Friday, November 26, 2010

The Importance of the Stay Command

Last Monday I had an appointment with a lady parts doctor. Monday being one of my bring Berkeley to school days meant that she was coming to the doctor's office with me. Not a problem. She has been much more mature since her puppy camp with John and Angel and seems to be barking less and not being so autocratic.

Good for us!

This was a new doctor, so I had to go to their concierge services to be checked in first. Berkeley went into a down under without a problem and went right to sleep for the whole interview. Good girl.

Then we went up the elevator and into the waiting room where we waited patiently to be called. The nurse looked at us a bit funny, but decided that she would choose to ignore the dog at my side completely and made no mention of her AT ALL. I thought this a bit strange, but, hey, whatever gets you through the day. Berkeley decided to snub her as well and when we hit the examining room she did a down under the chair and a stay and went to sleep.

When the doctor arrived, he was delighted to see Berkeley and asked all sorts of questions about her. She poked her head out and thumped her tail a few times (she is quite the tail wagger), but ultimately decided that our discussion was boring (read: didn't involve her) and went back to sleep.

At this point the doctor stands and gets one of those full coverage (ha ha!) paper sheets and says I need to take off my skirt and he will come back to do the examination. Berkeley is still in a down stay under the chair and is still asleep, so I disrobe and jog over to the medical table with the sheet around me sarong style. The examining table is about 10 feet away from where Berkeley is sleeping under the chair. Berkeley is directly in front of me and to my back is the door where the doctor will come through. Now that I am half naked and on the table I am starting to realize that I have made a huge error in judgment but am unsure if I have time to correct it or even how I can correct it. Will she STAY? Do I have time to jump off? Should I jump off? Is she deep asleep? Should I test it?

Before I can try anything, the doctor walks in and Berkeley comes ALIVE!

"People! People have entered my realm!" She emerges from under her chair. I half stand on the examining table and get a blast of cold air on my bare behind. I sit down quickly.

"BERKELEY! STAY!" She barely registers that I am there. After all, I am half naked and nearly shouting, she is Her Royal Highness. Why would she deign to see a naked crazy person yelling commands when there are professionals in the room?

She walks towards the doctor. "Stay!"

"It's alright. She's pretty." I gnash my teeth. Did I ask if she was pretty? NO! I have no panties on! I can't get off this table! I can't do anything.

"Berkeley, come here." That she recognizes. She finally looks at me and walks over. I bend over, carefully mind you, and grab for her leash. However, the examining table is REALLY TALL. This is a bad idea. I see this. The lady parts doctor sees it and so does the unseeing nurse who still is trying to act like there isn't a dog in the room.

"Just let her run free," my doctor says.

Ah, what the hell. This will be an interesting examination.

Note: There will be no photos for this post.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dog-sitter Notes

By Fred
Some notes for our dog-sitters this weekend. Thank you in advance.

Berkeley gets two cups of food in the morning (around 5:30 or 6am) and two cups in the evening (usually around 5:30pm). Have her do a sit-stay while you put food in the bowl. She won't be this nice again until the next feeding, so enjoy her for a minute or so. Have her in a down-stay before you put down her bowl. Step back and make sure she stays in down-stay for a while. Then say "Take a break".
We leave a big bowl of water on the floor all day and until around 6:30 or 7pm.

Bathroom Breaks
She typically poops once in the morning after she eats and once in the late afternoon. She is mostly house-broken but accidents are still possible. If she approaches your door and then looks back at you, it's more than just s suggestion--it's a warning.
If your yard is fenced and puppy-proof, you can let her off the leash outside. Otherwise, give her a long leash while outside for a break. If she doesn't go in a minute or so after you say busy-busy, she probably won't.

Bed time
Generally she has her last potty break at about 10 pm before she goes to bed, and we get up between 5:30 and 6:00am, but she adapts well to a different schedule at any time. She loves her crate and will sleep or nap whenever it is convenient for you. I sometimes give her a single kibble of food after she gets in the crate, just so it is a fun place.
She may attempt to wake you very early, just to make sure that you don't forget to wake up, and she will use an incredible variety of weepy, whiny, happy little squeaky sounds, just barely loud enough to hear. If you respond to any of those sounds in any way, you might just as well get up because she will not let you sleep again. Don't worry--if she needs a potty break, she will make a distinctive loud noise to let you know, and she very rarely does this.

Berkeley is fond of rocks, socks, toilet paper and many other things that she's not allowed to play with. Kongs and rubbery toys don't seem hold her interest for long. She like the tough fabric mesh toys. Without a chew toy she sometimes paces around the house like a lion looking for a wounded animal.

(When you are approved to go.) She's very good in restaurants, except when there are bits of food on the floor. When you first sit down, have Berkeley go into a down-stay, then step on her leash for a few seconds. She will typically rest through the meal with her head on your feet--cute.
Movies are a definite possibility--she did well in the last one. She is pretty good in stores but may try to pull you around, so don't take her if you are in a hurry to get something.

Berkeley can get nosey if allowed to wander free in your home. By nosey I mean that she could destroy something. She's never torn up any furniture, but there's always a first time. If she refuses to stay in the same room with you, try putting her on a tie-down. Gentle play is best with her. If she engages in naughty behavior (scratching, biting, barking, chewing, teasing, bullying, hair-pulling, etc.), give her a firm No and quit playing with her. If she persists in her naughtiness, she may need to take a nap in her crate.

Fun Things
Ask Berkeley to sit-stay, then walk out of the room. If she follows, take her back and do the sit-stay again until she stays without you in the room for several seconds. (It helps if you can see her but she can't see you.) Then say "Berkeley, come" and she will run to you. Like most puppy things, she thinks this is fun but gets worn out with it after a few times. Then on to something else... a walk around the block is fun.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Caring

By Fred
Over the past 10 years Willow and I have had countless discussions. Politics, movies, gardening, home improvement, carpentry. She is, in particular, a good listener. Just the other day a big limb snapped over the fish pond and is now hanging there, suspended in an awkward way so that by cutting it I invite disaster to several plants in and around the pond. It is a vexing thing and is something that I feel compelled to talk about.

A picture of Willow staring ahead with a great deal of compassion

Of course when I pointed this out to Willow, and I explained to her in detail my various options and the pros and cons of each, she sat patiently and listened to every word, staring at the limb and then back at me.

A picture of Berkeley not getting it.I point this out only because I assumed that, by now, Berkeley would be old enough to take on a more mature role in our family. So when she failed to show any concern at all about the limb (running around in circles and laughing while I talked), we went into the kitchen for some lessons in family compassion.

A good family member, I explained to her, should at least pretend to be interested when another member has a concern. Even Cheryl, I said, managed to keep a somber face when I explained all about the limb and its malevolent portent. Just as I, for example, try to be sympathetic when Cheryl isn't happy with her new haircut (even though I don't actually have any hair to cut and would be happy with any cut at all). You see, it's all about empathy.

A good guide dog will also need to be a good listener, I said, but I was still not getting through to her.

...just like I'm a good listener when you believe it is time to eat...

A picture of Berkeley with a very serious face, realizing now that she should be more aware of other people.

OK, that's better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Royal Preferences: Every Girl Has Her Go To Purse

Looks like an unassuming tote doesn't it? The Lands End Zip Top Canvas Tote shown above is my choice for my all around carry all tote back and forth to school and home. I got it when I got Bingo and needed just one bag to carry everything to classes. Bingo didn't pay it any attention. Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley, however, LOVES this bag.

When I take HRH to classes with me, she always has a bed to rest on: my tote! In fact, in the photo above, which a student took, she was actually trying to get into the tote. Something that didn't quite work out for her. 8-)

At home, she does have beds, blankets and comfy places to sleep. Where does she go? My tote.

I'm not sure what it is about my Lands End tote, but it works for her Highness. So if you need something to cart your stuff around, get a Lands End tote. And if your dog needs to take a nap, put your tote on the ground and let them lie on it! Who knew Lands End totes could do double duty? Pet bed and purse!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Urgent Request from the Provinces (HRH Berkeley's Last Postcard Before Fred Picked Her Up)

My Dearest...

We confess for a moment that we had forgotten your names! Are we becoming victims of Stockholm syndrome, for surely we are finding ourselves in some sympathy with our captors. Oh, what are we saying! Dear Cheryl! Dear Fred! We miss you terribly! While we are proud to have kept a stiff upper lip and a vigorously wagging tail throughout our ordeal, refusing to be cowed by fate, we nonetheless quite eagerly await the day of our restoration.

Last evening, the caretaker dragged us off to a nearby cathedral (rather modest by Westminster standards) for a bit of enrichment on the subject of Handel's Messiah. We do so love a good tune, but as there was rather more lecture than music, we found ourselves dozing off once again. We certainly appreciated the entirely appropriate captivation of the crowd by our mere presence. Even so, it cannot compare to our younger subjects fawning over us at the school they named in our honor.

Wait, a bit of news! Our dear Angel, who appears to have the caretaker's confidence, has given us to understand that we shall be attending a shooting party this weekend at which you might also be with that crafty cur who has taken our place. We can barely contain our anticipation. Please do what you can to undo this ghastly mess and return us to our rightful position!

But if there be a hunt afoot that day, do let's not miss it.

(AKA John Bauer)

(Note: We would like to thank John for taking such good care of our little HRH as we know she can be a bit trying at times. Fortunately, John has quite a good sense of humor. I think we got the much better deal as Dodger was completely easy, very calm and at ease with anything you did. Nothing fazed him. He was like a surfer dude, very mellow. We hated to see him leave. He instantly captured everyone's heart. I think it was those dark eyes and that white blond hair. Definitely a surfer dude, fer sure!)


By Fred
I grew up in rural Arkansas, just one generation away from folks who lived through the great depression, back when many isolated people survived, literally, on their ability to grow and hunt food. My stepdad was one of those guys (a really great guy). He introduced me to hunting at an early age.

Here's a picute of Larry keeping score as a shooter prepares his gun.So yesterday was like a trip back in time for me. Our friends Larry and Gabrielle put on a successful event, a sporting clays shooting competition (something I've always called skeet shooting), with the proceeds going to Southeastern Guide Dogs. Men and women wandered around the event dressed in hunting clothes and carrying shotguns--I haven't seen that in quite a while.

A picture of Johh, me, Dodger and Berkeley after the tradeoff. We're sitting on a picnic table.Cheryl is still sick in bed, so she didn't get to go. When I saw Berkeley's ultra-waggy tail, I realized how much I missed her this week. And I could see that John was clearly happy to get Dodger back.
Quite a few guide dogs puppies were there, and none seemed to mind the pop, pop of the guns. Maybe it's in their genes; those generations of Labs trained to sit quietly while their owners miss one duck after another. Of course, these Labs have taken on the coat, a higher calling.

A picture taken during the raffle. It seems that a few hundred people showed up.After the shooting came lunch on rows of picnic tables, then a raffle run by Larry, who is really a funny guy. There was a serious message, too: many service people are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries, many have lost their sight, and SEGD provides a way to help them get back on their feet.

Like at all of these fund-raisers, I felt surrounded by some of the nicest human beings on earth. Don't get me wrong--I'm no more likely to take up shooting than many of these shooters are likely to take up yoga. But I appreciate the sport and the history behind it.

Too bad my stepdad is gone--he really would have enjoyed yesterday.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dodger Goes Home

By Fred
We humans have a binding, sentimental and sticky nature. How long does it take us to form a bond with a dog? Days? Hours? Seconds?

Today Berkeley comes back home and Dodger returns to his puppy-raiser, John. We've really enjoyed Dodger this week, and we bonded with him right away. Even Willow, who can be very slow to show her approval, has adopted her new friend. Here they are, sharing an intimate moment in the kitchen.

In this video, Dodger and Willow sit close together on the floor, arms locked, at least until he discovers the camera and moves away. Willow appears cold and aloof, but she doesn't fool me. She's crazy about Dodger.

Cheryl and I have been sick with colds the entire week. Cheryl was determined to go to school early this week (and give Dodger his new experience around kids), but by Thursday her cold had turned into bronchitis. Now she is back in bed. What a hard-head!

A picture of Dodger with a big smile, sitting under a restaurant table.I felt better by Thursday, so Dodger and I went out for lunch at our dog-friendly place in Dunedin: Casa Tina. He has excellent table manners. Everyone at the restaurant bonded immediately with Dodger. He is a quick bonder for sure.

Here we are in the back yard, exploring the wonder of fish.

I point out some fish in our pond to Dodger. Like any good house guest, he humors me and pretends to be interested. Good boy.

Of course we are happy for Berkeley to come home. Why wouldn't we be? What kind of question is that to ask, anyway?

In this video, Dodger stares into the camera, wondering why I've just asked him to sit.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dodger Rules the School

Dodger was a big hit at school. He mustered through convocation without a problem, doing a down under with nary a ear twitch at all the commotion. Then, when we went up on stage to introduce him to the Upper Division, he calmly flopped down on the floor and went to sleep. So calm.

In fact, he spent the day either playing or sleeping.

At the end of the day he was so tired I took this photo of him on the way home.

Another Postcard from the Provinces

Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley continues her puppy camp at the Bauer household and we have received another missive from her.

My Dearest Cheryl and Fred,

It is now Day 4 of our captivity. We continue to explore these nether regions of our realm with curiosity and cautious enthusiasm. We are gratified to find admirers and well-wishers everywhere. It does restore confidence in trying times.

Yesterday, we caught the caretaker looking at *our* blog and were mortified to find that aptly described blonde urchin usurping the cyber-throne that is rightfully ours. Then, in a fit of pique, the canine Angel we spoke of had the temerity to growl at us! Does she not know whom she is so rudely addressing? We were sorely tempted to remind her of her place in no uncertain terms, and would have done so were it not that our play together was entirely too delightful! We still find the caretaker a tad irritating, however, as he is constantly taking us outside to "busy." Does he think his carpets are made of gold? We assure you, they are not -- though we will make them so if he's not careful.

Perhaps to make up for his offense, said caretaker arranged for a private showing at the Regal Cinema of one of the day's latest entertainments, a farce called Megamind. Alas, it was hardly Shakespeare. We confess we had a difficult time keeping our eyes open -- something that would have been made much easier if we'd been allowed the popcorn we so desperately craved. With a nip in the night air on our return, we bethought ourselves that an ermine robe would not be amiss as we continue our tutelage for our rĂ´le as a leader of men.

(as ghosted by John Bauer)

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Postcard from the Provinces (HRH Writes!)

My Dearest Cheryl and Fred,

We are not sure how we have found ourselves in a "Princess and the Pauper" scenario with the Artful Dodger, though perhaps that sobriquet is well earned. While we appraised the canine of the house a companionable enough lady-in-waiting, we nonetheless let our general distress be known early on by giving the caretaker the silent treatment in matters of elimination until we deigned to "leave a message" in the new Fresh Market in St. Petersburg, inadvertently reminding the hoi polloi that no matter how fresh or trendy they deem their comestibles, it all comes out the same in the end -- and advertently reminding our inferiors that royalty will be attended to!
We also were not shy about expressing our dissatisfaction with our private rooms despite managing to sleep quite well through the night.

Perhaps it was the extra hour of beauty rest resulting from the Colonies' tampering with the Gregorian calendar, but we find ourselves to be in much better spirits today, carrying ourselves with the utmost manners and poise and only displaying our flighty side when rudely confronted with a cage full of fluttering finches in a local "pet"
shop. Although we do not wish to be seen in our present circumstances, we fear the paparazzi have already spotted us communicating with our dear Angel. Alas, if only they were more concerned about remedying the situation than documenting it, this royal nightmare might end.

One hopes that the guttersnipe left in your care has not totally destroyed the palace.

(as ghosted by John Bauer)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dodger's in the House!

Dodger arrived yesterday for puppy camp. Puppy camp is where you trade puppies for a week so they can experience a different type of household than what they are normally used to having. Dodger's dad works at home and isn't around kids very much so he wanted Dodger to get to go to school for a week, so we agreed to swap.

Our first event came when we met up for lunch with the two dogs at Casa Tina's, a very guide dog friendly restaurant. After the initial few minutes of energetic stretching to see if they could touch (when they have their coats on they can't interact with each other), they calmed down and ignored each other. Then it was head home, meet Willow and pack up Her Royal Highness!

As you can see in the photo above, this was similar to the scene in the restaurant, very calm dogs ignoring each other. That's what we like! Outside, it was a different story. Dodger is much larger than HRH and had the idea that he would play with Willow. Willow turned and did a matron growl ("young fool, back off now!"), which to his credit he did. So he turned to HRH thinking, "Oh, she's small and female, I can dominate her in a flash."

Yeah, right. Have you met the Queen?

HRH was on him in a flash.

"What?! I've got 20 pounds on you?" It was actually pretty amusing to watch this poor boy get what he was giving out handed right back to plus some. With attitude! (And a little head toss. There might have been some foot stamping as well, I was laughing and might have missed it.)

Many of you may know that we have koi ponds in our backyard. Apparently Dodger didn't get the memo. He fell in. TWICE. I'm tempted to say something about blondes because he did it all within the span of half an hour and the first time he fell in it was while he was drinking out of the pond and staring at himself. I wouldn't want to stereotype him.

In the end, I think Dodger was happy to see her go. What evil plans she has cooked up for John, I hesitate to think about. Good Luck!I crochet. I love yarn. Consequently, some might say I am a yarn harlot and buy too much yarn. Those people will not be receiving lovely yarn creations for Christmas! We immediately discovered that it is very easy to forget that we have trained our dogs not to bother with the yarn when the first thing Dodger did was run over and grab a ball of yarn.

Bad Dodger!
See all the yarn Dodger. Run Dudger, run!

Grab the yarn Dodger!
There is so much to choose from. What color do I want?

There are some things that you can teach in a week and some things that you can't. Yarn no, isn't one of them. Hence, the yarn blockade. Working so far. As for Dodger, he moved on to practice his artful moves.

See Dodger on the stairs?

See the chairs at the bottom of the stairs?

Somehow, Dodger got through the chair blockade and up the stairs. Clever boy, making my earlier blonde comment so much stereotyping balderdash. I'm going to have to keep a close eye on this one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Harry Potter Film Festival

Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley is pictured above taking it easy at the Harry Potter Film Festival held last Friday in the Jean Ann Cone Library at my school. It went from 4 pm until 10 pm and we were able to watch HP 4, play some trivia, have a spell casting session, get sorted into our houses, and have a costume contest before ending with HP 6. We also had plenty of food! HRH had no problem with the costumes as you can see. Her main problem was not eating the food on the floor!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Other People's Poo

One of the things they don't mention in the guide dog puppy manual is that you have to pick up other people's dog poo. Why? Well, because MY DOG is the only dog anybody knows is on campus. So, if they find poo on campus, guess who's dog did it? My dog!

Friday at the Harry Potter film festival, I took Her Royal Highness out to poo and there was some poo waiting for us. How convenient. HRH didn't need to poo. So I got to pick up someone else's poo.

Thanks, person who doesn't pick up after your dog on a school campus. You're a peach! But I've got your back. That's why I carry around poo bags 24/7 on my lanyard. 8-)