Friday, November 20, 2015

I Am Thankful

Post Puppy Depression

For six years, I have driven to school with a puppy curled in the wheel well of my passenger side of the car every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

For just about every day, I have had a puppy there and on the way to work I glance down and there is my companion and I have my conversation and we talk about the day and what we are going to do.  Sometimes I tell him what we aren't going to do. 8-)

Sometimes, I tell him to stop trying to drink my coffee.

That happened a lot.

With Corky.

I digress.

Now, out of the corner of my eye I think I see something and I quickly look.

But there is no puppy. I'm alone.

Sometimes, when NPR is especially interesting I'll comment, but none quirks their head.

I sigh.

And my office is replete with puppy paraphernalia and I sit alone with the puppy toys.  Periodically, I use my toe to move a  nylabone out of the way of my rolling chair, but there is no puppy to gnaw on the bone. 

Visitors at the Door

Yesterday, as I was feeling particularly down, I heard a commotion at my office door.  I looked up and there stood Mrs. Hillmer, the lower division art teacher, with two lower division boys.  She motioned to one small, blonde boy to walk over to me.

"Hi," I said and smiled at everyone. The boy held out a card to me. I looked up at Mrs. Hillmer.  She just smiled back at me.  I took the card.  I read it.  I started to tear up.  

There's a reason I am thankful for working where I do.  Situations like this happen all the time and your empty bucket gets filled up by children who never know you needed it.  Matthew made the next few weeks bearable. I'm thankful for Matthew and Mrs. Hillmer and all the people I work with who continually fill up my bucket and never even know they are doing it.

And in January, I will have a little puppy in the house. And all will be right with the world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Burger 21: Friendly to Service Dogs

On Monday I met a friend in the Burger 21 on Linebaugh to discuss a class we would both be teaching.  I was a bit nervous about it.  

I have brought dogs before to Burger 21 and not had a problem, but this time they were really exceptionally pleasant.  We sat in the corner at the back away from everyone.  Eventually, the place filled up and people sat next to us (a mom and her two daughters), but at the beginning, we had the place mostly to ourselves.

The one guy at the counter brought over a bowl of ice water for Corky and I didn't have the heart to tell him that he can't drink in coat.  We just moved it out of the way.  Corky tried to tip it over almost immediately.  

Which led to us using tons of napkins to sop up the water on the floor.  Which Corky then tried to eat.  

All of the wait staff who helped us were friendly and helpful and very cognizant and sweet to Corky.  Even the customers were amazing.  I have never been to a restaurant where all of the moms knew to ask if Corky could be petted first.  

I was at the counter with Corky waiting with one mom who said, "I can't believe my daughter hasn't run over here yet.  She loves dogs." She glanced at their booth and sure enough a small little girl was sliding down and running toward us.  The mom almost yelled at her as she came up to Corky,
"Honey, you have to ask if you can pet him!"

She looked at me.

I shook my head.  "I'm sorry.  He's working.  He can't be petted right now."  

The mom took her daughter's hand.  "See honey, he's working.  He's doing a job."

Dang, these Burger 21 people were on it!

I got back to the booth and my friend and I worked some more.  Then the small family of three moved into the booth next to us.  The two girls sat along the wall and the mom was in the far chair. They made sure to slide in from the far side so as not to bother Corky.

Corky, lying against the booth, is in good position to whack his tail
against the small girl's feet as she is sitting in the booth next to us.

Corky looked up and saw the girls.  He wagged his tail.  It thumped against the older girls feet and ankles.  She smiled and bit into her hamburger.  She knew a good thing when she had it hitting her in the shin.

When we had finished lunch, I thanked the girls next to us for being so nice and letting Corky smack them with his tail.  I told them that he really needed to get his wagger under control.

I highly recommend a stop in Burger 21. Not only for the food, but for the service and the people.  They are uniformly nice and pleasant.  It was a great lunch.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I Want to Be Corky's Favorite

Today was a busy day for us in the library.  We had so much to do getting ready for the librarians conference for next week.  Even so, life at school went on as usual and some of the 8th graders brought some rising 6th graders by the library for a tour today.

Two of them brought a group of ten by my office and asked if Corky was in. I said he was and they asked if the 5th graders could see him. Corky happened to have his coat off, so when I took him out of my office and into the main library there was a general sucking in of breaths and a breathing out of "He doesn't have his coat on!!"

"Can we pet him?"

"Yes, you may, but give him some room."

They spread out into a semi-circle and started to pet Corky, who stood calmly wagging his tail. One of the girls dropped down to the ground and Corky, sensing a licking opportunity, turned her way and started to lick her face.

"Ah, I see you are Corky's favorite," I said without actually taking in the meaning of my words.  Immediately, all the 5th graders fell to ground as if they had dropsy.  The boy to my right said in a loud voice, "I want to be Corky's favorite!"

"Oh, my."  I thought.  "I hope this turns out ok."

Corky happily obliged, going down the line and licking everyone in the face.  They all laughed.  I told them all that Corky loved them best. 

Corky, doing what he does best, giving a kiss to someone, in this case, our librarian Christina.

Corky was the big winner.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Advisory Chooses Southeastern Guide Dogs

I do have the best advisory there is.  I always do.  And for the past three years, I have had a wonderful group of very talented and funny girls and boys.  They are all juniors now and will be heading into their senior year next year, which makes me a little sad.

We had a spirit day today and all the advisories were supposed to pick a theme and dress up in costume.  Our kids decided to dress like Southeastern Guide Dogs.  Julia told them all "to wear black pants so they would look like Corky."

The Southeastern Guide Dogs (Girls only) with Corky and two Puppy Raisers (Me and Mrs. Fletcher).
Now you might notice in the photo above that there are just girls.  The girls got to wear the glitter letters and Caroline made headbands with felt dog ears on them for them, assuming the the boys wouldn't wear them.  This was confirmed this morning when Wade said, "Yeah, I'm not wearing that" and it was echoed by three other of the boys.

Good call Caroline! Julia brought nose paint, but not everyone was into that.
Just the girls who did nose paint, Caroline, Julia and Kimberly.  They rock!
Caroline made the ears and Julia made the shirts. Kimberly got it all to school on time.
 So, we took a photo of just the three who went whole dog, so to speak! 8-)

The whole advisory group. Everyone participated!  Such a nice group.
Here's the whole group.  I think they all rock.  They all participated and were great.  They are a very sweet group and Mrs. Fletcher and I have a lot of fun with them.

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Bag of Poo and a Bad Decision

A Time to Poo

I had to get some dinner.  My idea was to go to Whole Foods and pick up something from the buffet.  My only hesitation was Corky.

Corky is relaxing in the wheelwell on the drive home.
Corky generally doesn't poo at school.  He saves it for 5 pm at home.  It was nearing 5 pm and we were not at home.  We were pulling up to Whole Foods.

It was the Pooing Hour.

Corky and I got out of the car and I walked him over to a grassy median where I tried to get him to busy.  He wandered around sniffing.  He finally peed halfheartedly and sniffed a bit more.  I knew there was more in there. I stood my ground.

Corky turned in a half circle and then back again.  Aha! Got him. He did a half squat and then shift and started to poo.  Success! I was so stoked.  I got out my poo bags. They were electric yellow and could be seen from the moon.

"Good boy, Corky!" Corky wagged his tail.  He looked at the yellow bag and looked away.  It may have hurt his eyes.  They were bright.  I tied the bag into a knot to prevent any stink from escaping and began to walk toward Whole Foods to throw it away in one of their trash cans.

Now, here is where it gets a bit tricky.  As you approach Whole Foods, there is an eating area off to the right.  I certainly didn't want to walk up to that area and wave my big bag of poo around with diners: "Hey! Got some poo here! Look!  Does this make you want to eat your food?!"

Fortunately, I had parked to the left and my approach was away from the diners.  I was hiding the bright yellow bag (haha, as if you could hide that bag) by my side.  I started to look for trash cans.

Nothing. Not one trash can.

Really, Whole Foods? No trash cans?
A shot of a Whole Foods shopping bag.

I'm standing by a planter with a big bright yellow bag of poo.  What now?  Take it into the store? Certainly not! I can't even take it close to the door.  IT'S POO! LOTS OF POO.

What store doesn't have trash cans?

OK.  I set my bag of dog poo down on the ground and say to anyone listening, "I will be back for this bag of poo," and I walk away.

I leave the yellow bag of poo and Corky and I walk into the store.  I did turn to look and it glowed back at me accusingly. POO, POO.

There was nothing to be done.

A Bad Decision

And that wasn't my bad decision.  My bad decision was settling for a basket and not a cart.  I thought the basket would be easier to maneuver.

I walked Corky into the buffet area and got a wet wipe out of his coat and wiped my hands off. I didn't want to touch anything without cleaning my hands.  That done, I went over to the plates.

I grabbed two plates and pulled them apart.  I dropped them into the basket.  I didn't notice that the plates didn't sit flat.  I grabbed two tops and spent three minutes trying to get them apart while Corky tried to sniff at them and at the basket.

Then we walked over to the buffet area.  Corky was very good.  He didn't lunge or jerk around.  He was very calm and sweet.  I quickly realized that when I filled a plate that it wouldn't sit flat in the basket.

Really, Whole Foods? What good are your baskets?

So now I am staring at Corky, my useless basket, my filled plate and my unfilled plate.  How will I fill the unfilled plate and how will I get both plates to the checkout counter?

Close-up of Corky looking sweet.
Finally, I got Corky to stay and put the basket in an out of the way spot and put the filled plate in an out of the way spot and filled up my second plate.  Then I stacked the two plates on top of each other and Corky and I ran very fast to the checkout area.

Not an elegant solution, but it worked.

Everything was put in a paper bag and now I had a handle.  I left and picked up my yellow bag of poo  (which was still there!!) on the way out, which I carried home to throw away in my trash can.  

Corky 1
Poo 1
Cheryl 1
Whole Foods -3

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bathrooms and Waitresses

Cheesecake Factory

Some days are just good days.  You have a lunch date with a friend you haven't seen in a long time, at a restaurant you really like.

Cheesecake Factory usually puts us in a booth when I bring a service dog, but this time they put us at a four-top table in the center.  They explained that they didn't want us at a two top because there wouldn't be enough room for the dog.  I thought that was nice.  When we got to the table, our hostess offered to take a chair away, but I told her we were fine.  

Corky doesn't have the best settle, but he does ok.  True to form, he stood like a horse in a stall under the table. Sigh.  He's also not a puppy that takes kindly to you pressuring him to sit down.  He's either going to do it in his own time, or not.  There's just no way around it.  

He decided Michele's feet looked comfy and sat on them.

Our adorable waitress came up and nearly stepped on Corky and then nearly fell all over herself apologizing.  Turns our she has a golden and is a huge dog lover.  She was delightful.  She showed us photos of her puppy.  Very sweet.

Corky was very good under the table.  There were a few moments when he got up and wanted to stand and test out the standing, but he finally settled and fell asleep.


After our nice lunch, we stopped by the bathrooms, which were all full.  The  first one to open was a regular stall, so Corky and I made our way in.  The stall was stall number one against the wall, so we only had one neighbor on our right side.

I had to scrunch us in and then turn Corky around so that he was facing the right hand side and I could close the stall door.  I hooked his leash up on the door with my purse.  

Corky poked a nose under the stall to the right.

"Oh!" Came the response from the woman in the stall to the right.  I could see her lovely shoes.


I see a nicely manicured hand scratch Corky's chin. 

Corky sticks his whole head under the stall.

"No peeking! No Peeking!" The lady said in a laughing voice.  I pulled Corky back.  Thankfully, we were ready to go. 

If I timed it right, I could wash my hands and be out of there without meeting the person my guide dog puppy had seen in a delicate position!

I timed it right.  Thank God for automatic faucets!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Corky Helps a Friend

A friend of mine at school will be going to meet a career changed Southeastern guide dog on Thursday afternoon.  They have been waiting a long time to get their forever dog and are extremely excited about it. (All the photos here were taken by Christina Arcuri, many, many thanks!)

Everyone arrives to greet Corky

Since their last dog was a Jack Russell, I offered to have their boys come over and meet Corky so that they could really get to know a big lab before meeting their dog on Thursday.  That way, they could practice petting a big dog, how to interact in a calm way, and ask questions.

The two boys are a bit tentative about petting Corky.

Corky is a really good test big dog because he is so friendly and has such a waggy tail.  Everyone likes him right away and he likes everyone back.

Mom watches as I talk about Corky and how old he is.

I had Corky do a down stay because he is a big lab (74 pounds, their dog they will meet tomorrow is only 55 pounds) and they are still pretty small.

The boys are sitting by Corky and asking questions. Corky is lying down.

I also had them pet Corky on the body.  I had told their mom to try and avoid having them pet their dog on the head as that can lead to jumping and mouthing.  

The boys are both petting Corky.

We also talked about having very calm voices and moving slowly, not running around and getting the puppy excited. I loved their questions.  The first one was about stuffed animals.  Was she going to like stuffed animals.  "Yes, she was," I said.  "So it is important that you keep your toys in a safe place out of her way. If she does get one of your stuffed animals, just go and get one of her toys and trade her so that she knows which toy is her toy."  

I told him it was probably going to be a good idea to keep his socks off the floor and his bedroom door shut too!

Mom and son are listening as I explain about stuffed animals.

We decided his younger brother had the stinkiest socks and had the most to worry about.

Mission accomplished: a happy boy with Corky.

Mission accomplished: Another comfortable boy with a big dog.

All in all, I think they ended up being very comfortable with Corky and will have a very successful visit with their (hopefully!!) new forever dog tomorrow!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dewey News! Cautiously Optimistic

Dewey Gets Matched

We got the call last week.  Dewey had been matched with someone in this month's class of graduates currently down at Southeastern Guide Dogs.  We knew it was a possibility, but we thought it was another class or two away.

He had been chosen to do blind fold walks at the last open house. He had also been chosen to do the AC conference and lead one of the ACs around for her blindfold morning.  So. we knew he was getting close.

But we were really surprised to hear that he had actually been matched.  I think after having Coach be matched and then unmatched we are cautiously optimistic.  Every dog is different.  

Dewey is very calm.  He has a nice settle.  And as indicated by this photo from Friday, he can sleep through a noisy food court with no problem. He was the ultimate napper.

Dewey napping in a food court while out during class.

We will be attending Puppy Raiser Day on March 7th.  We are excited, but trying to be calm.  Like Dewey.  Hopefully, we will have some fun photos to show you all.

Keep your fingers crossed.

And perhaps your toes too.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bring to Me Your Sorrows

Today was a revelatory day.

It started very ordinary.  I brought in a peanut butter pie for a co-worker. I talked with students and worked on administrivia.  When all at once I thought that Corky and I should go for a walk about.  

I loaded up with treats, because my boy doesn't work if there isn't a treat involved.  We started out with some stair work and went up two flights and down some hallways.  He was very good.  When the treats are around, there is no one better.

We started down the stairs and out into the open air.  Corky was ignoring the acorns and focusing on me.  He was so awesome.  We were headed  towards the vending the machines and I saw there were some middle division girls there getting some food.  One girl in particular had spotted us and her whole expression brightened and she began to step toward us.

But then, she realized that Corky had his coat on and she dropped her head and turned back to the vending machines.

I started to walk on by.

But there was something that made me stop. 

I looked at her.  I crooked my finger.  She ran over to me.

"I was wondering if you could help me with something," I asked. 

She was looking at Corky. I continued, "Corky is having a problem jumping up, so I was wondering if I get him to lay down, if you would pet him for me.  Can you do that?"

She nearly jumped straight up. "Oh, Yes!"

"Great!" I unhooked Corky's coat and with the treat I got him to down.  Then she begin to gently pet his neck and head.  Corky was in heaven.  

"I miss my dog," she said.

"Where is your dog?" She didn't answer.  She continued to pet Corky and her eyes filled with tears.

"Oh. Did he pass away?" She nodded.  "I'm so sorry." 

She continued to pet Corky and I gave her a treat to give him. 

"Corky is a really sweet boy, isn't he?" She nodded.

Close-up of Corky's sweet face.
We left soon after, but I think we took a bit of her sorrow with us and left a bit of Corky's sweetness in its place.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Corky at School: Library Duties and All School Convos

Library Dog

Corky has been having a great time at Berkeley.  He is learning all about the library and what he needs to do to be a good library dog.  We recently had a big promotion for Valentine's day called Blind Date with a Book where all of our outstanding books were covered in paper and you had to check them out without knowing what book you were getting.  It only indicated the genre (it was wildly successful!).  Corky was very instrumental in this promotion by not eating the paper hearts off the circulation counter and not knocking the books off the display counter.

Mrs. Fletcher, Mrs. McLean and Corky standing in front of the very colorful Blind Date with a Book display area in the Jean Ann Cone Library at Berkeley.

All School Convo Dog

We also had an all school convo to welcome us back to school in January.  Corky attended and did very well.  We tried a seat near the top so the sound wouldn't be too loud for him.

Mrs. McLean and Corky sitting in the stands near the top of the bleachers.
The all school convo is a bit of an extravaganza.  And we are all crammed in together in the bleachers.  My thought was, sit up high so that the noise wouldn't be so loud.

Good idea, right?


Corky doesn't have a good settle.  He likes to wander and walk and ponder the world.  He is a curious dog and where Dewey would be bored in 30 seconds and fall asleep, Corky is fascinated by life.

"What was that sound? Did someone move their arm? Is that a bagpipe I hear?"

So there was no settling for Corky.  There was lots of moving back and forth.  There was periodic settling and some poking of Dr. Leonardo in the back, which he kindly said wasn't a problem.  (Thankfully, Corky also gave him lots of loving.  So, I suppose that made up for it.  Corky really seems to love Dr. Leonardo.)

In the end, he did finally finally settle down.  

Close up of Corky's face.

But seconds after he did, we were dismissed.  Sigh.  Isn't that the way it goes?  A small victory is still a victory.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Southeastern's Open House and How Corky Schmoozes

For our meeting this month we went to the open house for Southeastern Guide Dogs and talked with visitors to let them know more about the puppy raiser program.  

Two of Southeastern's employees at the welcome area.
The open house is always a fun event to go to because all of the areas are open to see: the kennels, the dorms, the vet center.  So the places that are really interesting and usually off limits are open to the public for tours and an explanation.

A cheerful young lady mans the volunteer opportunities table.
 Nancy with her yellow goldadore Cloe and Fred and I with Corky set up shop near where some of the visitors were and we managed to have several really nice conversations.

Fred talking with this really nice couple.  The man and woman had two dogs and lots of
experience with labs. They really liked Corky.
 Funny thing about these types of gatherings.  You wouldn't think that talking would tire you out, but it can be very demanding.

Puppy raiser Woody with his black lab sitting on a bench taking a break from the schmoozing.
 It is a challenge to be up and informative and cheerful all at the same time. But it's an important cause and the dogs do incredible work.

The boy's grandma wanted his photo with Corky and Cleo.  I also took some shots.  Here he is with Corky.
 While we were walking around we were asked to be in photos.  Well, not really.  Corky and Cleo were asked to be in photos.  No one really cared about us.  Corky did really well with his meet and greet.

Here he is with Corky on the right and Cleo on the left.  
 The dogs were a big hit with volunteers working the open house as well.

Cleo is giving a kiss to the ladies working the crosswalk.
Southeastern has been growing and has some new buildings and gardens.  It is an amazing place.  To our surprise there was someone there we didn't know was going to be there: Dewey!  Our friend Katie took a blindfold walk with him and sent us this photo! Go Dewey!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What It Means to Sponsor a Puppy

Southeastern Guide Dogs' primary mission is to provide dog who blaze a trail of freedom for their visually impaired partners. A secondary and lesser know mission is the one the dogs have embedded in their brains: their name. For each dog is named for someone special and he or she carries the hopes and dreams of that person's legacy with them. 


The naming process is a very special process.  A person or a family or group will come together and make a decision to honor someone.  At Berkeley, we decided to honor our retiring headmaster, Joseph A. Merluzzi: JAM.

Joseph A. Merluzzi holding puppy Jam upside down in his arms.

One year, we had one particular student, Austin Iglehart, who raised all the money himself and wanted to recognize and honor his football coach for being such a role model and mentor.  That was Coach. Our sponsor was shy.

Austin Iglehart with Coach on the football field.

And sometimes the honoree touches everyone's heart.  

Christie Bassett

This January, 16 year old Christie Bassett lost her life in a  tragic automobile accident.  In addition to being a competitive swimmer, she was a vivacious young lady with a zest for life and a love for dogs.

Christie with her Uncle Chris's career changed guide dog Johnny.
Christie is a little girl in this photo.
And I know that while you all may be thinking that this is very sad, but I don't know why this matters to the McLeans and why it should matter you.

Christie with Wally, Chip and Chris's current guide dog in training.
Wally is asleep on her lap. Christie is smiling.
When Jam went in for training, he had a problem: he had bad separation anxiety.  Perhaps you have seen the Jam Cam or remember the posts about all the problems we have been working with him on about separation anxiety.  Well, at some point, Southeastern felt that for Jam's mental health that he needed a break and he needed to go to someone who would help him not only with his anxiety but would help him complete his training and allow him to come back, eventually.

They sent him to Chip and Chris.

Chris with Jam.
Chip and Chris got him through.  Chris is Christie's Uncle.  Chris has also been volunteering with Southeastern since 1997. Both he and Chip have been our friends since we got Jam back.  

Sponsorships are a way to let that loved one live on in memory.  We were thrilled that we had an opportunity to be a part of helping to name a puppy after such a sweet girl. Our hope is that you feel that same way.  Will you be a part of helping her name to live on in the spirit of a lab, golden or goldadore puppy?  Just click on Walkathon and go to our walkathon page to make a donation.

Any donation is acceptable!  However, if your donation is $50 or over, I will personally handknit you a scarf like the one Jam is wearing.  Just tell me your favorite color.

Here's a video of Christie.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All Dogs Are Black at Night

Last night was a late night for me.  Fred had worked out in the yard and was very tired.  He went up to bed early.  So, left to my own devices, I meandered along on the internet and became trapped in that sinkhole of time known to many as Pinterest.

I took a detour into the cul de sac of doom: Etsy.  When, with bleary eyes, I looked up, it was midnight and Fred had thoughtfully left me with all the dogs.

We trudged with heavy feet up the stairs.  There was one light on in the bathroom.  The dogs fled into the darkness of the bedroom.  I began to put on my pyjamas, brush my teeth, take my pills.

Turn out the lights.  Sweet darkness.  One more holiday day and then work beckons.

I round the corner to my side of the bed and my feet make contact with a dog.  A soft fluffy one.

"Ah, Corky.  You are so sweet for waiting outside your kennel." I said to him.  I patted his head and did a small tug on his collar.  He walked right into the crate.  I pulled it down behind him.

I got into bed.  Closed my eyes.

Snoring.  Such snoring.  Fred was sawing away!  And then, just underneath the snoring, I heard a little peep.

Wheep, wheep.

SNORE. SNORE. wheep.

What was that whistling?  I elbowed Fred, but he didn't move.


It got a little louder.


Was it Corky?  Did he need to go out?  Fred rolled over and the snoring stopped.


It WAS Corky.  I turned on my light.

Jam stared back at me.  Jam was in Corky's crate. In the darkness, all dogs are black and I had grabbed Jam and pushed him into Corky's crate and shut it behind him.  He was staring out at me. 

"Why? Why?" His expression asked.

I jumped up and let him out.  Corky came out from around the corner. He was so happy to be free.  I grabbed him and put him in the crate.

Order was restored.
Close up photo of Jam, our yellow lab, looking handsome.