Sunday, December 27, 2009

One Year Today

You came home one year ago today, baby. I love you beyond belief and wouldn't trade your time in my life for anything, although I would give almost anything for it to have been longer. While today couldn't have been any harder, I love you and miss you always. Be a good boy, Eclipse.

1 year: 12 months: 365 days: 8,759 hours: 525,540 minutes: 31,532,400 seconds ago

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Team In Training

I don't know how many of you know of Ezra Sherman from Becky and Cricket's blog. If you don't know about him, he was a young boy, only 10-years-old, a puppy raiser, a twin, a beloved son who succumbed to AML Leukemia just six days after being diagnosed. His story is heart wrenching, you can read it here. That is his family's blog for Ezra. I never met Ezra, or any of his family, but for many reasons I feel a tie to them. Not because of a common religion, or just because it's another sad story, but because this boy's family lost a part of them, his brother lost his twin, and the service dog world lost another amazing puppy raiser.

In honor of Ezra, Maayan, who raised two puppies for GDB in the same club as Ezra and his family, is training with Team In Training to run the LA Marathon. Maayan is running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Please, if you have the ability to do so, consider donating for this great cause. You can view Maayan's progress and/or donate at

Please, feel free to post any variation of this on your blog. Help spread the word and get more support for not only Maayan, but Ezra's family and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pachyderm Learning

For those of you who never read my private blog back when it was public and my only blog, I'll do a quick recap and then continue on with the post.
George, a 10 foot tall African Elephant is playing with a very large truck tire. His head is down with his trunk pressing the tire against the fence pole, his ears are out surrounding his head, giving him a dumbo look about him that is very charming

When I was a senior in high school I wanted to get a job to support raising Iverson and earn some money, of course. I applied at a few places, but the only one I remember is the Wildlife Safari. I applied on what I believe was a Tuesday evening, I didn't apply for anything specific but I knew their busy season was approaching and they'd need seasonal workers. On Wednesday I got a call from the elephant department supervisor and we arranged an interview for that Saturday morning. I was ecstatic! I've always loved the elephants at the park and remember when George was a "baby". The interview went off without a hitch and Sunday morning I did my job shadow, I went and spent a couple hours in the barn with the staff, helped clean the stalls, learned which elephant was which and met everyone. They all liked me so I was sent to get a UA and a TB test. Once the TB test came back clear (whew! There's one thing I don't have /wink/) I started that Thursday. Because I was still going to school I arranged my schedule to where I'd have half days until I graduated but with such a terribly busy schedule and him not being allowed to attend work or school with me I had to have Iverson transferred to a new raiser. It was heartbreaking, but I couldn't pass up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I'd been handed.

Iverson is around a year of age in this photo. He's sitting looking out the window. The window starts at his mouth and his ears are perked
I quickly got used to cleaning the stalls in the mornings and getting the hay ready at night, I learned which elephant was which, which personality belonged to who and even who's poo was who's! I learned to push a wheelbarrow full of approx 200 lbs of elephant waste and drive the dump truck that had a bad clutch when I had never driven a clutch before. Okay, so I took a fence out while learning, but it was just the giraffe yard, they could go over it anyways. I learned to be efficient, quick on my feet, announce when I was entering or leaving an area which was so against my personality and introverted ways. I learned that one person with a bad attitude could affect the whole herd disasterously and it was quickly realized that I was a "lifer". Many of you will understand what a lifer is. It's someone who is so in love, so intriqued, so enamored by something that it will stick with you, for life. In many ways it's the same as I'm a "lifer" puppy raiser.
The three empty elephant stalls. The stalls are made of steel round beams and are square. They are approximately 12 feet tall, have rolling doors on the front, between each stall and on the end of the outside one. There are feeding baskets built onto them for hay, shrubs, tree limbs, blackberry bushes or other treats for night

I was deemed the Supervisor's prodigy, who had been working with elephants for more than 40 years. I was just barely older than she was when she first started working with elephants and she saw something in me, she took me under her wing and didn't protect me or let me get away with slacking off in my work, but we had a lot of heart to hearts, I think I reminded her of herself.
George and my boss facing the camera. George has his trunk on his forehead and is lifting his front left leg to perform a behaviour. I'm unsure which behaviour he was being asked to do

During the 9 months I worked there, the elephants were my kids. I loved them, I cared for them, I worried about them when the snow came or the lightning struck, I feared for their safety and their futures, I truly would have done almost anything for them, and the people I worked with. Just before my 18th birthday I was handed an ankus. A very old ankus, but it was an ankus and I had one of my own to keep clean, in good condition and with me at all times when on the job. I was being entrusted with a tool that would someday allow me to control the largest land animal on this earth. The feeling was similar to that of going to puppy meeting after puppy meeting just to be handed a dog for the first time. Yes, you've been trained a bit, yes you've watched and learned but for the FIRST time you're holding that leash in your hand, with a puppy attatched to the other end of it. It was like that, but many many times amplified.

When I was issued that ankus I knew I was something special in their eyes, seasonals don't handle the elephants, they don't get an ankus. My job was supposed to end in a month and a half, I was supposed to leave like all the tourists, yet they decided I could have an ankus.
a photo of an ankus which is a two to three foot wooden stick with a two pronged tip on the end. They are controversial but are generally very dull and do no harm to the elephants. Just like a leash it's a tool used for safety and direction and can of course be misused

Then I learned why. One of the lady's was having a serious surgery and would be out of commission for at least two months, they wanted, they needed me to stick around, and they needed me to learn to handle these animals in a very short amount of time. The reason they waited until just before my 18th birthday to give me an ankus? You have to be 18 to handle an elephant. I remember before that day, every single day my boss would ask me if I was 18 yet. I grew to love it, I knew how eager she was to begin training me.

The elephants standing in front of a group of trees, the leaves are brown, the elephants are generally facing the camera and all are in the process of putting their trunks to their mouths to eat some of the deliciousness in the Asia section of the park
Not so quickly I learned how to move hay bales with my ankus tucked under my arm, I learned how to reach WAY high up to wash an elephant's back with an ankus gripped tightly in my armpit, I learned how to not drop my ankus and avoid that head shake of disappointment, I learned how to go under the fences without hitting my ankus on the bars. To begin with I had to have it in my armpit, wherever I went. Whereas once you know how to hold it, once you get those muscles used to working that way, mostly your ankus is in your belt on the back of your pants.

This is a very strange looking photo. Anthony is leaning very hard against an elephant's foot which is up on a
I was just barely getting used to having my ankus with me, in fact, this particular day I forgot it for the elephant show, I'd left it at the ride booth. After the show, the elephants are walked around the perimeter and the public is allowed to "pet" them as they walk by. Really, it's just a pat, but they get to feel an elephant and look at how wierd their skin is. My boss called me over to where she was working with George and of course gave me a look of major disappointment when she asked where my ankus was and I told her it was at the ride booth. She handed me her gorgeous ankus and told me to walk George around, Anthony walked with me. That was truly one of the craziest moments in my life, ever! Here I am, walking a 10 foot tall elephant, for the first time ever, with tons of people wanting to get a feel of the big guy's skin.

This is a shot from very high up of me walking George for the first time. You can see people waiting to pet him, one hand is on his back leg and you can see the red hair on the top of his head
When I was done of course came some critiques but all was well. Things continued going well until I became the main handler of Ms. Tiki. She's the smallest of the elephants at just 8'3" and is the easiest going. We went on walks in the Asia section of the park, we worked in the yards at the elephant barn, I worked her for her to earn her breakfast and dinner and I got frustrated beyond belief when I just couldn't do something right. I remember one time I was trying to get Tiki to do a very simple behaviour, I asked her to "get over" (move away from me in a straight line going sideways, since they are worked on the handler's right side she was to sidestep to the left) and "come in" (move into me) and she wasn't cooperating. I was so frustrated, she was going forwards, crooked, wouldn't keep her nose up, etc. All things which are signs of disrespect, of "testing" much like our puppies do at times. I was crying with frustration from this animal not listening to me, from my boss yelling at me, from my inability to succeed. Eventually she did what I asked enough to get rewarded with her breakfast, but I was ready to go home. Good hard work cleaning the stalls and a good heart to heart with my boss helped greatly and later we were working the elephants again.
The elephants on a walk in Asia, they are coming down a hill so are not holding onto one another but generally they are linked, trunk to tail just like in cartoons. In this case their trunks are down so they can feel their way. They always feel where they put their feet, if they harm their feet, they die

I learned many many things from working with the elephants. One is that I can do what I set my mind to and while I couldn't work there anymore (moving 150 lb hay bales would be impossible) I truly am a lifer when it comes to elephants. I learned how much your attitude and lookout really do affect how animals react to you, that dominance is not a forceful thing, but rather something that needs to seem natural and easy to come by. I learned that any tool can be misused but if used correctly can get amazing results. I learned how to use a "bridge" and food rewards, I learned positive training methods when all I'd known before were corrections, I learned that the most intimadating animals are often times the most easy going. Most of all though, I learned that I love my dogs more than anything. I love training, I love working with dogs, I love raising puppies for those who need their help.

George has his trunk on his forehead and his left feet crossed over his right feet with a watermelon on the ground in front of him
I was eventually laid off from that job, not because my boss wanted to, but because she was forced to. I've gone back twice. It's painful to see the elephants and know I can't be a part of it, it's painful to see them aging and it's painful to know that's a world I will never be a part of again. I will always be family to the staff of the elephant department at the Wildlife Safari, I was by far their favorite seasonal ever (and no, that's not my ego talking, I was told that over and over due to the fact I got along with everyone and was truly in love with what we were doing) and while I know I could call them up and ask for an encounter for my family and myself, it feels like I'm asking a little much. They provided me with one of the very best experiences of my life, I can't ask for anything more.
a silhoutte of a girl looking off into the distance standing in the shadow of the barn, she's leaning against where the big garage doors close and between the camera and her is an elephant sized gate

Time moves on though and so must I. I will never forget my elephant kids, I love them all dearly and when the day comes when they're too old to live any longer, my heart will break into more pieces than you can imagine. I will never forget the lessons they taught me in more than just animal handling but in animal behaviour, communication and true love. There is nothing more heartwarming than a 9,000 lb animal "rumbling" when you walk into the barn, nothing.

George and I walking away, back to the yards. I'm 5 foot three and he was around 10 foot three at that point. I am carrying my ankus and a bucket of treats
If there's anything I want to remember from my time as an elephant trainer, it's that dogs are my passion, very nearly my life, and my love. So while I adore my elephants, my dogs, the puppies I raise and the people who's lives they touch, will always come first.
Eva and Eclipse in black and white. They are sitting right next to each other, Eclipse slightly behind his sister, furthest away from the camera. Their right sides are facing the camera and they are looking out over a lake. Their ears are perked and they are at attention. Their jackets are still in color, a very rich dark blue

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another Heroic Dog

I don't know if I have heard this story before, but if I have or if I haven't, I'm glad I came across it.

Enjoy it here. Want to know what you're clicking on? It's a story of a dog, a guide dog, that helped his handler get out of the North Tower of the WTC on 9/11. No, it's not Michael Hingson and his guide Roselle. We all know they're story and it's amazing, but this one is heartwarming as well. I don't know which organization Dorado came from, but that's not important, the story is.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Something Special

There's just something oh so special about Guide Dogs. Yes, I love all service dogs, but guide dogs will always hold a very special place in my heart!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is that one of them Blind dogs!?!

Patty is walking towards the camera on a cement walkway with green grass on either side. He is a mostly black fluffy dog with tan running up his legs and a tan face and throat. His face is rimmed in black as are his eyes and he has a black stripe running between his tan eyebrows down to his nose. In the middle of the black stripe is a smaller, erratic white line
I would like to introduce you to Patty who is a 9 or 10 year old male australian shepherd. He was recently diagnosed as diabetic and is getting insulin shots twice a day. They came to the diagnosis only because he went to the vet for going Completely blind.

Patty belongs to Alex's grandfather, I've known him for two years and I have HATED him the entire time. I know it's not his fault but he's a dominant, pushy, rude dog that is very territorial. The first time I visited Alex's grandparent's house Patty tried (and nearly succeeded in) biting me. He barks and nips at me repeatedly. Unfortunately we're not allowed to work with him at all, he's Grandpa's dog and Grandpa likes him like he is. Alex has tried putting him in his place before and he runs off and pees in "submission" and Alex gets scolded for scaring him.

Anyway, we went to the in-laws' place Saturday night/Sunday and Patty and Angel were there. (Angel is a 10 year old female pure shepherd that is massively overweight with horrible hips and a skin allergy of one sort or another) Turns out, Patty is a MUCH nicer dog when his dad isn't around, magnified by the fact that he can't see so relies on humans now. Alex's grandparents are in Florida for a couple weeks, leaving my mother-in-law to work with these two dogs who are on very strict diets, multiple medications and both of whom have severe behavioural issues.

Patty is so nice now! I'm not holding my breath that he'll be as nice when he's back at home with his dad, but he'll certainly be nicer than he was. He smelled my face numerous times and layed at our feet, he even licked my hand. I in-turn helped him outside to go to the bathroom and just walk around and cuddled with him on the floor.

It's amazing how our attitudes towards someone/something chances once they become "disabled". I've never noticed before how strikingly beautiful Patty is, or how endearing the markings on his face are. Alex has sworn against getting an Aussie after having known Patty, but the past weekend has changed his mind.

While most of us try to not allow this, it's amazing how much dogs change around different people. Grandpa's attitude towards Patty bumped him up to top of the food chain yet when he's around other people and his dad's not around he willingly and happily reverts back to being a well-balanced dog.

So I can now respond to that oh-so-annoying question we all get with PITs "Is that one of them blind dogs!?!" with an affirmitive answer. Yes, Patty is blind, but he's so much happier (albeit clumsier) due to it!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This photo is in black and white and George is a 10 foot 2 or 3 inch tall african elephant. We are walking away from the camera on a cement pad with huge elephant size fencing around us. I'm 5 foot 3 inches and am carrying a bucket of food and an bull hook (a stick with two metal points at the end, one straight and one curved)
This is George and I at the end of 2006. He's castrated bull (the oldest in free contact: without a fence between the elephant and handler at all times) and was 25 years old at the time. A bull hook is used much like a leash on a dog, it *can* inflict pain but is used as a guide rather than a threat, comparable to a gentle leader or like device. This is after my family got a personalized, private meeting with the elephants and the elephant enclosure, they were allowed to pet, feed and watch George perform some of his commands.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

If Only

If only you could understand the magic that IS Eclipse, then you'd understand what I'm going through. If you knew him, if you had the opportunity to know him, if you took the time and made the effort to know him, you would know what Magic is. Not magic as in pulling rabbits out of hats or sawing people in boxes in half. No, no you've got it wrong. Magic as in the very essence of Eclipse, the magic that makes every human that ever sees him falls instantly in love with him. The magic that makes your heart never able to let go.

Eclipse is a special dog, not because he was in my home, not because of everything we went through together. Eclipse is special because something inside him, the things that make him him truly surpass and outshine most dogs. In fact, he surpasses and outshines any and every dog I've ever met, even most people in the world these days. Eclipse is laying on a blue background (it's the back of a toy helicopter for kids)with one front foot curled under him and the other hanging off the edge. His head is on his front feet and his muzzle is over the edge of the helicopter. He's wearing his dark blue jacket that is close in color to the helicopter.Eclipse is something special. If only you could know him, if only you took the time to know him, you would see the magic, the magic that is Eclipse.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I just wanted to make a public apology to JLAD. In regards to Eclipse the only information I ever got on him was from a *volunteer* puppy raiser. I never got any information from the organization itself. Of course I believed the information I got and acted accordingly, albeit not always rationally. I'm an emotional person and when I was being told constantly that Eclipse will *never* come home and all these decisions have been made it's understandable I react. What's not excusable though is that I accused JLAD and Joy of making decisions on Eclipse that did not correspond with what we were told would happen.

I apologize to all of you but more importantly to Joy for listening to someone else as if it were Joy directly. I will try my hardest to not let others get in the way of my raising experience again, and especially not ruin my happiness and hope in raising and "my" puppies.

I also wanted to apologize for making incorrect statements, although according to what I had been told they were true to my knowledge, they were incorrect.

There's a part of me that wishes I had been able to handle Eola and stuck it out until the next swap which would have been last month. Somedays I feel like I wasn't a "good enough" handler for her or didn't work hard enough with her. If I had just pushed myself a bit more we could have stuck it out. Then I remember how much Emotion has to do with puppy raising and my emotions were shot at that time. I was going back to working full-time, looking at moving out of my parents' house again and missing Eclipse and GDB like no other. I realize that giving Eola back was the best thing for me to do at that time, even though she's been in a number of homes since. Apparantly I'm not the only that has a hard time with her. I feel like if I still had her I wouldn't have let her and myself down but I'd still be involved in Eclipse's life, albeit from a distance. I'd know what is going on with him, from "the horse's mouth" if you will. Then I wouldn't be tempted to put my trust and emotions on hearing it 'third-hand'.

Time to move on I guess, but I hope my apology helps people realize I was never purposefully malicious or rude to JLAD or Joy and I never made incorrect statements out of spite. JLAD was not a good fit for us, for a number of different reasons, mainly the distance for class and the swap, but those reasons are unimportant at this point. I wish JLAD the best and that all the upcoming breedings and subsequent puppies are born safely and grow up well-adjusted. I also hope and pray that if it's determined Eclipse would be a poor fit as a service dog that the best decision is made for him and his siblings.

Thank you, JLAD for letting me raise again and experience my lovely Eclipse. I would not be the same person I am today without having known the boy. You taught me that I love service dogs, just in a different way than guide dogs, and helped me decide on the next organization I hope to raise for in the coming months. Thank you, and I'm sorry.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Help Find Gannon

We've all heard of puppies-in-training getting lost. Generally they're a bit older, but not this time. GDB pup "Gannon" is only 3 months old and is missing in Lodi, CA. Please, help spread the word and help bring Gannon home!

GDB's posting >here<

Gannon has been found

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Head Collars *Edited*

I know some raisers don't use, don't like or can't use head collars with their pups but I find them helpful and sometimes necessary in certain situations. I tend to use them quite regularly, although Charlie isn't in one much at this point.

I like to have a head collar that not only fits a puppy but matches his personality. Eclipse was in the blue Gentle Leader and it fit his personality perfectly, I love blue on that boy more than any other color! Eola was in a purple Gentle Leader, again, it certainly fit her personality. (They were in head collars for very different but equally necessary reasons)

The next puppy will be required to be comfortable in a head collar in case his future handler needs to work him in one. That being said, I want a head collar that not only fits him correctly but matches his personality. Gentle Leaders don't fit all dogs' faces, neither do Haltis, it's something that has to be assessed and determined over time with a pup as it can change with age as well. I like Haltis for certain dogs and I like how the neck strap doesn't have to be as tight and is easier to put on for me. However, I do not like how Haltis only come in black, for the most part.

So I did some research. I'm definitely getting an orange Gentle Leader for the little guy and possibly a red one. I could have swore I remember there being burgundy Gentle Leaders but I can't find any information on them. North Star (where Boots is from) has burgundy listed as a color for Gentle Leaders but when I go to add it to my cart it's a martingale. If I want to buy them I'll contact them to see if they do in fact have burgundy Gentle Leaders. I found a place in Australia that has Haltis in five colors and when the pup gets here and a Halti is needed I'll order a very pretty Halti for him.

If you want to know the link(s) let me know, I have them.

What do you consider when putting your pup in a head collar? Just fit or which head collar you personally prefer, is color of the collar important to you, etc?

Here's the link for the Haltis.
This store has all the available GL colors in kits for amazingly cheap.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Since the organization I plan on raising for has the pups worked in headcollars the majority of time (not a requirement but strongly suggested) I'm looking around for some options.

I have a blue medium GL and a purple medium. Of course the blue on can be used, if it fits the pup's face. I also have a black size 2 Halti. I don't really want to use the blue GL on the new pup if I can avoid it, because it's Eclipse's.

I'm looking for somewhere to purchase colored Haltis. They tend to fit most dogs' faces better, in general, and I'm pretty well set on GLs if I need them. Not to mention they have a specific website where they can be ordered.

You guys were so terribly much help when I was looking for good training treats to use so I figured you'd be the ones to ask. Any place you know of that I can get an orange, red, green, burgundy, etc halti?

Thanks, all!

Ally, Teddy & Kira

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Things on the planning front for moving are going well. We have 1/3 of our deposit paid at this point and we're paying the other 2/3 on Friday. We have a lot of furniture lined up including a new couch set, a washer and dryer (thanks Coreena and Max!), a bedroom set we're buying from Coreena and Max, a mattress set we're getting from my in-laws and the furniture we have now. The bed we're using we're leaving here, the dresser is going to Coreena and Max as is our sectional. The sectional would fit in the new place but I think would be a little overpowering and I wouldn't like it. The couch and loveseat are (a very pretty) floral print which I'm not a big fan of. The couch and our big chair will go in the living room, we'll get a slip cover for the couch and the loveseat will go in the office, again with a slip cover on it. Things are coming together for the move. We're not real avid packers, but we'll get there. We are helping friends move this weekend, we're planning on moving next weekend. All is well. Once we move in and settle we'll get a small pantry for the dining room for additional storage and a table that will fold up, but the table won't be any time soon probably. Also on the To-Do list before the move: Strip Teddy and Kira's coats!

Ally, Teddy & Kira (who are eager for the move)

Friday, October 16, 2009


There was a suggestion to elevate Charlie's bowl to lessen the coughing/gagging and it has worked. He's also eating out of a bigger bowl and the food is floated, which he seems to enjoy. It's not helping him eat much faster but we'll come up with a solution so he doesn't take up all our morning time eating.

I think I'll drop his food back down to 5 cups a day versus 6. He's not putting on any significant amount of weight with the extra cup of food but his output is definitely increasing. We'll see how he does on five cups with added goodies throughout the day.

Thanks again for all the suggestions! I really appreciate it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More Photos

Of course I have tons more photos of Eclipse's visit with me. Around 125 photos and videos to be exact ;-)

They can be viewed here

It is private though, so if you'd like to view them send me an e-mail at lets_see_here (at) hotmail (dot) com

If you're not a regular reader of my blog and/or your blog isn't in my blogroll please let me know who you are and where you're from, then I'll decide if I'm comfortable giving you the password.



Charlie's eating 3 cups twice a day now, he needs to put some weight on! Who knew a doodle would eat so much at 6 months!?!

This morning, I timed him. He eats VERY slowly. This morning it took him 12 minutes to eat his breakfast. I don't always have time for him to spend 12 minutes eating and am wondering if anyone has any suggestions? He eats out of a smaller bowl, so I'll try one of the larger bowls today. He has tons of water right there, tonight I'll try soaking his food in water.

He gags/coughs while/after eating as well, which is strange to me since he eats sooo slow! Anyone have any suggestions. I know this isn't the normal eating issue we have as raisers, but we don't usually have crazy doodles either ;-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Big Day

For Charlie-Moe!

He, of course, joined us at work today. He chilled under whoever's desk he was at, like he always does. On lunch we challenged him a bit though. I worked with him on "tugging" with his leash (he only does so on command), walking with me while carrying his own leash and without me holding onto it. We also worked on "get your leash", "bring it here", "hold" and "give" at work. He's doing well. If I ask him to get his leash he picks it up near the handle and will hand it to me.

Of greater consequence though was I tested his knowledge of the "tug" command. I tied his leash to the door at work, entered the password to get in and asked him to tug. I held it open so I wouldn't have to re-enter the password but tug he did! Soon we will begin working on tugging objects around with the fleece, opening the fridge and introduce "nudge".

I got off work early and had to go get a new license (that was okay, but I hate the DMV today! Stupid rise in fees!) and Charlie went. He did fantastic, Alex held him while I took care of my business and he sat quietly and unobtrusively. Many people commented on his stellar behaviour. I even let him pick my debit card up off the floor and he's doing amazing at that, even on a linoleum floor. We introduced it with my license since the plastic was peeling and it prevented him from getting frustrated.

We also went through the big bad scary tire center at Wal-Mart. He did okay, was unsure but did well. Another thing we need to work on is things touching him from behind. It won't take long between Alex and me to get him used to that. I regularly grab the pups' tails while walking to desensitize them, Alex is just a brat and teases them to distract and challenge them.

Now, it's chill time. Tomorrow, if I can force myself to, we'll work on walking in the rain. The first time it rained on him he kept looking around trying to see what was touching him. Time to desensitize him to that, although now that the rain has started, he'll get used to it quickly for it won't stop until next late spring!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Secret Is Out

I have a secret I've been keeping from you all.

I was allowed to see Eclipse before he left, but it was a secret. I swore I wouldn't post about it.

Here's what happened.

As you all know, September 10 I got an e-mail stating that a final decision had been made on Eclipse's future. He would live with Joy and be a therapy/demo dog for JLAD. He would not graduate as a working service dog.

I asked if I would be allowed to see him. I was told no. I left it at that, didn't say anything about it other than my blog post stating I wasn't going to be allowed to say goodbye.

The following Monday I got a text at work asking if I wanted to see him to say goodbye, I did. I spent a few short moments with him behind a car, getting my "last" cuddles in with him and kissing his nose. Around 11 a.m. I got a phone call saying that due to my obvious true and deep love for him, if I promised to not post about it, I could have him at my house for a couple hours. I readily agreed.

Eclipse spent two blessed hours here with me and my family, and we loved every minute of it. He was so happy here. It was obvious to me that a career change was a good choice for him, having worked with him since he was 9 weeks and knowing the issues he's had ever since his arrival as an SDIT.

Right after his arrival. I told you he was ECSTATIC to be here

Prancing with his duck. Look familiar?

Being handsome in his favorite place to chill. Should look familiar again

He was telling me how happy he was, we were deep in conversation

Again deep in conversation. I was assuring him he could always come home if the opportunity presented itself. That still holds true to this day.

A happier dog you would be hard put to find, than Eclipse when he's home. A happier girl you'd be even harder put to find, than me when Eclipse is home.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Soundness And Socializing. What, really do they have to do with each other? Some dogs are naturally confident, others not so much. What issues like sound sensitivity, traffic over-awareness, stress on outings, overall "softness" are caused by inappropriate socialization?

Some will argue none of them are. Others may wonder what I'm refering to.

Too much socialization, too early, can cause soundness issues. How much is considered too much depends on the dog and type of socialization. GDB puppies are allowed to go in public at varying ages, depends on the club. Locally, it's immediately. Others have to wait until they're 16 weeks of age.

Iverson didn't go on many outings as a baby baby puppy. We went to club meetings and maybe a small store every now and then but we were careful to follow the socialization guide in the manual. He got plenty of practice behaving in jacket at home and on walks. It didn't help that we were in school full time and he couldn't go, but he did go to work with our mom at the dealership. He did well there, no fear reactions. Iverson was a very sound puppy, confidence was not something he was lacking. He could have handled going out in public more as a pup. The question is, would it have been beneficial? If we'd taken him to an overwhelming place during a fear period, his soundness could have been compromised and it could have taken much time to rectify, if at all.

We didn't do this on purpose, it's just how it worked out. As first time raisers, we didn't know this from experience. I may give fear periods a bit much power, however, I don't believe so. Below are two pictures of Eclipse being held after the wreck. In the first one you can see how tight I am holding him (sorry for the quality, these are cropped out of the backgrounds of photos of the scene). In the second one Coreena is holding him (Eva was there too but someone else had her) he's obviously not comfortable at this point. There were cop cars, firetrucks running and an ambulance, not to mention the emotion charged air. He was in a fear period at this time, I believe. He had confidence issues when he arrived, but I'm sure the wreck didn't help his overall soundness at all. I strongly feel that his later fear of cars was not due to the wreck, but I digress.

Three weeks later we got their jackets. Eclipse did fine on the short, unassuming outings we took him on. He went to quiet, small stores with us. You may remember he also accompanied us to the mall. In this case, I don't think it was too much for him. He was happy and relaxed and our mall is extremely small and quiet. I don't think the mall here would be overwhelming for even the most insecure dog in training.

We also took him and Eva to a restuarant. Looking back on it, that restuarant may have been a bit loud/busy for these particular puppies but we can't change it now.

I'm sure most, if not all, of us have taken a pup on an outing that we later wish we hadn't. These few occurences aren't what affect a dog's soundness. What does is the constant, immediate high-stress/energy/stimulation outings that some raisers subject their puppies to.

GDB says warehouse stores like Costco (or scaled down in this area, Big Lots even) are reserved for puppies, I believe, five months and over. Some raisers ignore that and take their 8 week old puppies in, just have them sit in the shopping cart. While sitting rather than walking can lower the chance of over-stimulation on a puppy, it's not by much, especially not in a situation like Costco with people everywhere, items stacked to the ceiling, the echos, the machines, the smells, etc.

Other organizations say amusement parks, fairs, circus' are out until the pups are a year or older.

Each organization has different policies, but each of them are for a good reason. With guide dog organizations (especially GDB) breeding softer dogs, early socialization is even more important than it was even five years ago. A soft puppy can require special handling but also special socializing.

Is it appropriate to take any 8 week old puppy to the grocery store the minute you get them home? Possibly. What certainly is appropriate is giving the 8 week old puppy time to adjust to living in a home, relieving on leash and learning to interact with humans much more exclussively than before. When they seem to be adjusted it's appropriate to introduce them to riding in cars (if not earlier), wearing their jacket (if not earlier) and walking around the outside of a quiet store. The doors, windows, displays outside the store, shopping carts, parking lots is plenty for a young puppy, maybe a bit much. If the pup is fine maybe it's okay to walk inside the door a little ways, then sit and watch the activity. If not, find a spot outside and chill there, letting the pup take it all and get comfortable with it.

Does it take time? Yes. Does it contribute to returning more sound dogs to training? Certainly.

Outings should start out short, sweet and fun if possible. Only after the pup is completely comfortable in public should outings become long, challenging and very active.

Our end goal is to return a balanced, sound, comfortable dog to the organization for training. Routine (to begin with), a slow, comfortable introduction to public and regular socializing contribute to that. Remember, being in a home with humans, vaccuums, dishwashers, washers and dryers, running water, bathtubs, vehicles, etc IS socialization. Socializing starts at home, progresses to neighborhood walks (some people don't agree, but depending on the neighborhood it's fine for a pup to walk on the pavement before they have all their shots, much safer than going to petco), outside a quiet store, inside a quiet store/coffee shop where the pup can sit and watch, walking a short time in a store (say a quiet video store) and progressively longer, harder, more stimulating situations. (work is generally a different story depending on the dog/work environment)

A puppy shouldn't be expected to go into a home, learn commands and go on full-blown outings that they'll be going on when working all at once. If socializing is taken slowly, easily and according to the puppy organizations will be getting more sound dogs in for training, the dogs will have a greater chance of graduating and everyone will be happier. *Edit* Thank you to Penelope and Brianna's raiser for pointing out that on the flipside it's important to listen to the puppies no matter their age. Evett wasn't able to go on the easiest outings even though she was 5.5/6 months. You shouldn't take a puppy on an outing that could be detrimental to them, no matter their age and no raiser should be looked down on for listening to their puppy. Thank you, Brianna's raiser!

I didn't come up with this on my own. Kimberly with Rufus mentioned that at a guide dog conference many of the organizations mentioned they're seeing soundness issues due to inappropriate/too early socializing of their puppies.

Even long time raisers need reminded every now and then that socializing needs introduced, starts at home and should be slow and painless, not rushed and immediate. I forgot this when I got Eclipse and while I don't regret it and there's nothing I could have done to prevent the wreck, I will certainly remember it for the next little one that graces my life.

If you have anything to add/say please feel free to comment. Socializing is a big part of our jobs as raisers and it should be discussed every now and then ;-)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The word

The landlord called me yesterday while I was at work and said we're approved to live there like he knew we would be (it helps to be clean and nice when looking at places to rent!) and while he'd be out of town until Tuesday when he gets back we can put some of our deposit down to reserve it until our move-in date.

The place isn't ready to move into just yet, the carpets need steam cleaned and the paint needs touched up (and the weeds in the yard need cut down, I'm gonna see if I can put rock back there instead). Next weekend we're out of town (can't move in then) but if it's ready by the 24/25th we may move in then! All we need to do is buy a bed and we're good to go!

I have some "creative thinking" to do to expand the kitchen capacity (a buffet or shelf/cupboards of some sort) and still have a table and room to move around but all is well!

The sooner we move in the sooner I can apply for a lab puppy from CST! :-D

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sooner than..


I should be able to get a puppy within the next couple months. Why? Because we applied for a duplex today, only one road over from where we live now. We're unofficially approved to move in, will officially be approved in the morning. Move in date? Around the first! It's so cute! It's small, two bedrooms but our furniture will fit, our dogs will fit and we can raise there. How do I know? I asked! He does not care, as long as people don't complain.

The best part? Not only will it just be us and our dogs again, but it has a sliding glass door to a little fenced in area for Kira to potty in! I can't wait!

Like Coreena said, Moe is six months old today! His retrieve is probably his strongest behavoir, he picked up my license today and has picking up cards off linoleum down to an art! We are definitely working through some um... hesitancies he has at the moment (yes, I realize that's not a word) but he's in a fear period, it's to be expected.

I can't wait to have a puppy of my own again. While I'm sure some of you are concerned about my attatchment to Eclipse, don't be. Eclipse will always have a special place in my heart and a spot in my home if he's allowed to come home. However, my love for him does not inhibit my ability to work with, love or train other dogs.

I hope I can prove that to anyone doubting me when my, hopefully, black lab puppy gets here within the next few months.

Ally, Teddy & Kira (ready to move out on our own again, with Jax of course!)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Puppy?

Charlie-Moe looks like a new puppy! A few old pictures to begin with.

After clipping his face Alex and I curled up on the floor with Charlie to watch House, when we left Charlie decided the unused pillow was his. At work yesterday Charlie was working like a dog

He loves carrying stuff, especially water bottles (and since we were using my leather leash yesterday he got to carry stuff to prevent him from grabbing the leash) but when they are 3/4 or so full they're difficult to hold. As soon as he moves it falls out of his mouth. He's getting better about it and is learning to hold it more to one side and balance it so the water doesn't slosh around. On our walk at lunch there were two men on a roof putting in a window. Charlie was quite concerned, worried ears, quick walk, watching them, blowing his lips, etc. We worked through it, I just wish I'd had some goodies with me! I love the labbie forehead wrinkles!
Just a sweet picture of him cuddling with my feet at work.
After work (shaped up to be a busy day for us!) we worked more on Charlie's do! Here he is helping me clip his foot. Yes, my cheeks are very red! No, Charlie wasn't helping at all! :-D He's getting better with the clippers though, holds still for the most part! I got a strange burst of energy last night and found it hilarious to "pin" back Moe's ears. It gives his face a very entertaining look! (Okay, so I rubberbanded them loosely and he left them like that) I LOVE the crossed feet, he does it all the time, but with his more poodley feet now it's even cuter!
:-DFirst thing this morning I clipped Charlie-Moe more. I got him almost all finished in one sitting but had to take a break before finishing up his back feet (he didn't enjoy them being clipped for some reason). He also got his nails clipped and brushed out. Now, I think he's adorable!
He definitely looks like a new puppy, but I assure you, he's the same goofy Moe!
I love the combination of the labby face with those prissy poodle feet!
Labby wrinkles, mostly labby face, poodle/labby ears, prissy poodle feet!
A close up of his prissy feet! Yes, his nails are crooked like a poodles even, and some of them have black lines on them like Loden's did do! :-D
As for a new puppy for me? I've decided I'll request a lab puppy from CST. I'll raise that puppy and see how it goes. If it goes well CST is my new home. If not, my options are still open with 3-4 other organizations I'm interested in raising for. Hopefully the lab will be here before Charlie leaves /wink/

Ally, Teddy, Kira, Charlie (in the crate upstairs, time alone is important) and maybe a new labby? ;-)

Monday, October 5, 2009


You may remember when "Moe" arrived this is what he looked like...
Then he got his scissor cut "doodledo" and looked much cuter (and Cleaner!)
This picture was taken today, just short of two weeks after his scissor clipping. Yes, his hair is CRAZY again, no I don't like it.
So we got brave and brought out the clippers. Here he is after I was able to clip just his right eyebrow and cheek...
and after preliminary clipping on the right side of his face. Yes, he was less than thrilled with me. Yes, he's on two tie-downs, otherwise he was hopping around=danger!
After going over his whole face and some of his head. His ear "fluffs" and 'stache are still present, along with crazies on his head
After I clipped some more, his face got cleaned up, his 'stache disappeared, his hair crazies were dismissed and I gouged his forehead (oops! first time shaving a dog like this)
Then his ear hairs were scissor trimmed just a bit and then he looks Very lab-like. Here at least.
Almost eerily like Loden. This is the best pic I could find for the angle, although Loden still looks very puppyish in it. With age his nose lengthened. Trust us ;-)
At other times/angles he looks very poodle-esque
I promise, he's a lab/poodle cross, not an Appaloosa with his apple butt! (It's just slightly out of proportion *wink*)

Hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to trim up his neck/throat, back and feet. Then his true genetics will be shown. I think he'll look more poodley than ever, but we shall see!

What I love about Charlie-Moe: He randomly gives you kisses to let you know he loves you. He grabs your arm/shirt/pants when he's overly ecstatic to see you, Bad but makes you feel loved! We're working on it. And he tolerates my picture taking and random spurts of energy to try and make him look decent. I Want him to look like a poodle, but he's not really complying!

Ally & a sleeping Moe-Char! (Although he may go back to Charlie being all clean-cut like he is!)