Monday, November 30, 2009

Carpe Canem

...that's just a little Latin for you, translating roughly to "Sieze the Puppy"! That's all we had on our minds Friday as we drove up to get Alphini. Here he's saying goodbye to his breeder, Dixie Moore of Dixie's Doodles.
Dixie holding Alfie in her arms
Thank you, Dixie!

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.

Alfie on his leash, wearing his tiny blue guide dog jacket

"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.

Alphini asleep on his back in Charissa's arms

Sweet dreams!

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.

Alfie at a playground near the swings
Alfie curled up into a little brown ball, asleep
Now if only I could catch up on my sleep...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Introducing Alphini

brown labradoodle puppy
Well, folks, we have a winner! "Alphini" ("Alfie"), formerly known as "Orange Boy," is our newest recruit.

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!"

two puppies lick my face
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...
brown puppy on his back in Michelle's arms
...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... "
three puppies and a plush animated Christmas tree
...but again, the puppies were pretty unfazed. In fact, I think they kind of liked it!

puppy chewing Michelle's pants
Puppies, let me clarify: Chewing pant legs is not actually one of the tests!

Ideally a potential guide dog would be willing to walk under things (running through an agility tunnel is great!)...

puppy dashes into a tunnel
...look up as well as straight ahead...
puppy grabs a dangling toy
...and negotiate unfamiliar surfaces (here, a wire grate, rocking back and forth, partly covered by a crinkly jacket. Alfie attacked it with great enthusiasm).

puppy pounces on a blue jacket spread over wire grate
Michelle also spent some time just observing the puppies as they played and interacted with one another. It wasn't an easy decision!
three puppies rush up to grab my fingers
brown puppy

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!