Saturday, January 24, 2015

What It Means to Sponsor a Puppy

Southeastern Guide Dogs' primary mission is to provide dog who blaze a trail of freedom for their visually impaired partners. A secondary and lesser know mission is the one the dogs have embedded in their brains: their name. For each dog is named for someone special and he or she carries the hopes and dreams of that person's legacy with them. 


The naming process is a very special process.  A person or a family or group will come together and make a decision to honor someone.  At Berkeley, we decided to honor our retiring headmaster, Joseph A. Merluzzi: JAM.

Joseph A. Merluzzi holding puppy Jam upside down in his arms.

One year, we had one particular student, Austin Iglehart, who raised all the money himself and wanted to recognize and honor his football coach for being such a role model and mentor.  That was Coach. Our sponsor was shy.

Austin Iglehart with Coach on the football field.

And sometimes the honoree touches everyone's heart.  

Christie Bassett

This January, 16 year old Christie Bassett lost her life in a  tragic automobile accident.  In addition to being a competitive swimmer, she was a vivacious young lady with a zest for life and a love for dogs.

Christie with her Uncle Chris's career changed guide dog Johnny.
Christie is a little girl in this photo.
And I know that while you all may be thinking that this is very sad, but I don't know why this matters to the McLeans and why it should matter you.

Christie with Wally, Chip and Chris's current guide dog in training.
Wally is asleep on her lap. Christie is smiling.
When Jam went in for training, he had a problem: he had bad separation anxiety.  Perhaps you have seen the Jam Cam or remember the posts about all the problems we have been working with him on about separation anxiety.  Well, at some point, Southeastern felt that for Jam's mental health that he needed a break and he needed to go to someone who would help him not only with his anxiety but would help him complete his training and allow him to come back, eventually.

They sent him to Chip and Chris.

Chris with Jam.
Chip and Chris got him through.  Chris is Christie's Uncle.  Chris has also been volunteering with Southeastern since 1997. Both he and Chip have been our friends since we got Jam back.  

Sponsorships are a way to let that loved one live on in memory.  We were thrilled that we had an opportunity to be a part of helping to name a puppy after such a sweet girl. Our hope is that you feel that same way.  Will you be a part of helping her name to live on in the spirit of a lab, golden or goldadore puppy?  Just click on Walkathon and go to our walkathon page to make a donation.

Any donation is acceptable!  However, if your donation is $50 or over, I will personally handknit you a scarf like the one Jam is wearing.  Just tell me your favorite color.

Here's a video of Christie.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All Dogs Are Black at Night

Last night was a late night for me.  Fred had worked out in the yard and was very tired.  He went up to bed early.  So, left to my own devices, I meandered along on the internet and became trapped in that sinkhole of time known to many as Pinterest.

I took a detour into the cul de sac of doom: Etsy.  When, with bleary eyes, I looked up, it was midnight and Fred had thoughtfully left me with all the dogs.

We trudged with heavy feet up the stairs.  There was one light on in the bathroom.  The dogs fled into the darkness of the bedroom.  I began to put on my pyjamas, brush my teeth, take my pills.

Turn out the lights.  Sweet darkness.  One more holiday day and then work beckons.

I round the corner to my side of the bed and my feet make contact with a dog.  A soft fluffy one.

"Ah, Corky.  You are so sweet for waiting outside your kennel." I said to him.  I patted his head and did a small tug on his collar.  He walked right into the crate.  I pulled it down behind him.

I got into bed.  Closed my eyes.

Snoring.  Such snoring.  Fred was sawing away!  And then, just underneath the snoring, I heard a little peep.

Wheep, wheep.

SNORE. SNORE. wheep.

What was that whistling?  I elbowed Fred, but he didn't move.


It got a little louder.


Was it Corky?  Did he need to go out?  Fred rolled over and the snoring stopped.


It WAS Corky.  I turned on my light.

Jam stared back at me.  Jam was in Corky's crate. In the darkness, all dogs are black and I had grabbed Jam and pushed him into Corky's crate and shut it behind him.  He was staring out at me. 

"Why? Why?" His expression asked.

I jumped up and let him out.  Corky came out from around the corner. He was so happy to be free.  I grabbed him and put him in the crate.

Order was restored.
Close up photo of Jam, our yellow lab, looking handsome.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Puppy Portraits: Christmas Presents

Santa brought some very nice presents to our house and there were some improved lenses to help take better photos for the blog.  So, today, I have some examples taken with one of my new lenses. (In case you are interested, I use a Canon Rebel T3 and this lens is a 24-105mm).  Our December meeting was a webinar by Jen Gerrity on dog body language, so I will use what I learned to evaluate the photos to see if our puppies are relaxed or not!!

A relaxed dog is indicated by a face that is squishy and soft.  The muzzle is soft, not drawn tight, not tense.  There are not whites of the eyes showing; the eyes are not wide open.  The ears are soft and crinkly.

Portrait of Jam, our career changed yellow lab.
Jammy, is always up for a photo.  You can see that his muzzle is soft, his ears are soft and his eyes are at ease.  He's a photo fan.

Corky, a black lab guide dog in training, looking off to the side. 
Here is a photo of Corky, our current southeastern guide dog in training. While he is looking off to the side, his face is fairly relaxed. You can see his underlip jowl, so his mouth is still soft. His eyes relaxed.

Willow , a chocolate lab, sunning in the garden.
Willow doesn't like the camera and it is hard to get a happy photo of her.  You have to get her when she is not watching or very relaxed.  I happened to get her relaxing in a dirt hole she dug in the garden.  Her face is relaxed, her ears are relaxed and her eyes are soft.

Photographing dogs in some ways is like photographing people.  Some like the camera and some don't and shut down.  If you know what to look for: tight ears, mouth, whale eyes (where the whites of the eyes are showing), you know the dog is tense and the photo will not be good or look natural and you can work to make your subject more relaxed.  Good luck!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Corky's School Introductions

I introduced Corky to lower, middle and upper division on three separate days in early December.  It was shortly after Katie Bandel's visit, so it was in actuality auspiciously timed as the students in upper had a more impactful idea of what Corky would be doing for someone later on in life.  

We are hoping to bring Katie back to Berkeley in Jan/Feb to speak with lower and middle and to do the exercise with the dixie cups with them as well.

Corky on stage in upper.  He did a nice sit.
 Corky was pretty good on stage.  He did sit when given the command.  Of course, he then immediately stood up.

Corky standing at my side as I talk about him.
 I figured you have to pick your battles.  I just talked rather than fight to keep him sitting.

What I love about this photo of me presenting Corky to lower is the smiles of the children.
 On a separate day we presented Corky to lower division.  He was a little stressed as you can see in the photo, his tail is a little down.  He normally carries it a little higher.  I think it was all the waiting and the fact that I was nervous as well.  But he did great.  Right up until the very end when he tried to nibble a little on the Christmas tree.  But no damage was done as we caught him right away!  He had a quiet rest of the day in the office.

All three divisions now have reheard the rules:

  1. If Corky is wearing the coat, he is invisible: don't call his name, don't pet him, pretend he isn't there.
  2. If he isn't wearing the coat, you can ask permission to pet him.  The question to ask is: "Is this a good time (We might be on a bathroom break!)?
  3. If we are in my office, Corky will usually have his coat off and chances are good you can pet him.
Depending on what Corky is going through at the moment, I may have students help me with a certain problem.  For instance, if he has a problem jumping or lunging (like Jam did) I would have a student walk by while I had Corky sit beside me.  Fortunately, he doesn't do that.  But if we find anything, the lower, middle and upper division students stand ready and willing to help out in whatever way possible!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Secret Jam Cam

By Fred
On Wednesday we installed some surveillance cameras so that we can watch the dogs while we are out. Specifically, we hoped this would give us a chance to have a normal and relaxed Thanksgiving dinner at our friends house while Jam was home alone. Here's what happened.

The dogs have been walked and pooped and fed early. The house has been picked up so that Jam doesn't have any obvious temptations. I walk Cheryl to the car but then come back inside so that Jam might think it's a normal work day. Cheryl pulls out of the driveway. I watch TV for a second, then I go out the back door to trick Jam into thinking that I'm just doing some yard work and will be back soon. I walk around the house and then get into the car with Cheryl.

We turn on the iPhone app that controls the cameras in the house. I expect to see Jam at or near the back door, waiting for me to come back. But there's no Jam. I switch to the living room camera. We can take pictures of the video feed, so I got this one of him on the couch looking out the window to the driveway. I love this.
He knew I was lying about working in the back yard, but he's not sure where I am. We drive away.

I switch to the kitchen cam, and there is Jam snooping around, checking out the counter tops. Bad boy. But there is nothing frantic about him--he's calmly walking around.

Then seconds later we can see that he's opened a cabinet door (despite the baby locks) and he's taken out one piece of Tupperware (see the arrow) and put it on the floor.

No big deal, but we circle back to the house. Cheryl parks on the street and watches Jam on video while I run around to the back door and come inside, as though I had been working in the yard the whole time. I put the Tupperware away and give him a mild scolding. Jam is truly surprised to see me.

We're back on the road. We can see Jam at the backdoor. Then minutes later he is taking a nap. We are relieved to see this.

2:30 - 6:00pm
We continue to check throughout the afternoon, and Jam slept the whole day. What a relief to see that he is not stressed out. We had a very pleasant day as a result.

It's dark outside so the cameras have gone into nighttime mode. Here are Willow and Jam, sleeping on the couch in the living room.
We had a very nice Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving with a Happy Video from Corky

Today as we eat and eat and eat, there will be our four legged friends around us who may want a treat or two.  We should refrain from giving them turkey, as it isn't good for them, but a little pumpkin or peanut butter as gift for their many small kindnesses they do for us every day might be in order.

If they don't wag, they still like it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dewey Report Card

Good News on Dewey!

Dewey in the gym at school.
He is in Phase 3: Blindfold Walks. Woot!

We are so proud of Dewey.  He is a calm and very sweet boy and we are so proud of him.  Here are the comments from the trainer:

COMMENTS: Dewey continues to do well in training! We are going to lots of different venues and he is generally a very mature and well behaved gentleman. He still needs some additional support from his handler, especially in more challenging work environments. He has a great settle and it's clear that you put a lot of time and love into teaching him to be such a nice boy. 

Now, you might wonder what a nice settle is.  We are pretty sure that is Dewey being lazy and plopping into a down stay after about 30 seconds of standing up.  So, yes, we will take credit for that.  Dewey was a lot like Bob, another puppy we puppy sat years ago.  When I tried to introduce Bob to people, if I talked for more than 15 seconds, Bob would fall into a deep trance and lay on the floor.  We called Bob: surfer dude.  Nothing bothered him.  

Now, Dewey is super chill as well.  He also likes to lay down and nap.  We always said he is the perfect dog for someone with an office job because all he wants to do is lay under the desk and sleep.  In meetings he just curls up by your feet and sleeps.   

We love you Dewey.  Stay strong.  Work on those challenging work environments.  You can do it.  You were a champ at school.  You've got this!  Go Dewey!

Dewey by the French doors.