Feedback is always important...so let me know whatchya' think. Leave a comment!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Guide Dog Puppy Sponsorship Auction

Fellow blogger, Laura (she writes the blog "Dog's Eye View"), is hosting a Guide Dog Puppy Sponsorship Auction to raise money for Guide Dogs of America. Laura's second guide dog, Jack, is from Guide Dogs of America, and this auction is her way to give back to that organization. 

Laura's first guide dog was Leader Dog Willow, a yellow lab from Leader Dogs for the Blind. At that time Laura supported Leader Dogs in several ways, including her photo of LD Willow on Leader Dogs' 2007-08 holiday card.

At any rate, please take a moment to check out the items up for bid at Laura's auction by clicking HERE.

You might also want to check out my own contribution to the auction--my first "chapbook" of poems and photos inspired by raising Future Leader Dogs. Here is the link to my "puppy poetry and photos" book: puppy poetry and photos.

I will also donate $5 to Leader Dogs for the Blind in the name of the winner.

So put a bid in!

The auction runs from February 25 through Sunday, March 4 at 10:00 pm.

Here is the front of my chapbook. Cover is glossy photo paper.

The back cover.

An inside peek. There are 36 pages of photos and poems, some of which have never been published on my blog.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Les Cheneaux Snowsfest--Fun in the UP

SNOWSFEST - A celebration of winter, UP-style. Here is a picture diary of our first UP (Upper Peninsula) Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy outing of 2012.  Eight Future Leader Dog puppies and their raisers have fun in Hessel, on the northern shores of Lake Huron.

FLD Scout looks over the festivities.
FLD Ruckus looks up at raiser Tammy as if to say, "Do we really have to hang out with these young pups?"  FLD Autumn checks out FLD Yooper while FLD Atlas looks on.
FLD Hope flirts with Scout.
FLD Scout sees her first snowmobile...a young boy practices on the race track out on the ice.
We find a giant "snow dog" sculpted on the ice and I try to get FLD Scout to pose...
...she rather liked the view from the top, instead.
"Aw, jeez...not ANOTHER picture!"
FLD Jet meets his half-brother, FLD Yooper. (They share the same mother, Leader Dog Mom, Amber.)
Jet's raiser, Suzanne, and Yooper's raiser, Gary, try to get the brothers to pose for a picture.
Suzanne gets their attention--with a treat?
Awwww, good puppies!
FLD Yooper poses nicely on a hay bale in the Leader Dogs for the Blind warming tent.
FLD Autumn says she can sit pretty on the hay bale too! ("Why do people think I'm part Shar-Pei?")
These "licky-labs"--here Yooper plants one on Gary's nose while Phyllis looks on...
...and Scout gets a few slurps in with a visitor.
This family loves the puppies. Here FLD Jet tries to sneak a lick on a cold little boy.
The outing provides excellent distractions: kids playing games, snowmobile races, and a chili-cook-off. Here FLD Scout looks on while participants show off their pets' tricks in the "dog show."
FLD Scout thinks FLD Autumn looks great in her "big dog" working jacket.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Take Me Home, Scout

The day before Valentine's Day...

I tie the red 15-foot lead around my waist so I can have my hands free to take pictures. FLD Scout is clipped to the other end. It is a crisp, cobalt-sky morning with a new dusting of snow.

FLD Scout on her red "play" leash before our hike.

Scout and cc'd Gus and I take to the woods for a three-mile hilly hike in the park abutting our land to see what has been out and about.  If I was a naturalist, like Jonathan Schechter (who writes his Earth's Almanac blog for the Oakland Press), I could identify what creatures made the tracks in the snow.

Alas, I am not. I can only imagine what scampered by in the wee hours before light.

I CAN identify coyote scat. Scout sniffs, but forgoes the snack with a hearty LEAVE IT from me.

Frozen scat.

"Forrest Gus" does his bit to keep the trail clear, and carries a long limb like a high-wire walker. Then he zigzags with it through the woods as an elk or moose might run, swooping heavy-antlered crowns between the trees.  I hear a CEEEEERRRAAAACK and turn to see Gus sporting a shortened limb after being waylaid, however briefly, by trees too close. There's something to be said for brute strength.

Forrest Gus grabs a limb.

He breaks it free, balancing it as he runs toward us.

Gus thinks his job is to keep the trail clear!

I hand Scout a smaller stick and she carries it with import. I am proud when she bounces out to the end of the long lead and eases up when she feels tension, but it would be nice to get a little pull UP the hills!

The sticky snow is tough going. Gus and Scout leave prints behind as big as bear paws. Gus trots twice the distance Scout and I hike, chasing scents off-trail, racing ahead only to turn and race back as if to hurry us up. He never wanders far.

When the trail curves left toward a section of sharp dips and climbs, I call right to the dogs. We veer off to take a shortcut to avoid the steepest of the hills. I cannot afford a fall with my camera, or my still-healing finger!

Scout, I say, take me home.

She plods ahead, stick in mouth, turning me a little more to the right. She finds the route that Jeff, my step-son-in-law, and I bushwhacked from the other direction on snowshoes last month with his two German Shorthair Pointers and my three dogs.

Scout weaves between towering poplars that squeak in the wind overhead, passes near woodpecker condos, and carefully steers clear of long, snow-blanketed humps that I know are tree falls by the naked roots reaching skyward.

She confidently leads me back to our "patch."

I am amazed. Our showshoe tracks are long gone (to quote Ernie Harwell) after rounds of thaw and fresh snowfall. Her pace quickens when we reach the well-worn paths on our property. We are a quarter mile from home.

Patterning. That's what Leader Dogs for the Blind trainers might call what Scout did in remembering the route home.


Here are some pictures of the tracks we saw this day.









Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Different Day--For Firsts!

A dinnertime pile-up of 65 vehicles on northbound I-75 near Bay City last night created a 20-mile-long parking lot for several hours. Poor visibility due to snow squalls and icy conditions from falling temperatures were to blame. Well, more likely, failure on some drivers' parts to slow down for the changing conditions.

I'm glad that Phyllis and I traveled down to Bay City on Wednesday instead of Friday and avoided the disaster. It seems as though when the two of us plan a puppy outing, the sun is always shining! We were off to give our Future Leader Dog puppies their first mall experience.

FLDs Scout and Autumn strolled the shiny floored Bay City Mall like pros, despite the best efforts of some strangers to distract them. As we passed garish posters advertising the shows at the Goodrich Bay City 8 Theater located inside the mall, Phyllis said, "We should go to a movie!"

Scout hasn't been to a movie yet, I replied. Neither had Autumn. Another first.

Our impromptu timing couldn't have been more perfect.  We walked from one end of the mall to the other, with short excursions through Sears and Target, and we still had time to grab a sandwich in the food court before show time. FLD Autumn was ready to take a break, that's alot of walking for a four-month-old!

As Phyllis and I stood in line at Subway with our pups, a young man and his toddler daughter came by, bouncing a small basketball. Both Scout and Autumn craned their necks to look. Both Scout and Autumn held their "sits."

Suddenly, the little girl tumbled backwards. I heard her head hit the tile floor. FLD Autumn bounded out of Phyllis's grip, leash dragging behind her, and trotted over to the now-red-faced-about-to-break-into-screams tot. Autumn's concerned licks dried tears away before they could erupt and the little girl struggled to her feet to return the loving.

In the theater, FLD Scout was happy to lick herself a clean spot for a nap on the floor (okay, just kidding, the floor was actually pretty clean, it was a matinee after all). We enjoyed the entertaining "One for the Money," based on the Stephanie Plum crime novel by Janet Evanovich. (Yes, I'd recommend it.) About three-quarters of the way through the flick, FLD Autumn whined in a polite whisper that she wanted to "park," but she managed to hold on until the credits rolled. Luckily, the exit doors weren't very far away!

Good puppies!

The trip to Bay City was safe and fun for all. Good conversation for Phyllis and me during the dry-roads hour and a half drive each way, and the puppies had some play (and nap) time in the back seat.


Crazy puppy play time on the drive down.

Not long after, FLD Autumn thinks this is a comfy position for a nap!

FLD Scout, however, took the "back end on the bench, head on the floor-board" approach. (How can that be comfortable??)

Dere's mischief in dems eyes!

Oh yea, puppy-play-buddies.

After a busy afternoon at the mall, playing in the prone position is in order.

Like a light switch, puppies are "off."


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday's Training TIP: Don't Wait for Stuff to Happen

Stuff happens. Sometimes stuff happens in a way that causes you to relive events in your mind, thinking, "if only...." Other times stuff happens that leave you wondering, "Wow, how did I do that?"


IF ONLY

A week and a half ago we were getting ready for a long weekend trip to the city. I fed the dogs and went outside to load our Hawken wood furnace before shutting it down. With the non-winter we've been having I thought the embers might smolder the whole time we were gone and then it would be a simple matter of flicking the switch when we returned.

I raked the coals to an even bed. With "poopsicle-picking-up" gloved hands I hoisted an 18 inch long, maybe 15" diameter log from the woodshed. Doesn't sound very big, but it was a heavy sucker. At the door of the Hawken, I heaved it.

WARNING: Those of you with squeamish stomachs might want to skip the next three paragraphs.

The word "exquisite" is often used to describe indescribable pain. Double that. And add sharp, severe, agonizing, piercing, excruciating, and just plain gut-wrenching to the word PAIN. In one fell moment, the log punched the interior roof of the Hawken and rebounded, cracking my left ring finger between it and the damning steel frame of the door.

I did not see the stars that suddenly blinked brightly back into the just-after-dawn sky. I did not see the brilliant embers that shot up like fireflies when the dastardly log flipped into the fire. I did not even see the darkness when my eyes grimaced shut as I jumped three feet back clutching my hand against my roiling stomach.

What I did see when I peeled off my glove was a Niagra rush of red-hot lava from a jagged fissure crossing the length of my finger.

Oh man! wasn't quite what I exclaimed.

A trip to the emergency room and surgery five days later left me with pins in my distal phalanx (which was completely broken in two) and stitches to hold everything else together. 

Ouch. Bad log.


WOW

Five days after hand surgery, FLD Scout and I took a working stroll with Phyllis and FLD Autumn in downtown West Branch to practice loose-leash heeling near traffic. The Future Leader Dog pups did very well with street crossings, railroad tracks, steps, and passing strangers. As is typical during outings like this, we found unexpected training opportunities.

Phyllis coaxes FLD Autumn up a short flight of stairs.

The spring-like 50 degrees and sunshine brought out a motorcyclist, who was just leaving an auto parts store as we passed. Inches away when the engine roared to life, FLDs Scout and Autumn sniffed in curiosity and exhibited no fear. Of course, the machine was not a Harley.

FLD Scout is not alarmed at all by this motorcycle.

We knew it was time to head back to the van when a very tired FLD Autumn sat down and refused to continue. After some cajoling, we managed to move her along. Then FLD Scout started pulling toward the grass like she had to "park." I removed her working jacket, released her with an OK, and let her sniff out a spot. We were on the south side of the busy five-lane Houghton Ave.

That's when it happened, the one thing you never want to happen. 

Scout bolted.

I had hold of the leash with my mangled left hand; Scout had been sniffing to my right. Her whiplash departure north toward Houghton Ave. jerked my hand. I knew if I tried to hang on I would be reacquainted with that double dose of exquisite pain. I let loose the leash while simultaneously lunging for it with my right hand.

The leash slithered out of reach like a spooked garter snake.

SCOUT! I yelled with a megaphone voice. I never heard Phyllis, who shrieked "Scout!" in harmony.

Scout paused in the middle of the right lane and looked back. Luckily there was no traffic heading east, but out of the corner of my eye I spotted a red car motoring west. I dropped to my knee. I knew if I took another step forward it was all over--if Scout turned away from me and kept running, she wouldn't even see what hit her. 

The world disappeared. It was just Scout and me.

Scout! Come! I said in the cheeriest voice I could muster. A subtle shift in her shoulder. Yes, good girl! I leaned back onto my heel and slapped my thighs to encourage her to come to me. I could almost see a thought-balloon form above her head: "I wonder if she has a treat for me? Hmmmmmm, I'll bet she does. Maybe I'd better check it out, I don't know where I was racing off to anyway."

A full turn and Scout was bouncing my way. Before my heart beat again, Scout and I were reattached and celebrating on the sidewalk. OF COURSE I had a treat for her! Good girl, Scout!!!!!


HOW DID I DO THAT?

PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.
  • On leash recall. Practice in public buildings, at puppy outings, outside in the yard, while on walks, etc.
  • Off leash recall. Practice inside with my other dogs.
  • Never, never, NEVER chase her. (Playing "chase ME", however, is always good.)
  • And having the presence of mind to react in a manner that brought FLD Scout's attention back to me, instead of a reaction that would spur her on. (Calling her name ONCE, NOT chasing her, making myself interesting by getting down low, praising her at precisely the right moment, and rewarding her correct decision!)

WHEW. Disaster averted.

If only I had been that diligent in placing wood into the Hawken!

Sitting calmly on the north side of Houghton Ave. by the railroad tracks. (FLD Scout is safely tied to the bench. FLD Autumn is wearing a "Gentle Leader" to help her keep a loose leash.)


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

PUPPY POLICE 3


Officer’s notes at the scene of the crime. 

Information

At approximately 8:18 am on Monday, January 23, 2012, a male black Lab was caught in illegal possession of a hand-made afghan, with his accomplice, a young female Lab/Golden mix. The afghan is normally stored on the back of the homeowner’s couch, which is off-limits to the pups. 

Witness Statements

Witness #1, wife of witness #2, had been checking emails on her Mac in her first floor writing room when she heard a dubious silence coming from the living room. She said there were some soft thumping and mumbling noises, but not the typical bounding-paw-pads and snorting she normally hears in the morning. She went to check it out and upon entering the room she observed the two pups wrestling with the stolen afghan. Witness then went for her camera, which was in the kitchen; when she returned the pups were lying calmly nose-to-nose, the afghan wrapped around the male suspect, “Gus.” She took several pictures.

The witness said that while it is true that the suspect “Gus” has a history of minor stealing, no charges have ever been brought against him, and, in fact, she feels that he was not the perpetrator. “That little one is a trickster,” she said. The witness thinks that even though “Gus” was caught red-pawed with the afghan wrapped around him, she suspects that it was actually the accomplice, “Scout,” who dragged the item from the couch and instigated play. The witness did admit that “Gus” steals the occasional kitchen towel or shoe, but that “Scout” is more likely to leap on the couch (and make it look like “Gus” did it). “We’re working on that,” she explained, because “Scout” has been known to take pillows from the couch.


Witness #2, Andy, was working at his desk at the north end of the living room. He did not notice anything as he had his back to the scene of the crime. He agreed with witness #1 that “Scout” was most likely the perpetrator.


Witness #3, Gypsy, a brown dog of suspect origin, had nothing to say about the incident and stayed in the clear under witness #2’s desk.

Pictures taken by witness #1: 

Gus takes the "fall" for FLD Scout--caught with the afghan wrapped around him!

FLD Scout gives her "I'm innocent" look. Gypsy can just barely be seen peering out from under Andy's desk.


Puppy Police Theft Report

Town of:  Lupton                  Date:  2/1/12

Witness #1:  patti

Witness #2:  Andy

Witness #3: Gypsy

Suspect Descriptions: 

1)   1½ year-old male, black coarse fur, about 65 pounds, with suspicious “raccoon” eyes and a crooked, thick tail, wearing a red, white, and blue “flag” collar, with a 2011 tag.

2)   A bit over 6 months old female, about 42 pounds, silky black fur, with eyes that melt a stranger’s heart, wearing a red collar with a Leader Dog tag, number p-9412.



CASE SUMMARY

At approximately 8:18 on Monday, January 23, 2012, witness #1 heard quiet noises in her living room. Upon investigation, she found the two suspects engaged in play with her afghan. Witness #1 took pictures of the suspects. Witness #2 did not observe the theft and witness #3 declined comment. There was no damage to the afghan. Charges were not filed at this time. The officer did advise renewing the dog tags; the owners stated that they plan to do so after witness #3 gets her rabies shot this month.

Here are links to the other "PUPPY POLICE" posts.


 It's the first of the month--don't forget to give your pups their heartworm medicine (if you give it monthly all year round).