Monday, February 27, 2012

Jam and J.A.M.

Yesterday, we took Jam over to see his namesake.  Joe and Lorraine always have a little toy or treat for Jam and Jam really looks forward to playing in their enormous, dog friendly back yard.

Joe sits on the ground watching Jam as Jam plays with his new toy.
One of the things that is most fun to watch is the interaction between Jam and Joe.  They seem to have a real connection.
Joe and Jam discussing the etiquette of playing with the new toy.
 And they understand each other.
Jam at 10 months with Joe and Lorraine.
 Jam's a bit older, much bigger, and not afraid of the bear footstool anymore.  He behaved himself very well (we won't mention that bit of spilled water from the water bowl, that was totally Fred's fault!).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Walkathon News

Jammy IS going to be at the Walkathon on March 3, 2012 at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, FL.  So if you are going to be at the Walkathon and you read the blog, please stop and say hello!  We would love to meet you in person and take a photo for the blog.

We will also be at the dinner later that night (Willow gets a pet sitter!).  If you don't see us at the walkathon, look for us at dinner.

Either way, we hope to see all of you or as many as possible on Saturday, March 3, 2012.

The Artist

Last weekend we went to a movie.  Our first movie in a long time.  We saw The Artist.  It was a silent movie, which might have seen like a bad choice given that we brought Jam with us, but Jam is a pretty quiet dog. Also, we use the quiet spot on all his tags.  If you haven't used them to quiet noisy tags in a place you want your dog to be super quiet, I highly recommend them!

Anyway, turns out that The Artist is actually a fairly loud movie, sound-wise that is.  When we got to the theater I was stopped by a former teacher who wanted to talk about the state of teaching in Florida.  This all started with a comment about Jam and then quickly turned into a biographical work history of her life, which while interesting left me on the sidewalk with Fred and her husband both looking on wondering when she was going to catch a breath so we could all maneuver her gracefully inside the theater and off to her movie.

Finally, she took a breath.  We moved on.  Popcorn was not on the menu as it would have sent Jammers into a frenzy, so we went to find our theater.  There were a few people waiting for the theater to be cleaned so we waited outside.

When it was cleaned we went to our usual dog spot at the top right-hand corner of the theater.

Overhead view of Jam's head and the stairs leading down the aisle.
This way, we aren't really behind anyone or in front of anyone.  We try not to be too bothersome.

Jam sometimes watches the screen.  
 This time we found the floor was very clean, so Jam wasn't able to lick anything up off of the ground.  He was able to settle in pretty quick.

Jam peering out from under the seat.
 I found the movie to be a bit too long.  Fred found it fascinating and wonderful.  Jam and I got restless.

Jam looking restless, I think.
When it was over, we went home and argued over whether it was Oscar worthy.

Jam and I think the dog certainly deserves an Oscar nod.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


It began as a promise to a student in my class. He was on the baseball team and I always try to go to see the kids in my class either during a play or during a game or whatever it is they are involved with if at all possible.  I also try to bring Jam along (the hockey game and the football games were a couple of these events). This game was at Tampa Prep: enemy territory in so many ways.

The Terrapins are our chief rivals in volleyball and many other sports and we have a big rivalry with them in what we call the Headmaster's Cup.  We lost it this year to Tampa Prep. GRRRRRR.  Not that I am competitive in anyway, but I did tell Chris (the student who is on the baseball team) that we expected him to kick some major bootie last night.

So, in the spirit of a great night out, followed by a major butt-kicking sports event, we arranged a dinner with friends at Datz Deli (a delight and very guide dog in training friendly!).  I thought I knew what I was doing, but evidently, I was mistaken.  We were driving to Tampa Prep and we came upon a big lighted baseball field and I immediately assumed: "This is it!" So, we turned around, found parking and practically ran the block and a half to the field to find Christina who was waiting for us in the stands.

Text from Christina: I don't see you.

Text from Christina: You aren't at the baseball field across the street are you?

Text from me: Why, yes, we are.

Text from Christina: LOL

Crap on toast. We were at University of Tampa's baseball field.  GRRRRR.  So we had to walk across the street and be heckled by drivers: "Your dog is sexy!"

Really? That's what you yell out of your car at us?  My dog is sexy?  So Fred yells back, "Thanks!" and waves.  He's so nice.  I just roll my eyes and keep on walking.  I'm irritated because I am late, I parked in the wrong spot, I went to the wrong school and I just had my dog verbally abused.  Jam is not at all concerned.  If anything, his strut is a little more bouncy.  Does he know what sexy means?

Hmmmm. I wonder.  The did just do the breeder evaluation...

We see the Terrapin field.  As we are walking up to it a security guard drives up in a golf cart and tells Fred, "Only seeing eye dogs allowed."

"Well, good!  We've got one of those."  Fred continues walking.  I'm in my zone and have completely missed this exchange, which would have floored me because another puppy raiser works at Tampa Prep.  Surely they know that ALL service dogs would be allowed?

We make it to the stands.  Christina has scoped out a spot for us in the front row.  It is Terrapin Territory, but we can handle it. 

Jam standing and looking off to the side, Fred's arm along his back.
 Destin has just made a home run and the score now stands at 4-0 in Berkeley's favor. Go Bucs!

Jam's profile as he watches the game.
When we made our way to our seats we had to pass by a mom with her infant and a small, mobile boy.  I pegged him at about 3 years of age.  He was the fast, running kind of boy.  One of those who says, "Hey, watch me run from here to there!" and then runs without waiting for an ok.  You could tell his mom was already wondering what crazy idea had possessed her into bringing both of them to the game and why on earth did baseball take so frigging long?

We had Jam in a down under, with him beneath our legs.  As we were watching the game, the running boy, or Xavier as we later came to know him, came running by us.  And as if in a slow motion, underwater, Jacques Cousteau movie on barracudas and their feeding habits, Jam snaked out of the dark hole under our legs and dashed out directly at Xavier.  He timed it perfectly.  The end of his muzzle reached the air an inch away from Xavier's cheek when the leash checked him.  Xavier, who had pretty big round eyes to begin with, almost lost his eyeballs entirely.  They nearly popped completely out of his head, but he had such momentum, that he couldn't stop himself and so he went past the big furry barracuda and straight to his mom.

There was an intense moment of silence.

"MOM! That dog almost snuggled with me!"

Yep, Xavier, that is what happened.  In a split second, Jam went from barricuda to Snuggles.

Overhead shot of Jam as he is lying down on the bleachers.
We kept an eye on Xavier, who kept an eye on Jam who was wondering why Xavier kept running back and forth, but Snuggles stayed in a down stay. No more attack snuggling.

There was a moment in the 5th inning when Jam got a little gassy.  Fred  took him out to busy.  Xavier looked around for him.

"Where are they?" He asked.  "Maybe he ran off and they are chasing him?"  He kept a sharp eye out for Jam's return and was very relieved when Fred brought him back.  "See.  I told you they were on a walk." He told his mom.  She nodded and another piece of hair fell out of her ponytail.

As they were packing up to leave, Xavier edged closer and closer to us.

"Go on." His mom said.

"Does your dog bite?" He asked.

"No.  He doesn't bite.  He's going to be a guide dog someday.  He's in training.  He's supposed to be a nice dog." Fred had a hold of Jam.  Jam was facing out at Xavier.  "Would you like to pet him?"  Xavier nodded.  Then he put out a very uncertain little hand. A hand directly in front of the barracuda's mouth.

And Snuggles licked it.

"He licked me!" Xavier yelled.  He turned to his mom.  "He licked me!"
Jam sleeping on the bleachers.  Finally.
 His mom smiled. Fred smiled. Xavier smiled.

Jam licked his lips.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Breeder Jam

By Fred
Jam went down for his breeder evaluation this week, a review to see if he is destined for a life of prearranged sexual encounters or for a life of abstinence.

If he's chosen to be a breeder, he could live with us, and since we've grown so fond of him, that would be great. On the other hand, considering all the good work that he might do in his lifetime helping others (and not discounting our dismal record with our previous dogs--we are 0 for 2), we very much want him to succeed in the guide dog program.

So it's a win-win for the humans. But then we shouldn't be selfish, just thinking about ourselves instead of considering what Jam would want if only we could communicate with him, if only he knew what options lay ahead, what medical procedures may or may not be performed.

Maybe some things are better left unknown...

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Heart Is Racing!

Today I had a doctor's appointment.  It wasn't a big deal.  Just a follow-up.  Check to see if all was well with my primary care physician and go over my Vitamin D test.

I had made my appointment for 4 pm, for after school, on my way home.  That seemed like a good idea.

At the time.

It really did.  Breeze in, end of the day, quick appointment.  All is well, home again.  Quick as a wink.  Not a problem.  I forgot to tell Jam the plan.

We arrive at the doctor's office and a chill wind is blowing and evidently it blew some major crazy jujubees up his butt, because he immediately began to pull and run to the door.  OK.  He likes the doctor?

We walk in and he is SO EXCITED to be there.  Practically JUMPING for joy.  And there are tons of OLD PEOPLE around.  Really delicate old people with tissue paper skin.

Great.  I feel a little blood squirt out of my arteries and start to race around my veins.  Just a bit of adrenaline has been released somewhere in my body (I assume my adrenal glands, wherever they are).  OK.  I will just give all the old people a wide berth.  And keep him very close to me.

A panting and exuberant Jam and I make it to the counter and sign in.  Then we wait and listen to American Pickers while I try to keep Jam from eating the Ladies Home Journal from December 2006. 2006?  Really?  Why do they have a LHJ from 2006.  Do they go to yard sales and pick up old magazines?  I shouldn't complain.  The magazine selection is much better since Dr. Betancourt came.  It used to be just yachting and golfing and sports magazines.  At least there is a LHJ.  Quit your bitching, I tell myself.  Find out what Nicole Kidman thought 6 years ago and be happy about it!

Just when I start to read about the always fascinating Nicole, Jam and I are called back.  At least I am called back and Jam jumps up and is ready to play.  So I say easy all the way to the door where there is a nurse who loves dogs and who knows she can't touch him.  "Ah, service dog." She says.  "Let me know how I can help."

I need lots of help.  Jam is jumping in the small hallway as I try to correct him.  Then there is the always popular hallway weigh-in. I put Jam into a down stay and step onto the scale and have to let go of the leash.

"Can I laugh if he runs away?" The nurse asks?  I decide she is not really my friend. I'm not looking at the scale, it's only bad news anyway, and have been giving Jam the stay death stare.  I step down.  My Heart Is Racing.

She leads my down the hallway, calling out to people to see the pretty dog, blah blah blah.  I start to hate her just a little bit.  My pulse is going a bit faster.  Jam is really pulling and I am a broken record: Easy, Easy, Easy.  All this emotion is going right down the leash, but I just don't know how to control it.  We have gotten ourselves in a deadly embrace: the more nervous and anxious I get, the more jumpy he gets and the more nervous I get, until we both collapse in a dead heap of burst hearts.  Classic Valentine's Day   tragedy.

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking.  Actually, I'm thinking, get me the blankety blank out of here.  And why did I think the end of the day was a good time of day to do this?

My frenemy, the nurse, was a vet tech in an earlier life and is actually a very nice person, and she tells me an interesting story about Tommy Hilfiger's westie who had allergy problems.  Then she says,

"Your blood pressure is a little higher than it was the last time you were in."

I look at Jam.  I look back at her.  "He stresses me out when he isn't acting right."


My doctor comes in.  We chat, I'm fine.  Jam tries to jump up from his down under under the chair several times.  She listens to my heart.

"Your heart is racing."

"Yeah.  He does that when he misbehaves.  It makes me nervous."  She laughed.  I had an acupuncturist once tell me that I was like a little rabbit, just a jumpy bundle of nerves.  I don't think it was a compliment.  I never went back to him. I mean, I was born in the year of the hare, but still.

My doctor said I needed to have blood drawn to see how my vitamin D levels were.  It is now 5:30 pm.  I've been there an hour and a half.  I have to wait another 20 minutes for the blood lady to see me.  I'm surprised she could capture my blood.  It was moving so fast.

We left at 6.

Jam normally poops at 5 to 5:30.

I have one more stop to go.  I am on borrowed time.

I have bookclub tomorrow and we are discussing Valley of the Dolls.  I need to make a caviar dip.  I need to buy some caviar.  I look over at Jam.  Surely he can make a quick in and out at Publix.

We get out and run into Publix. I get the basket (better to run with) and Jam and start to race down the aisles.  I'm trying to go fast but also trying to keep an eye out for gopher butt and any slight slowing down.  I'm also thinking that I could always just put the basket underneath him and catch his poo in that, but no, that would be gross.  I could pick him up and run.  I did that with Bingo.  He was 50 pounds.  The trick is getting them before they commit.

The problem is whenever I would stop. Jam would stop. And then, my heart would race and I would think, "OMG POO!" and I would look at his butt, but there wouldn't be anything.  And we would start to fast walk it again.  So we were sort of doing one of John Cleese's Ministry of Funny Walks down the aisles and all I can think about is "Crap, this Publix is chock full of people.  Don't they have anything better to do than grocery shop?  What is the matter with them?  There is not one aisle I could have Jam do a secret poo and a secret cleanup!"  They were like a fungus, or ants on an anthill, they were EVERYWHERE.  And they were all smiling at me.  And I had to smile back.

I know it looked like the rictus of death, but it was the best I could do.  My heart was racing, folks! My blood was spinning through me.

Then, just when it looked like we were home free, a small child with a balloon was in front of us.  Holy Mother of God.  Are we doomed to life eternal in this god forsaken Publix?  Can I not just find the freaking caviar and leave?  Jam goes nuts because not only did this crazy mom buy her adorable child a helium balloon, she also let him RUN.  Jam adores running children.  Adores as in WANTS TO TACKLE AND LOVE TO DEATH.

I think the mother sensed something, because after about 30 seconds of my pulling at Jam, she finally picked up her son.  I could have kissed her, but that would have brought me too close.

It is now almost 6:30.  It is the poo witching hour.  We checkout.  No poo.

My heart is still racing.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Restaurant Feng Shui

Sometimes you can just tell whether a new restaurant is going to be a good place or not.  It may be the food, the service, the atmosphere or something indefinable about the place.  Let's call it the feng shui.  Well, last night we found a great place in Cafe de Paz in Dunedin.

We had reservations for 7 pm and unfortunately for us the place was packed and there was no way we were going to get our table.  But our waitress kindly served us a round of drinks on the house and we sat and chatted while we listened to a very good duo (keyboards and vocalist) sing standards ranging from Billy Joel to old blues songs.  Fred liked them and he is hard to please.

As we were waiting, our waitress, who was as cute as a bug's ear, came over and asked if Jam would like a bowl of water.  Now, nothing endears a restaurant or server faster to me more than sincere affection for our guide dog puppy.  Usually we get grudging acceptance, or a not so subtle attempt to shift us to the outside as in the "Oh, I'm sure you want the patio table" when it is 10 below (or in Florida terms, 70 degrees!).

Being told I want a patio seat, makes my desire for an indoor seat grow exponentially. I could have gone to that restaurant expressly for their ocean views and when those words pop out of their mouth, all of sudden I am filled with the desire for air-conditioned, four-walled, stuffiness.

"Why, no.  Whatever do you mean, outside? It's freezing." Never mind that I am wearing a tank top, shorts and flip flops. "I am in need of an inside table.  I have allergies and can't be near the surf and sea air." Direct stare into their eyes.

Of course there are amazing moments when others at the restaurant intervene for you.  That happened at the Crabby Bill's on Clearwater Beach.  The host said the deadly patio phrase and the female bartender nearly leaped over the bar. "That's a service dog!" She shouted and raced out towards us from behind the bar.  She ran over to the host and yanked the menus out of his hands.  "Please follow me upstairs." Then she turned and gave him the evil, "you and I will have a long talk about just how stupid you are" look, to which this 6'2" pretty buff guy actually blanched.  We followed the petite gal up the stairs to a nice table in the center of the dining room and had a great dinner.

But I digress.  Back to Cafe de Paz.  We were finally seated and a very fashionable and sweet hostess came over with a bowl of water for Jam.  We had to explain that he couldn't have it since he was on duty and couldn't drink in coat, but we were so thankful for her kindness.

Honestly, this restaurant rocks.  And the food was awesome!  Tapas, pizzas with gourmet toppings, crostinis, very unusual dishes and everything we tried was great.  Except for Fred's pizza.  It had clams on it and I thought that was weird.  But Fred and Ken liked it.

Afterwards, we went over to Ken and Linda's for a casual dessert, so I can't tell you about the dessert offerings at the restaurant.  However, I do want to give a shout out to our lovely friends Ken, Linda and Carrie who really are the most kind, caring and patient people and who put up with so much from us.  We are so lucky to have them in our lives.  Not only did Carrie not make a face when Jam grabbed her scarf and completely shoved it in his mouth, attempting to run off and devour it, she kindly put it back around her neck, dog slobber and all, so he wouldn't be tempted to try for it again.  And Ken and Linda, who had been dying to pet Jam all evening, waited at least 20 minutes for wanker Jam to calm down enough in their house to be petted.

What troopers.

And need we mention that we talked about Jam so endlessly that at one point I looked up and Ken was actually asleep?  Well, that is true friendship.  We promise to curb ourselves next time!!  Thanks for letting us run on last night.  We truly enjoyed ourselves.

May you all have friends like these and find restaurants like Cafe de Paz to take them to dinner!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chicken Biscuits

We have fundraisers at school.  Usually by what they call Break Sales, meaning we have a break in the morning and kids bake brownies, etc. and can make about $75 to $100 selling them to students who want a mid-morning snack.  This money goes to the selling club's charity of choice or to whatever project or trip they are trying to raise money for.

The Student Library Proctors have been doing chicken biscuit sales from Chik-Fil-A because they give schools a deep discount and you can earn about $300 from one break sale.  Quite a big difference.  However, there are several problems with chicken biscuits:

  1. Chicken biscuits are like crack.  Kids go nuts for them.  There is practically a Who Concert mass stampede out the door of the auditorium to get to the mall to buy tickets to get a biscuit.  Honestly, we have about 15 students working the chicken biscuit sale and we are all VERY TENSE and NERVOUS when we hear the pounding feet of 500 students coming to get 350 biscuits.
  2. Each biscuit comes in its own wrapper, which some students wad up and throw on the ground.  So there is a protocol that requires our biscuit sellers to go around and make sure the ground is picked up, so we can have another sale.  If it is too messy, no more biscuit sales.  My theory is that the lard in the biscuit temporarily knocks out any thought processes and causes an almost epileptic jerking of the arm with the first bite.  Usually, the student has the wrapper in his hand with this first bite and involuntarily crushes the wrapper when he has this temporary seizure.  After swallowing the first bite, his brain comes back on line, the hand releases, and the wrapper drops to the ground, without the student even realizing what is going on and that he had anything in his hand.  He continues to walk and eat his biscuit in a pleasure filled daze.
  3. Evidently the lard also affects proper chewing as great hunks of bread may fall out of students mouths and land on the ground creating a landscape of breadcrumbs that would be useful in finding Hansel and Gretel if they wandered aimlessly around in circles!  Seriously, how can that much biscuit fall on the ground?  It literally covers the floor.
  4. We have to go get the biscuits and bring them back, which means someone's car is going to smell like fried chicken for a day.
Friday was chicken biscuit day.  Friday is also Jam day.  Jan has the big SUV in which all the heater units filled with 350 hot chicken biscuits fit.  So Jan, Jam and I drove down to Chick-Fil-A.  They stayed in the car while I got the biscuits. The trouble didn't start until we got the biscuits out of the car.

We had two big heaters and one small one.  Jam ran over to the small one and started to sniff and then jumped on top of it and tried to dig a hole into it.  Eeeek!  I hope that doesn't leave a mark!  Squashed biscuits for some kids. 8-)

Thankfully, it didn't.  We put Jam on a tie-down further away from the unloading area and got the biscuits over to the mall where we would be selling them.  And we waited.  And Jam waited.  For about 45 minutes as biscuits were handed out and the biscuity smell wafted around him, Jam just slept and was quiet.  But when we got up to police the area and there were wrappers and breadcrumbs out and about: Fuhgeddaboutit!!

"No! No! No! No!"  That was me walking through the mall trying to keep Jam from scarfing up all the breadcrumbs.

Then we got back to the library and Christina had a biscuit on her desk.  Jam saw it.  Saw the silvery gleam of the wrapper indicating chicken goodness.  We walked back out to the main library.  Jam sat with a sullen stubborness and faced the offices.  Silvery wrappers danced in his head.  Whines emerged from his mouth.

"No noise."  He stood.  He faced the office.  Clearly, a busy wasn't on his mind.  "Oh no.  You are not faking me out. Sit. Down."  

ALL.  DAY.  LONG.  Every trash can was a danger zone and we couldn't get near them because he was going to look in them for wrappers.  Kids smelled like chicken biscuits.  The campus smelled like chicken biscuits.  It was a long day for Jam

It was a longer day for me. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coke and Jam

Wednesday, we were visited by a large group of Coca-cola executives who were there to see students go about their various community service activities.  Middle and Upper Division have lots of different things going on from tutoring students from Academy Prep in the library to cleaning up the stream and wetlands and park in the neighborhood, and many other types of giving.

I happened in on the end of the tutoring session in the library when I finished up the Honors Chem classes and Jam and I walked through the crowd of red shirts (all the executives were wearing red shirts) to get to my office at the back of the library.  I could tell that Jam had captured the attention of many people.  I set down my bag and computer and went to check in with Jan in the workroom.  As I was standing just outside the workroom, I noticed that three red-shirted execs were making their way over to us with dog lust in their eyes. Their hands were outstretched.

As they got within about a foot of Jam I said, "Now, you can't pet him when he has his coat on.  He's working."

They were crestfallen.  Three grown men, so sad.

"Really?"  They all looked at Jam like he was candy they couldn't have.  I was about to explain when another exec, this one was a lady in a red shirt, came up and said, "Now, I can't pet him, because he has his coat on right?"

All the men looked at her.  I smiled.  "Exactly right!"  Then we started talking about Southeastern and how the students had raised the money to name Jam and who he was named for.  One of the execs wandered off.  It was too much for him to handle.  A dog so close and pet-able.  After a bit, I looked at the guys and they were still so darn wistful.

"Would you like me to take off the jacket?"

"Oh Yes!!"

"Ok, but calm voices." So, I took off the jacket and they knelt down to pet Jam.  As they did, the man who had wandered away happened to turn around and see they were petting Jam.  He RUNS over to us and in a VERY LOUD voice says,

"You can't pet him! He has his coat on!"

The lady in the red shirt turns and says, "She took the coat off."

"Oh." He stood there.

"Would you like to pet him?" I asked.  Immediately, he was down on his knees petting Jam.

Jam at the circulation desk helping a student check out a book.
They may have red shirts.  They may be executives.  But they were children at that moment, in a good way.  That's what I love about Jam at school.