Friday, July 24, 2009

Phase Three!

Well, Ms. Honeydew has made it to Phase Three (of Ten) in her training. Yahoo!

What happens in Phase Three?
  • Obedience and distraction training. In addition to learning to be spot on with 'sit', 'down' and 'stay'...she is learning to 'heel' and to put herself in a 'heel' position while the handler is moving (this is so that the dog always goes to the right spot and faces the right direction so the dog doesn't disorient the blind handler).
  • Getting used to wearing and working in the harness (I bet she looks so cute in the harness!).
  • "Pattern Training" - which means using very positive training that gets the dog used to doing guide work mechanics, but without making errors or corrections. All of the training is very upbeat and positive. Through this, she will start learning to stop at streets (regardless of curb type), clearing the handler on all sides (e.g. making sure the handler walks around/past obstacles to the side or overhead), moving forward at a consistent pace, etc.
  • Obstacle course practice (eventually, she will have to lead a blindfolded instructor through the course).
  • Learning to jump in/out of the transport van crates, riding comfortably in the crates.
  • Learning to avoid or refuse food on the ground or offered by others.
  • And, of course, lots of playing, socializing and going for walks with the handlers.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


We are puppy-sitting "Futura" for about a week. She is a sweet ~8 month old Guide Dog puppy (the first photo above is from when we first met Futura, when she was 8 weeks cute!).

Futura is very calm - such a departure from Ms. Honeydew. She took to Glenn immediately - wants to be next to him all the time. Apparently, I'll do in a pinch...but Glenn is the cat's meow. She has met Ruben (the evil black cat - see the picture above) and did great with him. I believe this is the first time she has stayed at a place with cats. Later today we will introduce her to the other cats and the dogs. She will go to work with us this week. It is nice having a pup in the house again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Phase One

Every couple of weeks we get a "Phase Report" from Guide Dogs that lists all of the dogs that are currently in formal training (it is about 10 pages long with about 160 dogs on it!!). Yesterday we got the first one with Ms. Honeydew listed. She is in Phase One - which means that she is getting checked out by the vets, going for walks, getting used to kennel life, etc. She gets to go on campus walks and have play sessions with the instructor assistants, along with daily grooming. Sort of like being on vacation, if you ask me.

I am working on hunting down the names of Honeydew's litter mates so that I can track their progress as well. There is one named Harvard, he too is Phase One...and another named Hayward in Phase 5. I am pretty sure they are her brothers. We have met two other brothers - Hector and Heath. I don't see them on the list. Keep your fingers crossed that she makes it through Phase Two - which is where they do "dog distractions", oh my. That is going to be so hard for her.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Moving On

Tonight was our first puppy club meeting without The Dew - we met in a local park. A great place to gather on such a beautiful summer day.

It wasn't as hard as I thought, being at the meeting without Honeydew. It helped to be surrounded by the other pups and supportive raisers. Apparently, the invite to the meeting only went out to the yellow labs, not the black labs (see picture above)! The black labs must have been holding their own meeting in another park.

Another puppy from our club, Louise, was matched with her blind partner today. So exciting! A lot can change while she is in this last phase of training - we will keep our fingers crossed for her. Louise was only about 9 weeks old when we started going to puppy club meetings - and I was pretty sure she was the cutest puppy I had ever seen in my life! So sweet.

No word yet on how Ms. Honeydew is settling in - but she is a spitfire and I am sure she is giving the Guide Dogs staff a run for their money. Next week we will be watching a Guide Dog puppy named Futura (I think she is about 6 months old) - so we will get our puppy fix soon. Until then, our other dogs (Emma and Tully) and 2 of the 3 cats (one of them is pure evil) are getting lots of extra love and attention.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good Luck Dew!

Honeydew is at her new home now.  We dropped her off earlier this morning.  It was easier than I expected, mostly because Honeydew was so happy and excited to be there.  When we first walked in the door, Honeydew was immediately greeted by a huge white/brown cat named "Chester."  Chester came right up and started rubbing up against Honeydew - and Honeydew gave Chester ear kisses (one of her favorite things to do with our cat Bodine).   So many new smells, and dogs and toys.  She was so elated that every muscle was tensed - causing her toenails to make scratching noises on the concrete as she literally vibrated with excitement.

We got her settled in her new kennel, where she ran around in excited circles smelling all sorts of wonderful things.  She has lots of puppy friends in the other kennels.  This week the vets will do physical exams to make sure she is healthy - and if all goes well, she will get a kennel buddy (a male) as a roommate.  Just like the dorms at college (well, except my dorms were never co-ed).  They brought her a couple of bones/toys...and she was so excited that she chased and tossed them all over her kennel.  As you can see from the picture above...they have no shortage of toys to play with (pic is of various toys/bones stacked on a table)!

Of course, I cried in the parking lot afterward....excited for her, but sad for us.  Her absence will certainly leave a big hole in our family.  Goodbye and good luck, little miss Honeydew...until we meet again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

An End, and A Beginning

Tomorrow is the big about 12-hours Honeydew will be off on the next phase of her journey. Glenn and I are actually really excited for Honeydew, and we know she is going to have a blast. If she is meant to be a Guide Dog, then so it will be - and we will be so proud.

We spent the afternoon out at the Guide Dogs campus. We attended a ceremony where three dogs from our puppy club graduated with their new blind partners. The pictures from the ceremony didn't turn out very good (horrible lighting), but pictured, from the left...Leo (black lab male, who loved to eat everything...tissues, his leash, his collar), Clea (yellow lab female, she was a bumble-bee for halloween), and Cruz (yellow lab male, who was darn near perfect because his raiser is our puppy club leader). There were a total of six blind people from all over graduating -- California, Florida, Texas, Connecticut and even British Columbia.

After the ceremony, Glenn and I (and Honeydew) took a tour of the campus. While we had been out there several times, we have never gone for a formal tour. I think it was good for Honeydew to get the lay of the land before it becomes her new home tomorrow. My favorite part of the tour was walking past the kennels...and seeing little yellow and black lab heads pop up above the kennel walls to see who was walking by. Up, down, up, down. It looked like that "whac-a-mole" game with random puppy heads popping up and down all over the place.

In the second picture (above) is Clea's puppy raisers, Clea and her new blind partner - getting to know each other. It is up to the blind person if they choose to keep in contact with the puppy raisers. Some do. Some don't. Regardless, there is nothing but appreciation and gratitude on the part of the blind person toward the raisers, the trainers and all of the other volunteers and donors.

The last picture is of "Winslow". He is the newest addition to our puppy club. One nice thing about doing this - while you have to give them back when they get older...there is always an adorable little puppy waiting in the wings to give it a go.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So Long, Farewell....

Well, this has been a week of bitter-sweet goodbyes for Honeydew. She has been making the rounds at both my work, as well as Glenn's. And, tonight was Honeydew's last puppy club class. She got to say goodbye to the trainers and her other guide dog puppy friends (which apparently requires the smelling of each other's butts). It was nice to talk to some of the more seasoned puppy raisers - to get their support and words of advice about what things will be like to drop her off on Sunday and wait anxiously for news of how she is doing.

Tonight's class was held at the child care center (long-term, 24 hour care) at a local hospital. Staff brought several of the children down - which was great for the kids and the dogs (I couldn't take any pictures though). Many of the kids were so visibly excited to see the dogs prancing around the room. One boy would almost float out of his wheelchair he was vibrating with so much excitement. It was great for the dogs to hear the vocalizations of some of the kids - and to be near the various sizes and styles of wheelchairs, and even wheeled beds. It was nice to hold the puppy class a location that served our needs, but also made the day for these kids and the hospital staff. Good times all around - and a nice way to finish off Honeydew's time with the puppy club.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Big Girl Now!

Well, it's official. Honeydew goes "off to college" (recalled to Guide Dogs for formal training) on July 12. Today Honeydew and I are headed over to Bend so that she can give kisses and say farewell to all of her family in Bend, especially her 'grandma'.

We will drop her off around 10AM on the 12th. They give you a lot of time to say goodbye, and even let you help get her new kennel set up, hangout with her in the new kennel, meet the staff that will be taking care of her, etc. It is nice that they try to make it a positive experience, rather than just dropping her off at a door.

While I am certainly sad to be giving her back - I am also terribly excited for Honeydew. This is going to be such a fun adventure for her. She is a very busy dog - always interested in new people, places and experiences. So, going into the kennels with other pups (geesh, her head is going to explode she will be so excited) and learning new skills will be very fulfilling for her.

That same weekend (July 11) 3 dogs from our puppy club that have made it through the program and are now matched/training with their new blind partners will be graduating! We will definitely attend the graduation - not only because we know the dogs and want to support their raisers, but because it will be great reinforcement that giving Honeydew back the next day is worth it. Nothing more inspiring that seeing a blind person head off into the world with their new guide dog. Absolutely, positively, worth the sacrifice on my part.

Thought I would include some of Honeydew's baby amazing to remember how little and wiggly she used to be!