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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ten weeks

Announcing the 10th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC)! Sharon Wachsler, founder of the ADBC, is hosting this edition over at her blog, After Gadget. The theme this round is "Perfect 10."

The following is my submission.

Ten weeks ago a blond bundle of Golden Retriever puppy bounded into our lives and stole my heart. Future Leader Dog (FLD) "Dutch."

When strangers ask me, "How can you give them up?" I've taken to answering, If I didn't give up my last one, I wouldn't have this one!

In keeping with Sharon's "Perfect 10" theme, here are 10 "snapshots" from the last ten weeks of raising Dutch, even if they aren't "perfect."

1. Sweetie-pie
I relish that first scent of puppy-breath when he is handed over to me and I press my face to his. I know that sleepless nights are in my near future, but right now I don't care. I'm glad we live three hours from Leader Dogs for the Blind. This will be the only time I'll allow Dutch to sit on my lap in the van instead of on the floorboard of the passenger seat where he belongs.

But Dutch doesn't snuggle. He is a wiggly almost-13 pound wire-bale of fuzz. After our third rest stop on I-75 north, he conks out in my arms. An hour later, when we pull safely into our garage, my arms are dead.

An 8-week-old Golden Retriever puppy's head and front paws are between my blue-jean clad legs. Behind him is the glove box of our van; to the right side is the van door handle. My red fleece jacket is visiible at the bottom of the picture.
FLD Dutch looks up at me as if he's wondering, "Where are we going?" We are in the van heading home after picking him up from Leader Dogs for the Blind.

2. Mr. Peabody
He can't be trusted. What goes in must come out. Even when you take him out to "park," if he's been slurping water, he'll pee again in what seems like seconds. "I just took him out!" my husband exclaims as Dutch relieves himself on the living room carpet with no warning. We think we should buy stock in Nature's Miracle. And paper towels.

The Golden Retriver puppy is lying on his back on a light colored carpeted floor, with his face looking toward the camera. His front paws are held above his chest and his back legs are splayed apart in an "x-rated" pose.  To the left of his head is a blue toy. In the background is a white x-pen set up on the laminate floor of the kitchen.
Dutch rolls over on his back. Mr. Innocent.

3. Rocketman
In the beginning, I think I'll never get mister-springs-for-legs to "sit" for longer than a millisecond when it's mealtime. Morning, noon and evening, I balance his puppy-chow bowl over my head in my left hand and hold his collar with my right. Dutch, sit, I say. He does, but as soon as his bowl loses elevation his feather paws scrabble on the kitchen laminate and he's the roadrunner on ice. Up goes the bowl. Down goes his butt. I spread my right fingers to support his back in the "sit" position and set the bowl down. Left hand now free, I snap my finters to break his stare-down with the kibble. We have eye contact. Blast off at my command. OK!

The Golden Retriever puppy sits on a dark matt next to a bigger black Lab. The matt straddles the line between the kitchen laminate floor and the living room carpet. An old brown brindle dog sits to the right of the picture. In the background is a blue and red Kong toy and a lazy boy chair, a lamp base, anda a file cabinet.
Dutch sits on the mat with Gus while waiting for breakfast. Gypsy reluctantly sits too. Dutch had gained seconds on his "sit" every mealtime. After a week of feeding in his x-pen, we decide to let him eat with the big dogs. The first two days, Andy holds him while I feed Gypsy and Gus. Then it is his turn. I am amazed how quickly he figures this out. In spite of being a whirling dervish when I get the food buckets out of the clostet, Dutch wiggles his butt onto the mat with Gus and waits his turn. No more holding!

4. Dutcherino
It takes FLD Dutch about 30 minutes to settle under our table at Randy's Restaurant. We've been working on "down" so I give him the cue and he drops to the carpeted floor. He pops up and plops his snout in my lap. I reposition him so his nose is poking out from under the table and he is lying down behind my legs. He squirms around until he is facing me from the aisle. I scoot him back under the table. Our coffee hasn't even come yet.

The Golden Retriever puppy is sitting under a wood table in a restaurant. He is wearing a blue bandana that says "Future Leader Dog" in red. He is looking up toward the table. On top of the table is a small pile of kibble. His leash is lying across the aqua seat of the booth between jean-clad legs.
FLD Dutch stares up at the table as if he has x-ray vision.

5. Mr. Awwwwwwwsome
I take FLD Dutch and Andy to a Christmas concert at the Rose City Middle School. Unfortunately, the concert is actually at the high school, five miles away. When we arrive right at curtain time, we see a crowd at the entrance to the auditorium. Someone fell and EMS was called; the concertgoer's bad luck delayed the performance. We weren't late after all.

With the doors blocked by the paramedics and a gurney, our only choice was to enter by the stage. As I coaxed my golden fur ball past the front row seats a harmonic "awwwww" rolled out ahead of us. The "awwwwws" resonated to the back of the room like a wave as we turned up the main aisle to find two empty seats. I doubt that anyone minded that the choir started singing late.

The Golden Retriever puppy sits between a table on the left with a Christmas tablecloth, and a box to the right. The box is wrapped in Christmas paper and has a sign on it that it is a collection box for toys for kids by the Lions Club. The puppy is wearing his blue "Future Leader Dog" bandana and his leash is stretching toward the camera.
FLD Dutch poses next to a Christmas toy colletction box, courtesy of the Rose City Lions Club.

6. Dutcher
It is early evening. Dutch paces through the living room, his pads slap the kitchen floor, he slurps a bit of water and returns. He wanders into my writing room and pauses at the x-pen section that is blocking off our bedroom. He tries to slip under the footrest of the couch where Andy has the recliner raised, but he's getting too big to fit. He squeezes behind the couch and bumps against the end table as he squeezes out the other end. I take him out to "park" but once back inside he still paces. I have him do a few rounds of puppy push-ups (a series of quick sit, down, sit, down, sit, down, etc.). He paces. I sit on the floor with him to encourage a "settle" but he squirms away. I get up and move the x-pen from our bedrooom doorway. He races inside. His crate is in there. When I open the crate door, he zips in and whips around for the bit of kibble I always toss in behind him. I latch the door. He's down for the night (although I take him out for a last "park" when we head for bed).

The golden retriever puppy is sleeping with his eyes closed in his crate. His head hands over a blue dog bed and rests on a red Kong toy. The bars of the crate are in front.
A sweet Dutch catches some Zs in his crate.

7. Dutch-man
On assignment at the Ogemaw Hills Snowmobile Club's 45th Anniversary Open House, I take Dutch out back to "park." He dives into the snow with a vengeance. With a ferocious wrinkled nose, he take offense to whatever it is he senses under the snow.

A close up shot of a golden retriever sniffing the brillianly white snow, with a shadow to the right. His ear is haniging over his face and his snout is wrinkled up. A brown leash is hanging to the left.
FLD Dutch sniffs in the fluffy snow with a wrinkly nose, one which he usually reserves for when he is playing with our career-changed Lab, Gus.

8. Buddy
Gus is twice his size, but that doesn't stop Dutch from scrunching his snout, ducking his shoulder and barreling into the gentle black Lab. "He's a tuck and roll kind of wrestler," Andy says. Dutch is relentless. He bites at Gus's back legs. He stands up on his hind legs and grabs a mouthful of Gus's neck fur. One day I notice Dutch chewing on something black as he lay on the floor near Gus. What do you have? I ask as I walk over to take it away. Dutch looks up. He has Gus's tail between his front paws. When they wrestle, more times than not it's Gus who yips "too much" when things get rough. By evening, Gus takes refuge on the couch, where Dutch is not allowed.

A golden retriver puppy is asleep next to a bigger black Lab. The Lab is lying down on the left side under a brown desk, with his head up looking at the camera. The puppy is to the left and has his eyes closed with his left paw resting on the Lab's right leg. Just to the left is a black desk chair on rollers. To the right is the edge of a blue and white dog bed.
Dutch and Gus take a break under Andy's desk. Light and dark, they are still best buds.

9. FLD Dutch
We arrive about 15 minutes early. FLD Dutch and I check out the cafeteria at Surline Elementary School where we'll be presenting to three of five classes of second-graders. We'll be back tomorrow to talk to the others. Dutch is happy the janitor hasn't  mopped the floors yet. We work on "leave it." I lay his mat out at the far end of the room and practice obedience while we wait. Before long the kids file in. Dutch lets rip a golden "whooooo, whooooo, whooooo." The kids giggle.

FLD Dutch holds a stay on his mat while I talk about Leader Dogs for the Blind and the important job that Dutch is being raised to do. I ask for a volunteer to demonstrate "Juno" training. When blind or visually impaired clients come to Leader Dogs, the trainers work with them for a couple of days before the dogs are issued. In "Juno" training, the Leader Dog trainers act as the dog, guiding the clients with a harness. They evaluate how the clients react if the dog misbehaves; this helps to verify the match.

Arms fly up, the kids can hardly hold their butts to the floor. I pick one little girl who seems a little shy, but still had the courage to raise her hand. I ask her to take hold of the harness handle and close her eyes. As I slowly guide her I whisper to the other kids, Now I'm going to be a BAD dog. I jerk the harness to the side. The little girl screams, but doesn't drop the handle. Dutch jumps up from his mat and bounds over to us. The kids can't contain themselves.

A large group of second grade children sit on a tile floor in a group behind the golden retriever puppy and his raiser. The raiser is dressed in blue and is kneeling with his leash in her right hand. The puppy is looking at her. There is a red Kong toy on the floor in front of the puppy and a light brown mat. In the background are lunch tables.
FLD Dutch doesn't take his eyes off of me as we pose with three classes of second-graders at Surline Elementary.

10. Mr. Bigfoot
FLD Dutch gains 11 pounds in one month. I'm raising a golden bigfoot! When I picked him up 10 weeks ago, he weighed 12.8 pounds. During training this past weekend at Leader Dogs for the Blind, I tried to get him to settle on their old-style scale with a gigantic dial. The wobbly pointer was difficult to read, but I'm guessing he weighed in at about 34 pounds! Do the math. He's growing at more than double the typical rate of one pound per week.

A golden retriever puppy is lying with his head up on a light brown mat on a shiny cement floor. His leash is resting on the floor to the left. In the background is a lady kneeling down holding the leash to a black lab wearing a blue training jacket. A few yellow chairs are in the background and a few other people.
A relaxed FLD Dutch hangs out on his mat in the training room at Leader Dogs for the Blind. It is the end of our weekend seminar, and he is tired. Yay!

Ten weeks down. About 40 more weeks to go...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

With the girls / PART FIVE


A cacophony of drum beats and notes from French horns, trombones and guitars strain under closed doors at Andersen Music. FLD Dutch and I are here with Elaina and Sofia for their back-to-back French horn lessons. We squeeze down the long, narrow hall lined with folding chairs against the wall opposite the closed white doors of the lesson rooms. Dutch takes it all in stride; this isn't the first time he's cocked his head at the dissonance.

Still, it takes him the entire 30 minutes of Elaina's lesson to settle.

Dutch, settle, I say. He ducks his head and drops into a "down." He looks up expectantly. I hand him a piece of kibble.

FLD Dutch looks up for his treat.

He pops up, nose sniffing out a tuft of carpet pulled up at the baseboard.

Leave it. His head rockets around for his reward. Dutch, sit. Hit butt drops to the floor. Good boy, I say and he inhales another bit of food. Down. Now you settle.

He lies down. For a moment. I tuck him back into a down and stick the rough end of a Nylabone into his mouth. He grabs it with his front paws and chews like his life depended on it. For at least 15 seconds. He makes a lunge for the door at the end of the hall, but I have a good grip on his leash. He proceeds to sing, not at all in harmony with the melodies banging through the doors.

I take him outside to "park." When we return to where Sofia is staying busy playing "Angry Birds" on my iTouch, the door opens and Elaina's teacher goes ga-ga over Dutch, ramping him up all over again. Sigh.

Sofia takes her turn behind the white door. I ask Elaina to step on Dutch's leash while I take a picture. 

FLD Dutch and Elaina appear to have a stand-off.

I get one shot off and Mr. Smarty-pants gets up. He butts his head against the door and it swings open. He tries to dart inside, but Elaina's youthful reflexes save the day.

FLD Dutch busts open the door to Sofia's lesson. Good catch, Elaina!


Dutch settles.

I have to wake him up when it's time to leave.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

With the girls / PART FOUR

MOVIE NIGHT - part two

Dry, and safely back home with our snacks, Sofia dibs on the yellow chair that swallows her up like a girl-eating clam. Natalie claims the couch. Elaina steals the pillows from the couch and makes a cushy lounge on the floor with a comforter and blankets. I get the brown swivel chair in the corner.

As the movie loads, bags are ripped open and munching ensues.

FOOD! Dutch bounds in from the kitchen where he was Lab-wrestling with Rosie. He pounces for the baked chip bag, landing square on top of Elaina. UGH! His miscalculation allows her time to swing the bag up out of reach. He leaps.

Dutch! He is momentarily distracted. Then he spots Natalie's bag of Sun Chips. He coils and pounces like a wolf hunting mice under the snow. Nat barely gets the bag away.

Rosie's crate in the kitchen is our only hope.

Dutch attacks the kibble that I toss into the crate and I quickly latch the door behind him. Ahhhh, now we can enjoy the movie. The girls have seen "Perfect Pitch" several times before, but they want me to see it too.

I avert my eyes at the opening barf scene (why do all movies have a barf scene?!) and catch a glimpse of golden streak.

"Dutch!" Elaina yells as he makes the leap across her this time and lands on the bag of chips.

I leap up in turn and rescue her from the ravenous beast. Back in the crate with you! (I toss a few bits of kibble in behind him.)

Okay. Now we are safe to snarf...almost. Before I sink back into my chair, I hear Dutch scratch at the wire crate door. Two seconds later, he's a fuzzy fury on top of Elaina again.

Not only can this puppy read (see my post MOVIE NIGHT / part one), he's Houdini! This time I secure the crate latch with his collar.

The little guy is NOT pleased. Dutch's repertoire of whines, barks, yips, woofs, howls, growls, snarls and moans, whistles (I swear he sounds like a baby bird), sighs, yaps, yowls, bays and yelps is more entertaining than the movie. He goes on like this for more than a few minutes.

Suddenly, the volume on the TV is TOO LOUD.

I check on Dutch. He is stretched out in the crate, sound asleep.

(As I mentioned in my first post about my time with the girls, I hope that Dutch doesn't teach Rosie to unlatch her crate! I'm not sure I'd put anything past the smart little fella.)
What are you up to, Dutch?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

With the girls / PART THREE

MOVIE NIGHT - part one

Or, a missed cue.

A quick "park" and we were on our way to Family Video. Elaina, Sofia and Natalie entered ahead of FLD Dutch and me. Good thing. He and I barely made it through the door.

"I've got to see this one before you can come in!" a woman yelled and ran toward us, almost knocking over a rack of video jackets. After our confrontation in the mall the night before, I thought we were going to get thrown out.

"Oh, he's ADORABLE!" the woman exclaimed as she poured herself all over Dutch. Turned out she was the owner of the store and a dog-lover as well. Nat stood by for support as I tried to explain why it wasn't such a good idea for her to play with the now lunging and woooo-wooooing puppy. By the time I had extracted her from the ballistic ball of fur, Elaina and Sofia had "Perfect Pitch" in hand and were waiting for us by the checkout.

Wait, I said. We need to get some candy.

"We always stop by Kroger on the way home," Elaina said. "It's cheaper."

One way to keep kids from missing their mom too much is to do the exact same things with them that she does. Kroger's it is then, I said.

I didn't bother to remove Dutch's blue "Future Leader Dog" bandana; Kroger's was only a mile away. We lucked out with a parking spot right on the end, leaving us a short sprint into the grocery store.

The candy aisle was smack dab in the middle of the store, so Dutch got practice heeling through crowds of people on a shiny, scent-saturated floor. He seemed to do fine, even though he kept trying to scratch himself on three legs. I coaxed him along.

In the candy department, the four of us perused our options. A bag of baked barbeque chips, Salsa Sun Chips, Red Twizzlers. Didn't these girls like chocolate? I grabbed a giant box of Whoppers.

"Aunt patti!" Natalie screamed. "Dutch is peeing!"

I turned to witness a contrite, but relieved, puppy in a sprinter's pose, with a growing puddle beneath him. He didn't just pee a river, he peed a Great Lake! And me, caught without my cleanup bag--I thought it was just going to be a quick trip in and out of the video store. All I had was a poop bag in my back pocket.

I should have at least had my camera. I swear this little puppy can read. He "parked" almost on top of a bright yellow triangle sign that said:


I immediately told Natalie to find me some paper towels. She thought I meant in the store bathroom. No, get a roll off the shelf, I'll buy a roll. We were in a grocery after all. She froze. Elaina, I said, can you find me some? The 15-year-old quickly saved the day.

I used so much paper towel that when we went through the self-checkout what was left of the roll was not heavy enough to signal the computer register. I had to place the poop bag, which was now a pee bag, on the scale instead.

Never again.

Never again will I forget my camera...or ignore a cue from a just-learning puppy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

With the girls / PART TWO


A night of no homework. Surprisingly the girls couldn't think of anything they wanted to do. Let's take Dutch over to the mall and walk around, I suggested. This would be his first trip to a mall. Shiny floors, stairs, and a second-story walkway with glass half-walls overlooking the first floor. Great exposure for the little guy.

FLD Dutch did a great job walking on a loose leash through the main part of the mall, including a short stop at a puppy-mill pet store. The designer puppies yipping behind their glass cages caught his fancy, but Dutch sat and stayed without singing. Good boy!

We were just about to the far end of the north wing when a tall young security guard chased us down. "You'll have to take that dog out of here!" he commanded. It didn't matter to him that I've had each of my last four puppies in this particular mall (with security's permission) and that my first Leader Dog puppy counselor still holds outings every other month or so here. He had all kinds of reasons why Dutch had to leave.

"Well, we're under new management now."

"He might make a mess."

"We just can't have dogs in here."

His collar was roasting!

I sighed. Okay, we'll take him out, I said. But we parked in the south lot, so we'll leave that way. I pointed back the way we had come.

"Just get him out of here," he said.

The girls were indignant. Come on, I said. We get to walk all the way back through the mall to get out.

In spite of the over-enthusiastic security guard, it was a productive outing for FLD Dutch!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Five days with the girls / A vignette in five parts

My sister Anne was invited to Mexico by a group of her friends. How could she say no? I agreed to come with FLD Dutch and stay with Elaina, Sofia and Natalie while she got a much-needed vacation.

Oh, and Rosie, too.

We had a mah-vel-ous time, with lots of new experiences for Dutch. I can only hope that he did NOT teach Rosie how to open her crate...

a black lab is lying in a large crate. She is looking back at the camera and you can see the whites in her eyes. A young golden retriever is lying next to her with his head resting on her back. He has sleepy eyes.
Rosie looks up at me from her crate as if to say, "Really? I have to share it with him?"


I like to catch two puppies with one treat. The first thing I did when I arrived in the city was to stop by the Leader Dogs vet clinic so Dutch could get his last set of puppy shots. Upon examination Dr. Wilson noticed some shards left from the molar my local vet extracted a week or so before; a molar on the opposite side looked suspicious.

FLD Dutch got an unexpected overnight in Puppy Land.

Dr. Wilson took his leash and Dutch bounced away without a glance back. The next day she removed the shards and a few other baby teeth that were about ready to fall out. The other molar was fine. I picked him up that afternoon.

The same shot of the black lab lying in a large crate, but now the golden retriever puppy is sitting up at one end, long pink tongue hanging out with an expression in his eyes that he is ready to get out!
A happy Dutch is ready for anything. Rosie--not so much.

Parts 2-5 of this city adventure to come. Stay tuned to learn why I was worried about Dutch showing Rosie how to escape her crate...

Friday, January 18, 2013

What do you think they want?

Gus, a black lab, is laying on the green carpeted floor of my knotty pine office next to Dutch, a golden retriever 3 1/2 month old puppy, My brindle mutt, Gypsy is lying on the floor to the right under a card table. They are all looking at me intently.
Herding with their eyes.

Guess it's time to get off of the computer and take the dogs out into the woods...

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Yay! Received the following email from Leader Dogs for the Blind today. Sounds like Scout is doing us proud.

The dog you raised D#13647  Scout has been in training for over 13 weeks and has completed the third of four phases of training.  The instructor working with Scout has made the following comments:
Scout is doing well at:
1. settling
2. great social behaviors
3. great personality
Scout is working on:
1. being consistent in her work
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 receive another update once this special dog completes training and is placed with a client.  The journey is almost complete!
Puppy Development
Leader Dogs for the Blind

Let's all keep our paws crossed for this special puppy! (And hope she gains consistency.)

A black lab/golden mix year old dog with a blue "This puppy being raised for Leader Dogs for the Blind" jacket on, with a long shadow of a person and the dog stretching out to the top of the photo.
FLD Scout and I cast a shadow a few days before her return to Leader Dogs for the Blind. Dogspeed Scout!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Before we left our Christmas celebration, my niece Natalie wanted a picture holding FLD Dutch.

A brown haired girl dressed in blue sits on the floor with a golden retriever puppy in her lap. He is stretching his head back to give her a lick. My husband Andy's legs are behind the girl on the left, and my other niece, Sofia's legs are on the couch.
Dutch reaches back to give Natalie a smooch.

He was more of a fuzzy handful than my previous Future Leader Dog puppies at that age. (See my post October 11, 2010 when Nat held a growing Gus.)

The next day when we packed up the van to head home to northeastern Michigan, Dutch wanted to make sure that we didn't forget him...

A golden retriever puppy pokes his face out from within a deep blue dog bed. The bed he is in sits on top of another green striped bed. You can just see his eyes and nose.
Dutch plants himself in the pile of dog beds that are going home with us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

At 14 weeks, everyday brings something new into the life of Future Leader Dog Dutch.

a three month old Golden Retriever puppy is standing at the left side of the photo. He has a blue collar and tag and is on a leash. A chair is in the background.
FLD Gus on Christmas Eve at our family gathering.

If he could make a New Year's resolution, I think it would be something like, "Try something new everyday!"

He might add, "If it's not fun, try something else!"

After his encounter with Peanut-the-cat, Dutch was intrigued by Jen's treadmill. We turned it on to the slowest speed.* Lured by bits of kibble, Dutch took a few steps. And a few more.

He paused. We gasped. Just before his back paws went off the end of the tread, he stepped forward. Good boy, Dutch! He got another treat.

He seemed eager to experiment. What happens if I jump off the side? He jumped back on. What if I stop? He plopped off the end, then stepped back on and kept walking.

Less than two minutes later, he hopped off in search of another adventure.

Dutch on the treadmill at Cori's.

At my family's Christmas gathering the next day, I found out that my niece Cori had a treadmill in her basement. You guys, come see what Dutch can do! I said. We turned it on; Dutch jumped on and took a few steps to get a treat. He jumped off. Been there, done that.

Dutch headed for the stairs. Never mind that the staircase was partly open and that the shiny tile surface on the steps was a new texture for the pup. He was on a mission. The spread (chicken, lasagna, spinach pie, cheese and crackers, cookies, and rum cake) was UPstairs.

Dutch! I called when he reached the landing. Time to practice name recognition as a pre-cursor to the "come" command.

FLD Dutch looks back at me from the top of the stairs.

He raced down. Good boy Dutch! I handed him a piece of kibble. 

Dutch, heading down the stairs.

He gulped the treat, turned and bounced back up the stairs.

Dutch, heading back up the stairs.

Dutch! Down he came. Good boy!

Back up he went. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down.

Dutch heads back up the stairs as someone else comes down.

Who knew stairs could be so much fun?

May your New Year be filled with fun new experiences!

*Disclaimer: Dutch was not forced to work out on the treadmill. He was exploring the surface when we turned it on to the slowest speed. He readily walked on his own and quit after a minute or two when he became distracted. Leader Dogs for the Blind does NOT endorse "forced" exercise (running, treadmill, biking) for puppies.