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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Walking blind

Thomas Dockham is a nature photographer. His assistant is a black Labrador Retriever named "Bubba." As Dockham puts it, "The things he [Bubba] has allowed me to do, that I felt I could not do before I had him..."

Bubba is a Leader Dog. His job is to guide the visually impaired Dockham safely from place to place. Dockham set himself (and met) a goal of walking 1000 miles over this past summer to raise money for Leader Dogs for the Blind. Of course, that meant that Bubba had to walk too. Bubba has his own FaceBook page and this is what he posted a week or so ago:
Oh, I forgot. On August 13, I saved my client (my pal) from a bus that blew a red light...I have been taking him to the doctors for knee pain and they said he pulled a kneecap tendon and an IT Band. He's doing better, he finally is listening to the doctors and ME!!"
"But you know what," Dockham said, "I am alive. Because of HIM."

Dockham has put together a 22-page booklet, Walking Blind, A Different Point of View. The book contains photographs that Dockham has taken, with the help of Leader Dog Bubba.

I've got one on order. Dockham has promised me that he'll sign it, and get Bubba to put his paw-print on it too! 

To order one for yourself, or as a gift for others, visit Dockham's photography website here: Dockham Photography.

Good work, Bubba! (And you too, Thomas!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday's Training TIP: Learning

FLD Dutch is nine-weeks-old today. We've had him just over one week. He came to us already knowing how to SIT before being fed (although we need to work on holding that sit) and petted. And he's not too bad on a leash. Well, he's not afraid of it and doesn't fight it.

Dutch is learning every minute! I plan at least two short "training sessions" every day, but really, a young pup is like a sponge. Here's a list of some things he's learning every day:

1. name recognition--He's getting that pretty well, although when I started teaching him "touch" I discovered his name sounds like the command. He loves to run and find me when I call his name from another room.
2. sit--As I said, we're working on duration. He's learned to give me eye contact before he can bolt to his food dish, so we're making progress. He also sits before having the leash clipped on. We've also started working on "sit" from the "down" position.
3. wait--That coincides with the sit before meals, but also before I open his crate door so he's not rushing out like a banshee.
4. touch--He's catching on to this one so much so that whenever my hands are near he touches his nose to them!
5. leave it--I've started adding the "leave it" verbal cue and surprisingly he's responded to it a few times when he was trying to get into something he shouldn't, like the computer cords under Andy's desk.
6. park--He doesn't whip his head around to look at me anymore when I say "good park" as he's peeing--maybe he figures it doesn't get him a treat. Repetition is my friend. I'm learning his signals, and a few times he's headed for the back door on his own!
7. settle--Not sure he's "getting" this, but he does settle down pretty quickly when I stay after him. He loves his crate and settles in right away at night.
8. loose leash walking--Instead of only working on this when I'm out and about with him, I've taken to short walks in our driveway or down our road. Just to work on keeping a loose leash. I'm positive this will help. If he can't do this at home, he can't do it anywhere else!
9. stairs--He has no problem up or down the few steps out the back door. He needed some encouragement down our basement stairs, but raced right up them on the way back--he was off leash, so not a problem.

FLD Dutch is learning much more than I've listed. He's learning to leave our old crabby dog, Gypsy, alone and that cc'd Gus is okay to play with. He's learning to not chew on things that aren't Nylabone or Kong toys. Actually, he is learning so much it makes me dizzy!

He is even learning "down." Here is a short video showing his progress. I've been working with him several times a day for a few days and you can see how quickly he can learn!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Busy, busy, busy

*Warning...explicit photo of FLD Dutch at the end of this post.
FLD Dutch is making himself right at home.
Even on Gus's "mat."

Our first week with FLD Dutch...

Not enough trips outside to "park." Loose leash practice on the driveway and down the road in front of the house. Racing around with Gus in the yard. Nearly every day a short trip somewhere.

Here's a list:
  • visiting friends (one dog, one cat)
  • post office
  • bank
  • hair salon
  • winery
  • grocery store
  • coffee shop
  • Rose City Cafe
  • traffic work around "downtown" Rose City
FLD Dutch is more interested in my camera than holding his "sit" where I had posed him. But he kept a nice loose leash!

All in all, a very good first week. And...Dutch has let me sleep six hours at a stretch every night!

Good boy, Dutch.
Learning to ride on the passenger side floor.
All this learning makes for a very tired puppy. Looks like Dutch is completely comfortable here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Introducing....FLD Dutch!

Andy and I couldn't wait to get back to the north woods. Coming home, even after a fun-filled trip with family, is like a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven. By the enthusiastic leap into the van when we picked up Gypsy and Gus from my sister's, I think they felt the same way. (Thank you girls, for watching them for us!)

For one of us though, coming "home" was a totally new experience.

Future Leader Dog Dutch!

FLD Dutch wasn't sure about his two new furry buddies--Gus, who bowled him over in greeting, and Gypsy, who snarled at us as much as to the little guy. Not another one!

Before we passed Flint on I-75 N, Dutch was fast asleep, cuddled in my arms. The ride home on pick-up day is the only time I indulge; soon enough he'll learn to curl up at my feet on the passenger floorboard.

Dutch is the fifth puppy I am raising for Leader Dogs for the Blind, but my first Golder Retriever. He is eight weeks old today and weighs in at a hefty 12.8 lbs!

Dutch's first puppy-breath kiss!

So far, FLD Dutch seems to be a content and confident puppy. His breeding host family and LD volunteers have done a tremendous job helping him to realize that "SIT" gets you just about anything--pets, praise, treats, and sometimes dinner!

Gusto-Gus learns "gentle" with our new boarder, and is proving to be very generous. Here he is with a toy he brought for Dutch; when we went outside to "park" and check the furnace, Gus carried a log out of the woodshed and dropped it near him. Nice, Gus, but we don't need another dog emptying the woodshed!

Gypsy, on the other hand, created a different reaction from Dutch. When he approached her as she played with a toy, she gave a deep-throated growl. He hightailed it into his little crate. Smart puppy!

It doesn't take much to tire out a young pup. Dutch shows his preference for the soft-life.

We're in for a fun ride!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


A second email from Leader Dogs for the Blind came with news on FLD Scout...
The dog you raised D#13647 Scout has been in training for 5 weeks and has completed the first phase of training.  The instructor working with Scout has made the following comments about the puppy you raised: 
Scout is doing well at:
1.   takes treats nicely
2. being attentive to handler
3. has picked up curb work
Scout is working on:
1. vocal behavior
2. jumping on the handler when excited
3. scent distractions
4. has exhibited food possessiveness over food towards other dogs
This update lets you know how Scout is doing at this point in training.  Thank you for raising Scout  for our program!  Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Puppy Development.  You will also receive another update during the 13th week after Scout has completed their 12th week of training.

Well, it's nice to hear. The things that Scout "is working on" is a bit worrisome to me, but mostly not a big surprise.

Remember my Tuesday's Training TIP: BE QUIET? FLD Scout was the noisiest puppy I ever raised. But she did come around with some "work."  Now that she's off to Leader Dogs, where her life might be more of a challenge, I'm not surprised that she's letting them know SCOUT IS HERE.

Hmmmmm. This was a thing she started not long before she left for her formal training at Leader Dogs. We did our best to ignore this attention-getting behavior.

I don't know how many times I thought, "Scout could be a search and rescue dog" when she stuck her nose into the air to catch a scent. Sometimes I wondered if she was part bloodhound her nose was so busy!

I didn't see this problem with Scout and food (check out my post about Labrador vultures).  But she was always quick to steal another dog's toy--except for the old girl, Gypsy. I never felt like she was aggressive about darting in to take a Nylabone away from Gus, or cc'd Rosie, just very, very fast.

Keep up the good work my little Scout. And mind your P's and Q's!

Here sits a very well-behaved FLD Scout in a one-room school house at the Ogemaw County Fair last July. Natalie and Sofia sit too.