Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why won't you give me a biscuit?

Are you wondering why Bingo has that quizzical look on his face? He's wondering why you haven't added to his biscuit meter. See, Southeastern Guide Dogs has one big fundraiser every year: their Feb. Walkathon, held this year on Feb. 27, 2010. Fred and I have pledged to raise $1500 for the walkathon and we are hoping that all of our blog readers, twitter friends, facebook friends, friend friends, coworkers and relatives will help us reach that goal.

We have a personalized biscuit meter that tracks our fundraising, which is kind of cool to watch fill up. If you want more info on the walkathon, you can click the link above. If you want to donate, you can click on our biscuit meter or this link: $1000 covers the medical care of a litter of puppies like Bingo. We figured medical care and a little for toys and leashes and harnesses.

Please help us reach our goal. We'll have the link on the right hand side of the blog. Your donations are tax deductible and ANY amount is a wonderful gift.

Bingo will thank you. Actually, he would just lick you and wag his tail vigorously, but that's quite something, don't you think?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Parade Bingo

Our school mascot is the Buccaneer, so I had to buy the pirate hat for the halloween parade on Wednesday. Of course he didn't want to wear it. The photo above is a special pet setting that is super quick so that when the hat actually settles on his head for that one microsecond before he whips his head in a manic shake to bite the offensive hat off, the shutter clicks off and you get a chillingly accurate portrait of puppy disgust. Before I discovered this setting, the closest we could get the hat to his head is in the photo below:

On another note, I witnessed something very cute the other day. I stepped out of my office to speak with my library assistant and left Bingo alone in coat. A student came in for an appointment with me. When I returned I found them both sitting on the floor staring at each other. They were about a foot apart. Olivia turned to me and said, "It's so cool. It's like he knows he can't touch me because he has his coat on."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Off the Leash

By Fred
Bingo is getting to be a big dog in many ways. His body, for sure, is growing like a weed, but he also is developing a calmer, more mature temperament, and this is a very good thing.

He went to school with Cheryl every day last week and then to a school event over the weekend. So yesterday was his first day home (to mostly relax) in a while. In the meantime I am recovering from hernia surgery--no big deal, but I'm restricted from doing any heavy lifting for several weeks. Yesterday I told my surgeon about Bingo and he just laughed. "Well," he said, "if he is anything at all like my puppy, you will certainly not be able to walk him for a while." I had to admit that Bingo was not a perfect puppy.

I was depressed at first because I won't be able to take him out to the store, etc., for 3 weeks or so, but then I thought that this might be an opportunity in disguise. There are several things we can work on around the house without a leash--so I'm working on a plan for tomorrow. Mater artium necessitas, right? (I don't know Latin--I just like to pretend.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bingo’s MUN Tournament

It Begins

The day started off early: 4:30 am. It was supposed to start off at 4:30, bu the the alarm didn’t go off and I woke up at 4:41 and bounced out of bed panicked. I got the dogs downstairs in a flash, fed and watered and then Bingo and I raced to school.

Here we all are waiting for the bus driver to arrive.


Bingo got to experience breakfast at Panera with the kids. Panera was overwhelmed with 29 kids and three adults and a bus driver AND a dog descending upon them for breakfast. But they handled it well. After Panera, we dropped the kids off and headed to B&N to chill until lunch. Here we are chilling.


Bingo got to have lunch with the Ellen, a former student and her service dog (a hearing dog). That was an experience. Bingo was not inclined to be calm about Ellen’s dog. He wanted to be excited and play and jump. When we went into the Thai restaurant, I let Tim, Ellen and Michele go first and I took Bingo in last to keep him under control. Tim walked up to the counter where the hostess told him that they didn’t allow dogs in the restaurant. Tim said, “They’re service dogs. It’s the law.” And then asked if we could sit in the other room. It was great. They were fine and took us to the next room where they had a bit more space. I was still feeling a bit uneasy about having the two dogs next to each other all through lunch, but Ellen sat at one side of the table and I sat on the other with Bingo on the outside. I told him to lie down and he did. That was that. No problem. Here we all are, one big happy group.

The Hotel

We stayed at the Radisson, which I have to say, has gone done a bit since last year when we were here (especially the vacuuming, I kept having to take things out of Bingo's mouth. They really need to vacuum the floors of the rooms!). I checked us into the hotel and didn't have an ounce of trouble with the front desk person. Bingo dealt with the marble lobby floors and the elevators just fine. He did great in the huge ladies room with the super noisy toilet.

When the days events were over and we went back to the hotel for the evening Bingo explored the room thoroughly as you can see from the photos. We had some of the boys help us get his crate up to the room and in the morning they helped us get it back down to the bus.
Second Day

At our local area meeting, I was chastized a little bit by Don for doing a weak scold on Bingo when he peed in coat. I was very nervous in front of everyone and my scold voice was very wimpy. So this morning when we were walking the kids to their meeting and Bingo was in coat and he started to hump to poo (his second for the day) I pulled out the super loud SCOLD voice, NO! and grabbed him! then I took the coat off to let him poo. It was 3 hours before he pooed. This must be the only time in history someone has scared the crap back into someone! That's a good thing, right?

Here's a shot of Tim and Bingo relaxing before Bingo got the crap scared into him.

Friday, October 23, 2009

40 Hour Work Week and Halloween Meeting

Bingo went to school EVERYDAY this week because my husband had hernia surgery and wasn't able to pick up anything or walk the dog. Fortunately, my headmaster allowed Bingo to come a couple of extra days (he usually comes on M-W-F) so that Fred could recover at home. That meant that I was in charge of it all. I'm not sure how single parents do it.

It was a tough week and it isn't over yet. This weekend Bingo and I are going to the MUN (that's Model United Nations tournament, for all of you who aren't in the know) tournament at the University of Central Florida tomorrow morning. We leave at 5 am. We will get to experience a HOTEL. OOOOOH. And a university. The kids are really excited about having Bingo on the trip.
In addition to Bingo working a 40 hour work week, he also got up early with me on Tue/Thur and went on a 40 minute walk in the morning with another teacher, Maty, our French teacher who LOVES Bingo. He did great! He walked right by our side. The second walk Bonnie joined us and brought her dog. Bingo was a bit distracted and took a while to calm down. But he finally did. I tell you, getting him to walk in the morning is quite a cure for the morning madness. He was pooped out and very calm all day. 8-)
I lost my camera, with my cool photo of Bingo and Maty on it. I'm very sad about losing the photo. Things you can replace, but the photo, that can't be replaced.

Thursday we had our local area meeting and it was the best one we have had. The obedience part was very good. I learned quite a lot. For one thing, I haven't been changing Bingo over to the other side when we approach a door that opens on his side. No wonder he doesn't want to go through it. So I tried the new way today and he was much happier. Amazing! 8-) Don also pointed out some tips on the right about, the turns and the difference between praise voice, command voice and scold voice. I still need work on scold voice being more forceful. Bingo, was much better at this meeting than he has been at other meetings. He actually paid attention for minutes at a time.

Of course, he still showed his butt, but I'm sure I was the cause of that! 8-) I was really proud of him sitting and paying attention for most of it. Honestly, he is doing much better, but we have a long way to go. After Don's great obedience session, we went into the halloween shop and walked around. I have to say that Bingo isn't afraid of anything. Here is a photo of a witch popping up out of caldron that had some of the dog a bit skittish, but Bingo was fascinated as you can see. Of course, Fred's response was "That's my boy." Men.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crazy School Day

We started the day out at 5 am. We met at Maty's house and took a 40 minute walk before school started. This was Bingo's first experience with a long walk like this and he did GREAT! I have a photo, but I can't find my camera. I hope I didn't lose it when I dropped my purse after school. (It has been an awful day today!)

He was much more mellow in the morning at school. His new thing to do is to just stop. We'll be walking and he'll just stop walking. We'll get to some stairs and he refuses to go up or down. We'll be in a parking lot and he'll refuse to go near the car. I don't know what the proper response is and I'm not sure if it is a dominance thing that he is doing. My first thought was he was fearful of something. But I don't think that is the case. Cajoling him doesn't seem to work. I'm going to give redirecting him a try. My area meeting is on Thursday, so I will be talking with Donna about it.

The big excitement was the fire drill. We had one this afternoon. He was completely unconcerned. It didn't faze him a bit.

I'm going to start having him wait at the circ desk for kids to pass by so that we can practice sitting and being unconcerned. He occasionally will lunge out at a student passing by and that isn't acceptable. So we need to work on that. I want to desensitize him by having all the kids pass him every period in the library and having him sit and be unconcerned. I think this will work. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Grocery Store Zen

Friday was a long day. Wish I could say Bingo was a good boy, but he was too much of a pill most of the day to qualify for that status. He was testing me all day long. Fred had hernia surgery on Thursday, so Bingo didn't get much exercise Thursday. So on Friday, he was raring to go.

We go to convo late because I had to do so many turnarounds and go the other ways. Then we had to leave convo early because he was doing the biting thing and I couldn't do a loud NO correction. When I took him over to busy, he went puppy crazy on the leash. So I thought a bit of tough love walking would do him good. We are in the process of building a new quad and there is this section of sidewalks that intersect at all different angles, perfect for puppies who are recalcitrant. So I marched his little uncooperative butt over there and we started to walk.

Forward. Sit. Down. Forward. Right about. Right right. Forward. Left left. Right about. Forward. Right right. Forward. Left left. Right about. Sit. Down. Stay. Forward.

Did I mention it was raining on Friday? Did I mention that I chose to wear a long skirt that brushed the ground (Friday is uniform day, AKA dress really nicely) and heels? So I am doing all this and the bottom 3-4 inches of my skirt is sopping wet, not to mention the nice heels that are flapping loosely off my feet. But I persisted. Because at the end of it, Bingo was tired and finally walking right beside me. This lasted until lunch.

After school I took the little demon to the grocery store for more practice. I grabbed a basket and we blew in like we owned the place. I love Publix because they never hassle you. They are very friendly and understanding. At least the ones we have been in are. Anyway, we went up and down the aisles practicing our turns. I made him sit before things I was considering buying. When he started to sniff at bread I would tell him NO and then I would stop and make him sit by the bread. He did and he sat there without sniffing it. He was so good. We went by the seafood counter and he went to sniff it. So I stopped and made him sit. he stopped sniffing and just sat and looked at me. I waited a good minute, then we walked on. All the time, people were passing and smiling. Moms were pointing and telling kids that the puppy was learning how to be good. I was in the zone and Bingo was being a good boy.

Bingo is at a teenager stage where he is testing limits and doing crazy things. With Fred not able to walk a dog for several weeks, it is all on me to keep him in line. It's quite a lot of pressure, but I know that we can do it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pack Leader

Well, I've begun using my new found pack leader skills (essentially a loud NO and a firm whatever the correction is) and it seems to be working. Last night Bingo started in with some biting and I tried out the loud NO and the biting correction Chuck told me to use, which startled the snot out of Bingo. He sat real close to me the rest of the night and never made a move to bite again. This morning he tried a tentative bite and I did the correction again. I'm hoping by the time we get back to school on Wed. that the biting phase will have been dealt with. If not, I have some students who will gladly work with me on testing Bingo to get over this little phase. We'll have him bite free by the end of the week.
Next, I am going to work on stairs. Debbie and Chuck explained in more detail about why the puppy raisers are supposed to make the dogs sit before and after they go through them and at the top/bottom of stairs. I had thought it was because the blind person needed to find the threshold of doorways for themselves. The stairway sitting seemed obvious. They explained it was a control issue. They don't want the dog speeding through the door or leaping down the stairs. They also said it was important for it not to become an automatic thing. If I ever arrive at a door and Bingo sits without my telling him to sit then I should turn around and go someplace else and come back. The dog doesn't make the decisions. The handler does.
Monday is our 18th wedding anniversary. So we went today to the Vinoy in St. Pete for brunch to celebrate with a friend and we took Bingo and I tried out my new tools for being in charge.

Brunch was very tasty and pretty stress free. At first, Bingo seemed to want to start on a gum exploration of the underside of the table, but a firm NO put him off that idea. We settle him down and it only took a few more firm downs to get him to stay there.
Of course we could do nothing about the crazy family at the table near us who let their baby crawl LOOSE ON THE FLOOR without ANY SUPERVISION and the baby made it all the way to our table. Bingo was wagging his tail and would have gotten up, but I had a hand on his back pressing him down. Seriously. Are people insane? What sort of parent lets their baby crawl around loose on the carpet of a public restaurant 15-20 feet away from them and toward a strange dog? A dog that is on eye level? That's a parent who deserves to have their child taken by child protective services for child endangerment. Not because the dog is a danger, but because their parents are so stupid. They never got up to get the child. Eventually, the child crawled back to them, on its own. They never moved from their seats or their plates of food. Greedy, stupid people.

We worked on stairs and Bingo did very well. We also worked on the stand command in the public restroom. He was very good. He was tired and happy to go home at the end of the brunch.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mea Culpa

Today we had our monthly big area meeting at the St. Pete Pier. On our way down we met up with John and Bagheera (his well trained and very well behaved dog). We took the trolley down to the pier where our meeting was to start. Bingo doesn't seem to mind public transportation at all. Neither the trip on the trolley bothered him a bit.
These meetings are always part obedience and part informational. Today, for me anyway, it was a bit more informative because it was information that I could relate directly to how I was training Bingo or how I was training Bingo incorrectly.
Normally, at school, when Bingo pulls I will say, "No Pull." I learned that the command is NO. Simply No. For all things bad. Just No. Don't have a conversation. Don't discuss it with him. NO.
I also learned that I correct before he has a chance to do the action. I also realized that his "teething" is actually biting and it is my fault for not stopping it. I learned how to stop the biting. I learned that when he pulls I am to change direction, and to do it again and again and again until he is so confused that he finally looks to me for an indication of which direction we are going to go. "Ah, perhaps this person on the other end of the leash knows something. Let's look to her and see." See photo above of me changing direction on him.

I learned that at five months that he's still young enough that I haven't ruined him, that I can still undo all the things that I have unknowingly instilled in him. I learned all these things, so while I started and went through most of the meeting completely filled with a sense of failure, I left it with a very small, tiny seed of hope. One tiny seed that I might be able to grow into the owner that Bingo needs me to be in order for him to be the guide dog I know he can be.
Bingo, as you can see, is filled with hope.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Contest of Wills

For weeks Willow and Bingo have been playing with a big red rubber bone, and they both are tired of it.

So when Bingo found an old Kong toy under the couch this afternoon, one that had been lost for several weeks, he was thrilled, and he ran through the house like he had won the lottery. Bingo did his best to tease Willow with the Kong, and she fell for the bait, chasing him around the house like a jealous kid.

Then she picked up the big red bone, confident that the young and impulsive Bingo would fall for the trick and chase after her.

Instead, the two dogs faced off, nose to nose a few inches apart, each with a toy and engaged now in a test of wills, a game of chicken that went on for at least 5 minutes.

The loser would drop her toy first and look away ashamed. The winner would sit down on his blanket and enjoy his victory.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bingo Gets a Bath

By Fred
This weekend we took advantage of the perfect weather to work on the Stand/Stay command and to get a little wet. I'd never used Stand/Stay before we got Bingo, but we've learned that it's important for those times when a blind person wouldn't want their dog to sit on the floor, like in a public restroom. It's also very useful at bath time.

Here's Bingo, suffering through a bath and some taunting by Cheryl.

Also this weekend I repaired the fence to make sure it was puppy-proof. So far, we've kept Bingo on a leash in the back yard, but we decided it was time for him to be free and explore. With the bath over, imagine his surprise when his best friend, Willow, shows up to give him his first tour of the yard.

This also gave us a chance to work on some long-distance "Come" commands. Bingo went back and forth between me and Cheryl, sometimes running at full speed and unable to stop. Oh, well.

Bingo and His Pep Rally Bling

The headband fit loosely and provided him with a little school spirit bling. 8-) He also had a cute little Go Bucs ribbon that I pinned on his coat just for the pep rally. He wasn't into the pom poms. He tried to bite those.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bingo and the Bagpipers

We had our first pep rally on Friday and I was a little worried about Bingo's reaction to the Pipe and Drum Corps. I had been told by a former student who plays with a pipe and drum band at his college in Canada that the pipes drive dogs wild. So I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The music the cheerleaders danced to didn't create any reaction, nor did the cheering itself.
In fact, he mostly chilled out and looked like this:
His fan club was in attendance, two the world language teachers, one of the English teachers and a religion teacher all stayed with us to watch the pep rally.
Bingo really excelled today. He showed no reaction to 1400 screaming, cheering children. He showed no reaction to cheerleading booty/dance music. He showed no reaction to a very loud pipe and drum corps, which included an electric guitar solo and a loud drumming segment. All in all, I would say he did a damn fine job.