Sunday, October 23, 2011

Carillon Park October 15th

For our Saturday meeting in October, we met at the Hilton parking lot located in the Carillon office park on a beautiful fall morning. We began with some sit-stays and down-stays as I weaved (wove?) through the pups, testing their ability to maintain their position with a new person passing nearby. I then did it again, this time lightly stepping on the pups' paws and tails. No, I do not enjoy tormenting puppies, but the reality is that they will get stepped up (lightly and not), so it is good to help prepare them for that. It wasn't always easy for the pups to stay, but they did pretty well.

Next, we practiced two people greeting each other with their pups calm at their sides. We divided into pairs standing facing each other with our pups sitting at our sides, maybe 10 feet apart. Then one person-dog team moved in one step, and the pup sat again. As long as the pups behaved, we got closer and closer, until finally the two people could shake hands and chat, with nicely sitting pups at their sides. Everyone did great!

Then I talked a bit about the proper way to busy your pup. Since there's a lot to say about this (really!), I will follow up with a separate post on the subject.

After our obedience session, we headed over to the sculpture garden in front of the Raymond James building. The sculpture garden is full of all kinds of statues of people and animals in various poses. These familiar but unmoving forms can be unnerving to dogs. Below you can see Julianne and Georgie checking out a sitting cowboy.

Like the other dogs at our meeting, Georgie didn't really have a problem with it. I complained that our group was kind of boring – everybody does everything so well! Really, great job, guys, for raising these confident puppies that can handle just about anything!

After our uneventful visit to the sculpture garden, we headed back to the Hilton for a walk around the entrance fountain. Here Heather is helping raiser applicant RĂ€andi handle JR, who, of course, is happily unconcerned about the splashing water. Good work for such a little guy!

It was time to head over to the boardwalk that goes around Lake Carillon. Betty Jo and Dawson, along with several other raisers and pups, stopped to watch several turtles swimming next to the boardwalk.

We also crossed the bridge across the lake, with its noisy metal ramps at each end that we made sure to stomp on to see if we could get a rise out of the pups. No such luck. Here JR is leading Heather, no doubt eager to get to the next metal ramp. "Can we do it again?"

On the other side of the lake is a small park around the carillon tower that gives the area its name – a carillon which never seems to make a sound, alas. Pups Georgie (with Lincoln, Julianne, and Jennie) and Tammy (with sitter Lauren) are walking nicely and not lunging for a green, leafy snack – though Georgie does look tempted!

We finally ended up back in a shady spot of the Hilton parking lot, where the pups enjoyed a drink of water while I made some announcements, which I'll detail in a followup entry.

Sunrise Lanes September 27th

Marcy brought her bag of distraction tricks to our meeting at Sunrise Lanes, which she started off with some obedience in the parking lot. Step 1: Everybody swap dogs when the photographer isn't looking, so he won't know who's who! Actually, swapping dogs for obedience sessions is a great thing to do. It helps you appreciate where your pup is doing well while also giving you an idea of areas to work on. For the pups, it helps to teach them to obey whoever is holding the leash.

We began with a forward walk in a circle. Raiser applicant Amber assisted by walking around with a big red stuffed... something. Because you never know when you will run into one of those!

Then Amber was put to work sweeping the parking lot while Marcy raked. Not only do we raise guide dog puppies, we do beautification on the side. Ah, multitasking.

Next, Marcy went all Evel Knievel on us and put on a motorcycle helmet. You would think that would freak out some of the pups, but no, they were ready to go jump Snake River Canyon with her, as evidenced by the enthusiasm of Black Dogs #3 and #4.

Finally, Marcy lassoed some kids rolling by on bikes to take a few spins in front of the puppies.

Then it was time for all of the pups to head into the bowling alley to feel the ecstasy of strikes and spares and the agony of gutter balls – or at least to deal with the sounds those events make. There was some hesitancy at first, but ultimately everyone came out a winner (except the photographer, who couldn't figure out how to get his borrowed camera to take pictures in the dark).

We finished up on the sidewalk walking along the street at dusk and called it a night.

John's Pass September 10th

For our Saturday meeting in September, we revisited one of my favorite meeting places as a puppy raiser, John's Pass. Maybe it's the name... Actually, what I like about John's Pass is that there is so much to do there.

The meeting got off to an exciting start before most of us were even there when Marcy's new BLF finish dog Lizzy BROKE HER CHAIN COLLAR! Incredibly, Dave had a spare. (Really, who carries a spare chain collar, you know, in case one breaks? Guess we all should now.) Joining Lizzy as new pups in our group were littermates Eckerd (YLF, being raised by the Krisemans) and JR (BLM, being raised by Victoria Martin).

After Dave and Samuel stepped in a hurricane machine to see how the dogs would react (no chains broken, fortunately, or even strained), we got under way by walking under the bridge that goes over the pass, with its nice echoey sound and sea birds on nearby rocks tempting the dogs like sirens. Come to me, and crash your ships on these rocky shoals. (Gotta stop reading mythology before I post.) Regrettably, I was too mesmerized to take a photo. The dogs did well, though.

We then proceeded to go up the steps to cross the bridge, stopping halfway across to enjoy the view of the gulf from the observation platform. As if on cue, the drawbridge went up. BONUS! (Only cost me a hundred bucks.) As you can see, the dogs were unimpressed – which, of course, is a good thing.

Then we went back down to cross the boardwalk to the beach so the pups could have a chance to experience the tingle of sand between their toes and the thrill of sea foam rushing up to greet them. They took it in stride.

We came back across the boardwalk, with Rick and Eckerd leading the way, Eckerd looking like she was on a mission. Could it have something to do with those menacing black clouds looming overhead?

Before the storm rolled in, we did one more sea exposure along the rocky shore, just so everyone would have the opportunity to get drenched by a wave. I do believe Diane and Berniece were the soggy "winners," though nature gave me a bit of a comeuppance as well.

Nancy and Dawson go out as far as you can go. I swear I did not make anyone walk the plank at this meeting, it just looks that way.

Finally, we passed back under the bridge from nature to civilization and a boardwalk village full of interesting and fun things to spend money on. That's headless Heather (sorry about that) with Hunter and sister Danielle with Mitch bravely confronting the guard dog at the village pet store. Drawbridges and waves may be no big deal, but stuffed yellow Labs are another story!

The boardwalk provided plenty of open-slat stairs to practice on and all sorts of nooks and crannies to explore, but it didn't take long for the rain to come and wash us all away. As we huddled in our sheltered space, we said goodbye to Berniece, Bruce & Mitch, who would soon be going in for training to begin the next step in their path to become guide dogs.

St. Pete-Clearwater Airport August 23rd

Despite a torrential and gusty downpour that occurred just as yours truly was trying to get from the parking lot to the terminal with supplies and two dogs in tow, we had a memorable meeting at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport. We were joined by the Central Pinellas group, which made the otherwise quiet terminal building seem busier.

We started off in baggage claim, where the dogs were unfazed by the baggage belt warning buzzer and motion of the belt and bags. You can see several of the pups here wondering why we're waiting for bags when we haven't gone anywhere yet. Don't you guys know you're supposed to get on the plane first?

Next, we headed over to security to get some practice in the proper way to travel with our pups. The important lesson to remember here is that if you fly with your pup, you do not ever need to remove your dog's collar and leash or let go of the leash. The best way to go through the metal detector with your dog is to approach the detector, stop just before it, and have your dog sit and stay. You then walk through the detector by yourself and, when told to do so, turn and tell your dog to come. This way you each go through the detector separately while still maintaining complete control of your dog.

You may have heard or been told in the past that you had to let go of your leash to proceed through security. You may even be asked by a TSA agent to remove your dog's collar and leash. Whether or not this was a requirement before, it is definitely not the case now, so be sure to follow the procedure above for the safety of you, your puppy, and your fellow travelers.

(If you're like me and you want proof, here are a couple of links on this topic from the TSA site, about traveling with service animals and pets. Note that even for pets it says, "You may walk your animal through the metal detector with you," so insisting on maintaining leash control with your guide dog in training is simply following standard procedure.)

I believe this is Hunter showing us how it's done. (With several black Labs at this meeting being handled by people who are not their puppy raisers, I could be wrong. Corrections always welcome.)

Hunter does not seem to mind a patdown on the other side one bit.

Once everyone made it through security, we gathered in the waiting area to board our chartered jet to CancĂșn. Oh wait, that was just a dream. Nonetheless, Allegiant Air was kind enough to allow us to board one of their planes. Here is Victoria with (hm, I wonder if she remembers) Georgie, who prefers a window not too close to the wing.

Tammy relaxes by the bulkhead, which is where traveling guide dog puppies and working guides often find themselves. No barf bag for her!

Here are Melisa and Bruce deplaning down the jetway after our landing in Mexico. Er... Bruce is stylin' in his harness just a few weeks before he goes in for guide dog training.

A big thank-you to Michele at PIE (that's air traffic controller-speak for St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport, though really, why PIE?) for allowing us to have our meeting there and for arranging all the cool exposures. Everyone seemed to have a great time, with some commenting that we should do this every year. I still think for next year's meeting, we should actually go somewhere – though when you walk outside in the warm, humid air with palm trees everywhere, who's to say you're not in Mexico?

¿Tu AC es loco, no?