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.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Jam Meets a Horse While Being Puppy Sat

Last weekend, Fred and I jetted off to New York to visit dear friends (and see The Book of Mormon) and celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  We had to leave Jam behind.  But we had an awesome puppy sitter in Heather and her family who opened their home and took him in and took him on some great adventures.  They took excellent care of him! Here is her account of what all he did while in her care:

Jam always kept me company as I got ready for the day. :)

Jam in bathroom.
I kid you not, when I pulled out the camera, he started posing!

Jam posing in bathroom

(Here is Jam on the bathroom rug.)

Jam on the rug.

Here he is in the wheel well on the car ride to school. (They have a big SUV, which is a new experience for Jam! We have very tiny cars (Prius and Honda Fit).)

Jam in the wheel well.
Here are some photos of Jam relaxing at my school desk.

Jam under Heather's desk.

 Here he is not paying attention to the lesson, which is my favorite!

Jam, asleep, under Heather's desk.
 After school Heather took him to her stable to meet her horse Scout.  Jam had never been to a stable or meet any big animals, so this was a huge deal.

Jam, as seen from the top, stepping onto green grass of stables yard.

Jam steps foot on the barn property. He is very calm.

Jam, looking up, still on stables grass.

Here he is with the Stable bench

Jam sitting beside bench that reads Amber Glen Stables.

 Here he is with Heather and the bench. 

Jam and Heather sitting next to Amber Glen Stables bench.

He is walking confidently towards the barn now.

A look from behind as Heather and Jam walk toward the barn.

Jam, walking toward camera, on his way to barn.

Now we are approaching the stable.

Jam,stopped, standing next to Heather, in the barn.

Stepping foot inside the barn aisle-way. His first meeting with Scout.  He's still very confident. 

Jam, leaning up to the stable door of Scout's area.

First greeting with my horse - Scout, nose to nose.  I picked him up, so he could have a better view :)
Jam and Scout are nose to nose.
Scout has pulled back a bit but Jam is still leaning forward toward him.

 (CD- I think this is great! No fear here, just curiosity.)

Heather is holding a 40 pound Jam in her arms!

Jam's just a big baby! :).  Now some photos of Jam and Scout together. 

Jam is on the ground and Scout is 4-5 feet away.  They aren't looking at each other.

Below, Jam seems pretty unconcerned.

Jam is lying down and licking something as Scout eyes him.

Now it is Scout's turn to play hard to get.

Now Scout licks something and Jam looks delicately away.

Sizing each other up.

Jam and Scout make eye contact.

Jam on the stable floor. Having fun.

Jam lying on the stable floor with a happy look on his face.

Jam and Scout, hanging out.

Scout's face in the foreground with Jam in the background on the stable floor.

Jam and Scout, sharing a secret.

Jam is standing leaning up to Scout's nose.

Jam seems awfully intent on telling Scout something.

Jam is sniffing Scout's mouth.

Jam and Scout both look down to the floor.

Curious looks.

Jam and Scout both give each other some curious looks.

 Then, it was back home.  Squinting from the flash.

Jam squints his eyes to protect them from the flash.
 He was keeping me company while I did my homework :)

Jam is on the floor with his wubba and is looking up at Heather.
Jam rode this bus.

Jam is standing in front of a big silver bus.

 And he also went with us to restaurants.

Jam is lying done on the floor.

Under table at the Frog Pond restaurant.

Jam has fallen asleep.

  Where he fell asleep.

Summary of Jam's adventures:

Jam had a busy stay with me for the duration of his sitting. He attended school with me at my homeschool co-op for several days and did great! The students and teachers adored him. Being the handsome boy that he is, he received many compliments. He slept under my desk during class hours and happily led me around the property during break and lunch times. 
Jam also visited the equestrian facility where my horse Scout lives. Not once did he show fear. He was confident and upbeat the entire barn visit, with the numerous sights, sounds, and crazy smells he experienced. 

Jam also experienced a ride on a charter bus. He tackled the huge step at the bus entrance, and laid under my seat when we were situated. After his bus ride, we went to the Frog Pond restaurant in Madeira Beach, where we sat near a table with a working service dog named Irish. It was such a neat coincidence! Many of the customers and restaurant staff visited our tables to take a look at the dogs. Irish and Jam behaved beautifully, and neither one really payed attention to the other. 

Lastly, Jam was able to go into work with my mom on the weekend. He was able to see an office environment and explore out of coat. The big "scary" copier machines did not phase him in the slightest.

Thank you for letting me watch your baby! Jam (aka Jammie, Jam-o... he picked up a few nicknames during his visit :)) is a beautiful, sweet little pup, and I wish him the best of luck with his training. Hopefully after his visit he can check off a few more things on that exposure checklist that all of us puppy raisers work so diligently to accomplish!

Your fellow puppy raiser,