Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Power of Dog

It still amazes me how one dog can bring out a completely different side of a person.

I was subbing for a sick colleague and brought Bingo to class. This class happened to have a couple of boys who other teachers seem to have lots of problems with, but whenever they see me and Bingo, I only see the dog loving side of them: gentle and sweet. They asked if the coat could come off and I said it would if everyone was going to work quietly. So they did and I took Bingo's coat off. One by one, they came up to see Bingo.

Their tone of voice, their gentle touch, the way they talk about their dogs as they pet him is so very different from the raucous behaviour I have glimpsed in the student lounge where they are seniors boys and very dominant males. But with Bingo, they are gentle little lambs.

I mentioned this to one of my colleagues and she remarked, "Well, I would have lost money on that bet!"

Bringing Bingo to school is a great exercise for Bingo in that it allows me to do on the job training with him all day, but I'm finding that the rewards for our school community are much greater and more intangible and far reaching. I can see it in the faces of the students and teachers who smile at us when we pass or who call out his name. He has made their day just by being at school.

How great is that?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bacon Girl

On Monday at convocation, I was standing at the back, as per usual with Bingo sitting calmly at my side, not as per usual. He was a perfect Zen dog, motionless, calm, serene seeming, with seeming being the key word in the sentence. The Mello Divas had gone up on stage and begun to sing.

Bingo was so relaxed that I was following the instructions of leash management which say "train, don't restrain" so I had a slack leash on the boy wonder. In front of was a half row and at the end of the filled row was your normal girl student. I didn't notice anything particularly interesting about her. I was watching the Mello Divas. Bingo, however, had deduced that the girl was made of bacon.


I don't know how he came to this brilliant deduction, but he did and true to his reactionary nature, he acted upon it IMMEDIATELY AND WITHOUT WARNING. Leaping 5 feet in the air to arrive at the girl's side, he jumped up and licked her full on the face. I guess just to get a real taste of BACON. (You see he is allowed no people food.)

By this time, I have been jerked out of my reverie by 1. the leash and leaping dog (oh the horror!) and 2. the shrieks of the BACON girl and the peals of laughter of her entire row of students.





I return with chastened Bingo to my post against the wall and listen to the snickers of my colleagues. Sigh. Oh Bingo. Students aren't made of BACON. When will you learn?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yoga Bingo

By Fred
Bingo made his second trip to yoga class yesterday. In case you've never been, a typical yoga class is like a typical preschool class: everyone has a mat, you sit on the floor, and you get to take a nap.

Ethereal music plays in the background--not stuff you normally would listen to. It's calibrated to take your mind off of the pain you are suffering for twisting your body into a pretzel and for standing on your head. Of course, everyone suffers in silence so as not to disturb anyone else's suffering.

Some people like to meditate during class. I generally think about what I'm going to have for dinner.

Typical yoga class music

Would Bingo, I wondered, be a good boy in this unusually calm and quiet atmosphere? Before class began, I told everyone that we would leave if he became disruptive. Even if we are lucky and he takes a nap, I warned them, he can be a loud snorer. Not a very positive attitude on my part.

Actually he was a pretty good boy except for getting into a woman's purse and for hinting that he might pull the curtains off the wall. Mostly he sat on his mat and was very good. Someone even suggested that I was a dog-whisperer. Dog-whisperer? Ha! Even if I did whisper, Bingo wouldn't listen.

Everything went well until I walked away from my mat and went to the wall to risk breaking my neck. Bingo was on a lead and couldn't follow me, so he got agitated and he actually barked (he very rarely does that). This caused the whole class to laugh, which caused him to bark some more. It was all my fault.

So we left. Oh well, they needed a laugh.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Becoming Handsome

By Fred
As we grow, Mother Nature sends us through a series of changes, at first to make us cute and lovable, then to make us handsome or beautiful, and then finally to make us gray and pathetic. Bingo is definitely in the second stage now.

When Cheryl and I take him out in public, we don't hear those Oh, isn't he cute comments very often any more. Mostly now, the women will say Isn't he handsome, and men will say, in a deep voice, You've got a good looking boy there.

Of course, there is a biological purpose to these life stages: we are wide-eyed and cute at first so that adults will care for us, we become handsome so that our future mates will find us, then we get gray and shrivelled so our loved ones won't be so sorry when we are gone. (Just kidding about the last part--some of us gray ones are still pretty lovable.)

But unlike humans, who spend much of their lives staring into mirrors, dogs move from one stage to another with only instinct as a guide, not quite sure what all the fuss is about.

Cheryl is away at a conference this week, so Bingo and I are on our own, taking many walks and working on his distractions and on "find the sidewalk" and similar commands.

Our neighbor has a black lab female, about 9 years old, and Bingo met her on the sidewalk yesterday. For the past year, he's seen her only from a distance, but finally they were nose to nose. I didn't have to correct him once, and the other dog was getting pretty excited. Who can blame her?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

King of the Mountain

Lately, we have noticed that Bingo has a new resting spot: the top of the stairs. He also has a bit of a new attitude to go along with the resting spot. I like to call it "King of the Mountain." Usually when Fred is working in his office, Bingo will go lay at the top of the stairs and survey his kingdom. When I am in the house, Bingo is usually within about 5-10 feet of me. However, this morning, I looked around and he was gone. I found him at the top of the stairs.

I thought he looked a little bit regal and a little weary with all the ruling and such he had to do.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bingo's Vacation Part II

The continuation of the diary of Bingo's puppy sitters.

March 18th, 2010

Today was a great day. We took Bingo out in the car to the bank and a jewelry shop and to Red Lobster. He hates our car and doesn't like getting into it. He was very good at the restaurant and even cleaned up al the ice cubes Joe dropped when he knocked over his iced tea glass. Aved the wiaters from picking htem up. Then we brought him home and worked him with the wheelchair doing ovedience work for 20 minutes. Placed his play collar on him and threw the kong around for 1/2 an hour. He loved it. He finally laid down and didn't want to move any more so we brought him in. He was given a dental stick and went into the bedroom to lay down. He's exhausted. We were very proud of him.

March 19, 2010

Today we took Bingo to socialize with other people around the neighborhood. He is still lunging at people and tried to jump on the physical therapist. Bingo's biggest problem is scrounging for food in the house. He acts like he's hungry all the time and this may be a huge problem for him in being a service dog. He never begs at the table or in the restaurants we've gone to, so that's good.

March 20, 2010

Today we put Echo's run together and Bingo was able to be in the backyard with us for the whole day. It got very warm and he wasn't happy inthe sun so we gave him the option of the back porch. He went into the run when it was completed and promptly christened it. Not a bit afriad of it and seemed to enjoy it. Practiced obedience and he is very good next to the wheelchair. Very good sign. His sits are getting better and the downs are great.

March 21, 2010

It poured today and that has limited our time with obedience or taking him to church with us. He had to be crated while we got some personal things out of the way, but was very good about it and received a dental stick when we got home. Bingo seems to be scratching his right ear and I've checked it, but I think he needs the solution that the manual suggests for itchy ears.

March 22, 2010

McLean's on way back home to pick up Bingo.

They took really good care of him and we are so grateful for their attention to his training and health. That's why when we left and my parents came to take care of our chocolate lab Willow, they couldn't also take care of Bingo. They weren't puppy raisers. They didn't know the program, know the manual, understand how the obedience commands worked. Granted, most of the time, I feel clueless about how the obedience commands work as well, but you do need to have a clear understanding of the program in order to puppy sit a guide dog in training.

It is not the usual thing to have the puppy raisers write up such a lovely diary, but it was a wonderful gift. Bingo was very sweet and compliant for about a week after he came back. Then he went back to his Dr. Jekyl, Mr. Hyde routine, which I am sure is directly attributable to us.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, Steffe and Joe!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bingo's Vacation Part I

Bingo's puppy sitters kept a wonderful diary of Bingo's daily activities that I thought I would share. They recounted the good and the bad of what went on and also highlighted areas he needed to work on.

March 14, 2010

Came to our house and met with the puppy sitters and promptly tried to chew everything. We puppy proofed the house and the gracious McLeans left for Ireland and Bingo realized he wasn't going and started to calm down.

Was fed his evening mean and let out to do "busy, busy" in the back yard and was a great success. Came in for the evening and met with Lenny the cat through the screen door. Was not a meeting the he would care to repeat, but it was funny. {Note: check off indoor cats!}

March 15, 2010

Very eventful day. Woke up and had breakfast and then completed busy, busy. We then took him to animal control to return a trap and he met the staff and other dogs. No petting allowed, he had on his jacket. But man, he sniffed everything in sigh and peed everywhere. He was very good in the caf but had some trouble fitting into the second seat. Joe and I are very tall and he was unable to lay onthe floor, so we let him on the back seat.

From there we went to the Safety Harbor Grill in Safety Harvor and had lunch. The owner was Albanian and had never heard of sevice dogs but his waiter explained it to him and they were all very pleasant and accommodating. Bingo was very good inthe restaurant and licked the floor clean. We would highly recommend this restaurant for puppy trainers to teach their animals how to behave where food is being served.

That night Bingo went for a walk around the block with my wheelchair and in the dark. Another new experience. Slept like a log.

March 16, 2010

Today was a little different. Spent a lot of time in the back yard until we had to go to two doctor's appointments. These appointements were too close together so he was crated while we got our personal business out of the way. He was very good about it. Was fed dinner and let out to do his busy busy and all went well. The kitchen floor has never been this clean and I no longer have to run a sweeper.

We are running into a small problem with the rubber mulch in the back yard, but he drops it when asked to. All we fear is that he will swallow one. He will meet my physical therapist tomorrow and we are going to go through the obedience commands and practice how to heel, stay and down.

March 17, 2010

Today was a do nothing day. We cleaned up the backyard so that Bingo could have more room to run around and go to the bathroom. Bought him some dental ssticks. He stayed out on the back porch and came in to visit and then went to back yard. Met 2 feral cats and they didn't get along. Met the physical therapist and behaved himself. Only problem we've found is with food. Gets too excited over it. Went for a walk with Joe and tugged a bit too much.