Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Farm Experience

On Thursday we went to a stable to have the dogs meet some farm animals. At first we met them at a distance in the ring and watched them riding around through the fence. Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley was fine with that. Then we went through the stable where the occupants peered over there stalls to see who was visiting. HRH looked back at me to see if these behemoths were for real.

As we got deeper into the stable, HRH managed to look up into the horse's face and make eye contact.

We soon left the horses and wandered over to the pot bellied pig pen. Last year Bingo had wanted nothing to do with the pigs. This year, however, HRH found them interesting and went right up to the fence and sniffed. She stayed there for a bit looking at the pig curiously.

Then we moved on to goats. The goats were very standoffish and this was as close as we got, which seemed to be fine with dogs and goats both.

Overall, I think the experience was out of the ordinary for her, as in her daily travels, she will most likely not meet a goat, pig or horse, but if she does, she now has a frame of reference for them.

We Got An Award! 8-)

Erin and her new puppy Rob just gave us the award above, which was very sweet. Accordingly, we need to list 7 things about Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley to accept the award. Here goes:
  1. HRH does the commands she knows with military precisions. Her sits are plopped down precisely. Her switch command swerved over severely. They make me happy.
  2. HRH is a tail wagging fool. We also call her The Wiggler because of it.
  3. HRH can strain the patience of a saint. Stay? What was that? No, I didn't hear that command. Stay? You said what? I'm sorry, say it again, this time louder.
  4. HRH loves to steal paper napkins, but she is a sneaky snake. There is no snatch and grab. No, she will sidle up next to you and gently take a corner and nibble, nibble, nibble until you reach down to use your napkin and it's no longer there.
  5. HRH watches TV. She loves the opening credits to Madmen. However, ultimately, their treatment of women might cause her to bite or at least growl at Don Draper. Although, she might just settle for only watching the scenes with Joanie.
  6. HRH is amusing. We got her a gigantic nylabone and now she growls at it because it doesn't fall apart like she wants it to. In addition, she also throws it far away from her in disgust and then cries and looks at me to bring it back to her. And she also does forward rolls over the bone accompanied with a myriad of hums, cries and barks much to the delight of the students in the library.
  7. HRH recognizes my footsteps.

All in all she is her own dog. A completely different personality and a force of nature. There is another blog that I think is amazing and I am passing this blog award on to and that is guide dog puppy Joey and his family. Go on over to his blog and read all about him!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

HRH's First Basketball Game

Her Royal Majesty (HRH) Berkeley had not been to a basketball game before and the boys had a semifinal game against Tampa Catholic on Tuesday night, so I thought it would be good for her to attend. Little did I know it would be a crush, sort of like those parties one reads about in all the Victorian Harlequin romance novels (yes I do occasionally read those. All reading is good reading!)
When we arrived it wasn't too crowded and we opted for a seat near the cheerleaders (who had sparkly pom-poms and was fairly low. Here you can see Michele and HRH settling in for the game.

HRH quickly became immersed in watching the players dribble the ball and followed it back and forth. Where Bingo would have been trying to leap out of the stands and onto the court, HRH had a sense of decorum and merely watched avidly with her ears perked.

As it got closer to game time, the stands got more crowded and soon HRH found herself wedged between two (fortunate for her) dog loving, basketball fans. When the game started, as baskets were scored HRH would lean over and give Janie a kiss. To which Janie would respond with a look back to me, "She just fine!"

Once, HRH turned completely around to give me a look, and stood wagging her tail, in actuality, thumping it enthusiasistically against Janie and her husband. I tried to apologize but Janie's husband stopped me.

"Our dog doesn't have a tail." He seemed amused by her tail wagging. (They have a boxer. No tail.)

Periodically, HRH would turn and look with longing in the direction of the pom-pom girls. She really wanted her own pom-pom. They were metallic and shiny and she loved them. She really does have the soul of Santana. She was particularly annoyed when the crowed filled in and prevented her from watching the girls shake the pom-poms.

As the game went on, the auditorium got hotter. With about 4 minutes to the half, HRH let out a few whines indicating that either a pee-saster, poo-saster or heat-meltdown was going to occur in short order. Glancing around at the standing room only crowd of my school, I figured that now would be a good time to slip out. So I gave a quick nod to my friend and HRH and I slid quietly into the cool, night air.

Once in the car, I opened up a bottle of water for her and she drained it as you can see from the photo above. It was a heat stroke avoidance. She slept the whole way home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lacrosse Sticks Aren't THAT Scary

A few weeks ago, (HRH) Berkeley evinced some fear when two lacrosse players ran by her in full costume with their sticks. Of course, looking like the photo at left Impact by Geoff LaRose from Jesuit High School, Tampa, FL didn't help any either!

After the film festival I waited with the kids for their parents to come and pick them up. Carter, who happens to be the goalie for the lacrosse team, had his lacrosse stick with him and was twirling it around. Since HRH was a bit skittish, Carter happily twirled the stick for HRH to see if she would get comfortable with it.

Darth must have emboldened her.

We will still be attending a lacrosse match at some point in the future. Something tells me that twirling the stick and a full on match are two completely different things.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Darth Vader Meets Her Royal Highness!

It was a moment for the history books. Darth Vader and Her Royal Highness (HRH) coming together.

Here they are at their first meeting. You would think that HRH might be a little freaked out by the mask and weird voice, but true to her Santana (GLEE) nature, she recognized another dark soul and someone with whom she could conquer the world.

In fact, Darth and HRH began detailed world domination plans soon after meeting. It was all going very well. Then a familiar call came from across the room.


World domination would have to wait. Who knew Mom actually was in control of everything?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Monster Scooters

Wednesday as I was getting Her Royal Highness out of the car, she saw something that startled the bejeezus out of her. In fact, it looked like this amazing piece of artwork by David Palmer to the left.

It was, a monster on a scooter. See, we have these new neighbors. They have small children and their children evidently like careening around on a scooter. Menacing scooters like this one below.

Notice the ghastly, garish purple and pink colors! See the sparkly stickers designed to wink and attract your attention, essentially luring you to look someplace else while the scooter MOWS YOU DOWN! And don't get me started on the beast riding the scooter. (This is what was going through HRH's pea brain.)

HRH had leaped out of the car and attention caught by sparkly stickers, she immediately began to growl and bark at the wheeled beastie. The hair stood up on her spine making my delicate flower princess look a tiny bit larger. It must have helped. The beastie turned around and headed back for the trees.

What actually happened was that our nice little 5 year old neighbor girl saw HRH hop out of the car and and rode over to pet her. HRH freaked, neighbor girl freaked and they both went their separate ways.

I took HRH and all my work paraphernalia into the house and then proceeded right back outside with her. Wee beastie was up in the tree.

"Hi," I waved. HRH was by my side. I could see the monster mobile at the front of the house. Wee beastie called out.

"Can I pet your dog?"

"Of course! She's very friendly." And so she was. Lainey, which was the wee beastie's name, was delighted to make HRH's acquaintance. She was a bit perplexed as I tried to explain that HRH was afraid of the scooter. She gave me quite an odd stare when I asked if I could go and show HRH the scooter.


We walked slowly to the pink monstrosity. HRH took her time. I touched it. HRH backed off. I spun a wheel. HRH backed off. Then she came forward. Tail was wagging. She sniffed. Looked at me. Glanced at wee beastie. Glanced back at the pink monstosity and then over to our house.

It was enough. I took her home.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Morning Routine

Every morning we have the same routine: Arrive at 7:30 am out of coat. I get settled into my office or the main library as Her Royal Highness gets settled in or has students come to say hello.

Last Wednesday, I was working in the main library and had HRH connected to my chair with her bone nearby. I always have a big crowd of kids in the library in the morning. HRH was playing with the bone, which involved a great deal of rolling around on the floor, flipping over and then in deep despair, howling at the temerity of the bone not falling apart as she wished. When she did this, Carter, who was sitting two tables over leaped to his feet and cried out,

"I've got this!" and ran over to HRH carrying only his chemistry book. Then he proceeded to calm down HRH for the next 20 minutes until classes started at 8 am, all the while continuing to study his chemistry (our students are compassionate and focussed! 8-).

Here's a shot of the two of them. HRH actually did calm down. She doesn't do that for most people. Carter has the touch.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

New Food, And Now

By Fred
Cheryl's away for the weekend, herding teenagers from place to place for some school thing, while I'm at home doing my best to entertain Berkeley and Willow. The house can get pretty quiet and boring without Cheryl, but I do my best.

So last night I thought I'd fix something unusual for dinner. Of course, the dogs never get anything unusual--they eat Royal Canin day and night, 7 days a week, with only an occasional treat to break up to monotony. It's not right. When I was a kid, we always fed the dogs left-overs: fried chicken, catfish, pinto beans, corn bread, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, etc., etc., and they seemed pretty healthy and happy.

So in an attempt to be a spontaneous and fun person, I set my mind loose to come up with the perfect food, considering also that Cheryl wouldn't be here to turn up her nose and roll her eyes at me. Even if the dogs couldn't join me, at least I could have something new and unusual. Then it hit me: okra and spinach pizza.

I made up some pizza dough and went to work: tomato sauce, garlic, cheese, spinach, hot peppers and okra. Transferring the pizza to the oven is tricky; it requires some shaking to free the pizza from the peel, and during this process two pieces of okra flew into the air and landed on the kitchen floor just inches from Berkeley. There was nothing I could do except watch her wolf down those pieces.

I've never seen such a happy dog. She loved those sad little pieces of raw okra.

I cannot recommend okra pizza--it's an acquired taste and I'm definitely not likely to acquire it. Berkeley, however, will probably dream about okra for the rest of her life. Just think what a piece of pizza would do for her...

Big Balloons

I'm always on the lookout for opportunities for Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley to encounter some of the experiences that Southeastern Guide Dogs wants her to have before we bring her in for training. So on Wednesday afternoon when school was over and Emma walked into the library with a HUGE balloon, I thought, I cannot let this opportunity pass! I got out the camera and moved HRH into position.

Emma held the balloon out for HRH to see. The key idea was to get HRH to experience the balloon and to go back to the balloon if she didn't like it. I wanted her to respond to being called over to the balloon, which she did. Corey, another student who was waiting to speak with me indicated she would walk with HRH over to the balloon and I motioned her to go ahead. She and HRH walked over together to the balloon.

While you might think that HRH is too fearful and isn't responding well, if you think about it, she is doing exactly what I want her to do. She is continuing to go back to the balloon and trying to get a feel for it. The problem with the balloon is that it is on a string and it moves in crazy ways. She didn't have very long to get adjust to it. But overall, for her to go back as quickly as she did and give it another try, again and again, shows me great fortitude and courage and a willingness to go ahead and do something even though she might be tentative about it. It also means we need to buy a balloon and leave it in the house for her to get used to.

Of course, what we are ultimately going for is the gold standard: The Prince Charles Response, as seen in the video below. In 1994 when Prince Charles was about to give a speech in Australia a man with a starter's pistol attempted to attack him. As you will see from the video, Prince Charles' response was not fearful at all. I don't know if HRH will ever get to the Prince Charles level, but it's a goal.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Anatomy of an Interview

On Tuesday, I got an email request from a very polite 5th grader for an interview. There were three of them and they wanted to interview me about Her Royal Highness Berkeley. Would I be available on Wednesday?

I said, Of course. I mentioned to Christina who was coming to interview me and she said, "You are going to love them. They are so cute and vivacious!" She said the little girl who had been coordinating the interviews and who seemed to be in charge was especially delightful and was a real charmer. "You'll really like her."

They showed up promptly at 2 pm in the library and I brought them over to say hello to Christina who gave them all hugs before I brought them into my office. I shut the door and had the girls all take a seat. Then I took HRH's coat off.

"Oh, we weren't going to pet with the coat on!" They seemed a bit shocked that I had taken it off. "We knew not to pet her."

"I knew that. I just figured you might like to have some fun with her since you came for an interview." HRH started to walk around under the table, knocking them about with her tail.

"Her tail just hit me!" One of the girls said and laughed. The other girl just held her hands under the table and waited for HRH to walk by her. It didn't take long for them all to start laughing. They were a pretty cheerful bunch.

Then they started in on their questions:

"Why did you start raising guide dogs?"
(We wanted to do something together and we knew it had to be something we both loved and we both love dogs.)

"What is the hardest thing to teach her?"
(Right now, stay and no noise.)

"Has she learned more commands than Bingo?"
(Short answer, YES.)

"Does she go everywhere with you?" Which led to "Do you take her to the bathroom with you?"
(Yes. I then told them about how HRH loves toilet paper, especially as you are pulling it off the roll. So, it can be a little embarrassing to be in a public toilet and all of a sudden you hear someone yelling, "NO! NO!" They thought that was pretty funny.)

"When she goes to a blind person, what will she be able to do for them?"
(I told them about the find the elevator command, about the concept of intelligent disobedience where they would stop a blind person from crossing a street if there was a car coming even if the blind person said to cross and how they were trained to look up and protect their person from getting hit in the head.)

Then there were some off topic questions about blind people that I did my best to field such as,

"How does the blind person get the dog food in the bowl and not spill it on the floor?" and its follow-up, "And if they do, would Berkeley just eat the food up off the floor?"
(I talked about how blind people live on their own and eat meals just like we do. That they learn special tricks for pouring things into bowls and glasses so they don't spill. But, I said, if something were to fall on the floor, HRH would probably eat it up.)

"How does the blind person know when the dog has to go to the bathroom?"
(I told them that HRH has a very strict schedule about when she gets fed and when she goes out to the bathroom. That helps prevent accidents.)

Then before they left, I asked them if they wanted their photo with her Highness. They said yes.

Here HRH is giving the leader a very special kiss instead of sitting down like she is supposed to do.

And then they all got really silly, including HRH and started laughing.

Finally, I had to get a cookie and hold it in my mouth to get HRH to pay attention. She was having too much fun with the papparazzi. She's such a sucker for the press. But then, they love her!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ever Wonder What Character Your Dog Would Be On Your Favorite Show?

Well, one of our favorite shows is Glee. The other day, Christina and I were Gleeking out and I was talking about what a mean girl HRH was being to Willow. We had to have some corrections as HRH likes to push her around and flaunt her youth and shiny coat.

This generally occurs at the back door. HRH will wait by the door and angle her head so she can see Willow out of the corner of her eye. "I'm not actually looking AT you, but I am giving you fair warning that should you come through the door, I will run into you. I will." Then the door opens.

Willow hangs back. HRH glides through the door and waits on the other side. Backward glance. "I see you. I see you. I see you. I am Queen of all things here!"

This is usually where I step in with a firm correction and take the little monarch down a peg or two and let Willow out the door.

Which brings me back to Glee. (I do manage to come back to my point, eventually.) There is a character named Santana on Glee who is a bit of a cypher. She's on the Cheerios, but she secretly likes Glee. She spies for Sue, but she's Brittany's best friend. She's mean, but there is a warm chocolate center there, I just know it.

That's our HRH Berkeley: Santana. Cool, calm perfection for when the cameras are on her, but demanding and mouthy when they aren't. Sweet and gentle for obedience class (circle of acceptance, you bet!) but walk with Willow, hell to the no!

And I'm almost certain that I've seen her eyeing slushies. It's a good thing she doesn't have thumbs. Maybe we shouldn't let her watch Glee. That Santana may be giving her ideas...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

And now, for your moment of Zen

Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley has had a problem recently with barking and not letting me get more than 5 feet away from her without barking for me to come back and attend her. This past week we did some training, with a little success. Fred and I would give her a down-stay command and then would leave her presence for 30 seconds to a minute and then come back to praise her for staying (if she did!) or get her to redo it (if she didn't).

As the line in Monty Python and the Holy Grail goes, "(She) got better."

I taught several classes last week and some of them went smoothly with HRH sitting quietly. Others, had HRH jumping up and harrassing me verbally to the amusement of all the students.

Wednesday, though, was a good day. I caught her in a rare moment of calm and tranquility and she decided that sitting more than five feet away from me was OK. Watch for the frequent glances back to me for verification that I am still in my same spot and haven't moved. Otherwise, not a peep from her.

A Cultural Perspective

By Fred
Yesterday I took Berkeley with me to see a client in Tampa. She was such a magnet of good will at our last meeting that I was eager to take her again.

We arrived early, so I had a few minutes to wait in the lobby with the receptionist, which normally is awkward for me, but soon we were talking about guide dogs and the SEGD facility in Palmetto. She told me that her daughter learned about SEGD at school and that they planned to visit there soon, which of course I encouraged her to do.

"Yes," the woman said. "Since we cannot have dogs at home, I thought this would be a nice thing for her."

Well, I don't mind prying into people's private lives if they leave the door open a bit. "Why can't you have dogs?" I asked, with a look of shock on my face.

She explained that she just never had dogs in her house. Her husband felt the same way: "It's just not part of our culture," she said.

Normally I would not care to speculate about a person's nationality, but for the purpose of this narrative I would guess, based on her slight accent, that the receptionist was born in China. Whether people in China are more or less likely to keep dogs in the house, I have no idea. So I will keep my remarks to my home state, Arkansas, a place that comes through in my own accent now and then.

Many people in Arkansas have dogs, but as you get out into the country--if you get way out there in the sticks--you will find that many people believe all animals belong outside. Raising dogs indoors, and keeping them indoors for most of their lives, is not as common as in, for example, New York.

Anyway, I attempted to convince the receptionist that she should get a dog, and this tickled her and caused her to come up with her concerns: that the dog would pee on the floor, etc. I asked her, "Do you let your daughter pee on the floor?" She let me know that this also was not culturally permitted.

We talked about discipline and training, about how these dogs are so faithful and obedient and smart, and I could see a spark in her eyes. And these particular dogs, I told her, like to work, they like to have a purpose and a real job. The idea was growing on her.

My meetings went well. Berkeley was very patient and good. At the end, several people escorted us back to the lobby to say goodbye, inching closer and closer, hoping that they could finally touch her. But I noticed the receptionist watching us from behind her desk. "Sorry," I said to the group,"we're still working."