Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home Again!

We got the call today that Honeydew was being "career changed" - which means she won't be a Guide Dog for the Blind after-all. She did a great job, and made it through the various phases of training, but in the end it wasn't meant to be.

The pictures above are from our trip to get her today, including Glenn and I picking her up on the Guide Dogs campus, her sleeping in the car on the way home and checking out the house upon her return. She looks the same - still small and skinny, with long legs. She is very alert and definitely has more focus -- but is still the same goofy girl we knew before.

About a month before she was recalled, she began being nervous around unfamiliar men. We can't think of an incident that may have precipitated this behavior - it just came on gradually, and very inconsistently (e.g. sometimes she was just fine with unfamiliar men, other times she got anxious). It really only happened a few times - but was noticeable enough that we included it in our puppy write-up when we dropped her off for training. It seems that this behavior persisted and the professional trainers weren't able to get her past it.

So, we went to pick her up today - and to bring her home to be our beloved pet. Certainly there was always that small part of us that, on any given day, hoped that we would get the call that she wasn't going to be a Guide Dog - we missed her so much. So, this news is bitter-sweet. We are so very proud of her, and so thankful to the great trainers and staff that did everything they could to help Honeydew be successful.

Honeydew appears to be settling back into life in the "home" quite quickly. She has already made the rounds of the house (nose to the floor), greeted the cats and dug out all of her old chew toys. We have her outfitted with a new collar and a new bed, and tomorrow we will get her tags and license, etc.

Next - we need to find her a new "job". She is such a busy pup, that we need to find something to burn off that mental energy. Maybe agility, or something like that - although that just brings up visions of me tripping over my own feet trying to keep up with her.

It would appear that this is the end of her journey as a Guide Dog pup, and the beginning of her new adventures as an offical Crim Critter. It has been such a fun ride. We definitely plan to raise another Guide Dog puppy in the future - but for now, we will relish this time with The Dew back in our home.

The summary of why she was career changed is below:

SUMMARY: Honeydew is an affectionate, intelligent, alert and active female Yellow Labrador. She is aware of and interested in all that exists in her environment. Honeydew bonded quickly to her primary instructor and loved the learning process, especially when it involved the clicker. She enjoyed every Guidework learning challenge presented to her and met each one head on. However she did have multiple reactions to unfamiliar men (and a few women) particularly in the kennels but also intermittently when on routes. Extensive exposures using high value food, mentor dogs and mentor people were done with employees on campus and people on the street. She improved with these individuals, but there was no carryover to unfamiliar people.

Honeydew was slow to adjust to the kennel, due to the frequent reactions when people strange to her entered the building. Her adjustment improved with the addition of a roommate. However if her primary instructor was not present when a strange man entered the building, she would often run outside barking and could not be coaxed back in until the stranger left.

It is due to the continued reactions to men which are not conducive to the Guide Dog lifestyle that Honeydew is being Career Changed at this time. This reactive behavior is consistent with comments noted in her puppy raising history.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thema Sitting

We are puppy-sitting "Thema" for a couple of days. She is a very sweet pup - and looks so much like Honeydew. When Thema first joined our puppy club it was hard to tell them apart.

Turns out, Thema's mom was a black lab and her dad was a 'red' colored yellow lab -- just like Honeydew's parents were. Thema isn't as leggy and skinny as The Dew - but very similar otherwise.

Thema settled into our home almost immediately - and has made fast friends with the cats. Bodine is pretty fond of her (see the picture of them hanging out above) - she must remind him of his best buddy Honeydew too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Phase Nine!

Yay for The Dew. She keeps moving along through her training phases. Only one phase left...can you believe it?!

In Phase Nine, she is continuing to practice everything she has been learning (see earlier posts). She gets to do more relaxing residential routes with less difficult and more straight-forward work for confidence building. She is also doing advanced (more difficult) work that require higher level decision-making.

She is "almost Class Ready", which means that she is almost ready to get paired with her blind partner and begin training with them. In preparation for this, she is working with unfamiliar and novice handlers.

She is working with her instructors under a blindfold in several traffic situations. She is also still working on riding escalators, walking in sidewalkless areas, train/rail platforms, blocked paths, overhead obstacles and socialization.

Phase Ten, here we come!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Phase Eight!

Honeydew is plugging right along. She is now is Phase Eight! In this phase she continues working on what she has been learning to do...but everything gets more advanced. She is particularly focusing on sidewalkless routes - for example, maintaining a travel line to the extreme left of the roadway (facing oncoming traffic), working around obstacles on the roadway and immediately returning to the left edge of the road.

She is also learning to avoid the drop off of subway and rail platforms and riding on the light rail (she is a pro at this!). She is also learning to ride on an escalator - acquiring a safe stance, exiting safely, etc. She is always doing a lot of work in malls and stores (slower pace, elevators, multiple stairways, floor colors/textures, patience in shopping situations and intensive food avoidance situations - like the food court).

I keep watching for her when I am downtown - but I haven't seen her out training yet. I bet she is super cute riding on a escalator! We are so proud of her. Two more phases to go Dew!