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