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."
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.
|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.
|Dutch rolls over on his back. Mr. Innocent.|
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!
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.
|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.
|FLD Dutch poses next to a Christmas toy colletction box, courtesy of the Rose City Lions Club.|
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).
|A sweet Dutch catches some Zs in his crate.|
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.
|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.|
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.
|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.
|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 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...