Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Eve Boat Parade

We were invited to a party on Christmas Eve at Duke and Eric the Red's house.  And since a puppy raiser was throwing the party, Jam was invited and this time Willow got to come as well (Willow is our 10 year old chocolate lab)!

Jam lying down on the deck with his Christmas collar on.
 All told, there were six dogs at the party, five big dogs and one little puppy.  Well, let me rephrase that.  four crazy, boy dogs, one lady, and a little puppy.  Whenever the boys got too rambunctuous, Willow would remove herself from the rolling, kicking whirling mass of boy-dog craziness and come sit next to me or Melisa's mom.

Eric the red was too small to be let off leash to run with the big dogs.  So he watched from the deck.  But he's so happy, he didn't mind.

Eric the red sitting pretty with a big smile on his face.
What was so fascinating about this particular grouping was that there was absolutely no aggression in any of the boys at all.  When they played with the toys, they all wanted to play together, but they were all really sweet about it.
All four big dogs (Jam, Dawson, Trapper and Duke) playing with the same blue tug toy.
 When one of them would end up with the toy, that dog would go over to another and wave it in their face until the game was on again.

Dawson, Trapper and Jam with the tug toy.
This game went on ALL NIGHT.

All four of them wrestling with the tug toy again.
We did make them sit for a photo.

A six dog sit on the steps of the deck: Willow, Jam, Dawson, Eric, Duke and Trapper (and various humans).
I may have Duke and Trapper mixed up.  It's hard to tell them apart.  I'm not sure which one is lighter in color.

I was a little worried about having them all in the house, but they actually did pretty well inside.  There was only one incident of puppy crazies (not Jam!) involving couch jumping, but other than that everyone was on their best behavior.

After a delicious dinner during which the dogs acted very good under the table, we went outside to watch the boat parade.  Music, flashing lights, boats driving back and forth, dancing Santa.  None if it phased the dogs.

While Willow was content to nap during the party, Jam would absolutely not!  No napping, no stopping, no turning it off.  So, when we got into the car to go home, he crashed.

Boat parade = successful exposure! (And a lovely party with delightful friends 8-)  A good time was had by all participants.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I Never Dreamed I Would Do It Too!

There are just some things that you don't ever imagine yourself doing.  In fact, often times, you have dreams about them.  Anxiety dreams, they call them.  Where you dream you are naked in class or in a business meeting.  How will I give this presentation without my clothes?  It's a very upsetting dream and usually indicates a disturbed mind, or at least that you are disturbed about something.  I think.  Whatever.

My dreams usually involve monsters and whales and dark water. No, those are nightmares.  Usually, really strange things happen like a baby with a golden arm appears and then something else happens.  Let's just say that once, on a hike up Sabino Canyon in Tucson, AZ with some friends we were talking about dreams and I told one of mine.  One of the girls in the group looked at me a little strangely and said, "You should really see a Jungian therapist.  They would love to get a hold of you."  Somehow that sounded vaguely threatening, so I never did go find a Jungian therapist and gradually, the whales, the dark water and monsters faded away to plain old anxiety dreams of nakedness. Like everyone else has.  I like to think that my happiness in raising guide dog puppies had fostered a sense of contentment and well being that has provided a safe haven for my subconscious to go on vacation and not have to dream up such elaborate scenarios at night.  Until today.

Two years ago I told a story about Bingo doing the poo hunch in the middle of Westshore Mall and that I picked up his 50lb self and ran him out the door (which was quite a distance away! Pretty good for an middle-aged, out of shape lady!). Crisis averted.  Carolyn then shared one of her poo stories which made me laugh so hard I though I was going to shoot coffee out my nose.  I apologize Carolyn.  I sincerely apologize.  I completely understand now why you did what you did.  But I get ahead of myself...

Today, we took the Jamster to Home Depot.  As we were walking in, I thought to myself, "It's about 3:30, he had a big pee.  That's good. Is there something else I should be thinking about?" Then my pea brain went off to think about Bed, Bath and Beyond, which was our next stop.  What did I need, blah blah blah.  We went in and started walking around.  Fred had a HUGE list of things he needed.  So I said I would go look at bathroom towel racks where I took a lovely photo of Jam as he looked at  himself in the mirrors.  I also got some cute video.
Jam, lying down, in front of some mirrors in the bathroom department.  You would think this would be foreshadowing, wouldn't you?
Then we found Fred and he sent us on this wild goose chase to find shelf doodads, and we wandered up and down aisles and couldn't find them.  We met back up Fred and it is now about 4:15.  The sweet spot for Jam as far as poo goes is right after breakfast, sometimes a 10 am poo and between 4:30 and 5:30 pm. He is REGULAR.  No fooling around.  So as we start to turn down the aisle I feel a little tug on the leash.  I look down and it's the dreaded poo hunch!

CRAP (so to speak!).  Now I have two choices: Let him poo (not a choice!) or take him out (we are far from the entrance).  But, and here's the big question: Has he actually committed himself, or is he just hunched like Bingo?

Mind you all of this is going through my head in a fraction of a second as Fred is walking off down the aisle.

What do I do?  I have to check to see if he is committed.  Otherwise I can carry him. So, I

I reach behind him.

I reach behind him and I feel for poo.

Yep.  He's committed.

In a big way.

It falls into my left hand.  Oh my God.  I have poo in my hand.  My dog just pooped in my hand.  I look up and there are people in the aisle.  Did they see him poop in my hand?  This is a real life anxiety dream only I am fully clothed and holding poo!  And my dog is going to pump out some more!

I leap up.  I can't carry him with a hand full of poo, so a RUN down the aisle with poor Jam running after me like his underwear is around his ankles.  We run as fast as we can to the exit.  Mind you, Jam CANNOT POO IN COAT.  So my main goal (aside from getting poo out of hand) is to get the coat off of him and let him shoot poo out his butt in a safe place.

Right there by the exit is an orange bucket with a garbage sack.  OMG I have to get this poo out of my hand.  I stop for a micro second to throw the poo into the bucket and in that microsecond Jam has squirted out another poo WHICH I HAVE CAUGHT!  OMG.  I throw that one away as well and run Jam out the door and over to the median grassy area and yank the coat off of him.

I can hear the sigh of relief as he finishes his poo.  I can also her the laughter as one of the Home Depot customers walks out to his car.

I tell myself, I have on all my clothes.  It could have been worse.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa's Little Helper

Jam lying on the floor in his Santa hat and Christmas collar.
Today, an odd thing happened.  Jam performed a task, unasked of course, but he did it twice and it was so strange that we think he was moved by the Christmas spirit.

We had a friend stop over and she had two gift bags: one for Fred and one for me.  Since we weren't going to see her at Christmas, we started to open our bags.  Now, we didn't have a bag for her.  Her gift was in a little stuffed snowman, but Jam didn't know that.  As we were exclaiming over our gifts, Jam went over to the Christmas tree, grabbed a gift bag and pulled it over to our friend's feet.

"OH!"  She said.

"Jam!"  I looked at the bag and at her.  "I guess he wants you to have a bag too."  I looked at Jam and said, "No, Jam," and then put the bag back under the tree.  Then I returned to opening my presents as there were still things to pull out of my gift bag.

Jam walked over to the tree.  He grabbed the gift bag again with his teeth and he dragged it over to our friend and left it at her feet and then he looked up at her.

"Jam.  I got her a present.  It's okay."  I returned the bag to the tree.

Jam gave me a skeptical look, but he didn't move it again.

Jam: Santa's little helper.  Making sure all is right with the world and present distribution is fair.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sock Boot Camp

You know from a couple of days ago that Jam has a predilection for socks (new or used) actually clothing items of any kind, but preferably socks.  Socks and hosiery happen to be very dangerous as they can be easily ingested, but then depending on the dog not necessarily easily digested or regurgitated. Jam, happily, was able to regurgitate his sock (twice) and thus eliminate the problem.

However, because Jam is such an incredibly obdurate canine, I have extreme doubts as to whether he learned any lesson from the morning "yak session."  In fact, given a smelly, vomit sock stinking up a low, open trash can and no Mom and Dad around to say No, I think he would be happy to stick his white, freckled muzzle in and grab a tasty, nasty snack.
Example of a sock that came in contact with Jam and has the holes to prove it.  
 With that in mind, I was resolved to start Jam on a strict Sock Boot Camp regimen.
Same sock, underside, more holes. Bad Jam.
Sock Boot Camp?  What is that?  Well, it involves giving Jam lots of opportunities to get a sock and then not letting him actually get the sock.  As our Area Coordinator is always telling us, it is very important that during the obedience training that you dog doesn't succeed in getting whatever it is on the ground that  he is training around.

So, I set up a great little training ground in the garden room and take Jam in there and within about 20 seconds Jam has snatched up the sock and it is like he has Lock Jaw.  Not only that, but the Drop It command is an invitation to PLAY and he is bound and determined not to drop it.

It's like it is high noon and I am John Wayne, old, crotchety and with a sore back facing down a young, good looking Clint Eastwood.  Clint is going to win.

Time to change the rules.  We move the obedience to a different spot.

Now I set it all up and begin again.  ARGH!! Jam just barely grabs the sock.  But this time, I am in control and manage a correction and a cool and forceful Drop It.

It works.  He drops it.  Awesome.

The trainers say that all your emotions go straight down the leash, so if you don't feel like training, don't do it.  If you aren't confident, the dog will know.    Just relax, take a deep breath and believe in yourself and more importantly believe what you are doing is the right thing for the health and welfare of the dog.

Then try again. Worked for me.

Here's our second try at Sock Boot Camp.  It won't be his last attendance at SBC.  He will have many repeated visits as he is probably a repeat offender.  But we WILL get him to ignore socks and open trash cans!

But, even with a closed trash can, problems can still occur....

So, training will continue on an as needed basis.  Because as we know, Jammy is a complete bonehead and will need constant reminders that socks are best left alone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blues Brothers

Jam is on crate-rest this week, though the term is an oxymoron in his case--he does not rest in the crate at all, especially if Cheryl and I then leave the room after he gets into the crate.

So, for this entire week Jam has been home with me, on Fred-rest, following me around in our regular routine, except without the walks and other fun stuff.

Jam has been limping on his right front right paw for several days now, though he doesn't mind if we touch the paw or leg, and it doesn't seem to hurt him in any particular place. He doesn't lick it or grimace or do anything to indicate discomfort. He just limps. So we're keeping him as quiet as possible.

Years ago I had a friend named John T., a very funny, personable and talkative guy. I've always gravitated toward such people (Cheryl is certainly one of these). John told me that he once picked up John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd hitchhiking and invited them to his house for a party in Little Rock. This was back before Saturday Night Live, back when these guys were completely unknown. (Other people that I know, and trust, have confirmed that this story is true.)

John T. said that the two future blues brothers talked through the entire party, pretending to be characters and telling jokes, until everyone hurt from laughing so much. The incredible part of the story is that John T. could not get in a word at that party; he never stopped talking in my presence.

Some people are just naturally funny, and some more than others. Normally I am very comfortable in my boring skin, down at the very low end of the personality spectrum. But I can't stand to see little Jam so bored, unable to even take a walk around the block. He looks up at me with those eyes, like he is saying "Please let me do something fun..."

Yes, this week we are a couple of blues brothers--the real kind...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jam's New Nickname: Bonehead

We've noticed that Jam has a problem.  It's a bit of a cloth addiction.  He wants to have something soft in his mouth when he gets up in the morning or at night going up and down the stairs.  This compulsion of his usually results in his grabbing a sock, which we make him drop.

He's gotten wise to that.  He now runs into the bedroom, grabs any piece of clothing he can reach, and then runs out of the bedroom as fast as he can.  He's not quite a greased pig, but almost as hard to get a hold of. So things, generally go like this:

Jam runs into the bedroom and spies one of Fred's shirt's on the dresser.  He grabs it and whirls around.  I'm three feet away and scream, "NO! Drop it!"

Jam, sensing that NO is really just a small speedbump on the way to YES, fakes right and manages to get by me.  He races to the bathroom door and then turns at the head of the stairs and clenches the shirt in his mouth.

"Jam.  I am serious."  I say, completely ignoring the fact that trainer Jennifer has told us many times that talking like this is of no use to the dog. "Drop it."  I'm also too far away to make good on my Drop it command, which is bad thing number 2.  Jam, of course, being the stubborn bonehead that he is, ignores me, waits until I am two steps away and then gallops down the stairs.

"ARGHHHHHH!"  I stare at Jam.  Jam has his butt in the air doing a down dog position daring me to come and get the shirt.  Again, I forget about talking to him and talk to him. "Seriously, dude?  I am NOT coming down there."

I think he is laughing.

Another Morning

5:18 am

I wake up to the dulcet sounds of Jam yakking up something in his crate.  I turn on the lights and open the crate door.  He gives me a pained look and walks over to the white rug and promptly yaks up again on it.

Bile.  I look in the crate.  It looks like mostly bile, but there seems to be a pile of something.  I shut the crate door and go to get the toilet paper.  As I am cleaning, I notice that his pile of vomit seems to have writing on it.  What does it say? I can barely make it out.


He ate an entire golf sock.  ARGH!  I clean it all up and throw it away in the bathroom trash can.  Then as I am totally awake now (reading vomit will do that to a person), I take Jam and Willow downstairs for their breakfast.  I have no appetite.

Jam, as usual, scarfs his breakfast down and then as I am fixing myself a restorative cup of coffee, he disappears.  "Fred, have you seen Jam.  Is he in there with you?"


"Crap.  I have a bad feeling about this."  Bad feeling as in birth of a blockhead.  I run back upstairs and Jam meets me at the head of the stairs licking his lips.  Another bad sign.  "Jam.  What have you done?"  I run into the bathroom and look around.  Nothing looks amiss.  I look in the bedroom.  Same there.  I go back into the bathroom.  Then it hits me.

Vomit sock.  Oh no!

I walk over to the trash can.

I look in.

No vomit sock.

Jam in his Santa outfit looking handsome and not like he would eat a vomit sock.
He ate it.  Again.  You wouldn't think this handsome boy would eat a vomit sock would you?  But he would.  In a heartbeat.  He's a blockhead.  A stubborn, stubborn boy.  He's the puppy that tried for 55 minutes to get up on the front seat on the way home from Southeastern Guide Dogs.  Why are we surprised?

So what did we do? We got out the hydrogen peroxide and we made him throw it up.  With his breakfast.

Lesson: Get a new trashcan with a lid! AND make sure all socks make it into the laundry basket!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Convocation

Friday was the wrap-in and the holiday convo.  The wrap-in involved visiting pre-k, wrapping presents with them, writing notes to the kids where the gifts were going to go (they were being donated to a local charity), and then going to the all school convo where there was to be much singing and revelry.

Of course, Jam had to be dressed in his holiday attire, provided by his number one fan English teacher Caroline Clarke.  Once we got to pre-k, the biggest challenge was to keep him from mouthing the little kids.  When he is excited, he goes to take your hand in his mouth and that was his first reaction upon entering the room.  So, we walked around and around and at various times tried to visit small children to see if he had calmed down.  He did.  Five minutes before we left.  By that time, he was so exhausted he slept the rest of the day and most of this weekend!
Jam is laying down on the gym floor with his Santa hat on and his Christmas collar on.  He has his head on his paws and looks tired.
 Here he is getting ready to sleep during the holiday convo. Below is a shot of him waking up and looking around.  He has no idea what is going on and little care about it either.

Here is Jam with his head up (Santa hat still on!) looking sleepily to the left.

He has so little care, indeed, that when the Highlander Band began to play that he just gave up and fell asleep.  DURING BAGPIPES AND DRUMS.

Poor baby.  It's rough being so cute and popular.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jam at the Movies

By Fred
We had our first night out at the movies with Jam this weekend--the new Muppet movie. You just never know what to expect on the dog's first movie. Bingo was a notorious critic and hard to please; he would yawn and snore so loud we were almost always forced to leave. Berkeley was pretty quiet. However, she somehow got the idea that when the movie ended and everyone stood up, it was her job to get us out of the theater first. Small bladder and big determination.

Predictably, Jam had his mind set on food and on the odors left behind, both of which can be found in abundance in the dark recesses under theater seats. He squirmed and sniffed struggled to reach this or that kernel of popcorn for quite a whie before giving up to watch the Muppet movie.

It's not that easy being Jam...

Too bad Ray Charles isn't still alive, or they could have done this duet again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ladies Man

Two weeks ago, we had a wedding to go to in Dover, FL.  And we thought it best if Jam had a babysitter. So, we sent out a call for a sitter.  Lynn and her girls responded that they could do it, but that Jam would have to be up for camping with her daughter as she was going on a Girl Scout overnight on Saturday.  Would that be okay with us?

Would that be okay, indeed!  YES!

So we went to the wedding knowing that Jam would be well cared for and would have a host of new experiences:

  • Girl Scouts (screaming, giggling, running, jumping, etc.)
  • Camping
  • Bonfires
  • Smores, avoiding eating them
  • I can only imagine what else ...
We were waiting for the call on Sunday from Lynn to come and get Jam.  We waited and waited.  Then about 3:30 pm, Lynn called. 

"We are about to leave the campground. It's up in Tarpon." she said.

"Oh great!" I said, "Why don't you just drop him off on your way?"

"Oh no." Pause. "I couldn't do that." Pause. "He needs a bath."

"Naw. Just drop him off."

"No. Really!  I can't give him back to you like this.  We will bathe him first!"  she said.  There was a smile in her voice. "He had a very good time."
Jam is in the center of a group of Girl Scouts. He is seated.  There  are three scouts to his left and to to his right. Lynn's daughter is next to Jam on the left.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cultural Activities

When Cheryl is away
For the weekend, like this one,
Time crawls to a stop.

The dogs look to me
For fun times, and finding none,
Respond with a sigh.

"Let's watch some TV,"
I said, but they would prefer
To dig up cat poop

…in the yard.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

By Fred
During the past several weeks Jam has gotten more and more excited about the prospect of getting out of his crate in the morning. He seemed to have an internal clock that went off about 15 minutes before Cheryl and I wanted to get out of bed, and he whimpered and whined with the strangest sounds ever to come from a dog. He was becoming a real pest.

But the other morning I woke up before Cheryl. I could hear her gentle breathing--not snoring (I would never imply such a thing), but more like the gentle rush and flow of the waves at the beach, in and out, pleasing to my ears because I know she is dreaming nice thoughts about me.

So I remained very still, waiting for Jam to start up his silliness. But he never did, at least not until Cheryl's audible breathing became quiet and she stirred a little, and this was nearly an hour past our normal time.

Was he listening to her? This was my new theory, but I didn't say anything to Cheryl. Later that afternoon I took a short nap with him next to the bed. I woke up with him staring into my face. "Just 10 more minutes," I said, but he started whining and being silly, shaking his tail around. So I closed my eyes and faked a gentle snore. And he laid back down on the floor, immediately.

A picture of Jam waking from a napLast night I told Cheryl about the theory, and this morning we tested it. Or at least I did--I'm not sure if she was awake or not, but she was not at all quiet (again, it is a pleasant sort of thing). Jam didn't make a sound.

Then the alarm went off and so did Jam. But that's another issue, and maybe we need to abandon the alarm. He's getting much better, and now he knows that, once we are up out of bed, he has to be quiet before he gets out.

So, all along we thought Jam could be a pretty rude dog, especially in the morning. It turns out that he's a polite and considerate dog after all, but only when he thinks we are asleep.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Strange Thing about Physical Therapy

About a month and half ago, perhaps more, I sprained my ankle letting Jam out to busy one dark morning.  For the past 4 weeks I have been going to physical therapy to retrain my ankle to recognize when it is falling so it can correct itself and I won't hurt myself again.  

Usually, all this occurs on a Tuesday.  Usually.  Last week, was, unusual.

I had Jam on a Tuesday.  I don't know why, but I did and that meant that he had to come to PT with me.  I hadn't thought it out, but the day was over and it was time to go to PT and there was just no choice.

We had to go.

Of course, they loved him.  To start.  He was very good. To start.  Megan, my PT, started me on the treadmill.  6 minutes of me walking sideways: two on one side, two on the other and two backwards.  Jam was fascinated with the treadmill.  The big open room filled with physical therapists and their patients were fascinated with me and Jam.  

I was sweating and it wasn't because of the treadmill.  

"Jam. Sit." He sat.  "Down." He went down. "Stay."  He stayed ... up he popped.  I'm on the treadmill remember. 

I leaned a little over the treadmill. 

 "Jam. Sit." He sat.  "Down." He went down. "Stay."   He stayed.....up he popped.  

Criminy how much longer on this torture device?  4 minutes! OMG.  I will never make it.  

JAM! SIT!  He sat. DOWN.  He went down.  For 2:25.  Up he popped.  Now I am walking backwards and try to attempt a sit, my PT Megan races over and stops the machine as she waits for me to get Jam down.  I must have looked a bit tipsy. Hmmmm.

Now we are on the balance board.  Jam likes that.  He watches and he watches through the weight machine. But when she walked me over to the place where you stand on one foot and throw a ball at a trampoline, I just looked at her.

"Oh.  Perhaps we should skip that one for this week."

"I would really appreciate it!" Jam was giving me the evil eye.  He knew something was up.  So she set me up on a weird stretcher pulling thing and I started to do some exercises while standing and attached to a post in the middle of the room.  Jam was attached to a table as seen below.
Jam sitting by a Physical Therapy table.
 Jam did not like my being so far away and gave a preemptive come over here bark.  Everyone got very quiet as they watched to see what I would do.  I went hot and then I went cold. Oh poo.

"No noise, Jam."

BARK! (Read, Come here right now, I mean it!) This was followed up with a little back pedalling because he knew he wasn't supposed to do that.

"No noise."  I waited a few moments for the quiet to sink in and then unhooked myself and went over to where he was and got him.  Then took him back to where I was.  I was really tense, but I could tell Jam was too.  So when I got him next to me, I put my hand on his head and in a really calm voice I said, "SHHHHHHHH."

We both calmed down.  I finished the set.

Then we went back to the table.

This is my trainer Megan.  She really loves labs, so after the session, I took Jam's coat off so she could pet him.  Jam  is lying down next to her.
 Next time, if there is a next time, Jam needs to be super tired and worn out before coming to PT.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tim, The Enchanter

There are three boys from the Heather-Jack litter in our obedience class: Jam, Lucky and Tim. Lucky seems pretty laid back with a little bit of silliness, but Tim, he's quite different altogether. I call him Tim the Enchanter.  Here he is when he is being good and not egging Jam on to bad behavior.
Photo of Tim laying down by his puppy raiser.  Fred and Jam are behind them.  Jam is standing and reacting to something, could Tim be sending silent signals?
However, sometimes, Tim will change from Good Tim into Tim the Enchanter and then all bets are off.
Photo of John Cleese playing Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Once the Enchanter is in the house, Jam is completely out to lunch, which is what happened when Trainer Karen decided we were going to do the meet and greet exercise, which is where two puppies and their raisers walk towards each other and try to get closer and closer without one of the puppies completely losing their snot.  As Trainer Karen proceeded to pair the puppies up, Tim and Jam ended up with each other.  OOOOH.  Two 6 month old boys who just got their nuggets and are filled with testosterone.  This is going to be fun.

I walked Jam back a bit for the exercise to begin.  We started to come together.  Jam eyed the evil Tim and realized the duel had begun.  Clearly, a calm walk forward was NOT called for.  What was needed was a LEAPING JUMP and then GRAB HIM BY THE NECK ALA CALL OF THE WILD!

We backed off and tried again, but as soon as we backed up, Jam was already laser locked on Tim's eyes. Did it matter that Tim was looking down and wagging his tail. No! Tim had obviously issued a challenge.  Jam was honor bound to return said challenge.  They met and clashed again like a pair of jousting knights.  Rather Tim calmly walked forward and Jam leap forward and grabbed his neck in a mad dog wrestling lock a la Andre the Giant and prepared to toss Tim to the ground when I yanked him back.

Hmmm.  This duel wasn't going as Jam expected.  Each time they met, the leash holder was screwing it up for him.  What was he doing wrong?  Could it be the obvious stare down he was giving Tim?  Could it be the foreshadowing of the leaping jump that was about to come?  All of this Trainer Karen was able to point out to me.

"Don't look at the person coming towards you.  Look at Jam.  He will signal what he plans to do.  Then you just need to correct him before he does it, when he signals his intentions. And give lots of praise afterwards."

So take that enchanters!  No longer will Jam respond to your evil challenges.  I have your number!  He will be a good boy from now on. I am walking with intention and looking at Jam and if I walk into a wall, you had better not laugh!

After all, this is for a good cause.  And laughing would be wrong.  Oh so wrong. 8-)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Funeral for a Fish

By Fred
My favorite fish died today. She was a sweet little fish, never fussing or complaining. I called her Calico because she was the cutest combination of red and white that you can imagine on a Koi (or any other creature for that matter).

Our tradition here is to hold a fish funeral each time one our wet little friends passes into the big pond. In this case the fish cemetery is our bamboo stand, because our bamboo are also very fond of fish. Next year a big bamboo shoot will jump up in this place.

I thought that because Calico was a special fish, Jam and Willow should be in attendance, especially as this would be a new exposure for Jam, but they only attended the service, not the burial itself--I didn't want them to tempted to dig up our little friend later on.

A picture of Willow and Jam, and Jam looks like he is crying (or smelling fish)Here's Jam and Willow at the service, and I was surprised to see them take it so hard. Poor Jam is crying like a baby. Or maybe he just caught a scent in the air?

Monday, October 31, 2011

News from the Queen

I received another email from Chrissy at Southeastern Guide Dogs saying that Her Royal Highness was fitting into the family beautifully.  They also sent some more photos.  Since they didn't give me an explicit release to post their photos on the internet, I'm just posting the one with the dogs only! 8-)

HRH is in the bed at the far back laying down with her head up surveying the room in a comfy bed.  There is a bed in front of her with a yellow lab who is asleep and in front of that bed is a black lab who doesn't have a bed.

As you can see from the photo above HRH now has minions and has become comfortable enough in her new home to start bossing them around.  She has even taken over one of their beds, forcing the older, fatter one to sleep on the floor near her as she watches her domain.

I can rest easy knowing our little majesty is now firmly in charge of her new kingdom.  Having asserted her brand of sweet, regal rule, life will be forever changed for them.  I feel a bit sorry that she didn't come with a small warning label as her wiggly cuteness is enough to overwhelm all common sense, but in time, they, like much like those incorporated into the borg view their Borg Queen, will see that is better to be ruled by HRH than not to have had her in their lives at all.

Carry on, HRH.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Strawberry Jam

Jam with his Halloween costume on.  It is a red felt strawberry on a green felt  coat (the green coat is the same shape as their blue puppy coat).  He is laying down.
 Yesterday was our Halloween Parade and Jam was a hit.  I must say, though, I was surprised that I had to explain his costume as many times as I did.  I thought it was a sure thing. I only had three people (two students and one faculty member) who came up and said, "Oh! Strawberry Jam! I get it."

Here is the entire sandwich fixing group. I'm kneeling in front with Jam who is standing and showing off his costume.  From the left is Eileen, who is Fluff, Pilar who is Nutella, Jan who is crunchy Skippy, and Caroline who is creamy Jif.
Jam only occasionally would turn around and try to bite the strawberry.  Mostly he was good about it.  I had his blue coat on underneath it.

Here we are at the Halloween parade.  The kids are just about ready to march in front of us.  I'm kneeling beside Jam who is sitting and looking off to the left.

Making a Strawberry Costume

Now, you might think that I am pretty clever, putting that beautiful strawberry together, but I actually only did the very basic stuff like buy all the material, cut out the green felt coat (which is based on his blue guide dog coat) and then I went to the experts: Jan and Christina.

Jan is on the left (she was crunchy peanut butter) and Caroline is smooth. Jam is sitting between Caroline's legs.
Jan and Christina pulled up images of strawberries and then drew a large strawberry and transferred to the red felt and cut it out.  Then Christina made a green strawberry cap and cut it out and I glued everything on, the strawberry, the cap and the seeds.  I attached it all with adhesive velcro which eliminated any sewing.  It was pretty easy, on the whole.  If you have a Jan and a Christina around to help you!!!

I hope your Halloween is this fun.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Training Class 1

By Fred
Last week we had the first of our four training classes with Karen at the Southeastern Guide Dogs facility. As usual, Jam was pretty well behaved, obedient and attentive at the beginning of class, and then he gradually unwound and finally melted down altogether. Our other dogs tended to get better at the end of a meeting or class. But Jam consistently gets worse.

Of course, these classes are for the humans, not the dogs. The trainers are attempting to teach us what is infinitely more complicated than it seems: to effectively communicate with a dog. The basic concepts can be taught, like teaching a student how to paint with watercolors, but dog training is an art form that quickly gets into concepts that are difficult to express in words, like asking the student to "now paint something beautiful."

Anyway, after about 30 minutes of class (and to our great surprise), Jam started jumping very high into the air, like Snoopy doing his dance. Does he just have a short attention span? Is he being lazy or stubborn? Is he being intentionally sarcastic, ironic, silly? Does he feel under challenged, over challenged?

Or maybe he just wants to be a dancer?

Parents often find that a child has ambitions that are, well, unexpected. Too bad for Jam. Dance school is out of the question. He is going to obedience class because we are determined about his future: guide dog.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Jam is food obsessed.  Forget the magic door.  For a week now, he thought there were treats above my cabinets and he tried climbing things to get to them.

Seriously.  He would get on stools and try to climb up on cabinets.

He. Is. Obsessed. By. Food.

Extreme closeup of Jam's profile. He is waiting to be fed and has a bit of a yearning look to him.
There is no food in my office for him anymore.  I used to keep spare food for when we did film festivals and such, but now it is in the workroom far away from his questing nose.

He will only get in his crate with the promise of a few kibbles.  He has separation anxiety and doesn't like to be alone, getting him to go into the bedroom in the daytime is tantamount to leading him to an execution.  He starts to drag his feet and look around.

"It's daylight.  It's not bedtime.  Hey! Are you planning on leaving me in here ALONE!"

One shake of the kibble box and a Kennel In and he's all "I'm THERE!!!" with a happy face.  But no kibble, and it would be a full on drama king throw down.  And since I don't want the kennel to be a bad thing, I bring out two or three kibbles and he's a happy Jam.

But lately, lunchtime was getting to be a bit of a slog.  No, No, No, No. We couldn't go two feet without a correction and he was lunging for everything: actual food, crumbs, and even spots on the linoleum.  It got to where I was considering not taking him, but that wouldn't work as this was an important part of his training.  So I decided to do a prelunch foray into middle division.

They were not so boisterous and messy.  And they loved him. A lot.

By the end he had it.  Now we just have to do a prelunch foray every Mon-Wed-Fri.

Oh my.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Her Royal Highness Berkeley was let go from the program because she had a fear of strangers.  Jam is pretty solid, but I wanted to make sure that he was going to pass the stranger danger test, so I asked our middle division drama teacher Mr. Huls if he would help.

Mr Huls' 6th Grade Drama Class.  Mr. Huls is standing at the back and Jam and I  are sitting on the right side.
I thought if the kids would come out in different hats and costumes in front of Jam, we could give him the experience of seeing people in different outfits.  Then if he exhibited any type of fear, we could see how he did and take action and modify how the kids came out.

He didn't show any fear at all.  He loved it. If anything, he was a bit too into it.  I think he is a little bit of a drama king.  Every outfit that came out he wanted.  I could just hear his thought process too:

"Wouldn't that look good against my white blonde fur?"

"Lovely, but I would rather chew on it."

"Looks like something to eat" (said about the butterfly, he does chase them).


I may have created a monster.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jam's Sleepaway Adventure

Saturday, I woke up at 4:30 am.  Why?  Because it was the Model United Nations tournament at UCF and it was also the traditional hotel experience for our guide dog puppy in training.  Bingo and Berkeley had both had their hotel experience at this tournament.  They were smooth sailing.

Jam, however, was a bit of a drama king.
The MUN team at 5:30 am in front of the bus before we get on the road.  Jam and I will follow behind them.
Because I have Jam and the extra large crate, I bring the car and travel with dog and crate in a car behind the bus.  I thought it was going to be an uneventful ride, but it didn't start out that way.  We hadn't even made it off campus before I looked at the passenger seat and panicked.  Where is his coat?  I can't take him anywhere if I don't have his coat?

I know I put it in the car.  And I know it was in the passenger seat.  Ryan helped me with the crate, perhaps it fell out when we moved it.  Crap, the bus is going to get ahead of me.  I pull over and start to do my OCD madwoman search for the coat.  No coat.  CRAP.  WHERE IS THE COAT?

Perhaps it fell out literally on the ground in front of the library.  So I drive back to the library and look.  NO. ARGH!!!!!  I could scream.  Actually, I do a little foot stomp and some hair pulling, but nothing too dramatic as the guard in the guard shack can see me.  Then I see a jacket and pull it out.  There, crumpled up with the jacket is his coat.  Woot!

The bus is now about 7-9 minutes ahead of me.  Poo sticks.

Things remained uneventful until it suddenly dawned on me that I didn't have the check for the hotel.

"Michele.  Do you have the check for the hotel or do I?"  I said into my iPhone.  Inside, I know the answer.

"You do."

"No. I don't.  It's back in my office.  I'll get off at the next exit and go back."  Mind you, we are 50 miles into the trip. Jam is sleeping peacefully.  I get off at the next exit and start back to Tampa.  Michele calls and says we should just charge it and to forget about the check.  I get back on the highway towards Orlando.  The bus is a good 15 minutes ahead of me.  There is no way I am catching up.

This is where usually I make a very bad mapping decision.  Where most people would just stay the course and keep on track, I, however, feel the need to fly off the handle and flail about wildly.  Generally, this is very amusing to the people around me and someone can say, "Cheryl, that doesn't make sense" and I won't do it.  However, all I have is Jam and he is snoring, so instead of staying on 417 like I should have, I decided that my GPS system knew a better way.  This is the same GPS system that took me on only surface streets to a place near Orlando because I had inadvertently set some button to not use the highway. Seriously? There's a button that does that?  Who wants that button?

I'm a bit like Michael Scott when it comes to GPS systems.

So, after the tollbooth, I don't listen to Michele tell me that it's super easy to get to Panera from 417, I get off 417 and start out on the surface streets.  It's 22 miles.  Several miles later, it's still 22 miles and I'm confused and I call Michele.

"Where are you? Have you gotten to Panera yet?"  I'm still the same distance away from Panera that I was 10 minutes ago.  I seem to have gone back in time.  I hate Orlando. Michele starts to tell me about how to get to Panera and I don't have the heart to tell her that I am no where near 417.  I just agree.

I arrive 20 minutes later.  Jam has been popping up and looking out the window and then looking at me accusingly: "Why are we STILL on the road?"  It's kind of like the look he is giving me below on the bus.

Jam sitting on a bus.  He is looking up at the camera from the space in front of the seats.
He didn't seem to mind being on the bus with the kids, but he didn't love it either. He managed the stairs just fine.
Jam and Andre at UCF's campus at the beginning of the KNIGHTMUN tournament. Jam is lying down in coat.
 He was super with the kids and behaved great all day long.  He was great in the bookstore and at lunch.

Jam is lying down and contemplating the far distance as the kids try to figure out where they are going.
 The problem came when we went to sleep.  Jam HATES his travel crate.  Jam is the ultimate drama king.  So when the time for bed came, he did not want to go into the crate.  We got him in, but he started to whine.  Then when I went to brush my teeth, he started to bark.  Barking and hotel rooms do NOT mix.

Jam and Michele in the Courtyard Marriott hotel room.  Jam is sitting by the bed.
What to do? Well, there wasn't much choice at this time.  He got to sleep on a tie-down.  I waited until he fell asleep (after midnight) because I didn't want him to chew anything.  Then when he was asleep, I turned out the lights and went to bed.  

At 3 am and 5 am Jam leaped up on the bed (all four paws) and had to be put back on the floor and told to go to sleep again.  I had put the tie-down too long, evidently, but at 3 am and 5 am, this didn't occur to me.

So he made it through the night and didn't destroy anything.  Yea! 

Didn't like his travel crate and wouldn't sleep in it. Boo!

Was a really good boy in the hotel, restaurant and bookstore all day long.  Yea! 

Was amazing with elevators and actually seemed to get the find the elevator command by the end of the weekend. Super yea!

Overall, a solid win for Jam at the MUN tournament. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Afternoon Classes

Yesterday, Jam helped with my Advanced Placement US History classes.  Mostly, he gave moral support to those students who were researching quietly at their desks.

Jam is nestled next to Carly's backpack and chair as she looks on her laptop for some online resources.
 Unfortunately, over to the right, where you couldn't see, there was a backpack with a stuffed Eeyore on it.  Jam found it and wanted it.  Wanted it BAD.  Every time I went over there to answer a question, Jam went as well and lunged for the stuffed animal.  Then it was a fight.

Jam finally fell asleep.  Fighting for Eeyore or my lecture?
Overall, he was a great boy in class today.  No barking. No chewing.  No roughhousing.  Just sleeping and a bit of Eeyore fascination.  And who doesn't want to take a bite out of Eeyore? He's so darn depressing!

Monday, October 10, 2011

HRH Berkeley Has Found a Home

When we picked up Berkeley from Southeastern, the Kennel Master told us, “Make sure you don’t coddle her.  This is a soft litter.” Meaning the litter was a bit timid and fearful.  So right from the beginning, Her Royal Highness Berkeley had some things to overcome and with everyone’s help she made amazing progress. 

When we found out she was afraid of balloons, Emma, a junior, was sweet and stayed and worked with her with the birthday balloon she had brought to school.  When we found out she was afraid of people with headphones, Andrew, a sophomore, stayed and worked with her until she was comfortable with him and those headphones.

But there is a reason that only 40% (the last statistic I have heard) of the guide dogs in training make it as guide dogs.  It is a very, very tough and demanding job that requires the dog really want that to be his/her profession.  When it came down to it, Berkeley could not overcome her fear of strangers.  There is a test they do where she and her trainer are in a room and a stranger comes in.  Berkeley was fine.  Then the stranger went out and put on headphones or sunglasses or a hat.  Each time, Berkeley became fearful and scared of the stranger, which disqualified her.

However, BECAUSE OF ALL THE LOVE AND HARD WORK MY SCHOOL PUT INTO HER TRAINING, BECAUSE OF THE SUPPORT WE FELT FROM OUR BLOG READERS AND FROM OUR FELLOW PUPPY RAISERS AND ACs WHO MAKE EVERY MEETING VALUABLE it did not disqualify her from being adopted to another family, which is what happened.  I’ve waited until I had all the details to pass on and frankly, I'm teary writing this.  I can’t tell you how much everyone’s support means to me and to Fred.  We couldn’t do this alone.  It does take a village. A crazy, dog-filled village.  

Below is the story of her adoptive family.

Thank you,

Fred and Cheryl

This email came from Chrissy at Southeastern Guide Dogs. She is in charge of Placement:

Dana and Marion have always been a 3 dog household. They have also been involved with Southeastern Guide Dogs for many years – supporting us and adopting from us. Knowing one of their dogs was getting older, they put themselves back on our adoption waiting list about a year ago. When their 12 year old career change dog passed away last month, they were heartbroken. They let us know that she passed and sent a donation in her memory.
I had planned on giving Dana a call this week to give my condolences and see if/when they would be ready to adopt again, but he beat me to the punch by stopping in. He told me that he was in the area and wanted to touch base with me. When he expressed that he and Marion were feeling a void in their household, I asked if he thought they were ready to adopt again. He said yes so I asked what kind of dog they would prefer. He told me that they would love any dog, but if they had to be picky, they would prefer a female black Lab. I knew that I had just the girl for them and asked if he’d like to meet her.

It was love at first sight! Berkeley gave Dana a few licks on the cheek and within 10 minutes, they were spooning on the lobby floor – Berkeley belly up. It was a done deal!

HRH Berkeley is one the far left and looks like she is giving some orders about who is going to get that treat!
Dana and Marion couldn’t stop thanking me and feel incredibly lucky to have another great Southeastern dog in their life. However, I think Berkeley got the best end of the deal as she will be living a life of luxury with them. She will spend most of the year at their home on the river in the Jacksonville and spend her summers at their home in Maine.

Looking Good and Hockey: Two Things That Go Together

Jam is a good looking lab. In fact, he is uncommonly good looking. I had a senior boy tell me the other day, "It just melts my heart to look at him. I have to look away or I won't obey the rules of the coat."

He's that good looking. And we do what we can to keep him polished and sparkly. Last week, I noticed that his nails were getting a bit longish. Clawlike even, some of them. The back ones were fine, but some of the front ones, were a bit too much. So, out came the Peticure Elite.

What, you might ask, is the Peticure Elite? Well, since Fred and I both are not into clipping nails and having blood spurting out of nail beds and traumatizing or maiming dogs to the point of them never wanting their nails to be clipped again, we have become fully enamored of this device that you can pick up at Amazon for about $10 + shipping. We love it. Here is a photo of the machine.

photo of the peticure elite logo on the handle of the machine
It is small and hand held. It does make a little noise, so you need to get your pup used to the noise first.

Here is a look at where the dog's nail goes.
The dog's nail goes into a small hole and gets slowly worn down by a spinning file. It is gentle and safe.

The whole thing is about 8-9 inches long.
All told, it is about 8-9 inches long and is on a rechargeable battery. It is pretty convenient to use.

Of course, I had to video the whole process of getting him used to the noise, testing it on his nail and then filing his foot.

You could also use a Kong or favorite toy that will divert your dog's attention.

Jam gazes at Fred while he fiddles with the Peticure.
After Jam was all sparkly, he felt good enough to go to the hockey game.

Jam has his back to the camera and is watching the action on the ice.
Jam was very interested in the game. He watched them for the first period.

Jam seems to follow the players from one side of the rink to the other. He is facing to the right watching our guys try to score.
Jam has his legs over the wooden bleachers and seems very intent on watching the ice. The score was not in our favor.
Unfortunately, Jam couldn't help the guys score. It might have been fun to let him out on the ice as a distraction for the other team, but it wouldn't have been fair. Although, he was looking mighty fine that night. All the little girls in attendance thought so.

He's too sexy for his coat!

Going to the Courthouse

Jam paying attention during the meeting.
Two weeks ago we had our meeting at the Clearwater Courthouse, which is where Karen, one of our puppy raisers, works.  It was a great experience for all of the puppies. The following video captures some of the obedience lesson we had (stay and come recalls down a very looooong hallway) and up some open glass stairways.  There was also a brief encounter with a floor polishing machine.

All in all a very successful meeting.  Thanks Karen and Judy.
Our Central Pinellas group.