Sunday, August 19, 2012

International Plaza August 11

Our Saturday meeting in August was at Tampa's International Plaza, a large mall with lots to see and do.

We started in the parking garage, where we reviewed the proper approach to going up and down stairs and riding an elevator. We also took some time to expose the pups to an escalator. We are NEVER to take our puppies on an escalator or moving sidewalk – that is advanced training that they will do once they go in for training. But we can get them used to the sound and motion by having them stand or sit on the platform by the escalator, as Marcy and puppy Hayden demonstrate.

The mall contains fountains, shiny stairways, second-level walkways with glass sides, a children's play area, and a ton of stores with different environments for our pups to explore. (Check out the Disney Store's sparkling floor!) Here is Mars (handled by Larry) enjoying another highlight: the glass elevators.

Another feature of International Plaza that is always a good exposure is the people who shop there. Here, Zoe is doing her best to promote the mission of Southeastern Guide Dogs while raiser Tonia gets to hone her public-relations chops. (That's puppy Nigel with new raiser Ellen in the background doing their part as well.)

When it was all over, Maggie was more than happy to go out to lunch.

Northeast Park Shopping Center July 24

Our Tuesday meeting was planned by David to be at Crescent Lake Park, but because the weather forecast was iffy, I switched it at the last minute to Northeast Park Shopping Center. Wouldn't you know, it was a beautiful evening. Oh well.

Marcy led one group while David led another in preparation for his group breaking away to be on their own as of August 1. I stayed with David to offer any help I could, but he put everyone through their paces like a pro. We did some obedience, we walked through Publix, we crossed a crosswalk, and we ended by having the puppies be near a truck with a diesel engine to see how they would react. Just another successful puppy outing (except for the part where Mars had an accident in Publix, but I digress). Once again, I regret that I have no pictures to show for it. Too obsessed about the weather, I guess.

Good luck, St. Pete West group! Be sure to write!

Armed Forces History Museum July 14

Our Saturday meeting in July was at a place new to me, the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo. We started off in the Officers' Club, where we met new pups Zoe (with new raisers Tonia and Alexis) and Koko (with new raiser Diane and family) along with new raisers Ellen and Dennis, who would be getting their pup Nigel later in the day.

We talked about approved toys, making some important points:

- rope toys are no longer approved as they can cause your pup to ingest a string, which can wreak havoc in your pup's intestines; use braided felt or fleece toys instead

- sterile bones are no longer approved, nor are antlers, hooves, pig's ears, or rawhides; use Nylabones instead

- do not use balls that roll in a straight line; use Kongs or objects that stop when they land

- introduce puzzle toys to your pup; these cause pieces of kibble to come out at certain times, which increases the pups fascination with the toy; choices include those from Starmark, Premier (Busy Buddy), Petstages, Bionic, Nina Ottosson, Kylen, and the Kong Wobbler.

We also practiced some obedience, including teaching the new "turn" command. "Turn" is an unusual command for our pups because they have to learn to be facing the opposite direction from us, which is not at all normal for them. Hopefully once we all have it down, it will make it easier us to have our pups at our side when sitting at a table in a restaurant, with the pup's tail safely under the table and the head close by where we can see and correct as needed.

We were fortunate to have Michael Jernigan and his guide dog Brittani join us and give us a tour of the museum. Mike was a corporal with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq and has also been very involved with the Armed Forces History Museum, so he shared many insights as we made our way around the building. With areas replicating a World War I trench, a French village in World War II, and a good bit of the Pacific, along with all the articles on display (including a Sherman tank!), there was plenty to catch the interest of both people and pups.

This meeting was also our farewell to Eckerd (raised by Kerry, Rick, and family) and JR (raised by Victoria), who are off on the next stage of their guide-dog adventure.

Clearwater Threshers Game June 28

Our June Tuesday meeting was on a Thursday, and it almost didn't happen, as a ton of rain over the weekend left Bright House Field knee-deep in water on Monday. Fortunately, this minor-league ballpark has a major-league draining system, and we were able to go on with our meeting as planned.

We started off with the big news that our group is splitting in two! As of August 1, we'll have two groups in St. Pete,  East and West. I will continue to be the AC of the East group, and David Caras has agreed to take on the role of AC for the West group. Marcy and I will miss everyone going off to the West group, but I know Dave will do a great job!

This was also the first meeting for new puppy Maggie, raised by new raisers Katie & Jeff.

Threshers games offer a wealth of great exposures for our puppies. You can walk completely around the field, crossing a pedestrian bridge, passing a lawn where there are always kids throwing baseballs, and going by a kids' play area where there are pitches being thrown and hit plus other unique sounds. There are often team mascots out and about, there's the team store (for when you need an air-conditioned break), and there are all those great-smelling concession stands. And oh yeah, there's also a baseball game. Plenty to do, and a nice, relaxing, fun place to do it. Too bad our group photographer (yours truly) didn't get any of it on film –er, pixels.

Dog Wash at Marcy's House June 9

Marcy hosted and led our June Saturday meeting, and new puppy Otis (raised by Brandon) was in the house (literally). Marcy started off with a slew of medical tips for our dogs and ended with all the pups getting a bath.

Here's a basic rundown of Marcy's medical tips:

Program your phone to include numbers for your vet, the emergency vet, John, and Marcy

Know your dog's normal temperature (every dog is different)
- the normal range is between 101 and 102.5
- use an ear or rectal thermometer

Know your dog's pulse
- the normal range is 70-150 beats per minute
- feel pulse inside thigh using your first two fingers

Have a first-aid kit with:

- ACE bandage or secure gauze bandage to use to muzzle a hurt dog to protect you, since dogs may instinctively bite when in pain
- Benadryl for an allergic reaction to stings and bites (1 mg per pound of dog's weight)
- buffered aspirin (NOT Tylenol) (5 mg per pound)
- camphor - topical treatment for stings and bites
- thermometer

Other handy items:

- towel to put under dog to carry it or to provide warmth for dog in shock or to cool off a dog suffering heat stroke (dampen towel in water at room temperature and wrap around dog)
- sunblock towelettes (Neutrogena hypoallergenic) for nose and footpads
- Bag Balm or Hibiclens for itchy spots (don't use on an open wound)
- mouthwash to wipe a dog's neck after it has played with a pup (that would be biting the dog's neck!)

To perform CPR:

- have the dog lying on its right side; if you push its left arm closed, the elbow will be where the heart is
- check for blockage
- puff through the nose
- use five chest compressions for each breath

For choking:

- try to clear the dog's airway with your hand
- if that doesn't work, lift the dog by its hind legs, place your knee between its legs, and press up under the rib cage (Heimlich maneuver)

For drowning:

- check for airway obstruction
- lift by hind legs and move back and forth in swinging motion to get the water to roll out

(Petey kindly allows Marcy to save him from drowning below.)

For fleas:

- Vet's Best spray kills fleas on contact; Marcy also treats her yard every other month

Marcy also has a clever way of giving our pups a bath, as we discovered. Marcy's trick is to fill a gallon milk jug most of the way with water, add a little shampoo, shake, and use that mixture to pour over the dog. That way, you don't waste a lot of water or get the dog too soapy, and you can pour the mixture just where you want it. Rinse with another gallon of water, and you're good to go!

Lots of useful info at this meeting, and clean puppies to boot!

Northwest Park May 22

May's Tuesday meeting at Northwest Park was led by PRS Field Rep Jen, who gave us all some tips on dealing with our puppies when they are distracted or jumping.

For instance, if your puppy constantly eats grass and sticks, take some time to practice teaching her not to by having her sit or lie down in a grassy area and correcting her every time she goes for something to chew on. By teaching her this way, she will not be so ready to eat grass at other times when you're focusing on something else.

To help prevent a dog from jumping, keep the leash loose as someone greeting the dog approaches. A tight leash encourages the jump reflex. Have the person stop a few steps away and let your dog "take a break" to greet. With a loose leash, the dog is more likely to keep four on the floor. If the dog does jump, give a leash correction and take the dog away from the person he wants to greet. It may take repeated lessons, but eventually the dog will learn that he does not get the reward he wants (greeting) if he jumps.

We ended the meeting with a walk by the tennis court where the dogs were able to observe a game and show how bored they were by tennis. (Wish I had a pic, but I forgot my camera.)

Southeastern Guide Dogs Main Campus May 12

The Saturday meeting in May was at the main campus of Southeastern Guide Dogs, on a day when the school was having an open house. Not only did that mean we had plenty of people to expose our puppies to; we also got to be the main attraction when we had our obedience session in the middle of the Freedom Courtyard, surrounded by various booths, with Southeastern trainers and staff looking on as we practiced a new way to teach our pups the "heel" command. I'm happy to say we acquitted ourselves admirably.

A good part of our time was spent without the puppies at our sides, however, as we put them in van crates so we could go on a guided tour. I think that might be Phoenix being maneuvered into the van – or possibly practicing his skydiving pose.

Genetics and Reproduction Manager Jessi Powell was our tour guide as we traveled on the Freedom Walk and learned about the Training Kennel, the Puppy Kennel, the new veterinary clinic about to be constructed, the dog memorial garden, and other points of interest that help to make a Southeastern guide dog. And what would a tour be without a stop for puppy hugging?

Everyone got a chance to learn more about the organization we are a part of, and new raiser Annie got a bonus at the end of the tour when she picked up her puppy, Sasha!

US Coast Guard Station St Petersburg April 24

We met at the United States Coast Guard Station in St. Petersburg for April's Tuesday meeting, where the puppies had a chance to experience a lot of different underfootings, especially crossing the metal gangway that allowed them to board a boat. Or so I hear. Unfortunately, I had to miss this meeting, so I don't have any pictures or any more details to share – except that my puppy, Mars, apparently acted like a little hellion the whole time. Maybe it's just as well I wasn't there!

Weedon Island Preserve April 14

Our April Saturday meeting brought a hello to new puppy Phoenix (raised by new raisers Carol & John) and a goodbye to pups Legion (raised by Trudy & John), Lizzy (Marcy & Randy), Polly (Jean), and Tammy (Darlene) going in for their guide dog training. Good luck, pups!

Once again, we split into two groups. My group's first half was spent in the Resource Center building, doing a bit of obedience in the classroom and then exploring the extensive display about the Weedon Island ecosystem.

We then joined up with our tour guide to learn more about nature traveling along the boardwalk that goes through the Preserve. Everyone seems to be enjoying it so far.

Looks like Eckerd (right, with Kerry) would rather be kayaking, while Petey (with David) just needs to sit and relax.

Everyone enjoys the view from the lookout.

Eckerd practices being ladylike as she leads Kerry down the steps.

It got a little hot out there, but everyone agreed it was worth it.

Target at Gateway Mall March 27

Our Tuesday meeting in March was at the Target store in the Gateway Mall shopping center, which was also the first meeting for Hayden (being raised by Marcy and Randy) and Trapper (raised by Trudy and John).

Marcy led the group in various obedience exercises, including one where the pups were serenaded by a saxophone.

The pups also experienced the lights and siren of a police car. Petey, the First Puppy of St. Pete (seen here with David), will not be happy to find out the paparazzi caught him being escorted into the back!

We then followed the example of Maytag (below, with Julianne, Jen, and Lincoln) and ventured into Target for some shopping exposures.

And that, as they say, was that.

Great Explorations March 10

For our Saturday meeting in March, we headed over to Great Explorations Children's Museum. Once again, we split into two groups of older puppies (with Marcy) and younger puppies (with me). We had a new pup in our group, Theo, being raised by Southeastern employee Katie with Brandon, and we had past raisers Linda and Kerry join us as they start to finish Bobby.

My group of younger pups started with some outside obedience in the parking lot, practing forward, right about, changing our walking pace (slowing down and speeding up without using a command), and stopping. Tip: To get your pup moving with you, avoid using "come on" (since "come" is a separate command) and use something like "let's go." Speaking of "come," we practiced our come command on a long line, with everyone being gratified to learn that yes, your puppy will come to you!

We then moved to the sidewalk by a busy 4th Street to practice sits while the traffic passed and then walks, including walking by the other dogs.

Then it was time to head inside to let the kids visiting Great Explorations interact with our pups. Here is Popi calmly enjoying the attention (with Ric on the other end of the leash).

His brother Mars, being handled by Carol, likes it, too.

After our time with the kids, we walked the pups around the various museum exhibits, where they had a chance to experience all sorts of sights and sounds you don't come across every day.

We ended the meeting with some announcements. Then some of us headed across the street to have lunch with puppy raising friends past and present.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tyrone Square Mall February 28

Our Tuesday meeting in February brought us to Tyrone Square Mall, where we gathered in – or maybe I should say "took over" – the central court to begin.

Marcy had organized a scavenger hunt that took the puppies into several stores to experience many different types of environments, including Old Navy, Finish Line, Yankee Candle, Starbucks, Express, and Bath & Body Works. It was also a test of our puppies' abilities to NOT "busy" in the tempting confines of a shopping mall. I know of at least one puppy that did not pass that test – my own Mars, who made his debut at this meeting with his brother Popi. Let's hope this is not a harbinger of things to come.

Here's Popi with Ric and Betty Jo. What a good boy!

And here's Mars with Larry and Gabrielle, acting all innocent just before emptying both bladder and bowels in the mall. There's a reason we travel with cleanup supplies!

Along with the scavenger hunt, a roving train, a kiddie ride, and (at least for some of us) a food court provided further exposures for our pups before we called it a night.

Tampa International Airport February 11

Our Saturday meeting in February was at Tampa International Airport, which provided a whole host of different exposures from our visit to the much-quieter St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport last August. For one thing, it was much harder to describe where to meet!

But meet we did in one of the parking garages, where we divided the group into older and younger pups for some obedience exercises, including offering the pups the chance to do their business on concrete before we headed to the almost-completely carpeted terminal building. We also did a collar check to make sure the young puppies' buckle collars were no looser than two finger widths. It's important to keep these collars that tight so that if something unexpected frightens the pup, it cannot slip out of its collar and run away.

We began our journey by riding the monorail, one of the few working train-type transports in the Tampa Bay area. Here are Eric, Petey (aka St. Petersburg's First Puppy, attending his first meeting), and Eckerd (along with their handler torsos Melisa, Dave, and Kerry) enjoying their monorail ride.

After riding the monorail's full circuit, we walked by the monorail track to get to the terminal, so our pups could experience train travel from the outside too!

Once we got in the terminal, we took the elevators down to the ground floor to some grassy "busy" areas by some loud and misty fountains.

Then it was back inside to baggage claim, where a flight had just arrived to accommodate our exposure needs. Below, Tammy (with handler Darlene) looks ready to grab the first bag she recognizes, while Tommy (with Donna), Maytag (with Jen, Lincoln, and Julianne), and Nancy (with Starr) wait patiently.

We got back in the elevators to go to the concourse level, where we stopped by the observation deck (a good place to run to if you need a cement busy area ASAP), then walked by several shops as well as some diners just on the other side of a low fence at TGI Friday's. Mmm, French fries!

An airport display in the process of setup or teardown provided an impromptu obstacle course for the pups, who navigated it effortlessly by just following Tommy as he found the way to the wall. We continued through the Marriott hotel's lobby to their outside patio, complete with a wooden bridge for us to cross, as Polly (with Jean) does below.

We rested at the end so Dave could hand out Petey's business cards advertising Walkathon. Then we had one final exposure on a bridge over the roaring fountains that led us back to the parking garage and home.

Canine Body Language January 26

Our "Tuesday" meeting in January was held on a Thursday as we got together with the North Pinellas group for a presentation by Jen Gerrity about canine body language. We met at the Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater, where our first step was to go through building security.

That done, we made our way to a second-floor conference room, where we all barely fit in. Fortunately, Jen was able to connect her computer to the projection system without a hitch.

Jen talked about various aspects of canine body language, including:

- ear position (up and alert may indicate tension, hanging normally indicates relaxed confidence, and lying back shows fear or submission);

- tail position (high can be tense or aggressive, normal is relaxed, low or curled under is fearful or unsure); and

- body profile (puffed up with hackles raised is aggressive, normal is relaxed confidence, low with the head turned shows stress or uncertainty).

Jen also answered raisers' questions about various issues they were having, such as relieving separation anxiety by using a toy filled with food as a distracting challenge or correcting jumping by having a leash on the dog when company is expected and being ready to give firm downward leash corrections at the first sign of jumping.

We look forward to our next quarterly meeting with Jen.

Saturday Morning Market January 14

It was a brisk, sunny day when we met at St. Petersburg's Saturday Morning Market.

After walking around the area a bit to get the pups loosened up and relaxed, we stopped at a park across from the market for some pre-market business.

Due to changes in the Pinellas County groups, we had several new raisers with us for the first time, so we started with introductions.

We then began going over some new information posted by Jen Gerrity on The Blue Coat Journal (since renamed The Blue Cape Journal) about greetings.

First, we practiced how our puppies should greet people, putting the pup in a sit when the visitor is a few feet away. If the pup is in a controlled state, we can then say "take a break" to allow the pup to go up to the visitor to greet. Giving the pup this opportunity to move toward the visitor on her own makes it less likely she will want to jump. If the pup jumps or otherwise misbehaves, correct her, move away, and try again. If the pup is under 10 months of age, this is an example of a time when it's OK to use "take a break" with your puppy in coat. If the pup is 10 months or older, petting in coat is to be discouraged, as by this time, the pup should be focusing on working when in coat.

I was the lucky one who got to be greeted by all the puppies! And they all did well. Good job! Here I am practicing with Melisa and Eric.

We next worked on greetings with other dogs. It's important to remember here that your pup should be behaving on a loose lead before he is allowed to greet another dog. The greeting is a reward, and you don't want to reward unacceptable behavior. Also, greeting other dogs should only occur out of coat. If your puppy is too excited to greet nicely, distract him by calling him to you and go on your way. If your puppy is focused and obedient, you can allow him to greet the other dog briefly. It's important to make the greeting brief and to avoid greetings when either dog is overly excited or tense, with raised hackles and a stiff posture. When the brief greeting is over, call your dog and go on your way.

Jen's post also mentions that it's OK to use "take a break" with a puppy in coat under 10 months old when releasing her from an obedience exercise. She also suggests interrupting play dates with moments of calm, going to your pup to put his leash on and having him settle down for a bit before he can resume play. Be sure to read Jen's entire post for a fuller understanding of these new uses of "take a break" and more.

I also had a lot of announcements to make at this meeting. In brief:

1 - We have new puppy raiser shirts in a different fabric and color. These will be rolled out slowly, with raisers receiving a new shirt when they get a new pup.

2 - The January Puppy Raiser Newsletter was full of information about:

- the ABCs of Awareness (knowing what your pup is doing and how she is reacting at all times as well as checking her physical condition), Balance (mixing up what you do with your dog, so sometimes he's in a crate and sometimes on a tiedown, usually he's with you but sometimes he's home alone, some exposures are familiar and some are new, taking him out both day and night), and Consistency (in your commands, actions, praise, and corrections);

- being aware of toxic foods (e.g., grapes, coffee, and xylitol in sugar-free gum) and plants (e.g., some types of palm, oleander, and rhododendrons); per Puppy Raising Services,

Should your pup eat anything toxic or you suspect is toxic DO NOT WAIT to seek treatment even if you cannot reach the school or your AC or the pup seems fine. Toxins can cause damage even after the ingested material is initially purged.

The ASPCA site is a great resource for information on this and has a 24-hour poison control hotline (1-888-426-4435, with a $65 consultation fee);

- the latest Puppy Raiser Survey results, which show great satisfaction with Southeastern's puppy raising program; new initiatives planned to arrive this summer include an updated, online Puppy Raiser Manual, online training videos, an online forum, and more.

Be sure to let me know if you are not receiving the Puppy Raiser Newsletter!

3 - This year's Walkathon is March 3rd! We discussed everything about Walkathon so that everyone would understand what it's all about and how to make the most of this exciting annual event – our biggest of the year, being held in St. Petersburg for the first time!

4 - Due to an abundance of puppies in the puppy kennel, volunteers may be needed to house young puppies for a few days before they go to their raisers.

Whew! After admittedly a lot of talking, everyone was ready to go across the street to explore the sights, sounds, and smells of St. Pete's well-known and very popular Saturday Morning Market, which also provided a great opportunity to practice working around a variety of other dogs – and people. I don't know about John, but Legion definitely looks like he's heard enough!