Hawk's Schedule

8/4 Lake Mills
8/12 CCSDA Training

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


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.

August 19, 2011

Full Monte

Monte had his second and third training sessions. Lisa told the trainer that she was getting the "full Monte" because he had not been exercised before she took him. He loves his walks and was raring to go.

After the first session, Deanne noted that Monte was "done" after thirty minutes. Initially, we were surprised because Monte is like the Energizer Bunny. I have rarely seen him tire and definitely not in under an hour. Noticing our surprise, she clarified the statement, "He loses concentration after thirty minutes - his brain was done." Now that describes our Monte.

August 18, 2011


We made our weekly trip to the farm last night and Monte worked on STAY, once again. He is doing well with the many distractions: pigs, bugs, birds, and children. When he breaks his Stay, he is following us. He appears to be having a difficult time with separation or not being together.

Once again in the U-Pick garden, Monte assumed the "U" meant him and he helped himself to a couple jalapeno peppers when I wasn't looking. I thought that hot peppers might be useful to prevent licking, biting, or eating inappropriate objects. It doesn't look like that would work for him. Once home, we gave him a small pepper for dessert and he ate the whole thing. Initially he left the seeds, which are supposed to be hotter, but five minutes later they had disappeared too.

August 16, 2011


Coming off the wedding in Minneapolis, we thought Monte was performing well. As Monte's evaluation approached last week, we noted that he still has a few behavioral issues that need work, but that may come with maturity. My concern is that our effervescent puppy may be starting too soon.

Everything seems to have unraveled the last few days. His behavior has been inconsistent: broken STAYs, fits of energy, barking, and general brain malfunctions. What could the problem be? I was so frustrated, that I was ready to turn him in to the trainer. However, after taking a few breaths and evaluating the situation, the problem might be me. I have not been well the last few days, so Monte wasn't getting his usual attention. I was the problem; unrealistic expectations and short on patience.

Last week, the trainer noted that Monte was very "aware" of the neighbor's lawnmower. Therefore, our walk this evening was a little longer than normal; we searched the village for lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, anything with a motor. When we returned home, I talked Lisa into hand feeding Monte outside as I mowed our lawn. Inside, he had to deal with the vacuum.

It has been my experience that an unstable or misbehaving dog is often a reflection of the handler. Much like a mirror, Monte takes in energy and immediately returns it to the sender. Note: this may not be a good trait for a guide dog. Tonight, we are working well again. We have been practicing STAYs while I roll and bounce his favorite toy - with perfect results. We are back in balance.

August 12, 2011


This evening Monte went to a party at The Dog Den. Two of our trainers are leaving to pursue other opportunities. So we along with about forty other canines with owners in tow offered our heartfelt thanks to Ashley and Jody and wished them well, along with Ryan.

It was a great environment to practice obedience and handling canine distractions. Monte exhibited nothing but positive interest in the menagerie of dogs. Passersby were not an issue, but not surprisingly, Monte will not STAY when a dog approaches/sniffs him from the front or behind.

Big Day

Lisa took Monte to the farm yesterday. She selected her pre-picked fresh vegetables and bagged them; Monte remained in a DOWN STAY. There was a large number of shoppers at this time and he was stationary. Until the pigs started making some noise. Surprisingly, he did not walk over to visit the pigs, but instead found Lisa amongst the hoard of shoppers.

After the easy shopping was done, it was time to go out to the U-pick garden to gather some additional cilantro, basil, and peppers. Again due to the number of people and her need to use both hands, Monte was placed in a DOWN STAY near the planted rows. This time he remained perfectly still, because he had found a diversion - something to chew on. Thinking it was a stick, Lisa asked him to drop it and he did. Not a stick, it was a half eaten jalapeno pepper. Later he picked one off a plant. He must have acquired a taste for spicy food as a puppy in Beloit :-)

We thought today was going to be a big day. Our new trainer was coming out to the house to evaluate Monte, provide feedback, and possibly make a decision as to his future. Well none of that happened. However, it was still a big day because today was Monte's first day of "guide dog" training. Deanne, our trainer, took him and left for a half hour walk around the neighborhood. for . It wasn't formal harness training, just a "test drive"; Monte hasn't had his hip and elbow x-rays.

The situation is different than in the past. Instead of leaving to stay full-time with the trainer, Monte will temporarily retain Oregon as his residence. The trainer will be traveling to the four candidates' homes to conduct their training sessions, once or twice a day. Louie, Linus, and Wilbur have also started training.

August 10, 2011

Dark Night

Yesterday we were without electricity starting at 4pm. When I arrived home after work we couldn't do most of our normal activities. No cooking dinner, watching television, or working on the computer. Without a plan, we searched for a training opportunity for Monte. Is it normal to plan your life around social interactions for your puppy?

A few household appliances needed replacing so we took Monte shopping. He behaved extraordinarily well as I carried a microwave oven through the store and to the car while wrangling him. An additional stop at the grocery store where we met a family that loved Monte, may result in some new puppy raisers. Note: A trip to the grocery store may be ill advised when you do not have electricity and have no idea when it will return.

Upon returning to our dark home, we needed to eat. Monte and I fired up the grill and did some off leash work in the front yard while the sun was still shining. As we ate by candlelight, Monte remained close. He was either afraid of the dark or sensed Lisa's apprehension. Probably the latter as he stayed close to her.

All in all Monte enjoyed the night of darkness. Without any distractions, we had time to take him for an extra walk. Then just before bedtime, the power was restored.

August 8, 2011

Fun Night

First we need to thank Dianne and Maya for their most appropriate gift of a service dog beanie baby (Dr Jack the helping dog at Mayo Clinic). At least now we have one service dog in the house. Maybe this will be the inspiration that Monte needs.

Enjoying the light rain and cool temperature as I rode home this evening, I decided that Monte had earned a day off. He endured a stressful weekend and behaved admirably. So we took a walk to the park in the rain. Once there he was free to run.

It was the perfect weather for Monte, cool and wet. An hour later, Monte was still running with his tongue wagging and what had to be a huge smile on his face. The rain let up and we made our way home; both soaking wet, but not caring. It was a fun night.

August 7, 2011

Gopher Hunting

Like most weekends, Saturday started with a run and ended with a late night potty break. Sandwiched between those two events were the uncommon: four hour car ride, lunch at a restaurant, elevator rides, wedding, and party complete with conga line.

We didn't pack all Monte's supplies, so we improvised. The ice bucket makes a classy water bowl. It only look a few attempts before he stopped looking for hot dogs or ice. However, that's all it takes to spill half the water on the floor.
Tip: always use the plastic bag provided with the ice bucket.

We walked the University of Minnesota campus in the afternoon. This served two purposes. First, we fulfilled our exercise quota for the day. Secondly, this allowed Monte to hunt and chase those pesky Gophers. Being summer there weren't as many around.

Tired from Gopher hunting, we arrived at the church (without air conditioning) for the wedding and Monte relaxed quietly on the cool tile floor. Although difficult to see in the photo, he was dressed appropriately for the occasion with a red bow tie.
Tip: remove the flat collar to avoid jingling in quiet settings.

The reception offered many challenges: fast paced waiters and children, bits of food on the floor and under the table, and celebratory lights and sounds. Monte received nothing but compliments throughout the evening, because the table cloth provided stealth for his attempts to clean the floor.

The most intriguing sounds of the evening came from our bed. The Sleep Number system makes some very distracting noises when inflating or deflating. Monte's head was performing the classic head tilt as I found my personal Sleep Number.

August 4, 2011


One our questions regarding puppy raising is how much is Nature and how much is Nurture. Does Monte have a lot of energy due to genetics or his environment?
The puppies we raise have all been on the higher end of the energy scale which leads me to believe that we bring this on ourselves. I am uncomfortable just sitting around; I need to be doing something. Nothing is ever done at a leisurely pace; every action is performed purposefully.

So tonight after wrapping up some volunteer work, Monte and I took a break to enjoy the cool weather. Relaxing on the porch without any bugs. It was foreign to both of us and it didn't last much longer than ten minutes. Just enough time to take a couple photos, then back inside to write a blog.

Our puppies are doomed.

August 3, 2011

Back on the Farm

Thanks to the steroids, Monte's has stopped licking his paw and he looks to be completely healed. Another two days of antibiotics just to keep any infection at bay before we build up his immune system with probiotics.

Due to babysitting and work, Monte has not been out to the farm in three weeks. The pigs seemed to have forgotten him and he was too excited to greet our farmer, Kristen. So he worked on STAY this evening, while we picked a bag of basil - making pesto tomorrow.

UPDATE: Some people may think that we are always prepared and carry everything we need in Monte's backpack. It does contain extra bags, cleaning supplies, leash, collars, etc. However it doesn't help when it is sitting on the counter with his vest and leash. We pulled into the farm and noticed that we had failed to bring anything with us. We just loaded Monte in the backseat and hurried to the farm.