Friday, July 31, 2009

Hello Mr. Hyde! - Day 10

Here is Bingo in his coat as we go on a neighborhood walk around the block. Since we go on about 5 walks a day, the neighbors are begining to notice the very handsome small black lab puppy in the bright blue coat. Mostly we do a country walk, which allows him the full length of the leash and no coat. But when he has his coat on he is on what is known as a city walk. With a city walk, he only has about 1-2 feet of the leash to forage ahead. Bingo is an excellent walker. Aside from the Spanish moss problem and the common distractions of sticks and various dead animals (and puppies LOVE to roll in smelly dead things), he is just wonderful on the leash. But we have noticed that he does have a bit of the devil in him.
When I was reading the recent monthly newsletter from our area coordinator, he mentioned that several of the new people who had gotten puppies were saying how wonderful their puppies were and he cautioned that this was the first week honeymoon period. It's a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde situation, he wrote. They were on the best behavior because they were in a new place and as soon as they got comfortable, out came their real personalities. Well, Mr. Hyde made a bit of an appearance. I'm not so sure it was Mr. Hyde, more like Mr. Pterodactyl (as in large flying bird-like creature).

This morning Bingo was on the third step of the stairs and I was trying to make him walk down them slowly as in s....l...o...w...l...y and Fred walked by him and messed up the calm mojo of the stairs. Frankly, on the stairs, Bingo is looking for any excuse to mess up the calm mojo of the situation as he really wants to NOT go s....l...o...w...l...y. Fred squats down at the bottom of the stairs and looks up at Bingo and says, come Bingo. So Bingo gets this LIGHT in his eyes. This UNHOLY light. Like, I don't know where it came from, but it's not of this world kind of light. The kind of light where you should really step back and say, what just a moment there little fella! And then Bingo bunches his back legs and before I can even make a move for his collar, because I know that he is not moving in ANY way s....l...o...w...l...y, he LEAPS, and I swear to you this is no exaggeration, he gets four feet in the air, like a black lab bird of prey, a black lab Romulan bird of prey (I'm talking wow!) headed for my husband's head. My husband, who is now mouth open in astonishment, says "Did you SEE that?" As if I could have missed it. That's our boy: Part lab, part bird. All Bingo!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On the Straight and Narrow

-By Fred
We've got a front yard that offers temptations to a young puppy. Sticks and vines and bushes. Flowering plants, shrubs and palmettos. Big plants that hang over the sidewalk and distract Bingo as we work with him on leash training and basic commands. An oak tree that does its best to drop twigs and leaves and clumps of Spanish moss just in his path. And he cannot help but put these things in his mouth.

So this weekend I did some trimming and got out the leaf blower and now he has a nice, clean sidewalk for his lessons. I'll try to keep it picked up for the duration.

Likewise, inside the house Bingo has more temptations than a drunken sailor on leave. It's a slow process of "no, no" and "good boy". There are just so many things to learn...

After just one week Bingo is progressing really well. He rarely pulls on the leash, he sits (sometimes) and stays. But best of all he seems really happy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bingo Is 10 Weeks Old - Day 8

Bingo celebrated some big milestones. He celebrated one week with us, his 10 week birthday, his first night of making it the whole night without having to go out to potty (a big deal!). Yep. He's a big puppy now.

On Sunday we had a visit from the daughter of friends of ours who had fun walking Bingo. Then we had another set of visitors on Tuesday. Hillary and her friend Caitlin (I hope I spelled that correctly) and Hillary's mom Katie who brought us lunch and ran Bingo all around the block. SEGD asks that you if you don't have kids in your house that you try to arrange to have children visit your guide dog puppy at least once a week. So Bingo has had two visits this week (three if you count school)! Hillary and Caitlin were great with him. They took him completely around the block where he showed them just how much he loves sticks and Spanish moss (did you know that Spanish moss is related to the pineapple plant, thank you Selby Gardens). He really loves Spanish moss. Katie has a great photo that I will post as soon as she sends it to me. Until then you will have to be content to wonder at his passion for Spanish moss. It really is quite outrageous!

Every day he gets better and better on the leash. Today was interesting as he decided he wanted to go home, and he knew the way we usually went, but I wanted to go a shadier route back. In just a week he had our normal route memorized and was looking for the turns. It only takes a little correction to get him to ease off of pulling on the leash. He is a lovely leash walker. So since I don't have a cute photo of Bingo with the Spanish moss, here is one of him fighting evil (AKA napping).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yoga Dog

- By Fred
While Cheryl (known as CD to everyone else) has an exciting agenda planned for Bingo--driving to school, working in the library and classrooms, with students and endless distractions, I have something quite different to offer him on those days when he doesn't go to school. He will get to know my office here at home. I'll take him to lunch and we'll go on many walks, but mostly he will share my quiet life, more or less tethered (like me) to me desk, listening to music and to sporadic outbursts from me as I attend on-line meetings and stare (excessively, he will think) at that mysterious screen on my desk.

However, I will be able to offer him some excitement when I take him to yoga class. Well, maybe exciting is not the right word. I would say that the class was sublimely content to learn that Bingo would be coming to class. In preparation, Bingo and I are doing some preliminary work on the mat. Our first lesson is "no, don't chew the mat," and it's going pretty well. Next we are working on some streching, but like most youngsters, he is amazingly limber.

As you might expect, he was anxious to get started on Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog). Unfortunately, for now, his head is actually bigger than his arms, but time heals all things.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stairs. All Wrong. - Day 7

Oh My. I was rereading the manual (for the third time) preparing for another child visit tomorrow and feeling pretty full of myself because I had contacted USAirways and secured a service animal addition to our ticket, when I happened on the stairs section again. We did it completely wrong. COMPLETELY WRONG.

It's a good thing Bingo is smart. He's going to make it through the program, but I don't know if we are. He isn't going to know all the commands he will need to know because every time I go back and read the manual, I see something and it looks BRAND NEW. And I've read it twice before! And I'm a librarian. All I do is READ. Seriously. It's the one thing I'm supposed to be really good at.

So Bingo and I are going back to the stairs and we are going to do it by the manual: Very Slowly.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Speaking of Improving Relations (Willow and Bingo) - Day 5

Willow has been a bit leery of Bingo since he arrived. She did this mainly by removing herself from his presence, i.e., going into another room, not looking at him, not acknowledging his presence. In other words, in Willow's reality, he didn't exist. But after the second night, there were a few changes. When I took him out to busy (the official word for going to the bathroom) at night, Willow would get up and accompany us from the second evening on. After the third day, Willow would be in same room, but still be as far away from him as possible. Then on Friday, a miracle happened. Willow actually walked over to Bingo on her own sat beside him and sniffed him. She wandered off, but it was a big step in improved relations between the two of them. Here they are on Saturday. It didn't last more than about 5 minutes, but it was pretty cool. I think she's giving him the fish eye waiting for him to jump on her and be a pill.

Now, I know that Fred and I do think that Bingo is the most intelligent puppy on the face of the earth, but he has shown remarkable puppy restraint in his dealings with Willow. Most puppies we have raised when introduced to an older dog have raced straight for their ears and with their razor sharp puppy teeth have commenced with biting. (Not that we have allowed such bad behavior to go on, but they did get in a few bites before being dragged off.) Not Bingo. He hasn't bitten her once. Not once. This is the two of them this morning.

Quite a change! They are actually touching. I have high hopes that they will be fast friends. Willow is a very good dog and has much to teach Bingo.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

More Sitting and Walking and Stairs - Day 4

Day 4 was a bit of a slow day for Bingo. We had a few more successful sit commands and we realized that we weren't quite doing the stay command correctly. I'm waiting for the meeting to get a lot of questions answered! Sometimes I read the manual and think I have it correct, then Fred reads it and he has a completely different take on it and it sounds right as well.

Bingo has a strange gremlin voice that he does when irritated. He sits and tilts his heads and then lets out this weird groany, squeal. Not a dog sound for sure. He's a character.

We got his official 6 week old photograph of him sitting in a guide dog harness and it made me cry (yeah, like it won't be hard to give him up, I'm such a liar, but I will and it is for a very good cause. He is a super smart dog already and I know he will outshine all the other guide dog puppies. But I'm not prejudiced or anything. 8-) I think I will hang it up in my office at school.

Here's a video of Bingo climbing the stairs. He rocks. Oh and speaking of strange voices, I sound like a female Mr. Bill. Geez. But that's my Mommy voice, the voice of encouragement to get him to do things with a happy, wagging tail. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. 8-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bingo's First Official Outing - Day 3

Last night we tried on Bingo's SEGD coat for the first time in preparation for his first official trip out to school on Thursday. Here he is in his puppy coat:

He is handsome in his blue coat.

I was pretty nervous about the school visit. Bingo wasn't. I walked him and made sure he went to the bathroom outside at our house. Then Fred and I figured out how to secure him on the floorboard in the Honda (guide dogs don't ride on the seats, they sit on the floorboard) so that he would not be mobile but would have a bit of futzing around room. Once that was worked out, we were on our way. He fell asleep. Once we arrived at school, I walked him in the grass for a few minutes . . . then we walked to the lobby and our school visit began! Here Bingo is happily greeting a few people from Admissions, Reception, Alumni Relations and the Headmaster's Executive Assistant.

Of course, Bingo charmed them all. Notice, please, that he is sitting to be properly petted.

Then the Headmaster arrived and gave him some tips on proper decorum at school and expected behavior (which must have worked, because later that day, for the first time ever, when we gave Bingo the sit command, he actually SAT on his own! Such is the power of our headmaster.)
Bingo also dropped in on the Upper Division Director and connected with him very quickly! I think Bingo is very glad I am the Upper Division Librarian, because he is going to be spending most of his time in Upper Division. We also visited the Lower Division Library and the new librarian there, who gave Bingo some much needed water.
Bingo was only there for about an hour and a half, but he had a huge morning. He was admired by all the students he met and it seemed that the teens were just as excited about him as the little kids were. It was really sweet. It's going to be a great learning year both for Bingo and for me.

Bingo and the Insurance Debate

- By Fred
Cheryl and I discussed raising a guide dog puppy several times in the past, and I always came down against the idea, afraid that it would be too difficult to give our dog to someone else when the time came. To her credit, Cheryl persisted and cajoled and finally convinced me to go along, convinced me that it was just the perfect thing for us to do, and now I see that she was right. And after doing the research, we both understand the process better, and we've adopted the idea that a guide dog is like a foreign exchange student who comes to stay for a while, to learn the culture, before going out into the world. So far, so good.

This photo shows Bingo just as the television set came on (for the first time in his life). He had been playing with his toy and was stretched out to take a nap, but the voices caught his attention, and he sat like this, transfixed, fascinated with a debate about health insurance on CNN, for at least 30 seconds. He is still not committed to any particular health plan, but at least he remains open-minded. Pretty smart for a 9-week old if you ask me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bingo's first guests and his first night away from SEGD - Day 2

Well, the puppy manual was right. He slept with nary a peep. We had to keep him awake from 5 pm on, but he went right to bed and it was quiet all night. I heard a creaking about 1 am and took him out and he peed. Again about 3 or 4 am he moved around and I took him out to pee and he peed, but no crying. He was a very good boy. He did his "kennel in and kennel out" commands very well. This is a shot of him with his first dinner. He didn't like the deep dish so we switched him to a shallower pan.
He also had his first visitors today. I had some former students and a friend and faculty member at my school come to say hello to him. You'll notice that he is looking at Willow but she won't look at him. She is still snubbing him. She plays hard to get.
The breeding program seems pretty incredible to me. Bingo is a very mellow dog. Although he does seem to enjoy being a plant warrior and attacking all manner of plants outside. Mostly he battles evil by napping.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Picking Up Bingo at SEGD -- Day 1

Today we went down to the Southeastern Guide
Dogs for the Blind to pick up our puppy to raise.
We didn't know his name, only that he was a black lab male of the Meg litter and was 9 weeks old.

We got there about 1:30, as requested the afternoon being better as the puppies are more tired by the puppy play time in the morning from 9-11 am. We did not have a good night's sleep as we were really nervous and I kept waking up and worring about whether we would be good enough parents for the puppy, whether we would be able to follow all the rules, you know, just general insane worrying stuff!

When we got there, we went straight to the puppy place and met Pete. He showed us our puppy and told us that his name was Bingo and that he had delivered him. This is a photo of our first look at him in the kennel. The next photo is of me and Melinda with me holding Bingo for the first time. He weighed 18.9 lbs at 9 weeks old! We had to go to the administration building to sign all the papers and find out the particulars about him, get his tags, medicines, etc.

We found out that his sponsor named him Bingo (his full name is Bingo Harry) after his friend and co chairman who runs the "fun bingo on Tuesday morning and regular bingo on Wednesday evening. He devised a game called "walking the dog" where the bingo card looks like a man walking a dog. It's very cute. I'll scan it in and post it later.

Bingo rode on the floorboard with me and slept most of the way.

Bingo got to experience stairs for the first time as well. He did great. He is a pro at the back stairs. Of course, we have two larger sets of stairs inside the house that we will leave for when he is a bit bigger!

We have been frantically consulting the puppy raiser manual even though we have read it twice already. We are now trying to keep Bingo awake because the manual says to keep him up until 10 or 11 pm if you can. He has been sleepy since 5 pm. We keep waking him up and you feel just awful! Wake up little puppy. He snores! Really loud. But we do want him sleeping in the crate and not running around playing tonight. So we will try to keep him up.

He has been a great dog so far. We've caught him when he was sniffing and he hasn't had an accident. He's gone outside every time like he should. He's adjusted really well to the collar and leash. He seems to be getting his name down pretty well. He seems to adore our dog Willow. Willow is still not sure she really likes him. But he is very sweet to her. He isn't mouthy. He just smells her. he doesn't bite or annoy her. She doesn't snap or be mean to him. I think in a couple of days they will be pretty good friends.

He is an adorable boy.