Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pure Energy

Energy. It’s the rare commodity that many of us in the modern day lack. With our busy schedules: work, kids, school; soccer, karate, band or football practice, community volunteerism, and a career; for many of us, the energy required to keep up modern day life is in short supply. Every time I look at LW, I’m reminded what my father used to say when I was young and literally “bouncing off the walls” with youthful exuberance: “Gee, if I had your energy, I’d give mine away.” Now, well into my 40’s, I see his point. After having been married, raising two kids and being involved with many of the activities above and working in media from place to place for nearly 30 years; all while balancing all the responsibilities one must shoulder as an adult; I found myself gradually slowing down in recent years. Where has all the energy gone? Is it true there just doesn’t seem to be as much time for everything as there used to be? Furthermore, even if it is, why do I now find it much more tempting to begin a long love affair with the television and couch? I don’t think I’m lazy, just getting older and the pace of modern life is probably a little more noticeable than it used to be.

So, here I sit watching LW fly about the room, grabbing Murph in one instant, while diving into the toy box the next. A closet door opens, and with the deft maneuvering skills of a stealth jet performing a surgical strike on its target, Willow grabs a new sneaker and heads for the nearest exit. Following a 10 minute hot pursuit (which was unsuccessful by the way), I have to laugh as I catch myself thinking “Gee, If I had your energy, I’d give mine away.” Which prompted two other thoughts immediately: 1.) “Oh my God! I’ve become my father!” and 2.) “Wouldn’t it be great if you could bottle up this energy and sell it?” In today’s overworked, energy-starved world, it would sell like hotcakes!

As any puppy raiser will tell you, energy is one thing of which puppies never seem to run out. Science tells us a perpetual motion machine hasn’t (and isn’t likely any time soon) to be invented. Whoever wrote that obviously never raised a puppy. On just a few cups of puppy chow a day, they can grab more sneakers, raid more trash cans, chew on more objects and water much more of everything than you could ever imagine. If we knew the secret to this boundless source of energy, it would be equivalent to discovering the holy grail of youth! While an admirable goal, this of course, is impossible and probably impractical. The next best solution; however, might be to help them dissipate some of this energy, so at least you don’t run out before they do.

Renowned dog trainer Cesar Milan has a theory for controlling this energy. In his book “Cesar’s Way,” he suggests that dog owners can help animals by emulating many of the behaviors and conditions that are guided by their natural instincts. This includes making sure they get plenty of exercise on a daily basis (which is similar to the daily “migration” for food, if they were in the wild). Fortunately, there is a nice park nearby which is quite large and has much to offer, including a walking track that’s a mile with each round. So, three miles a morning can give me a huge advantage in the “great sneaker chase.”

Oddly, since taking LW, (Orlando and Murphy) on this walk everyday, coming home usually results in naptime for them and increased energy for me! Maybe, I’ve found the secret after all! Missing shoe? Bring it on!!

After a long walk; its nap time at the zoo!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The morning begins

As the first light of dawn breaks through the window, and night retreats again into its own sleepy darkness, I lie in bed reveling in the last few moments of quiet. Slowly, I can feel sleep beginning to overtake me again when …..WAIT! What’s that? There it is again! the pitter patter of paws growing louder and louder by the moment. As if on cue, my mind suddenly resonates with the first strains of the “Jaws” theme. Duh nuh…….duh nuh……duhnah dunah, duhan, dunah…. I peer down to my feet and there it is: a solid black tail flipping cheerily through the air, circling as if closing in on its prey (in eerily similar fashion to the dorsal fin of a Great White Shark as it prepares to devour its next meal). As I’m beginning to wrap my mind around the dangers that lay ahead, the stuffed bear (a family memento) which once stood proudly displayed at the end of the bed is gone!! Grabbed by the ear, it is ripped from its resting place and goes under. With lighting speed, the Land Shark has struck!! In moments, the tail resumes its circling and one by one other items begin to disappear: the shoes were next, trash can lids gave way to the relentless attack, yielding their treasure of discarded tissues. At this point, I realized it’s down to me! I must be brave; I’ll face that land shark head on! From…..uh right here under the blanket! Within moments, the land shark is in full view, sparkling brown eyes staring as if deciding which appendage should go first. The rows of razor sharp teeth head directly for my hand. As I am calling for help, Murf comes to the rescue. Like a stealthy dolphin, he circles around to size up the situation and without notice the land shark jumps into the waters again. This time in pursuit of Murf! “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat!”

Sunday, September 23, 2007


During the summer months, the local puppy club suspends their bimonthly meetings. While on this brief hiatus, many members take the opportunity to visit county libraries giving “puppy demos” so others can learn about the program.

Because LW was placed in August, her first meeting was last week. In similar fashion to family day at The Seeing Eye, puppy club meetings offer time to visit with other local puppy raisers to share stories and tips and observe how much each other’s small star boarders have grown (this includes the obligatory comparisons as mentioned in “Family Day” in the blog archive).

In addition, it is also the time “summer puppies” (like LW) make their first meeting appearance. Interestingly, other raisers in the local club sometimes end up with littermates, which are siblings to either your puppy or someone else’s from the club. Such is the case with LW, whose sister LW II was there for a surprise family reunion. After several minutes of watching them together, it struck me at being fortunate that LW was wearing her day glow pink collar instead of the standard issue green, as it would have been difficult to tell them apart. Aside from a slight bit of sibling rivalry, and a brief indication of who was a little higher on the dominance scale (LW II), they appeared to enjoy the reunion and seemed to share common traits and mannerisms.

Pictured in this latest entry are the sisters together……enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Mystery of the Tissue

What is it that lurks deeply under the surface of the common household Kleenex, or for that matter, any brand of tissue? What dark mysteries unseen provide such temping olfactory delights that serve to draw dogs large and small to them like magnets to steel? In some twisted plot, has the Tissue Manufacturer's Association of America planted a subtle hint of Milk Bone, perhaps aromas of Beef or Cheese in the fibers of these products that only dogs can smell? In addition, have they conspired with the people at Charmin and Bounty to perpetrate this conspiracy with all paper products? It would certainly seem so. How else could one explain that LW and seemingly every other dog on the planet attempts to scarf down these paper products as if consuming a T-bone made-to-order? Regrettably, we may never know the answer to this; but interestingly, out of adversity can come triumph. Not only does their evil plot inadvertently help sell more paper products; 24 hours later it results in a self-cleaning dog. Hmmmmm. More on this story as it develops.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good To Go!!

Today marks another milestone in the life a future dog guide! During the first several weeks in their new foster home, Seeing Eye Puppies are restricted in their outside activities. Puppies, much like their infant counterparts, need to be vaccinated against different illnesses. The Seeing Eye emphasizes the importance of limiting the puppy’s exposure to people and other dogs (both whom are potential carriers of the highly contagious and often deadly parvo virus). Of course, this is often difficult to do as word travels about this furry new face; and everyone is quite anxious to see her. While the dogs aren’t in complete isolation; their “visiting” is limited. For example, during her visits to work, her exposure has been confined to the lobby and studio only and at the local puppy club meetings, she must be held in one’s lap to regulate exposure to the others. As of today, LW is finally “legal”; her visit to the vet’s office this morning provided the balance of her shot series needed for the appropriate protection against parvo and many other serious illnesses. So now, after a seemingly long wait, LW can slowly begin her exploration of the world (and gain more exposure to the environs in which she’ll be working). With this in mind, its now off to the park with its nice walking path and a quick visit to work to see everyone and explore every room! Later, we’re going to travel to the local strip mall to meet some of the local business owners. And yes, we’ll be coming to a location near you!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Humans: An Easily Trainable Species

I’m back again, did you miss me? Now that I’m thoroughly familiar with the surroundings of my foster home, I’m starting to learn more about my human benefactors. I think if I were a human, I would major in research, as I enjoy conducting little experiments. My, how trainable humans are! You see, by reacting with certain stimuli in the home environment, I can get them to make predictable sounds (sort of a Pavlovian concept in reverse)! I’m not sure what they mean yet, but the one pronounced “No!” is delivered with a sharp tone, as if someone had just pulled their tail (I‘m sure it must be bunched up in those fancy leg cover things they wear). The other one has a softer,more pleasant multi word affectation: “Good Girl.” I think that one means--go ahead, try something new and let’s see what happens.

With that in mind, here are some of the stimuli and their corresponding reactions. I guarantee they will produce those same sounds every time I chew, bite, drink or otherwise interact with the objects pictured.

Good Girl!

Good Girl!

Ok, probably also no!

Good Girl!

Fellow Canines, try this with your own family; its amazing! Now if only we can get them to bring the food bowl on command, we’ll be all set!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Terrible Twos

LW is 12 weeks old. Let’s see: 1 calendar year = 7 dog years; 12 weeks is 3 months, 7 divided by 3 equals 2.3 dog years. Yes, by doing simple math, one can confirm she is definitely in her “terrible twos!!” OK, so maybe we didn’t need to do the math to come to this realization. Perhaps the events of the last day are adequate proof:

6:30 a.m.: LW sounds her alarm, greeting me with a tail wag and a nibble on the hand as I retrieve her from the crate in which she slept. After a quick trip outside to empty, its back inside for some breakfast. While this sounds simple enough, along the way, she is distracted by something and is off and running around the yard. Soon tiring of this game, she heads back carrying a rock and two sticks. I am now faced with the task of removing these new “treasures” from the unyielding mouth of an alligator. After prying her mouth open, I am finally successful at getting her to respond to the “out” command. She drops the sticks but hides her archaeological find (the rock) in her mouth only to release this special prize at the sight of her kibble.

After a quick meal, four little, furry feet start to scamper (like Fred Flintstone starting his car) After all, there are things to do! First, she goes right for my sneaker, which luckily I can retrieve and place back in the closet (for safe keeping). Upon completing that, I look up in time to see a black tornado swirling past with slippers, which I am sure were placed in a safe hidden spot. As I am returning the slippers, there’s a growl from the kitchen; this can mean only one thing; in a surprise attack, she has bounced on Orlando! So, I am off and running to rescue him; however, upon my arrival there’s a sound from the porch, and I whirl around just in time to see a lamp and picture frame hit the floor. While inspecting this situation, I also see she has learned to climb up on the sofa and jump across to the end table; and naturally it makes perfect sense to a budding two year old to clear everything from the table (as it makes the perfect lookout tower) and make room to lie down. Trying not to laugh, I found my deepest voice and yelled: OFFF!! This time, she promptly listens, but not before grabbing the remote for a quick trip under the couch. It is now 7:30, and I am exhausted!

While catching my breath, I am reminded of something I once read: “…you should always remember that your child isn't trying to be defiant or rebellious on purpose. He is just trying to express his growing independence and doesn't have the language skills to easily express his needs…”

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


LW here: Another great day in my new foster home and I continue to learn more about these humans every day! I've discovered even though at times they don't look all that smart, they can be extremely brave and resourceful in the face of dire circumstances. For example: just yesterday while napping on the floor, the silence and peace of my day was suddenly shattered by a loud sound: "whirrrrrrr!" I turned my head to listen and there it was again growing louder and louder by the moment "WHIRRRRRRRRRRRR WHIRRRRRRRRR.........WHIRRRR!" Suddenly, without warning there we were face to face! Me and this big, blue, noisy monster with a long thin tail that appeared to anchor itself to the wall, as if to dig in against all potential threats! Its cylindrical body and long tubular snout lead to an ugly, flat head probe. It stared at me deeply and unyielding as if hypnotize me into some sort of trance! Then, the creature began what seemed like sort of odd attack; first charging then retreating...then charging again from a different angle. Hey! I'm no fool...I knew what this meant! This was "War of The Worlds" and playing the part of Tom Cruise would be me! It would be up to me to save the universe, er at least the living room from total annihilation from this alien species! As I watched, the hungry monster gobbled up everything in its path: my friends the dust bunnies, small treasures I'd saved to chew on later.... even the very dog hair I'd just shed moments earlier. One time as it drew close, I could see the probe contained some sort of alien markings....let's see "H - O - O- V- E - R" .....I'm sure that meant something important ...but I’m not sure what! Just as I was about to fight back, there was mom! Yeah!!!! Mom to the rescue!!! Without my noticing, mom had managed to grab this beast by the end of the snout and was hanging on for dear life! It looked like quite a battle she would push, it would pull then finally, after a few minutes she grabbed it by its long, thin tale and yanked hard! With that, the beast lay silent. As if to teach it a final lesson mom then tied it up in its own tail and shoved it in the hallway closet! We're saved!! Mom is the bravest person I know! What a great team we make, we sure faced down that monster! I think I deserve a treat and another nap in the sun!

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Thanks for all your e-mails, comments and questions! In response, here is a list of frequently asked questions about being a volunteer puppy raiser:

Top 10 Questions & Answers:

1. The number one question I am asked: “Isn’t it difficult to give the puppy back?”

Yes, it is difficult to give the puppy back after spending 14-16 months getting to know her and raising her. But its also important to remember why raisers do what they do: to be a part of the process that will allow these dogs to go on and help others.

2. What are you paid by The Seeing Eye for doing this?
Puppy raising is completely voluntary; there is no pay involved. Raisers do receive a food allowance and all veterinary expenses are covered by The Seeing Eye. As a raiser, your remuneration is seeing your dog successfully complete the program and go on to help the visually impaired maintain a full and productive life.

3. Where does the puppy come from?
The Seeing Eye has its own breeding program. When the puppy is 8 weeks old, an employee from The Seeing Eye delivers the puppy to the raiser(s).

4. What is my responsibility?
I teach the puppy basic obedience, give her social exposure and lots of love. At bimonthly meetings for raisers (held in Toms River), Seeing Eye representatives have the opportunity to observe our pups. This gives them an opportunity to check the pups’ progress and assist in working through any problems which may arise. Raisers also attend the meetings to give the pups exposure to other dogs and people (to help prepare them for the world in which they will be working). Raisers do not teach the dogs to use a harness; that is accomplished by instructors at The Seeing Eye, when they return to the facility in Morristown for training.

5. How long do I have the puppy?
Until she is 16 – 18 months old.

6. Do all of the puppies become Seeing Eye Dogs?
No, not all of the puppies qualify for the program. Sometimes a medical condition or behavioral problem will prevent them from continuing. When the puppy is 16 – 18 months old she is returned to The Seeing Eye and evaluated by their staff.

7. What happens if the puppy does not qualify for their program?
She will be offered back to me for adoption. If I choose not to adopt her; she will be put up for public adoption through The Seeing Eye. Some of the dogs are also suitable for careers assisting law enforcement and are adopted, trained and employed by those agencies.

8. Is there a cost to adopt and what is the wait time?
This varies from time to time. If interested, contact The Seeing Eye or log on to

9. What is the cost of a full trained Seeing Eye Dog?
Remarkably, individuals who qualify pay only $150.00! This is the same fee as at the very beginning of The Seeing Eye in 1929, when the first dog was placed with Morris Frank! The fee includes travel to The Seeing Eye facility in Morristown, New Jersey; the dog, the harness, training, and 4 weeks of room and board for the student.

10. Is my puppy allowed public access?
As I am not blind, and my puppy is not yet a fully trained dog guide, I am not covered by the same laws as a licensed service dog and must ask for permission before entering a public building. With advance communication and permission; many businesses are very accommodating when it’s understood the dog is visiting as part of its socialization and to acclimate it to the world in which he or she will be working.

Thanks, again, for all your e-mails! If you have a question on a specific matter I haven’t covered, please feel free to e-mail me at the address at the top of the page.