Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pretty In Pink

Imagine my surprise in being greeted at the door by LW in a bright pink collar! After the initial shock, Trish asked with a smile “doesn’t she look pretty in pink?” So much for my image of the grand, majestic Labrador Retriever! Somehow, I just couldn’t picture this regal, steadfast and mighty friend of man ready to trudge through fields and forests in search of the next rugged outdoor adventure, while wearing a pink day glow accessory actually visible from space! But admittedly, it does rather suit her personality.

Why the story about the collar? Well, at initial placement with their foster family, puppies are wearing The Seeing Eye (TSE) version of a "baby bracelet:" a small, plastic band bearing the pup’s name and identification number, where a collar would normally go . This is similar to those found on the wrists of human babies in hospital nurseries (and, frankly, every bit as cute and symbolic).

While some families choose to remove this collar upon arrival; we always wait until it has nearly been outgrown. This “changing of the collar” is a melancholy moment, bringing with it the reality that our little one has begun the first of many steps toward growing up (a fact we could largely deny until this very moment). And of course as time passes, this new item will be traded for her first adult dog collar, followed by a training collar, and before you know it a full-fledged working harness as she graduates “TSE College.” But let's not think about that just now. They grow up very fast, and precious few are the days this little girl can be “pretty in pink.”

Friday, August 24, 2007

Woof and Win!

Today I’m off to visit Dad, and I can't wait to get there! After a few pats from my favorite bipedal friends at the front door, it’s time to locate Dad; so I head for the studio where he’s on air, playing radio!

As I look at all these flashy lights, computer gear and knobs, I wonder what it would be like if dogs were DJs. What a different world it would be! The songs I'd play! The fun I'd have! The throngs of Chocolate Labs out there mobbing me at the dog park, and oh, the hours they would spend listening to the radio and hanging on my every bark!

As I sit here on Dad’s comfy lap, next stop: the golden gates of slumber land….zzzzzzz!

Wait something’s different! There are furry paws on the control board –HEY THOSE ARE MINE! --and the microphone is in front of ME!!! Time to swing into action:

"…welcome to the dog days of summer swingin' cats and canines, break out the chew toys and let’s get scratching…..there’s one by Snoop Doggie Dog, and Elvis was in there, too, with Hound Dog! Just before we return with Three Dog Night, let’s hit the backyard for a quick leg lift. Here’s a message from Milk Bone...clean teeth and no puppy breath. Milk Bones rock! …and for those of you who just couldn’t wait…a word from our friends at Stanley Steamer…"

Just as I was preparing for my next big break ... "L.W. here ….listen for your chance to woof and win coming up!”

Uh oh! I think I just woke myself up snoring. …..Oh well. It was a howling good time, while it lasted. What a dream! ....or was it? Wait…is that hunky German shepherd waiting by the front door for my autograph? .....Hmmmmmm.

Wags, Wiggles and Licks!

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Hey Nicole! Only 82 minutes?!
wags and licks, LW

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Family Day - August 18, 2007

Each year, there is a gathering where volunteer puppy raisers near and far converge on the sprawling, manicured campus of “puppy central” (aka “The Seeing Eye” headquarters in Morristown) to celebrate a common bond: the experiences of puppy raising.

While at this event, it dawned on me that becoming a new grandparent in the past year seems to have influenced me in ways which I hadn’t fully realized, as I found many of the conversations eerily similar to those you would have when discussing grandchildren. Asking someone, in passing, about their puppy risks a wallet being whipped out at lighting speed, followed by a rapidly unfurling, fanfold array of plastic protected photos. These then uncoiling like a spring-loaded slinky suddenly set free and headed for the ground, and revealing a “one-cuter-than-the-next” collection of furry little faces and stories to go with them. As I stood there listening politely, I was also thinking (again, like a grandparent) “yeah, but mine’s cuter” and tempted to bring out my own pictures (the puppy raiser/grandparent equivalent of “game on!”)

Of course, realistically, we all think our own puppy,er uh, grandkids are the cutest or smartest or whatever; its our nature. But the truth is, they’re all equally special in their own right and what makes them characteristically unique to us is our own investment of love and pride in them. Throughout the day, there was certainly no shortage of either in evidence.

In addition to pictures and stories, there were shirts with logos of the various clubs connected with The Seeing Eye. Many of these bore lists of names (and sometimes photos) of various labs, goldens and German shepherds prominently displayed. After all, these were graduates at the “Princeton” of a dog’s world; these were the names of dogs (raised by these proud volunteers) who had graduated The Seeing Eye!

In addition to the uncanny grandparent similarities, the day brought lots of fun, fellowship and learning, including chances to exchange tips and stories with other puppy raisers about dogs past and present. As well as opportunities to be better foster families with counsel directly from Professional Seeing Eye trainers.

It is true that every child (or grandchild) isn’t destined for Princeton. Similarly, it is also true that not every dog raised will make the cut as a working Seeing Eye dog. This could be for a myriad of reasons; but what was encouraging to raisers (and especially pleasing to hear during one of their presentations), is that a percentage of those who don’t “make the program” go on to successful careers in K-9 squads, helping law enforcement with various tasks. In fact, over 124 have done so since 1993.

As a grandparent (or parent), how nice would it be one day to sit in an audience and hear how those we have helped to bring up with love, care and patience have gone out into the world to “pay it forward” with others? Seeing Eye puppy raisers get to hear directly from members of the blind community who receive life changing levels of assistance daily through their Seeing Eye dog.

Future beneficiaries of Seeing Eye’s dog guides also include high school and college-bound students. In a video presentation, it was touching to see the student’s faces light up as they realized how going from canes to Seeing Eye Dogs, represented for them a profound increase in the level of independence and dignity.

To me, it is an interesting concept that puppy raisers (through their common interests and experiences) are a sort of family. And, those who raise service animals worldwide are all members of one big extended family. Yes, Family Day 2007 at The Seeing Eye was a wonderful thing; but it left me wondering. Will there ever be a formal association for grandparents? And, a grandparent appreciation day? I still need all the help and advice I can get there, too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Life At My Height

LW again! The past few days have presented ample opportunity for me to explore my new surroundings; I’ve been busy sniffing, licking, chewing and occasionally “watering” many new things. I’ve discovered, curiously, everything is taller than me and its not easy having a low ground clearance! Although, I am growing a little every day and one day I’ll be a full-grown Seeing Eye Dog; being small, for now, certainly has its advantages:
  1. I can win every game of “hide and seek” (who else can fit under the couch?)
  2. I know all the members of the dust bunny community on a first name basis
  3. I actually know where Jimmy Hoffa is (but I’m not telling!)
  4. I'm seconds closer to the food when it hits the floor (who needs a vacuum?)
Let me share with you some things just as I see them.




My squeaky dinosaur (sounds more annoying than a Paris Hilton laugh, but the humans think its cute)

And there’s my water dish…also good for impromptu baths

Well, I feel another naptime coming on (yawn). Thanks for checking in on my progress.
Wags and Licks! LW

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Plan B

It’s always good to have a Plan B! It looks like LW could also have a fallback career in piercing!

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Brian here...I wanted to share some pictures of our last Seeing Eye Puppy, "LJ," who was "LW" size when she first arrived. Below, on her Graduation Day, you can see she is quite a bit bigger! She's now guiding a blind person in the upper midwest.

Another Note From LW

HI! LW here again with a quick note, as I am passing by on my way to explore new rooms today(can’t wait to taste those curtains in the living room! ) Boy, I am learning so much every day! What a fascinating species humans are! They are not like my biological parents at all! These strange creatures walk on two legs, have considerably less body fur, use little silver objects to eat (why wouldn’t you just stick your head in the bowl? That extra step seems so unnecessary.) And nobody drools (unless someone hands dad chocolate)! What’s with that? And, curiously, for all I hear about their superior level of intelligence, they seem to use two words repeatedly “no” and “ow”. I don’t know what those mean yet, so I think I’ll just ignore both for the time being. I can see humans are really going to need my help when I grow up! Well, the new day of exploration awaits! Bye for now…..Love, LW

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The First Nights: A Puppy's Point Of View

Hi. this is LW! I'm really happy to be here in my new foster home in Ocean County! After an exhausting day of travel from The Seeing Eye kennels and meeting all my new friends....my batteries began to wear down at about 11p. I have a brand new crate that features a soft bed with a big, fluffy towel and a stuffed "buddy" to keep me company so I don't get lonely. Now I see why the truckers really like these "cubicle" things on their trucks....kinda like a luxury stateroom! (note to self: ask human they call "Brian" to add cable....must have my Animal Planet to get to sleep!)

From the first night, I'm getting into the habit of sleeping near my caretaker, because that's where I'll be for my human partner if they need my help during the night when I'm a full fledged, adult Seeing Eye dog!

Just to make sure someone was nearby, and for a good puppy chuckle, I whimpered a little during the night to see who would stir. Not a sound! So I tried again. Nothing. This time I'm gonna test my lungs......whooooooooooo!!!! whoooooooo!!!! HEY!!!! WHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! That did it! Up out of bed jumps that Brian guy....(and don't tell him I said this....but that's the scariest case of "bed head" I've ever seen!!! he probably thought I was crying cause I had to go out!)

Anyway, out we go to the backyard. Ever seen "Night of the Living Dead?" --strange, but that's what a human looks like when staggering around the backyard in a sleepy daze at 1:00a, hoping I'll "take care of my business" and be ready to go back to sleep. What he doesn't understand, you see, is that he has it backward; my job is to play in the yard for hours and once safely back inside, deal with the business at hand. I just haven't trained him yet...its play outside, potty inside...why doesn't he get that? Humans! Geez. But, don't worry....we'll practice it lots. .....like we did again at 4:00a. :-)

After breakfast and some time spent playing with Murphy and avoiding Orlando (he's a little grumpy in his old age...and doesn't share my sense of humor when it comes to swinging on his tail), its time for a short nap and a visit to the vet for my initial check-up. That stethoscope is really cold and you don't even want to know what I think about the thermometer!!!! But the good news is that I am in perfect health (and you should have seen that hunky boxer in the waiting room----oh if only I were a bit older!).

Today brings another busy day of exploration and play; though its difficult being apart from my littermates; there is so much to learn and do! I have to get used to all the sights, sounds and smells of the world in which I'll be working as grown up Seeing Eye dog! Now there are all new noises! hair dryers,a big loud vacuum and the radio. Oh, so much to learn and (yawn) it's all so tiring.....I think I'll take a nap and catch up my beauty sleep. More to come....but for now......I'm headed off to find a good place under the dining room chair to snooze.

PS Be good to my dad today.....he might sound a little sleepy on the radio. We'll make a "night person" out of him yet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

LW Is Here!

Although, I have been known to be dangerous with power tools, the past weekend was spent getting ready for the arrival of “LW” our newest Seeing Eye puppy. To keep “LW” off carpeted areas, a homemade, lattice puppy gate was constructed (add Tim Allen sound effects here…..uh oh oh..) and PVC piping was placed around the legs of vintage furniture (hey! you can’t be too careful! Those little teeth will find anything left unguarded!)

After much anticipation, “LW” arrived today weighing in at 8 lbs 6 oz! She is jet black, soft as cotton…and has that “new puppy” smell (how come that’s not one of the scent options at the car wash?)

The first hours were spent getting acquainted with her two older siblings Orlando (also a Black Lab) and Murphy (see: “Great American Shushkey” in the AKC book….ok maybe that’s less than official, but he likes to think he’s a designer dog….so humor him, ok? ) Anyway Murphy, aside from masquerading as a designer dog, is also the world’s best big brother, showing “LW” the ropes and playing with her endlessly. Conversely, Orlando now 11 years of age, spent most of his time avoiding the puppy’s needle sharp teeth (remember about things left unguarded above? You get the picture).

Now the fun begins with work on housebreaking and several simple commands. The staff, at The Seeing Eye, has already begun the training; at eight weeks old, she knows her name, comes when called and is also beginning to learn the “sit” and “down” commands.

Here’s looking forward to a hopefully “whimper-free” night.

More to come—thanks for following along!