Sunday, December 28, 2014

Puppy Portraits: Christmas Presents

Santa brought some very nice presents to our house and there were some improved lenses to help take better photos for the blog.  So, today, I have some examples taken with one of my new lenses. (In case you are interested, I use a Canon Rebel T3 and this lens is a 24-105mm).  Our December meeting was a webinar by Jen Gerrity on dog body language, so I will use what I learned to evaluate the photos to see if our puppies are relaxed or not!!

A relaxed dog is indicated by a face that is squishy and soft.  The muzzle is soft, not drawn tight, not tense.  There are not whites of the eyes showing; the eyes are not wide open.  The ears are soft and crinkly.

Portrait of Jam, our career changed yellow lab.
Jammy, is always up for a photo.  You can see that his muzzle is soft, his ears are soft and his eyes are at ease.  He's a photo fan.

Corky, a black lab guide dog in training, looking off to the side. 
Here is a photo of Corky, our current southeastern guide dog in training. While he is looking off to the side, his face is fairly relaxed. You can see his underlip jowl, so his mouth is still soft. His eyes relaxed.

Willow , a chocolate lab, sunning in the garden.
Willow doesn't like the camera and it is hard to get a happy photo of her.  You have to get her when she is not watching or very relaxed.  I happened to get her relaxing in a dirt hole she dug in the garden.  Her face is relaxed, her ears are relaxed and her eyes are soft.

Photographing dogs in some ways is like photographing people.  Some like the camera and some don't and shut down.  If you know what to look for: tight ears, mouth, whale eyes (where the whites of the eyes are showing), you know the dog is tense and the photo will not be good or look natural and you can work to make your subject more relaxed.  Good luck!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Corky's School Introductions

I introduced Corky to lower, middle and upper division on three separate days in early December.  It was shortly after Katie Bandel's visit, so it was in actuality auspiciously timed as the students in upper had a more impactful idea of what Corky would be doing for someone later on in life.  

We are hoping to bring Katie back to Berkeley in Jan/Feb to speak with lower and middle and to do the exercise with the dixie cups with them as well.

Corky on stage in upper.  He did a nice sit.
 Corky was pretty good on stage.  He did sit when given the command.  Of course, he then immediately stood up.

Corky standing at my side as I talk about him.
 I figured you have to pick your battles.  I just talked rather than fight to keep him sitting.

What I love about this photo of me presenting Corky to lower is the smiles of the children.
 On a separate day we presented Corky to lower division.  He was a little stressed as you can see in the photo, his tail is a little down.  He normally carries it a little higher.  I think it was all the waiting and the fact that I was nervous as well.  But he did great.  Right up until the very end when he tried to nibble a little on the Christmas tree.  But no damage was done as we caught him right away!  He had a quiet rest of the day in the office.

All three divisions now have reheard the rules:

  1. If Corky is wearing the coat, he is invisible: don't call his name, don't pet him, pretend he isn't there.
  2. If he isn't wearing the coat, you can ask permission to pet him.  The question to ask is: "Is this a good time (We might be on a bathroom break!)?
  3. If we are in my office, Corky will usually have his coat off and chances are good you can pet him.
Depending on what Corky is going through at the moment, I may have students help me with a certain problem.  For instance, if he has a problem jumping or lunging (like Jam did) I would have a student walk by while I had Corky sit beside me.  Fortunately, he doesn't do that.  But if we find anything, the lower, middle and upper division students stand ready and willing to help out in whatever way possible!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Secret Jam Cam

By Fred
On Wednesday we installed some surveillance cameras so that we can watch the dogs while we are out. Specifically, we hoped this would give us a chance to have a normal and relaxed Thanksgiving dinner at our friends house while Jam was home alone. Here's what happened.

The dogs have been walked and pooped and fed early. The house has been picked up so that Jam doesn't have any obvious temptations. I walk Cheryl to the car but then come back inside so that Jam might think it's a normal work day. Cheryl pulls out of the driveway. I watch TV for a second, then I go out the back door to trick Jam into thinking that I'm just doing some yard work and will be back soon. I walk around the house and then get into the car with Cheryl.

We turn on the iPhone app that controls the cameras in the house. I expect to see Jam at or near the back door, waiting for me to come back. But there's no Jam. I switch to the living room camera. We can take pictures of the video feed, so I got this one of him on the couch looking out the window to the driveway. I love this.
He knew I was lying about working in the back yard, but he's not sure where I am. We drive away.

I switch to the kitchen cam, and there is Jam snooping around, checking out the counter tops. Bad boy. But there is nothing frantic about him--he's calmly walking around.

Then seconds later we can see that he's opened a cabinet door (despite the baby locks) and he's taken out one piece of Tupperware (see the arrow) and put it on the floor.

No big deal, but we circle back to the house. Cheryl parks on the street and watches Jam on video while I run around to the back door and come inside, as though I had been working in the yard the whole time. I put the Tupperware away and give him a mild scolding. Jam is truly surprised to see me.

We're back on the road. We can see Jam at the backdoor. Then minutes later he is taking a nap. We are relieved to see this.

2:30 - 6:00pm
We continue to check throughout the afternoon, and Jam slept the whole day. What a relief to see that he is not stressed out. We had a very pleasant day as a result.

It's dark outside so the cameras have gone into nighttime mode. Here are Willow and Jam, sleeping on the couch in the living room.
We had a very nice Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving with a Happy Video from Corky

Today as we eat and eat and eat, there will be our four legged friends around us who may want a treat or two.  We should refrain from giving them turkey, as it isn't good for them, but a little pumpkin or peanut butter as gift for their many small kindnesses they do for us every day might be in order.

If they don't wag, they still like it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dewey Report Card

Good News on Dewey!

Dewey in the gym at school.
He is in Phase 3: Blindfold Walks. Woot!

We are so proud of Dewey.  He is a calm and very sweet boy and we are so proud of him.  Here are the comments from the trainer:

COMMENTS: Dewey continues to do well in training! We are going to lots of different venues and he is generally a very mature and well behaved gentleman. He still needs some additional support from his handler, especially in more challenging work environments. He has a great settle and it's clear that you put a lot of time and love into teaching him to be such a nice boy. 

Now, you might wonder what a nice settle is.  We are pretty sure that is Dewey being lazy and plopping into a down stay after about 30 seconds of standing up.  So, yes, we will take credit for that.  Dewey was a lot like Bob, another puppy we puppy sat years ago.  When I tried to introduce Bob to people, if I talked for more than 15 seconds, Bob would fall into a deep trance and lay on the floor.  We called Bob: surfer dude.  Nothing bothered him.  

Now, Dewey is super chill as well.  He also likes to lay down and nap.  We always said he is the perfect dog for someone with an office job because all he wants to do is lay under the desk and sleep.  In meetings he just curls up by your feet and sleeps.   

We love you Dewey.  Stay strong.  Work on those challenging work environments.  You can do it.  You were a champ at school.  You've got this!  Go Dewey!

Dewey by the French doors.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A 4-Woof Treat

By Fred
When Corky is at home with me the dogs can only get approved treats like little stinky salmon pellets, but today anything goes because Corky is at school with Cheryl, a fact that is not lost on Willow, who is especially happy when it's time for my first coffee break.

After about 13 years of coffee breaks, Willow has developed a way to reward me for picking out good treats. I should note that Jam trusts her judgment completely and defers to her in every way.

Yes, 13 years, at an average of two coffee break per day, three days a week (though we only started raising guide dog puppies six years ago, so I could adjust that number, but even so...), I've had about 4,000 unrestricted coffee breaks with Willow. Her level of approval is marked with woofs, and this morning I received a rare 4-woof rating.

Of course, the woofs come before she has actually tasted the treat (just before we head upstairs), so it is solely based on smell and presentation. Okra, I found out years ago, does not interest Willow to any degree. Nor do Brussels sprouts. Little bits of chicken might get me a single woof, but I might as well get no woofs as only one.

No, in order to get above one woof, there has to be some bread involved, and I've learned that it has to be toasted so that the nutty smell can capture her imagination while I make coffee. Plain toast is almost always a two-woof treat, unless I get to be predictable about it, then only one. I really have to be inventive to get beyond two woofs.
Willow and Jam, waiting for the treat

So this morning I took some whole grain bread with pumpkin seeds on the crust, toasted it to almost burnt, then covered it with a layer of mascarpone cheese, so that the cheese melted quickly and the knife made a nice crunchy sound.

And like usual I ate most of it.
Willow bows her head when she sees that I'm eating the toast

That's right: woof, woof, woof... woof

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Play, Nap and Repeat

By Fred
Corky and Jam napped together and got into such a complicated pile that, because of my inadequate photography skills and Corky's dark coat, I needed to caption. I'm sure this couldn't have been comfortable for either of them, but they continued to nap this way for quite a while.
A picture of Jam sleeping, using Corky's
head as a pillow.

Last night Corky had a fun puppy kindergarten class at Cathy Saunders' place and with our friend John Bauer running the class and doing an excellent job. At the end we gathered all the puppies together on a screened porch and let them loose to play with each other.

I had been feeling pitiful all day, suffering with allergies and the general insult of old age, and for a few seconds there, with the puppies running and playing, I was back in grade school, running on the playground and having real fun. Wish that feeling would last a little longer...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

First Week of School

Corky, our Southeastern guide dog puppy in training, had a slow first week of school.  He will be five months old this Monday, but even so, we wanted to take it slow with him at school and not rush things.  He is a sensitive soul.

On the way into work we pass by a fountain.  As we got near, the splashing of the fountain got louder and louder.  Corky stopped. He looked around.

"It's ok." I said and tried a "Let's go." But Corky was still analyzing the situation.  I waited with him. Finally he looked up at me.  "Ok?"

"Let's go." We started off towards the library.

Corky meets Head Student Library Proctor Gabby, who shows him his big bone toy.
I decided that the first couple of weeks Corky would spend in the library only, getting used to the office, the library and students in general.  Then we would slowly work up to some open halls, a classroom and after than maybe some crowded halls and a convocation.  

He's a real friendly fellow. Greetings aren't a problem for him.  But sounds are distracting, so I want him to be comfortable in his new environment before moving to the next level of sound.  The library is very quiet, but certain hallways can be noisy.  And certain times of day are noisier than others.  

Assistant Head Layla tried to take the bone away from him.
Needless to say, he won't be venturing into the cafeteria any time soon for lunch!

He got very good at sleeping under my desk.  Excellent work Corky!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Corky's First Bath

There are some big events in a boy's life.  Events when you just need to man up and get clean. One of those events is going to school.  Corky will be going to school tomorrow and he needs to be smelling nice for the ladies.  That means, he needs a bath.

Fred takes Corky outside and starts lathering him up.
Corky was a real trooper.  
Fred is running the hose down Corky's back.  Corky's head hangs down.
He got a bath like a real outdoorsman.  
Corky looks in despair for some help, but doesn't see any.
No yelling or screaming or whining.  Just standing firm and getting wet.  Good boy.

After the bath, the toweling process begins.
Then the toweling.  Oddly, there were no puppy crazies here either.
Corky is toweled vigorously with a brightly colored towel and he looks off to the side for help.
He was very calm and cool.  
Close-up of a smushed face Corky wrapped in a brightly colored towel.
A little tired and subdued perhaps, but calm.

Tired of the toweling, Corky just closes his eyes.
All in all, a good bath time was had.  And a clean smelling Corky is now in the house!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Home Depot and Clowns

Corky had a Southeastern Guide Dogs Puppy Raiser meeting this morning at Home Depot. Home Depot was having a safety expo for kids, which was a great exposure for dogs as it had lots of things going on.

Close-up shot of Corky
 Now, Corky is still a little guy, so we stayed mostly in our area and just let Corky do a little meet and greet.  But he did get to hear the sirens of the fire engines because they were right next to us.

Roger specifically wanted a shot of him helping with the orange table cloth.
He did an excellent job folding!
 We had two pop up tents, so we had plenty of space in which to retreat from...

The Clown Krewe was opposite of our tent.  I am scared of clowns.  Yuck. 
Clowns!  Well, I don't care what sort of exposures Corky needed, he wasn't getting a clown exposure!  Not with me by his side.  I don't care what you say, they are creepy and I'm not putting a dog through that.
Leo, looking handsome.  Leo is a chocolate lab.
Jalika didn't have a fear of clowns and neither did Leo.  He handled his clown exposure with ease.

Bingo was so sweet.  She is a black labrador.
Bingo and Leo are the same age.  They are both 6 months old and seemed to be real favorites with people.

Nancy, a puppy raiser, has Cleo, a yellow lab.
Nancy was nice enough to offer to drive up to Palm Harbor, so Corky and I carpooled with her and Christy.

Sylvia and Denny are in our group and are puppy sitters for us.  Denny is a remarkably sweet former guide dog candidate who didn't make it.

Sylvia with Denny.  Denny is very white around the face.

Close-up of sweet Denny.  He will greet any dog with good humor.

 There was a pygmy goat wandering around on a leash and they always have issues.  They would rather be regular goats.  So, we made sure to keep our distance.  Same went for the chicken and the horse.

Keep it light, keep it small, keep it clown-free.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A True Music Lover

By Fred
One thing I've come to accept is that dogs don't care for my piano playing. For years and years our dogs have consistently snubbed me, usually by leaving the room at the first note. A few would literally boo me and howl before they walked out. Even our good-natured guide dog puppies have run politely into the kitchen to escape.

Then Jam came along. As a little puppy he sat patiently while I played and would gaze up at me as if to say I really love that. But the fact is that Jam hates to be alone. He hates it so much that he will put up with anything. The look he gives me probably translates to this: Can we please, please leave now?

Now we have Corky, who runs over when I play and seems to enjoy it. He's a sweet boy and is probably just being kind. We'll be getting his ears checked for sure.
A picture of Jam and Corky sitting under the piano.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Crossing the Koi Bridge

We have a lovely wooden bridge that Fred built that goes over our koi pond.  Last week Corky, a Southeastern Guide Dog in Training, learned how to walk over it without falling in.

Fred and Corky ease up to the bridge.

Fred explains the bridge walking concept to Corky.

Corky shows a little anxiety by yawning.

There was a moment of hesitation on Corky's part, so Jam showed him what to do.

Fred waited until Corky felt comfortable. and then when he did, boy did he let loose!

They start over the bridge.

Smooth sailing up to the hump.

Corky stops to smell something.

 All in all it was a successful backyard exposure.  We did the bridge the opposite way and there was no hesitation.  Just a smooth walk on and over.  Now he crosses it with a leash easily.  When they are this little, as puppy raisers, we are supposed to find the little things to show them and build their confidence.  This bridge was something easy for him to do.  Now when we do a big bridge over a river or a wooden walkway by the pier, he will already have experienced something similar and can think back and say, "I've got this."

Go Corky!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Corky Snuggles Up

By Fred
At a dinner party this weekend I tried to explain to our friends why it is fun to have a small puppy in the house, in particular to have one puppy after another for the past six years. I could tell they weren't buying it. I didn't even believe the crap coming out of my mouth. After all, an adult dog is so much easier to manage. So what is it about a puppy?
Waiting for breakfast

First, Corky is not your average puppy. After just 10 days here he seems completely comfortable: he knows the mealtime routine, he naps at just the right times, he plays with the right toys, and he poops in the right places.
Kissing up

And he knows just how to handle Jam and Willow. He loves to snuggle up.
More Kissing up

And yesterday I found him snuggled with Willow (unheard of). He knows not to torment her.
Corky resting his head on Willow's butt

But he does require some extra attention. He sometimes wakes Cheryl up in the middle of the night, and he interrupts my work occasionally. So what is it about a puppy? I have no idea--they're just fun.
Another nap, with Corky's nose as the pillow

But we haven't forgotten Dewey. We have his postcard in the kitchen, and we wish him well. (No pressure, Dewey.)
A postcard of Dewey wearing a Lei.
To the side it says "Greetings from Florida" 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bringing Corky Home

Yesterday we picked up puppy Corky.  He is named in honor of Corky Taylor, Vice President at BB&T Insurance Services by the BB&T Insurances Services Walkathon team in appreciation for his long standing support for Southeastern Guide Dogs.  Already Corky, the puppy, has shown himself to be a self confident, friendly, and sweet natured puppy.  I'm sure Corky, the human, shares many of those same qualities!

Tara at Southeastern was very kind to let us do our pickup on Friday afternoon, which we so appreciated!  We wanted to have the long weekend to get over some of the sleepless nights associated with a new puppy, but thankfully, that puppy program is amazing and Corky slept through the night (almost).  He slept from 9:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.!

Cheryl and Corky say hello with a kiss.
Tara said his report card said Corky was a confident pup and sweet natured.  We are finding that to be true.  He also seems to possess much more common sense than our career changed dog Jam does!  Already today I think Corky has rolled his eyes at Jam more than once as if to say, "Really?"

Corky settles into Fred's arms in contentment.
Corky and Fred got along great from the get go.  Could that be because Corky's dog dad is named Fred as well?  Who's to say?!

Corky gives Fred a big smooch.

Fred is in love! (Fred smiling at Corky)

Cheryl leans in to kiss Corky who is in Fred's arms.
Corky was very calm through all the meet and greet.  We even had a couple of dear friends with us to photograph the moment: Michele, my teacher friend, and her son Kelland.  They have been there for all of our puppy pickups either in coordinating them, sponsoring them or being there when we got them.  So, even though they moved to another school this year, it was only fitting that they met us to get a glimpse of Corky!

Corky and Kelland.

Michele and Kelland and Corky

Michele and Kelland and Corky
Corky did get a little frisky with the camera and I got a nose shot.  It was kinda cute.

As I mentioned, the puppy program is fabulous.  Corky already knows sit, is working on stand and has a basic understanding of down.  He sat for the car.

Corky walks up to the car.

Fred asking Corky to sit.

Corky sits.
Corky only tried to jump up twice.  Then he settled right down and played with the toys we brought for him.  He loves the set of keys. He must be a car guy! We'll have to ask his sponsor about that! haha!

He got along great with Duke.
We stopped off at Melisa's to pick up Jam and he met Duke and got Duke and Melisa approval.

Corky's first portrait.  He has a lovely smile.
He's a go getter. He's tail never stops wagging.  He's curious and friendly.  We just love him and can't wait to tell you more about him!
Jam's first Corky photo bomb.