Sunday, May 29, 2011

What's in a name?

Our last meeting with Don and Donna was the Annual Kayaking meeting, which is always great fun. Don owns a kayaking business so we all get to take the puppies out for a spin. I'm going to miss this meeting quite a lot. It was a wonderful puppy experience and a bunch of work for them to put together. Thank you Don and Donna for doing this!

Some of you may think that I gave Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley her name based soley on the fact that it would make for a good blog theme.

Wrong. I'll explain why she got her name and you'll see her earn her name in the video at the end of the post.

When we got HRH, oh so many months ago, there was a sweetness about her, but also a bit of the tartar. Something a little demanding and authoritative.

You can see it in this photo. "Sure, take my photo, but you will pay for waking me from my nap!"

She was very demanding as in the above photo. "You want me to do what?" But what was also surprising about HRH is how much she loved to work. She took to obedience training and loved to learn commands. Her sit is divine and her switch a piece of art.

"Yes, I know you want me to move, but I am going to nap now. Perhaps at a later time?" She seems to be saying.

You can see, we walked a delicate line with her. We had to balance working with what her kennel master called her litter's "soft" nature (which meant essentially that she was afraid of everything) and not coddling her. It was tough. She's very pretty and sweet. And those eyes. We hung tough and I think we made a brave little queen out of her.

I hardly ever see a droopy, tucked tail. And that is why I think this kayaking video is so interesting. She doesn't like the water. She didn't want to get wet. But she knew I wanted her to get in the kayak and go kayaking with me and Keegan and Laurel (the other puppy).

So, she figured it out. (Big thanks to Keegan's mom Cheryl for taking all the video for us! Nice work.)

Perhaps, she should rule the world.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Last Tuesday, I took Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley to Zumba. It was one of those last things that she just hadn't experienced. A big, loud dance party! On the way over to Zumba, she was calm and collected.

Here she is with Stephanie before the dance party starts. She has no idea what is coming. Stephanie's dog Princess came to a Zumba class and wore herself out trying to follow the dance moves and ended up sleeping the last half of class. What would HRH do?

I hooked her into the one place on the bleachers on that had a spot that could hold a lab determined to leave. HRH eyed me suspiciously. I set up the camera and tripod. The Zumba teacher was prepped and ready. The Zumba participants were prepped and ready. We were all prepped and ready.

She was fairly relaxed. In fact, I did the stretching routine with her head on my foot. It was sweet. Next week, she goes in for training. I will miss her!

Friday, May 27, 2011

In the News Again!

Photo by Edmund D. Fountain (Times)

HRH made the St. Pete Times again. There's a lovely photo of her and an announcement of the donation the kids made to Southeastern Guide Dogs in Joe's honor for our next puppy: JAM.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sensory Overload, Part 1

By Fred,
Yesterday was Berkeley's day home with me, normally a quiet day for her. While we work on basic obedience and commands, I've also been introducing some language such as "Time to make some coffee," which causes her to lead me to the kitchen, and "Time to go to bed now" (she heads toward the bedroom and her crate) and "Time to go to work now" (she heads toward my office). She loves to lead me around, almost as much as Cheryl enjoys doing the same (though Cheryl doesn't need any verbal cues).

But yesterday was not a normal, quiet day. At 9am some contractors arrived to fix a leak that was originating from my office window. There were three contractors in all, and each one seemed to hate the others, yelling and cursing at each other from the start, and occasionally one of them would peek in through the window at me and the dogs. Willow couldn't care less, but Berkeley was not at all pleased. "In the real world," I told her, "people yell at each other. It's OK."

Then the work began, first with a circular saw screaming its way through the thick mortar wall outside, screaming like a thousands nails on a chalkboard. Then a pause, more yelling, and then more sawing.

"Time to make some coffee," I said, and Berkeley was quick to agree.

We climbed back upstairs and stopped at the top. It's a left turn to my office and a right turn to the bedroom. The screaming and yelling had picked up, and now they were pounding on the wall with a hammer. "Time to go to work now," I said with a happy voice, waiting for her to turn left. Berkeley looked up at me politely but didn't move. "Time to go to bed?" I asked. She didn't need to be asked twice.

Coincidentally, Cheryl picked yesterday as the day to take Berkeley to a Zumba class (see Part 2).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jam, Jam, Jam

Her Royal Highness (HRH) goes In For Training (IFT) on June 4th. That isn't much time. But we do have good news on the new dog front.

Our Student Forum raised enough money to be able to name another dog. This puppy will be named after our Headmaster Joseph A. Merluzzi, who is retiring after 24 years. He will be named JAM, after his initials (our new Headmaster is also named Joe).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sparkly Duds!

We made the papers! Sarasota Herald Tribune photographer Kathryn Brass was taking photos at the Barkitecture event and asked to take a photo of Her Royal Highness (HRH). Of course we jumped in the photo as well. We couldn't resist. For more photos of the event, go to the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

You Meet All Sorts of People

I've heard that there is a Chinese curse that goes something like: may you leave in interesting times. The Southeastern Guide Dog Puppy Raiser Corollary is may you meet many interesting people.

Last Friday I took my car into Lincoln Mercury's body shop to get an estimate and was met by my estimater Wanda, who was this delightful older lady who was familiar with labs as she had previously owned one. She was about to pet Her Royal Highness when I explained about the coat and how she was working and couldn't be distracted. Wanda was great. She immediately made eye contact with me and dropped her hand. When we went back into the shop and neared the administrative assistant's desk, Wanda called out to her, "This dog is working! You CANNOT pet her when she has her coat on!"

The administrative assistant startled and looked up at us, "OK."

Wanda said she would go back and do my estimate and then be right back. Evidently, she did some more PR work because in about 3 minutes a man can out and peered around the admin's desk and said, "Where's the dog we can't pet?"

When she came back, she gave me my estimate and never even asked for the jacket to come off. She was a sweet lady, so I took off HRH's coat and let her pet her. HRH even broke with decorum and gave her a big smackaroo in the face, something she hardly ever does.

And then there are the others...

But you do sometimes meet the whackadoos. Friday night at Crabby Bill's, I was telling Fred the story of Wanda and had just gotten HRH settled under the table when a customer from another table stands up and comes over to our table.

She stands at out table and says the following:

"I have a therapy dog. I am now going to take my left hand and put it under the table..." At this point she has thrown out her left hand a bit like Vanna White pointing out the letter "E" and is on a downward curve toward HRH underneath the table.

"Please don't." I say. "Berkeley is a working guide dog in training and she has her coat on and can't be petted when she is working."

Before I can go on to say anything else about how guide dogs in training are different from therapy dogs. The woman leaps into the air and runs back to her table.

OK. That was weird.

Then you have the nice ones

So I was at Target and couldn't find something. I went to talk with one of the sales ladies to ask her where it might be. There happened to be a piece of popcorn about 5 inches from her foot. Some outrageously messy person had been spewing popcorn all over the store. We had been avoiding popped kernels for the entire Target visit. But here we were faced with a kernel. I put HRH into a down stay and asked my question.

"She seems to be staring at me rather intently." The saleslady said with a laugh.

"Oh, it's not you. It's that piece of popcorn in front of you."

"Well, I'll take care of that!" She scooped up the popcorn and stuck it in her pocket. "No popcorn for you." She looked at me. "Popcorn isn't good for them," and smiled. Then she answered my question.

I like the nice ones. They balance the crazy ones.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Desensitization Works!

A while back I did a post on HRH reacting to a mylar balloon. I promised to bring home some balloons so that we could desensitize her. It worked!

We are on a desensitizing roll!

Body Image Problems

Her Royal Highness is having a problem with body image. Not her own body image, mind you! That's perfection. The body image of others.

Take for instance on Monday when I was leaving school and Andrew walked up to us wearing his headphones around his neck. They were the old school noise canceling headphones and they looked like giant black eyeballs growing out of his chest (see photo below).

HRH freaked out! She started barking, the hair rose on her spine. I did a correction and still she barked. I put her in a down stay and stopped Andrew. Fortunately for me, Andrew is a really nice kid and was perfectly willing to stand still while a clearly suspicious HRH stared at him from a down stay.

"I know it's not you, Andrew." I said, looking at him trying to figure it out. I let her out of the down stay so she could come closer. She jumped up and went for the headphones. Ah ha!

I put her back in a down stay and had Andrew take off the headphones. I gave the headphones to her. She gave them a bite. Then a lick. I gave them back undamaged but slobbery to Andrew. "Thanks, man! She thought you had weird giant eyeballs."


During a talk with our neighbor and fellow puppy raiser Stephanie, she said she had some old school headphones she could bring us so we could practice desensitizing HRH with them. So Fred wore the headphones and she reacted to them. We realized that we didn't have the training collar and leash on her and had to stop and get that on her to continue. Once that was done, we were able to control her better and hold her attention. Then we switched so I had the headphones on. No reaction at all! Success.

We tried it again this morning with Jan helping us and she ran over to Jan and acted like she was going to bark, but sat at her feet and wagged her tail instead.

Good girl.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I could kick myself. We got invited to a cocktail party and I didn't get anyone to take a photo of Fred and me looking all spiffy. Such a shame! We went as the guests of Bobby and Merideth and had a wonderful time.

Her Royal Highness was in fine form and even had her photo taken by a photographer for the Sarasota Herald, so there is some hope that there may be photo of us on the society pages (after all she is the Queen), but does Sarasota recognize her reign? We'll have to wait to see what their coverage of the soiree is like. The blurry photo below of HRH and Phyllis is not by the Sarasota Herald photographer, rest assured.

There was one other puppy raiser and her two sons Brett and Blair (not sure about the spelling) there: Nancy with her dog Phyllis. They were invited by Phyllis's sponsor. HRH and Phyllis had a grand time and seemed to enjoy all the attention from the crowd.

Nancy and Phyllis were called up before everyone to pose while they auctioned off a Puppy naming opportunity! Phyllis did not look like a demon dog.

This dog house is the people's choice award winner by Murray Homes. It went for over $1000. It was quite an exciting night. Lovely conversation, a great dinner, fun auction. Money for SEGD!

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I have to say that I thought when Bingo and I met again it was going to be a bit like this:

So I was really disappointed when Bingo came up to me, wagged a bit and then wandered off to smell something.


How anticlimatic. I was expecting to cry at least. At the very least. I was even prepared to videotape it. I guess that won't be necessary.

The visit has been wonderful for one thing though. It has reaffirmed that our decision to give him up was the right thing to do. He is a wonderful sweet boy, but he is coddled, loved and adored as the only dog in his current family. In ours, he would be the third dog. Not a good place for an oversized personality.

For the most part, he has been very calm and slow and placid. No jumping, no wildness. A rather calm, old man. Then....

Fred went to let the carpet cleaner man in. He was bringing back two rugs that had been sent out for cleaning after our kitchen fire. This man was a LARGE MAN. He also liked dogs, for which we thank the gods.

As he comes through the door with the rugs in his hands, the placid, old man that Bingo has become shuffles up and then WHAM! leaps up on the man and throws him backwards against the wall. Fred is shocked. The man is shocked. They both stare at Bingo. Fred grabs him and yanks him back and makes him sit. He sits, transformed into calm, old man. They relax. WHAM. He leaps up and body slams the guy back into the wall. (Bingo is now 98 pounds of solid muscle. He's a walking steel girder.)

He may be a bit calmer, a bit slower and a bit fatter, but once a Bingo, always a Bingo. 8-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bob: Our Chill House Dude.

A couple of weeks ago, we babysat Bob. He is a 6 month old, yellow male labrador who is the most chill dude ever. Because Bob is so ultra cool, we had to have Bob meet maintenance Bob. Maintenance Bob keeps our school running smoothly. They hit it off great!

Bob also met Bruce, who is the Band Director and teaches Drama Tech. Bruce is a big animal lover and was having a down moment. Bob livened up a bit for Bruce, but ultimately returned to his chill, cool dude attitude.

Here is Bob. He loves everyone. How can you resist such cuteness? He's like the Borg, but in a good way. Resistance is futile. Bob overwhelms everyone with his calm, drowsy, no nonsense sensibility.

We miss him. Perhaps our next puppy will be a can dream.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bingo Comes Back for a Visit

Bingo and Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley met for one short week before Bingo when in for training. It was a short but memorable week. Bingo seemed to fall in love and spent lots of time with HRH and didn't mind her biting on him and following him around.

Fast forward a year, and here we have Bingo and HRH all grown up. They still seem to get along just fine too. Perhaps a bit too fine! Bingo seems particularly enamored of HRH, so we keep a close eye on the both of them.

Bingo seems a bit slower, a little fatter (he's on a diet), but still the sweet, quirky boy he always was. He does like getting up early, so when I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom (4 am), he leaps up as if it is morning breakfast call. NOPE. Not going to happen. But in the end, I did get up at 4:30 and let them out to pee. They were all agitated by that time. Bingo had started the "why aren't we getting up?" dance and things were creaking and feet were stamping and little whines were starting.

Ah me. It will be a long weekend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Girls Gone Wild

I went to pick up Her Royal Highness (HRH) Berkeley yesterday at SEGD from her three-week seclusion. Her roommate was Ginny, who evidently was a girl of loose morals (it said Breeder on her card!), and who showed HRH how to PARTY.

We stopped on the way home to eat lunch. As I got up to leave I tugged on the leash. Nothing. A dead weight was attached to the end. I squatted down and peered under the table in the booth. There was HRH completely comatose and dead asleep.

"Berkeley. BERKELEY!" Shake, shake. Finally she woke up and groggily walked to the car.

Evidently, time in the red tent is time well spent. Fortunately, she was happy to see me.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Queen's Brother and King

By Fred
We've had Elvis in the house for a few days now. Elvis the King, brother and litter mate to our Berkeley the Queen, who remains in feminine seclusion at SEGD and who returns to us tomorrow.

Elvis, who, like his namesake, is found of ingesting things that are better left un-ingested, like this paper napkin from breakfast out this morning.

Elvis, a sweet boy and definitely his sister's brother.