Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moaning Myrtle, I mean, Bingo

After the episode at the play, I took Bingo with me to classes. That Monday I had four classes. I started each class by telling the students what had happened at the play and that if Bingo made noise during class I was going to give him a correction. It wasn't because I was trying to be mean to him, but if he didn't stop being a crybaby, then the blind person who got him wouldn't ever be able to go to a movie or play.

They all seemed to get it. Bingo had three corrections in the first period. None in second and third periods. Then came fourth period, with the freshman health class that is made up of 18 boys, two girls and most of the boys have very limited attention spans. Having Bingo in class is quite a distraction to them. So even though they heard the reason, I'm not sure that in their freshmen boy minds they actually HEARD me. So when he made a moan/whine and I said, "No noise" and gave a correction, I got this startled, shocked and horrified look from two freshmen boys.

This is where "I'm not the strongest pack leader" trait comes out. I realized that they had not heard one thing I said, but I also realized that they were so completely unfocused that it was no use trying to explain it again. So, I opted to remove the distraction: Bingo. I keep a kennel in my office in the library and also our library assistant Jan occasionally keeps him, out of coat, in her office. I gave Bingo to Jan. Better to work with an older class who understands the purpose of the correction where I can be consistent with it, than try to work the correction and be inconsistent was my thought. Hopefully it was the right decision.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bingo and the Bowling Alley

You heard it right! Bingo went bowling. Eliot was having his 34th birthday and his wife threw him a party at the local bowling alley. I had the bright idea to bring Bingo. I did ask beforehand (Fred said, No, this is not a good idea. Eliot said, Why not?) I went with the birthday boy's answer. I mean, he is the birthday boy, right? Why deny him?

Uh, bowling, with a dog who goes from 0 to 100 on the excitement scale to a PARTY. Bowling, where all they do is throw big BALLS around. What was I thinking?

Bingo was great on the walk in. The only problem was that none of Eliot's friends were familiar with service animals and they all fell in love and wanted to pet Bingo. So I felt like the party pariah by saying, "No, I'm sorry. You can't pet him. He's working." They were super nice about it, but still, Cheryl = party fun killer. Plus, you can't bowl when you have a guide dog. I wasn't thinking about that. Although, technically, he is on the LEFT side, and I bowl on my right side, so I could bowl with him. I think the bowling people might have objected to that though.

The other thing that happens at birthday parties that I had completely forgotten about was effusive greetings, back slapping, huge hugs and high fives. Each one was watched eagerly by Bingo and in his tiny labrador mind they all heralded mammoth, spectacular ecstasy just moments away. He vibrated.

I sat at the table and had Bingo lay down. What struck me immediately was this bowling alley had the cleanest floors in the nation. I swear that you literally could eat off this floor. There was not one crumb on it. I know this because Bingo looked and was unable to find one. NOT ONE. I think that is what saved the evening. He was so disheartened by the fact the there were no crumbs and that I was sitting and no super ecstatic revelatory experience was in the offing for him that he just gave up and lay down. He was a good boy, a really good boy for two hours.
[ A photo of CD, Tracy and Chad at a table with Bingo on the floor in a down stay. Notice he is not snuffling around for food crumbs! Bingo did really like Chad's feet and whenever Chad was at the table with us, he would try to lick Chad's toes. Tracy said it was because Chad had unusally smelly feet. I told Chad it was because Bingo loved him.]

He even got to experience Galactic Bowling where the lights go out, loud disco music comes on and strobe lights, multicolored lights start to wink on and off. It makes for quite an experience. Bingo, the disco doggie.

We did have one close call though. Fred finally came over to let me bowl a couple of times and he took off his shoes. He wasn't paying attention and one of the bowling managers came over and gave Fred a stern look and pointed down at Bingo.

"He's chewing on the shoes!"

Fred said, "Oh." And then reached over to take the massively abused shoe (abused by other bowlers, not by Bingo) out of Bingo's mouth. "Right." We decided that I should walk out with Bingo first and Fred should return the shoes. There were no visible teeth marks. 8-)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let Me Play, Coach

By Fred
OK. In junior high I practiced hard, but I wasn't the best basketball player. Like my other unfortunate and nerdy friends, I sat on the bench most of the game, hoping to play in those last few seconds when I couldn't possibly make things any worse. I remember thinking Come on, coach, just let me play.

Last night at training class Bingo and I sat the bench while the good players got to show off. Or rather we stood at the far, dark perimeter of a grassy field and watched as the good dogs worked out, like basketball players on the court, in a circle of light at the center. Cheryl has a cold, so Bingo and I were on our own.

We did some doggy push ups (sit, down, stay, stand) and when Bingo did well, we took a few steps toward the circle. Failure to do well, and we took a few steps back. Of course, he already is pretty good at sit and down and stay (he has a down that would make you cry). Failure, for him, is losing his patience and attempting to run wild into the circle and doing who-knows-what. (He also was distracted by the smells that radiate from a field of grass just outside a vet's office, but that's another issue.)

Toward the end of the class, the message is getting through to him. To get closer, he must be a good boy. We get a little closer. Finally, with a few seconds left in the game, Jennifer (our SEGD coach and trainer) asks if Bingo is ready to play. We walk slowly into the circle, calmly, and after a few steps he makes a single lunge at one of the dogs. NO, I say, and we sit for a few seconds, then walk forward again, calmly again. He sits. Good boy. Calm. And we turn around to leave the circle. Good dog. For him, really good dog.

Thanks to Jennifer, this seems to be the perfect strategy for Bingo. Be good or sit the bench.

[ A photo of Bingo from a walk earlier this week, looking up and with his tongue hanging out. ]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fuzzy Distractions

By Fred
Today was a free day for Bingo (no school) so I took him for a long walk. Along the way we met up with a little old lady and her fuzzy little dog (I'm guessing it was a dog), one of those feather dusters on a leash with a bad attitude and loud yapping bark. As we approached them on the sidewalk, I tried to transmit a sense of calm down the leash to Bingo, who, I'm sure, was thoroughly confused by these two odd approaching creatures. The woman had one of those really long leads, and her little beast was running in big circles. No way I can control what might happen here...

I saw a brief glimpse of a possible future, with Bingo swallowing her dog in one bite, standing there with a pink leash coming out from his mouth.

Left, left, I said to Bingo at the next walkway, and we crossed the street. He did look back once or twice but didn't lunge, so I gave him a good boy.

Later we walked along a busy street a few blocks away. The SEGD manual recommends doing this just to get the puppies used to noise and traffic. This isn't a very good video, but it gives you the general idea--that he's not a afraid of anything. And lately he's doing a better job of keeping his head up and being aware of things.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Epic Fail at The Dining Room

It was bound to happen. An epic fail. Sooner or later. It had to happen.

Saturday night we went to see the school play The Dining Room. The night had hints that it wouldn't go well when we were driving over the bridge and Fred asked when the play started.

"Oh, 7 or 7:30. Look it up on the website." I said. He had gotten a new iPhone for Christmas and likes to look things up, plus our school has a new website that has a cell phone app.

"Is the play Our Town?"

"No, that was last semester." Uh oh. Flying blind on time. So we assume 7 pm and eat a hurried dinner at Mitchell's. Of course when we get to school, we discover it starts at 7:30 and we have 45 minutes to wait. So, we walk Bingo up and down stairs to tire him out. Good plan we thought. It didn't work.

We waited until about 7:20 to go to our seats. Then we sat in the back, on the aisle. We know the drill. Bingo was very good. He was lying down, calm and quiet. Then the lights went out and the show started.

Whine. Rustle. Rustle.

Whine. Whispered NO. Heads turn. Mind you there are five empty rows between us the next row with people in front of us, but still, parents. You seriously don't want to annoy parents watching their children.

Whine. Fred looks at me. The husband of the play director on the opposite side of the aisle looks at me. I tell Fred we need to leave. Time: 7:50. I make two major mistakes: I bend down to get my purse and I don't tell Fred that there is a curtain covering the doors leading out of the theater to mask the light bleeding in from late people.

When I bend down, Fred thinks I have a hold of Bingo's collar. I am getting my purse. Fred turns and I think he has Bingo, He doesn't. Bingo senses movement and BOLTS. He races up the aisle and shoots under the curtain and disappears. Unfortunately for the two girls who are the ushers and are standing between the curtain and the door to help people navigate between the curtain and the door, Bingo surprises them. They aren't expecting a 70-pound black lab to come rushing the exit, startling them so they SQUEAK! Not good.

Fred is standing in the aisle and all he sees is Bingo disappear! He rushes forward and runs smack into the curtain, and flails around trying to find the slit (mind you there isn't one, you have to go around, but he doesn't know that), so finally he follows the leash and goes under. There are the two ushers with Bingo, the door opens, Fred and Bingo go through, I follow. It seems like light bleeds through, but I'm really tense about the bolting, the flailing and the squeaking.

It all seemed like a lifetime. However, the good news is that my friend's son was an usher that night and he didn't even know we were there or that anything had happened. So I guess the incident wasn't as big as we thought. Still, Bingo won't be going to the musical in March! I'll stick with the anonymous crowds in movie theaters.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Driven to Distraction

After the interesting experience at Waltz Fish Shak (illiterate restaurateurs), we headed over to the Lion's club for the first of our four official obedience classes with the SEGD trainer Jennifer (who was wonderful!). When we got there, we were happy to see that Bingo's brother Jim (with Kerry) was there and so was Blossom (with Caroline). As expected, as soon as he caught sight of the other dogs, crazy Bingo appeared. Jennifer was on top of it.

She gently told us that our goal for the class was to find the distance at which we could work with Bingo and he would listen to us with a slack leash but that he would also be aware of the other dogs. If we were giving him more then 2-3 corrections, we were to move back farther. If he did great, move closer. And keep doing that until we gradually got him to move into the circle of acceptance (although she didn't call it the circle of acceptance. I just made that up. 8-).

"Try not to think of it as banishment," she said, but it was still a bit hard to take (see circle of acceptance comment above ;-). Especially as there were several puppies all being nice and sitting in the circle. But there is no whining in obedience class, so we moved to the outer limits. Fortunately, some other puppies joined us in the outer ring.

[Photo of Cheryl standing against the back wall facing the camera with Bingo sitting beside her watching the obedience class.]

It was a surreal experience. There we were, in the back, watching a placid group of puppies walking in a circle, sitting and being nice, while Bingo and I played surreptitious guerrilla obedience training:

"Bingo, Sit. Good Boy." Gentle pat on the head. (We also learned that he gets WAY TOO excited and we have to be very calm when we give praise. So, make that zen surreptitious guerrilla obedience training.)

Sneak a look at the puppies.

Check Bingo. Is the leash slack? Is he watching? Inch forward.

"Bingo, Sit. Good boy." Pat, pat.

Check out the puppies. Is the leash slack; is he watching them? Inch forward.

Crap! Correction. Correction. Inch backward. Try again.

[ Photo of the back of Cheryl and Bingo. Bingo is now in a down stay and they are both about 10 feet closer to the obedience class. ]

We did guerrilla obedience training all night, slowly sneaking up to the main circle of acceptance puppies until we were about 10 feet away. Jennifer said he did a great job.

[Photo of Fred's legs walking towards camera and Bingo in a down stay facing the obedience class. Bingo is now about 10 feet away from the class! ]

This video actually shows success. Bingo is the closest he got to the other dogs all night. He maintained a down stay, was in full view of the other puppies and was watching them but there is a slack leash and he is making the decision not to be a butthead. Next week, we will try for 5 feet, but this process can't be rushed, so we'll see what he can do.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don't Eat at Waltz Fish Shak

I was a bit paranoid about arriving at our obedience class late, so I wanted to leave super early and have dinner nearby. I asked Fred to check out Urban Spoon and find us a new spot to have dinner. He picked Waltz Fish Shak (although he didn't tell me that they can't spell, and I should have suspected something was up with the crazy spelling) at John's Pass.

We walked in and sat in the front porch area (we were the only ones there) and put Bingo down under the table, when the waitress comes running out of the bar area.

"We don't allow dogs here," she said making fluttering motions at Bingo, who is doing some rooting around under the table.

I make a small, and I'm sure unnoticed (ha!) correction and say, "He's not a dog. He's a service animal. He's a guide dog in training." I yank him out a little bit so she can see the blue coat and his sweet face (I mean really, who can resist that face, even when it is rooting around under the chair for a crumb?). No softening in her hard eyes.

"Anyone can say they have a service dog. People try that all the time."

"Really? Do they have a card to verify that their dog is a service animal?" I whipped out Bingo's card with his ID number. This is when it starts to get nuts.

"Anyone can make that. If you have the internet, anyone can make that. I got shut down by the health department on New Year's Eve because some guy came in here with a dog wearing a coat like that and he had a card like yours and it was fake. The fine is $1,000. Are you going to pay the fine? Are you going to split the $1,000 with me if the health inspector comes in here and shuts me down?"

"Why of course I will," I say patting her arm. "He's a real service dog, so you won't get shut down. There won't be a fine. But if there is, we'll split it with you and we'll get SEGD to file a complaint."

Stupid me, (if you don't know, I am the most gullible person EVER, just ask about the one-legged duck story) I'm really upset about someone impersonating a guide dog and a puppy raiser. Wow, I'm thinking, I need to get on the phone to SEGD and explain about how people are impersonating us. Who knew? This is OUTRAGEOUS!Fred meanwhile has completely checked out and is checking his iPhone for the weather report.

Finally, she condescends to let us stay and brings us drinks and then she disappears. She NEVER comes back, effectively denying us service but in a very cagey, passive aggressive way. Fred later told me that she was a big fat liar. That there was no way she could have know that someone's card was fake and she made all of that up, but he thought it was sweet I was so nice to her.

So I'm torn. I want to have a big meeting with all the SEGD puppies at Walts Fish Shak just to see her in apoplexy. But I also have taken deep pleasure in posting negative reviews in Urban Spoon and Yelp. Help me out. Don't go there and tell your friends not to go there and post it on your blogs not to go there and tweet about not going there! Waltz Fish Shak: Unfriendly to Guide Dogs in Training.

3/16/2010 update: I've deleted the Yelp and Urbanspoon negative reviews so that if there is a way for Waltz to come to a better understanding about guidedogs, I don't want my reviews to stand in the way.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Serious Bingo Poses for the Camera

By Fred
On his recent visit my nephew took several pictures of Bingo, and here is my favorite. It shows Bingo, the puppy, trying on the demeanor of his future serious self, like a young boy putting aside his silliness for a few seconds and puffing up like an adult for the camera.

[ A photo just of Bingo's face, with sad eyes, droopy ears and a serious look ]

Here's another handsome photo of Bingo being a very good boy. Tonight we're taking him to a training class. We'll see if this Bingo comes with us.

[ A photo of Bingo with head tilted up at an angle and looking into the camera. ]

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Bingo

It happened again. We went to the meeting and out came crazy Mr. Bingo. Chuck told us that the number one reason that a puppy will fail is that they can't overcome their distractions (distraction to other dogs, cats, squirrels, etc.). Bingo was super distracted. But, seriously, he was much better than the last meeting.

[photo of Bingo in a sit looking away from me and at other dogs]

[photo of Bingo in a sit, head twisted around, still looking away from me]

Well, he was better than the last meeting. Not much better. You can see from the photos above that he isn't paying any attention to me. 8-) Other dogs are a major distractor for him. MAJOR DISTRACTOR. Don said that he didn't know of anything to do to get them over it. I do know that with one other dog, he will calm down as evidenced by the time we went to lunch with another service dog and he did just fine. They both ignored each other.

In some ways these monthly meetings make me sad because Bingo can be so good and there is little evidence of it whenever there is another dog around. Just ask the Newman's whenever they bring their dog Milly to school. Mr. Bingo goes nuts for her.

Our obedience classes didn't start this week. Our trainer was sick. They start next week. Perhaps she will have some suggestions for keeping Mr. Bingo inside and letting sweet Bingo stay outside.

If you haven't contributed to Bingo's Sit Stay Give Campaign, please consider it. We are also selling raffle tickets ($5 a ticket or 5 for $20 with a chance to win $10,000!). Let me know what you want!)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bingo and the Fine Arts

By Fred
This week our nephew, an aspiring writer and photographer, came to visit so I took him to see the photography collection at the St. Pete Museum of Fine Arts, and he took pictures below.

Of course we were curious to see how Bingo would like the collection. Most Labrador Retrievers have a taste for the old-school northern Europeans--Rembrandt and Vermeer, but Bingo is still a puppy. Who knows what he might like?

[photo of Bingo admiring a painting]
The photographs didn't seem to interest Bingo at all--they were too small and too high on the wall. He was equally bored with European paintings, even the one that showed a group of young women and their dogs lounging on blankets with baskets of food. I kept pointing out the basket of food but he just didn't care.

It was not until we reached the 20th century art that he started to take notice, possibly because several of these were at his eye level. In the photo above we are discussing the use of color and contrast within a collection of dissimilar geometric shapes (and what appeared to be a lizard sitting on a rock).

[photo of Bingo with a big yawn]
But in the end, his reaction to modern art was pretty clear, and I confess to having the same feelings. Oh well, it must be an acquired taste. Then we moved on to the Greek pottery. Also yawn.

Then we reached the room with sculptures, and Bingo really got excited. In particular, this ancient Mayan stone carving of the turtle god Ak seemed almost alive, daring Bingo to cross the line (notice the tight leash). Luckily I was watching him just before he lunged or we would have a big bill to pay.
[photo of Bingo stalking a small stone sculpture with a funny face]

The museum people were very friendly to Bingo (little did they know), so I recommend a visit with your puppy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bingolocks and the Two Arizona Bears (Ruby and Romo)

Bingo discovered that Grandma and Grandpa's house was a great place to stay, however, there were these two other granddogs who kept showing up and who refused to play with him. Very rude. Ruby, a red bone hound, and Romo, a ridgeless Rhodesian ridgeback (don't ask), are the older dogs of my brother and sister in law. They are used to ruling the roost and were quite surprised to arrive and find an interloper sleeping on their beds. Sort of like the bears coming home and finding Goldilocks sleeping on their bed.

However, in our case, Bingolocks did not run screaming from the house but rather leaped from the bed and jumped on Ruby and Romo and demanding to be played with. This resulted in much shouting and leaping about which caused Grandma to become irritated resulting in Ruby and Romo being put outside and Bingolocks staring at them and wondering why they won't just play.

The following two photos show Bingo sitting facing away from the camera looking out a sliding glass door at Ruby and Romo.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Those Powdery White Sandy Beaches

Before we left on our holiday we went to Frenchy's Rockaway on Clearwater Beach for a last look at the beach before jetting off to the desert where there was a sand of different sort. While we were having lunch we realized that Bingo had never experience the beach! So, after having lunch (I highly recommend the fish tacos and grouper sandwich, one or the other, not both at the same time 8-) we took him out onto the sand.

Photo of Fred and Bingo on the beach with Frenchy's in the background. Bingo has a white muzzle.

You might wonder why Bingo has a white muzzle. That's because silly dog that he is, he saw the sand and thought, "Oh! Edible!" and bit the beach.

Close up of Bingo and his sand covered muzzle. One bite was enough. We left right after that shot.