Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Afternoon Walk

Petey and I have been walking a lot lately....want to come along? Here he's doing a good job of sitting and looking up at a branch overhead (sorry, not pictured!)

Petey, a black German shepherd, sitting on the sidewalk next to me and looking up alertly
Here, I'm getting his attention with a treat and "Watch me!" The reason? We're getting ready to pass a little boy...distracting for Petey. He did just great though!
Petey striding along in his blue work jacket, looking up to me as I talk to him and hold a treat up near my face
UNTIL this...which, by the way, was totally my fault! We passed the little boy and I let my guard down, starting to focus on what was coming up. Rats! Of course that was just the moment the boy whipped out a ball and started tossing it up in the air, resulting in the reaction below...

Petey lurching in the opposite direction to how we were going; I've got my feet braced and am bent over to hang onto him
I'll pay closer attention next time! Soon Petey's focus was back on me, and on his work. He knows his stuff pretty well. Here he's sitting right at the edge of the curb...good boy.

Kind of a funny picture of Petey's and my toes right next to each other at the edge of a curb
Here he's finding me a trash can. Good dog!

Petey sits, nose pointing right at a trash can, while I'm smiling, praising him and throwing something away
In the video below, Petey faces down the "goose of doom." In all fairness, I've got to tell you that so far every single dog I've walked in our neighborhood is initially freaked out by this goose lawn ornament. When Petey and I walked up to it at first, he froze...waited a few seconds...(I was talking casually to him, trying to show it wasn't a big deal) and then suddenly sprang back to the end of his lead. So here I'm trying to get him to make friends with the nice goosey but as you can see he's not buying it!

In the end, he was willing to walk past calmly, which is really all he has to do. Good job!
Rear view of Petey's long bushy black tail and paws beside my feet as we walk along together
That's all folks! Happy trails!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Petey's Hidden Talents

Petey makes me laugh...really, how comfortable can this be? 

Petey asleep on his side next to the wall; his legs are crunched up small under him so his tummy touches the wall; his tail goes around the corner into the next room

Sure, you've taught your dog to "sit"...but can he do it sideways?  How about sideways AND in his sleep?  I think Petey ought to win some kind of award for this.

Now he's in a sitting position on his side, front and back paws touching the wall, nose up

closeup of Petey's face as he lays on the floor; he's just barely woken up so his eyes are wide with a startled look
Whew, you wouldn't believe the nightmare I just had...
Someone taking pictures of me while I slept...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back to School

...for an afternoon, anyway!  And look who's with me...

I'm standing with a black lab in working jacket, in front of a colorful round tiled planter with school flagpoles in the middle
Yes, that's Tracy's puppy Celia.

Monday, the kids and I had the opportunity to share about GDTx with a great group of crossing guards at Highland Park Elementary.  Thank you so much to Ms. Fosdick, the other teachers and parents, and most of all our terrific audience.  We really enjoyed it!!

When I originally set up this appointment, I had no idea when the puppy swap would be, what puppy I'd have then, or what he'd be like.  As it happens, our presentation was to be outdoors, in an area near a playground and tennis courts...full of difficult distractions for a pup like Petey.  While I'd love to take him there just for training sometime, I felt that speaking and helping him to behave at the same time would be a bit more than I could handle.  After checking with Michelle, I got the OK to borrow Celia as my "demo dog" for the day, in Petey's place (remember her from our mini-swap?-- see March 2nd post.) 

closeup of Celia's face as she rides in the car; her whiskers on eyes and muzzle are highlighted in the sun
I like how her whiskers catch the light!

As it turned out, at the moment Celia was staying with the Pawsitive Approach unit at Travis County Jail.  So that's where I actually picked her up from.  She definitely remembered us, and was as sweet as ever.  I arrived early, thinking I'd walk her for a while before our appointment to calm her down.  What was I thinking?!  Celia is the definition of "calm."  After our "calm down" walk she was so exhausted she just wanted to flop over and take a nap, poor thing!   She was perfect during our talk, and afterward too when I allowed the kids who wanted to come pet her.  Thank you Officer Mullins for letting us borrow her!

Can't believe you ditched me for Celia!

In the meantime, Petey and I continue our work together.  With practice, hard work...and, yes, liver...I think we're making progress!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Double, Double, Toil & Trouble...

To paraphrase one of my favorite authors:  By the pricking of my thumbs, something stinky this way comes!

a large pot boiling on the stove; there are chunks of grey-brown meat bubbling amid nasty looking froth and greyish foam
Smells like a witch's brew to me...but to Petey it's heavenly.

So, to explain...I was talking to supervisor Michelle about how Petey's been basically a great dog, but then from time to time something startles him into barking.  And with his size comes a BIG SCARY BARK...not good in public!  So we're doing a lot of stuff to help him realize that the world is really okay, I've got things under control, and basically there's no need for him to worry.  But as Michelle explained, I need some extreme high-value treats in my pocket to save for those moments...something to get his attention back onto me from whatever it is he's concerned about.  To me, that means one thing:  LIVER.  At just $1/lb locally, it's much cheaper than prepared dog treats.  The drawback is that you actually have to cook the stuff yourself...bleah. 

It's pretty easy...just rinse it off, boil it, cut it into bite size pieces, and dry it out in a slow oven.  Warning to readers:  if you do this, a)Your whole house will smell like liver; and b)Your dog will love you forever (of course he does already!)

The outcome?  It seems to be working!  We went on 3 walks today and Petey got many compliments in stores on how well-behaved he was.  I'm sure it also helps that he's getting used to working with me...but the liver sure doesn't hurt anything!

Petey in working jacket, sitting alertly in the driver's seat behind the wheel of my van...NOT where he's supposed to be obviously!
No, Petey, driving the car will not earn you extra liver...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


...That's his new name.  Or at least, that's probably what people thought at Town Lake yesterday!

Petey, big black German Shepherd, and I are standing in front of a low stone wall; he's in his work jacket; the water of Town Lake is behind us and the Austin skyline in the background
Petey and I take on the hike and bike out folks...

I'd been warned that my biggest challenge with Petey would be on walks.  At an immature 7 months, he still reacts instinctively to moving objects and it's up to me to anticipate these temptations and be proactive so I don't wind up at the end of a broken leash.  My thought was that for our first walk, I needed to take him somewhere with lots of distractions so I could figure out just what I was dealing with.  At the same time, we needed to be away from traffic.  So the Zilker hike and bike trail, winding along by Town Lake, was perfect. Loaded down with joggers, baby strollers, dogs, birds, and squirrels, it was sensory overload for the Petester. 

The outcome?  Pretty much exactly as I'd been told.  Petey has a great "watch me" and responds well to "leave it," just as long as you use those cues before he gets engaged in whatever's distracting him.  If you'd been behind us, I'm sure you would've thought me a bit obsessive with the PeteyLEAVEITs, but it seemed to work.  We successfully negotiated a big party with balloons bobbing in the wind...joggers...even flocks of pigeons clattering away at our approach!  Our proudest moment was when we calmly passed a little boy and his dad feeding crumbs to a flock of rowdy ducks, geese, and swans.  Hooray!!

a beautiful white swan and brown duck swimming; the water reflects the blue sky above
We DIDN'T chase these tempting birds...

Our most embarrassing moments?  Pretty much every time another dog came within fifty feet of us!  Petey would tense up and let loose with a volley of barking...sigh!  German Shepherds have a reputation for being vocal, and he's no exception.  It's something he has to stop as a guide dog, that's for sure!  The sad thing is, the barking gave everyone the impression that he was a wild beast of some sort, not the goofy guy he really is.  In fact, even when he was behaving perfectly, people gave him a wide berth! 

closeup of Petey's face as he sits in front of some greenery along the path; he is leaning forward, pink tongue lolling out, and he is staring intensely at something

I can't help it that I look so intimidating...

After lots of obedience work and many LEAVE ITs, we finally succeeded in passing another dog without barking...a big victory for us, and a nice note to end on.   You better believe he got a lot of treats and praise for that!

Petey sitting in the grass at home, looking up happily, head cocked to one side
I'm really trying my best, honest!

Monday, May 17, 2010

For Pete(y)'s Sake

So...who's this handsome fella?

front view of a German Shepherd with long, glossy black coat, sitting in the grass in front of a bushy area with yellow flowers
No, Alfie hasn't had an extreme makeover!

...Meet Petey!  Lockdown's over, puppy swap's on, and Petey just arrived from the Pawsitive Approach program this afternoon.  As you can see from the pictures, he's a beautiful, black, long-coated German Shepherd.  What you might not guess from the pictures...he's almost exactly the same age as Alfie (7 1/2 months), despite being close to twice his size!  So, yes, he's very much still a puppy.

Alfie left us for his swap home in Fredericksburg last Friday.  While I very much needed and enjoyed a weekend off my puppyraising duties, I was more than ready for Petey's arrival by the time he came.  Somehow, going for a walk just isn't anywhere near as much fun without a dog by your side! 

Puppy swap is a great part of the training program, since it multiplies the types of different experiences and training opportunities a puppy can encounter.  Working with a new handler in a different home and changing work environments, the puppy learns to accept all these things and take them in his important for success as a guide dog!  Of course, Petey's had many training walks in various locations already, but living in an ordinary home for a month or so will be a totally new thing for him.  And YES, we'll miss Alfie...but he'll be back...and in the meantime we'll definitely keep busy with Petey.

As you can see, he's already doing his best to worm his way into our affections.  I wanted to get a picture with us both in it so you could get an idea of his size and he took the opportunity to give me a big kiss...just look at that sly grin on his face!

Petey & me inside; I'm kneeling on the floor next to him, making him about my height; his huge black ears are tilted back and he's just licked my face, making me laugh with my eyes closed; yeah, I look silly!
Heh heh, let's see if we can get her to forget the doodle...

Interestingly enough though, I can already see a few similarities between Petey and Alfie.  Both of them are the super-alert type, quick to pick up on the slightest noise or movement anywhere in the house.  Both are very focused on their people.  Petey gives me the impression of a much more submissive, cautious temperament than Alfie, but of course it's his first day so perhaps that will change as he gets settled in!

His favorite thing so far?  Playing with Katharine!  He'll grab a toy and race around to get her to chase him in the full of puppy fun!

Petey lying on the floor, one forepaw tucked under, looking up
I think I'm going to like it here!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

That's A Good Boy

Alfie standing, blue working jacket and leash on, just outside our front door.  He's looking forward and eager to go!
Ready to roll...

Today I ran into something new while I was at Lowe's with Alfie, working him on the restrooms.  He loves restrooms because there's so much work for him to do in one small place!  First he has to "find the girls" (ladies' restroom).  Then, it's "find the stall," (the handicap stall -- to give enough room for person and dog to fit easily); and after using the restroom of course you need to wash your hands so he finds the sink, followed by the paper (or air dryer), and if it was paper he gets to find the trash can so you can throw it away...then the door, and we're on our way.  He's in doggie heaven.

He doesn't always get all of this right -- for example, today when I asked for the paper he took me to the fold-up changing table -- but he definitely works hard at it.

Anyhow, this particular Lowe's had an unusual setup, where the handicap stall was actually not the end one, as in almost every other store I've been.  It was next to last!  And guess what, Alfie went straight to it, passing up 4 normal size stalls and not bothering with the end one either!  I'll be honest...I'm not sure if he really figured that one out all on his own, or if perhaps I gave some kind of subtle cue (turned my head or slowed down maybe?)  I didn't do anything on purpose!  Either way, I'm happy...if he figured it out on his own, then wow -- he's smart!  If he figured it out from me, then he's still smart, and paying really close attention besides.  That's a good boy, Alf! 

Small victories just make my about you?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fun Fun Fun!

Splash Day! Guide dog puppies sure work hard, but they know how to play too. Every year GDTx hosts a fun day for the raisers, their puppies, and any well behaved pet dogs that care to join the romp. The location is a training/boarding facility in Bulverde called K9 Country Club, and there's tons of fenced in room to roam...sandy play areas...and a giant pond for swimming and splashing! The humans enjoyed hamburgers and hot dogs, while the dogs just enjoyed goofing off.
We walked into the enclosure, I let Alfie off leash, and who was the first to greet me? DAKOTA!! Besides being our last puppy to raise for GDTx, he is now a diabetic alert dog and possibly one of the sweetest personalities in the world. After loving on me for a while he ran off to play, but came back to say hello again every few minutes. What a guy! He was soaked to the skin and covered with sand but I didn't care one little bit! I enjoyed catching up with Ben and the family...they all seem to be doing well. They had a JDRF gala to attend that night, so they didn't stay too long, because obviously Dakota would have to be groomed beforehand.
Here's a little video of Ben introducing Alfie to the'll catch a glimpse of Dakota and some other dogs running around in the foreground. Please ignore my goofy laugh, I'm just excited to see "my" puppy again!

While several dogs swam nonstop, Alfie seemed to think it best to stay in the shallows. He enjoyed running in to grab toys, but then would run right out again.

Alfie trots through the shallows on the edge of the pond, while German Shepherd, Twist, looks on
C'mon, Twist, let's get our feet wet!

Alfie trots past a yellow lab with a tennis ball in his mouth; the lab is turning to chase him
Catch me if you can!

Alfie sniffs noses with a beautiful large Weimeraner who towers over him; the Weimeraner is wearing neat red boots to protect his paws
Hi there tall guy! Alfie gets to know Russel.

Alfie wading chest-deep into the water; his hind end is still sticking out of the water while he stretches his neck out to try and reach something
So, is it worth swimming out to get that ball or not? (Verdict: Not!)

Alfie and a very sandy black lab are chasing yellow lab Piper around the playground.  Piper has a ball in her mouth, her ears are flying, and she seems to be smiling.
Fun in the sand...

Bob holds a stick up proudly in his mouth as he walks near one of the tables.
Oooh, Bob found a stick!

Alfie, back to the camera, has the stick in his mouth now and Bob is grasping crazily to get it back, his eyes wide in a really funny expression
...But Alfie won't let him keep it without a challenge...

Side view of Bob and Alfie tugging on opposite ends of the stick
Now for a game of tug!

Alfie has the stick now and holds it just out of Bob's reach as he tries to get it back.
Uh-oh, better get it back, Bob!

Alfie at the edge of the water, trying to reach a tennis ball floating nearby
Trying to get the tennis ball without slipping in.

Alfie and yellow lab Piper are both tugging at a stick; Alfie's putting his left paw on Piper's eye to push her away!
Alfie's not really known for playing fair...sorry, Piper!!

Yet another game of stick tug-o-war, but this time the big stick has broken off in the black lab's mouth and Alfie's somehow ended up with the lion's share.
I think Celia's getting the short end of the stick.

Yellow lab Bob sitting, looking at the camera with cute sad puppy eyes!
Adorable Bob...he's all worn out and ready to go home!

Back view of Bob; he's sitting a little funny, to where his tail is in the shape of a backwards question mark!
Look at his tail! Cute...
When it was time to leave, Alfie was STILL very frisky and energetic. He's the energizer puppy! Anyway, as we headed to the car we had to cross this enclosure where a bunch of agility equipment was set up, so I thought I'd see how he liked it. He loved this thing where you run up a narrow ramp and cross a bridge that was about my shoulder height...any of you with agility experience know what that's called? The reason the he looks a bit put out is because I'm stopping his fun to take a picture!

Alfie, still wet from the pond, standing alertly on some kind of agility catwalk at my shoulder height.

I'm on top of the world!!

In other news, no puppy swap...yet! We were supposed to get one of the puppies from the Dominguez unit (Pawsitive Approach jail program), but sadly due to some sort of incident the jail had to go on lockdown. Let me clarify that this didn't have anything to do with our dogs or their handlers in the program! But security protocol must be observed for everyone's safety, so we're postponing the swap until things are back to normal.
And, speaking of the Pawsitive Approach program, Alfie and I had a bit of a surprise yesterday when we were called by the local news (KVUE) and asked to do an interview! They were doing a nice little piece on the Pawsitive Approach program here at the Travis County Jail, and also wanted to talk to a "traditional" puppy raiser. So Alfie and I got to be on the news for 5 seconds or so...he was ignoring the camera as usual so you couldn't see his face too well, alas! But he enjoyed meeting the reporter and cameraman, so we can add that to his list of training experiences I guess.
Alfie smiling cutely as he sits in some greenery
I'm a working dog, not a movie star!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Getting Ready

Splash Day is this Saturday!  Alfie's going to enjoy a playday with all the other GDTx puppies.  It's also the day he'll go home with another raiser for a month-long swap, so I'm trying to prepare him for it.  One thing I've learned about doodles and splash day:  long curly fur + water + sand + burs + doggie slobber = HOURS AND HOURS OF GROOMING!!!  Here's our doodle Dakota (now a working dog) at Splash Day last year.  Look at his long wet curls! 

Dakota, a light red labradoodle, at the edge of the pool; his long curly fur is wet and he's panting and happy

Despite the fact that Dakota had been nicely groomed before, he took me hours...well, days, get kinda-sorta back to normal.  Not wanting to get Alfie and his swap family off to a bad start, I thought I'd give him a nice short haircut to make things easier.  He accepted the clippers pretty well, and although it did take me a long time, I was able to do most of it by myself.  When we got to the tricky part around his head, I had Charissa come help me hold him, but other than that he was fine.

The super-short hair does make him look a bit scrawny I think!  Every time I clip him, I think, Now he won't look as cute and people won't stop and talk to him while he's working.  Wrong!  The very next day I was in Walmart and people were oohing and aahhhing as usual...the checker even asked me what I did to get his hair so beautiful and shiny, because (I quote!) "It's prettier than mine!"  So I give up.  Whoever Alfie gets matched to...I hope they like attention because apparently he's a head-turner in any haircut!  Silly boy!

Sorry these pictures aren't the greatest, but they're the best side views I have to give you an idea of BEFORE (coat a little more than 2" long all over)...

Alfie, chocolate labradoodle, standing with paws on back step waiting to be let in; his curly coat makes him look cuddly and soft

and AFTER (coat about 3/4" long).  I prefer it a little longer but it grows so fast that it doesn't seem worth the trouble of clipping unless you do it pretty short.

Alfie inside, in front of a bookcase; his fur is trimmed short and you can see his slim, long-legged build

Which makes me think, this is as good a time as any to share the odd bit of trivia that Alfie actually doesn't like his picture taken -- quite unlike Dakota, who hammed it up at every opportunity.  For every decent shot I take I have to throw away 10 like this one, because he barks at the camera! 

Alfie standing at the foot of a tree in the backyard, barking resentfully at the camera

He doesn't mind you taking a picture while he's doing something else, but being posed just seems to tax his patience.  Which reminds me, some of my friends are exactly the same way (you know who you are, hehe!)

Ah, Alfie, we'll miss you while you're gone!

Alfie lying in the grass with his beloved rubber fetching toy between his forepaws as he watches me with his characteristic alert expression
I'll be back!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Don't Worry, He's Fine

Alfie's always been a cheerful, optimistic puppyality. 

Half empty or half full...well, let me at it and that glass will be spilled on the floor so who cares?!

So when Alfie got sick last week he didn't let it bother him much.  I mean sure, he was waking up vomiting and worse, but in his view, hey!  It meant a trip to the vet!  I always hear about dogs who hate the vet's office, but Alfie loves it.  We just pull into the driveway and he starts getting excited.  Everywhere we go, people admire Alfie...but the vet's office is the only place where I really let them (the vet and all the staff) love on him and hug him and tell him what a handsome little devil he is.  It totally goes to his head! 

So anyway, we arrive for our appointment, weigh in, and trot back to the exam room...when Alfie surprises me by making a concerted, repeated effort to jump on the exam table!  You have to understand, he knows better than to get on any furniture, and really doesn't try to anywhere else.  All I can think is, he remembers getting up on the exam table for shots last time...and getting loved on...and getting giant yummy treats!  What a memory. 

Turns out he needed a round of antibiotics...followed by a round of probiotics.  Sounds like we can't decide what we want to do with those biotics, doesn't it?  Turns out we're just going to try to get rid of the nasty bacteria, then repopulate his doggy insides with the good kind.  But again, Alfie doesn't really care about the whys and wherefores because all it means to him is...he gets to take pills!  My sneaky trick is to encase them in a little wad of cheese and, voilĂ , a gourmet dog treat!  I was out of cheddar but found that a smidgen of neufchatel does the trick just as well.  Alfie, who had had to skip a meal before his appointment (unprecedented torture!) could hardly believe his luck.  He'll be sad when he runs out of pills I'm afraid!

The only bad part, for him, has been that due to his rather nasty symptoms he wasn't able to go on any walks for a few days.  He gave me dirty looks from his crate every time I left him at home!  Today when I could tell all systems were normal again, off we went for a walk and Alfie was back on cloud nine.

But I DO love those cheese balls...