Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Amazing, Expanding Dog

So, I have never had a problem with my dogs being over-weight. It's a problem that a lot of raisers in my club experience, but I have always had the almost too skinny dog all the time. No matter how much I feed my pup and how often we just laze around the house, we've been able to feel their ribs. Faulkner had been following this pattern for his entire stay with us until just a couple weeks ago.

Suddenly, he's a chunk!! We can barely feel his ribs and he's more active than ever. We've had to cut back his food by half (he gets one cup at each meal now instead of 2) in hopes that he will take off at least some of that extra weight before he goes back to school on the 11th. He's not missing the extra food, but he's also not been losing this weight real quickly either.

I guess it was my turn to deal with the overweight pup.

Besides his suddenly expanding waist-line, Faulkner is doing very well. He's adjusted to the addition of Eliot Jones (the dog that we rescued and are trying to find a home for) very well and the boys get along great. They are both about a year old and love to play with each other. Since Eliot Jones isn't fixed I'm having to keep extra close tabs on them when they play because I caught Faulkner coping Eliot Jones' attempt to mount during play. Oops.

With only about 11 days to go until Faulkner goes back to school, I'm getting more and more excited about a new puppy! I can't wait to get to post pictures of another adorable baby!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Apples, Peaches and New Dogs

Yesterday my mother called me from Williamson Orchard and Vineyard to tell me that there was a dog that had showed up and nobody had come to claim him. She said that she was pretty much in love with him and that, for some reason, her heart had just gone out to this dog immediately. She told me that if no one had claimed him by 4, she wanted to take him and spare him the pound while we searched for his home. Later that day I got another call from her asking me to go out to the orchard and get a box of Honey Crisp apples, a box of sweet but tangy peaches, and a dog. It was quite possibly the oddest request that I have ever gotten!! Mike (my boyfriend and Faulkner's co-raiser) drove me out to the orchard and we were recognized right away. It's difficult to miss someone described as the "cute little redhead in the neck brace" as my mother had told the employees.

When I saw the yellow lab lying serenely on the porch it didn't register right away that this was the homeless dog that no one had claimed. He looks to be a pure bred yellow lab with one of the most gorgeous faces I have ever seen on a dog. He is friendly, calm and overall too good to be true. And then I put a leash on him. He's not a fan. He wasn't out of control at all. He just didn't want to move! After a lot of coaxing and a little bit of yanking, Mike and I got the two boxes of fruit and the dog into the car.

We stopped by the vet's office to get him scanned for a microchip, but one wasn't detected. The vet tech who helped us at the front desk confirmed that he was just over a year old as I had guessed. We got him home and he's been doing amazingly well ever since! He just hangs out in the living room with us. Happy to lie on the floor and come over for an occasional love.

My mom has fallen completely in love with this boy and we have named him Eliot Jones for the time that he's here. We've put him on Craigslist, hoping that his family sees him and they can be joyously reunited. If nobody claims him, though, I'm thinking that Mom won't mind having him around. With a little bit of work, he's going to be an amazing dog!

When we brought him home, we brought out Honey (the pet dog) to meet with him to make sure that dog interaction would be civil. Eliot Jones passed the test with flying colors and he and Faulkner have become good buddies in the day that he's been here. We're always extra careful with bringing new dogs into the house because Faulkner got bit in the face when he was about 6 months old and it was a traumatic experience for all of us. He's recovered from it fully and has no problems with other dogs these days, but it's always better safe than sorry.

Having this new dog in the house is fun and new and he fits right in. He sleeps a lot and is incredibly low-maintenance. We're all falling in love with Eliot Jones and hoping that he's claimed early on so that we won't have to suffer too much heartbreak. But for now, we're letting sleeping dogs lie.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Puppy Trade Blues

I'm missing Faulkner quite a bit on this trade. It always surprises me how much more I miss a pup when I send them out on trade and know their recall date. It just makes it a little harder to let them spend time with someone else, no matter how many puppies you've raised. The emotional attachment you feel does not lessen as time goes on. As a matter of fact, it's actually strengthened my bond to the puppies I have at home.

Kayla, the lovely black lab that I have on trade, is keeping me on my toes. She's 9 months old and well into her "rebellious teenager" phase. She has good intentions and she is really a sweet girl, but it's hard to love on a puppy that you have to correct the minute you try to love on her. =] She's a smart girl, and very pretty too, but all I can do for her this week is show some tough love.

She knows her commands. If you tell her "down," she goes down. But then she gets back up a minute later. We've been working on a lot of calm behaviors to help re-enforce good house manners. She's pretty good in public, the head-collar helps that a lot, but she's having some trouble with being calm in the house. Long hours of being on her bed on a tie-down have seemed to help her understand that it's ok to rest every once-in-a-while.

While it's difficult to love on her and cuddle with her since she's so hyper, it's nice to have a little bit of a challenge. Those challenge dogs are the ones that I thrive with. It'll be nice to have my "perfect" Faulkner home tomorrow night though.

And yes, I know that there is no such thing as a perfect puppy. And I do not believe that there ever will be. But Faulkner is as close as you can get.

Included in this post are some baby picture of Faulkner as a look back before her goes back to school. He is between the ages of 5 and 9 weeks in all three. Wasn't he simply the most adorable puppy you have ever seen?!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Puppy Magic

With Faulkner going back to school soon, I have been thinking a lot about just what Guide Dogs means to me and these past few months have confirmed how much a person can get out of an experience such as this. The feeling that you get when you are able to help someone else, while helping yourself in the process, is beyond explanation. I don't know that I'll ever truly be able to express what Guide Dogs means to me and what they have done for me. The organization came into my life at a time that I most needed it, even though I didn't know it yet. Through all of my medical adventures, and times of not knowing what life would bring day to day, I had at least one constant: a dog. Every morning, no matter how terrible I was feeling, there would be a wriggling ball of fur just waiting for me to wake up. Not because they wanted to ask how I was feeling and not because they needed to take me to another doctor's appointment. They simply wanted me. And even in in my days of not knowing where my life was going or when I would be able to really start living it again, I knew that puppy needed me. And not just that puppy, but, in extension, a person needed me. After the first graduation that I attended five years ago, I couldn't believe that I was actually a part of what the working team had become. Bob and Yamaha were soul mates and you could tell by just looking at them. To think that I was even a small part of that beauty and freedom still makes me swell with pride. I don't know where I would be now if it wasn't for Guide Dogs coming into my life when they did. But I do know this: This organization is magical. And not just for the blind that get partnered with a Guide.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Regards to Training a Puppy While in a Neckbrace...

Well, as none of you on this blog know, I'm in a neckbrace for the time being. I had some surgery done on my neck a few weeks ago and I'm in the brace until the 30th of this month. With my lovely, 15 month old puppy who knows everything, this isn't a problem. I rarely (if ever) have to correct him, and he never pulls on the leash. Also, it's a rare occurrence that I ever have to even look down at him. Last night, however, brought puppy trade.

Our whole club has about a meeting a month downtown during the summer for an outdoor concert event that's free and happens every Wednesday. Last night, we all met there and went through our paces. Dodging in and out of the tightly packed crowd, walking by the large fountain with children playing in it, strolling past the speakers blaring the live music, and kicking cups and bottles that have been forgotten on the ground under our dogs' feet. At the end of the meeting, I acquired my new puppy for the week.

Her name is Kayla. And she really is a sweetheart. But, she's 9 months old. With that comes pushing limits and being stubborn. Having a pup in that stage when you are in a neck brace doesn't work very well. I think that we've established a good pattern though. This morning when I took her out, I only had to give one little tug on the leash and she was very nice! I'm hoping that this trend continues so that my neck brace won't continue to get in the way of our training. Lucky thing that I'll have it off by the time I get my new puppy!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Exciting Faulkner News!

Faulkner will be going back to school on Friday the 9th of next month, October! Very good timing considering that I was just talking about how ready to go back he is! When Pat Cook comes to do evaluations, she is going to take Faulkner and his brother Franco back to campus along with a puppy being raised in Elko, Nevada named Montessa. Hopefully, she'll be accompanied by new puppies for us as well!!

Finally, An Update!

Sometimes, life gets in the way of all the things that you decide you're going to do. Most recently, for example, I had another medical relapse that led to months of testing and an eventual surgery which put keeping up with a blog at the bottom of my list. Luckily, Faulkner is so amazing that not much has been missed! After surgery, Faulkner's house manners continued to be superb and I trust him more in the house, by far, than any other puppy that I've had.

I'm recovering wonderfully from my past surgery which means that I'm able to take Faulkner out and show him off a lot more often. He's had more outings in the past week than he had in two weeks last month. And, being the Nerd that he is, he's done wonderfully in every situation that he's been in.

On Sunday, we went to CostCo which is one of the ultimate tests in Guide Dogs. First of all, there is always a lot of people around with big carts and surrounded by big displays and loud, echoing noises everywhere. Secondly, the floor is cement. This doesn't sound like the biggest test of a dogs abilities to someone who doesn't raise puppies, but let me tell you why it is.

In Guide Dog raising, our puppies are trained from the moment we get them to relieve on the cement. No other surfaces until later in their training. This sounds unnatural, and it really is, but not everywhere that a working Guide goes will have a convenient patch of grass next door. Having a pup in jacket and walking around on so much concrete can be a challenge since they usually associate it with emptying their bladder. Luckily, Faulkner was nearly flawless on our trip. No accidents and not even a sign that he thought about it.

The only not so wonderful thing that happened was, for some reason, Faulkner decided the lady in line behind us was going to be his absolute best friend in the world. He kept turning around to stare at her even though she made no move to say hi to him. She was looking at him, of course, but who can resist an adorable puppy staring at you? After a minute of him not behaving himself, we had to go for a little "refocusing" walk away from the woman Faulkner was flirting with. After that, he was much more responsive to me and, while he still looked over his shoulder at her occasionally, he stayed facing forward.

With small things like that being our only thing to work on, Faulkner and I are definitely ready for him to go back to campus. Faulkner is now 15 months old and is definitely ready. I can tell that he's starting to get bored and is in want of some new challenges. That's the best sign that a puppy is ready for "school." We're currently waiting on a recall date from Guide Dogs. After raising puppies for so many years, it feels weird to have a dog around that knows what he's doing. Puppy raisers train themselves as much as they train their pups and I'm trained to have a puppy!! Hopefully this month or next, Faulkner will get to go to school to show off what he knows and I'll get to start over with a new pup.

For now, we're in a waiting period. So we're having as much fun as we can! With the end of summer drawing near, we're spending a lot of time outside running around and playing. Not only are we having a blast at home, going out in public with Faulkner has become like going out in public with an extra arm. He makes it so easy that I don't have to think twice about taking him anywhere!

Puppies On The Web

Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc. is not just a website anymore!

Visit their Facebook page to support the organization and see pictures (or links to pictures) of all their activities. Follow them on Twitter for updates on the blog, shout outs to puppy raisers and information on upcoming events. And, don't forget to keep up with their blog No Bones About It for stories of raisers, working dogs and all kinds of fun!