Sunday, October 31, 2010

Madama Butterfly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they didn't impede her napping.

Truly, she was a Monarch Butterfly!

Here we all are with Her Royal Highness.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rock Hound

By Fred
A few years ago I put in a new stone patio in the back--fun, like doing a giant crossword puzzle, except that none of the pieces actually fit together so I often had to break them with a hammer. And at the end I was left with a collection of very small pieces that I put into a cute pile (in case, as I often explain to Cheryl, I need them some day).

These sedimentary stones come from the bottom of ancient sea beds. Over the years minerals and organic matter in the water drift down and settle and eventually become a nice, flat layer of rock. As you might expect, these stones vary greatly in color and composition. They also have some secret properties.

a photo of Berkeley with a plaintive look, seeing a rock just out of reachLately Berkeley has taken an interest in these little rocks. More than a casual interest. She carries them in her mouth, preferring them to any of her toys. She sucks on them and even chews them a bit (which sends chills up my spine). She knows we disapprove but doesn't care.

At first Cheryl and I thought this was just a phase, a really nutty phase. Berkeley comes in from outside, wagging her tail like crazy and acting, well, just suspicious and way too happy. She runs into another room, and now we know that she's trying to hide the rock from us.

Surely, we thought, it can't be pleasant to roll a hard rock around in your mouth. There must be something more.

So I washed one of the rocks and popped it in my mouth. At first nothing, and then I noticed it. A faint saltiness, maybe with overtones of almond. Not bad. Hmmm, I can barely tell one wine from another, but maybe I've found something here that my taste buds can truly appreciate...

a photo of six small rocks aligned from left to right on a kitchen counter

Shown above are six of the rocks that we've confiscated from Berkeley. Here's my review, from left to right:

- Sweet, with a hint of chocolate
- Fruity (pears and watermelons), a lingering aftertaste of sea salt
- Bright and tart. One of Berkeley's favorites (not mine)
- Didn't try. (Might be dried cat poop)
- Cardamom and tea, spices from India
- Fishy

Who knows, before long I may be selling these babies on eBay.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Long, Long Day

Saturday turned into a long, long day. It started out with a trip to Home Goods. We were looking for a baking stone and a wooden peel. Home Goods didn't have one. So, we continued on to our lunch date with Amy at the Red Mesa Cantina (best Mexican food!). We arrived early and went to the Publix to see about a baking stone (no luck, but they did have some odd pan that guaranteed browning that Fred wanted to try). On the way back, Fred went to drop off the pan and I took Her Royal Highness (HRH) in to the Cantina.

When we went inside the hostess took a look at us and said, "Inside or out?" and then answered her own question. "Outside?" She starts to walk us out to the patio (seen below in a photo from their website). I start to say something about being able to sit inside, but thinking that it is a nice day, go along for the ride.

Outside is PACKED. There are two tables open. She takes us to the table that is opposite a table with two standard poodles at it. Standard poodles being the big kind of poodle (60-70 pound range). These black hooligans were none too pleased when we walked up and immediately leaped to their feet and gave voice to their displeasure. I looked at the hostess and said, "This won't work."

I walked back toward the restaurant with the hostess bringing up the rear. I turned to her, "Since she has her coat and can be inside, I think it would be better for everyone if we got a table inside." She half heartedly waved to the empty high-top table as we passed it, but I was headed for the inside and she had really given up at this point.

After lunch we went to Lowe's where HRH was billed and cooed over. There was a couple who stopped us and commented on how lovely she was. They said that their sister was disabled and had a working dog and that HRH was doing a great job. They seemed really tickled by her.

After Lowe's it was on to the grocery store: Publix. We have now been out and about for 5 hours. HRH has been a dream dog. Lovely manners, walking like a sweetie. You name it, she is doing it.

I have the cart filled up with groceries and we have run into the Lowe's couple in the Publix and smiled and nodded at each other. HRH is holding her own until the avocado incident.

I had picked out some avocados for Fred to make some guacamole (he is the guacamole king!) for my tea party on Sunday, but he said my avocados were too soft and he wanted all new avocados.

"Fine. I'll wait over in the bakery." I took HRH with me and the full cart to wait in the bakery. HRH look up at me and then she did the flop.


Then she grabbed the leash in her mouth and started to chew it. I yanked it out and said, "No!"

She hopped up and tilted her head and then it came out. Like a clear, pure bell. A perfect note. A single bark. And like a roomfull of zombies who smell a fresh brain, all heads turned to look at me.

I turned to look at Fred. "Fred!" I shouted over to the produce department. "We are out of here!"

I think I saw the Lowe's couple laughing, but I was moving too fast to be sure.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reading Dog

The lower division librarian invited Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley to visit one of the 1st grade reading times on Friday. So a week ago we paid a surprise visit as did the Lower Division Director, who is reading the story. HRH started off the storytime with her coat on, but after the story was over the kids got to pet her (one at a time!).

Here you can see one child petting HRH as the others look on longingly. They were so well behaved (as was HRH, really!) In fact, I was tickled when at the end of the period, Trey came over to me and in a very serious voice said, "Berkeley has very pleasant manners." I said, "I think so too. Thank you for saying so."

Her she is with her royal face on. Behave, little ones!

It was a good day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It Only Took 6 Months

Finally, after waiting 6 months for Willow and Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley to figure out how to get along, I caught them playing nicely the other day. Actually having a good time playing with a toy together. Like a pair of normal dogs and not the usually bickering dorks they generally are!

Here's their moment of zen:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

KnightMUN: The Hotel Experience

The weekend was our annual hotel experience with the Model United Nation's club at my school. We took Bingo last year and it was the perfect hotel experience and the kids seemed to enjoy it as well. The conference is called KnightMUN and is held at UCF's campus on Saturday and Sunday, which means a VERY early rising on Saturday morning and a late return on Sunday night.

4:20 am

The alarm should have gone off at 4:20 am, but it didn't. It was on the 5 days a week schedule and this being a Saturday...I woke up at 4:50.

"Holy crap! Berkeley! Downstairs, eat, poop, out the door!"

We managed to be on the road in 20 minutes. I had packed and showered the night before. 8-)

Fortunately for us, we weren't the last ones to arrive. I won't tattle on anyone (faculty or student!), but I did rest a little easier knowing that we had a little time to chill. Here's a shot of Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley in the car waiting for that last student to arrive so we can get on the road.


We followed the bus to Orlando and met them at the Panera where we all had breakfast. Imagine the Panera staff's excitement at having 30 teens surge through their doors all famished and needing caffeine and carbs! Followed closely by teachers needing caffeine. Not a comforting sight. Then add to that, a small black dog. The Panera staff made not a peep. Good Panera staff! Good.


We dropped the kids off at the conference, got them registered and then went to the hotel to register our rooms. Since I had HRH, Michele was already at the counter getting the rooms assigned. As I walked up to the counter I could see the hotel clerk's face get stiff and her posture go rigid. She turned from Michele to address me.

"We don't allow dogs in the hotel."

"She's a service dog for the blind. She's in training." I said and had HRH sit, which she did beautifully. She has a perfect sense of audience.

Michele looked up from the folder she was perusing and in her very clear, not to be messed with teacher voice, said, "We come here ever year with a service dog and there has never been a problem. It's the ADA. Look it up." Then she went back to her forms, dismissing the clerk.

The clerk glanced at me and I raised an eyebrow, signifying that I wouldn't mess with Michele if I were the clerk and she should drop the matter if she were smart, which she did. I love Michele.

Here's a shot of one of the MUN kids bringing in HRH's crate. Mitchell carried in her crate and carried it out. He's a big HRH fan.

Barnes and Noble

The nice thing about MUN tournaments is that for us, as chaperones, we get lots of work done because we spend the day in the bookstore. Here is a shot of HRH and Tim in the cafe of Barnes and Noble. They also were lovely about HRH and treated us very well.

I'm So Pretty

When we got back to the hotel room Berkeley got to experience the BIG MIRROR. Here's a snippet of her reaction. I have to say that Bingo was mesmerized by himself for at least 15 minutes. 8-)

Closing Ceremonies

The next day it was more of the same and HRH continued to be a little lady. It was only at the end of the day at the closing ceremonies, sort of like a toddler who has been up too long and needs a nap, she started to bark a little and be a bit crotchety. But the screaming, cheering crowd drowned out her little barks and all was good.

Soon we were on the road and homeward bound. Hotel experience, checked off.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bingo's New Home

Bingo's new owners are a young, athletic couple who absolutely love him and let him sleep in their bed. How they all fit in there, I have no idea! 8-) Bingo is quite a big boy, but I am sure he is a happy camper about it.

They also have a pool and allow him to go swimming everyday. He was always getting overheated, so this is the perfect thing for him. You can see from the photo of him below in the pool what a happy pup he is.

Now, I don't know where his new owners live, but if I had my way, they would be nearby so that we could puppysit Bingo when they went on vacation. But I don't think the adoption rules allow knowing that info, unfortunately. So I will be content knowing he is in a happy place with people who love him!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Wag, Less Bark

We are still plagued with a puppy who barks. I've figured out several reasons why Her Royal Highness Berkeley barks:

  1. I'm sick of this place and I want to leave.

  2. Pay attention to me. Now!

  3. Don't stop petting me. (This to Austin, a freshman who came in to visit her. He had the unfortunate experience to be a wonderful dog petter and then he stopped. She was not amused.)

  4. This is boring. (See #1, very similar)

  5. I hate the library (although, this might be, the floor is cold and I hate the library).

All of the above are not acceptable. She can't be a barker. But we are at our wit's end about what to do about it. Take for example last Friday at the all school convo where we were celebrating our school's 50th anniversary. (Yeah, I'm going there, stay with me.)

Here is a shot of Her Royal Highness sitting comfortably behind my shoes on the gym floor with the bleachers at her back. We got through the prayer and the pledge just fine. We all sang the Alma Mater great. But then the speeches started and HRH began to get a wee bit restless. She did a bit of twisting and twirling and then she did her little part groan/part low bark. In poker, they call it a tell. When you do something that let's other people in on what's in your hand, what you are up to. It's a precursor to the I'm going to through a fit in a minute. I turned to the religion teacher on my left who was sitting at the end of the bleacher.

"Would you change seats with me? She's going to bark."

"Uh, sure!" She leaped up and we moved over. Then I looked back to the exit door. HORRORS! It was filled with children! All sitting down and covering the floor. Not a smidge of room to make an exit. Time for the librarian stare.

I turned to the first few kids nearest me, "I need a pathway to the exit door!" I managed to put a high degree of panic in my voice (how that happened I have no idea (think Headmaster!). Suddenly, as if I were Moses, there was a path through the upper students to the exit door. I sat and waited for the fit.

Two minutes later, it arrived. right as the alum from 1974 was extolling the virtues of going to school with crocodiles (seriously, I was no longer listening), HRH made a joyful, piercing noise. One bell ringing, high pitched, get me the heck out of here bark. The entire school heard it.

Without making eye contact with anyone, we high tailed it out the parted red sea of upper division students and I deposited her back in the library for a little nap and partial time out with Jan.

Fortunately for HRH, she does have an exceedingly beautiful face and a charmingly waggy tail which can go into wag overdrive at a truly amazing speed. So on those days when she barks, I am now trying to focus on the tail and not the head. Bark less, wag more. One of my students bought me a coffee mug that said that and also to think pawsitive. It is very cute and is in my office to remind should I become discouraged with her.

Here's a short video with a few scenes of HRH shaking her tail feathers. Watch for her putting it all in overdrive!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Sometimes, you have to blow off some steam. One of the rules at Southeastern is that you can't play fetch outside. You don't want your dog to become one of those fetch obsessed dogs who keeps looking at you and waiting for you to throw something rather than looking around and keeping you safe.

Another rule is that we can't have any toys like balls or frisbees. Again, especially for labs, it is easy for them to become obsessed with a toy like a ball and then transfer that obsession into the outdoors and stop working when they meet up with someone bouncing a ball or playing frisbee. Below is one of Her Royal Highness's favorite toys: a hedgehog. She's on her second one.

Since the hedgehog is roughly circular in shape, we decided one day when HRH was particularly filled with beans, to use it to blow off some steam.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Quiet Day on the Beach

By Fred
An older couple approached me on the beach yesterday and asked "Do you think it would be OK for us to bring our poodle out here?" I recognized their accents--these folks were from my area of the country, raised on catfish and corn bread and pinto beans, just like me.

"That's a tough one," I said. "People are friendly here, but there's a chance that someone might be rude to you or threaten to report you. You never know."

Berkeley was sitting and being a good girl, waiting and watching the sea gulls dance nearby. I explained to them about the guide dog program and about how Berkeley gets to go places that other dogs can't. But they looked at me with the most confused expressions, reminding me again of many of the folks in my small home town--happy, but often confused.

"But our little dog ain't very big," the woman said. "Do you think it would be OK to leave her in the car?"

"Oh, no, no, no," I said, sorry now that I didn't just run away from them at the start. "You don't want to do that. Especially not in Florida. The sun gets really hot here." And so it went, a strange conversation, until I finally got away from them. Very strange.

Berkeley and I continued down the beach. She was such a patient and good girl yesterday. Not more than 5 minutes later, a man marched up to me, spitting mad and spoiling for a fight. "It's against the law to bring a dog on the beach," he said, getting closer to my face.

And all I wanted was a nice, quiet walk on the beach with Berkeley.

"This dog can go anywhere a person can go," I said, squinting back at him but with as nice a voice as I could manage.

I can't say that we parted friends, but that's OK. In the end I was polite with him, and I invited him to review Florida state law. I noticed that he was dressed in slacks and shoes--not your usual attire for the beach. Where did he come from? Maybe a house nearby? Did he just want to make sure I never came back? (Too bad.)

More likely: he didn't want other people to get ideas about dogs on the beach. On my way to the restaurant I looked around for the poodle--nowhere in sight. Oh well, at least I warned them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Being Good in the Neighborhood

We had a rough week, but it has ended on an up note. It could have gone either way, but luckily for us and for Jordan (who's Bat Mitzvah it was) it went really well and Her Royal Highness Berkeley decided that appearing before a crowd merited some good behavior.

One of the things she does really well is the Out command.

Here is a shot of Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley waiting patiently in the well of the car for me to give her the Out command so she can leave the car. Berkeley always waits for me to gather my purse and get situated. She never lunges for the ground.

When we first arrived at the St. Pete Country Club, several people thought I had Elvis, her brother. She did great upon arrival, handling the crowd just fine. We made our way over to the Trapper table.

This was to be our table. As we walked by people, I had to explain that you couldn't pet her as she had her coat on. But everyone was very receptive and friendly.

At the table everyone had a dog bone cookie saying that there had been a donation made in their name to the Southeastern Guide Dogs. That was pretty cool!

All the flower arrangements were in dog bowls because raising Jim was Jordan's mitzvah project and the theme was SEGD and dogs. All the bowls and other items were donated to SEGD. It was a really cute theme and was done beautifully.

At first when John showed up with Dodger, I though, "Oh man! This was a bad idea. He should have sat on the other side of the table." All Dodger and HRH tried to do was get next to each other. So for the next 10 minutes all John and I did was grunt hello and then wrestle our dogs into down-under. I discovered the magic two-legged under chair scoot, where by you put your dog in a down position and by keeping your hand on their shoulder blades, use your two heels to scoot their body back under your chair. Try it at a full dining room table! It will make you sweat through your finery. 8-)

When I got her settled away from Dodger she decided that she wanted to be near him and barked. That's usually when she barks: when she is not near someone she wants to be near (me, Fred, Dodger). She happened to bark during our introduction, so it got a few laughs.

We went up on the dance floor and introduced ourselves and talked a little about being a puppy raiser and what it all means. I pointed out what all Jordan had signedup for when she committed to doing this as her project and how she should be commended for her dedication. Then we did a little obedience. Very little because, she's 5 months old and I really had no clue what she was going to do! Sit, down, stay, forward, about face. She and Dodger were great. Then "Let's eat!"

The "Let's eat!" got big applause. I'm so entertaining. 8-)

This video shows HRH being good under the chair. Jordan and her friends were demonstrating her Irish dancing, which when they have their hard shoes on can be very loud. HRH is unconcerned with the noise. When the applause comes at the end, all she does is lift her head. Good girl!