Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mixed Feelings

After a fantastic week out of state with family, it was good to get home...even nicer to see my buddy again!

Alfie's in the front yard, sitting up super straight and alert with a focused look on his face
Nice to be home...how about a walk?

Of course we were all excited to get Alfie back.  My supervisor Larry was nice enough to bring him over in the morning and Alfie nearly wagged himself in two when he got in!  Sounded like he did pretty well on his vacation too.  Apparently he started off the first few days restless and testing the limits (why does that not surprise me?!)...but then he settled in, and since the Reimers said he was welcome to come back I assume all ended on a good note!  Larry told me that when he met the Reimers for a training walk one day, he was very happy with Alfie's work.  Yay!!  It turned out when they arrived at the mall for their walk, some of the guide dogs in advanced training were already there working.  Larry said that Alfie was distracted at first, but then settled right in and worked well despite the other dogs' presence.  That was good to hear!  He also did well working past a security guy on one of those segway vehicles...sounded like a pretty good outing for him!  It really meant a lot to me to hear that he did so well working for a different handler.

After Larry left I settled down to a game of fetch with Mr. Alf and a couple favorite toys...and I suddenly realized how very much I'd missed him.  Yet it was ever so slightly bittersweet, because of course I know he'll be leaving for good before too long.  I was thinking about that, and then comforting myself with the thought of what a great help he'll be to some lucky person as a guide dog...then I thought, oh well, I think I'll do something nice for Alfie to make myself feel better.  I thought:  I'll fix him a kong, and have him go to his "place" (doggie bed), and sit and wait for it...then I looked at Alfie...and he was halfway to his bed already.  He just sat there waiting calmly, like, I know what you're going to do!  I seriously don't know how he does stuff like this.  I mean, I know he reads my body language and facial expressions all the time, but this one really puzzled me (as he often does!)  It's not a routine I have to randomly fix him a treat after a game of fetch; I didn't get up or even look that direction.  Alfie just seems to have this knack for guessing my next move.  As usual, it had what was probably, for Alfie, the desired result:  it made me laugh!

Love you, Alfie, you rascal!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm Going Too...Right?

No, Alf, you're not going on vacation. 

Alfie's lying down curled up with paws under him inside an old suitcase that's barely as long as he is; his head's up and he's looking up with a curious expression
But I fit so well in the suitcase!

OK buddy, I take it back, you ARE going on vacation, just not with us.

He's in the same suitcase but now he's standing up looking over his shoulder with a questioning look; he's taller than the suitcase & doesn't look like he can fit in it very well
Is that a good thing?

Yes, Alfie, very good.  You're going to stay with veteran puppy raisers Wes and Mary Reimer.  Not to mention you'll get to play with their certified therapy doodle Mason!  You'll really enjoy that much more than a 600+ mile road trip with us...trust me...

Alfie's actually asleep in the suitcase now and is really squished with his head, legs, tail and all somehow mashed inside; it's hard to tell which end is which, it's just a mass of brown curly fur
OK but if it's all the same to you...I think I'll nap in here for now!

We'll see you when we get back, Alfie...please try and be a nice guest for the Reimers, okay?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Call That Clean?!

So...I was doing laundry today, which for me means hanging lots of things to dry (I've had too many clothes shrink in the drier!)  That's when I noticed Alfie paying an unusual amount of attention to some jeans of mine.  He laid his chin affectionately on them while they were waiting to be hung up...I walked over to get a hanger, came back, and he'd stuck his whole head (up to the collar) inside one pants leg!  Ummm...I just took them out of the washer, but if Alfie's that interested, something's gotta be wrong!  Okay, okay, let's see what it is.

I'm kneeling on the floor holding a pair of jeans turned inside out; Alfie's scarfing up the icky wet kibble stuck inside
Finders keepers!  Mmm!

Er...yeah.  Soggy kibble!  I'm normally a treat pouch kind of person and now I know why...  Has this happened to any of you before?  Any other dogs turned personal laundry assistant?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Of Doodles and 'Dos

As much as I like Alfie's cute-teddy-bear look, it was still time for a trim.  His soft, curly coat doesn't shed at all, but grows fairly quickly -- sort of like our hair does. It would get sopping wet when we walked in the rain and took "fur"-ever to dry!  He seemed hot in our summer weather...and his training jacket was even starting to get tight!

Alfie's sitting in front of some bushes; his thick brown fur makes him seem like a plump teddy bear, kind of sheepdog-ish
I'm not fat at all - I swear, it's all fur!

As you can see from the photo below, the fur was even starting to block his peripheral vision.

 Alfie's sitting in the same place, this time facing to the side; fur partly hides his eyes
I know where this is headed...sigh...

A couple hours and a lot of clipping later, I discovered THIS skinny little puppy hiding somewhere underneath...

Alfie's sitting in the same place post-haircut; this time he's smiling and he looks like a different dog, all short-furred and skinny
Betcha don't recognize me now, heh heh!

I'm having a hard time getting used to his short look...oh well, it grows back fast!  And a bonus -- right after a haircut, his hair goes from its normal soft texture to supersoft, like velvet.  Fun!

 closeup of Alfie's face as he lies in some greenery next to a tree trunk; he's smiling widely and looking up
Soft fur = more petting, right?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rainy Day

Our days have been so full lately...work, school, training...but today, had to take time out for a bit of fun in the rain.

closeup of Alfie's face in the rain; his fur is very dark when it's wet, almost black, and his curls are laying down from the rain so you see his looong eyelashes sweeping out to the sides
With the rest of his fur plastered down, those long eyelashes really stand out!

Alfie loves to wander leisurely around the yard snuffling when it rains...even when it's really pouring.  He doesn't mind getting wet at all.  He'll even stick his head under the down spout where the water is gushing off the roof...funny to watch!  Everything must smell better to him in a rain shower.  I know for sure one thing that smelled very interesting to him in the rain today:  a dead bird.  Actually what happened was, I saw him with something under a big bush...thinking it was a toad (despite their nasty venom/poison/whatever, he still likes to pick them up)...I asked him to "fetch" it to me.  When he got closer I could see...EWWW, SOGGY DEAD BIRD and involuntarily let out some exclamation about how disgusting it was!  Now Alfie was all set for me to PRAISE him for bringing it and when I reacted negatively his tail went down and he started to back off, like, "Oops, never mind, I'll just keep this since you don't want it and I do!"  I caught myself just in time, squelched the gross-out feeling, and put on a big show of how HAPPY I was, decomposing birds are AWESOME, and GOOD BOY, FETCH IT!!!  ...Which brought him cheerily indoors where he dropped it happily and lay down for a nice treat!   What a good dog, he got lots of liver in exchange for the deceased, which was hastily double bagged and put out in the trash...no pictures, I'll leave that to your imagination! 

Such a thankless job I have!
Mom keeps all my best finds to herself!

As a tropical storm meanders across the state, I understand the rain's not going anywhere soon...we'll definitely have to go for a walk in it this afternoon, a good training challenge! 

Looking down, you see a dripping wet Alfie standing with front feet on the step waiting to be let in
Can I come in and roll on the rug now?  Pleease??

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alfie Does a Little PR

I'm standing in front of the GDTx table and chocolate-colored Alfie is sitting, looking up at me; Larry Gelvin is at the other end of the table with yellow lab Piper sitting at his side
Alfie and Piper working hard!

Today we had a great opportunity to do some PR for GDTx and have a great training session, all in one.  The Office of the Attorney General hosted its annual State Employees' Charitable Campaign fair, and basically one big room was lined with booths from all kinds of great charities for employees to visit.

Since I knew the Pawsitive Approach guide-dogs-in-training would be there too, I thought it would be smart to give Alfie a little free run first to get the wiggles out and help him settle down.  So our first stop of the day was the dog park.  Alfie split his time between dogs and people, ran around, and generally had a blast.  After that it was back to the car, a once-over with damp washcloth and comb to get him looking nice again, and off to the SECC fair.

I was so glad I did that!  When I arrived I found that not only were our guide dogs there, but also the Humane Society had a booth with an adoptable dog ambassador.  As we walked in the Humane Society dog leaped up, barked, and licked Alfie's face -- normally that would be a huge distraction, but having just had 30 minutes of doggie play at the park, Alfie responded pretty calmly and we got past without much fuss.

At our booth we met up with Larry Gelvin (Puppy Raising Manager), Kim Zielinski (Development Director), and the Pawsitive Approach crew, who brought Piper and Travis.  Piper is the yellow lab puppy pictured above, and Travis is a big black lab with adorable sad eyes, ready to head in for advanced training.  After some initial excitement, all three settled in and did very well -- we put Piper at one end of the table, with Travis between her and Alfie, as she was quite excited to see Alf and wanted to play! 

Alfie enjoyed meeting all the visitors to our booth, especially since we were allowing everyone to pet the dogs (a treat he doesn't usually get on our training walks!)  It was a great experience for him meeting all kinds of people, and many seemed genuinely interested in our mission of providing mobility for visually impaired Texans.  The #1 comment people made on meeting him?   "He's so SOFT!!" 

closeup of Alfie's face and shoulders; you can see his soft wavy brown coat and brown eyes
Just don't call me a softie!