Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Dentist Office Rocks!

I've been very lucky. I've never had a cavity and except for one time, I've always had good dentists. That one bad dentist was in Florida and it was pretty bad. So when I asked around for a recommendation, I really listened to what my friends were saying.

That's why when my friend Suzanne started talking about how wonderful Dr. Charles Ford was and how she had been going to him for YEARS, I perked up my ears. Sounds like my kind of dentist. And he was, kind, knowledgeable, thorough and with a charming and pleasant staff. Plus, he and his wife Beth have two labs, so they love dogs.

On Tuesday I had an appointment for a cleaning. Here was my opportunity to introduce Bingo to the staff!

It all started well. I mean, he made it into the exam room pretty good. A little wild, admittedly, skittering around a bit on the slick new floor. I panicked only a little when there didn't appear to be anything I could attach his tie down to.

I looked at Tonya, my dental hygenist. She was being very sweet. "I'll try just putting him in a down stay." I'm thinking, yeah right. Bingo in a down stay. That will work. I'm looking around at all the very expensive dental equipment and the lovely edible cords that are on the ground. I think back on the cord he chewed through at the Brazilian restaurant. I get a little nauseous.

I give Bingo the evil eye. He pops up. I put him back down. I sit down in the chair and Tonya attempts to put my paper napkin around my throat. Bingo pops up again. Ack.

I try the Vulcan death grip from the chair. It's not working. I put him into a down stay. Tonya starts working again. Beth, Dr. Ford's wife and the receptionist/office manager, pops in to see if she can pet Bingo, but I explain about the coat. She's a little crestfallen, but understands. She says he has a sweet face. Tonya continues. Bingo starts to fall asleep.

Then Tonya brings out the electrostatic ablation drill (for want of a better word, it's actually a laser) to laser off the crud from my teeth. Begin high pitched whining noise! VERY HIGH PITCHED WHINING NOISE.

Up pops Bingo. I have a feeling that this electrostatic thingy is hurting his ears. Uh oh....

"Oh Beth!"

Turns out, if your dentist uses the electrostatic ablation drill, you probably don't want to take your guide dog to the dentist's office. Unless Beth is there. So I recommend you change dentists.

After Tonya finished up with that, Bingo came back and went to sleep. Then Tonya and Beth posed for a cute photo.

Just in case you need the details :-)

Dr. Charles Ford
3921 5th Avenue North
Saint Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 327-2342

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bingo: Good for the Self Esteem

Saturday night I received an email from a gal who said she had just become a puppy raiser and she lived in our neighborhood. Did I remember Princess from the last meeting?

Princess: yellow lab, 7 months old, a finisher as the older lady who had her decided she was too much to care for and gave her back and Stephanie bravely stepped forward to grab her leash. I picked up the phone right away and scheduled a play date for the following morning.

Fortunately for me, I was a veteran of three of Jennifer's SEGD obedience classes and so I had a fairly large repertoire of distraction exercises to run through. We started with the one where you walk toward to the other dog with the intention of passing them. If the dog is going to lunge, then you do a right about and go back and begin again. You do this until they can pass without lunging. We did this for about five minutes with Bingo and Princess both lunging quite athletically at each other and having to be yanked back inline and corrected, turned around and taken back to the beginning. After a while, Stephanie looked over at me and said, "I feel so much better!"

Yep. That's my Bingo. He's an esteem builder.

We continued to work the exercise taking periodic timeouts by doing doggie pushups to engage them even more, until, finally, we achieved boredom! They walked by each other.

We went out and did it again today, and within a few minutes we had achieved boredom. We even managed a long walk side by side!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Want a New Drug

Huey Lewis and the News sang about it (I Want A New Drug):

    I want a new drug
    One that does what it should
    One that won't make me feel too bad
    One that won't make me fee too good

Just when we thought he had fought through and battled the croc addiction into submission we find out he is into heavy stuff! Yep. ALPACA.

Here's a photo of the addictive alpaca slippers that are blowing our boy's mind. Furred on the outside rim and completely furred inside, these lovely slippers still retain the scent of alpaca AND the lovely sweaty scent of mom's winter feet.

It's June. It's hot. Alapaca slippers aren't worn in June. Nor are they worn in May. Yet in May I caught him with one in his bed right before we went to sleep.

"No, No!" I cried. I grabbed the slipper. Then I shook it under his nose. "NO." I substituted a kong that was sitting not three feet away. Then, muttering, I walked with the slipper over to the walk in closet, which does not have a door, and went to the open shelving and stuck the slipper in on the winter scarves slippers shelf (second from bottom).

A week later, Bingo is in bed with the slipper. This time I confiscate it and give him the hairy eyeball. Where are you getting these slippers you naughty boy? Several days go by and as I am brushing my teeth, I happen to go into the bedroom and catch Bingo coming out of the walk-in closet with a slipper in his mouth! He freezes.

"AHA! NO!" He drops the slipper. I walk over and pat him on the head for dropping the slipper. So he's been raiding the closet this whole time. Smart, addicted, poor, addicted boy.

"Fred, he's been going into the closet and getting my slippers off the shelf this whole time."

Fred says the other day Bingo brought a slipper downstairs and tried to become invisible by walking very, very slowly. Evidently he thought if he moved slowly enough Fred might forget he saw him. Fred corrected him.

Since Bingo isn't Amy Winehouse and can't refuse rehab, we will be storing his alpaca heroin in an inaccessible place.

This slow moving trick must be universal because I just found a cute animated short where dog in it moved very slowly, just like Bingo did. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Not Ready for National TV

A picture of the front of the Inkwood Books store in Tampa, which is an old-timey Florida home with a front porchBy Fred
It's 7:30 pm and I'm composing this on my iPhone, sitting with Bingo in the car outside a bookstore in Tampa where my friend's son, Tom Daly, is giving a speech that I really wanted to hear, except I'm not hearing it.

Tom's speech is being recorded, hopefully to be aired on the C-SPAN Booknotes show. I spoke with him minutes ago, and he seemed a little nervous, understandably, about the cameras. He's a young, polite and clean-cut guy, an Iraq war veteran and now a published author (his book is Rage Company). Tonight Tom is surrounded by his proud family and friends. I, however, am sitting in the car.

The bookstore is one of those cozy converted homes, with small rooms and wood floors and with its main room set up with chairs and video equipment. A tiny house. I found a place in an adjoining room, attempting to place as much distance as possible between Bingo and C-SPAN. Even so, we were just a few paces away.

Some of you might be thinking that bringing Bingo was not a good idea. I'm sitting, with similar thoughts, here in the car.

Everything was going pretty well in the store until Tom was introduced and the applause caused Bingo to jump up from his nap, rippling his metal training collar chain against the wood floor. So here we are--Cheryl is still inside, in the main room, probably wondering why Bingo is so quiet. Possibly he and I could have stayed. Possibly he would have just gone back to sleep. But based on our experience with Bingo, I just couldn't take the chance.

As a dog, Bingo is a very good boy. He's very happy to sit here in the car with me. He was very happy and good (for a dog) in the store. But there are times when a guide dog needs to be perfect--quiet and patient, so that blind people can have access to events like this. So that they don't have to sit in the car.

Of course, we are completely responsible for Bingo's shortcomings, and we are resolved to do better in the future. Hopefully Jennifer and the other trainers at SEGD can move Bingo from good to perfect in a few weeks.

Oh well, maybe I can catch the speech on C-SPAN...
A picture of Bingo, happy in the car.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bingo's Send Off

I sent out an email to the school to let them know that Bingo was going in for training and wouldn't be back next year. This is how I worded it:

Bingo Received His K9 College Acceptance Letter

Bingo received his acceptance letter for K9 college at Southeastern Guide Dogs. He leaves for college on July 8th! I’m going to be very sad to see him go, but very excited as he starts on this next phase of his journey to be a guide dog and someone’s life partner. He will be going in with his two brothers, Jim and Rob, so he won’t be alone. He’ll have roommates he knows well.

I will be picking up a new puppy (a black lab girl) on July 1st. We’ll have a new puppy to start out the new year. Thank you all again for all of your support and kindness throughout the year to me and to Bingo. He’s a confident, well adjusted puppy because of you all.

Mrs. McLean

I got quite a few responses back from the faculty (one from a student) and I thought I would share some of them here.

From Pat: Oh, I'm so proud of Bingo--but a little sad for us--I hope the girl puppy will be just as incorrigible! I'm sure Pilar and I will do our best to undermine all of your expert training.

From Sherry: Congratulations C.D. and Bingo! I can’t imagine how difficult it will be to part with your “puppy” even though you have anticipated it all along. But it must be terribly gratifying to know Bingo will one day be providing a better life for someone. You are truly an example of a person at Berkeley who is “making a difference”.

From Connor: (who also did a library photo shoot with Bingo, FYI)Give him a goodbye treat for me! I'll miss our male-modeling days the most :(

From Bruce: He is a beautiful and darling boy and we will miss him.

From Kem: Yeah Bingo! Sniff-sniff for sad departures too. I am proud of both of you with your dedication and achievement of purpose. I will miss my BFF but will look forward to the new we can be really "girly" with her.

From Janie: I will miss the little rascal. I hope he makes it through college!

From Caroline: NOOOOOOOO!!!!! 8-)

From Katia: I AM crying. I admire you CD!!! I know this was his path and call in life. He will be a wonderful loving companion to his new owner. That, I am happy for him…and you. I am sure you are a proud mommy!

From Brianne: Congrats C.D. and Bingo!! You did a wonderful job training him and loving him, how could you not with that face. He will be missed but will make someone a very sweet companion.

From Wendy: Congratulations Bingo!! Go out and make someone’s world a better place….you’ll get lots of hugs and kisses for it!!

From Jan: Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

From Kim: That's wonderful, C.D.! Congratulations and all the best to Bingo!!!

From Al: Congratulations. I know his acceptance is bittersweet but a darling little girl will be great fun. Bingo is a scoundrel but a real beauty. Thank you for your commitment to helping those in need.

Rascal and scoundrel, yep. He's those things, but he's also sweet and charming and loveable. He captured all of our hearts and for a small dog to do that with a school population of about 1700 is impressive. (Note: I say small dog, because I took him to the vet's today and he only weighs 80 pounds! He's lost 5 pounds. Woot. So, not so chunky now. 8-) I'll leave you all with a recent smiling photo of Bingo.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect and Lessons Learned

Practice Makes Perfect
I've been thinking about the phrase "Practice makes perfect" a lot lately. Particularly since my post about my massive fail on the FIND the commands. After posting that, I walked through my kitchen and glanced up at the pantry door and there taped to the doors are FOUR PAGES from the Puppy Manual and one of the pages is a PAGE OF COMMANDS.

So, at least three or four times a day I walked past a page that told me that I needed to teach those commands! Sheesh. What that tells me is that my mind is a sieve with great gaping holes and it will take a determined effort to overcome my innate ability to forget my name and where I live. Ah, old age. My mind. I miss it so. 8-)

In the beginning when you first get your puppy, you are so frightened of doing anything wrong you live with the manual, constantly going over it. I think I read it compulsively over and over the first two months. Then, it's all you can do to get the basics down that you forget to go back to the manual and add in the other things. That's where I went wrong.

So my big lesson learned for myself with the next puppy is that at the beginning of every month I am going to revisit the manual and just check it out and see if there is anything I need to brush up on. It's too easy to THINK you are on the right path and to ACTUALLY be way out in the field wandering by yourself.

Lessons Learned

One of the lessons that we learned was that when SEGD offers an obedience class, take it. We did: three times! We just weren't confident that we were teaching the commands correctly and we thought Bingo needed more deliberate practice on overcoming his dog distraction. I just can't say enough good things about trainer Jennifer and how wonderful she was to work with and how much she taught us. Bingo went from being way outside the circle of acceptance on the first class, to being in the circle by the third set of classes. Pretty good for the little rockhead!

Here is a little video of Bingo practicing the come command.

Now here he is doing it without me for a distraction. 8-)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Was it Berkeley?

A picture of me with Berkeley and one of her brothers. I didn't realize I was bald until I saw this picture, so today has been a tough day of adjustment for me.
Photo by Melisa: thanks
I got to see our new Berkeley yesterday in the puppy kennel at Southeastern Guide Dogs. And I may have even held her for a minute. About 20 of us puppy raisers were in the room, all sitting on the floor, while 30 more people stood in the oppressive heat outside, including Mikey's puppy raiser, who generously offered to hold Bingo while I went in to catch a glimpse of our new six-week old black lab female. Cheryl was busy meeting with some students yesterday, so she missed out.

I discovered that grown adults, when asked to sit on the floor and play with puppies, will quickly transform themselves into giggling six-year-olds (myself included), each one cooing and clicking and whistling to attract some attention. As luck would have it, Berkeley was in the group of puppies. I was at the far end of the room and, reminiscent of my first dance in the seventh grade, I couldn't attract a female to save my life.

A picture of Berkeley, maybe, as she walked toward me.Finally I picked up up a squeaky toy and gave it a squeeze and two of the puppies came running: a male and a female. The puppies aren't officially named yet, but this litter has only two females, so despite my past experience with luck, I'm pretty sure I got to meet and hold little Berkeley. And she seemed happy to see me.

Back outside, poor Bingo was hot and panting to excess. He gets so unusually hot even when, like yesterday, he's just sitting in the shade. Part of this is self-induced, I'm sure, since he is so exuberant all the time, like a car engine running at full speed. Before I went into the puppy kennel he had a quick poop, and like the poop at the beach a few weeks ago, it was a small poop that just popped out unannounced. I'm wondering if this pooping thing is heat related--he's only done it twice.

From there we all walked to the training kennels, a place I really wanted to visit, but by this time I was getting concerned about Bingo's panting, so we went home. He'll be back in three weeks as a incoming freshman. And of course we'll be back in two weeks to pick up Berkeley.

A picture of the puppies running around in a room with adults sitting on the floorI continue to be impressed with the people at SEGD and with the facility itself. What a clean and beautiful place, all due to donations and to people who like dogs.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Puppy

We are having a problem uploading the video of the Sara/Gunner litter that was born on April 29th, 2010. One of those cute, fuzzy, black fur balls is our bundle of female joy. As soon as I can figure it out, I will add the video. She will be called Berkeley in honor of our school's 50th anniversary. The Middle Division's Animal Club and Upper Division's Student Forum raised the money to pay for a naming sponsorship!

I am so proud to work for such a great school with such wonderful kids and faculty and administration and trustees, not to mention the people at SEGD who helped to make the naming happen. It is going to make 2010/2011 a truly marvelous year for everyone!

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing but The Truth

It has been sitting on my desk for quite a while now: the final evaluation form. I tried to fill it out a couple of days after getting it, but I started to cry. Last night I picked it up again and went through it.

Ah. I see a problem. Well, not so much a problem, as being honest is not a problem, rather, it is more that this final evaluation form is going to be a bit of a self reflection, which might be embarrassing. I've just come across two commands that I didn't recognize: down/under and under/down. I vaguely recall that these are used with dining out and having the puppy go under the table or a bench or chair.

Sigh. I stare at the Yes box and the No box. I check the No box. Twice. I look over at Bingo. He knows how to go under a table and then we say down. I'm thinking that this might qualify as a partial under/down, but I don't change the No box.
Note from Fred: I've been working with him on Down Under for a couple weeks now. Check the No box. :)

I keep going down the list. Crap. FIND THE...commands. There is a whole list of Find the ... commands: Find the chair, find the door, find the car. I could open my Puppy Raiser Manual and see if that section was deleted, but I'm thinking that it is probably there. I just missed it. I look over at Bingo, who is sleeping peacefully. You are totally clueless, I think. I get a little bit of a sick feeling, kind of like I imagine parents would who are sending their kids off to school for the first time. Did I teach them all the right things? Will they do OK? Well, obviously NOT! I've just blown a whole chapter of commands for him. Bingo is snoring and has no idea that he has missed a crucial section of the core curriculum. Of course, being Bingo, he might not care.
Note from Fred: Bingo and I have been working on Find the Sidewalk for months now. Eventually we do find the sidewalk, but there are many many sidewalks in our neighborhood.

The other day, I told Bingo to sit. He stared up at me with his soft liquid brown eyes. I waited about five seconds and then I tilted my head at him. His butt started on a slow trajectory to the ground, ever so slow, moving only enough for me to not give a correction. Until at last, his butt hovered a mere inch off the ground and then plonk. He sat.
Note from Fred: Oh well...

"Dude! Seriously? I've been telling you to sit for almost a year now and that's how you sit? Really? You are so going to get your butt kicked."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

K-9 College

By Fred
When asked how we could possibly give up Bingo, we like to compare ourselves to parents who see their child go off to college. Most people seem to understand the analogy but are still not quite satisfied. They often squint at us as if to say, Of course, you want your children to leave home, but not your dog.

A picture of the SEGD letter that says K-9 College, Freshman Agenda at the topSince we don't actually have children, we are just guessing how it feels for a parent. I knew, from the start, that letting him go would be hard, especially for Cheryl, who is not so tough as she seems. Yesterday, when she said We got the letter and when I looked into her face, I knew she meant a letter from SEGD telling us that it's time for Bingo to come in for training. She asked me, in her pouty voice and face, to write this post, so I know she's feeling down. Give her a hug when you get a chance.

We've got until July 6 with Bingo, though--plenty of time for new adventures. The crying (there will be crying) has not yet begun in full force. On July 2 we get a new black lab female puppy and the cycle starts again, a chance for us to become better puppy raisers thanks to the tips we've learned from Jennifer and all the puppy raisers in our group.

A picture of Bingo in the faculty section of the Berkeley Prep yearboodAmong other things, Bingo has squeezed 12 people years into one dog year at Berkeley Prep, where he has graduated with honors and some special distinction for not having destroyed any significant piece of furniture at the school. He even made it into the faculty section of the yearbook. Good boy!

Now Bingo is enjoying his summer break before college like any normal teenager, lazy and clueless, unaware of what's to come and unaware of how much we want him to succeed. Here we are on the back porch, listening to the frogs in our fish pond.