Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bamboo Politeness

Today we visited the wonderful bamboo nursery: Bamboo Gardens in Palm Harbor.  If you haven't been there, and you want some bamboo, you should make an appointment.  Yes, I did say make an appointment.  You can't just drive up and go in.  

Close up of some big bamboo.
Bamboo Gardens is on 4.5 acres on Jerry and Mary Ann Smith's backyard.  And what a backyard it is! It is filled with the most amazing varieties of bamboo that you will find.  And they know their business too.  Your name and the bamboo you buy will go into their database, so that when you call later and wonder what it is you bought and can you have some more, they can tell you.

Why do I tell you all of this?  Because in addition to being an amazing nursery with great bamboo, Mary Ann was also the most accommodating and friendly person I have met when it comes to welcoming a guide dog in training into her business.

When we walked in with Coach in his blue coat, she took one look at him and started to tell us about the neighbor's bulldog she had just met.  Then as we walked to the barn, she turned to me and asked, "Do you think he would like to meet some chickens?"

"Why, yes he would!"  She told me where the chicken coop was and I took Coach over there for a chicken exposure.

A photo of the back of Coach's head as he stares intently at the chickens.
 Coach was thinking maybe we were having chicken for dinner, but I was prepared for a lunge.  I had a firm grip on the leash and as we got close to the coop, I had Coach sit down.  A chicken appeared.  Coach jumped up.  The chicken flew off with a squawk.  Coach looked at me.  "It's a chicken, buddy.  They do that."

We went around to the side and sat down to see if they would come closer.

You can barely see a chicken down at the end of the row by the fence.

You can see the back of Coach's head and some of the chicken as he stares down the fence row.
 The chickens never got any closer, so we ended up leaving.  I didn't want him lunging and scaring them.

We walked all around the bamboo gardens and looked at cool bamboo while Fred and Mary Ann decided on what to buy for the yard.  Then, as the three of us were talking, Coach started to twirl in  front of us.

"He's starting to poo!" Fred said in an elevated whisper, which is as close to a shout as Fred ever gets.  And this is where I really take umbrage with the poodle man last night, because in mid twirl I grabbed the leash and made tracks away from Fred and Mary Ann and went behind a bush so they wouldn't have to see or smell Coach.  And they WEREN'T eating and I was able to do this.

And then I bagged it all up and tossed it in a trash can.  After all, it's polite to take care of your poo!

Fred bought three bamboos, and he is out planting them now. If you need bamboo, go to Bamboo Gardens, and take your guide dog puppy in training with you.  The chickens won't mind.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Where are you pooping?


Summer vacation for us means that we are going out to eat.  Fred recently celebrated his 60th birthday and he received a lovely present of a Visa gift card of $60 dollars, which we decided to use at the Sand Pearl Resort to have a nice lunch out.

Fred and Coach relax by the player piano at the Sand Peal Resort in Clearwater.
The Sand Pearl is pretty hoity-toity and even though it is a dressy place, we decided that we would take Coach with us.  After all, he is 15 months old.  Old enough to go poo beforehand and know how to behave himself in a restaurant.  Right?

We decided that we would park a bit of a distance away from the Pearl and walk in just to make sure that he had a chance to poo.  We walked out to lone bit of grass that bordered the entrance to the beach and Coach did his little circle dance.  It was a three twirler.  Oh my!

We walked up to the Sand Pearl with confidence.  Our boy had pooped.  We were poop free and ready to eat and experience the high life.  (And people wonder why we don't go out much! 8-)

After walking through the lobby, we encountered the player piano.  It was doing an admirable job of toodling through some barely recognizable tunes, so I had Fred and Coach stand beside it for a photo.  Coach didn't see too impressed with it.

Lunch was delicious.  The hostess was very impressed with Coach.  Coach was on his best behavior and entered and exited with calm assurance.  Nicely done, Coach!


Dinner was different.  We decided to take Jammers with us and go coatless and more informal: to the Dunedin Smokehouse!

Now, we love the Smokehouse for several reasons

  1. They have amazing wings.
  2. They have a great beer selection (Magic Hat)
  3. Our favorite waitress is there (Lisa) and she loves Coach and Jam
  4. They have a big patio that allows dogs 
  5. All the staff brings water bowls
  6. Coach in coat is treated like a king
  7. The rest of their food rocks too!
So, it's a natural for us to go there with the boys.  We usually pick a table by the railing and under the awning and since they had the fan on, by the fan.  We were lucky.  We got all three tonight:

  • Table by the railing
  • Table in the shade
  • Table right in front of the fan!
The boys were out of everyone's way.  It was cool, the wings were hot, the beer was cold.  Awesome.

And then, the poodle man showed up.


It was a family.  A mom, two middle school kids and a dad.  They had a poodly-doodly thing.  But essentially, Dad was a poodle man.  I saw them coming down the sidewalk and I knew trouble was coming in caramel curls.

Poodle man peeled off from the pack and pulled the doodle into the empty field that sits next to the Smokehouse.  The empty field that borders the railing along which we were sitting. Jam had spotted them.  He sat up.  

"Hmmmmmm." I said.  Grrrrrr was what I was thinking.  Poodle man was walking up the empty field following the railing like a trail. His doodle was sniffing around.  Jam was standing now.  Mind you, we are eating.  "Fred," I said.  "Grab Coach. This man is bringing his dog!"

And poodle man stops.  Doodle stops.  And the world stops. 

Jam thrusts his whole head through the bars of the railing in an attempt to get to the doodle.  He makes it to his shoulders.  He is straining.  The doodle is straining too, but it is of a different sort.  

"Oh my God!" I am actually hissing. "Fred! Is that dog pooping?"


I turn back around and poodle man has a baggy out to scoop up the offending poo.  I cannot catch his eye to scald him with my irritated look.

"Really?" I turn to Fred. "Really?!"

Fred with Jam and Coach sitting at his feet as Fred frowns thinking
about the rude customer at the Dunedin Smokehouse.

 Of all the places to walk your dog to poo, you walk him in front of the people with dogs, who are eating in a restaurant.  You had an entire empty field.  And you chose to have him poop 2 feet from our table.

Really? I. Don't. Have. The. Words.

If only I was Amy Poehler.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Activities: Walking, Napping, Posing, Eating and Playing Frisbee

 This summer we aren't going on vacation.  We are having a staycation. Taking it easy at the house and relaxing at home.  That means lots of organizing of closets and drawers.
Michele is holding Coach on her right and Andros on her left.
Both dogs are sitting with their tongues hanging out.

I've signed up for a half marathon and will be walking with the Southeastern Guide Dog team.  In fact, the photo above shows Michele and Andros and Coach on our Sunday 3-mile walk in preparation for it.  They can only accompany us on the beginnings of the training as it is long and hot.  If you are interested in joining our team, sign up as an individual and then choose the Southeastern Guide Dog Team.  You will need to let me know that you have joined as we will be getting t-shirts!

Coach is drinking out of a collapsable water dish on the trail.

Of course, we walked early in the morning when it was cooler and we brought lots of water for both the pups and the humans.

Closeup of Jam napping on the floor.  Sun is shining in through the french doors.

One of my other summer projects is to learn photography.  I have a new camera and my goal is to create better photos for the blog and just to learn how to use the camera better.  I am going to a photography bootcamp on Sunday, so I should be better on Monday!!

Close-up of Jam looking down.

As it stands now, I am taking lots of dog portraits.  I'm not sure the Florida Center for Creative Photography quite had that in mind when they let me RSVP to the 10 day photo challenge, although I did warn them it might be 10 days of dog photos!

Portrait of Coach laughing with greenery in the background.

After all, my dogs are super cute! And so photogenic. 

Fred sitting at an outside table with Coach on the far left and Jam in the back in-between him and Coach.

We are also doing a lot of eating out on our summer staycation.  Here Fred is with Jam and Coach at Casa Tina's on the porch.  The boys are very good out and about together.  

Portrait of Willow looking left and smiling.
And we can't forget our leading lady at home: Willow.  She only lights up this way when the frisbee comes out or there is a piece of bread being offered to her.  She's a silly girl, but we love her.  Mostly she holds herself above the fray.

Here's hoping  your summer is delightful and productive!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Coach and Jam share a dad (Jack), which makes them half brothers.  They also share those curly tails, although Jam's is much curlier than Coach's.  Coach does have it going on!

They are also both remarkably good looking pups.  Sweet-natured and fun loving.  They share toys, play together, and Willow likes them both.

Coach and Jam together.  Jam is on the left and Coach is on the right.
They are lying down and facing the camera.
You can't ask for better boys. It will be a sad day when we go back down to being a two dog house.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dinner Time

One of the things we were told at the puppy conference was that our puppies should be well mannered at dinner time.  In other words, they should know which bowl is their bowl and they shouldn't try to go over to another dog's bowl and try and push them out of the way and take their food.

We feed all of our dogs together.  They all do a down stay and then release them and they jump forward to their bowls.  They each know where their bowl is.

They also learn that they are not allowed to mess with each other's food.  It's not polite.  Coach is the fastest eater.  So, he has learned that he needs to walk away and sit down by us.  Then when everyone is finished, he can go back and lick out the bowls.  Then we put all the bowls away until the next meal.

Jam is a little more sneaky.  Willow is perfection.  What else did you expect?  I took a little video.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

First Time in Harness

Today, we had our Southeastern Guide Dogs Puppy Raiser meeting at Largo Park.  It was our Area Coordinator Stephanie's first official meeting and she just happened to bring along two harnesses because there were several of our puppies who would be going in for training (IFT) in July and August and they hadn't ever worn a harness. (Our AC is super organized!)

Here is Stephanie, our new AC, holding two leather guide dog harnesses.
Coach was one of the first to be able to try on the harness and he put it on with nary a problem. 

Coach with the leather guide dog harness on over his blue cape.
 In fact, all the puppies who tried the harness, did so with great success! Go Central Puppies!!

Fred and Coach walking with the harness on.
Coach was able to walk for 5-10 minutes with the harness on and didn't find it uncomfortable at all.  All good signs!


Only 36 days to go.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Six Shooters

Today marks the start of the In For Training countdown.  Tomorrow marks 38 days in which we will be taking our sweet boy back to Southeastern Guide Dogs to Guide Dog U to become a full-fledged Guide Dog.  To find his destiny.  

But until that time, there are things to do, places to go, boxes to check.  One of those boxes that we had to check was the vet box.  

Jam and Coach are on the tile and looking up at the camera in the vet's waiting room.

Coach needed to have a Bordatella vaccine, and he also needed to get his rabies vaccine, a letpo shot and an influenza shot.  Well, he happened to have a little hot spot (pododermatitis, for those of you in the know) on his left front paw, which necessitated another shot and by the time we were through, he was up to SIX shots!

Jam looks away from the camera rather pensively.

Jam was there for his first annual visit with Dr. Woodman, Animal Hospital of Northwood, who would now be his regular vet.  Dr. Don J. Woodman, who not only donates vet services to Southeastern, but is a puppy raiser with his family, was going to get the details about Jam's trachea weirdness and let us know what the medical plan was going to be (other than don't walk him in the heat and keep him nice and trim).

Shot of Dr. Woodman giving Coach a shot in the booty while Coach is being held
by Dr. Woodman's assistant.Coach is wondering how many shots this is...

Meanwhile, back in the bootie area, Dr. Woodman had to give poor little Coach 6 injections.  Coach took it really well.

Close-up of Coach's nose with his face blurred in the background.

There was no crying.  No howling.  No whimpering.

Close-up of the spent syringes, all 6 of them on the metal table.

I would have whined a little.  At least until I got a cookie.  

They both got a cookie.  You can always count on a cookie at Dr. Woodman's.  

Day 39 was a successful day.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lunching with Super Models

Since we have gotten Jam back, we have been taking "the boys" out for lunch.  Dunedin has several restaurants with patios where both Coach and Jam, who doesn't have a coat, are welcome.

One of those restaurants is The Dunedin Smokehouse. They love Coach and are super friendly to dogs on the patio.  They always bring out bowls of water for them. There are other restaurants, but on Sunday, we went to the Smokehouse because we wanted some amazing barbecue (their wings are splendid as well!).

Photo of Jam under the table looking up at me and smiling.
What I've noticed about taking the boys out in public is how many stares we get.  As soon as we got to our table, the small boy at the neighboring table had run over and asked to pet Jam.  I said yes.  Jam was lying down on the ground as the boy told me about his lab and how it was in the hospital.

"Oh no.  Is he getting better?"

"She's getting better every minute," he said with confidence.  He patted Jam on the head and stroked his neck and down his body.  Then he patted his feet. "Those are big feet."

"Yes, they are."

"Thanks!" He jumped up and ran back to his table.

Coach is sitting and smiling and looking at the camera.
Last weekend when we went to the smokehouse, there was an older couple sitting a few tables away from us and they just could not keep their eyes off of Jam and Coach.  The lady in particular would eat some of her sandwich and gaze with adoration at him, much as I imagine women gaze at Ryan Gosling doing yard work without a shirt on a film shoot.  Finally, she called over to us.

"He is so beautiful." She waved her hand at Jam. Her husband was nodding in the background.

Fred and I smiled.  "Thank you.  They are pretty well behaved too." I tell her about Jam being dropped from Southeastern's guide dog program.  They are very impressed with Jam and think Coach is the bee's knees.

When we first got Jam he was fuzzy like a polar bear.  Very distinctive.  On one of our first outings to the Sarasota Discovery Center we made the mistake of eating lunch at St. Armand's Circle at a table next to a big picture window.  Jam was in full view of every tourist who was passing by.  We learned what it was like to be a zoo animal as almost everyone stopped and pointed at Jam and then mouthed the words: "HE IS SO BEAUTIFUL!" It was like eating lunch with super models.

Now, when I take Coach out, everyone comments on how handsome he is, but the two of them together seems to be an overwhelming amount of labby attractiveness.  Coach goes in for training on July 20th. Until then, we will try to spread his handsome mug around as many places as we can.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Coach's Last Day of School

Coach had his last day of school on Wednesday.  It was a normal day, except there weren't any children in attendance.

He came in, got into the man cave and began chewing on his toy.

I had plenty of work to do to get ready to leave for the summer.  So, he had plenty of time to chew away.  Before you knew it, it was time for the end of the year photos:

Here is Christina sitting with Coach in her lap.

Here are Jan and Christina with Coach in a full laugh sitting in front of them.

Here is Coach, posing in front of some book shelves for me.

Here's another one of serious Coach, posing in front of bookshelves.

When we got home, I stopped the car and asked him what he thought about the day, but he wouldn't pay attention.  He kept looking out the windshield as if there were something out there that was capturing his attention.

A photo of Jam who standing up and staring out the side window and can be seen out of the front car windshield.
A closer look by me found that Jam had run to the window and was looking out at us.  Curious, too, as to what Coach's day had been like.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What Was Left is Now Right

By Fred
Like all prospective guide dog puppies, Jam grew up on the left. Walking, sitting, heeling, all on our left side.

On that first morning after Jam returned home a few weeks ago we assembled in the kitchen for breakfast, now with three dogs instead of two, and we started into our meal-time puppy push-ups: heel, sit, stand, down, stay, etc. I expected to see their usual enthusiasm and sincerity and willingness to do well and love for me (at least that's what I see--all they really want is for me to put the food down, shut up and go away).

From the first command, it became clear that I had one fewer left leg than necessary. "Coach, sit," I said, and Coach and Jam politely struggled and pushed so as to sit snugly against my left leg. This wouldn't do. I took Jam aside and explained to him that he was ready now to graduate to the right side. After all, Willow had long since graduated to her own space. The right side is just as good, I said and gave him a hug.

A picture of Coach and Jam at meal time.
Coach is on the left. Jam is happy on the right.

A few weeks have passed and now the meal times go well. On good days, it is "Coach, sit. Jam sit. Coach stand. Jam stand." Beautiful. Coach is happy to show off his left-ness, eager to claim his place and to demonstrate his superior technique (he can be very best dog ever).

And Jam seems very happy now on the right, or sometimes on the far left, or sometimes in front. Wherever he is, he really wants to do a good job. And he really wants me to shut up and put the food down.