience, Gus didn't even seem to notice.

FLD Gus looking over his shoulder at the swimmers and not taking notice of bubbles floating by him.

What FLD Gus WAS interested in was the kids splashing in the water.  When he thought I wasn't paying attention, he leapt up and tried to join them.

I was ready and he did not.

He tried whining.  Gus wailed so much during Elizabeth's talk it sounded like he was calling the loons!  When whining didn't work, Gus took to barking.  Time for redirection.  Name recognition would not be enough--the distraction was too great.

I moved myself in front of Gus to obstruct his view of the swimmers and commanded him into a DOWN.  I had to physically put him into the DOWN as he tried to look around me, but when I immediately gave him a command to SIT, he turned his focus to me.  And sat!  I was making progress.  Gus, down, I said.  This time he went down on his own.  A finger-poke or two later and he regained his self-control.

FLD Gus, turning his attention back to me


My two-for-one plan turned out to be more productive than I had hoped.  I got my story and FLD Gus got tired out, but I also learned some things about loons.

And Gus practiced self-control with some pretty big distractions!

A lone loon floating on Grousehaven Lake.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: Sometimes it is OKAY to Leave Your Puppy Home.

The 10th and last item in the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is "Supervised Separation."  Your dog must calmly wait (no continuous barking, whining, or pacing) with a stranger while you are out of sight for three minutes.

Three minutes is a LONG time when you are the one that is staying out of sight!

For a Future Leader Dog puppy, learning to be comfortable with someone other than his puppy-raiser will go a long way to helping him adjust to his new life when he returns to Leader Dogs for the Blind.  Later, when the puppy graduates and becomes a working Leader Dog, he will need to stay relaxed in those situations when he can't be with his handler.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday (Puppy Days 2011), I decided to leave FLD Gus home with my husband Andy for my quick two-day trip to the city.  I didn't think that his missing the mayhem at Leader Dogs would set him back; Gus is almost one year old and he's had plenty of socialization.  Rather, I thought that a couple of days away from me might do him some good.

The first evening, Andy reported that Gus wandered around the house after I left as if trying to find me, but by the next day it was business as usual.

It is OKAY to leave your puppy at home. 

Like when I was the "official" photographer at my nephew's wedding in June.  Taking FLD Gus to a wedding would have been a wonderful experience to help prepare him for his future life as a working Leader Dog, but I knew that I would be too busy looking through my camera lens to adequately keep track of his behavior.  He stayed home.

While one of the most important duties we have as puppy-raisers is to take our puppies out in public for socialization, sometimes it is best to leave the puppy at home.

Best for the puppy.  And best for YOU!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Leader Dogs for the Blind: Puppy Days 2011

Every July, Leader Dogs for the Blind shows their appreciation to volunteer puppy-raisers, puppy-counselors, and breed host families by hosting an event that used to be called "Puppy Days."  This year Leader Dogs changed the name to "Leader Dog University" (LDU) to reflect their ongoing process-improvements.

We met, we ate, we learned things.

Raisers met their puppies' mom, dad, and siblings, toured the Leader Dogs for the Blind facilities, watched puppies waiting for pickup play in Puppy Land, attended mini-seminars, had their puppies paint a "paw-print," and observed Leader Dog trainers work with clients in downtown Rochester.

Fun, interesting, and inspiring, too!  The keynote speaker, Ken Ramirez from Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, gave a presentation about how the laws of learning apply to animal training.  (Visit his website at:

This year, I was dog-less.

Dog-less amongst several hundred other puppy-raisers, most of whom had Future Leader Dog puppies (of all ages) with them.

I felt like I was on the Au Sable River in a speedboat instead of in a canoe.

Oh, I had plenty of reasons not to bring FLD Gus with me to this year's fun at Leader Dogs.
  • It had been a horrendously HOT week, even for up north, and Gus had a hard time keeping cool.  I filled a kiddie-pool with our icy spring-like well water.  I took him to Grousehaven Lake to swim, even though the water was more tepid than a Miami swimming pool.  I set up a fan next to his crate at night.  He left bits of the ice cubes I gave him all over the house to melt.  I knew it would be hot during LDU and I didn't want to expose Gus to more heat.
  • It had been a horrendously HOT week and MY patience was wearing thin.  The air-conditioning guy came the day I left for the city.  At least Gus would stay cool at home with Andy.
  • I had a lot of errands to run for the two days I was in the city; FLD Gus at my side would definitely slow me down.
  • Leader Dogs for the Blind recently asked me to expand my volunteer activity into the role of puppy-counselor.  All puppy-raisers must be seen by their puppy-counselor every month.  The more than 45 raisers who live further than 90 minutes away from any puppy-counselor are termed "independent" puppy-raisers.  Heretofore, these independent raisers had been assisted by independent puppy-counselor Tammy via email or telephone.  Now Tammy has help.  I will be the puppy-counselor for independent raisers on the East Coast of the US; Tammy will continue with the Mid-west,  and Bev, also a new counselor, will handle the West Coast.  I planned to pick Tammy's brain during LDU--not having FLD Gus along meant I would not be distracted.
I even rationalized that it was good for FLD Gus to spend a couple of days without me.  (More about this in tomorrow's "TIP.")

Still, it felt weird.  Even when I wasn't on the Leader Dog campus during LDU, visiting family instead, I heard, "I can't get used to seeing you without a dog."

Anyway, my trip to the city went smoothly.  I got all my errands done, and enjoyed more than my share of puppy-breath fixes during LDU.

FLD Gus stayed cool.

I just wonder if Tammy has any brains left!


Two Goldens and one black Lab find a way to beat the heat--a pile of ice!

One young Golden puppy isn't too sure about being sniffed by another young yellow Lab puppy while waiting in the lunch line with their raisers.

Two yellow Lab puppies at play in Puppy Land.

A very tired FLD Kimber snoozing during the activities.

Bob and Mary (on the right) were sorry I didn't bring FLD Gus--they are the host family with Sienna, Gus's mom.  But they were happy to run into fellow puppy-raiser Cheri and her puppy, FLD Ava, Gus's sister!  (Cheri also raised LD Mike's sister, Nora!)  Ava is very petite, unlike my brute, Gus.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot Dog

FLD Gus, chilling in the van.

Unlike our house, it has air-conditioning.
"It's HOT!  Are we going swimming?"

Thursday, July 21, 2011


The topic for the 4th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC), hosted by Kali on her blog Brilliant Mind Broken Body is THE DIFFERENCE.

At first, I was tempted to just include posts I wrote in the past about the differences between the three puppies I've raised for Leader Dogs for the Blind.  (Here are links to them, if you are interested.  FLD Mike vs Rosie, Three Puppy Rookie, and Puppies Three/Pictures.)  Comparing puppies is inevitable, and there are ALWAYS differences.

Nope.  I wanted to focus on something "different."

So I considered submitting a post I wrote last November about how exercise can calm a crazy, energized puppy.  (Again, if you are interested, here is a link:  What a Difference a Walk Makes!)

But I keep coming back to the differences I am living as a result of our move from the city to the country.  Many of these differences are obvious.

  • City =  LOUD, CONSTANT BACKGROUND NOISE that I really didn't notice until after we moved away and came back for a visit.
  • Country = So quiet I can hear a chipmunk rustle in the leaves beneath my window and the mournful cry of a loon in the distance.

  • Country = Last week I heard my sister miss the turn to our road a half a mile away when she drove up with her girls for our family "camp out."

  • City =  Even with room-darkening shades in our townhouse bedroom, the outside glowed a frame around the window.
  • Country = Except when the moon is full, it doesn't matter if the shades are up or down at night, and I can see the entire Milky Way.

  • City = It is a HUSTLE, BUSTLE, TEEMING dance with the rest of the population.
  • Country = We'll get around to it.  Eventually.

Other differences are not so obvious, especially as it relates to things that my Future Leader Dog puppy must experience.

Future Leader Dog puppies must be "sound."  They can startle at a sudden noise, but they need to be confident enough to quickly recover and stay on task.
  • Taking my puppy for a walk in the city naturally exposes him to many sudden noises:  semi-trucks downshifting, police, ambulance, or fire engine sirens, beeping horns, barking dogs behind fences.
  • On a walk down our country road we can hear one car approach from two hills away.  The sudden honk of a goose overhead, or the screech of an eagle may draw my puppy's attention, but he is seldom startled.

Future Leader Dog puppies must be comfortable working near heavy traffic and remain calm waiting at a crosswalk at a busy intersection.
  • In the city, I could step out our front door with my puppy and encounter heavy traffic in any direction, for as long as we could walk.
  • To expose my puppy to traffic here in the county, I must drive over 20 miles to a town with more than one traffic light.  And the nearest sidewalks are 7 miles away.

Future Leader Dog puppies must not be distracted by, or fearful of strangers.
  • City streets are full of diversity, reflected by skin color, clothing styles, age, and attitudes.
  • In the country, strangers are few, and perhaps not quite so diverse.

When we first moved to the country, I was anxious that FLD Gus would not get enough exposure to things like traffic and strangers.  A fellow puppy-raiser (who lives in northwest Michigan) reminded me that Gus needs ALL kinds of experiences, and that blind people live in rural areas, too.

Of course, she is right.

FLD Gus started his life in the city, and now is familiar with the country, too.  He has taken it all in stride.

Our next puppy's home base will be here, in the country, where things ARE different.  Knowing this, I will do what I can to assure that puppy #4 is just as well-rounded.

I think I am much less anxious.

Do you think my country environment might have something to do with it?

A recent sunset at our country home.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Forest Gus Goes to the City

On a recent trip to the city, FLD Gus and I stayed at my sister Anne's.  She has a fenced-in backyard.

I let Gus out on his own...


Video of FLD Gus prancing with a long limb in Anne's backyard, a mess of teeth-marked brush strewn about.  When I brought Anne out later to show her the damage she said, "I wanted that bush pulled out of there anyway."  

Of course I hope that FLD Gus goes on to graduate as a Leader Dog and become someone's eyes, but it's nice to know he might have an alternate career in Landscaping.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Excuses, Excuses...

6th Annual
Andersen/Brehler/Bicego Camp

6 dogs + 5 kids + 12 adults = no time to write.

But, what fun!


FLD Gus, camp greeter.

Gypsy makes sure Gus gets it right.

FLD Gus waits for the mini-train with grandkids Keegan and Alec at the AuSable Valley Railroad station.  Unfortunately, he isn't allowed to ride the train (!) so he and I hang out with fellow tourists while the rest of the family take a tour.

FLD Gus holds a SIT/STAY for Keegan while Alec hides the stick.  Keegan then gives Gus a "find it" command and Gus races off to find it--again, and again, and again!  Sometimes work is like play.


FLD Gus invites Fynn for a wrestle.  Fynn isn't interested.  Gus doesn't know how lucky he is--this picture is deceiving--Fynn is a +100 lb golden-doodle!

However, Rosie IS interested.  Round One, Lab Wrestling--Gus takes her down...

...Round Two, Rosie takes Gus.

Gauge and Odo catch the scent of a chipmunk in the woodpile.  And they're off!


Rosie waits patiently for her breakfast "OK!"

FLD Gus on his mat, licking his chops while he waits for dinner.

For dessert?  Sofia eats homemade raspberry pie; Gus chows on his Nylabone.


The boys, Gauge and Odo, chilling on the porch.

FLD Gus and Natalie pass out on the living room floor.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Wonderful 4th of July!

Me and FLD Gus marching with the Rose City Lions Club.

And beautiful fireworks later!  (I left FLD Gus at home so I could concentrate on taking pictures.)

A wall of light!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

FLD Gus gets ready to walk in the Rose City 4th of July Parade later today.  Pictures will follow....

...for now, enjoy some "Photoshop-ed" pictures I took of flowers in our gardens.  (Thanks to the Wild Birds Unlimited blog for the idea!)


Photoshop filter added:  poster edges.

Photoshop filter added:  glowing edges.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Some Other Good Things About FLD Gus...

A couple of readers indicated that they want more like my post from Monday, "What A Good Boy He Is."  I'm happy to indulge the request.


  • FLD Gus lies at my feet while I write and entertains himself with a Nylabone.
  • He follows me from room to room, just in case I ask him to do something.  Anything.
  • In the evening, he prefers to plop himself down on the floor against the couch.  Next to where I am lying.
  • If I leave him in the van with Andy when I run into the drugstore for a quick purchase, he sits and stares at the store door until I return.
FLD Gus watching where I went.


As is typical with any dog, especially an adolescent intact male, FLD Gus tests me.
  • Do I REALLY have to settle while you brush me?  YES.
  • I don't want to walk easy next to you, I want to go exploring!  I know.  BUT YOU WILL.
  • I want to lick that upside-down-strawberry-pie SO BAD!  I know.  BUT YOU WON'T.  
I remain consistent and insistent.  FLD Gus sighs, and complies.  Pretty darn quickly, too.

  • Gus bows to Gypsy to encourage play, his "Licky Lab" tongue a windmill of solicitation.
Gus forcing Gypsy to play with him in the water.
  • He never gives up.  He tries to grab her stick to play tug-o-war, and when he is successful, she tugs back, in spite of herself.
  • When I tell him to go to his mat before meals, he never takes his eyes off of me and I half expect to hear a back-up warning beeper as he scoots his rear end in a wiggle to his mat.

  •  In the woods, Gus mimics me when I'm clearing our trails.  He drags logs and yanks away at saplings.  He prances with long, downed limbs balanced like a high-wire-walker, twisting his head to clear trees that block his way along the edge of the trail. 
  • To get my attention when he's had enough of waiting for me to finish writing, FLD Gus will steal into our bedroom and make away with a dirty sock from the hamper.  He doesn't chew it, just coddles it in the living room making noises he knows will attract me.
  • Gus learned that if he bumps his nose against the bathroom door, it pops open just enough to stick his snout in and then he can flip the door open with his head--and he's in!