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Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

this puppy, on Memorial Day

this puppy padded gently
at my side
among the tombstones
and flags that marked lost soldiers

this puppy sniffed softly
in tune
with reverent feeling
amidst the dead on a chill morning

this puppy sat proudly
not forgetting
and held still for a photo
when he never would before

this puppy gazed calmly
as peace
surrounded us and geese honked overhead
in salute for service

Sunday, May 12, 2013


FLD Dutch wishes his mom, Indy, a very happy day!

Dear Mom,

I know you're probably worried about me, but I'm doing fine! I miss you, but most of the time I'm having too much fun to be sad about not seeing you. My puppy-raiser makes training a BLAST and she takes me all kinds of places. Just last week we went hunting for morel mushrooms (can you believe it?) And then we went to see our 2nd-graders and this time we walked with them to a greenhouse. I loved smelling all the flowers, but they wouldn't let me plant a marigold for you like the other kids did for their mothers.

Thank you for giving me such a good start in life, Mom. My raiser tells me all the time that I'm going to have a very important job to do one day. I'm trying real hard to make you proud!

love and licks, Dutch

FLD Dutch at work with his 2nd-graders.

Guster-buster rocket pup!

Cc'd Gus wants to make sure we wish his mom, Sienna, a very happy Mother's Day, too! As you can see, he is in his glory in our north woods, and still running to me like a shot.

Friday, May 10, 2013

FLD Dutch goes 'shroomin'

I was honored.

The "mushroom queens" invited FLD Dutch and me on a morel mushroom hunt.

Unless you live in Northern Michigan, you might not understand the significance of the honor. Morel hunters guard their sacred grounds with their lives.

Stephanie, her mom Fran, her sister Yevette and her daughter Lilly, (and Yevette's friend Jay) didn't even ask me to wear a burlap bag over my head as we drove to their secret spot deep in the Huron National Forest.

That, my friends, is an honor.

Lilly gave us all handmade name tags as we grabbed our onion bags to head out into the woods. My tag read, "Morel Adams." Another honor--I guess she thinks I take a lot of photographs!

A 7-months-old golden retriever puppy is in the foreground sniffing a log in the early spring woods--the forest floor is covered with dried out leaves and the trees are barely greening with leaves. There are three people in the background.
FLD Dutch sniffs out some fungi on an old log. Those aren't morels!

The evening was warm, the woods dry, the morels small and elusive. Stephanie said, "We just need a bit of rain for them to really pop."

A short-haired woman in the center of the picture is holding up a thumb-sized morel mushroom. She is holding a red mesh onion bag with her mushrooms in it. She is wearing a grey tshirt and blue jeans. A woman on the left side of the photo is wearing a pink long sleeved tshirt and blue jeans, with a light blue sweatshirt tied around her waist and a blue bandana on her head. She also holds a red mesh bag with morels in it. An 11-year-old girl is to the right of the photo. She has blond hair and is wearing a pint short-sleeved shirt and blue jeans. The background is a spring hardwood forest with light colored leaves on the ground.
Stephanie holds up a nice morel. Her mom, Fran is on the left with her onion bag, and Lilly is to the right. Lilly is an eagle-eyed morel hunter!

After three or four hours, the veteran crew had a fairly good take. This rookie found three.

A closeup shot of two small brown morel mushrooms peeking up beneath some green grass, leaves and twigs.
My first two were a pair!

A close up of a brown morel mushroom that had popped up among a bunch of dry, light brown leaves on the forest floor.
This one stuck out like a sore thumb! (sorry)
A brown morel mushroom held in my left hand to demonstrate its size. The mushroom is about as long as my longest finger.
Here's some perspective for you on its size.

I admit I became distracted.

A six-petaled yellow flower on a long stalk, with about six stamen coming out from the middle of it. It is bending forward just a bit. Everything else in the photo is out of focus. To the right at the bottom is a green spottled leaf and to the left a small branch with some leaves sprouting off the end.
A yellow trout lily.

A three petaled white trillium flower bows to the camera, with the background of green leaves and a tree trunk out of focus.

Wildflowers bloomed. Natural springs bubbled. The setting sun cast long shadows through the hazy-budding trees.

Shot from above, a golden retriever puppy leans over a green moss-covered bank to drink water from a natural spring. The spring has leaves floating in it and his lapping is creating small rings across the water. Trees are reflected in the water.
FLD Dutch laps a drink in a natural spring.

I said, The rate of reinforcement isn't high enough.

My comment would have been funnier amongst a group of dog trainers.

If the morels were as copious as the deer droppings that Dutch sniffed out, I might not have lost focus. 

Deer-doo hunter* FLD Dutch looks at the camera. "What?" he seems to be saying.

*Dont' worry, FLD Dutch got lots of practice with "leave it" during our hunt and his ingestion of said morsels was very limited.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Yes, he can.

Down to the wire, even after an extended deadline for submissions to the 11th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival (ADBC). This edition is being hosted by Frida Writes. If you don't have a clue what the ADBC is, visit the ADBC home page to find out, and to catch up on past carnivals.

This post is my submission for the 11th ADBC, the theme of which is Resources and Tools.

We settled at our place behind one of the long tables in the conference room at Leader Dogs for the Blind. Or rather, we tried to settle. My back and/or hip screamed at me in a knot for some unknown reason, and FLD Dutch was up to his new tricks.

I had placed his "mat" next to my chair on the right side, to give a bit of distance between Dutch and Cheri's petite Chocolate Lab puppy on my left, and asked him to settle. He slid into a down, and rested his chin on his front left paw.

For one second.

He popped up. I ignored him.

He lay back down, chin to the floor. I dropped a piece of kibble next to his snout, which he snarfed up like a great white shark.

He looked up at me. BARK! I flinched.

Quiet, I whispered. His head dropped. I waited. He looked back at me but put his head back down when a treat was not forthcoming.

I dropped a piece of kibble. SHARK ATTACK.

Pretty much it went like this for Dutch and me most of the morning--the first of three days of on-campus "Puppy Counselor Training" at Leader Dogs. It was a good thing I only fed him half of his breakfast.

I was part of a team of over 40 volunteer puppy counselors that act as liaisons between the 450 volunteer puppy raisers and Leader Dogs for the Blind. Our responsibilities are to assist the raisers in the training of their puppies and to organize monthly outings to practice specific skills.

This was our yearly training intensive to become better counselors. Deb Donnelly, the new Puppy Development Supervisor that Leader Dogs hired just over a year ago, is a Karen Pryor Academy certified clicker trainer, and she brings the same positive reinforcement techniques to her people training. Deb had asked us for specific issues that she could address during our three days. I was ready--I couldn't get Dutch to settle and suspected that my reinforcement timing was off.

After lunch another counselor, who happened to be puppy-less, offered to take Dutch. My back needed the break.

Dutch played his same tricks with her as I watched from across the room.

A golden retriever puppy in a blue vest is lying on a brown carpet behind a black chair and a white table, looking up at a red-haired woman who is holding his leash. She is wearing an orange and yellow print shirt with black pants.
FLD Dutch looks up for a reward.
Now the golden retriever is lying down facing the camera, with his nose to the floor. In this picture you can see two other women sitting behind Dutch's handler.
Here Dutch has turned around and is in his typical "settle" position--just before he vocalizes...

At last, Dutch was about to become the class demo. Deb talked to us about products to help calm anxious puppies. Thundershirts. Rescue Remedy. Lavender oils. As she spoke she nonchalantly meandered over to Dutch and lightly spritzed lavender over his back. He leapt up, snorting, and jumped away from his mat. He cautiously sniffed the mat, but backed up to the end of his leash.

Eventually, he slid down. Not on the mat.

Deb moved a chair to the center of the room and asked to take Dutch. She picked up his mat, walked him to the chair and sat down. She never said a word to him, just held his leash and placed the mat next to her chair. She continued her lecture.

Meanwhile, Dutch barked and whined and pulled and sat down, lied down, jumped up, and walked from one end of his leash to the other. Deb continued to calmly hold the other end of his leash, ignoring him, but very aware of his antics.

At one point, Dutch seemed to "give it up" and lied down on his mat. Shortly after, Deb dropped a bit of kibble near his belly, so he had to curl around to get it. He looked up at her, but she was focused on the rest of us.

He fussed. She ignored.

He lied down again. She waited. As she reached behind to her treat bag, Dutch's head whipped up in anticipation. She drew her hand away and held it open to show him there was nothing there. He dropped his head to the floor.

The 7-month-old golder retriever puppy, in a blue vest, is lying on a mat on brown carpet, looking up and back at a woman seated in a chair. She is dressed in blue jeans and a blue shirt. She is holding his leash with her right hand, and reaching toward the dog with her left hand. Her head is bent down looking at the dog.
FLD Dutch anticipates the treat from Deb.

She waited. He sighed. Another piece of kibble dropped out of the sky between his belly and his rear legs. He shifted position. She waited and eventually rewarded in the same manner. Finally, Dutch rolled over onto his side and fell asleep.

FLD Dutch has rolled over onto his side and is gazing across the room at me. Deb is relaxed and explaining lots of great things to us.

Deb only used about four treats during the entire session. "Of course, he is very tired," she said. Without saying a word about my behavior, Deb made it obvious that a couple of things I did, and didn't do, contributed to Dutch's superstitious bark and the difficulty in adding duration to his settle.

By the end of the second day of counselor training, more than one person asked me if I had a new puppy. Dutch was a different dog, no doubt. And I was learning to wait for the reward-able moment, and to place the reward where it would encourage the behavior I wanted.

I am grateful to have Deb as a resource, not only for guiding the training of my Future Leader Dog, but also when I need help in advising the puppy raisers in my group. Thank you Deb, for all you do!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Take time to...

A closeup shot of the face of a Golden Retriever puppy looking down and sniffing a yellow crocus. His snout is a little bit crinkled and there are dew drops on his black nose.
FLD Dutch smells the first blooming crocus daffodil in our front yard...

A second photo of the Golden Retriever puppy sniffing the same flower, but now the flower is missing a petal! There is some blue flowers in the background.
...and take a little taste! I don't think he likes it.