Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Grass Is Always Greener...Unless There Isn't Any Grass

One of the things we are supposed to do with our guide dog puppy is encourage her to pee on many different surfaces: grass, gravel, concrete, tarmac, rocks. Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley, of course, was partial to grass.

It is so cool and delightful to the paw, so springy. Why would any smart puppy choose to relieve themselves on another inferior surface? One that is scratchy and might even be smelly or hot to the touch? No, no. Best to stick to that cool, green oasis of restroom quietude. Thus HRH lulled us into a false sense of variety.

When we would go to a planter that had bark, she would slip ever so slightly near the grassy part and pee near it. When we would walk her in the gravel, all ability to pee would desert her.

"Why, sir, I cannot! Heaven forfend! It is not within me." The puppy eyes would commence and we would give up.

Thus Arizona was a BIG SHOCK to HRH, mostly because Arizona is a desert. There aren't any grassy bits in Arizona. In fact, Mom and Dad's back yard look a lot like the photo of gravel below.

HRH wouldn't go for almost a day. She kept walking around and around on her toes as if somewhere, hidden in the rocks, there was some grass. Maybe, over here, in this corner. No? Perhaps by this bush? No?

By evening, she was crosslegged and pretty sure we were in hell.

"This is the most inauspicious place to spend the holidays. Fortunately, the hosts are kind and have padded beds on which I can lie."

In the end, the rocks won. But I'm pretty sure unless she is in the desert, she won't resort to using them. She is, after all, HRH.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pine Cone Madness!

My mother has a very tall tree made out of pine cones. Coincidentally, Southeastern Guide Dogs wants every puppy to experience pine cones, as decorations. So, mom's massive, gold spray-painted, pine cone tree is the perfect way to get Her Royal Highness the ultimate pine cone, as decoration, experience.

First, I have to ask Dad to bring the massive tree out of the attic because this year Mom didn't use it as a Christmas decoration, which he did gladly.

Once it was set up, I had to get HRH to go sit by it.

"What, that? What is that?"

"I'll sit by it, but I won't look at it. Nasty, gold, ostentatious tree. How horrible."

"OK. I'll look at it. Awful. Just awful."

"Please let me sit somewhere else. Away from this gold monstrosity."

Sky Harbor Nightmare

It started out as a good day. What with the wonderful lunch at Carlsbad Tavern (an amazing lunch, spicy food) with mom, dad and my brother before taking off to the airport. That's when things went south as it were.

Mom and Dad dropped us off. One kennel, one bigass suit case containing our Xmas presents, and three smaller, more reasonably sized suitcases. Did I mention that in addition to Xmas presents, the bigass suitcase also had MANY pairs of shoes that Mom had given me, sandals that she no longer wanted to wear? Fred went to find a cart as HRH and I sat beside the mound of luggage looking forlorn.

A skycap approached. I told him my husband was off looking for a cart but his cart looked better. I called Fred. The deal was made. The skycap directed us to the special needs line where we ended up getting the attendant from hell.

"Hi," I said, walking HRH up to the counter. HRH was looking spiffy. Miss teflon hard ass was having none of it.

"Is that your kennel?" she asked. She nodded over to the kennel we have flown with for three times and never had anyone question us about.

"Yes." I'm thinking, "Do you see anyone else here with a dog? I don't." But I don't let any of that show on my face.

"It looks big."

"It's the proper size for a Labrador dog. We've flown before and not had a problem with it. In fact, they considered it an assistive device since she is a guide dog in training." That popped her head up and got me an immediate scoffing laugh and partial eye roll.

Great. She's a hater.

"It's too big. Hey Bob! Look at this. Can you measure this for me?" What happens next is a back and forth between Hatezilla and Bob about what the dimensions of the crate are and what the actual TSA limits are:

"33 by 23 by ... whatever... that's 72. The limit is 75. They are ok. "

"I don't think that is the limit. Did you do the front measurement right?"

Remeasures. Same result. "73, 72. They are good."

Hatezilla calls in for reinforcements. Nope. Limit is 68. Hatezilla looks at us. " That will be $100."

Fred says we can take it apart and clamshell it and make it smaller. Bob says, "OK. You really don't want to send it down there and then have it rejected."

I say "It's flown three times and no one has cared!" No one is listening to me.

Fred starts to take it apart. Problem. The screws that hold it together, aren't long enough now to hold the two pieces together. I start to feel all my clothing become two sizes too small as all the people in line behind us stare at our backs. My breathing gets a little rapid. "What is going to hold these two pieces together?"

"Tape?" Fred says.

"TAPE! Do you have any tape? Because I don't." This in my I am about to melt down right here voice, when all of a sudden, hatezilla says, "here's some tape." NOW she is helpful.

Gee thanks.

So Fred starts taping and I try to calm down and pull suitcases over for her to check in. "This bag is three pounds over." It's the Xmas bag. I start yanking out shoes, shoes, shoes, and more shoes. I can feel those people in line whispering. I want to turn around and say, I didn't pack all these shoes! I'm not a moron. I don't change shoes every two seconds. They were a gift! But they wouldn't believe me.

We put the crate up on the scale and Hatezilla says, "That tape won't hold. You should tape further down."

In a frenzy I grab the tape and start wrapping tape around the entire freaking crate. The passenger at the next counter has the temerity to lean over and say, "You should tape it around the edge of the two halves," but his wife yanks him quickly back away from me when I glance at him. Really! Is THAT what I should do?

Finished taping, I shove the crate over the edge toward Hatezilla and she hands us our tickets and ID.

"Have a nice flight."

I just walk away. We will never see that crate again. Fred says not to worry about it. People are smiling at us because of HRH. I need to get over this.

Fortunately, the TSA at Sky Harbor are very friendly. The people working the scanning line were super sweet holding everyone back and asking us how we wanted to have HRH go through the machine. She ran through wagging her tail and making everyone smile. I managed a small smile.

Then we met Bruce.

Bruce was the agent on gate A7. When we got to the gate, I went up and said that we had a service dog in training and did they have the bulkhead seats available. Bruce looked and said they were free, touched a key and said, oops, they disappeared. Then he looked at me in total silence.

Ok... Thanks for checking.

I returned to my seat. When we got on the plane the flight attendants completely ignored HRH as well. A complete city of US Airway dog haters....or at least people who don't care one way or another about them. It's just a shock from being treated so nicely to being completely ignored, but, that too I guess, is a good thing. You shouldn't get used to special treatment. And you definitely shouldn't expect it.

HRH curled up in row 15b just fine. In fact, she slept through the whole flight and was a dream. She didn't need the bulkhead. The guy in the seat next to us made my day when he said, "I was hoping I would get to sit in your row." That made up for Bruce and Hatezilla. Plus the little girl in row 14 turned around midflight and told me how pretty HRH was and how she had a black lab named Buster. She smiled at me the rest of the flight.

HRH has adoring fans. Life is back to normal.

Oh, ps, our crate made it through the baggage process!

Here is Fred carting it off the baggage claim.
Here is a close up of my amazing hyper-mad, "tape the whole frigging crate" tape job! Good job, huh?

More of my handiwork. Notice how low down I taped it. Fred's stopped midway. 8-)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Trip to Phoenix

Our journey started off easily enough. We arrived at the airport about 6 am on Sunday. We have flown with US Airways before with Bingo and expeted them to be pretty good about Her Royal Highness. When we got up to the kiosk, there was one frantic guy behind the counter and a couple of ladies further down. I asked the guy if I needed to count her crate as luggage as last time it was considered an assistive device and we didn't have to pay for it. He looked at us and then away.

"Uh, let me ask." He called over the supervisor. Sure, she said. We do it for strollers and baby seats, why not for crates. "I'll sign off on it." He turned to another lady and said, "Can you handle them? I'm full with these." Then he wandered off to his other terminals.

Fortunately, he left us with an animal lover. She LOVED HRH. "Oh, hello lover!" She said. "You are a pretty one. Let me get you fixed up." Then she proceeded to get us set up with the crate, and checked us in and got us signed off.

Then we rode the elevator to the tram, which HRH managed very well. Security didn't blink at her. After the tram ride we got off and went to get into the security line but we were waved into a special line (read very short line). That was nice. We explained to the TSA people that this was HRH's first flight and we were going to take off her leash and coat and then one of us would go through and stand there and the other would hold her while the one on the other side would call her to come through. The TSA agent said to keep her coat on. Then I asked if I could film it.

"NO." Stern look.

"That's why I asked." Smile.

I went through and Fred held HRH. We had to wait for three people to pass and then HRH got to go. I called her. She ran through right into my arms. No problemo.

When we got up to the gate the agent was already working on getting us the bulhead seat and had called up a mom and her daughter. They were moved to an empty row and had an empty seat between them. The agent apologized that she couldn't move the other person in our row.

"No worries. You have been super. We really appreciate all of your help." I tell you, US Airways personnel have always been exceptionally nice to work with and very helpful.

Once we got on the plane, the flight attendents were awesome. They even told the boy next to us, "Once the flight gets in the air, there is a row three rows back that only has one person in it and has an open seat by the window. That way, you can have more room and can give them more room for their gude dog."

Sneaky and manipulative, these US Airways flight attendants. I like 'em! As you can see from the photo above HRH was curled up in one seat are only and didn't extend over into two other areas like Bingo did. She slept the whole way and was a very good girl. When we landed I broke away quickly to find a spot for her to pee and as I was going out to the South an attendant stopped me and said that there was an official spot for pets over on the North side of baggage claim (see photo below).

Sure enough, there was. Unfortunately for HRH it was right next to the heavy traffic noise of 5 lanes of traffic and she just couldn't do her business with all that noise and commotion and humanity looking on. She wandered around sniffing and looking a bit anxious. So we went back inside.

Mom and Dad came to fetch us and we were off to lunch and to deposit our baggage at the house. Our vacation had started.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

President of the Bad Girls Club

There is a Bad Girls Club for real. I haven't watched it. I think it is set in Miami and involves hotties behaving badly. Usually they have a diva moment and strike a pose and scream at each other. This I gather just from the couple of commercials I have seen on late night TV.

Yesterday, Her Royal Highness (HRH) was president of the Bad Girls Club (for puppies). It was a club of two: HRH and Willow (Willow being vice-president for going in the trash after the cookie exchange tissue paper). HRH was president all day long at school. It went sort of like this:

"Hey! Look at me! I'm beautiful!" During study hall in the library.

"I don't want to sit on the cold tile!" Flounces around. "Get me a blanket to sit on!"

[Note: on Bad Girls Club day, all statements have an exclamation point at the end.]

"It's too quiet in the library! Let's party!" Barked while the library is full of kids studying for finals.

"I will not lower my voice!" Bark, head toss, and booty shake.

[Sigh. How many hours until this day is over?]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wrapping It Pre-K Style

For the second year in a row, we've done what's called a Wrap-In where the three divisions get together and decorate presents for children's charities in the bay area. We were fortunate to be paired with Pre-K again. They are super fun.

My first stop with Her Royal Highness (HRH) was this little boy who, when asked if he wanted to pet Berkeley, responded with, "The only dog I don't like is a big dog."

"OK." We went to the next small child.

As you can see we had much better luck at this table. They liked big dogs, which is sort of a laugh as HRH is a runt at 50 pounds and 7 months. She's a delicate flower.

Here we have HRH's fan club. Caroline supplied HRH's Christmas collar (there is a Mrs. Claus hat that goes with it, see below). Caroline is on the right and Katia is on the left. HRH was phenomenal. She visited each child calmly, let them pet her and didn't like or chew on them.

The third member of HRH's fan club is Pilar. They even matched for the wrap-in! We had to take a photo. Later that afternoon we had the holiday convocation (12 Days of Christmas, Jingle Bells, etc.) and HRH got to experience her FAVORITE BAND, the Highlander Pipe and Drum Band. (She does not like the pipe and drum corps.) Here's a short video of her reaction to them playing at the convocation. She dealt with it like royalty: strained about the ears, a little tension about the eyes and a few darting glances at the exits.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Post Thanksgiving Shopping with HRH

I did some post Thanksgiving shopping with Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley. No, not on black Friday. I waited for cyber Monday thinking most people would be on their computers and the aisle would be free for me!

First stop, Home Goods. I had a very bad experience unpacking my Christmas ornaments. Many of them were covered in mold from the wet summer we had (I'm buying ornament storage boxes next stop!) and it made me sad. I only use chile pepper and cow ornaments that I have collected over the last 20 years, so many of the chile pepper ornaments just fell apart. The cow ornaments were made of wood and I could wash. Also, one of my favorite glass Christmas trees broke. I'm on a replacement trip.

Back to Home Goods. They should have some Christmas goodies for me. I get HRH out of the car and ready her for the store. Now, if you don't know Home Goods, right at the front of the store is the crystal section. Followed closely by breakables and seasonal breakables. Then about 5 minutes later you come to sheets and towels.

Not a problem. It's cyber Monday. Everyone is ordering online. HRH and I glide into the store and as I lean down to pick up a basket I hear...

Squeak. Squeak.

Squeak. Squeak.

Oh. My. God. HRH perks up her ears. The squeaking gets more excited and HRH gets more interested we are smack in the front of the store. IN CRYSTAL. SQUEAK. SQUEAKY SQUEAK SQUEAK! Small lurch by HRH over to the left in direction of manic squeaking. Just the faintest sound of nails on linoleum as she scrabbles for purchase to get to the wondrous toy WHICH IS STILL SQUEAKING.

I'm thinking, "Where are the freaking towels?!" I don't need towels, but they are soft and unbreakable and there are about 5 aisles between us and 50/50 cotton safety. "Berekeley, forward."

She glances left, but walks forward. Good girl. We go forward. She still makes several glances to the left. Yep. That manic squeaker is still at it. Why doesn't someone kill him? Or at least tap him on the shoulder and say, "You are the most annoying person in the world!"

Finally, ensconced in cottony safety, with my blood pressure back out of the red, I can think about what I wanted to get. HRH is doing great. I realize though that my shopping mojo is completely out of whack and that the manic squeaker could be anywhere and could strike at any time. No place in the store is safe. Best to leave.

As we get to the front of the store, I glance over to the cashiers and there behind the register is a tall, thin 20 something man with his hand in his Home Goods apron pocket. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

HRH dragged me out of the store.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Importance of the Stay Command

Last Monday I had an appointment with a lady parts doctor. Monday being one of my bring Berkeley to school days meant that she was coming to the doctor's office with me. Not a problem. She has been much more mature since her puppy camp with John and Angel and seems to be barking less and not being so autocratic.

Good for us!

This was a new doctor, so I had to go to their concierge services to be checked in first. Berkeley went into a down under without a problem and went right to sleep for the whole interview. Good girl.

Then we went up the elevator and into the waiting room where we waited patiently to be called. The nurse looked at us a bit funny, but decided that she would choose to ignore the dog at my side completely and made no mention of her AT ALL. I thought this a bit strange, but, hey, whatever gets you through the day. Berkeley decided to snub her as well and when we hit the examining room she did a down under the chair and a stay and went to sleep.

When the doctor arrived, he was delighted to see Berkeley and asked all sorts of questions about her. She poked her head out and thumped her tail a few times (she is quite the tail wagger), but ultimately decided that our discussion was boring (read: didn't involve her) and went back to sleep.

At this point the doctor stands and gets one of those full coverage (ha ha!) paper sheets and says I need to take off my skirt and he will come back to do the examination. Berkeley is still in a down stay under the chair and is still asleep, so I disrobe and jog over to the medical table with the sheet around me sarong style. The examining table is about 10 feet away from where Berkeley is sleeping under the chair. Berkeley is directly in front of me and to my back is the door where the doctor will come through. Now that I am half naked and on the table I am starting to realize that I have made a huge error in judgment but am unsure if I have time to correct it or even how I can correct it. Will she STAY? Do I have time to jump off? Should I jump off? Is she deep asleep? Should I test it?

Before I can try anything, the doctor walks in and Berkeley comes ALIVE!

"People! People have entered my realm!" She emerges from under her chair. I half stand on the examining table and get a blast of cold air on my bare behind. I sit down quickly.

"BERKELEY! STAY!" She barely registers that I am there. After all, I am half naked and nearly shouting, she is Her Royal Highness. Why would she deign to see a naked crazy person yelling commands when there are professionals in the room?

She walks towards the doctor. "Stay!"

"It's alright. She's pretty." I gnash my teeth. Did I ask if she was pretty? NO! I have no panties on! I can't get off this table! I can't do anything.

"Berkeley, come here." That she recognizes. She finally looks at me and walks over. I bend over, carefully mind you, and grab for her leash. However, the examining table is REALLY TALL. This is a bad idea. I see this. The lady parts doctor sees it and so does the unseeing nurse who still is trying to act like there isn't a dog in the room.

"Just let her run free," my doctor says.

Ah, what the hell. This will be an interesting examination.

Note: There will be no photos for this post.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dog-sitter Notes

By Fred
Some notes for our dog-sitters this weekend. Thank you in advance.

Berkeley gets two cups of food in the morning (around 5:30 or 6am) and two cups in the evening (usually around 5:30pm). Have her do a sit-stay while you put food in the bowl. She won't be this nice again until the next feeding, so enjoy her for a minute or so. Have her in a down-stay before you put down her bowl. Step back and make sure she stays in down-stay for a while. Then say "Take a break".
We leave a big bowl of water on the floor all day and until around 6:30 or 7pm.

Bathroom Breaks
She typically poops once in the morning after she eats and once in the late afternoon. She is mostly house-broken but accidents are still possible. If she approaches your door and then looks back at you, it's more than just s suggestion--it's a warning.
If your yard is fenced and puppy-proof, you can let her off the leash outside. Otherwise, give her a long leash while outside for a break. If she doesn't go in a minute or so after you say busy-busy, she probably won't.

Bed time
Generally she has her last potty break at about 10 pm before she goes to bed, and we get up between 5:30 and 6:00am, but she adapts well to a different schedule at any time. She loves her crate and will sleep or nap whenever it is convenient for you. I sometimes give her a single kibble of food after she gets in the crate, just so it is a fun place.
She may attempt to wake you very early, just to make sure that you don't forget to wake up, and she will use an incredible variety of weepy, whiny, happy little squeaky sounds, just barely loud enough to hear. If you respond to any of those sounds in any way, you might just as well get up because she will not let you sleep again. Don't worry--if she needs a potty break, she will make a distinctive loud noise to let you know, and she very rarely does this.

Berkeley is fond of rocks, socks, toilet paper and many other things that she's not allowed to play with. Kongs and rubbery toys don't seem hold her interest for long. She like the tough fabric mesh toys. Without a chew toy she sometimes paces around the house like a lion looking for a wounded animal.

(When you are approved to go.) She's very good in restaurants, except when there are bits of food on the floor. When you first sit down, have Berkeley go into a down-stay, then step on her leash for a few seconds. She will typically rest through the meal with her head on your feet--cute.
Movies are a definite possibility--she did well in the last one. She is pretty good in stores but may try to pull you around, so don't take her if you are in a hurry to get something.

Berkeley can get nosey if allowed to wander free in your home. By nosey I mean that she could destroy something. She's never torn up any furniture, but there's always a first time. If she refuses to stay in the same room with you, try putting her on a tie-down. Gentle play is best with her. If she engages in naughty behavior (scratching, biting, barking, chewing, teasing, bullying, hair-pulling, etc.), give her a firm No and quit playing with her. If she persists in her naughtiness, she may need to take a nap in her crate.

Fun Things
Ask Berkeley to sit-stay, then walk out of the room. If she follows, take her back and do the sit-stay again until she stays without you in the room for several seconds. (It helps if you can see her but she can't see you.) Then say "Berkeley, come" and she will run to you. Like most puppy things, she thinks this is fun but gets worn out with it after a few times. Then on to something else... a walk around the block is fun.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Caring

By Fred
Over the past 10 years Willow and I have had countless discussions. Politics, movies, gardening, home improvement, carpentry. She is, in particular, a good listener. Just the other day a big limb snapped over the fish pond and is now hanging there, suspended in an awkward way so that by cutting it I invite disaster to several plants in and around the pond. It is a vexing thing and is something that I feel compelled to talk about.

A picture of Willow staring ahead with a great deal of compassion

Of course when I pointed this out to Willow, and I explained to her in detail my various options and the pros and cons of each, she sat patiently and listened to every word, staring at the limb and then back at me.

A picture of Berkeley not getting it.I point this out only because I assumed that, by now, Berkeley would be old enough to take on a more mature role in our family. So when she failed to show any concern at all about the limb (running around in circles and laughing while I talked), we went into the kitchen for some lessons in family compassion.

A good family member, I explained to her, should at least pretend to be interested when another member has a concern. Even Cheryl, I said, managed to keep a somber face when I explained all about the limb and its malevolent portent. Just as I, for example, try to be sympathetic when Cheryl isn't happy with her new haircut (even though I don't actually have any hair to cut and would be happy with any cut at all). You see, it's all about empathy.

A good guide dog will also need to be a good listener, I said, but I was still not getting through to her.

...just like I'm a good listener when you believe it is time to eat...

A picture of Berkeley with a very serious face, realizing now that she should be more aware of other people.

OK, that's better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Royal Preferences: Every Girl Has Her Go To Purse

Looks like an unassuming tote doesn't it? The Lands End Zip Top Canvas Tote shown above is my choice for my all around carry all tote back and forth to school and home. I got it when I got Bingo and needed just one bag to carry everything to classes. Bingo didn't pay it any attention. Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley, however, LOVES this bag.

When I take HRH to classes with me, she always has a bed to rest on: my tote! In fact, in the photo above, which a student took, she was actually trying to get into the tote. Something that didn't quite work out for her. 8-)

At home, she does have beds, blankets and comfy places to sleep. Where does she go? My tote.

I'm not sure what it is about my Lands End tote, but it works for her Highness. So if you need something to cart your stuff around, get a Lands End tote. And if your dog needs to take a nap, put your tote on the ground and let them lie on it! Who knew Lands End totes could do double duty? Pet bed and purse!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Urgent Request from the Provinces (HRH Berkeley's Last Postcard Before Fred Picked Her Up)

My Dearest...

We confess for a moment that we had forgotten your names! Are we becoming victims of Stockholm syndrome, for surely we are finding ourselves in some sympathy with our captors. Oh, what are we saying! Dear Cheryl! Dear Fred! We miss you terribly! While we are proud to have kept a stiff upper lip and a vigorously wagging tail throughout our ordeal, refusing to be cowed by fate, we nonetheless quite eagerly await the day of our restoration.

Last evening, the caretaker dragged us off to a nearby cathedral (rather modest by Westminster standards) for a bit of enrichment on the subject of Handel's Messiah. We do so love a good tune, but as there was rather more lecture than music, we found ourselves dozing off once again. We certainly appreciated the entirely appropriate captivation of the crowd by our mere presence. Even so, it cannot compare to our younger subjects fawning over us at the school they named in our honor.

Wait, a bit of news! Our dear Angel, who appears to have the caretaker's confidence, has given us to understand that we shall be attending a shooting party this weekend at which you might also be with that crafty cur who has taken our place. We can barely contain our anticipation. Please do what you can to undo this ghastly mess and return us to our rightful position!

But if there be a hunt afoot that day, do let's not miss it.

(AKA John Bauer)

(Note: We would like to thank John for taking such good care of our little HRH as we know she can be a bit trying at times. Fortunately, John has quite a good sense of humor. I think we got the much better deal as Dodger was completely easy, very calm and at ease with anything you did. Nothing fazed him. He was like a surfer dude, very mellow. We hated to see him leave. He instantly captured everyone's heart. I think it was those dark eyes and that white blond hair. Definitely a surfer dude, fer sure!)


By Fred
I grew up in rural Arkansas, just one generation away from folks who lived through the great depression, back when many isolated people survived, literally, on their ability to grow and hunt food. My stepdad was one of those guys (a really great guy). He introduced me to hunting at an early age.

Here's a picute of Larry keeping score as a shooter prepares his gun.So yesterday was like a trip back in time for me. Our friends Larry and Gabrielle put on a successful event, a sporting clays shooting competition (something I've always called skeet shooting), with the proceeds going to Southeastern Guide Dogs. Men and women wandered around the event dressed in hunting clothes and carrying shotguns--I haven't seen that in quite a while.

A picture of Johh, me, Dodger and Berkeley after the tradeoff. We're sitting on a picnic table.Cheryl is still sick in bed, so she didn't get to go. When I saw Berkeley's ultra-waggy tail, I realized how much I missed her this week. And I could see that John was clearly happy to get Dodger back.
Quite a few guide dogs puppies were there, and none seemed to mind the pop, pop of the guns. Maybe it's in their genes; those generations of Labs trained to sit quietly while their owners miss one duck after another. Of course, these Labs have taken on the coat, a higher calling.

A picture taken during the raffle. It seems that a few hundred people showed up.After the shooting came lunch on rows of picnic tables, then a raffle run by Larry, who is really a funny guy. There was a serious message, too: many service people are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries, many have lost their sight, and SEGD provides a way to help them get back on their feet.

Like at all of these fund-raisers, I felt surrounded by some of the nicest human beings on earth. Don't get me wrong--I'm no more likely to take up shooting than many of these shooters are likely to take up yoga. But I appreciate the sport and the history behind it.

Too bad my stepdad is gone--he really would have enjoyed yesterday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dodger Goes Home

By Fred
We humans have a binding, sentimental and sticky nature. How long does it take us to form a bond with a dog? Days? Hours? Seconds?

Today Berkeley comes back home and Dodger returns to his puppy-raiser, John. We've really enjoyed Dodger this week, and we bonded with him right away. Even Willow, who can be very slow to show her approval, has adopted her new friend. Here they are, sharing an intimate moment in the kitchen.

In this video, Dodger and Willow sit close together on the floor, arms locked, at least until he discovers the camera and moves away. Willow appears cold and aloof, but she doesn't fool me. She's crazy about Dodger.

Cheryl and I have been sick with colds the entire week. Cheryl was determined to go to school early this week (and give Dodger his new experience around kids), but by Thursday her cold had turned into bronchitis. Now she is back in bed. What a hard-head!

A picture of Dodger with a big smile, sitting under a restaurant table.I felt better by Thursday, so Dodger and I went out for lunch at our dog-friendly place in Dunedin: Casa Tina. He has excellent table manners. Everyone at the restaurant bonded immediately with Dodger. He is a quick bonder for sure.

Here we are in the back yard, exploring the wonder of fish.

I point out some fish in our pond to Dodger. Like any good house guest, he humors me and pretends to be interested. Good boy.

Of course we are happy for Berkeley to come home. Why wouldn't we be? What kind of question is that to ask, anyway?

In this video, Dodger stares into the camera, wondering why I've just asked him to sit.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dodger Rules the School

Dodger was a big hit at school. He mustered through convocation without a problem, doing a down under with nary a ear twitch at all the commotion. Then, when we went up on stage to introduce him to the Upper Division, he calmly flopped down on the floor and went to sleep. So calm.

In fact, he spent the day either playing or sleeping.

At the end of the day he was so tired I took this photo of him on the way home.

Another Postcard from the Provinces

Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley continues her puppy camp at the Bauer household and we have received another missive from her.

My Dearest Cheryl and Fred,

It is now Day 4 of our captivity. We continue to explore these nether regions of our realm with curiosity and cautious enthusiasm. We are gratified to find admirers and well-wishers everywhere. It does restore confidence in trying times.

Yesterday, we caught the caretaker looking at *our* blog and were mortified to find that aptly described blonde urchin usurping the cyber-throne that is rightfully ours. Then, in a fit of pique, the canine Angel we spoke of had the temerity to growl at us! Does she not know whom she is so rudely addressing? We were sorely tempted to remind her of her place in no uncertain terms, and would have done so were it not that our play together was entirely too delightful! We still find the caretaker a tad irritating, however, as he is constantly taking us outside to "busy." Does he think his carpets are made of gold? We assure you, they are not -- though we will make them so if he's not careful.

Perhaps to make up for his offense, said caretaker arranged for a private showing at the Regal Cinema of one of the day's latest entertainments, a farce called Megamind. Alas, it was hardly Shakespeare. We confess we had a difficult time keeping our eyes open -- something that would have been made much easier if we'd been allowed the popcorn we so desperately craved. With a nip in the night air on our return, we bethought ourselves that an ermine robe would not be amiss as we continue our tutelage for our rĂ´le as a leader of men.

(as ghosted by John Bauer)

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Postcard from the Provinces (HRH Writes!)

My Dearest Cheryl and Fred,

We are not sure how we have found ourselves in a "Princess and the Pauper" scenario with the Artful Dodger, though perhaps that sobriquet is well earned. While we appraised the canine of the house a companionable enough lady-in-waiting, we nonetheless let our general distress be known early on by giving the caretaker the silent treatment in matters of elimination until we deigned to "leave a message" in the new Fresh Market in St. Petersburg, inadvertently reminding the hoi polloi that no matter how fresh or trendy they deem their comestibles, it all comes out the same in the end -- and advertently reminding our inferiors that royalty will be attended to!
We also were not shy about expressing our dissatisfaction with our private rooms despite managing to sleep quite well through the night.

Perhaps it was the extra hour of beauty rest resulting from the Colonies' tampering with the Gregorian calendar, but we find ourselves to be in much better spirits today, carrying ourselves with the utmost manners and poise and only displaying our flighty side when rudely confronted with a cage full of fluttering finches in a local "pet"
shop. Although we do not wish to be seen in our present circumstances, we fear the paparazzi have already spotted us communicating with our dear Angel. Alas, if only they were more concerned about remedying the situation than documenting it, this royal nightmare might end.

One hopes that the guttersnipe left in your care has not totally destroyed the palace.

(as ghosted by John Bauer)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dodger's in the House!

Dodger arrived yesterday for puppy camp. Puppy camp is where you trade puppies for a week so they can experience a different type of household than what they are normally used to having. Dodger's dad works at home and isn't around kids very much so he wanted Dodger to get to go to school for a week, so we agreed to swap.

Our first event came when we met up for lunch with the two dogs at Casa Tina's, a very guide dog friendly restaurant. After the initial few minutes of energetic stretching to see if they could touch (when they have their coats on they can't interact with each other), they calmed down and ignored each other. Then it was head home, meet Willow and pack up Her Royal Highness!

As you can see in the photo above, this was similar to the scene in the restaurant, very calm dogs ignoring each other. That's what we like! Outside, it was a different story. Dodger is much larger than HRH and had the idea that he would play with Willow. Willow turned and did a matron growl ("young fool, back off now!"), which to his credit he did. So he turned to HRH thinking, "Oh, she's small and female, I can dominate her in a flash."

Yeah, right. Have you met the Queen?

HRH was on him in a flash.

"What?! I've got 20 pounds on you?" It was actually pretty amusing to watch this poor boy get what he was giving out handed right back to plus some. With attitude! (And a little head toss. There might have been some foot stamping as well, I was laughing and might have missed it.)

Many of you may know that we have koi ponds in our backyard. Apparently Dodger didn't get the memo. He fell in. TWICE. I'm tempted to say something about blondes because he did it all within the span of half an hour and the first time he fell in it was while he was drinking out of the pond and staring at himself. I wouldn't want to stereotype him.

In the end, I think Dodger was happy to see her go. What evil plans she has cooked up for John, I hesitate to think about. Good Luck!I crochet. I love yarn. Consequently, some might say I am a yarn harlot and buy too much yarn. Those people will not be receiving lovely yarn creations for Christmas! We immediately discovered that it is very easy to forget that we have trained our dogs not to bother with the yarn when the first thing Dodger did was run over and grab a ball of yarn.

Bad Dodger!
See all the yarn Dodger. Run Dudger, run!

Grab the yarn Dodger!
There is so much to choose from. What color do I want?

There are some things that you can teach in a week and some things that you can't. Yarn no, isn't one of them. Hence, the yarn blockade. Working so far. As for Dodger, he moved on to practice his artful moves.

See Dodger on the stairs?

See the chairs at the bottom of the stairs?

Somehow, Dodger got through the chair blockade and up the stairs. Clever boy, making my earlier blonde comment so much stereotyping balderdash. I'm going to have to keep a close eye on this one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Harry Potter Film Festival

Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley is pictured above taking it easy at the Harry Potter Film Festival held last Friday in the Jean Ann Cone Library at my school. It went from 4 pm until 10 pm and we were able to watch HP 4, play some trivia, have a spell casting session, get sorted into our houses, and have a costume contest before ending with HP 6. We also had plenty of food! HRH had no problem with the costumes as you can see. Her main problem was not eating the food on the floor!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Other People's Poo

One of the things they don't mention in the guide dog puppy manual is that you have to pick up other people's dog poo. Why? Well, because MY DOG is the only dog anybody knows is on campus. So, if they find poo on campus, guess who's dog did it? My dog!

Friday at the Harry Potter film festival, I took Her Royal Highness out to poo and there was some poo waiting for us. How convenient. HRH didn't need to poo. So I got to pick up someone else's poo.

Thanks, person who doesn't pick up after your dog on a school campus. You're a peach! But I've got your back. That's why I carry around poo bags 24/7 on my lanyard. 8-)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Madama Butterfly

This year, I picked out a costume for Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley. One that she could wear and that we all could coordinate with. She was Madama Butterfly and we were butterflies in waiting and our friend Karene, the chemistry teacher, was a crazy entomologist following us around with a magnifying glass! 8-)

Here is HRH's outfit. Pink and purple wings with a headband antennae (our wings coordinated, of course!).

HRH was pretty good about letting us put the outfit on her. The hard part was figuring out how the outfit went on. Here we obviously have it wrong. The front part goes in front of her front legs!

Then we had to figure out the back ties. They were made for a much bigger lab. We think HRH might be a pygmy lab. She is the runt of the litter and is only 42 pounds at 6 months.

I finally gave up and just tied the back in a bow. It worked.

She gave me a big lick in the face when we were all done with the wings. But there was one more part of the costume to go: the headband!

Would you believe she wore it for the Entire Day! Never once tried to take it off. I think she thought it was a crown or a tiara. 8-)

Here she is watching the little lower division kids parade by with their costumes. Their reactions were awesome. Every time they caught sight of her, they would say, "Look at BERKELEY!" And they pointed and smiled and laughed. It was SOOOOO worth it. All the middle division kids loved it, the upper division kids loved it and the faculty loved it. She made EVERYONE'S day. She was a happiness generator on Wednesday. It was so cool.

After the parade, I put her coat on and then put the wings on over her coat. She still looked cute.

And they didn't impede her napping.

Truly, she was a Monarch Butterfly!

Here we all are with Her Royal Highness.