Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bingo's First Report Card

By Fred
After two months of waiting we finally got some news about Bingo--an actual report card of his progress in the training program at SEGD, and not just any report card but one with some ++ marks (exceeding expectations). I almost passed out.

And for us, every line on the card brings back a different memory:
Accepts harness: I still remember the first time we put on his little blue coat. It covered him completely--even hung off the back a little. But he never fussed with it.
Forward: No surprise that he would excel at going forward.

So many memories that it hurts. He is, can be, such a good boy, and we really miss him.

Sure, there are some Working On categories. Like any freshman away at school he gets distracted easily, but time will cure that (won't it?). If anyone can bring him around, we know the trainers at SEGD can. And the final comments on the card seem positive: "...everyday it seems like he is getting more responsible".

At least now we have some hope. Good job, Bingo! Send us a letter or something, OK? A photo would be nice...
A picture of his report card. He also got a high mark for Clearances.  He got good marks for Right, Left, Up Curb, Down Curb, but he still needs to work on stairs, scent distractions, people distractions. At the bottom it says: We are working on Bingo's urge to socialize with other dogs and people. He has quite the sniffer on him during routes but everyday it seems like he is getting more responsible with his new duties as guide dog in training.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

HRH Berkeley Is in the St. Pete Times!

Times writer Shelley Rossetter came by yesterday to interview me and the students who went with me and Fred to pick Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley up from Southeastern Guide Dogs (SEGD) on July 1st. She also attended the all school convo with us (HRH's first). Afterwards she sat down with us all and asked the kids some questions.

I watched her write pages and pages of notes and ask question after question. I thought, "How is she going to take all this material and condense it down? What is she keeping? What is she throwing out?"

She's a wonderful writer. Take a look and decide for yourself. Puppy Goes to Berkeley Prep to Learn How to Be a Guide Dog.

I Want to Be Alone

Her Royal Highness's (HRH's) day went really well. I gave the first presentation to Middle Division. It went pretty well. We showed the video and then I went on stage with her and two of the Animal Club members who went with me to pick her up (a third was too shy to come on stage). After thanking Animal Club for their fundraising efforts I reiterated the rules: When she has her coat on it is like she has on Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility. No one can see her. Just ignore her. Then I told the kids that they could come by before school or after to pet her as she had her coat off in my office. Then HRH started to get sassy. She looked at me and gave a few exploratory growls


"Arf!" A full bark, with defiant head toss no less.

"Do you want to go to timeout?" I had forgotten we were on stage. Fortunately, all the middle divisioners laughed and Berkeley did not bark again. Score one for the threat of timeout!

Next was the Upper Division convocation. That was the one I was very nervous about because it was my division. I knew all the kids much better in upper. We were on after the cheerleaders. It's tough to go on after cheerleaders. Especially with a dog who gets all jazzed up by their cheers. I swear. I think she must have been a cheerleader in a former life. She stared at them, entranced by their loud, synchronous word poems and wild gesticulations. It must be a labrador thing. Bingo loved the cheerleaders too.

Here's a short video of HRH watching the cheerleaders cheer. I could only film the back of her head so I made the video very short. 8-)

After both of the convocations we found out that there would a photographer from the St. Petersburg Times who would be coming by to take some photos for a story about HRH's first day at school. He was very nice and seemed to think HRH was as cute as we all did. After he had taken some photos and left, I finally had time to sit down and eat lunch. HRH was beat, so I let her sleep it off in her crate. A couple of hours later, she was still in her crate with the door open and wouldn't come out. He's a photo looking into the crate at the sleepy royal miss.

She was so annoyed with my taking that photo that she immediately turned around (see photo below)!

One the English teachers came to visit her and I pulled her out of the crate for a sit and pet (after all, she had been napping for 3 hours!). She sat for a few minutes then she looked at George and sighed and turned and walked back into the crate. Poor George! But royalty needs its beauty sleep and she is more beautiful than most.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School Debut

Today Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley makes her debut before the middle division and upper division students. Here is the video (my first really big video project!) I'll be using to introduce her to the students. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks to Durga Garcia Photography for the photos of Bingo and his brothers and the final photo of HRH.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Publix, Where Shopping Is a Pleasure

I have to say that there are two markets where I love taking our guide dogs in training: the Publix on Gulf to Bay and Belcher and the Fresh Market on US 19 and Enterprise. Bingo was a regular at both spots. During our first visit to Publix with Bingo we were at the checkout counter and the cashier asked about him. We explained it was his first visit and that the reason Fred and Bingo had come back in and out twice was that he had never experienced the automatice doors. She smiled and said, "Why don't you just do a big circle? Go out that door and come in over at that door? It would give him more walking time and we don't mind at all." Publix is so nice.

Recently, I took Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley to our favorite Publix. I started with a basket to ease her into it. HRH found the basket to be a source of endless fascination. Every time I put something into it, she wanted to see into it more and more. It got to the point where she would try to cross in front of me and lung toward the basket. We had to stop and do a few doggie push ups to get her focused back on walking.

We toured the produce aisles, the seafood section, the deli and then the frozen food section where this photo was taken. One of the managers kindly took the photo.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No-no, Not You

By Fred
At lunch I fixed some nice chile rellenos with lots of smelly cheese, and Berkeley decided to join me in the kitchen instead of chasing after Willow or attempting to raid Cheryl's collection of yarn stuff. It's amazing how much she is captivated by food, especially when a tiny piece of roasted almond accidentally comes her way. It's easy for me to believe that I am her hero and best friend ever.

Later it was back to work. I enjoy working at home, but sometimes I'm forced to have phone meetings, and sometimes, like today, the meetings go on and on.

A picture of Berkeley sitting by my office chair and being good. I had to grab the camera quick.

The little princess Berkeley likes sitting in the office at my feet, where she is usually a good girl. We take lots of breaks (I can't work myself to death, can I?), go for walks, play music, practice our commands, and so on. My attention span is not unlike a puppy's.

On my phone meetings I can't see my clients (sitting there in some sad office) and they can't see me (sitting here in my shorts and T-shirt with two dogs), but we see the same computer screen. Today I watched as they used my software and I explained some new features. Do this. Then do this. Boring...

At about 3:00 Berkeley grew impatient with those invisible voices in the air, so she started to chew on my table leg. She knows this is wrong. I corrected her in a whisper--away from the phone--and immediately I knew it was a mistake. Whispers don't carry much weight with her. She started chewing harder. I tried to bend over and pull her away but smacked my head on the desk.

NO NO NO, I said suddenly and with some force, and the meeting went silent for several seconds.. I looked up and the computer screen wasn't moving.

"Sorry," I said into the phone, "I didn't mean you. I have a puppy here and..."

No answer. Then Berkeley barked. They laughed and we actually had a fun conversation for a few minutes.

"Do you mind," I asked, "my puppy needs to go outside for a break. Could we continue this another time?" No problem, they answered.

Puppies are a powerful thing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Princess and the Bee

HRH (Her Royal Highness) Berkeley had a rough day today. Not only was she paraded around in front of the faculty (albeit to great applause and admiration, I would show you the photo, but she turned her head in disdain of the papparazzi and we have no good photo of the event), but another queen rather ignominously tried to assert her dominance today.

It all happened during the morning pee.

Above is the photo of bush hiding the beehive in the ground at the base of its trunks. Notice the caution tape. Ah, but I get ahead of myself.

HRH and I trotted outside for our morning ablutions. Rather, her ablutions. I was just along to supervise. We usually go out the right door to do this, but for the last two days the sidewalk has been torn up, so we were force to find a new pee area. We went to the left (the sinister route, as some might say). HRH passed up the pine needles in favor of the cool green grass across the sidewalk and I followed along. As she began her business, she suddenly lurched and did a crazy little dance with her left front paw (still peeing, mind you, HRH has a one track mind and is a very determined lady. In this she is rather like Margaret Thatcher (or Hillary Clinton for you who have no idea who Thatcher is, but that ruins my England + Royalty joke. Fred thinks you all won't get it. I found the Thatcher reference amusing.))

Oh. This is most odd. I start to look more closely at the grass and notice all these bees crawling over the grass. "What are bees doing on the ground?" Then I look at the bush (see photo above) and at the very base of the trunk is a BEEHIVE. HRH has stepped on a BEE!

I immediately pick her up and rush her to the front office, which is conveniently filled with all my favorite ladies and announce: "Berkeley has stepped on a bee!"

As you can imagine, everyone came running out to see if she was ok (she was holding up pretty well, I thought). Laura in particular (a big Bingo fan and dog lover), came running out and I told her there was a beehive outside on the ground. Telling Laura something like that is like handing over all your worries because you know she will handle it (Soon the bush was covered in caution tape and orders were sent to deal with the bees). Still holding HRH, I walked back to the library. I checked her paws for swelling, since by now I had forgotten which paw it was. They seemed fine to me.

She did have a limp though. That worked itself out after about 5 minutes. HRH, she's a trooper.

Look at her. Like she hasn't a care in the world. I think she knows that she smashed that bee good when she stepped on him. Take that Queen Bee. One worker bee less for you! But I think that the whole day took its toll on her. When we finally got to the end of the day (5 hours later!)and arrived at my car, she discovered she was just too tired to make it into the car.

And so she laid down. And refused to be cajoled into getting into the car. In spite of my cheery voice and singsong phrases, my patting hands on the seat. It finally took me seating on the seat and bending over and clapping and saying,"Yea Berkeley! Yea Berkeley! Let's go! Car in!" before she got up and got in. Royalty. Humph.

Moral: Look before you pee.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lemon Discipline

It's hard to imagine that Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley would try to sass us, but for the last couple of nights, that's exactly what has been happening. We've stopped holding her muzzle when we say, "No Noise," because Fred noticed her little tail was wagging.

Negative attention. Not goood.

So we asked Marcy when we were at the meeting on Saturday. She said to try a little lemon juice on the inside of her cheek. That most dogs really disliked that and coupled with No Noise, that should bring her round.

The sassing usually begins at night and is usually directed at me. HRH will walk to the end of her lead as close to my chair as she can get and catch my eye. Then she snaps her jaws together.

"Don't do it." I point a finger at her.


Aargh! Fred runs to get the lemon juice. We don't have any. He brings back lime juice. I smear some on my thumb and wait for the next sassing. "ARF!" Swish! I swoop in with my limey thumb and coat the inside of her cheek with limey tartness. She jumps back and stares at me. Then she licks her chops and lolls her tongue. I glance at Fred. "I think she likes it."

Fred runs back to the kitchen and returns with half a lemon. We wait. The sassing never ends on a mere two sasses. Sure enough, she winds up for number three. I jam my thumb down into the fresh and juicy lemon. As she finishes the bark, I am finishing the No Noise and starting to work my lemony thumb into her mouth. This time the results are inconclusive.

She walks over the the coffee table and grabs the lemon.

This video shows her before things got out of control. She's merely licking the lemon. Lemony goodness! Then things went off the hook!

As the video shows, the lemon sets off puppy crazies. Maybe we'll try a time out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bingo Update!

Marcy tells us that Bingo has passed his hip and elbow evaluations and entered the training program. He's off and running! So we should start receiving report cards on how he is doing very soon.

Yea Bingo!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

To the Mall!

Yesterday, we went to our big monthly meeting and it was held at Countryside Mall. I learned that Malls are important exposures because the dogs are easily confused and have accidents in malls because the ceilings are so high and there is so much vegetation around that they think they are outdoors. So we are encouraged to take our pups to malls as often as we can (did you read that Fred?!). We were also told to bring lots of clean up supplies in anticipation of many accidents.

Here Fred and Her Royal Highness (HRH) practice the Under-Down command. Since we learned that SEGD has the dogs do this for meals we now have her eat all her meals from an under down command from a chair. She is very good at this command at 14 weeks. 8-) Amazing what motivation dinner will give her! Marcy was in charge of the meeting and had us go on a scavenger hunt. Puppies had the second floor only, but the bigger dogs had the 1st and 2nd floors. Countryside Mall has tile AND CARPET. GRRRR. Not good. As soon as the scavenger hunt started, the bowels let loose. Not HRH's, thanks be. At one point as we headed over to the Disney store there was a line of poops about seven cubits long with a couple of puppy raisers with bags and cleanup wipes getting rid of the evidence as fast as they could!

We kept HRH a bit back from the poo-line thinking that if she smelled it she might think it was ok to do it. So we hung out by Yankee Candle for a little bit, which stalled us from a good time in the scavenger hunt (this is the beginning of my excuse for not winning the hunt, can you tell? 8-)

The next stop was the Disney store. They were very nice. Startled, but friendly. Then we stopped to watch the ice skaters, because afterall, we wanted her to get the full mall experience (excuse #2!). While we were gazing at the ice rink, I noticed an older couple coming towards us. The man had his arm stuck out in front of him with his fingers open and grasping. He was several feet ahead of his wife. She was hurrying toward him and me, saying, "You can't touch her! You can't touch her!" He kept coming toward us with that one arm extended, rather like a zombie only without the lifeless heaving to and fro and dead eyes and, I suppose, the desire to eat human brains.

I stepped up to him and said, "I'm sorry, but she's got her coat on and she's working. You can't pet her now."

"See, I told you. You can't pet them. They are working." He seemed very disappointed.

I tried to mollify the situation. "She is very cute though in her coat, isn't she? She's hard to resist. We're having a meeting in the mall, so you will see lots of us morning."

Our next stop was Build a Bear. Fred was afraid HRH would go nuts and ravage the stuffed animals so he waited outside with her. Inside, the saleslady told me a sweet story of a blind person and their guide dog who came in to get another build a bear. The guide dog had torn it up. She said the dog seemed very sad and contrite about it.

We have had no word on Bingo (or Jim or Rob!) so I asked Marcy to check for us. It's been 5 weeks and we are a little nuts wondering what has happened to him. She said she would check and let us know. She had gotten some news on x-rays and would send us an email.

After the meeting we went to lunch. HRH was so worn out that she passed out under the table. That was nice.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

HRH Berkeley's First Two Days at School

Her Royal Highness Berkeley is an underfoot dog. She likes to be underfoot as it were. If I am cooking, she will wrap the leash around my ankle and then curl up on my feet as the photo below shows.

A closeup of Berkeley's face resting on my foot.

At school, this manifests itself in her curling around my chair and then sticking her nose through and resting it either against my foot or on my foot as in the following photo.

Today, she got into a bit of trouble though, under the desk. Jan was watching her while I went to a meeting and HRH went to town on Jan's phone cord.

No phone service for Jan anymore! Fortunately, Fred has extra cords at home. HRH also found some loose siding on the cabinets (Good investigative work! I'm pretty sure this was really already loose. At least that's my story and I'm sticking with it. 8-) Glue repair has already been done.)

What seemed to be slightly timid behavior on Monday morning, got a wee bit better on Wed. morning. And when Eddie and Rob saw us arriving this morning and came running to meet meet her Highness, she immediately sat down.

Good Girl! I have some hope for the school year. Phone cords, aside. 8-)

A Quiet Day

A picture of willow sitting in a chair and gazing out the window
By Fred
Berkeley and Cheryl are back at school today, so Willow and I are relaxing in my office, back into our M-W-F regular routine. I'm sure Willow is enjoying the rest since Berkeley is fond of nipping at her lately--puppy fun, but sometimes it gets on Willow's nerves. So today I'm giving Willow some extra attention, playing Frisbee with her (in the rain), giving her treats, trying to make up for bringing yet another puppy into the house.

A picture of Berkeley staring at an ice cube that she finally convinced to stay still
We see Berkeley's personality emerging each day. She's less fearful, more confident, less likely to cry when we leave the room, more likely to pee outside than in.

A closeup of Berkeley face resting on Cheryl's foot.
Here she is on Cheryl's feet in the kitchen.

It's 1:30 pm and much too quiet here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Berkeley Loves Mad Men

By Fred
We got a new DVD player. So while I was playing with the new settings and changing the wiring, I noticed that Berkeley was very interested. She is crazy about me, of course, but she doesn't normally just sit and stare like I was made out of sausage.

I moved back a little to see the screen and realized it wasn't me after all--Berkeley was fascinated by the opening of Mad Men, which I'd been playing over and over. She had never shown any interest in the TV before, much less Mad Men, which is not the kind of show that most puppies would like anyway.

OK, but what were the chances she would do it again, and do it when I can trick Cheryl into thinking that I'm exaggerating or just saying something stupid (which I almost never do).

That night Cheryl and I were in the living room and I said "Berkeley loves Mad Men."

Cheryl squinted at me.

"I'm not kidding," I said. "Get your camera ready to take a video. She will go nuts when it comes on."

"Mmm-hum," Cheryl said.

Video Narration: The opening credits of Mad Men show on the screen, with cool music and a stylized animation of men, women and buildings. Berkeley sits transfixed, tail wagging, and watches until the music dies away. Does she like the music or the video most?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Queen La Berkeley

I am throwing a baby shower for a friend and am finishing up her baby gifts. I couldn't resist using Her Royal Highness as a model and you can see what she thinks of the idea. I think she looks cute. I was thinking she looked more Snoop Berkeley, but a friend pointed out that Queen La Berkeley would be more appropriate. Either way, she's a cutie.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pulling a Paris

Sure, she looks calm and innocent. Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley is a good one for appearances, fooling you with the look of calm, aloofness.

Recently, my nephew visited us and we all went down to Clearwater Beach. HRH had been before, so all of this was old hat to her. The sand, ho hum. No puppy butt tucking for her. Too undignified. She walked. No biting of the sand, as Bingo did. She sniffed, a bit haughtily, I might add.

The next day, we went to Sarasota. Land of the stately homes and big attitudes. Unfortunately, HRH picked up an attitude and tried it on for size. First we stopped at Selby Botanical Gardens where we tested her noise sensitivity with a Japanese Temple Bell.

I think she did great. Of course, the sound was delightful. We did see a big group of ducks by the koi pond and I did say to Fred, "Oh, she's never experience ducks." Whereupon, he gave me an incredulous look and shook his head. At that I looked at the ducks again standing unsuspecting by the pond, calm and unaware of the potential hazard only yards away. HRH glanced up at me.


"We're turning down this other path. Away from the ducks." Fred was still shaking his head.

The attitude came when we got to the Ringling Museum. We were in the museum and had been walking along just fine. I was still on pee-saster lookout and had her sitting beside me at a bench. Tom came along and wanted to get a photo of HRH. He bent down to get her photo when all of a sudden:


Just like that she pulled a Paris Hilton! She barked a little paparazzi bark. "Don't you take my photo, you small little photographer man! Back away from my fabulousness!" See her open mouth? That's the tail end of the paparazzi bark. It was something! It was Fierce.

Don't try that at home little girl.