Friday, April 27, 2012

Oh, My Poor Ego!

I was so excited today.  As I was walking to convocation, the head of admissions stopped me and said that she wanted to take a photo of me and Jam after convo.  They had a photographer out and were taking photos for admissions materials.

"We should be here (by the benches), but if we aren't we will stop by the library." She said.

I was so excited.  I had never been in any admissions photos, I don't think any of the library staff had been.  This was so exciting!  They always chose other teachers for that kind of thing. I was thinking about my outfit and that my hair actually came out nice and curly today.  Convo went by in a blur.  Such is the curse of a huge head of celebrity.

As I walked to where they were taking photos, Jam saw Mrs. Iglehart and her ambassador dog Jessie in the distance and started to bark.  We waited until he calmed down before walking any closer to the photographer.  

"Hi, I'm CD."  I extended my hand to the photographer.  

"Hi, I'm..." I wasn't listening because Jam pulled and I turned to get him under control again.  I smiled back at the photographer.  "Can you have the dog sit right over here with his back to the students?  Not too much in the sun though."

"Oh."  I paused and looked down at Jam.  He was resplendent in his labrador glory. So handsome. "Of course I can.  He sits beautifully."
Jam, sitting on Stephanie's rug when she was puppy sitting him.
I had Jam do a sit stay, which he did perfectly and of course he was a handsome boy.  I remained off to the side with my hand out saying, "Stay. Stay."  

Inside my head I was saying, "Fool, fool."

Great Expectations, Final Chapter

Final Chapter

Years passed, and Willow suffered through more puppies, though with a mindset always pointed to the future and to a greater purpose, always preparing them for the tough life ahead while remembering one central point: like children, all puppies deserve to be happy.

On more than one occasion she wondered about her old friend Jam and how he was doing as a guide dog. She allowed herself to swell up with pride, knowing that his success was her success, even if no one else would ever know.

Then one day, while resting in her favorite spot, a warm set of stones near the fish ponds, eyes closed and dreaming of things past, she felt a slight tickle on her nose. There was her old friend Jam, ready to tour the yard as though he had never left.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Great Expectations, Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Nothing was more familiar, more welcome, than that rush of adrenaline, and nothing was better than sharing the moment with your best friend, sniffing in that common scent, twitching and bracing to jump up together and run when the time was right to best surprise the squirrel and provide for him the most terrifying moment of his existence.

But Willow realized, in just that instant, that this game could not continue as before, not if she hoped to ever prepare Jam for his future of great expectations. With a sigh she turned away and slumped to the ground, feeling the full weight and dispair of her decision and leaving Jam perplexed as to what to do next.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Great Expectations, Chapter 4

Chapter 4

On the notion of Sit, Jam had mixed feelings, not about its meaning but about its intent, because it never resolved to a better condition or mastery of the moment. No, it seemed to have no purpose at all except to earn praise and move things along to a desired result--to go outside or to get some food or to engage in any other activity not performed better by sitting beforehand, or after, as far as he could figure.

Still, he knew the word from his puppyhood and responded to it reflexively. Willow knew a few other such words, and she went through each of them twice or three times, with Jam responding as he should, until at the end the two dogs sat and stared at each other in silence, not sure what to do next.

Then a distraction appeared. Squirrel?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Great Expectations, Chapter 3

Chapter 3

In no time Jam had become Jam again, the notions of his future life already evaporated from his mind. But Willow could not put aside the frog's words because somehow he had known part of the truth. He had known what happens every summer; that her companions always leave home to pursue greater expectations while she does not.

So when Jam returned to her with a playful nudge, Willow resolved to tell him the truth, at least to the meager extent that she knew it--she had only seen Bingo once since he left two years ago (and he had not been forthcoming about his new situation) and she had not seen Berkeley at all (and did not regret the fact). Could it be that the frog actually spoke the truth, as fantastical as it seemed? If so, even if true only in a small portion, she knew what must be done.

"You'll be going to school soon, a very demanding school," Willow said, though Jam's attention had already shifted to activity in the koi pond. She then told Jam what she imagined about his future, interpreting what the late frog had said (if such things are really possible), about how Jam would have more responsibility than seems wise to give to any dog, particularly to one with such a capricious nature.

She devised a plan to help prepare him for the future. "In short," she said to him with a sigh, "you must become a common dog before you can be an uncommon one."

On hearing the details, Jam rose up and agreed to take seriously Willow's new plan, where she would play the future headmaster and Jam the attentive pupil.

"Were do we begin?" he asked.

Willow considered this for a moment, realizing that she had no idea about where to begin, or to end for that matter.

"Sit!" she said decisively.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Great Expectations, Chapter 2

By Charles Dickens
Chapter 2

And so the frog continued, now speaking directly to Jam with a certain impatience, as if he considered Jam a fool for the look of breathless curiosity and surprise on his face. "It is considered that you must be better educated, in accordance with your altered position, and that you will be alive to the importance and necessity of at once entering on that advantage."

As the details emerged about the nature of his future life, his training and his expectations, Jam was increasingly lost in the mazes of his future fortunes, now fully removed from the adventure that he and Willow had pursued just a few seconds earlier.

Willow, on the other hand, fell into a kind of stupor and attempted to close her ears, attempted to wind back the clock just a few minutes and continue on to the pond with her friend Jam as if this frog had not appeared and his terrible words not spoken.

The frog continued to speak until Willow had reached her limit; she lunged forward in a flash, her white teeth severing the toad in mid-sentence and leaving his dismembered legs twitching on the stone patio floor.

Only seconds after it was over, Jam could scarcely remember the event--what the frog had said, how the frog had been eaten, or even if there had been a frog at all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Great Expectations, Chapter 1

By Charles Dickens
Chapter 1
Willow and Jam took a perfectly ordinary tour of the pond, and as usual with all the wonder and amazement of seeing it for the first time, when they came upon something truly new and unusual: a talking frog that did not seem at all afraid or tempted to retreat.

Startled by such a brave and small animal, the two dogs sat back in amazement, and their wonder only grew when the frog began to speak.

"Hear now, pay attention, you two," said the frog throwing out his tongue impulsively and bringing it quickly back.

"Bear in mind, will you?" the frog said to Willow, as if forgiving her something and then pointing his webby thumb at Jam, "that my business is with him."

"I am instructed to communicate to him," the frog continued, "that he will soon be removed from his present sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a gentleman,--in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations."

Jam and Willow gasped, and looked at one another...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tic Tac Toe and Tequila

Saturday was our puppy meeting at Largo Central Park.  I don't have many photos as Fred was at home repairing plaster and painting the hallway and I had sole control over Captain Crazypants.

Anyway, we arrived at the park just fine.  But, I have to tell you.  These monthly meetings are becoming a a bit stressful for me, especially if I go by myself.  Jam and his nuggets are really having a testosterone party and he is quite drunk with hormones.  So, coming to a meeting is like bringing an alcoholic to Tijuana, leading him into a bar, sitting him on a barstool where there are shots of tequila lined up on the bar and then screaming, "Don't Drink!"

The alcoholic will find it tough to listen to you.

So, I bring Jam (and his raging hormones) to the park where lush females and unneutered males will be gathered to challenge his sensibilities.

I'll just go ahead and say it.  We weren't in the circle of acceptance.  We tried, but we got booted pretty fast.

Sigh. We did obedience, then went by the train and at the end of the meeting we played Tic Tac Toe.  I had Jam sit out the first game.  Yellows won.

Everyone was looking at us.  Jam had to play the next game.  Could he do it and not completely muck it up?

You know, at some point, you just have to say, fine.  OK.  I will be the one with the insane dog.  I walked  Captain Crazypants over to the box and he laid down.

And he stayed.


Cheryl and Jam walking to Tic Tac Toe box Photo by Michele Reese.
Cheryl asking Jam to stay in a down on Tic Tac Toe box Photo by Michele Reese. 
Jam maintaining the stay on Tic Tac Toe box Photo by Michele Reese. 

Where's my tequila?  I need a drink!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Long Day Into Night

Friday was one long day of exposures for Jam.  It all began with a local library conference that was held in our lower division library (photos forth coming as I don't have the connecting wire to download from a Nikon camera GRRR, but I have other things to post and I don't want to delay this.).  

Jam was very good throughout my presentation, staying mostly under the table and not snoring too loudly.  Most of the librarians already knew about Jam, but there were a few who needed the Harry Potter speech.  Jam did a little bit of jumping up, but I did some quick corrections and walked him away from big groups.  The key thing for me is that I can't greet anyone effusively.  If I want to go give someone a hug hello, Jam is going to jump up and hug them as well. Lesson: I can't hug anyone with Jam because he's not going to be left out of the greeting party.  So as long as I was pleasant and a bit distant with my greetings and stayed back from people, we were fine.  Jam was calm.  We even went through the buffet line with no problem.  Well, only one problem.

The gal in front of me was getting some pasta salad for her plate and dropped a pasta shell on the floor.  She laughed and looked at me and said, "I guess he can get that."

"Nope.  He can't have any people food."  I have Jam on sit stay and he is staring daggers at the pasta shell.

I think she made a small eeeek sound.  She immediately bent down to get the offending shell. Librarians are such nice people. I love what I do and who I work with.

After school Fred and I decided to go car shopping.  I am looking to trade in my Prius and get something new.  So went to Sun Toyota to try the Prius V. Now, I am sure that the last thing a car salesman wants to see is a big white fluffy, SHEDDING dog get out of someone's car, put on a service dog coat and then start walking around their lot.  That means that not only is that dog going to be able to come into the showroom, but that dog gets to RIDE IN THEIR CARS.  And how much time is going to be spent vacuuming every car after these people leave?

To Sun's Toyota's credit no one said a single word to us about Jam.  It was if he actually did have Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility.  He just didn't exist in their world.  It was quite extraordinary.  When it came time to go see some cars and possibly take a test drive, we had to get in a golf cart.

Woot! Golf cart exposure for Jam.

Photo of Jam looking out the golf cart's front windscreen.  You see the back of Jam's head.
Our salesman Ron just scooted over and made room for Jam in the front seat. I noticed that he drove super slow as if afraid that Jam would suddenly make a break for it and leap out of the golf cart, dragging me to my death and making Ron an accessory to murder.  But Jam wasn't going anywhere.  He was in the middle and staying put.  He had great view and I had him trapped on the outside.

Turns out, I wasn't going to actually put Jam in the Prius as we have had two Prius cars and know exactly how they drive, but it was great that Ron had no hesitation about it.  He was very nice and helpful.

After that it was time for dinner (Jam had his dinner much earlier). Sun Toyota is WAY up North, so we stopped at our favorite Greek restaurant Mykonos on the way back.  When we walked in the hostess/waitress asked us for our guide dog ID (which we always carry), so I took it out and showed it to her.  That was the first time that had ever happened to us.  After looking at it, she smiled and asked if we preferred a booth or a table.  We selected a booth at the back.

Photo of Jam completely asleep on Fred's foot underneath the booth at Mykonos.
I was a little worried after asking for ID that there would be some residual irritation or dislike regarding Jam, but I have to say, there was nothing but smiles and good service.  The chef even walked by and asked where the dog was.  Jam, of course, stayed silent and for the most part motionless, under the table. He had had such an active day that he fell fast asleep.  First on my foot, then on Fred's.

The food was so good, nothing fell to the floor!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Curtains for a Bed

Yesterday, the school's webmaster said his son Tyler, who is in pre-k and knows Jam, wanted to know where Jam slept at night.  I said, you can tell him that Jam sleeps with us in our bedroom.  But lately, Jam has been doing some weird things.

This morning I saw Tyler and his mom, who teaches French and is an academic counselor, walking in together.  I went over and said hello.

"Tyler, I hear you wanted to know about Jam and where he sleeps at night."

Tyler immediately ducked his head and looked down.  He is very shy.  I just continued talking.

"Well, Jammy sleeps with us, but he does this very strange thing right before he falls asleep." Tyler looked up very quickly, then looked back down. "Jam will go under the curtains by the wall and turn in a circle, fluffing them out.  Kind of like a blanket.  Then he goes to sleep."

Jammy peeking out from under the curtains while he is preparing for bedtime.
I could see a little smile on Tyler's face, but he didn't want to look at me.

He was probably thinking about dogs and dreaming and blankets and beds made out of curtains. And while you're at it, if you have a bed made out of curtains, can you sleep on the window?  And if  you sleep on the window, could you fly out into the night? And if...

He didn't need to say anything.  I knew what was going on.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Stinky Fish

Our koi pond used to have lots of koi.  But then time and goo worked its magic and slowly the waterfall/well became filled with a sludge-like mixture down at the bottom that inhibited the ability of the water to flow over the water fall.  Something about viscosity and fluid dynamics, but frankly once Fred started talking about viscosity all I heard was blah blah blah.

The result of the goo, which I am sure has a technical name, is that over spring break some fish died.  We  got home about 2 am on Monday morning and Fred went out back to check on the pond and there was a terrible smell emanating from it.  

Dead floaters.  Ick.

So he did what any right minded soul would do at 2 am, he threw them into the deepest darkest bush we have.  Oh wait, a word first about our yard.  It is a jungle.  I say that in a nice way.  Except for that back corner where it is just lawless and awful.  That is where the previous owners told us that a family of coyotes were living before they put in a fence.  It is that overgrown.  Jungle doesn't even begin to describe it.  I hate the corner of the yard and have been wanting to clear cut it for years.

Anyway, into THAT is where the dead decomposing fish go.  Fred's side of this is that he (in deepest, dark night) finds an out of the way spot for them and lightly buries them.  

OK.  Since I wasn't actually out in the yard, I'll have to take his word for it.

Jam standing on the other side of the upper pond looking to the left.
So, the next morning I am near Willow and I notice that she STINKS.  I lean down and sniff.  OMG.  She has rolled in something nasty.  She has rolled in, oh crap.  She didn't. Yes. She did.  She rolled in decomposing fish.  

Great.  I give Willow a bath all the while complaining about the fish and why would she do this (hint: she's a dog and dead fish stink!).

After the bath, I'm pretty worked up and I let Jammers out to poo.  Well, in case you didn't know, Jammy likes to poo in a bush and he does a full twirl before his poo.  So he wanders off in search of a bush and guess which direction he goes?

In the direction of the dead decomposing fish graveyard that I don't know about. I follow behind but not too close because there is a bush between us.  I can see Jammy, but can't reach him.  Generally, this isn't a problem as he does his business and we go inside, but this time, he starts his twirl and a really great scent attracts his attention.  He stops. He sniffs.  He starts to investigate.  

Oh no.  

"Jammy!  What are you doing?"  I'm peering through the bush.  There isn't much foliage so I can see everything that is going on, he is grabbing something.  Something orange. "Jammy! Drop it!"

Yea.  I completely forgot that whole thing about don't say a command you can't follow through on.  I was way too far away to follow through on that drop it and Jam knew it.  He narrowed his eyes at me.  I made a darting movement toward the bush.  Jam ran to the right.  I ran to the left.  He flanked me and ran around the pond. 

I was so flustered by the fact that he had something in his mouth and I wanted him to drop it, that I didn't know what it was, that I was completely panicked, that everything I knew went out of my head and Jam and I played chase while this orange thing hung out of his mouth.  

Then it hit me.  HAPPY VOICE.  Criminy.  Use the happy voice!  I used the happy voice and Jam stopped and I got a hold of his collar and yanked out the orange thing which was


So I did what any right minded person would do.  I screamed and threw it as far away from me as I could get it.  It was a high arching throw that took it off to my left, over the bamboo, and then


Eeek. The dead fish was now in the neighbor's yard. First, I needed to wash out Jam's mouth with some water.  Then I stare at the fence and the neighbor's yard. Then I look at the pond

It's a fish.  A dead fish.  We have a fish pond. Things are not looking good for me.

Jam on the left and Willow on the right enjoying a lie down by the pond.
It's not too much of a leap.  We need to be good neighbors and Fred says should go get the fish.  It's the right thing to do.

I go over to the neighbor's house.

Knock. Knock.

"Hello?" A man answers the door.

"Hi, I'm your neighbor.  I have a dog and a fish pond.  We were on vacation and some of our fish in the pond died and my husband threw them into the back yard?" My voice goes up a bit to see if he is still with me. He nods.

"So, my dog was out there, in the back yard, and he grabbed one of the dead fish in his mouth! But I couldn't let him do that.  So I got it out, but when I pulled it out of his mouth and saw what it was, it was so gross that I got disgusted and just threw it and it landed in your yard."  I stare at him.  He stares at me.  I smile and shake my plastic bag helpfully.

"Is it in the pool?" He is bewildered.

"No.  It's by the garage.  I just didn't want to startle you by appearing in your backyard unannounced.  Do you mind if I go get it?  It's really stinky."

"Be my guest." I notice the tool belt he is wearing.  I turn and see the repair truck.  I think this guy is a repair man and not the owner!  Could it be that my neighbor might not ever know about stinky fish?

Oh, man. Things are starting to look up.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cursed with Manliness

Last night, we went over to our friends' house to have dinner and play music.  Claudia was doing all the cooking and I just contributed a dessert.  Fred and Tim were going to provide the musical entertainment. Jam was invited because they live way out in Lutz, they love dogs and know Jam and they are very nice people. 

Jam is trying to get Baxter to come over to where he is lying down on the rug.  
 When we got there, Jam and Baxter, who is a very sweet 3-year old golden retriever, got along great.

Jam and Baxter playing.
 There is nothing quite like young, energetic, frisky dogs playing to make you smile.

And then the humping started. Sorry, you were expecting something sweet for your Easter blog weren't you?

I feel terrible to disappoint you, but the evening just devolved (in terms of the dogs) from there.  At least I won't show you any video or photos of THAT. 8-) Jam couldn't go for more than four or five minutes with out hopping on for a ride on poor Baxter.  Baxter, who is very sweet, would just look around as if to say, "Would someone please stop this whippersnapper?  I know I'm the host, but really!"

Now, when we were at the Walkathon dinner, we happened to run into Dr. Edington while we were walking through the museum.  We had stopped and were talking with John Bauer when Dr. E stopped by and the topic of breeder dogs came up.  We happened to mention that Jam was pretty much a Player with a capital P as he would hump anything that let him.  Dr. E looked at us with a bit of concern and asked if we could stop Jam easily.

"Oh, yes. We just pull him off no problem." Dr. E said that you didn't want to correct for that behavior, because the breeding program wants dogs to be able to perform the act.  In other words: they want breeders that actually enjoy the act and will perform.  Evidently there were breeders who wouldn't or who had to be coaxed to do it.  So you had to be careful not to induce negative connotations with getting them to stop, but you had to stop them when they were doing it because it was inappropriate.

It's a conundrum.

We solved it by putting the ever sweet Baxter on the porch.  Jam went back and forth like a shark from the window to the door looking out the windows at Baxter.

Baxter sat in a patio chair.  He was thinking that perhaps the porch was the better part of the deal.

Claudia's dinner was amazing: a Brazilian feijoada. We all stuffed ourselves!  Periodically we would let Baxter in to see if the dogs could JUST BE FRIENDS.

But no.  After dinner, Fred and Tim pulled out Tim's guitars and started playing.

Tim is on the left and Fred is on the right jamming on the guitars.  They sounded great.

All I can say is that Jam still has no negative connotations associated with the act and is raring to go.

Deep sigh. I hope we get invited over again.  That feijoada was spectacular and Fred really enjoyed playing the guitar.  Perhaps we'll get a babysitter for Jam...

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Greeks Know How to Eat

Recently we met friends for dinner at Acropolis down in St. Pete for dinner. Our experience with Greek restaurants is mostly tied to Tarpon Springs and so we like to think we are getting some kind of "authentic" experience when we go there as we have a certain Greek restaurant WE like with certain dishes that we haven't seen other places.  I have a feeling that our Greek world view was a bit snobbish (I'm speaking just for myself here) and that I felt I knew a bit about Greek food from what we had been getting.

Ah, foolish resident tourist.  While the restaurant we went to is certainly not claiming to be authentic, it does give you a much different interpretation of eating out Greek style than what we had been getting in Tarpon Springs.  For one thing, it was a huge party.  A party that went on all night long.

It was also a fairly unique experience for a guide dog puppy, but one that I would only recommend for older puppies.  It is a VERY LOUD experience at nighttime.  And have I mentioned the napkins?

When the wait staff dance through your aisles, they are followed by the sacred napkin thrower.  This person leaves napkin chaos in their wake. Additionally, beware, if you sit in the middle of the room for napkins may rain down from the heavens like Zeus's entreaty to clean up your mess!
 Yeah.  There's a few napkins as a distraction as well. Make that thousands.  Every hour and a half.  Our friend had mentioned the napkin quirk to us, but I had blown it off in my head thinking cloth napkins.  What could be the harm in that.  But when we actually came to dinner and we had Jam under the table and hundreds of napkins are being flung into the air right in front of his nose.  Well, I think that his staying under the table and not leaping out to rampage among the wild napkins is a huge deal!

Pat on the back to you Jam!

However, all is not well in napkin land.  These are flimsy napkins.  Light papery thin napkins that the slightest breeze will make fly into the air.  So, yes, while I could clear out a napkin free zone, anytime any waitstaff would walk by, a napkin would flutter into the red zone.

Jam under the table and dreaming...of napkins
Even though I was keeping Jam directly under foot (as above photo shows), there were occasions when a napkin would enter the red zone and Jam would grab it.  I would have to root around in his mouth and pull out moistened bits of napkin. Yum.  I did miss one napkin and the table next to us waved at me and pointed down to Jam.  Yep, he had just started in on a napkin.  I thanked them and extracted it.  You have to be vigilant.

Jam giving his full attention to the belly dancer.
There was music playing as well.  The musician was amazing, but be prepared to have him come over to your table.  Fred liked this.  Jam stayed under the table and was unconcerned.  He evidently has no interest in Greek banjo-like music.  I thought it was awesome.  Jam did poke his head out when the belly dancer appeared.  Or was that because Fred moved and was so interested in her?  Hmmmm? Hard to tell! 8-)

Anyway, Fred ended up dancing with her and Jam went back to sleep.  So I guess that answers that question.

Acropolis: good food, the servers and wait staff were all kind and friendly to Jam, interesting exposure for older dogs.

Food, Glorious Food

Jammy has always been food obsessed.  We have him eat out of a special slow down bowl, which Stephanie said she didn't use during his stint with her because of the behavior you will see in the video below.

We have had some success in dealing with his separation anxiety because we were given permission to use kongs stuffed with peanut butter (or moistened dog food).  He LOVES them.  In fact, today, as I walked in Fred had just shut him up in the crate with a kong stuffed with kibble.  Jam complained until I opened the crate door and then he stayed in the crate with the door open while he tried to take the kibble out of the kong.

He can be a weird dude.

But one of the more charming things he does is when he is through with his meal.  He's never, ever, really satisfied with what he has received.

Honestly, his name should be Oliver.

Well, you watch and decide.