Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting a Feel for School

Monday I took Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley into to school for her official meeting with the Headmaster. She had a quick meeting with him when we brought her home at 9 weeks, but she was groggy and didn't really know what was going on. This time, she had on her puppy coat (she looks slightly like a parade float in it, but moves majestically as royalty should) and I was eager to point out her easy execution of the sit command.

We entered his office and of course the first request was:

"Is the coat coming off?" And, I don't know about you, but when the Headmaster wants something, you do it. Plus, when HRH sits and gives you her you will love me stare as see below, you do what they want.

With the coat off, she became touchable (everyone at school has been pretty good, with some notable exceptions, about sticking to the no touch or acknowledge rule when she has her coat on, the kids are especially good at it). So, the Headmaster made his feelings for her known.

Later, we visited the Director of Communications to drop off her 6-week portrait in case there might be a need to use it to announce her in any of the school newsletters. We also found out that the bookstore only stocked school spirit dog shirts in small sizes. Imagine that. As if HRH would attend a pep rally in an inappropriate outfit. That will be soon corrected!

Lastly, after rounds, we walked past the library doors, where inexplicably, HRH went over to them and sat down. Almost as if to say, "Back to work."

It will be a good year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Princess Pees-a-lot

Her Royal Highness Berkeley often goes out to the backyard to contemplate the zen of being. I've caught her on more than one occasion trying to eat the water lilies. Fred has even stopped her and had a frog pop out of her mouth, so our little Queen of all she surveys is actively searching for prince charming it seems (or warning him off! Don't try for any kisses here, buster. I will eat you with a spoon.).

Who knows the mind of royalty? Not I, evidently. Take yesterday, for example. I live in constant fear of a pee-saster. Yes, I said it. I can handle tile and linolium floors. It's the carpeted venues that freak me out. That's when I look at little Miss Tiny Bladder and think, oh my. She will do anything.

She's pretty good when we tell her to busy busy and yet, there is that unreasonable fear that the nap under the table will result in a pee-saster on our way out the door of the restaurant. Is she slowing down to sniff or something else, something more pee-worthy? That's when our blood speeds up a little bit, the heart beats a few times faster. Is my face flushed?

Did you know that Best Buy is COMPLETELY CARPETED? Did you also know that there are 100s of Best Buy employees stationed at nearly every other aisle!? And if you bring a really cute little 12-week old guide dog puppy into their store THEY WILL ALL STARE AT YOU LIKE YOU ARE CHOCOLATE?

It's true. Like chocolate. So I walked HRH very carefully, and even though Jennifer the trainer says to keep our eyes up, I couldn't help but be on the lookout out for the pee squat. It was CARPET! A puppy raiser told me she had been able to catch her pup's poo as it came out (now that is so OMG incredible I can't even conceive it!) yesterday at a department store. That wouldn't work with a pee-saster. So I had one eye on HRH, one eye on the Best Buy spies and one eye out for Fred who had disappeared and left me to wander the carpeted aisles. I figured I was safe if she was laying down. She had never actually peed while laying down. That I knew of anyway.

"Fred! Did you find the air conditioner?" Evidently, our old airconditioner was screaming in agony in the guest house and we had never heard it. Time for a new air conditioner.

"Yes." Fred is a man of few words. "Great. I'll see you at the car."

Evidently, royalty don't have pee-sasters. At least not at Best Buy with 100s of employees looking on.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Big Day

By Fred.
Yesterday was a very big day for the little girl. We started with lunch at Panera, her first indoor restaurant with a carpet that wanted to be pee'd upon but she resisted. Here's Cheryl and Berkeley being cocky on the sidewalk outside, trying to see who is cuter than whom--I try to weasel out of making any judgements like that.

Then it was on to Lowes for some shopping. More gawking from the shoppers with the same comments: I can't pet her, can I?, they ask. (Uh, No.) Pretty good walking for her first time in a busy store, right? To be honest, I cut off the end of the video (it got a little ugly).

Then on to Costco, where she did just as well, even with the crazy kids going in all directions and carts piled high with massive slabs of meat.

So far she's doing really well on the leash. We have a zero-tolerance policy against hard pulling--she just can't seem to remember it for very long. She does like to get out front and lead the way, which is nice.

And today we had a nice walk through the neighborhood. Until today, she's had no interest in walking away from the house, so I would carry her far down the sidewalk and we'd walk back. But today she was glad to go exploring in all directions. Something new every day...

Friday, July 23, 2010

HRH Visits the Common Folk and Rides a Trolley

Last Thursday was our monthly local meeting and it involved a ride on the Jolley Trolley and a trip down the Clearwater Beach Boardwalk to Coneheads Ice Cream (located in the Red Roof Inn on Clearwater Beach. They are big supporter of SEGD, so please support them! Plus their ice cream rocks!).

As we gathered near the trolley stop the first trolley came screaming by, saw the huge group of us with our dogs, never slowed down, and took the left curve with what I thought was an amazing amount of luck considering that physics should have had him on two wheels and screeching! We debated as to whether we should wait for another trolley and experience the same rudeness or walk to Coneheads and take a trolley back. We decided to explore the pier a bit and try another trolley.

The wooden pier was in and of itself quite an experience and Berkeley didn't at first find it to her liking. I wasn't sure if it was the smell of fish, the birds, or the weird planking that made her nervous, but you can see by the photo that she had her tail tucked and was taking things very cautiously.

We've learned to not coddle this behavior but to power on and be matter of fact about things. So we continued down the dock. Fortuitously, we ran into a very nice boat captain (and I am sorry to say, I didn't catch his name) who kindly let ALL OF US get on and off his boat. Talk about a real interesting experience. Berkeley wasn't big enough to do the jump onto the boat, but once we got on the boat I let her explore.

She wandered around and then sat under the benches and took a breather. I think she was wondering if this was one of those ill fated 3-hour cruises! 8-) But soon enough another trolley happened by and this time a very jolley man was driving it and he was quite happy to take the lot of us to Coneheads.

Berkeley got on without too many problems and fell asleep at Fred's feet for the rest of the trip to ice cream. Then we walked back to our car with Princess and Stephanie, making it a royal walk of sorts. 8-)

The next day, we took HRH Berkeley out for an official outing, since she had had her 12 week shots and could be about in public now. We started at Panera, where she was a dream in line, sitting and laying down as necessary.

Then we moved to Lowe's. I was really pleased that within one day she went from a fully tucked tail to one that was only turned down a bit at something new. She did pull away a bit from Fred, but other than that, there was no tail tucking. She walked beautifully on the leash as well.

All in all, HRH made a grand outing in society.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

One Step at a Time

Admittedly, our little HRH Berkeley bears only a slight resemblance to the Warrior Queen Boudicca in the painting above by John Opie. I think it is mostly in the fierce eyes and wicked mouth.

None of those were in attendance in her next photo where she chose to ignore the stairs with disdain. "Really? You want me to walk up and down the stairs? How could you?"

It was a weird phenomenom. She ran up and down the two steps on the deck outside with no problem, but seemed to be afraid of the set of four and the really long set of stairs in the house. With Bingo, I think we took the stairs too fast, so I wanted to work with her slowly on them,especially as she showed signs of trepidation.

The last few nights I would walk her over to the steps and in a casual voice say, "How about these steps?" She gave me some funny looks and wouldn't come near them for a couple of nights. But the tail did wag. The last two nights, she came near the steps and I was able to interest her in them enough that she put her paws up on the first step. Then she looked down, realized where she was and freaked out and jumped off the steps.

"Today," I thought. "Today she will make it up some steps."

I planned my attack. I went to get a toy as a reward and then positioned HRH. At first she did the disdainful sleeping thing. Then it was like Boudicca came down and possessed her. She lit up and barked at me. (I was holding the toy and asking her to come get it and it was out of reach at the top of the stairs. So unfair!)

"Britons Unite! We will conquer these stairs, show this crazy woman and then get that toy to shut her up and make her stop annoying me."

With that, she proceeded to methodically climb the stairs. She didn't do it in a rush, like Bingo. She did it with thoughts of falling backwards, so she went slowly and carefully. Very methodically. Almost easily, one might say.

At the top she turned around and sat and I gave her the toy. I detected a small smirk but that could have been the toy hitching up her jowls, right? She didn't play me. Not me. She's a puppy.

She's not Boudicca. Not really...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HRH Goes to the Vet

Her Royal Highness Berkeley had her first vet appointment last week at Animal Hospital of Northwood with Dr. Woodman, who is also a puppy raiser. We were the only ones in the waiting room when we arrived, but soon enough a couple of other dogs came in with their owners. It was such a new experience to have someone say, "You have such a good puppy!" HRH was sitting and observing the new arrivals with a bit of a glacial, haughty air. Distant, but interested. The tail was slightly wagging, but no indication that a lunge was imminent.

What a difference!

We went into the examining room and met with the nursing staff, who were very sweet. In addition, I was offered something to drink (that was super nice!) while I waited (which wasn't very long at all) for Dr. Woodman. HRH needed a flu booster shot.

I think HRH won over the Dr. with her puppy cuteness, but that may be just my desire to do her bidding. Dr. Woodman and his staff won me over. I'm so glad we switched vets to his office. We definitely felt better taken care of and the service was more attentive and prompt. Plus, Dr. Woodman is a fellow puppy raiser, and how can you not like that. We'll be switching our chocolate lab Willow over into his care as well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Daddy's Girl

Some of you might remember the posts we did about dog beds. We bought these ginormous dog beds from Orvis. They were so big that full sized Bingo AND Willow could sleep on them. We have one of them downstairs in the TV room and one upstairs in our bedroom.

Berkeley found the one downstairs pretty quickly, the first week actually. She had been pretty good on her potty training, so we didn't pay much attention until she squatted.

"ACK! She's peeing on the bed!"

"No! Berkeley! Quick, take her outside."

Rats, that's when you have to shake yourself. Get in puppy mode. Tiny bladder mode. If you let her out an hour ago, chances are, she has to go again. Every nap, take her out again. Having an older dogs lures you into complacency. Big bladders, longer times between pee breaks. Peeing on the bed, however, big no-no. We have to undo the covers, then wash them, then undo the covering of the bedding and clean that and search to see if there is leakage. All in all, a big process. Needless to say, it happened once more, before we said, "No more bed until she is 100% potty trained!"

So imagine my surprise when I am at a conference session and I get a text message with a photo showing HRH (her royal highness) Berkeley on the bed a mere few days after we had enacted our No Bed Policy.

"Why?" I text back thinking succinctness will also imply other emotions.

"She ran and got in it and I am weak."

Ah. Houston, we have a problem. 8-)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Puppy Resolutions

It occurred to Cheryl and me the other day that we may not have been the perfect puppy raisers with Bingo... I know, he's probably one of the best dogs SEGD has ever gotten in for training, but it's possible that we could have done things a little better. Just possible.

It never hurts to have an open mind, so we made some new puppy resolutions with the prospect of doing even better with Berkeley. Here are a few:

Greetings. Berkeley will learn that she gets attention only when she is sitting and being a good girl (or when she looks at us like in the picture below).

Leash. Absolutely no hard pulling on the leash. We'll stop moving, say No, then say Good Girl when she lets up on the pressure.

Willow. Absolutely no rough-housing with Willow. They can play but will get separated if the play gets rough.

Praise. Always plenty of praise when Berkeley is doing the right thing.

Disrespectful Behavior. Absolutely no snoring, snorting, sighing, barking, farting or otherwise interrupting a social event. (That goes for all of us)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Like a Weed

By Fred,
I joked with Cheryl on Tuesday that she wouldn't recognize Berkeley when she gets back from her conference. Now I can see that it wasn't such a joke. Here is Berkeley just 2 weeks ago.
(Photo by Durga Garcia)

And here she is now...
A photo of Berkeley on a leash walking the sidewalk and looking quite a bit bigger.

She's growing like a weed.

One thing we've discovered is that Berkeley is a little fearful of certain noises (unlike Bingo, who just couldn't care less). She wasn't bothered at all by the thunderstorm yesterday--and it nearly shook the house--but then we've had lots of storms since she was born. However, the sounds of some dogs barking in the distance really spooked her. And she didn't care at all for the lawn mower next door yesterday.

At the meeting last week we had a good discussion about doggy fears and how we should react when a puppy seems scared--it's important to strike a middle ground (not too much consoling, not too much tough love) or the puppy may become more fearful, and sometimes this can lead to a long-term problem.

With Berkeley, when I just whistle or sing and I don't act afraid, she immediately calms down (or maybe my singing is so bad she just wants me to stop). Of course, my instinct is to pick her up and hug her, but that's my instinct most of the time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Berkeley So Far

By Fred
Cheryl is away at a conference this week, Bingo is IFT (in for training), Willow is mostly hiding from Berkeley (our new SEGD puppy), so Berkeley and I seem to have the house to ourselves. We are working on Sit (which she seems to really enjoy) and Down (not so much). With Cheryl away, my sentences are becoming more condensed than usual (though she might disagree): Good girl. No. Good girl. Sit. Good girl.

This weekend Cheryl and I took Berkeley to her first restaurant, where she was literally worshipped and presented with a huge bowl of ice water, and like a spoiled princess she ignored her admirers and slept the whole time with her royal blue coat covering her like a blanket.

Also this weekend at the SEGD pool party Berkeley got to see Cookie and Elvis (her sister and brother). Of course they all look almost exactly alike. We learned that the three siblings also have similar behaviors--they are needy and don't like to be left alone.

Even so, with all the black Lab puppies in the world, all the familiar wagging tails and round eyes and happy natures, Cheryl and I think Berkeley is pretty special, pretty unique. And I am already thinking ahead to that day when she goes IFT. Oh, well.

We've heard that Bingo is settled in. It may be another month or so before we get any real news. Hopefully he is adjusting to the heat and is doing the right thing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

IFT: In For Training

I've been avoiding the day. I've been avoiding the forms. I've been avoiding the post, frankly. but the day came anyway.

I had it all figured out. I was so smart. I had arranged for HRH Berkeley (that's what we're calling her, her royal highness Berkeley or HRH for short or sometimes just pretty princess) to arrive a week before Bingo left to distract us all from the trauma to come. It worked. We were nuts. New puppy in the house craziness (more on that later) aside, it did serve as a welcome distraction in someways and not in others.

The day before he left, I had a meeting at work and I took Bingo with me so that he would have some me time and get away from the puppy. Afterwards we all went out for lunch. Near the end of lunch, I took him to the restaurant with me. Now, mind you that this whole week, I haven't shed one tear I have been so busy with the puppy. I have been rather pleased with myself actually thinking how I have it all in hand and have made this wonderful decision and have it all worked out, aren't I the smart one.

We walk to the restroom and open the stall door. It's one of those small stalls. Bingo isn't real thrilled with the cramped space and gives me a peeved glance. "Oh, squash it." I turn him all around until he is sitting at the front of the stall and I am sitting on the toilet staring at him. Again with his meaningful glance. I begin to think, "this is the last time I will be with Bingo in a restaurant bathroom, ever." And then to my astonishment, I begin to cry. In the bathroom of Toojays in International mall. Bingo looks at me. I throw my arms around him and hug him. Did I hear a flush? I don't care.

I wait a while. Then I let him go and finish. Back out to wash my hands and pretend I am under control. Only now, I know that it is a facade.

What you see above is a photo taken by Mary Lou Garcia (Durga Garcia Photography), who also happens to be a puppy raiser and the owner of Rob the lab on the far left. Bingo is in the middle and Jim is on the right. I love this shot because it shows the boys getting back to knowing each other as littermates again. We didn't turn our boys in alone.

We met as a group, took some photos (the best of which came from Mary Lou!) and then we turned the boys into SEGD. Then we had lunch and went back home. What was good about this plan was that since we were in a big group, I was forced into maintaining some semblance of calm and composure. So I was able to get through the passing them off to the trainer ok.

Plus, SEGD believes in the ripping the bandaid off quickly approach to turning your puppy IFT. So once you say you are ready to turn your puppy in, make sure you've said your goodbyes and have taken all your photos.

The only photos left are the ones with their new trainers. Bingo had Kayla.

We all lunch after that and talked about different things. Then we headed home. I was congratulating myself for getting through the day with a minimum of tears. Having the comfort of friends was a great idea and really helped. Having the process be quick was excellent as well.

So that night when I turned out all the lights and was walking up the stairs to bed and saw Bingo's crate broken down in pieces because we only need one crate now, you all know I didn't cry don't you?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Big Brother

By Fred
Our chocolate lab, Willow, is 10 years old and a little cranky, and she won't stay in the same room with Berkeley, our new SEGD puppy. Willow has zero interest in puppies but we know that she'll come around. She shunned Bingo for quite a while--now they're best friends.

Bingo, on the other hand, immediately accepted the new puppy. I wasn't sure what to expect (you just never know with Bingo), but he has been a very patient and gentle big brother to Berkeley this week, playing with her in a protective way and forgiving her puppy craziness, like when Berkeley gave his nose a good bite today. He is such a good boy (sometimes).

On Thursday Bingo will be back at SEGD, learning to be a real guide dog, making new friends, thinking in new ways. We'll miss him very much.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Getting Wet

A picture of Bingo walking on the edge of our fish pondBy Fred
Our friend Gisah is visiting this weekend, and we're having fun relaxing and eating and hanging out. This morning we all sat outside on the porch to drink our coffee. Being a theatrical creature, Bingo decided to show off for our entertainment, pacing back and forth on the ledge of the fish pond.

"Aren't you afraid he'll fall in?" Gisah asked. No, we said, he's being doing this for months, stalking the fish and tempting gravity by leaning way over the water. Anyway, he's so stubborn that we just let him do until he gets bored, which is usually in about 10 seconds. He's been doing this at least once or twice a day for months. Never a problem.

Another picture of Bingo standing too close to the water.There's even a tall cactus plant nearby, and he has to squeeze between it and the water, and then there's no room to turn around so he has to carefully walk backwards past the sharp spines. And he doesn't just walk down the center of the ledge. No, he gets as close to the edge as possible just to show off.

A picture of Bingo crawling out of the pond. His rear end got soaked.
Then, just as Cheryl was bragging--how Bingo is so smart and so talented and so coordinated that he never falls in--and just as she was taking pictures, he slipped right into the water and then he scrambled out with the most puzzled look on his face, completely surprised and with his rear end soaking wet.

Of course, we had our new puppy, Berkeley, on the porch with us. She is a complete angel.
A picture of cute Berkeley, sitting on the porch

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bingo Cam

By Fred
Last night Cheryl and I thought it would be great fun to tape a video camera onto Bingo's collar and get a look at life through his eyes. Actually it was just a small Olympus camera, feather-light, and I don't think he even noticed it.

Video Narration:
I've just pushed the button and we see the world from the top of Bingo's head. He's looking around at first, but when I say Sit and then say Good Boy, he sits very still. We see into the TV room, and Cheryl is the shot, getting another camera ready to take Bingo's picture.

I say Forward and we see the room ahead (with some very steady camera work), but then the Bingo collar/cam slips around his neck and everything is upside down now, or at least the camera is upside down, looking ahead from just under his right ear. We Sit again and Cheryl's face zooms into the frame (very proud of Bingo, as usual), taking his picture with her camera. She says his name, encourages him to smile for the picture, but we are working now and we don't have time to take pictures. When Bingo is working, it's pretty hard to distract him. (We discover later that he is yawning at this point.)

We do another Forward and then we can see Willow (our Chocolate Lab) waiting and wondering why we continue to fuss about Bingo instead of playing with her. Well, really we can only see her legs but we know what she is thinking.

I say Right, Right and he turns into the kitchen. Then we Sit. Perfect. Another Good Boy. Cut.
A picture of Bingo with his collar cam. He's yawning.