Hawk's Schedule

8/4 Lake Mills
8/12 CCSDA Training

December 30, 2011

Puppy For Sale/Rent

Yellow Labrador Puppy For Sale: Five and a half months old, housebroken. His name is Cooper, but should be easy to modify since he doesn't acknowledge it. Price is negotiable because he may be hard of hearing since he fails to respond when called; he just sits and stares. He has been trained to lie on the sofa and will occasionally sit on command. He has a calm demeanor and requires minimal exercise - a brief ten minute ZOOM around the yard usually tires him out. Only a few phobias remain, he recently overcame a fear of the bathtub and we are now finding it difficult to keep him out. 555-1234

We took Cooper shopping last night which he was less than excited about. He wanted to stay home with Monte and eat dinner. So as payback, he refused to lie down while Lisa and I were evaluating gift options. It was actually very good practice for him and me. The store was rather busy and as usual we are on display, so I had a choice to make: let him get away with his disobedience or feel stupid because my dog "in training" won't even lie down. I imagine parents face this dilemma on a daily basis.

I chose the latter and we "trained" for ten minutes until he would DOWN on command. It took a lot longer because I didn't have any motivational aids, no treats. I had to laugh because at the next store he was lying down almost before I said anything. One might think that it was superb training on my part, however, he was just really tired and preferred to lie down.

Cooper does not like bath time. He has had a fear about entering the tub and sits like a statue when bathed. This is actually good behavior, however, it is easy to tell that he is mortified, not compliant. For the last week I have been coaxing him to enter the bathtub on his own. We have used treats and used Monte as a mentor. Yesterday, he finally jumped in by himself. After playing in the water a bit, he found he enjoyed it. Now we can't keep him out - I have created a water monster.

December 27, 2011

Leashed

Monte has been adjusting well to less exercise and very limited off-leash time. We are running and walking through the neighborhood and when we do go to the park he is leashed. Our plan is to work his mind more than his body and it appears to be working.

It turns out that he wasn't anticipating a walk at 5pm, he wanted to eat dinner. So he is fine with a short walk and a full bowl.

We took Cooper out for some post Christmas sales and then stopped by to visit his pals Mac and Griff. With limited interaction with children, these sessions with well behaved children create positive experiences which prepare him for his future assignment. He played fetch outside with his new Chuckit! toy (the boys taking turns). Inside he was exposed to the sights and sounds of boys' toys and he returned their affection with kisses of his own.

Cooper was so tired that Lisa and I went out shopping by ourselves - dogless.

December 26, 2011

Holiday Travels

Friday: Packing for two dogs takes the same amount of time as for one. Our only issue was crating. Should we take the steel (heavy) or the nylon (portable)? We took a chance and opted for the nylon. It was Cooper's first experience with the potable crate and he was initially cautious. He only had a few roll-over accidents. Monte was crate-less and spent the night in bed with my sister. Note: Having a dog that does not shadow you throughout the day, I recommend a steel crate for when he needs to be crated while visiting. We trust Monte, but were not sure if he would resist the temptation of edible Christmas presents if left alone.

Saturday: Early walk and feeding to prepare for a long day. Cooper's first visit to the assisted living facility in Appleton was without incident until another dog walked past. Monte barked once and Cooper wanted to welcome him. After dinner, both dogs opened their presents: toys and bones, before driving home.

Sunday: On the road again. This time we headed South. Monte was exiled in his holding cell at home, while Cooper attended Christmas in Platteville. Unclear which dog got the better deal.

December 22, 2011

Vet, Fetch, and Tandem

Took Cooper to the veterinarian for his first official visit. We have been taking him to the office to check his weight and familiarize him with the setting without any stress. He gained two pounds in two weeks, now that he has stopped sharing his food. Speaking of worms, it was time for his second dose of deworming medicine - just to make sure. The veterinarian (no issues) also does a health examination: eyes, ears, nose, ...

He also received his rabies vaccination. While paying the bill, Cooper was very interested in the clinic cat, so he crept closer to better investigate. The cat purred and Cooper stopped dead in his tracks. He didn't want anything to do will the "hissing" creature - more work to do to familiarize our charge with the feline persuasion.

In the afternoon to supplement his exercise, we crated Monte so as not to be disturbed and played fetch. His retrieving skills are much better when not antagonizing or fleeing Monte. I rolled the ball, he brought it back, he dropped it, he sat, sometimes I asked him to WAIT, and we repeated the process for fifteen minutes.

To minimize my time today I decided to try walking our tandem of dogs at the same time. Separately they are no trouble, but together would require constant attention. Not expecting any huge difficulty, my concern was having only one pronged collar. At about three o'clock Monte starts anticipating, so he is generally excited and began the walk with "power steering". As he settled into a comfortable pace, Cooper was distracted and needed to focus, so we swapped collars. We finished our hour long jaunt without issue, but I was mentally exhausted.

December 19, 2011

Labor of Love

Over the last five years we have had many interesting encounters with the public. But, I have never gotten used to people thanking us for what we do, because it is a true labor of love.

Today, we were out for a walk and a car pulled up next to us, stopped, and the driver rolled down his window. Thinking he was asking for directions, I was surprised as he expressed how much he appreciated what I was doing. This was definitely a odd occurrence because I was walking Monte at the time; he was appreciative that I was taking good care of my pet. This event will stay with me forever and I just wanted to pass along his sentiments to those of you that raise service dogs and those that treat their pets like family.

On our walks today we had to make friends with a few foreign objects. From two doors down Monte became fixated on an object and we stopped to confront the pile of snow. Not sure why it bothered him, but it has been a long time. Cooper has an aversion to (big) dogs barking. To alleviate this we have been walking past our neighbor's house daily. He no longer panics upon hearing them while out in the yard. He has been troubled by some of the Christmas decoration, one specific nativity in particular, so we have a daily visit with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

As Caroline says, "Hug Your Dog".

December 18, 2011

Silly Yak

Saturday began with the first real snowfall of the year. Cooper enjoyed this new form of precipitation so much he refused to COME in the house.

Most of our day was spent training in the Silly Yak and Bread Barn Bakery. The owners were kind enough to let four puppies invade their store for yet another opportunity to provide information and raise funds. Five trainees (Brillo, Cooper, Curry, Halo, and Packer) were in attendance.

It was Cooper's first day (public) with the pronged collar and it made a big difference - no lunging and jumping. He calmly greeted customers/staff and shared space with his fellow trainees. His mind wanders when distracted or tired, so we became more lenient as the day progressed.

The Silly Yak portion of the bakery prepares Gluten Free (GF) food. After spending some time in the bakery, we couldn't figure out why is the GF bakery was called Silly Yak. The answer was quite obvious after it was explained. People who have Celiac (Silly Yak) Disease cannot tolerate the gluten protein.

After six hours, the puppies were exhausted and it was time to head home. Once again we each received a goodie bag of product samples, human and canine, which made the whole day worth it :-)


A big Thank You to Lexy for coordinating the fund raiser.

Many thanks to Holly and Miguel for the opportunity, their hospitality, and GF education.

December 16, 2011

Five

We celebrated Cooper's birthday yesterday. He is FIVE months old. Although he has been displaying defiant behavior like running away from me when I call him to come in the house, he has officially reached the Terrible Fives or teenager phase.

Our day began before the sun was up. The clock display read FIVE o'clock and Monte said it was time to potty/celebrate/eat. The two dogs shared FIVE cups of food before going back to bed. The birthday boy shared the bed as we performed some addition training. After FIVE days of work I believe we have a certified bed dog. He spent the two hours before the alarm went off curled up next to my legs. I wish all tasks were this easy to "train".

The fist item on our agenda was to dislodge Cooper's last puppy tooth. It has been loose for a couple days and the adult tooth is poking through - about FIVE millimeters. Not having the nerves to pull it myself, I enlisted Monte's assistance. Distributing a tug rope between the canine companions, the tooth was resting on the carpet in less than FIVE minutes.

Being focused on Monte's need to drain energy, Cooper has probably not been getting enough training walks in. Today we walked, on leash, around the neighborhood for twenty-FIVE minutes. He is a good walker, but occasionally looses focus. Now that he is FIVE months old, it is time to be more disciplined.

I introduced Cooper to the pronged collar. Being his first real exposure, I took it directly from off Monte to use with Cooper. The results were immediate even though it must have been FIVE sizes too big; it hung from his neck, but provided a small correction, which is all that is needed. Cooper is definitely a kind (soft) soul and we need to be careful not to over-correct or misuse the tool.

Our last activity was a trip to the grocery store to pick up FIVE items. We made a quick stop at Wal-Mart where Cooper ran into Santa. Santa is not a big deal, but the kids waiting to see him were a huge temptation and I forgot the pronged collar. He quickly settled down after a few lunges and we calmly finished our shopping, returning home FIVE minutes before seven.

December 14, 2011

Sleeping In

The past two mornings I have been sleeping in. The weather has been a contributing factor, but the major factor was that I am "training" Cooper to be a Bed Dog. He doesn't like to cuddle or snuggle; he tries to find a corner where he can rest undisturbed. This would be great if he was to remain with us, however part of his future job will be to provide sleep assistance for an autistic child. The goal will be to get him to sleep while resting near feet/legs to provide comfort and security.

Now Monte on the other hand like to cuddle too much. He will throw himself next to you with his belly in the air while trying to lick you to provide encouragement. This is after he leaps, from the floor, on top of you, which isn't as bad if it is expected, but not very pleasant in the middle of the night. Eventually he finds a spot more conducive to sleeping - at the foot of the bed.

December 11, 2011

HOWLiday

On Friday Cooper attended the Howliday party at the Dog Den. It began with a large playgroup - there must have been fifty dogs. Cooper was initially a social butterfly, but he soon found his perfect match and the tandem played together almost exclusively. Every time we tried to separate them they eventually found each other. Next was the obligatory picture with Santa, followed by more playing.

After burning some energy it was time for activities: Cooper, with some assistance, added his paw print to an ornament; Cooper and I finished approximately fifth playing "Santa Says", and just missed winning a prize; our team finished second in targeting the bell (only two teams); and we decided not to participate in the talent competition.
Saturday was a busy day: puppy playgroup to burn some energy, visit Mac and Griff, and a Badger hockey game. We thought that playgroup would be a great way to prepare for a home visit. Since Cooper is almost five months old and larger than most of the puppies, we attended the second half of the teenager playgroup and the first part with the puppy group. He received some much needed correction with the older dogs and was less rambunctious with the smaller puppies.

With his energy fully depleted, we stopped by to visit with Mac and Griff. "A tired dog is a good dog." Mac, who is on the waiting list for a service dog, had not been feeling well, however Cooper seemed to be the perfect medicine.

At the hockey game, we stopped for a quick potty outside, but Cooper was distracted by the sights, sounds, and smells. Inside, we walked around the main level at the Kohl Center. It took about thirty minutes with the frequent stops to greet first-timers and the many friends that Cooper has made over the last few months. As we killed time waiting for the game to start, our puppy seemed out of sorts; he would not settle down. Experienced puppy raisers that we are are, we opted for a quick potty break before the puck dropped - issue resolved. I knew we should have waited him out before entering the building.

December 8, 2011

Dog Day

Wednesday began with an early morning wake-up call from Monte. I got up to let Monte and Cooper outside for a quick potty break. Normally I would have stayed in bed and told Monte to go back to bed when he awakened me prior to dawn, but we had plans that benefited from an early breakfast.They have each learned not to delay for this activity since breakfast is served immediately afterwards. Each dog devoured two cups of food in their crates; I retrieved both bowls, to prevent any noise, and we all went back to sleep.

About two hours later my real alarm clock signaled a start to the day. This time I accompanied my house mates outdoors for a more serious call of nature. Since they both could use a little extra weight, they received raw bone to snack on and keep them occupied before our planned activities. Monte and I went for an hour long run through the village streets and he got some off-leash fun, leaping through the prairie grasses, as I jogged the park trails.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the grocery store with Cooper, just the two of us. However, this had to be postponed due to another digestive issue. It turns out that we have misdiagnosed Cooper's condition. While he may have had a urinary tract infection, the cranberries were not causing the vomiting. It turns out that he has round worms - not a pleasant creature to see on your bedroom floor. Cooper made an unexpected trip to the veterinarian for a dose of deworming medicine. Not sure how he would react to the medicine, we rescheduled the trip to the grocery store and he rested.

Lisa and I went shopping. It felt very strange shopping without a canine attachment. The trip went much quicker than normal. We did not forget our furry friends at home; we purchased eight pounds of chicken legs to supplement their diet. The chicken was $0.88 per pound which is actually cheaper than their dog food. Note: Raw chicken bones do not splinter and can actually have a positive effect on stools.

After returning home and shelving our food, I walked Monte to the park for another hour long exercise session. On the way, we have been working on HEELing. In guide dog training we were not concerned with him being out front. Well now, I want him closer to my side. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, especially when the trainer is lacking.

Monte received the extra attention because he would be spending the evening at home alone. Cooper attended a puppy training class in Janesville. This was a great opportunity to meet new dogs and experience new trainers with different expectations/situations. Two hours later we headed for home and grabbed a quick dinner before bed.

Thursday morning came very early. We were up before dawn, but this time there was no return trip to bed. Cooper and I were up at 6am. Now this is not early for most people, but I have been on "vacation" for the last month. Our morning drive took us to the Silly Yak Bakery for a Custom Canines' fund raiser. A tad bit excited upon arriving, Cooper quickly settled in and found a swath of sunshine to nap in. Time flies when "talking dog" and before we knew it, it was 1pm and time to go home (and take Monte for his walk).

December 6, 2011

Toxic

The beginning of the month is a reminder to dose our dogs with flea and tick medication. Since it is toxic to fleas, ticks, lice, mosquitoes, and cats, we try to find a period of 48 hours where we can limit contact to humans and other animals. Therefore we don't always medicate on the first of the month.

We found a window of time starting yesterday. Limiting contact with others is not that difficult. The hard part is keeping our two canines separated. For two days we ensure that at least one is always in their crate. This morning no one seems to mind the extra crate time because we sequestered them each with their own raw bone.

December 4, 2011

Imagine

Imagine having a super sensitive nose and being enclosed in a room with baked goods which are inaccessible.
Imagine spending four hours without any toys (or electronics).
Imagine being surrounded by friends, but not allowed to run around or play.
Imagine having to go outside to use the bathroom.
Imagine every time you are napping, the door opens and a bell sounds.
Imagine needing to remain calm when meeting excited people.

Saturday was a perfect day. It was cold and rained all day. It was a perfect day to spend in a warm bakery with smell of baking bread and cookies wafting through the air. The only thing that could make the Silly Yak / Bread Barn experience better were caring hosts and dog-friendly customers, which were also provided. Note: The Silly Yak will be donating 10% of the sales this Thursday (12/8) to Custom Canines.

Cooper, Brillo, Packer, and Pilot spent the better part of the day greeting customers and napping, while we humans provided Custom Canine information and sampled delicious gluten-free products. We worked hard on proper greeting etiquette - four on the floor and calm. No surprise, Cooper did much better during the last three hours. The dogs were well-behaved even with all the distractions.

December 2, 2011

UTI

We have been fighting Cooper's UTI for the last few weeks. He had been getting better; no accidents in the house for two weeks. However, he was still drinking excessively and was requesting to GO POTTY a lot.

The cranberry tablets were having some effect, but he was also experiencing periodic vomiting. Through trial and error, I linked the cranberry to his episodes. I checked and cranberries are not on the list of potentially poisonous foods, but they apparently did not react well in Cooper's system.

We started a more aggressive antibiotic schedule which appears to be working with no side effects.

December 1, 2011

CGC Prep

At training class last night, we were practicing for Cooper's Canine Good Citizen test. He did amazingly well with greetings and STAYs. I was pleasantly surprised because he is approaching the Terrible Fives, as demonstrated by his increasing defiance. Maybe the long walk during lunch helped his settle down and focus. As a reward, we were provided raw beef bones to enjoy at home.

You know the teenager phase or Terrible Fives are approaching when teeth are disappearing from the puppy's mouth and showing up on the floor or in Monte's mouth. Yes, I caught Monte chewing excessively the other day and had him DROP it. Out popped one of Cooper's molars. I found another molar the middle of the living room. I think he only has the canines left.

There are a few good things associated with the teenager phase. Once his teeth are all in, we can start using the same food for both dogs. An opportunity to practice patience and become a better dog trainer. The only real benefit, though not really a benefit is that it is only a phase and will eventually end. If you remain calm, you can make it through the phase while maintaining your sanity. The end result is a good puppy.

November 25, 2011

Sharing

Monte's favorite place to sleep is on the bed. Since we have been retraining him to sleep on the floor, his second favorite two is the old crate, which just happens to be Cooper's sleeping spot. They tried to convince us that they could both fit.

Cooper had a busy Black Friday. He handled the crowds at all three stops; parking was the problem. We got a late start and only came home with four bags of dog food and ten bags of water softener salt.

November 21, 2011

Quick Trips

Now that Cooper is over four months old our trips to the store and walks around the neighborhood are taking less time. We are able to quickly get our groceries. In part because he is bigger and moving faster, but the primary reason is that we are not stopped as often or as long. People still notice our adorable puppy, but are able to resist one that is older. A ten week old puppy is irresistible. It is also obvious that he is being trained as we are continuously popping treats into his mouth.

Couldn't resist taking this photo. We can tell it is getting colder because Cooper is always looking to snuggle. His first choice is Lisa, but Monte will do in a pinch. They have been lying like this all day.

We worked hard to capture the image. Not having the camera at my immediate disposal, I asked the dogs to WAIT while I walked past them to retrieve the camera. Then, I couldn't get the camera to work - movie mode. They barely moved throughout the entire sequence, good dogs.

November 20, 2011

Lesson

Good News: Monte spent the entire night sleeping on the floor.

Bad News: As Cooper has been learning and developing, at times I have become complacent.  It only took one/two experiences to bring me back to reality. 

At home preparing for puppy playgroup, I took Cooper out to potty and he complied.  We repeated the routine right before playgroup (fifteen minutes later) and then again at halftime.  Everything is good as we follow our routine.  A quick stop at the bakery and grass was across the parking lot, so we skipped our routine.  Not sure if he was tired from playgroup, but Cooper was excellent as we chatted with the owner. No problem, back in the car and a quick stop at the grocery store.  Again the grass was across the parking lot and we were only going to be ten minutes, so we skipped our routine again.

Lesson 1: We tempted fate once too often and Cooper had an accident in the produce section.  We quickly and thoroughly cleaned up the mess using our "diaper bag."  Be prepared.

Lesson 2: Figuring the damage was done we continued shopping. He had another accident in the dairy section.  Again we cleaned it up, but this time we promptly exited the store while Lisa finished shopping. Learn from mistakes.

Lesson3:  It was mildly embarrassing, but no one died.  Accidents happen.

November 18, 2011

Treat Focus

We have ramped up Cooper's training this week.  Yesterday, we walked to the park just as school was letting out.  This offered plenty of people distractions along with visual and auditory distractions.  Our challenge was to greet/pass people without lunging and having him FOLLOW me as I lured him to continue walking.  It is a constant struggle because we have encouraged him to be friendly with strangers and now we need him to ignore them.  This works the same with other canines and most things puppy related.  The key is finding a happy medium where interest is balanced by focus.

Tonight we followed the same route, only without the distractions.  Cooper is learning to walk at a comfortable pace without a lot of pulling.  If he pulls we stop and practice HEELing.  We have also been working with the WAIT command at intersections. We need to translate his comprehension of the WAIT command to STAY.  We just use the WAIT command more often: leaving the crate, prior to eating, exiting doorways, ...

He appears to be learning as long as I have treats.  Actually his recall was very good tonight.  I was able to call him away from three dogs that he was playing with.  The first time I chose an opportune moment when one of his playmates barked, which causes concern/alert, and he bolted back to me.  Then I was able to repeat it during a lull.  After a fifteen minute impromptu play session, we needed to get home and I was able to lure him out and away from the pack to walk home.

Nail trimming, then off to bed.

Happy Dog

We have one very happy dog at our house.  Since my work schedule has changed significantly, Monte and I have been going for a run in the morning followed by a snack and nap.  Then before his dinner we take off for another hour long walk.  He never seems to tire out, however, he does head for bed about 8 o'clock every night.  Whether intended or not, I do appreciate him getting my side of the bed warm, but we may need to retrain him to sleep on the floor.  I haven't had a good night's sleep since he joined us.

November 16, 2011

Four

Without the usual fanfare, Cooper reached his four month birthday yesterday.  No celebration because he has been feeling under the weather and not behaving well.  It appears that we might have been a bit lax monitoring his outdoor activities.  He seems to have picked up a slight UTI from the presents left behind by our neighborhood rabbits.  We are not veterinarians and have not had him tested; it is based on our experience.  The two indicators were an increase in consumption of water and crying by the door every two hours requesting a potty break.

It is not a serious issue, but we have implemented a strict leash policy for relieving (to monitor his consumption) and we have started a cranberry regimen.  The illness hasn't slowed him down as he has been shopping the last three days and attended training class last evening.  We blamed the UTI for his lapses in behavior, however, it probably has more to do with our limited focused training the past seven days. 

Another possible cause of bad behavior in puppies are the "Terrible Fives", which shouldn't happen for another month.  This is where your puppy starts acting like a teenager: selective hearing, defiant, and uncontrollable.  Can't wait.

November 15, 2011

Rotation

Having an older dog around is a constant reminder of what the end product should be.  Monte knows that he is supposed to leave the puppy alone - no playing in the house.  Just making eye contact with him is enough to remind him to SETTLE.  He will either lie down at his PLACE or retreat to the bedroom.  He now also has the advantage of getting up on the bed, which is still out of reach.

Cooper on the other hand is relentless.  If I have told him once, I have told him a thousand times to leave Monte alone.  He stops every time, but starts up as soon as my back is turned.  Actually, I don't even have to turn my back, he will pause for a second and start up again.  Monte resists, but can only tag the little guy biting his ear, throat, or leg for so long before he joins in.

The best solution that we have come up with for the time being (until Cooper's brain fully develops) is to perform a crate rotation.  One dog in the crate at all times.  It's not quite that bad.  They usually settle down after a short time-out and we all can rest comfortably.

November 13, 2011

SNAFU

Cooper was due for an injection on Friday.  It was the last of the series and we had picked it up about a month ago.  Usually we would have a trainer or nurse handle the duties.  It slipped my mind for Wednesday's class and there were two Vet Techs there.  Not sure when a trained specialists would be  available, I completed the task and both Cooper and I survived.

We missed puppy playgroup on Saturday; we were hoping to meet Max.  The majority of the day was spent at the assisted living facility on Platteville.  Our visit included lunch at a restaurant.that Cooper had not been prepared for.  He was not tired, but was ready to play and visit the other patrons.  Eventually, he settled down for a relaxing meal, before he was awakened for shopping.

Having an unsettled puppy during lunch, we had prepared Cooper for an evening of Badger hockey.  We also arrived early which turned out to be a good thing.  Not only does it provide an opportunity to meet a lot of people, it allows for snafus. Our attempt to enter the building (Gate B) was delayed because we were told that all animals need to enter the building at Gate C.

This seemed very strange to us as we have always entered Gate B and it also seemed against the UW policy regarding service animals..  But, we had plenty of time so we turned around and then remembered that Gate C was on the opposite side of the building.  We decided to try Gate A which would not have been a problem and is right around the corner.  Unfortunately, we were not as prepared as I thought; rushing to leave the house I grabbed the wrong tickets. 

Now we had to go back to Gate B and try to exchange the tickets and we did not have any identification.  Long line, I ran back to the car to get Lisa's driver's license.  Upon returning, she already had new tickets and we decided to enter through Gate A.  However, we will try Gate B for the next game.  The game did not go well for the Badgers, but Cooper performed admirably and he met so many nice people.

November 11, 2011

Teething

Q:  How many toys does a puppy need?
A:  One more than you have out at current time.

With over a dozen toys in the house, I found Cooper chewing on the corner of our area rug.  It was pulled back onto itself so he could still lie on it comfortably as he gnawed on the corner.  One would think we would have learned by now that a puppy needs constant supervision, especially when they are losing teeth, which I noticed four days ago.  With a few missing teeth and the front ones only partially in, Cooper has taken on the hillbilly look - only when he smiles though.

Although we recognize that constant supervision is required, it only takes one lapse and a couple minutes of free time to do damage. This weekend we will  turn the rug around to hide the canine induced flaw, just like we have done with the bench that Banjo used as his teething ring. Monte chewed on the side of our bed frame, once.  Every dog has at least one transgression, however memories fade over time with the exception of Banjo who holds the record: patio step, screen door, shoe, remote, sofa, bench, ...

November 9, 2011

Two Days of Training

While patrolling the grocery store on Monday, Cooper was lagging behind unless intrigued by the rolling wheel of the shopping cart.  It took all of our energy to keep him moving and finish our shopping in a reasonable amount of time.  The only bursts of excitement were when he spied or heard a child.  Once home he did manage to jump up on the sofa by himself, for the first time.  He received a surprised and immediate correction.  He doesn't understand why Monte can now spend the entire day up on our bed.

The following evening we attended training at The Dog Den.  He was full of life and attentive to our every command.  The only differences were being surrounded by a pack of excited young puppies and my pocket was full of kibble. As the instructor gave her opening remarks, Cooper stared intently at my face willing me to offer a reward for his devotion, which I did.  Then the puppies played and we lured them away from the mob to practice SIT and DOWN with canine distractions.  All the puppies performed wonderfully.  Cooper even remembered the TOUCH command although we had not worked on it since last week's class.  Our class concluded with two dog recalls and "Pass the Puppy" where, obviously, puppies were passed from owner to owner to check for separation anxiety and acceptance.

We took both dogs to Custom Canines training tonight.  Monte attended to practice his STAYs and to acclimate to the training environment.  He was much better tonight, but still had lazy SITs and expressed his boredom by whining.  While I worked with Monte, Lisa and Cooper were working on CGC commands and a started working on a few added skills: PLACE, UNDER.  Cooper also got his nails trimmed (appreciate the help) before returning home for his Bordetella nasal spray ($5.50 at F&F).

November 7, 2011

Bed Dog

Monte is transitioning into his new role as head pet and occasional puppy mentor.  He has taken full advantage of our rescinding the rule regarding "No Dogs on the Bed."

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words ...

November 5, 2011

Travelling

Cooper has adapted well to our routine and our home environment. That being said, our job is to place the puppy in new situations where he can be confident and succeed. We felt he was ready for a new experience, but there is always some trepidation being two hours from home and training without a safety net.

Friday night we traveled to Neenah for his first overnight stay and a birthday party the following day. Although seemingly housebroken, you never really know who is more trained the puppy or puppy raiser. Will the puppy be able to generalize, identify outside doors, and provide a signal when necessary? Cooper passed this test and handled the birthday excitement - with a little help from his new best friend.

November 3, 2011

Crate Day

Thursday was not a great day for Cooper, it was a Crate Day. In addition to the time we spend acclimating our puppies to different social settings, it is equally important to create good house manners. This includes being agreeable to spending time in the crate during the day, while home alone and when humans are active.

Cooper got some extended crate time while Lisa went to Portage to pick-up Custom Canines' newest trainee (Roger) and then they stopped to have their eyes examined.

November 1, 2011

Pan de Muerto

Our work all week to get Cooper to DOWN on command paid off. He no longer gives us a blank look or that puzzled head tilt when we ask him to DOWN. Still not the quickest, he understands what we want and that we will wait until he complies - only one command. This week our homework from training class is to focus on COME.

In addition to introducing the COME command which should not be used to call him away from good things (sticks, leaves, dogs) or to negative experiences (nail trimming), we worked on FOLLOW. We have been using this since the first day we got him and it usually works, if you have a treat in your hand. In addition to training, we learned that there is a strain of kennel cough spreading through the canine community which is not protected by the bordetella spray, so be extra careful.

On the way home, we stopped at La Concha for Pan de Muerto to celebrate dia de los muertos. Cooper was greeted at the door by the owner, Tomas. He held the door as he warmly welcomed the three of us. This is our favorite bakery. Saturday, we will stop for a torta.

October 31, 2011

Slides

We split our dogs up tonight. Monte stayed home while we first took Cooper for a walk. At times he seemed lost with out his big buddy, especially when visiting new areas. Not many people out and about, so we decided to visit the playground. Cooper managed to ascend the gigantic steps and cross the wobbly bridge. His return trip across the bridge led through a mesh tube and then he stopped, hesitated briefly before scampering down the slide. He ZOOMed around the playground, circling the various obstacles before repeating the process.

After a dozen more attempts, he still hasn't mastered the slide. Instead of sliding he runs down and without a spotter completes the ride with a face plant. No worse for wear, he picks himself up, dusts off, and races around the merry-go-round.

October 30, 2011

Overheard

Lisa overheard someone at the hockey game on Saturday night:
"I feel so sad for that little puppy. He has to be a service dog and doesn't get to be a puppy."

Our response should have been:
"He gets to be a puppy everyday and he goes everywhere with us. I feel sorry for all the dogs at home alone (Monte)."

October 29, 2011

Dog Day

Our dog day started with a morning run. It was the first time that Monte and I have run since he returned home. It will be good for both of us to maintain this routine; he needs to burn energy and I need to burn calories.

Next on the agenda was puppy playgroup at The Dog Den. Cooper has changed so much since our initial visit. He has doubled in size which may have influenced the other notable difference. He no longer spends the entire session on his back being submissive; he is now more balanced and playful.

After chasing and being chased for forty-five minutes, we thought it was a great time to work on restaurant behavior and stopped for frozen custard.  The one behavior that is almost impossible to modify is cleaning up after others.  There is always some food substance or remnant under the table or in the aisle.

Being so close to a pet store, we stopped at Pet World for some fowl exposure. Cooper also came nose to nose with some kittens and was rewarded handsomely for his non-threatening behavior. We must have walked the aisles for forty minutes, greeting canines and humans while continuously tempted by tasty treats. We walked out with a new toy.

One of our last beautiful days, Monte and I went for an hour long walk to/through the park. He used to be highly dog distracted, however, now he avoids them when running through the park.

We wrapped up the evening with dinner and a hockey game. Cooper slept through both. Even the fog horn did not cause him to stir as it roared for each of the Badgers six goals. He was more comfortable on the metal grating and should be cured by March.

Note: Cooper has been having some GI issues - vomiting at least once a day with no apparent reason. We need to monitor his diet and consumption of wood.

Kids at Kohl

Cooper attended the hockey portion of "Kids Day at the Kohl Center". It was a perfect opportunity for him to interact with a large number of children. As usual moving about the Kohl Center took an inordinate amount of time with our cute and cuddly Yellow Labrador, but that is precisely why we attended the event. Oh we also got to spend time with our goddaughters.

Our trainee has mastered the stairs and is not fazed by the fog horn. However, he does not like walking on the metal grates at the entrances. He comes to an abrupt stop and circles around using the rugs to avoid them. We will use some "high-value" treats to work on this tomorrow.

October 27, 2011

Refresher

We are constantly looking for opportunities to take Monte with us. Tonight we crashed the Custom Canines Training class. Not sure how long it has been since he attended a training class, but it was visibly and audibly apparent that it had been some time and a refresher was necessary. His obedience was a bit rusty and he whined throughout.

We definitely have been slacking in regards to maintaining his training. Not sure he will be allowed back. 

These classes provide the ultimate canine distraction. Being one of the first dogs to arrive, Cooper was eager to meet/greet every new puppy and vice versa. Once class started he and his fellow trainees had settled down some. We rotated working with every dog, so I wasn't able to watch him constantly.  However, from what I was able to observe he did remarkably well on STAY, since it was his first exposure to the concept. 

For the past couple days we have been working to get Cooper to DOWN using only the verbal command - no luring.  We ended the session tonight with four successful DOWNs  :-)  After two hours all the canines were tuckered out and relaxing, with the exception of Monte who was still on alert and letting us know.

October 25, 2011

Little Monster

We made sure that Cooper was rested for tonight's training class. We didn't want to be accused of doping our puppy again this week. Although a bit more animated, he is calmer than any Labrador puppy I have ever seen. The entire group is extremely relaxed and progressing quickly. None of the puppies jumped up to enforce the OFF command.

The group is ahead of schedule so we began to learn a trick this evening and the trainer will be accelerating the training plan. All that means is that luring will be reduced sooner and replaced with expecting/waiting for the proper behavior.

Copper and his classmates performed solid SIT and WATCH. Teaching him DOWN has been a struggle. He can easily be lured, but has not associated the word with the movement yet. The trick we started to work on was to have the puppy army crawl. Actually, we may not proceed with this trick as it may only encourage creeping in a DOWN STAY - a common trait for Labradors.

We also been questioning the time Cooper spends on the sofa and in bed with us. It is nice to be able to have a cuddly puppy to curl up with, however, we may have created a monster. He cries to be pulled up on the bed/sofa and is almost big enough to jump up on the sofa by himself. Now we need to teach our little monster that he must be invited up. It would have been easier to keep him OFF from the beginning.

October 24, 2011

Doctor Visit

Cooper traveled down to Platteville to visit residents at the assisted living facility.  Of course everyone loved him.  After sitting through a meeting, he accompanied Lisa and her mom on a visit to the doctor's office.  He cried in the waiting room and slept during the exam.

Had Lisa know that the doctor was allergic to dogs and cats, Cooper would have stayed home or at least stayed at her mother's home. The doc was very accommodating and was fine as long as he didn't actually touch Cooper.  He has to be awakened after the visit to sleep some more while the humans ate lunch.

October 23, 2011

Rest Day?

Cooper's day began with puppy play time where he proved that he wasn't a submissive little wimp.  Without the overbearing boxer pinning him to the ground constantly, he ran around for an entire hour and played with every dog there. This obviously affected his energy level for the rest of the day.

"A tired dog is a good dog" and Cooper was very good today.

While Monte was home alone all day, resting in his crate, Cooper was out and about.  Albeit he was also resting most of the time.  We stopped home between each of the day's events to play ball with Monte.


By the time we arrived at the bowling alley for Pins for Paws, he was already pooped out.  His makeshift "costume", as a post-operative dog, probably added to his poor disposition.  He removed a couple faux bandages before the event and the remaining bandages did not stay on for the duration of the event either.  Note: He did look happy and full of life at puppy playtime, we just don't have photographic evidence.


When not napping Cooper made new friends, human and canine. His favorite was our bowling partner, Marissa.  Between her frames of bowling she would take care of Cooper; either walking him around or letting him rest in her lap, depending on his mood.  Only a young Mastiff puppy gave Cooper a reason to engage - biting and wrestling.

The final activity of the day was a Badger hockey game. Once again he met a hundred people.  He mastered all the stairs.  We carried him up a few because he got tired; we carried him down a few because I thought he needed to potty quickly - limited interaction.  He slept through the game, only stirring when the Badgers scored a goal and the fog horn interrupted his slumber (5 times).

October 21, 2011

Chase the Cat

As most of you know Monte has an issue with the neighborhood critters.  Yesterday he got to meet the neighbor's cat up close and personal.  He spotted the feline in the side yard and raced after him, however the cat did not move, it simply sat down.  Monte gave a brief hello sniff and returned.  A few more encounters like this will help us deal with his issue.

Our morning routine involves about ten minutes of playing fetch with the tennis ball.  I roll the ball down the sidewalk, Monte tears after it, and Cooper waddles after both. As Monte approaches, Cooper makes a half-hearted attempt to gain control of the ball before Monte either races away or hops over him.

This morning, Monte observed another neighbor's cat across the street.  I offered a stern LEAVE IT and he returned with the ball for more play.  As we continued our game, he continued to keep a watch on the critter, but playing fetch was more enticing than a game of chase the cat.  Another positive cat encounter.

October 19, 2011

Fear Conquered

Ten days ago we carried Cooper up and down the stairs at the Kohl Center until he decided that he would follow some interesting people down the stairs as we were leaving.  Even after that he would not descend the stairway to our basement.  He would stand at the top when Lisa and Monte did laundry.  He would cry as I tried to coax him down using Monte an an example


Last night as I was preparing dinner, Lisa and Monte were downstairs working and I heard Cooper plea to help him.  Then, I heard footsteps on the stairs.  I thought Monte must be coming back upstairs.  No, it was Cooper who decided that fear be damned he had to check out what was going on downstairs and conquered the stairs.  He has quickly learned that we keep his extra food in the laundry room and he receives a small reward for each trip.

Now every time the basement door opens, he hightails it downstairs.  This should continue as long as we keep reinforcing the behavior.  His new found prowess was put to the test this evening at Madison Fire House #4.  They had a four story open, grated, steel stairway. that the group of puppies practiced on.  Cooper only made it to the fourth step before turning around.  All in all, not bad - we need to keep the experiences positive.

In addition to the very scary stairs, the puppies were exposed to the lights and sirens as the firetruck left on a call. Each dog made friends with the kind fireman as she donned her full equipment - some were more accepting than others.  Cooper didn't mind as long there was a chance for affection or food. He was searching for the origin of the voice as she attempted to get him to SIT, with her mask on.

October 18, 2011

Nature vs Nurture

 We started another Puppy Socialization class at The Dog Den this evening.  Luckily they received a last minute cancellation and could get us in. Socialization during the first few months is such a critical part of any puppy's life, but even more important for a service dog to be dog-friendly and adaptable to all breeds.  With this end in mind, we take full advantage of the puppy playgroups and training opportunities.  Over the last four years we have spent so much time there that they feel like family which is not surprising because they treat all their customers, human and canine, like family.


Having raised at least five "service puppies" through this early stage, one would think that we would know everything by now.  However, it has been eighteen months since we have had such a young dog in the house.  The advice we receive from The Dog Den trainers is a great reminder/refresher and we always learn at least one new thing every class.  After "loading the clicker" or establishing the "marker word", tonight's lesson focused on SIT, GO PLAY, and WATCH.  Cooper will enjoy the homework - more treats to reinforce the marker.

The puppies at class were eerily mellow.  The most docile pack of ten puppies that I have ever seen. After a short playtime, one of the people seated next to us asked if we drugged Cooper because he was so lethargic.  He rarely appears to be enjoying himself and he has sad eyes.  We have the darnedest time trying to get a "happy" photo.

This has caused me to reconsider the nature vs nurture debate.  Our dogs have always been more energetic and active: Buddy, Echo, and Monte.  We have begun to think that we were creating these service "monsters" and that we may need some remedial training ourselves.  We can't keep messing up these dogs. Our current charge, Cooper seems to be the exact opposite; he has a calm gentle soul and is very submissive.

This will determine which is stronger Nature or Nurture (us).

October 17, 2011

Manners

With the challenge of housebreaking hopefully behind us, we focus on Cooper's house manners and obedience.

The last few days we have been working on WAIT.  Instead of bolting out of the crate when the door is opened, Cooper must wait patiently until freed.  The first few times he didn't understand why I kept closing the door in his face.  We have reached an understanding and have started to apply this to all doorways.  His SIT and COME are also progressing well.

My intention this evening was to work on not pulling when walking on leash.  We had to postpone this for another day.  Our walk for ice cream, near traffic, and to the drug store was more about stopping to explore the new environment.  He needed more coaxing to keep moving than restraint. 

The first time in a restaurant could not have gone better.  He was in need of a break and quietly laid down at our feet while we ate ice cream.  People always ask how we train a dog to lie down under a table during meals.  A few experiences like this one will quickly create a good habit.

The one issue that we have heard repeatedly over the last four years is how to keep a puppy from chewing on wood.  The best answer is not to let him start.  Unfortunately our yard is filled with sticks and wood chips.  Cooper has acquired a taste for wood which he may eventually outgrow or it will require constant supervision and plenty of correction.

October 16, 2011

Winner

 This evening we had a dilemma: Which dog to take our CSA harvest party?  Monte is much better behaved and will obey commands, while Cooper is our focus and needs interaction with people. 

Two dogs was not an option.  Last year we took both Banjo and Monte; it went well, but not as enjoyable as it should be, mostly due to the puppy.

The winner was Cooper.  He enjoyed the attention from the children and adults, when he wasn't gnawing on sticks.
Every time we leave Monte home is difficult for us.  I thought it would get easier, but I am not sure that we have settled into our roles yet.  To make myself feel better and burn some canine energy, Monte went for two long walks today - alone, no pesky puppy jumping up to bite his lip.

We have decided to relax our expectations of Monte and let him be a dog, free of any stress for a few months.  We have been avoiding his trigger points and letting him run free through the meadow.  However, it is not a free-for-all, we do maintain basic obedience on our walks and runs.

October 13, 2011

Home Alone

The blog has been neglected for the last few days because I have been out of town on business.  While I was away from home experiencing severe sleep deprivation,  Lisa has been home alone.  Well, as alone as one could be with a nineteen month and a three month old puppies demanding attention.  She would usually appreciate their company, however she has developed a nasty cold or sinus infection.

Today was spent re-establishing our routine and getting some much needed exercise for our boys.  Monte and I worked on calmly approaching rabbits and accepting the little boy leading our pack.  Cooper is developing more independence and has gained speed; we must now keep him leashed.  Now we begin leash training; we do not allow him to pull.  Any tension on the leash, we halt, and wait for him to release the tension before continuing.  Combining this with stoppages for Monte to relax, our walks have doubled in duration for a shorter distance.

Note: Cooper is completely housebroken (knock on wood).

October 9, 2011

Mini Cooper

Copper's day started early this morning and as usual it was still dark outside. I do not want to take him out, so I have Monte take him outside.  Cooper is learning from Monte that going outside in the morning involves going POTTY and quickly returning to the house to eat breakfast which is followed by more slumber.

After catching a few winks, it was off to the veterinarian's office to get weighed (22 lbs).  Then it was off to The Dog Den to learn how puppies play.  At puppy playtime this week Cooper learned that he can't always be the top dog. 

At Farm and Fleet we picked up his medicine and we all learned that Cooper needs to move quicker through the sliding doors.  At least until he gets bigger to trip the sensor, or risk getting squashed. We practiced this a few more times and finished with a positive experience.


Cooper's first Badger hockey gamer.

We parked in a different location which just happened to be next to a park that was filled with children.  Upon seeing Cooper, the throng eagerly, but cautiously approached.  Needless to say it was perfect "training" for our puppy.  We spent fifteen minutes answer questions while Cooper was smothered with love and attention.

At the game, Cooper met one our favorite hockey dog friends.  They are always eager to see the dog that will accompany us during the hockey season.  Everyone was excited to see our "Mini Cooper".  And I mean everyone, it took us thirty minutes to exit the Kohl Center grounds.  We met well over one hundred people today.

After the Badgers scored their third goal of the evening to earn a victory, Cooper was getting used to the fog horn.  He still needs work, but was not overly concerned.  Because of his reluctance to descend stairs, we ended up carrying him up and down the long stairways.  Luring with food didn't even work.  To our amazement, after bonding with a group of people, Cooper followed them down two long stairways as we were leaving.  You just never know what will motivate.

Monte stayed home :-(  , but did get out to the park twice today :-)

October 7, 2011

Walk with Purpose

I forgot to mention that Lisa brought "Cooper" home with her after the eye exams. Pending a trial visit, he may be staying with us for the next few months. Both he and Monte appear comfortable with the new situation. I only wish they were this calm all the time.

Update on Project Monte: Research has begun on how to proceed, but in the meantime I have made a commitment to Walk with Purpose and provide an hour of exercise daily .  I will keep my focus on every walk to maintain good position and keep Monte engaged. This is only fair since I expect him to maintain his focus.

He behaves much better when he is "working", so I will treat each walk as a work session.

October 6, 2011

Eyes Okay

One dozen puppies were transported to Madison.  There were Labradoodles, Shepards, Poodles, and Labrador Retrievers.

The four puppy wranglers had their hands full.

All the puppies eyes checked out fine.  .


 As far as I know, all the puppies there are waiting for a puppy raiser to love them and train them.

If you are interested, more information is available at Custom Canines.

October 5, 2011

Temporary Dog?

Given the potentially long wait for a baby guide dog, we are evaluating our options to provide some temporary canine assistance.  Our first choice was our nephew's dog Rex, who has not found his way up to Oregon yet and we have not ventured down to Platteville to provide a weekend of Dog Whisperer training advice.

The most likely option at this time is to raise an Autistic Assistance Dog.  The training is much less demanding than guide or service work, but should be equally gratifying.  And the best part is that it should only take four to six months to complete a placement, depending on the situation.  This should work perfectly with Leader Dogs.  We will know more tomorrow as a group of potential candidates are coming up to Madison for vision testing.  Lisa is assisting with the puppy wrangling and gathering information on the program.  My bet is that she will bring home a puppy in-training.

This morning I heard a great name for a dog, if we get to name it:  Radar. However, the more I think about it, it seems to be a better fit for a guide dog.

October 4, 2011

Project Monte

Now that Monte is back in our lives, we are overjoyed.  However, let's be honest; Monte does not meet all the criteria that we had established for a forever dog: well-behaved, friendly, focused, relaxed, obedient, cuddly, ...  Don't get me wrong he is very close to perfect, but he has a couple flaws.  He is not the most affectionate nor relaxed.  I can live without cuddly, but he needs to be relaxed.  Every walk around the neighborhood or through the park is filled with bouts of excitability and frenzy when experiencing critters.

Maybe we are ignorant, but we think that we were the best place for Monte because we know his issues, love him, and are willing to work to correct them. However, we have had sixteen months to figure it out.  We tried avoidance and we tried immersion with no success. We have sought advice and assistance from a number of trainers and have not seen any noticeable improvement.    I believe that his behavior has been getting progressively worse.  After his month long stressful excursion, things seem to have gotten worse.

The analysis from supposed experts has ranged from anxious, high prey drive, excited, stressed, high-energy, and just plain crazy.  I am not sure if any one tells the whole complicated story.  I do not think that he will mature out of this issue.

Yesterday we officially began Project Monte.  Our plan is to take the time necessary using every possible means to work through his demons. Step one will be to reread every book that Cesar Milan has written and watch old episodes of the Dog Whisperer to find something to try.  Step two will be a consult with a behaviorist at The Dog Den to identify the cause.

All I know is that we need to help him.  Any and all advice is appreciated.

October 3, 2011

Free Agents

We have been unemployed for the past month with no indication that another puppy trainee was in our future.  In the past we had another puppy before all the hair was cleaned up.  If that is ever possible; we probably still have hair samples from each of the twenty dogs that have shared our home during the past four years.

Being free agents offers an opportunity to look for the best situation to raise a successful guide dog.  With that in mind, we recently contacted Leader Dogs for the Blind.  Leader Dogs is located in Rochester, Michigan  and they are affiliated with Lions Clubs.  The waiting list for a puppy, once accepted, is six to twelve months.

While we wait for our next baby guide dog (apologize for using the term so often, but I just heard it a few weeks ago and I love it), we are looking into doing some temporary training and puppy sitting.  Our nephew has a puppy, Rex,  in need of some remedial training who we may help out.  In addition, Lisa has been walking our first guide dog trainee, Buddy in the afternoon.. 


Reading through the puppy raiser FAQ, I spotted this item that is important for puppy raisers to remember:
Unlike working guide dogs, businesses are not required to allow our puppies onto their premises—it will be your responsibility to get permission from the owner or manager of an establishment before entering with a puppy.

October 2, 2011

House Rules

We are now faced with a decision.  What rules should we have in place for our pet Monte?  Knowing that we are pursuing options to start the process over with a new baby guide dog will impact our final decision.  Should we maintain the existing rules?  or  Allow him some flexibility?

Monte returned home with a basic understanding of our house rules.  Not surprising because he was only gone one month and he was still in training mode. He remembers that he is not allowed in the kitchen, unless he is eating dinner or drinking water.  He retreats from the kitchen with just "the look". He remembered that PLACE meant he was to lie down on his blanket. He will WAIT before entering/exiting doorways, crossing streets, and eating his food.

Unfortunately, he also remembers that the jingling of car keys mean we are leaving to go on an exciting adventure, however, now he has to stay home.  This is the most difficult part of transitioning a guide dog in-training to a pet; I hope it is more difficult for us.

The command GO TO BED used to result in Monte jumping in the crate, lying down, and receiving a treat .  Now it means lie down on  pillows next to the bed.  That is his treat.  I doubt that it will ever mean jump up on the bed.  If we give up our bed, then the transition will have been completed and he will have become the pack leader.

The biggest change will be when walking or running in the park.  I trust him off leash and will allow him run free. This will significantly increase his exercise and probably reduce mine. One thing that will not change when walking is our continued efforts to work through critter distractions.  I dread this because no one has been able to assist or offer effective advice.  His one area of weakness is where he will have the majority of his interactions with the public.

October 1, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Monte returned to our very humble abode Friday evening.

His first twenty-four hours were spent:

1. Exploring his "new" home
2. Playing with Buddy and Kane
3. Being disciplined by Sable
4. Sleeping next to the bed, crate-less
5. Waking up too early
6. Walking to the store and waiting outside
7. Breakfast
8. Napping
9. Greeting the neighbors who were glad to see him again
10. Refresher on our "House Rules"
11. Running uncontrollably in the park
12. Dinner in his ceramic bowl
13. Napping in the crate
14. Refresher on "House Rules"
15. Distributing toys throughout the house

September 29, 2011

Adios Mantequilla

Although unintended, my post and the related comments created a seemingly uncontrollable situation where it will take an act of God to bring Monte back.

For this I need to publicly apologize to my wife, Lisa. She wanted nothing more than to take care of Monte for the rest of his life. We love him and know him better than anyone; one month ago we told people that Monte would not be a good diabetic alert dog. I let principle get in the way and will never be able to correct this unintended outcome.

I am truly indebted to everyone that supported us. Your positive comments are worth more than the loss of our forever dog. In a crisis, you can identify your true family; we will never forget your kind words.

We are searching for another opportunity to complete our mission of raising a guide dog. We will eventually be successful.

In the meantime if anyone needs a babysitter for their puppy or some training assistance, we are ready, willing, and able.

Hopeful

Unfortunately I was premature in my reporting that Monte would be returning to his home in Oregon.
We are hopeful, but doubtful of a happy ending.

UPDATE:
I formally apologize to OccuPaws for not taking the decisive and corrective action to delete the blog sooner.

Many thanks for the support and offers to pay the fee. However, it is not about the money. If you are so inclined to donate money to OccuPaws, I encourage you to do so. I strongly support their mission and the efforts of their volunteers.

September 27, 2011

Incommunicado

I have have been AWOL for the past ten days. The obvious reason is that Monte is gone (we are dog-less) and the other is that my computer time has been nil as I recover from a back injury at the racetrack last Monday. I was finally able to put my socks on by myself this morning :-)

As we wait for our next "baby guide dog", we attempted to fill the void by puppy sitting. Our old protege', Abbey, was in need of care so she stopped by for a visit. She arrived Sunday morning and was scheduled to return home on Thursday. Unfortunately for us, she came into season Sunday night.

Anyone that knows us knows that we do not favor females dogs for this reason. The only other time this has happened to us (with Cinder), we were in the car traveling to Beloit before the first drop of blood hit the floor. Less than twelve hours after arriving, Abbey was on her way to Fox Lake.

This afternoon we received some bittersweet news. Monte was not selected for the Guardian Angels diabetic program, but would be available to become our forever dog. We can't wait to see the goofball running through the park like a "normal" dog.

September 10, 2011

Rarity

In the process of reminiscing, I found this RARE video of Monte behaving well:



to be continued ...

September 5, 2011

Warning



Maybe I take this too serious or get overly attached, but it always felt like something was missing during the last three day. Because he was missing. Our sidekick, Monte, was not there as we walked through the grocery store, he was not sleeping under the table as we ate, and he is not watching me right now. The oddest feeling was taking a walk without a leash; being dog-less we had to call and borrow our first puppy, Buddy, for a walk to the park.





If we do our job as puppy raisers correctly, when it is time for your canine companion to leave, they take a piece of your heart with them. Therefore I am recommending the following warning be placed on puppy raiser contracts and identification cards:



Warning: Puppy Raising can be hazardous to your health. It is more addictive than any known drug. Eventual separation may cause sleeplessness, malaise, or Atrial Septal (hole in the heart). Symptoms may lessen after repeated attempts. However, the only known cure is complete withdrawal, which can only be achieved if you are heartless.



The one lesson that I am learning from our puppies is to "Live In The Moment." Therefore, I eagerly wait for the next puppy to enter our life and slowly mend my broken heart. Focusing on the moments of joy experienced in the present and ignoring past/future heartache.





Quote on our "Painting for Paws" bowl:

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.



September 2, 2011

Going, Going, ...

After being informed of Monte's dismissal last night. We were asked whether we would support Monte going to California to pursue a career as a diabetic alert dog (DAD) or possible search and rescue. After much discussion and a few tears, we decided that Monte would be the forever dog that we have been searching for and help us train puppies. A not so perfect ending, but a great new beginning.









Unfortunately, we found out this morning, despite our gut wrenching decision, that he would be going back to the breeder. Well, more accurately that the breeder had decided to send him to California to start training as a DAD.



He will be picked up in two hours. The wait is unbearable.





... Gone







Good Luck Monte.





Update: After saying our "Good-Bye" and returning home, we were notified that the breeder will let us have Monte, if he doesn't make it as a DAD (Guardian Angel).

September 1, 2011

Home, Done, Decision



After a brief stay with our trainer, Monte returned to our home this evening. No surprise to anyone, he is no longer a guide dog in training. His vest was pulled and he will be career changed. We have been contemplating this for the last few months, but the decision making process is easier when it is entirely hypothetical.



Do we quit after four failures and keep Monte as our forever dog or give it one more try?

August 29, 2011

Boot Camp

It has been exactly one year since Monte has been away from "home". He has spent the last 365 consecutive days with Lisa or myself. Wherever we went Monte accompanied us. Today he goes to camp for five days. Attending camp with Louie and Wilbur, we will definitely miss him more than he will miss us.



This morning our "dog walker" stopped by for Monte's morning walk (45 minutes) before beginning a five day boot camp in an attempt to harness his prey drive. Well, after only fifteen minutes the trainer returned. She had experienced one of Monte's critter episodes and immediately ended the walk; it was time to take him away.



Having identified this issue early on and lacking the skills/knowledge to fix it, we knew this day would come. We only hoped it would be sooner than eighteen months into the process, but finally someone else has seen the behavior, is concerned, and can try to help. Monte's future as a guide dog hangs by a frayed thread.



If Deanne can resolve this issue, she is truly a miracle worker. We can only wish her the best of luck and promise our full support upon Monte's return.

August 27, 2011

First Impression

After a morning of running and walking, we spent a few hours this afternoon at the Ducks for Dogs fundraising event. It was the trainer's first opportunity to observe Monte in public. I take full responsibility for creating a lousy first impression.



As we approached the OccuPaws pack, Monte was a tad excited which requires a little restraint, however, I had attached the leash to the lightweight "tag ring" and not the collar. The ring broke and Monte was free. He ran to personally greet every canine and human. Careless mistake, it could have been much worse.



Mark graciously shared a birthday treat with everyone and a few hit the floor. I grabbed one from the ground and proceeded to test Monte by dropping it in front of him. Generally, he will not touch the item. However, the snack bounced backward toward Monte and before I could tell him to LEAVE IT, it was in his mouth. Figuring it was a one gulp treat I lost, but the trainer jumped up and was able to rescue a half eaten morsel, claiming victory.



Monte spent the majority of the time obsessed with flies. He tracked their movements and waited for the perfect chance to attack. This too is not guide dog-like behavior. According to the trainer this is a learned behavior, so again I take full responsibility for creating a bigger hole for Monte to climb out of as he attempts to become a guide dog.

August 25, 2011

Lessons

This morning Monte traded in his turquoise vest for a guide dog harness. His first lesson was getting acquainted with the harness; no pulling allowed yet. In the house he was conscious of the new apparatus, reacting similarly to the Elizabethan collar. But out on the streets, he completely forgot about the new attire and focused on his walk - he loves to walk.



Lesson two was going to be demonstrating how to teach Monte to Get Dressed - place his head through the harness. It was a short lesson because all of us puppy raisers have taught our puppies to Get Dressed using their vests. Right?



The third lesson was unscheduled. On his training walk, Monte was threatened by an aggressive ankle biter, but did not respond in kind and remained calm. This is very good, however, a little surprising because his energy usually mirrors the dogs and people he meets; he may have been in shock.



While Monte upgraded to a leather harness, we were seemingly demoted to Puppy Sitters. Apparently this is the term used to describe those of us who board a dog while he is being evaluated or in training. I suppose this shouldn't bother me as long as the professional guide dog trainer doesn't mind being referred to as our Dog Walker.

August 24, 2011

Right Stuff

Monte hasn't started harness training and I can only assume that he is still in the evaluation mode to determine if he has the "Right Stuff". After only six preliminary training sessions with the guide dog trainer, his behavior on walks has been improving. Partly due to the trainer's knowledge, her daily feedback, and our reinforcement.



Every day Monte comes home with a new item to work on - our homework. It is great to get a hands-on assessment of his neighborhood behavior with feedback to correct it. Two weeks before he reaches his turn in age, eighteen months; I wish we had gotten some help sooner.



Although improvement has been observed, new flaws are emerging on a daily basis and the prospect of Monte's success is diminishing. However, his breeder has always said that his line matures late, around 24 months, so maybe he will get a second chance. As the trainer determines if Monte has the "Right Stuff", unsuccessful puppy raisers, like us, are faced with the inevitable decision: If he washes out, will Monte become our forever dog?

August 21, 2011

One in a Million

Two graduation ceremonies the last two days reminded us why we puppy raisers do what we do. The first was an OccuPaws CVC dog, Candy, who will "change the life" of young Sawyer. As I have mentioned before, a Children's Visual Companion Dog seems to provide a greater benefit to the recipient. In addition to increased mobility, a CVC dog provides emotional support through their good listening skills and caring nature. Candy's training was truly a team/pack effort.



Our charge, Monte, spent the evening under the table - behaving most of the time. Similar to his training sessions, he initially needs time to adjust to a new environment and then eventually his brains shuts down and he forgets how to behave, especially around his old pal Banjo.



The second graduation was for guide dog Stella and her partner, Arthur. While both canine and human stories are engaging, Stella's is remarkable.



At nine months of age Stella found herself at a Humane Society in Utah, days from being euthanized, a rescue group literally saved her life. The Dog Works organization contacted this same group inquiring about a chocolate lab listed on their website. The trainer was directed to a "special" yellow female by a volunteer who just happened to have been a (fifteen-time) puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. One quick evaluation and Stella's journey to become a guide dog began in California. Nine months, thousands of miles, and countless hours later, she began her career as guide dog today.





As Arthur shared his story, he shared a few facts and figures for guide dog success rates. He was correct on most, but I must correct one. He stated the probability of an average dog becoming a guide dog as "one or two out of ten." With the millions of dogs that end up in crowded shelters, Stella truly is one in a million.