Sunday, February 28, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Off to the vet today! Nope, nothing's wrong with Alfie...it was just time for his last puppy vaccination. As usual, he was a trooper and although excited, behaved pretty well for us. At 4 1/2 months old, Alfie's between 18 and 19 inches at the shoulder, and weighs in at just over 26 pounds. I wonder how much of that is fur?
I recently had to give him a haircut around the face, as his shaggy locks hung over his eyes, blocking peripheral vision. I learned with our last doodle puppy that this can really hinder their work on overhead obstacles! Now his face fur is trimmed to about an inch and a half, and the rest of his coat is still around three and a half inches. Sooo...he looks...FAT! Dr. Boggs even thought so, until she felt under all the fur and said, nope, she could feel all the ribs and he was just the right weight. When the weather warms up a bit, I'll see about trimming the rest of him so he seems a little more proportional. Until then, we'll just enjoy all that soft cuddly fur!
We're still working on those long down/stays I mentioned a couple of posts back. I think right now, that's his biggest "working" challenge. We've been practicing a lot, and I think we'll just have to be patient. There is some progress though...I've been taking him to church with me and last week, one of my young students observed, "Wow, Alfie's so much better this week! Last week he was terrible, but this week he's way better!" Kids always tell it to you straight, don't they? I love it!
Alfie's in that period of puppyhood that our book calls cryptically, "the juvenile period." According to these experts of understatement, at this time "Chewing is a priority." That is their gentle way of expressing that chewing is almost the ONLY thing the puppy does! When Alfie notices something new, you can tell his brain is assessing: #1--Can I fit it in my mouth? #2--How good is it to chew? (everything is good to chew -- only some things are better than others, e.g. erasers, pencils, dolls...) and of course there's #3--Can I chew it without being noticed? In Alfie's defense, I'll note that there's excellent reason for his chewing...he's teething like crazy. And also, whenever I notice him chewing something inappropriate, all I really have to do is ask him to "fetch" it for me, then substitute it with something actually meant for puppies. He's got a lot of growing up to do, that's all!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
What's that white stuff?! The rest of the country may be getting a lot of it, but in Austin, snow is still relatively unheard-of. I remember we had a teeny bit of sleet last year (our puppy Dakota nearly made himself sick trying to eat it all!), but the last time we had enough snow to make a snowball was somewhere around six years ago.
Alfie loves it! It's invigorating, edible, and best of all the snow got us all outdoors to play with him. Hooray!
Friday, February 19, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I've shared before how much Alfie likes his work, and he does. But the whole truth is, he likes part of his work...the active part! He loves commands like "let's go!", "find the...", "steady," "heel," and "watch me." He likes getting out and going places, and he loves walking...walking...walking...you get the picture. But oh man, he does not like to lie still and wait. And guess what, Alf...that's a big part of being a guide dog!
So yesterday on our family trip to the library, instead of browsing for books as usual, I just had him find me a seat, and we practiced down/stay. The whole time. He was one unhappy camper! He did a nice "tuck in" (getting under my seat and out of the way)...
...but then spent the rest of his time undoing it with his jack-in-the-box impression. He'd sit up, I'd frown & give him the hand signal to "down"...he'd do it for about a minute...then sit up hopefully, as if to say, "Well, now can we do something fun?" I'd "down" him again, a couple of minutes would pass, and - pop! - up would come his furry face asking, "OK, how 'bout now?" Sigh...I could tell this was going to be a long lesson!
I also have a hunch that Alfie, being the assertive/dominant personality that he is (yep -- he looks like a teddy bear but looks would be deceiving!), is especially reluctant to keep a down/stay in public because it is such a submissive posture for a dog. He'd yawn, and snort, and pant, and show me in a ton of little doggy ways that he'd rather not do this. Those of you who know me...know that only strengthened my resolve!
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Well, yesterday morning Tim, who had to jet out early for some meetings, was already up having breakfast when I got up and let Alfie out. I opened the bedroom door and called Alfie so he could go outside, but he was having none of it -- he had to see Tim first! When the usual nudging of the covers didn't get him anything, Alfie escalated to jumping on his hind legs and scratching the bed with his front feet -- I'm standing at the door a bit sleepily, but knowing that this isn't acceptable guide dog behavior, I tell him firmly, "NO, Alfie, OFF!" He grudgingly gets off with an apologetic wag in my direction...only to go over to MY side of the bed and repeat the performance --maybe Tim was tricking him by hiding over there?! "NO, Alfie, OFF -- let's go OUTSIDE!" I called again, but he was having none of it! Where was his beloved Tim? So he rushes around again, getting all agitated and starting to growl and woof in frustration -- at last I call out to Tim where he's having breakfast, "Hey honey, would you mind telling the dog where you are?" Tim walks over and enjoys the show for a couple of seconds before he says really quietly, "Hey, buddy, who are ya looking for?" ...You should've seen Alfie's face! I don't think I have ever seen a dog so relieved. He really thought his world had come to an end!
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
...But in the shade he's more of a chocolate.
...See what I mean? The last time I brought him to church one of my young students asked, "Didn't he used to be black?" I thought that was kind of cute -- to me he still does look blackish from a distance. I know for sure his eyes are changing color...they used to be green but now, they're more golden.
Of course as far as I'm concerned, he could turn tie-dye and I'll be fine with it as long as he learns his job well! Here we're practicing around some obstacles at a shopping center. I was surprised that he seemed to get the idea that we wouldn't both fit through the openings between the posts (he certainly could have done so on his own!) The first time, since there was an open path on his side, he led me around pretty well (oh -- besides stopping for a long investigative sniff in the bushes -- oops!) I turned him around, curious to see what he'd do when confronted with the obstacles again, but this time with no clear path around on his side. You could almost see the little wheels moving in his head as he sized it up, stopped, then looked up at me with this quizzical "Okay, now what?" look on his face. I love it when you can tell they're thinking and trying to figure things out!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
finding trashcans (look how eagerly he's waiting for his treat!)
practicing "heel" when he gets ahead of me -- he has to circle back to my side in a sort of big backward-s maneuver
So how'd I do?
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
In my days teaching in private and public schools, I've heard many excuses for tardiness. Of course the old classic is, "My alarm didn't go off." Not much of an excuse if you ask me...especially because I've found a pretty strong correlation between its not going off and its never getting set in the first place!
But this morning I was the one who overslept...by about two hours, shame on me! I'd quit setting my alarm because Alfie always woke me between 6:30 and 7:00. He is also the first puppy I've had who wakes me up by growling! Not a mean or angry growl, it's more of a play growl that goes up at the end, as if he's asking why I'm still asleep. Grrr?...wag, wag...grrr?...smile, pant...until I give in and roll out of bed. As soon as I let him out he cuddles up in my lap and tries to make up for waking me by snuggling and licking me in that wonderful puppy way.
I must've been tired because when I awoke to the sounds of conversation in the dining room I thought fuzzily, "Wow -- the kids are sure up early!" But then I checked the clock and oops, it was I who was up late. My first irrational, half-asleep thought when I saw Alfie still snoozing in his crate: Oh no, he must've died! On further inspection, he was quite well -- thank goodness. I leaned over his crate and growled -- just to get back at him!
Wow, I guess he's growing up! I'll be setting my alarm clock again tomorrow.