Friday, August 8, 2008

Blue Coats

Southeastern Guide Dog Puppies are distinguished by their blue puppy coats. They learn that when they have the coat on they are “working,” similar to when they will wear the leather harness. They learn to sit to have it put over their head, to stand to have it fastened under their belly, and sometimes they even learn to lift their head to have it put over and on. As the puppies learn what this blue coat means, you see a difference, almost like a light switch goes on, and their behavior changes: it’s time to go to work! They learn that it is time to be serious, to make choices, to behave. (I wish I could find “magic coats” for kids- I’d be rich!) In the beginning, they learn slowly, but they catch on quickly. And even if they don’t quite get it at such a young age (Bob is 15 weeks here) they still look so gosh darn good in it!

Bob's Bed

I’ve mentioned that Bob sleeps under my desk in the kitchen… well, he has, in just mere weeks, outgrown his puppy bed. On a recent trip to Target, Bob and I shopped for a new bed. On sale, and the perfect size, the color even matched the kitchen; we popped it in the buggy and headed for the cashiers. As soon as we got home, we placed it under my desk. Bob tries to fluff his new bed, making it just so. He looks like a pampered pooch under there, all comfy and calm. His new bed looks so comfy, that some days, even I feel like crawling down under my desk for a nap!

Bob is Blooming!

We just got new flowers for our front entry. These are a constant distraction for Bob. They must look so appetizing to him, as he tries to grab a mouthful every time we go in the door. On a recent “busy break”, I thought I’d test out his obedience. I grabbed the camera on the way out and decided to put him to the test. “Sit, stay- good boy, Bob!” All this with the ever tempting Sunpatiens behind him. He has really come a long way, as he never even flinched. He even posed and gave me the head tilts. He has since only tried to snag a mouthful of flowers only every now and then, but he has really come a long way, you could even say he’s starting to bloom...

The Kitchen Corral

Life as a puppy includes boundaries, the smarter the Puppy Raiser, the more boundaries. Bob currently has full access to the kitchen. He is corralled with 2 baby gates. The floor is fully tiled, just in case… This is where Bob and I spend most of each day. As I work from home at the built in desk in the kitchen, Bob plays in his personal corral. All his toys keep him amused. He has his own niche under my desk that is almost like a built in open crate. He has also been known to stake claim to the kitchen sink mat. He sleeps so peacefully right under me, as I look down at him he looks like an angel, even though just a while ago he was pouncing his toys with fervor. As the puppies get older, they earn wider boundaries. Life right now still includes baby gates, be it the kitchen or master bath. The screened lanai offers its own boundary, though Bob is watched very diligently out there, as it has indoor/outdoor carpet as its flooring. The puppy manual teaches about the puppies earning “supervised freedom.” Once the housebreaking is 100% without fail, the kitchen corral opens into the Wild Blue Yonder (or at least into the family room) where Bob can be watched on the carpet. He can join us as we watch a television show, or sit around having conversations. For now, it is he and I in the kitchen corral, toys abounding, and “supervised freedom” peeking up over the horizon...

Alternate Aspirations

Bob is very dedicated, he attends swim team practice every day, he arrives at the meets early, and Bob even made it Districts! Too bad Bob is a guide dog puppy! It looks like I might guess what he’d like to do if he didn’t already have a 5 Year Plan… afterall, this IS an Olympic year. Bob has it in his blood, he IS a water dog, and you can see it. Bob wants to be an Olympic swimmer (or at least jump in that pool!) Bob pays such attention to detail, that I had to chuckle when we situated ourselves poolside to photograph the team at the District swim meet, as he watched the swimmers ready, the ripples in the pool, and each swimmer as he or she raced by, he almost looked as if he could have been cheering! But Bob, take it from someone who loves you, you look a lot better in that blue coat than I bet you would in a Speedo!

"Backpack, Backpack" (-Dora the Explorer)

Bob & Tracee at the Robert-Laryn Skate Park at Treaty Park in St. Augustine

I never carried a diaper bag, didn’t use bottles, and always had changes of clothes stashed in the car or at a grandparent’s house. But now, after raising two of my own children, my car (and ever-present backpack) are loaded to the brink of rupture! “Why?” You ask, as my children are well beyond potty accidents and sippy cups. The answer is, “because I am a Puppy Raiser.” Puppies require a LOT of “stuff:” Busy bags, Furminators, puppy coats, leashes & collars (in every shape, size, color, pattern, and style imaginable, of course) spare food, water & collapsible bowls, a port-a-crate (I never even used a pack & play!) literature, identification, tie downs, flexi leads, bath wipes, hand sanitizer, the list seems almost endless. I have a “puppy bag;” I never had a diaper bag, but I now have 2 puppy bags, actually. There is a main “super bag” and then the “everything-that-has-to-be-carried-along-with-you” bag. I recently had to replace the everyday backpack, as it had been washed so many times, it simply fell apart. (This new one is constructed much better.) This bag is a combination purse/supply bag. (Much like a diaper bag becomes a catch all, from what I’ve heard.) All that very important puppy stuff like bags, wipes, literature, is in there, but then you have to throw in cash, keys, credit cards, sunglasses, photos of your children (the ones you actually gave birth to, you know, the ones who appear in one or two cell phone photos amid the sea of puppy pictures…) The super bag stays in the crate in the back of the SUV, the backpack, well, it is probably the source of most of my back aches, as it is almost a permanent fixture on my back. So in most of the photos of me and Bob, the ever-present puppy backpack can be seen. Yes, I look hunched over, floundering under the sheer weight of all Bob’s puppy “stuff” in most of the photos of us, so when I look tired, or like I’m not standing (or sitting) up straight, as we are all taught to do, the backpack may be the reason. Bending down to pick up busy piles, correcting a headstrong pup, it’s not those things that hurt our backs, it’s the backpack!

Bob at Camp Montgomery

Bob Is 12 Weeks Old

"I'm too sexy for my hat..."
The big guy is 12 weeks old! A big 3 months! It is amazing how much he has already learned. Today was no different. Today, he learned what his “brothers’ before him learned pretty quickly: If I “stay” while she has the camera out, and if I turn my head j-u-s-t so, I’ll get a treat! Bob did his first real modeling shoot today in front of the flower bed. He even let me put his cool summer “Hawaii” hat on, practicing for the Puppy Pool Party in September. After his photo shoot, he was still “working it” so I took advantage and got some more shots. He was proud of his new crate cushion in his lanai crate, so I took a few there, and he was just plain posing out there as the storm approached, so keeping it fun and lighthearted, I snapped away as the thunder rolled in closer and closer. At 12 weeks old, he is already an aficionado at sitting, and has even learned to use self control with the “stay” command: He will start to lunge forward toward his food bowl sometimes as I try to trick him by taking a step back or changing the tone of my voice slightly, but he will sit right back down and wait for the “okay”- I am THOROUGHLY impressed! Good boy, Bob! This amazes me every time! It’s amazing how much can be learned so quickly. He also has learned where his food is kept, and, believe me, he is trying hard to figure out how to get into the pantry (and I’m guessing, tear into the container of Eukanuba!) Now if I could only keep the kids out of the pantry so easily…

Bob Onboard!

Bob joined us onboard our water taxis today. This was his 1st time downtown and his 1st time on the water. We had to deliver some supplies, so we made a day of it, and had lunch at the Jacksonville Landing, too. (All kids in tow!) Bob got to experience both a floating and fixed dock, riding on a boat, open steps, large animal statues, and a plethora of other great exposures (including all the rice the kids kept dropping on the floor!) Bob just looked too cute in his puppy coat! After lunch, we trekked 4 city blocks to Dan’s office to visit. He got to experience closed marble steps, as well as light city traffic, and a real office setting. He was, of course, a hit. Walking 4 city blocks didn’t seem so bad on a warm (okay, hot) summer day; it was the walking BACK 4 more city blocks that hadn’t dawned on me in the first place! We made it back to the Landing, none the worse for the wear. Bob is such a trooper. (Heck, so am I for doing all that!) Back onboard, Bob gave us silly, panting smiles; he looked proud and happy. But I’m sure that he, like all of us was ready for a well deserved afternoon nap. (too bad he was the only one who got one!)

Paws For Independence

The program at Southeastern is called “Paws for Independence,” and rightfully so. The best thing I have experienced to date, as a Puppy Raiser, by and far, without comparison, was Puppy Raiser Day: November 10, 2007. This was the day I met Dulce, Sparky’s “person.” (Pass me a Kleenex, please…) You have NO idea the pride you feel when you actually meet the person whose life will be so positively changed, because of something you helped make happen. (This is so profound that it brings me to tears every time I think about the end result of helping to raise these puppies.) I knew Sparky was great, I knew he had been matched, I knew what his future held. But to hear what he means first hand from his new partner, to meet her face to face, well, there is no price anyone could ever put on that! There simply is no comparison. (I have always said that if anyone were ever on the fence as to if they should become a Puppy Raiser or not, they should be allowed to attend a Puppy Raiser Day!) Sparky would mean independence. One day, Bob will be someone’s independence, too. Puppy Raising is about more than just loving, feeding, and training a puppy a year at a time; by doing this, you are, in essence, helping to give someone freedom, independence. (And it all comes wrapped up in one very huggable, loveable, kissable bundle of tail-wagging fur, too!) So Independence Day as a Puppy Raiser has always seemed like more to me. This Independence Day, we are fortunate to be blessed with this little bundle of freedom, someone’s future, someone’s own personal independence…

Oh, Pool Boy...

Summer in the south is simply one thing: HOT! (well, it’s really not the heat, it’s the humidity… lol!) This fact, of course, makes it necessary for Bob to acquire yet another puppy luxury: his very own pool! I made sure to order him 3 exercise pens to combine, so that he’d have a lot of room to run, since the yard is not fenced. He also had to have enough “property” for a pool! We took a field trip (with all the kids in tow, boy what was I thinking!?) to Toys ‘R Us to pick out the perfect pool. (Which, by the way, they no longer manufacture! Thanks a lot, Little Tikes!) We picked out a reasonable facsimile (or a disposable one, I should say) and made our way home.

The next day, it was time to take a dip. The pen was up, the pool in place, Bob was put inside the enclosure… and … nothing. Bob seemed thankful, however, that I had provided him the World’s Largest Drinking Water Bowl. (Someone contact Guinness!) He drank and drank, but didn’t seem to realize it was for him to cool off in! (You’re a LAB, silly, Labs LOVE the water!) I tried to encourage him, but he was good. Anyway, there were a couple hundred square feet of grass he had to try to eat! So all this time I was so excited for him, so excited he could cool off, jump, splash, and play, and… nothing. He certainly looked cute, but who doesn’t poolside?!

A few days after the Backyard Pool Failure, we were at my parents’ house. Colby jumped in their pool. Bob and I went outside, and I wanted to jump in before I set up Bear’s old pool there for him, thinking I’d try again. As soon as I hit the water, Bob was like, “not without me, you don’t!” He took one look at the water with an urgency in his eyes. I told him, “okay, c’mon” and no sooner did I utter that command that I had a soaking wet bundle of love in my arms! Bob’s 1st jump in the pool! Yippee! He swam around a moment then I was sure to hold onto him, so he wouldn’t get frightened. I lifted him out, onto the deck, but he had not had his fill. “Okay, Bob” and he jumped in once more! I laughed and laughed. He is the first pup I’ve raised that has ever done that. I was proud of his adventurous spirit, yet I applauded his composure, waiting for his command. I guess two jumps were all he needed, because after that, he was good. I got out to supervise him directly, and we walked around their fenced yard a while. (It’s so nice to be able to run all out, a luxury we do not have very often.) A romp here, a romp there, then it was time for a nap. So his first experience in the big pool was a pleasant surprise after the let down with his person puppy pool. Bob, always full of pleasant surprises! That’s why we love him so!

Beach Boy Bob!

Bob's 1st time in the ocean
Bob is a lucky pup- he gets to grow up at the beach! What I would have done to have the same privilege!!! The very first full day Bob was with us, we started out the morning with a swim meet, which is how most Saturday mornings in the summer begin. That was rather uneventful, as he slept through all the splashing, cheering, and soaking wet children running around. The next day we hit the beach! Again, rather uneventful. We tend to walk very far down the beach to where there are very, very few people, if any at all. I carried Bob, all 18 lbs of him! He checked out the tiny waves that rolled in, took a nibble or two on the beach Kong with which I had brought for him to play, and then he pretty much sacked out in my arms. I eventually got him to lie under the beach chair. He was up long enough for me to get some photos, but that was the extent of it. We will have to go back again soon. There are 2 chocolate Labs we see at the beach on Sundays, Nicholas and Zoe. They (and their owners) knew we had been waiting for Bob, and I’m sure they are anxious to meet him. Bob can’t play with other dogs until he gets his 16 weeks shots. Even though we know they are vaccinated, it can’t hurt to be overprotective. Going to the beach with a dog, or even more challenging, a puppy, is quite the chore. They can not, I repeat can NOT drink the salt water. You do not want what results if they do! When the pup is on a leash, you are able to make sure you correct him immediately if he tries to drink the water, so I guess that is what all those folks get for letting their dogs run free on the beach, huh!?! (I always pack lots of extra ice water, so he’ll always have a good, fresh supply.) Then there’s the sand! One sandy yellow pup + one great, big sandy beach=one good bath when we get home! You can’t leave the sand and salt water on them, or they will itch and itch. With Bob’s pink patch on his nose, I actually had to put a touch of sunscreen on it, so he wouldn’t burn. (Even though we weren’t there long, again, it can’t hurt to be overprotective!) It will be much more fun, I’m sure, once he is bigger than the waves, and can run and jump in them (Thank God for Flexi leashes!) the beach will be more appealing to him. That and maybe he will stay awake long enough to enjoy it! Thus is the life of a beach pup...

Bob with Tracee on Ponte Vedra Beach

Friday, July 25, 2008

"And now a word from our sponsors..."

On the way home from SEGD, I was able to go through all the puppies’ paperwork to read about who their sponsors are. I found out that Bob is named after a beloved father, who has left behind a very proud family who chose to sponsor and name Bob in his honor. They live relatively close by, in Sarasota. I feel privileged to raise Bob in honor of his namesake. I am glad they wish to communicate, and I have already been in contact with them. Thank you for sponsoring Bob 2K8!

I would like to encourage all the Puppy Raisers to blog the puppy-that-they-are-raising’s progress; it is a wonderful way to keep sponsors up to date on the puppy’s progress, as well as being a nice history of the puppy’s first year (or so) to share once he or she is matched. It is the Puppy Sponsors who help make what Southeastern Guide Dogs does a reality. A blog would be a nice ongoing thank you. Many of us will share photos here or there, but wouldn’t it be great to share every little thing that the puppies do to amaze us with others who would be equally impressed?!

So it is with Bob’s sponsors and their family in mind that I will once again blog puppy progress. I hope that everyone who loved Bob will check in to monitor progress of “puppy Bob.”

Bob working from home with Tracee

Photo Disclaimer: Bob does not jump up on furniture, or normally sit in my lap, or type on the laptop, this was a completely posed photo, I know better. Note Bob’s self control and poise as he waits for the photo to be taken, and you will see this is an excellent exercise using the “stay” command. Perhaps posing him for cute-sie photos isn’t necessarily endorsed or recommended; however, to pose a particular photo every once in a while isn’t going to begin a bad habit or ruin his career. Apologies in advance if this photo has offended anyone. He is not sitting in a dishwasher or on the Dumbo ride, so I do know right from wrong when it comes to puppy raising. Just thought it would be a cute photo op as I stopped to love on Bob as I worked, and there was a camera nearby.

Bob Arrives!

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the puppies earlier in the day, as I made the trip to SEGD with Thresa to pick them up, but normally, you don’t get to meet them until the Pretty Puppy Pick Up Party…

This time, the party was held at Joan’s home. A Pretty Puppy Pick Up Party is much like a puppy baby shower. Everyone comes to meet the new arrivals, usually bearing gifts. Everyone gets intoxicated, not on alcohol, but on PUPPY BREATH! Lots of puppy kisses are given, lots of pictures are taken, and lots of paperwork is done. There are many papers that need to be signed before you can take the puppies home.

Bob 2K8 & Tracee at the Pretty Puppy Pick Up Party

It had been a long day, and now it was getting late. It was time to go home. This was the first time I have had to take a puppy home by myself, as Dan had always come with me, but this time, he had to work. It is most challenging driving home late at night, in the dark, on a side of town with which I was unfamiliar, and having to continually correct a new pup, so that he would remain on the floorboard.* (Though he was on a tie down in the truck, he still wanted to hop up on the seat.)

[*THAT is the hardest thing, for me, about being a Puppy Raiser: NOT letting these puppies do things that you might normally let a puppy do, if it were your personal pet; that is what is difficult. Giving them back is not the hard part; these puppies do not belong to me, they belong to SEGD. I am often asked, “Isn’t it hard to give them back?” I always reply the same way: “No, not for me.” (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE these guys to death.) “This isn’t my puppy; he belongs to Southeastern Guide Dogs. When it is time for them to go back, I am proud. They have a job to do, and when it is time to send them in for training, it’s off to bigger and better things!”

What these dogs do is so profound; it brings tears to my eyes to think about what they go on to do. If anyone was ever on the verge of being a Puppy Raiser, and they had the chance to experience the pride and excitement that comes when a puppy you have raised has been matched, they would do it in a heartbeat! No, it isn’t hard to give them back when I know what it is that this pup can do for someone else. My son really summed it up before we raised our first SEGD puppy. After telling both children that we were getting a puppy, then telling them what kind of puppy (a guide dog puppy) I asked them if they were going to be okay when we had to send the puppy back in for training. Jameson was 9 at the time, and with compassion and wisdom well beyond his years, he responded, “Yes, Mommy, because the person who will get him needs him more than we do.” That still brings tears to my eyes. (My daughter, who was 7 at the time, quickly retorted, “Yeah, and then they’ll give us another puppy!”)]

Consistency is a MUST for these puppies, equally as important as praise. Oh, how I bet so many of us would love to snuggle up with these sweet little pups in our beds, but we don’t do it. We would love to let them chase tennis balls, but we don’t let them. I’m sure there are many other things that we would love to let them do, but they are not our puppies, so we don’t let them. Being consistent from DAY ONE is the key. So, as day one was upon us, I made the 45 minute drive home in the dark repeating, “Off!” then “Good boy! Good off!” nearly a thousand times before Bob finally gave up and went to sleep.

When we got home, Bob was greeted by baskets full of toys in every room. (As a pup, he will spend most of his playtime in the kitchen, which is tiled, until he masters housebreaking. At this point, he also spends time on the lanai, with another basket of toys, in the yard in the exercise pen, and in the master bathroom, with yet another basket of toys! There is a basket waiting for him to grow into in the living room once he is older, fully housebroken, and has his big dog teeth.) I took a few photos of Bob and his toys when we first got home, but it was pretty late, so it was on to his crate in our room.

Nothing but the best for these pups: Bob (as did his predecessors) has many crates throughout the house, at work, in the truck, etc., but the bedroom crates are top notch, they are metal and wood to match the master suite. Bob’s first night was very manageable, as we only woke to go “busy” outside a couple of times. No noise & no accidents- good boy!

The Bob Bulletin Begins...

It was a long 2 months being puppyless… Bear (5H7) moved on sooner than I thought he would. That was okay. But as I’m sure like most Puppy Raisers do, I immediately tried to focus on the positive- the NEXT puppy! Though I had hoped for another black lab, there did not seem to be any available without further wait, so I agreed to raise a “Dreamer” puppy instead. Dreamer is a breeder hosted by my A.C. What I knew about the puppy I would raise was that he was, of course, a boy, and he was yellow. He was the largest in the litter at the time. Dreamer is a sweetheart, so I figured her pups would be, too.

Bob didn’t start off being called “Bob,” as I didn’t know his name until about a week before I got him, so during all the puppy preparations, we jokingly referred to him as “Brutus”, as he was so much bigger than his brother and sister. His brother has been named “Top” and his sister is named “Mandy,” both are being raised by Puppy Raisers in our group, the First Coast Puppy Raisers. Our Puppy Raisers are from as far south as St. Augustine to as far north as just over the Georgia border, and everywhere in between!

June 27th was the day- I drove down to Palmetto with Thresa to pick up 5 pups, all 3 of Dreamers pups, and 2 Goldadors, Marc & Friendly. I had planned for that day for about a month, made arrangements to be off from work, to have the children babysat, to have everything in place before the “baby” would arrive. I had only seen a few photos of him as a tiny pup, and he and his brother look so much alike. They had actually traded places; Bob was the bigger, lighter one early on, but by the time we picked them up, Top had gotten bigger, and Bob had gotten darker!

It has been said that, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” lucky thing my first impression was to fall completely in love with Bob, who, at the time, had just finished a leisurely dip in the pool, and was quite the soggy-puppy, muddy mess! He was handed over to me much like a newborn would be handed to the proud new mother- soaking wet in all his glory! And, at that moment, I became his new “mother” for the next year or so…

Bob 2K8