Thursday, September 30, 2010

Berkeley's Bird

By Fred
In this video Berkeley keeps her cool as a pigeon waddles within inches of her. We were having lunch on Frenchy's outdoor patio, where the pigeons wander around like senior citizens at a Las Vegas buffet. This one doesn't know how close she came to being Berkeley's lunch.

Berkeley is sitting under the table, facing out, and she raises her head (but stays down) as the pigeon stumbles by. How have these birds survived over the years?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bad Puppy Raiser

With a good night's sleep comes a clear head and with a clear head comes clear vision. With clear vision I can see all the things I did wrong yesterday, especially on that short little video.

First, when you give a command and your dog doesn't do it, you should correct them, then gently move them into position. I just said the command again. And again. Although softly. I plead lateness of the day and diva fatigue.

The barking however, confounds me. I give the No Noise correction and that usually spurs her to more barking. Holding her muzzle is no good as that is negative reinforcement and she likes it. Her tail wags. We had to stop doing that. We tried the lemon idea. Most of you saw the video on how that went. Last week we had to leave convocation due to barking. I did give her a No Noise and a leash correction, which resulted in more barking. After three barks we left. The water has been an effective deterrent up until yesterday.

We did promise to show the good and the bad. I wish Fred had been bad and not me! 8-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bad Berkeley

OMG! The Diva has appeared and I have no idea what she wants. She's been griping all morning and nobody has been able to satisfy her.

Post Script: As you can see by the video, we are in the library, so I am trying to correct her sotto voce. All the kids are either laughing or staring at me. She has been outrageous all day. There was that one episode in the morning when I gave her the stuffed duck and she started to honk it. Repeatedly. In the library. Loudly. SIGH. Do I have a chew toy that doesn't squeak. NO, I don't.

I have tried taking her outside for potty walks (not effective). I've tried tiring her out by doing stairs and puppy situps (not effective). Finally, when the barking gets really loud, I pull out the only thing that has worked for us, the water bottle. But it didn't work today. I put her down for a nap in her kennel. I caught this little tantrum at the end of a very long day. She had been down for four "naps".

When we got home, she was a perfect angel. Ah me. What am I going to do with the Diva? Her Royal Majesty Berkeley. She is perfectly named. If only I would do her bidding.

Friday, September 24, 2010

At the Fire Station

By Fred
We went to the Dunedin fire station for last night's meeting, a chance to let the dogs get up close to a noisy, flashing fire truck and to see some men in fire gear and to attend a class in real life. After all, these dogs need to remain calm in situations that cause most other dogs to run and jump and pee uncontrollably.

We knew that Berkeley (unlike the fearless Bingo) might be afraid of the truck once the sirens were turned on. She's a little fearful of some loud noises (though she's getting better). And we were right--the sirens sent her into a little panic, but only briefly, and she recovered nicely as you can see the following video:

(Narration: Berkeley and Cheryl walk right up to the truck and down the entire length of it, only a few feet away, and with lights flashing and the truck's loud engine running. Berkeley's sister, Cookie, is right behind them.

It was getting dark, so it's difficult to see how much Berkeley enjoys being petted by the fireman in the video below (Cheryl seemed pretty pleased with him, also). Since he was in coat, too, the normal rule against petting was temporarily waived. And we want her to know that firemen and policemen (the guys with the funny outfits) are good.

(Narration: Berkeley is introduced to a fireman wearing a big hat and a uniform with bright stripes on the coat. He's squatting down to pet her and grinning into the camera with what some people might consider to be a handsome face. At the very end you hear a load noise from one of the firemen's play toys. Berkeley didn't seem to mind it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Less Glamorous Life

By Fred
During our trip to Florence, Cheryl and I visited the small room where the priest Savonarola lived over 500 years ago, a room just big enough for a bed, desk and chair. If he did have a dog (which I doubt because he was book-burner and not a very nice person), that poor dog would have spent countless hours alone on a cold stone floor. While art and architecture was in full bloom Savonarola sat in his cramped room, too self-involved to even acknowledge that poor dog (if he did have a dog).

Those of use who work behind a desk and live quiet lives need to stay on the alert so that we do not become Savonarolas (and eventually get burned at the stake). Our dogs can't see (and don't care) what we are typing or what problems we are solving in our heads. We need to keep them in mind with an occasional scratch behind the ear and a "good girl" and a soft blanket and, of course, we need to take frequent breaks and some walks on the beach.

The guide dog puppies, in particular, need to be prepared for a future partnership, possibly with someone who might live a similar, quiet life. Berkeley gets a good variety of experience: she's a rock star some days; other days are less glamorous.
A picture of Berkeley enjoying a quiet walk on the beach, looking over her shoulder at the water.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why I Love 5th and 6th Graders

I just had a 6th grader come in at the end of first period to pet Berkeley. There were 5 minutes left in the class period. He said, "I set myself a goal to finish all of my homework in time so I could come and pet Berkeley."

He was the only one to do so. Sixth graders are focused. They can also be very serious about what they love. Take the daughter of one of our faculty members. She doesn't have a dog at home, so she considers Berkeley her dog. She really does. She came to see Berkeley the other morning and got to have to have Berkeley all to herself. I told her she was in charge because I had to help a high school student. You would have thought I had given her a pound of chocolate. When she left about five minutes later I got the tightest hug I think I have ever gotten.

Fifth graders, on the other hand, are cheeky. Where PreK through 4th take the rules so seriously, fifth graders have a sense of humor about them. When I run into them, they glance down at Berkeley and then quickly back up to me. They always have a gleam in their eyes that says, "I know she's supposed to be invisible, but I see her. I'll just pretend." It's the big smile that gives them away. I always smile back.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Football and the Queen

Her Royal Highness Berkeley has made it to two home football games. On the walk into the first game, we happened to pass by a lower division girl and her mom walking to the football field. I heard the mom ask her daughter, "Do you see the dog, honey?"

Then, in the saddest voice imaginable, the little girl said, while staring straight ahead, "Yes. She has her coat on. She's invisible. I can't see her or pet her."

I thought I might cry or laugh. I tried not to do either. We kept walking. I didn't make eye contact with the mom to see what she thought of that comment.

When we got to the football field it was still light and not too crowded. I was able to say hello to the kids I wanted to let know I had come to support them. Then we took HRH up onto the metal bleachers. The photo above shows her and Fred striking a pose. She did pretty well, even though they made a strange sound when she walked on them and they were a bit narrow and had a gap on either side. I think she will like them better when she is bigger.

We made the mistake of taking her for a pee break between the 1st and 2nd quarter. Every student who caught sight of her without her coat on rushed over for a quick pat. They all lined up nicely though and it was an orderly affair. We did eventually get her coat back on and took her out onto the field to watch the game from there.

The second time we took her it was Tailgate, which translated means EXTREMELY CROWDED and FILLED WITH EXCITED CHILDREN. HRH had a meltdown about 20 minutes into the game and we took her home. Sometimes it works and sometimes you take 'em home.

We still kicked butt and won the game.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

HRH Berkeley Makes Her TV Debut

The NBC video finally makes to TV!

New student allowed to nap in corner.

They also did a print story. Courtney Cairns Pastor was our reporter and she did a wonderful job. There were three pages of photos, which they oddly don't have on the website. It's a great story though.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sophie's Choice

Last week I dreamed I met Bingo's lifetime partner. He was in his 30s and in the military. I woke with a very happy feeling.

Jan had a dream that he was paired with a young boy with special needs. She also woke with happy feeling.

But the last report card didn't tell the whole story. It left out some key facts. Bingo was possessive of the water dish and wouldn't let others drink when he was drinking. He didn't want to share his toys. He growled. He would sit by himself in the yard and when the other dogs came to visit he would warn them off by growling. They called it possessiveness of personal space.

Growling isn't allowed. Nor is not sharing. Bingo had reached a point of no return and he walked right on by it. On Saturday we got the news:

"Bingo has been dropped from the program."

I don't think I really understood what he was saying to me. How could that be? I had a photograph. I had a dream. Then he started talking about possessiveness and not sharing and I wanted to scream at him that he had the wrong dog because my Bingo would never do that, but my throat was all full of tears and I couldn't see and there was a ringing in my ears. So I nodded and I walked away with Fred and Berkeley.

"What do we do?"

Then we had to decide what to do. I had been totally at peace with giving Bingo away to someone as a guide dog. That was his purpose. But what I hadn't envisioned was a situation where we would be faced with giving him away to someone as a family dog. I loved him. I wanted him. I didn't want anyone else to have him. I couldn't imagine giving him away, but we felt that we couldn't give him the attention that he deserved and continue to puppy raise at the same time. Three dogs is just too many. Bingo deserves to be the only dog.

So we made the very hard decision to let him go. He will be put up for adoption.

I thought you all should know. SEGD said the adoption lady would find him a good home and would ask them to stay in contact with us and let us know how he is doing. This, for us, was a real Sophie's choice. I really wanted him to be a guide dog. But I know he will succeed as a lovable dog. He was always first rate at that.

Now if I could just stop crying.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Bingo: Sweet Boy or Slacker?

I just received another report card for Bingo. I wish I had received this one first, followed by the first one second. We could have said he went uphill. Now. Well, the direction is not up. Only two ++'s. One of his ++'s (Clearances) turned into a W! AND!!! he went from 5 Ws to 8 Ws.

Oh Bingo! What happened? Did you not pay attention in class? Did you not get enough sleep? Are you and Jim staying up late and partying? You obviously haven't been listening.


Are you listening to me?

You aren't listening are you? Sigh.

Here are the comments from the trainers:

COMMENTS: Bingo is a sweet dog. He is a bit immature still and we are currently working on his distractions and manners.

Reading between the lines:
Bingo is sweet, but nuts! (Did you read the blog? We could have told you that! 8-)

To be honest, we were so surprised by the first report card and frankly, so filled with unexpected pride that we have been brought down low by Bingo's normal, goofy hijinks. I swear that when I got that first report card I thought it would be all Ws. He is Bingo.

So, WAKE UP Bingo. And listen to your teachers. And I expect to see 5 Ws and 3 ++'s back on your 3rd report card.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Her Royal Highness Is Presented to the Lower Division

On Friday of first week of school, I presented Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley to the Lower Division (see photo above). I first walked in with her and then picked her up (there were parent complaints last year that their kids couldn't see Bingo, because he was on the floor and their child was at the back of the room sitting. Sigh. So, you will see what we did to try to try to ward off those complaints this time.)
I showed them the video first. It was cute. They all started singing the words to Train's "Soul Sister" song. 8-). They liked the Lemon video clip. Then instead of telling them the rules, I wanted them to tell me what they remembered, because I had a feeling that they remembered everything.

When the St. Pete Times reporter was here on Wed. HRH was in the hallway and a LD class walked by. I had HRH sit down as they passed by. Every child was completely silent and did not make one attempt to get her attention or try to call her Bingo. They were Fabulous! So the first thing I did after the video, was ask which class passed us on Wed.

Long pause. No hands were raised.

"Come on. A class passed us by. You were perfect. You did all the right things! You remembered all the rules. Which class walked by us on Wed.?" Slowly a few hands went in the air, then a few more. "Everyone, let's give them the library clap for being so smart and remembering all the rules!" Everyone raised both hands and waved them in the air violently.

Then I asked them if they remembered what item of Harry Potter's was HRH's blue coat similar to? 50 hands shot up in the air. I was looking for one boy in particular, but couldn't find him in the sea of faces. So I chose a little girl who seemed to be vibrating with the answer:

"It is the same as Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility, which means that you can't see her when she has it on, which means that you can't call her name or act like you notice her." She took a deep breath. Good. She didn't pass out.

"Excellent answer! That's exactly right." Well, it went on like this with Lower divisioners getting it EXACTLY right all the time. That means that the ONE time I presented the rules to them, they MEMORIZED them and they STAYED memorized for an ENTIRE YEAR. They even remembered the specific question I wanted them to ask when she was out of coat: "Is this a good time?" I find that pretty impressive.

HRH, not so much. She just wanted off the darn cart.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Odds and Ends

My baby boy has grown up! Here is Bingo's In for Training portrait with the official harness. One of my friends pointed out that the harness is on the last hole, indicating that Bingo still hasn't lost any weight. (Big bones, I tell you!) That boy can hang on to a carb like nobody's business. 8-) When I was making the video for school, I said that Bingo always had his mouth open for photos and one of the kids said that he was always smiling. I liked that, so I changed the wording in the video.

When the slide popped up that Bingo had gone in for training, both divisions burst into applause. They love him. They've really taken to Berkeley as well. I think her Lemon Video endeared her to all of them. Plus she's so darn cute.

After I gave my talk to the Lower Division, one of the teachers told me later that one student was still confused and asked, "I don't understand. If Berkeley is blind, how can she help anyone?"

"No, honey, the dog isn't blind...."

Yesterday, I was out on a pee break with Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley and we were by the Lower Division drama room. There was a class waiting outside to go in. They saw HRH was without coat so I heard them say,

"There's Berkeley!"

"Look, she doesn't have her coat on. We can see her."

"I see her."

"It's Berkeley."

I turned and waved to them and HRH did a quick pee. I put her coat back on and all the lower division kids went, "SSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Diva

By Fred
Berkeley and I had a nice lunch today at the beach. But first we walked down to the water's edge and she pranced along with her head held high, just like the polished media star she has become, raising comments from the sun-bathers along the way: what a pretty dog, what a good dog, etc.

I guess we need to find some sunglasses for her. She's had another newspaper interview and soon will be on TV with Cheryl and some of the Berkeley (the school, not the dog) kids. Stay tuned.

But has this attention gone to her head? Just the opposite. We've noticed a real change in her at home. She's more calm, less sassy. Even Willow has warmed up to her (a little). This video is from a few days ago.

Video Narration: Like usual, Berkeley is teasing Willow but this time Willow takes the bait and chases after her. Berkeley circles and runs. Then Willow runs away to be the chased one. Finally!