Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Holidays: A Time For Shepherds

Being the only female in the pack, it appears LW is learning her role well and is busy getting the boys in line. By her apparent way of reasoning, someone has to do it and the boys are just happy to be boys, while someone has to take charge and impose martial er, uh, puppy law. With this in mind, it is now clear LW is operating under the “I know best” set of rules; meaning that when she gets corrected for jumping on the sofa (or anything else for that matter) she looks directly at you as if to say “Me? Surely you don’t mean me! You must be referring to the other two!” Glancing around, I have to laugh as the other two are lying on their beds being so well-behaved. In addition, she has become quite inquisitive of other dogs, especially while at the bimonthly puppy meetings. This leads to a bit of frustration while trying to work on various obedience commands. Again, she looks around as if trying to determine for whom the command is actually being issued. What has become most apparent lately is that she has become a bit of a tyrant. I laugh to myself as I picture her (wearing a sideways ball cap and having squinty eyes) lurking in a dark corner of the hallway next to the lunch room entrance, ready to trip other dogs and demand their lunch money. Yes, LW with all of her labby enthusiasm, has become a dog bully!

Last week presented a unique opportunity to watch an 8 month old German Shepherd puppy for a fellow raiser (we’ll call her “Miss T”). Historically, I haven’t been a huge fan of this “always on guard 4-legged, security system in a fur suit” species; I tend to prefer the “lets go for a run through the woods, catch a ball a 1000 times over, or go for a jump in the bay” type of dog. By comparison, Labs are the type of dog who show up at the beach with the beer and the volleyball net. In contrast, Shepherds arrive with the sunscreen and swimmies.

Upon arrival for her stay, Miss T was instantly greeted by a low “welcome to our pack, let me introduce myself, I’m Moufassa” growl from Orlando, a “happy to see you” wag from Murphy and a “stream train, flip you over on your back, sucker punch from LW.” After the introductions it seemed appropriate to place some distance between them. This would give all time to acclimate to their new “temporary” order in this impromptu pack. This was done by placing a baby gate between rooms and leaving the sliding door slightly ajar, just enough for a little “nose- to-nose” sniffing. While Miss T. opted to stay in the safety of the kitchen; LW discovered she could just push the slider over with her nose and scale the gate. In an instant, Miss T was pinned in the corner. With that, the bell rang (ding, ding end of round one) and these furry pugilists were returned to their neutral corners.

By day two, it appeared the tide had changed! Miss T, being a quick learner went on the offensive by jumping the gate and landing head log into the ensuing three dog circus. Rules appeared to quickly establish themselves…LW grabbing T’s collar appeared to be laying the ground rules for the new pack member…“see the couch?” “Stay off it, it’s mine!” “Oh, and that bone over there is mine too!” “And, forget about the squeaky dinosaur, yes….also mine!” Now the rules were established and pack order determined it was time for a trip to the park and the infamous 3 mile walk our pack gets each morning. This was where I got the shock of my life! From the moment I picked up Miss T’s leash, she forged proudly ahead, shoulders straight, head held high, walking at a brisk but steady pace. It was as if she’d completed her “formal” training and was already a dog guide! I soon discovered there was chemistry with this proudly parading girl. In that instant, my whole outlook on Shepherds changed. After the walk and upon our arrival home Miss T wanted to have a nap. LW, of course, had other plans, so out into the back yard they go, frolicking to and fro limbs flying in a blur. As the wrestling match began, I suddenly found myself rooting for the new pack member. Hmmm…what’s with that?

Friday, November 23, 2007


I think its reasonably certain that dogs can't tell one day from another, and I am sure LW did not know Thanksgiving was this past Thursday. However, I was feeling a twinge of guilt, as we enjoyed the holiday at The "Mohonk Mountain House", poor LW was off to the kennel for some plain old kibble. So, prior to the holiday, we took some time with her to visit a local pumpkin patch.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Career Change

As mentioned previously on this blog, not every puppy raised actually makes it through the entire program and becomes a Seeing Eye Dog. This can be for a myriad of physiological or behavioral reasons. However, as we alluded to earlier in the “Family Day” entry, many of these dogs instead go on to successful careers in law enforcement. Another possibility; however, is their permanent adoption by the puppy raiser, where they will find a home with a lifetime of love and care awaiting them (and where many of them go on to help in “showing the ropes” to the next generation of aspiring Seeing Eye pups). One such example is Orlando (whom you’ve seen mentioned and pictured). Orlando was permanently adopted under this situation, Trish picks up the rest of the story:

I was raising Vedette, (puppy # 2) at the time and received word that another raiser wanted to “give back” their 3 month old, “uncontrollable,” black male lab, who still needed to be housebroken. It appears they had decided raising him was not for them. On that very evening I took Orlando, but ONLY, until another suitable home could be found. He was the cutest little boy and quickly earned the nickname “Sweet Pee”(due to his housebreaking concern). A trip to the veterinarian revealed he actually had a bladder infection, which appeared to be at the root of the problem. By the second day, it was clear he had found his new raisers, he was to stay with us. Yes, he was a very high energy boy and yes he got into his fair share of trouble; besides “watering” everything he choose, both inside and outside, he ate my son’s homework notebook, a homemade birthday cake cooling on the counter, as well as an entire bowl of Halloween candy (that was quite a trick!). For the first few weeks, he remained leashed to me, as this made for quick corrections. Slowly, he learned what was expected of him and every day became more mature and handsome. After spending most days working with him and trying to keep him busy, we could see him developing into a well-behaved boy. I even taught him the “stay on the porch” trick; having young sons usually results in the front door always swinging open and I felt it important that Orlando learn not to run off. So he was instructed to lay on the porch and “rest”. He was the best boy, laying there for hours watching the children playing in the yard, other dogs walking by, and kids riding their bicycles past him, he never tried stepping off the porch.

When the day came for him to go back for training, I was heartbroken. Orlando’s formal training continued to nearly the end of the program, when it was determined he had “self right” or in laymen’s terms “he didn’t play well with others.” I received the call and decided immediately, he was to come home to us. He had been gone for 5 months, would he remember us? He was happy to see us, but he was happy to see everyone. Still, I wondered, did he remember? As we neared home, he became increasingly excited, at first sitting up when passing over the bridge, then whining as we turned on to our street. When I finally pulled into the driveway and opened the car door he took off. My heart stopped! He was out of sight for which was only seconds (but seemed like hours), when I looked up; there he was sitting on the front porch; right where he belonged!. He had a job and it was his job, all along, to watch over us.

For the last 11 years, Orlando has done exactly that. He has been with me through many of life’s most challenging obstacles and with each event he stood steadfast and has always been a comforting soul. To date, he has helped to raise 9 other puppies, all of whom went on to graduate as Seeing Eye dogs. Orlando a.k.a “Sweet Pee” is the best boy. It is his 11th birthday and I am glad he has spent his years with us as a “career change” dog. ~Trish~

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Hole To China

LW here again. Sorry I’ve been remiss with my updates lately, but things have been quite busy as finals are approaching. You see, I found that once my exploration of the outside world began, it only highlighted how much I really didn’t know. So, you can imagine how I jumped (and barked) at the chance to attend college when Trish offered! In just a matter of days, I knew college life was for me! How does it get better than this? I have my own place, under the desk, with a great view in the chemistry classroom, other people are receiving the lecture (not me for a change), the complaints about the cafeteria offerings resembling dog food is not a problem and (best of all), no financial aid is needed as future Seeing Eye dogs with their foster parents or blind partners can attend for free! I’m even considering starting a fraternity: Labda, Milkbone, Labda! (the secret paw shake has already been invented). Though chemistry is interesting (as it causes humans to swear and pound their hands on the desks frequently for some reason) my major will be human transportation and logistics with a minor in archeology (as you can see, I‘ve been working on credits for my minor in the back yard, which so far have yielded two brightly-colored bugs and some rocks comprised of limestone. I‘m sure China is down there somewhere and I‘ll find it by the end of the week).

Wags and licks! LW

Saturday, November 10, 2007

For Our Veterans

Our Thanks, with Love

For those who protect us as we sleep at night

Keeping us safe, never fearing a fight

And all those who have worn the uniform proudly

Whose deeds and actions, professed their love loudly

For these bravest of patriots and those who gave all

To ensure our great nation would never fall

You stand as an example, a shining bright light

Of all that is good and noble and right

You go round the world, yet don’t ask a thing

To protect humans rights, allow freedom to ring.

We thank God for you veterans, surely sent from above

And we send you always our thanks with love!
Brian Moore 11/10/07

and remember those who were given a "One Way Ticket".

Friday, November 2, 2007

Squirrels and Acorns:

Squirrels and Acorns: Two of the finest fall treasures,

What would seem to the average human to be merely a morning walk, provides a young, impressionable Labrador with an exciting opportunity for exploration. Now, with the arrival of cooler weather and the rapidly fading hours of daylight comes a special fall treasure: the acorn! Nearly a half million of these little, brown, nutty-shaped packages have fallen at our local park, successfully attracting nearly as many squirrels. Not your average backyard garden-variety mammals, mind you but; brave, valiant, downright feisty squirrels! These timeworn park pros are fearless in the face of dogs, people, motorized lawn care equipment and large mobs gathered for soccer and softball games…what would another small puppy mean to them? As I watch LW and the squirrels compete for the small lawn treasures, I sometimes ponder if she’s actually interested in eating the acorns or just wants them because the squirrels do. Every morning marks the beginning of “the great competition.” The brave, little rodents scurry around to gather their winter meals and LW is on a mission! It appears to be her quest to single-handedly (or mouthedly) rid the park of every acorn, leaving the poor squirrels hungry for the winter. However, the squirrels appear to have other plans! Once an acorn is sighted, its “game on!” LW closes in just as the squirrels gather around in their huddle, making their plan to protect this prized meal (the only thing missing is the tiny blackboard with X’s, O’s and arrows). Nonetheless, with lightning speed the game commences: one distracts her by running right, while the other zigzags to the left heading straight up a tree; a third dives in to grab the acorn. LW, nonplussed by the attempted distractions faces off with the rodent “ball carrier” at the 50, when suddenly the game is called by a higher power. Booming from above she hears: “leave it!” And with that, the squirrels win by forfeiture. As we begin to walk on, a quick look back inspires a double take. Did I just see a group of triumphant squirrels gathering behind a tree and giving each other the high five? Gee, I thought they only did that in the Geico commercial.