Thursday, December 31, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Now that everyone's gone back home, I'm trying to get Alfie back into his routine as I go about my post-Christmas cleanup chores. Alfie, having a strong fetching instinct, considers that his part in this endeavor is to locate and retrieve every stray item. Imagine my surprise when he turned up with this!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
My family is visiting for Christmas and I thought perhaps all the hustle and bustle of nine people in and around his meal area might bother him...nope! Here he is settling in to enjoy yet another meal.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The picture below shows something I really like about Alfie: his "watch me" is great! People around were noticing him but he stayed pretty focused on what we were doing. Good boy!
The guy behind the counter always teases me, "Why do you bring in such cute dogs if I can't pet them?" to which I always reply, "If you could pet them I wouldn't be allowed to bring them in..." It's just like a ritual, this conversation we always have to have. Makes me laugh!
Outside, we walk past an interesting grate. I was trying to go around to the right, Alfie decided to go around to the left. We'll get it together eventually!
Then, of course, Alfie notices a little puppy in the shop window who just seems to keep following us...finally he has to check it out and it's only his reflection. He gives me an embarrassed look.
Before we leave, I take the opportunity of working Alfie on some stairs. He hasn't seen this many all at once before! We got up (the easy part) but as you can see in the video he wasn't too eager to go down at first. He probably would have liked me to carry him! I had to use my silliest "squeaky-toy-voice" to get him started...but then he finished like a champ.
Time to go home! Alfie already knows what the "bus" is and when we get there, eagerly goes to the passenger side to get in.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
"Because of his teeth," she states with impeccable logic, (yeah, OUCH!) "and because he's leaving a permanent mark on our stuff!"
I'm just a puppy, after all!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
One of this week's stops was the grocery store.Ready?
Another day, we went for a little jaunt downtown.
What in the world is this?
...and down...the courthouse steps!
This morning, we stopped by a farmer's market.
Hey, don't we need some lettuce?
In case you're worried that we're wearing out the little guy...don't! The only one getting worn out here is the driver, I think. That's because, although we go on many different walks, at this age we only walk for a very short time -- just enough for Alfie to have a good training experience -- then leave while he's still eager and happy. The funny thing is that although it may take me ten minutes or so to get ready to go, and another fifteen to twenty minutes to drive to the walk location, the walk itself may only take ten minutes! So we sometimes laugh about calling it a walk when it's really more of a drive!
In any case, Alfie loves his outings and has already learned our getting-ready routines. When the leash and jacket come out he gets all excited and bouncy, controlling himself just long enough for me to get the jacket on.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Yesterday he visited the vet for his 9-week checkup, and weighed in at 9.6 lb. A growing boy!
I think, though, that puppies should come with a little label: "Some assembly required"! Part of the "assembly" is pretty easy: teaching them to "sit" and "come," for example. But I'll bet most puppy raisers would agree that the hardest part, at least at first, is teaching them what not to do: don't nip, don't jump up, don't soil the house...and, really, don't even think about disassembling the Christmas tree! We just put it up!
Alfie's main confusion lies in his little idea that he's supposed to teach us what to do, not the other way around. What he doesn't know is that we're onto him. Dakota, our last puppy, also went through this stage so we were prepared when Alfie came along with his dreams of ruling the world.
We've been enjoying our walks and have already been quite a few different places. Here we are on one of our first outings.
Other dogs sit at the curb...Alfie thinks he should lie down.
I love Alfie's confidence and curiosity. When he sees something he doesn't understand, he doesn't bark or run away; instead he likes to just sit and study it for a while before going on. Unfortunately, more than once in our early walks, the place he chose to do this was really inconvenient...like right in the middle of the automatic doors to the library, with a line of people behind us! A couple of times, I just had to scoop him up and carry him out of the way so that people could get past.
Michelle, our puppy program manager, warned me that if I didn't watch out he'd soon be using this technique to manipulate me and get a free ride whenever he wanted. She must have the inside line on puppies because that's just what happened at the mall.
All went well at first...here we are happily trotting toward the entrance...
The puppies don't ride on escalators, but it's important for them not to be frightened by the sight and sound of them. Not to worry, Alfie only thought they were interesting.
Looks like fun to me!
But as we continued our walk, Alfie up and decided that he was ready to be carried. He just sat down and refused to move. He wasn't afraid; his body language was relaxed and happy; he just wouldn't go!
Time for my staff to carry me!
We're not supposed to pull on the leash to get the puppy to move, so it was on to plan B. First I tried luring him along with treats. He went a step or two, then sat down and wouldn't budge. Next I moved on to the squeaky toy. That was interesting for a while, but after a bit he sat down again, indifferent. I tried my most exciting voice to encourage him along, but to no avail. It was becoming clear that he was gaining the upper hand...not good!
Well, there weren't any other shoppers around, and there wasn't anything dangerous that he could get into (we were far from the escalators by now). So it just dawned on me that I was going to have to convince him that he couldn't control me, and the best way to do that was to walk away. I made a show of dropping his leash, turning my back, and walking off. I was only bluffing of course, but I hoped he didn't know it. I had gone all of two steps when he raced up to my side, all full of licking and apology!
The rest of our walk was absolutely perfect. Alfie bounced along cheerily either at my side, or a little ahead.
We rode the elevator down, and when we passed the escalators again, he tried to go for a ride. I stopped him just in time. Silly boy!
All in all, it was a great walk. Alfie's a smart boy...we just have to be smarter than him!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Awww...how cool is that?! I have to say a big THANK YOU to L^2 (http://l-squared.blogspot.com/ , you really must see her photography!) and Natalie (http://puppyraisingescapades.blogspot.com/ who will be a fellow GDTx puppy raiser soon, yay!) You two are a blessing to us!
The rule of this award seems to be that when you receive it, you have to pass it on to 5 others who are a blessing to you. Our nominees:
- Dakota and Ben, of course! (blog: http://dakotastails-thenextchapter.blogspot.com/) Being Dakota's puppy raisers, we are perhaps just a tiny bit biased, but we think they're an awesome team. Since middle school homework probably hasn't let up at all for Ben (and he's brand new to blogging and service dogs) I think we'll all understand if he doesn't pass it on. But I think they deserve some recognition all the same!
- Clive, fellow doodle and service dog in Ireland! (blog: http://assistdogautism.blogspot.com/) Okay, so he's a goldendoodle, not a labradoodle, but who's going to split hairs? (Especially curly ones!) We love his work for the "Not so little man" and think he's great.
- We also enjoy Maddie's blog: http://raisingoneatatime.blogspot.com/ Here is a puppy raiser who has accomplished an awful lot for a sophomore in high school! We're pretty sure she is a blessing not only to us, but to others.
- Rebecca, whose blog http://segdipuppyraiser.blogspot.com/ chronicles the raising of...count 'em...3 working guide dogs and a therapy dog! She's working on puppy #5 now. Wow!
- And, how could we leave out Erin? I haven't personally checked her blog this week, so she's probably already gotten this award a few times, but if so it's only because she deserves it! We love her fun blog on training for Wilderwood Service Dogs (http://gdfpuppyraiser.blogspot.com/), as well as her cool photography blog (http://eltphotography.blogspot.com/). Maybe some day our camera will learn to be like yours, Erin. In the meantime, you're definitely a blessing & inspiration!
Of course we've got many, many other friends and family who are huge blessings to us. Since most of them don't blog, I won't list them all here. But they're special all the same and life just wouldn't be the same without you wonderful people!
...And last but not least, as long as I'm on the subject of blessings...
Alfie slept through the night last night! As in, from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., without whimpering, without any messes in his crate, and went out and busied like a perfect little boy this morning. Those of you who know me and my need for sleep will understand when I say I feel truly blessed. Any puppy who can sleep through the night within the first week home...is a good puppy!
Of course I'm a good puppy!
Monday, November 30, 2009
The rest of the weekend passed in a sort of blur. Those of you who've been through the 8-week-old baby puppy stage will understand! Alfie settled in to his new home quickly, and in fact, we're having to remind him that he doesn't actually own the place!
There's so much for a new puppy to learn. So far, Alfie's hardest adjustment has been sleeping in the crate. He cries every time we put him in, which is normal at this stage, but the good thing is it's getting a bit less each time. He's had no "accidents" in the crate, which is terrific. Can't say the same about the rest of the house!
We're in that hectic stage of the game where every time he eats, wakes up, plays...basically any time he does anything...we have to take him out to "go busy"(guide dog code for potty)...then write it down on a chart to help us keep track of his schedule. He's really getting the idea that when we take him out to his spot and give the command, he's supposed to do his business. Eventually, he'll catch on he's not supposed to do that indoors! For his age, I think he's doing just fine.
Alfie was already used to wearing a collar, but now he's got to get accustomed to a bigger collar with a tag on it. He spent most of the first day trying to scratch it off, but finally reconciled himself to it. Now we're working on walking on the leash.
"Heel" is still a ways off in the future! At this point, we're just happy if he gets the basic concept of walking in the same general direction. I was at church working on Saturday and had the idea that we could use the long narrow hall to help us with that.
...Seemed to help! All that hard work wore him out and he had to take a nap.
Alfie is an intense, eager little learner. Luckily for me, he also seems to be quite motivated by treats (the good and smelly ones, that is!) We taught him "sit" using the treat as a lure and now he'll do it on his own, even offering a "sit" when he wants something...outrageously cute! He's also learned his name and "come." Today I'm starting to work on "down."
We've been spending some time each day on grooming, too, not so much because he needs it but to get him used to the routine. He sleeps through most of it so that's nice!Alfie's also been on a couple of outings with us already and so far he's taken everything in stride, a real trooper.
Now if only I could catch up on my sleep...
Saturday, November 21, 2009
When we got to Dixie's Doodles in Georgetown, we found six of the most adorable, chubby little labradoodle puppies you could ever hope to see. Even after we'd narrowed it down a bit it was still hard to choose. They were friendly, bold, bright, and lively...not to mention as cute as could be! It was as if they were all saying, "Pick me, pick me!"
Puppy temperament testing seems to lie somewhere between art and science, but if done right it can really help choose the right dog for the job. Michelle, our Puppy Program Manager, exposed the puppies to various stimuli and then carefully watched to see what each puppy's reaction would be. She threw down a shake can, which startled the puppies, and watched to see how quickly they "recovered" and went to investigate the source of the noise. She held them cradled on their backs...
...these puppies acted like that was no big deal at all.
After a few preliminaries, it was time for the Singing Christmas Tree of Doom. We pushed a button and the little tree wiggled, jingled, and burst out with a raucous, "Rockin' around the Christmas tree... "
...but again, the puppies were pretty unfazed. In fact, I think they kind of liked it!
Ideally a potential guide dog would be willing to walk under things (running through an agility tunnel is great!)...
...look up as well as straight ahead...
...and negotiate unfamiliar surfaces (here, a wire grate, rocking back and forth, partly covered by a crinkly jacket. Alfie attacked it with great enthusiasm).
But at last, Alfie won us over with lots of persistence and a dash of charm. We look forward to bringing him home after Thanksgiving!