Monday, November 9, 2009

Boston is Diggin' Life

Boston has a little pent-up energy lately and we caught her digging in the yard. Naughty girl.

She had to spend a little quality time in her crate to reflect on the err of her ways.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Real Thing

I had surgery last week and am hobbling around on crutches right now. We made arrangements for Boston to stay with someone the first few days as I wasn't sure I could handle an active puppy plus Sage while on pain meds.

We picked Boston up last night. I was curious as to what her reaction would be to the crutches and my using them - is very different than what I looked like when she last saw me. Surprisingly, she wasn't fazed by either the crutches or my appearance a bit.

I decided to have Boston work for me during my recovery period as she will for the person she is placed with. This has given me a new venue for training because I cannot 'leap' to correct her on a command - I need to rely on the verbal commands and limited hand signals she has already learned. It's been going well. When the crutches fall on the floor she picks them up, when I drop items (which is often and for real, because it's hard to carry items and use crutches concurrently!) she picks them up; she closes doors and drawers. She retrieved her pack and brought it to me when it was time for the morning meal. When I let her outside this morning she did her business and promptly came back to the door. I'm totally impressed!

What I hadn't realized to this point is what a busy puppy Boston really is. The last two families that have taken care of her have both commented on it. I work outside the home so am away from her all day, and spend the evenings playing or training, so am managing her energy.

Boston has been in non-stop motion since we got up this morning. Chewing on bones, playing with toys, visiting all the rooms in the house (looking for trouble I am sure), "bringing" me things I really didn't want, and just generally pestering me. She's already had her treat ball and a kong with peanut butter. Yikes! This is going to be a long four weeks at home. How do the stay-at-home dog parents do this?

Here is a picture of Boston during her recent visit to Marley's house. Marley is such a ham. I sent along her homework sheet in case Julie had time to work with her, but Boston returned it "incomplete".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sister Visit II

Both Boston and I had the pleasure of visiting our sisters last week. While I traveled to Denver to visit my sister, Jan, who is the recipient of the second service dog I trained, Boston visited her sister Angel in Arlington MN.

Me first. Jan and I took a road trip to Santa Fe for some jewelry shopping at the Santa Fe Plaza and art galleries on Canyon Road. I have to say it was a huge success! We visited the Bandelier National Monument at Los Alamos. It's a beautiful park, and the weather was perfect. Jan and Laker took in the view from a park bench while I made a short hike to see the cliff dwellings.

While I was out of town Boston stayed with her sister, Angel. It was their first visit together and Janice reports that it went well.

"Boston took to being at our house, with no problem at all. She and Angel played all day long. The first couple of days they hardly took a break. At 10:00 this morning, however, they were already napping at my feet -- photos prove it.

I got sick after Boston arrived, and my husband was out of town for the two days when I was the sickest. So the pups really got very little from me and they took such good care of each other and of me. Never got into any mischief at all! Now that we're home without Boston, Angel has found a sponge from the sink, a sock and another sock, from who knows where! And the TV remote. She misses Boston already! I'm sorry I couldn't do more with Boston while she was here, but she really made my life easier while I was sick.

Boston's so sweet, very affectionate, so gentle on the leash. Gets her pack and GL and gets dressed so nicely for meals -- I never told her that she was dressing for dinner. Angel was better about it with Boston here, too. I took her to the church to practice away from Angel and she did some nice pushes on the cabinets and drops and stays and retrieved an index card, which impressed me -- Angel would rather tear up any paper.

Mostly, I was telling them what good girls they were. They had so much fun together and were so patient and helpful to me. "

We as trainers are always looking for new experiences to introduce to our pups. While at Janice's Boston met her horse, Magic, and checked out some construction at the neighbor's house.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sister Visit

Boston's sister, Becca, came to visit for a couple days. They got along fabulously and had lots of exercise in the back yard with Sage.

We always have the pups "get dressed" in their packs to eat their meals. One night Becca didn't respond fast enough and Boston jumped into her pack too. Boston wondered if she wore Becca's pack could she have Becca's dinner also. But it didn't work that way.


Boston has a new hobby of smelling the flowers.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The End Result

Here's a story that sums up why we're doing what we're doing: training service dogs to give persons with disabilities a more fulfilling life, independence, and companionship. For Elaine Beckstrom, who is training one of Boston's litter mates, she will attest it also gives the family peace of mind.

Elaine's son, Jake, was injured in a diving accident and has received a service dog from Helping Paws. She is always sharing stories about Jake and Miles to the class, which gives us that "real life" perspective in training the dogs.

This is an especially good story about a young man with determination and the service dog who helped him through an adverse situation.

"The end-of-summer highlight for Jake was the chance to go to the practice round of the PGA tournament at Hazeltine Golf Course with his friend Kent. The PGA does not allow dogs on the grounds. However, Miles being a certified service dog, goes where Jake goes. This was a big advantage when it came to meeting golfers.

Jake said they would be lined up behind the rope along the course. However, Miles would be standing next to Jake and often times his tail would be sticking out under the rope swinging back and forth in its normal happy wagging sway. As the golfers came down the fairway, they would look ahead and there was this dog’s tail sticking out on the edge of the green, waving back and forth. Let’s just say that it was not something they normally see and got some attention! Many of the golfers came over to speak to Jake and Kent, and of course admire Miles. The golfer Mike Miles was especially impressed by Miles name. Sergio Garcia took a ball out of his pocket and handed it to Jake. Plus many others visited with them and gave their autographs. Tiger remained elusive though and had to be admired from a distance.

Jake anticipated attending this event for days in advance and has talked about it endlessly afterward. What a wonderful thing to do on August 11th. Jake said he hadn’t even stopped to think about what day it was until a woman, visiting with him at the golf course, asked how and why he was in a wheelchair. Jake told her, “It was a diving accident and it happened when I was 16…. Four years ago. Four years today actually!” He had not thought about what day it was until that very moment. And given the fun he was having, I don’t think he gave it much thought the rest of the day either. We are so thankful he had something fun to do…

But the most amazing memory of the day was yet to come from Miles.

Jake and Kent decided to stop to get something to eat on their way home from the golf course. Kent was going to run in and get it and Jake and Miles were going to wait in the van. It was very hot that day. Jake wanted to leave the AC on, so they decided to leave the van running and Kent could lock the doors and they would be safe. Jake said, “I have an extra key here in my bag.” Kent thought that meant a key fob that Jake could push to unlock doors so he just jumped out, locked the doors and went off to get the food. It really meant a single key inside a zippered pocket that Jake had no way of reaching…

Hmmmmm ….. For the 10 minutes that Kent was gone, Jake sat there thinking about what they were going to do. His cell phone batteries had died earlier in the day so he couldn’t call mom and dad for the spare set.

Jake decided to ask Miles for some help. He sent Miles up to the passenger seat and tried to get him to step on the rocker switch that locks and unlocks the doors. Miles wasn’t quite sure what Jake was asking him to do. He got in the seat. He stood in it. He sat in the seat. He repeatedly stepped up onto the side of the door, but he didn’t step on the rocker switch.

Then Jake asked Miles to go over into the driver’s seat. Jake was trying to think of all the commands that Miles knows, and figure out which one would lead him to step on that rocker switch. Rise. Stand. Step up. Push. Miles stepped onto the armrest, stood in the seat, sat in the seat, then curled up and took a rest. He knew Jake wanted him to do something, but there is no Helping Paws command for “unlock the door!”

By now Kent was back and encouraging Miles from outside the van. Jake called Miles to his side in the back of the van. He spied the lock on the side door. It has a tall, narrow door lock post. Jake is strapped into his wheelchair, which is strapped into the back of the van. He could point in the general vicinity of the lock, but he couldn’t give too many more clues than that. Jake pointed and said “get it!”.

Miles found a tennis ball rolling around on the floor of the van and decided he was supposed to get that. “Get it!” Miles kept getting the tennis ball. Finally the tennis ball rolled under the back seat and Miles couldn’t get it anymore. Jake tried to point at the door lock, Kent was outside the window tapping on it. “Get it!”

Miles started to get the idea of what they wanted him to do. He went toward the door. He had to first “rise” up with his front paws and lean across a gap of about 6 inches, and finally got his mouth on the door lock. Much encouragement from Jake and Kent.

Now what command to use? “Tug!” Jake said. To Miles, tug means pull. Miles had the lock in his front teeth and was pulling on the lock. Unfortunately the lock needs to go up to be unlocked and “up” is not a command Miles knows. Hmmmm …. Jake wasn’t sure what to do but keep encouraging Miles to keep trying.

I don’t know how he did it, but Miles, being the best service dog in the world, somehow figured out that he needed to turn his head sideways to the window, grasp that narrow door lock stem with his BACK teeth to get a better grip on it, and pull up. Jake and Kent were amazed and ecstatic! Miles was ecstatic! He had made his master very, very happy and was getting lots of praise and treats. We were all to shake our heads in amazement when they told us the story. A very nice ending to a very nice day for Jake.

(As I’m learning how to train Izzo, a Helping Paws dog now 6 ½ months old, I’m learning that the clicker technique we use encourages the dogs to figure things out for themselves. We have a particular behavior in mind that we are trying to teach. But the dog has to figure out what that behavior is via our marking it and rewarding it, incrementally. Miles was trained with this method and I can see how it allowed Miles to experiment with different behaviors for Jake. It wasn’t anything he was specifically trained for, but Miles knew that he should keep trying and he would be rewarded! All that being said, I still don’t know how he did what he did. Miles is a very smart and amazing dog!)

Miles is Jake’s hero everyday, but especially on days like August 11, 2009, where he was both a professional golfer magnet and a locksmith all rolled into one big furry, lovable man’s best friend!

To read more about Jake's adventures with Miles visit their website.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Doggie Door

We didn't have a doggie door when Boston arrived in our home, but do now! Boston and Sage punched through the screen door when playing on the steps one day.

Saturday Errands

Boston and I had a busy day yesterday. We made a sausage run to Thielen Meats in Little Falls. We have them make all our vension sausage. They do an excellent job and it's worth the two-hour drive.

While we were in Little Falls we visted my mother, Boston's grandmother. Boston had good dog manners at my mom's apartment in the assisted living building. Mom and I had a family friend over for lunch and Boston played nicely while we prepared lunch, and she laid quietly at my feet while we ate. I learned with the first dog I trained that I worked so hard to make her service dog skills great, but when she was a "regular" dog her manners weren't always up to par. So is something I work hard on with subsequent dogs.

After lunch we took grandma shopping to the drug store. Boston still didn't want to go on the elevator. She was fine with this as a younger pup, but now this has changed. (That's normal, and part of our training process is to continually re-introduce new and familiar situations). Decided we'd have to work on this another time, and took the steps to meet them downstairs. It's hard to focus on the dog when you're herding two little-old-ladies toward the exit. Any of you who have elderly parents know what I'm talking about.

As grandma walked s-l-o-w-l-y through the store (she's 91 years old) we worked on Loose Leash Walking (LLW). Now, I have to tell you one of the things we work on with LLW is to sit or drop when we pause. Poor Boston, we were walking so slow she thought she needed to sit at each step! It was good for her as I don't normally walk that slow when training. Boston also met a little tiny baby (finally!) and they both got a kick out of each other. It was a successful visit.

While getting in and out of the car I noticed Boston's pack was looking a little small on her. She's growing!

We retired that pack and now she is in her big-girl pack. Ah, much better.

We had dinner on the patio last night to enjoy the beautiful late-summer day. My fork was accidentally knocked off the table and rather than picking it up myself I had Boston do it. She got to task right away, and wasn't even distracted with the fact that there was probably food still on it. Excellent! After dinner we relaxed by enjoying the rest of the evening outside.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer Party

We didn't have class last week so one of the foster homes hosted a puppy party. It was great fun! We met at Cathy's house in Hudson WI for some puppy playtime in the back yard while we humans dined on sub sandwiches. Marie made treats for the dogs, and once they all figured out what she had Marie looked like the Pied Piper. Boston is in the lower left of the first picture.

Afterward we headed down to the St. Croix River for some swimming. There must have been a dozen dogs running through the water, chasing balls, and having an all around good time. I think I went home wetter than Boston. But she smelled worse.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

To Grandma's House We Go

Last weekend we spent an overnight in Little Falls, where I grew up, and which is the boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh and Lindbergh State Park. I have fond memories of spending days at the park playing with friends and overnight camping trips.

It wasn't Boston's first visit to Grandma's house, but was the first overnight visit. It was a good training experience for her since my mother lives in an assisted living building. Apartment living can be different for a dog because of the hallway noises, riding elevators, and just the overall activity of people coming and going. There is a community dining room that we visit to give Boston that experience.

I've noticed it's fashionable for apartment dwellers to accessorize the entry to their apartment, which provides additional training opportunities for dogs: we can work on 'leave it' to ignore those items or introduce them into their socialization repertoire. One apartment was particularily interesting to Boston with its two more than foot-high chicken statues by the front door.

On Boston's very first visit to the apartment building she was taken aback by the chickens but had no issues with riding the elevator. This trip was the opposite - the chickens didn't bother her but she wouldn't get on the elevator. It's interesting to see how the dog's perceptions change and that as trainers we need to continually evaluate how to manage the dogs.

The people that live in my mom's building just love it when I bring a dog with me. Pets are not allowed, but I have spoken to apartment management about bringing the service-dogs-in-training with me. Technically, as the dwelling is a private entity, access could be denied. But we are welcomed with open arms.

The dogs serve almost as a therapy dog for the residents of the building. They enjoy meeting the dogs and hearing about the training, and everyone has a story to share about their favorite pet from the past. It brings a smile to their faces. And my mom beams from ear-to-ear knowing that she can share such a wonderful thing with her neighbors.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Boston's August Horoscope

I read my horoscope on a regular basis so it is only fitting that Boston follow hers. I like to watch for applications within our daily routines.

Aquarius Pets (January 20 - February 18)

The easygoing days of August have arrived, but expect some tense moments as well. As always, the key to keeping your pet happy is to act as if you've got it all under control. Fortunately, unnerving issues will be resolved around August 5th, once the third eclipse of the summer brings resolution. Once pets get through the pent-up feeling Mars and Saturn are sure to deliver between August 10 and 11, the rest of the month will be comparatively calm. Take time to enjoy being warm and moving slow, and your pet will follow.

Your Aquarius pet might not be the most romantic creature on four legs, but this month Venus in Leo will put Aquarius in the mood for love! Obviously, if your pet isn't spayed or neutered and you want them to be, make that trip to the vet before it's too late. But if you're into the breeding thing, this could be the perfect time to become a doting "grandparent." You'll also notice your pet will really be digging that time you spend with just the two of you. Venus in the House of One-on-One brings out Aquarius' affectionate side.

Sounds like we'd better call Eileen to schedule an appointment with the vet.

We'll see what tomorrow, August 5, brings. The comparatively calmness seems to be setting in already. Here's Boston doing her favorite thing ever. I just get a kick out of making little movies with my camera.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Class Notes

Monday night class last week was enjoyable. We were able to talk more as a group, sharing stories & ideas about the training of our current dogs and stories of previous experiences we might have had. The theme of the discussion surrounded how Helping Paws' clients rely so strongly on the skills we teach the dogs, and the importance of having good, solid responses to the commands.

One of the trainers, Elaine Beckstrom, comes to us with a very different perspective than most trainers: her son, Jake (age 20), is a recipient of a service dog, Miles. Elaine relayed a story about Jake and Miles to the class and with her permission I am sharing it with you.

"I would like to add a personal story about the importance of retrieving.

"At college Jake often zooms between his dorm and the main campus without putting on a coat. He can't get it on and off by himself and he doesn't want to sit in class in a winter jacket. So in the winter he is often outside in his shirt sleeves. One time Miles' flexi leash became detached from Jake's wheelchair while they were outside. Jake's first concern was for Miles and him potentially chasing after a squirrel or running away to have some fun. This was a below zero day with the wind blowing fiercely as well. Both Jake and Miles were in a potentially dangerous situation with no other people around at the moment to help grab Miles.

Jake asked Miles to pick up his flexi - which he did. Then Jake asked Miles to carry the flexi while they traveled about 100 yards to get back to Jake's dorm room. Other than Miles' stopping one time for a potty break (Miles set down the flexi to potty and then picked it up again), he stayed by Jake's side and carried the flexi without hesitation. This is a pretty heavy flexi with a leash/reel system which includes a metal bar so it can be attached to the wheel chair - probably weighs a couple pounds.

Thank goodness Miles is such a well-trained dog! They were both able to get back to the dorm safely.

The retrieve skill is one of the biggest ways that Miles assists Jake. You never know what the dogs will be asked to pick up or where they may be, but when the time comes they need to do it! I know our puppies are a long way from mastering this skill, but thinking of this episode with Jake and Miles does remind me of the importance of practicing it."

There are countless stories such as this one that we hear of. It never ceases to amaze me that we, as trainers, can contribute to such positive life changes.

Have you made a difference in someone's life today?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bobbing For Vegetables

The vegetable garden exploded with produce while we were on vacation, and we spent the day on Sunday harvesting and cleaning vegetables. It was a warm day so the pool was filled for the dogs while we worked outside.

We discovered that Boston loves snow peas, and threw a few in the pool for her. We also learned that snow peas do not float, and Boston had to stick her face in the water to get them. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you can get a better look at the bubbles she is blowing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Vacation

The Post family went on a week's vacation to Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota and just returned Saturday. It was a fun week even though the fishing wasn't so good. I had high hopes of catching my first muskie but didn't catch anything. Richard felt he didn't do much better, but that's a matter of opinion. He snagged this dandy piece of driftwood which I am pretty excited about. We brought it home and it's in the garden.

Sage went swimming for the first time in his life, that we know of. He had a blast and mastered retrieving the stick quickly.

Boston went on her own vacation to "summer camp" at another foster home, Jon and Louis Speck. We thought it would be good for her to spend time away from us, and vice versa. It puts things into perspective for both us and Boston. The Specks are training a service dog, Jazz, who is in the Working Wonders class (one class ahead of us); they also have another dog, Nugget. Louis is going to send pictures of Boston's visit and I'll post them.

Louise reports that Boston was the (almost) perfect house guest. Boston came back to us a different gal. She definitely has grown during the week. What was most exciting is that she is calmer. We sat on the patio Saturday night and didn't have to supervise her and Sage's playtime like we normally do. They just laid together side by side, romping occasionally. It was so nice. There has been no counter surfing since she got home. I told Louise she is a miracle worker!

It's almost like Boston is a different dog. Louise took Boston to her Monday night training class last week. Richard claims there must have been a mix-up and Louise took the wrong dog home.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Update on Boston

So much for my posting more messages. I didn't realize it had been so long until I looked at the date of the last blog post. Time flies! It's been a busy time for Boston and me. I've been work-working quite a bit and Boston has been working on new skills.

We're starting to get into the stage in training class of what I call the "fun stuff". Getting beyond the basic pet obedience skills of sit, drop, wait, etc. Here are a few things we're working on now:

  • Push - the first step is to teach the dogs to push drawers and doors close. We're now starting to work on rocker light switches that we hold in our hand. The end result is the dog will rise to turn on/off a light switch on the wall.

  • Go to bed - we are shaping the behavior to teach the dog to go to a rug and lay down. A very useful skill in keeping the dog in a controlled situation - and out from under our feet!

  • Get it and give (a.k.a., retrieving) - we've been working on this skill for quite a while and it's one of Boston's favorites. She is extremely good at retrieving items and giving them to me. We're challenging her more and more with this skill by putting items under chairs, tables etc., on chair seats and the back of shelves, and under vehicles. She's up to the challenge and will go in for the items and bring to me. We are also raising the bar on the types of items she is retrieving.

Another skill we will work on in the future is "rise". This is used to chain with the push skill to turn on lights, among other things. Boston is trying to get extra credit and doing her own version of rise right now. She's quite the counter surfer. We have to be careful to push items back from the edge and keep a close eye on her.

Update on her diet. We have finally found a food that she will tolerate and are slooowly working her off the chicken and rice. It's taking at least twice as much time as a normal transition, but are seeing progress so I continue to move forward with it.

Update on the Boots. Boston has stopped terrorizing me with her tugging and attacking my pants (and legs!) so the boots have been repurposed. They're actually one of the best investments I've made. I use them now for chores, gardening and on rainy days. Here's a picture of a recent raspberry harvest from the garden. The day I picked these it was pouring rain, but as far as we're concerned well worth the inconvenience.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Re: Boston's Horoscope for July

Posting Boston's horoscope might have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Right out of the gate yesterday morning she was challenging me. Her first visit outside after getting up in the morning is usually on point - she does her business and heads for the house because breakfast is waiting.

Instead, Friday morning Boston chased birds and squirrels (a newly acquired interest), and vaulted herself vertically to get at the bird feeders. I find her ability to be that agile quite impressive, but it wasn't making me happy this particular morning - I had a cup of coffee waiting for me inside. After a few laps around the yard Boston turned her attention back to me and we went inside.

Being inside wasn't much better. Boston loves to check out what is on my dresser table, and she quickly removed several items.

I decided a long walk was in order. Which, according to her horoscope, might be what Boston was trying to get all along. She thought it should be play time with Sage, and pestered him the first half of the walk. Thankfully I took the long route this day and they both settled down eventually. By the time we got home Boston was a pooped pup, and I took advantage of the situation to clip her nails.

Finally, I get my way.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Boston's Horoscope for July

Aquarius Pets (January 20 - February 18)

Mars and Pluto will enliven your Aquarian pet's imagination this month, and what's going on in that adorably furry head might surprise you. Your pet could escalate a dispute over coming in or going out and force you into a confrontation. You might not even be aware of what's going on at first -- or at least that's what your dog or cat might be hoping! If there's a long-standing argument about permission to sit on the furniture, or how many times a day you're going for a walk, you'll be amazed at how far your pet will go to make a point, particularly around July 3 and 4.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fight or Flight?

Boston is exhibiting her puppy stage of "fight or flight", when dogs are alarmed or become uncertain about what can sometimes be the silliest things. I've noticed it a few times recently when she has become alert to situations that until this point have been a common occurance in her life.

Yesterday I was vacuuming and heard Boston barking. Now that is unusual for her, as she is generally quiet in the house. It wasn't her "I have to go outside" whimper, but a full blown big-dog bark.

At first I ignored her. When she continued to bark I decided to turn off the vacuum and investigate. Had someone gotten into the house? No, I didn't think so since the front door was locked and Richard was in the back yard.

She was looking into the bathroom, looking at me, and then back into the bathroom. Bark-Bark! I rounded the corner when, horror of horrors, the bath mat was rumpled on the floor. How did that happen?! When did that get there?! This object, which is normally lying flat on the floor had now taken on a life of its own.

Once Boston had my attention, presumably to save me from this monster that had invaded our house, she tentatively approached it. We're trained to "make it funny" and laugh to diffuse the situation. Which is not too hard to do, actually, when you see how the dogs will approach and almost scare themselves.

After a few belly-laughs and click-treats to let her know this was a friendly monster Boston went happily on her way.

I can't wait till she notices the head mounts on the porch wall.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Good News for Boston

Boston has been having challenges in the past couple months that I have referred to lightly in previous posts: she cannot tolerate dog food. She's a shrimp, which I could see but was confirmed the night of the After Party when I saw her next to her siblings. Other than her food intolerance she acts like any other pup - energetic, happy, alert, terrorizing - and you wouldn't know she has issues.

Boston's been on a diet of chicken and rice flavored with FortiFlora or pumpkin for some time now (Richard said if we added cream of mushroom soup it would be hot dish and we humans could eat it too). Every time I try to transition her to a dog food she gets diarrhea. After trying the fourth brand of food and getting the same reaction her veterinarian had me bring her in for further testing.

Over the course of a few days, we ran an "overall" blood test to check her general health, (I apologize to those trained veterinarians out there for my lack of medical-speak) and a separate blood test to check for a pancreatic deficiency. The initial results came back with anemia, low pancreatic enzymes, and low in B12. When the vet requested the lab do additional analysis she was told these results were "inconclusive" and we had to take Boston in for another blood draw.

We left the clinic with medication for hook worm, which is a common cause for anemia, and the prescription drug Metronidazole, fondly called by me the M-drug, to help with the diarrhea. The veterinarian also mentioned a prescription diet might be necessary.

The days of waiting for the test results were hard. What if she had something wrong with her pancreas? I'm told if there is a deficiency it is for life. There is a food supplement available, but can get expensive. In my mind I projected this, in addition to a special diet, as a deterrent to her eventual placement. Would she be able to be placed as a service dog? Could it narrow the list of persons that would be able to care for her? Eileen, our Program Director, in her usual supportive manner told me not to go there but to focus on the short-term right now. Still, I couldn't get it out of my mind - it was upsetting to me.

I had a message from the veterinarian Saturday and the pancreas test can back negative. Horray!! What a relief that is. While it doesn't explain why she cannot tolerate food, we're happy to know her pancreas is OK. There was no anemia, so if there was hook worm the medication took care of it, the B12 was normal, and all blood counts are good. Am not sure why the initial report showed all these abnormal results and am going to talk with the doctor about it tomorrow.

Next steps for now is to follow her out on the M-drug and hope the worming medicine did some good. If not, I suspect we will do a food trial with prescription dog food. I would like to see her tolerate a commercial food to make her care after placement easier, but it could be worse.

In the meantime, while I'm writing this, Boston chewed up her first rug.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Class Outing After Party

I've been a bit remiss in timely posts to Boston's blog and am going to work on that.

Our class had an outing Monday night to do public training at the PetsMart in Richfield. This was our first outing and I think the training went well for everyone. It can be challenging working with your dog in a new environment. You almost have to take a step backwards in the expectation of what your dog is going to do. Seems like the mantra with every dog I've had is, "...but h/she does it [the skill] at home for me!!"

It's easy to get frustrated, but what the foster homes reminded each other after class is these puppies are so much better trained already than most pet dogs their age. We have all received comments and praise from individuals when we're out with our dogs on how well-behaved they are. Sometimes it's hard to see when you live with the dog every day, and you want so badly for them to be perfect. All of the foster homes in our class have been working so hard, and it shows.

Since we live about 5 miles from PetsMart we planned a play date after class. Even though it was a hot steamy night almost everyone came - Richard and I were thrilled! It was so much fun with eight of the ten golden pups running around the yard. Dempsey would have made it but he was on vacation. We filled the pool so the pups could cool off. It was a fun time for the foster homes to get to know each other better. It's hard to visit at class since we're all so focused on our dogs.

Here they are playing in the yard.

Rugby led the charge through the grasses. He was the ring leader in all that the puppies explored.

After everyone left I realized I didn't take pictures of any of the humans. Sorry everyone - next time!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

City Dog Visits the Farm

We attended a high school graduation party for our great-niece, Megan, last weekend at a hobby farm-type place in Andover called the Eveland Family Farm. It's really nice, with a shelter for the party and is a working farm with many animals and equipment.

What a perfect training opportunity for Boston! She socialized with a lot of people and did very well. Richard and I took her on a walk around the farm. Boston met many animals, and wasn't too concerned about any of them. The goats caught her interest the most, I think because they are the closest to her size. She gave the donkeys and pigs the smell-test. She smelled the pigs only once so was a difficult photo opp.

Below are pictures of Boston on the tractor, and with the many animals she made friends with that day.

Here's a picture of Megan and our great-nephews Aaron, Ty, and Alex. We have a tradition of taking their picture with each dog we have trained. It's been fun to watch them growing with each dog. Looks like Boston was getting pretty tired by then.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rainy Day

We took advantage of today's rain to do a little umbrella training. Boston doesn't mind the umbrella but she doesn't especially like the rain - it does a job on her hair, making it all fuzzy and kinky. Mostly around her ears which makes her face look fat.

Seriously, she won't go outside in the rain so I accommodate her by holding the umbrella over her. In the meantime I get pretty wet.

The things we do for our dogs!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Really Reliable Recall

I think Boston has this one down.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Transfer of Affection

We had a big breakthrough - Boston went into the bathroom and left the toilet paper alone! No more pulling it off the roll and through the house. Finally.

Boston has picked up another fetish though. Shoes, and many of them. She drags them from the bedroom into the porch. On this day Boston accessorized with a handbag.

My kinda gal.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Bird Dog?

On a trip to Home Depot this weekend for gardening twine I acquired a tree for the patio garden. It's a great little globe blue spruce in a topiary form, and was planted in a rather large wooden box.

Needing help getting the tree in the car, I solicited a couple gentlemen to assist. (Actually I needed to figure out how it was going to fit in the car - I drive a Subaru Outback, a.k.a, the Grocery Getter). When I opened the back there was the crate that Boston rides in. Sans Boston. One of the guys looked at it and asked "Oh, do you have a bird?". Hmm....

The tree didn't fit in the back. The guys ended up wrestling it into the back seat and I opened to sun roof so it could stick out the top. Thank goodness for the sunny day. The tree made it home unscathed and is happily in its new digs. I must show it off.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Send Pictures

My family keeps telling me to send more pictures of Boston. Boston has had a couple unplanned visits to the vet. Without going into detail, I'll just say "Montezuma's Revenge" has been knocking at her door. Boston has made several new friends at the South Metro Animal Emergency Care in Apple Valley. While we appreciate all the great service and loving care they have extended upon Boston, we hope we don't see them again soon. On a recent visit one of the techs asked if she could "decorate" her.

This one is just plain cute, and I have to post it before she grows any more. Boston has doubled in size since we got her!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My First Sleepover

We have a guest blogger today. Julie Vanderheyden took care of Boston while I was out of town. I got to know Julie while training our first service dogs together, and we've become friends.

Boston tells of her visit to Julie's house, as translated by Julie:

Mom packed my bags and sent me on my first sleepover adventure while she traveled to Washington D.C. I got to go to Marley's house - he's a 4 year old black lab that has about as much energy as me! We had lots of fun wrestling, playing tug-of-war and chasing each other around the yard. I was a little scared to go down the steps at Marley's house, but now I am a pro at it. Marley has a lot of neighbor dog friends, so I got to meet all of them. One day we all chased each other around in the yard - it was like a mini dog park. One of my most favorite things to do at Marley's house is to run under the bed and hide. One day no one could find me and I think everyone got a little nervous until I wiggled out from underneath and then everyone was laughing and smiling again. I also had a lot of fun with the toilet paper rolls!

Marley's mom thinks I'm showing promising signs of being a service dog because I brought her lots of things that I found on the floor including shoes (but I never chewed them), baseball hats, pieces of clothing, the dish towel, etc. I also helped unload laundry from the dryer. And most importantly, I gave out lots of kisses and affection.

I really enjoyed my first sleepover at Marley's and hope I can go back there again sometime soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy Mother's Day From Boston

Here's an email I received from Boston while in DC since, of course, I'm a dog-mom.

Hi Mom,

I'm having lots of fun at Marley's house. He is very patient with me when I nip at his ears and his tail. He and I slept until 9 a.m. this morning. Then I met his cousins Lucy and Lily. They are little white westies and they are real crabby! They barked a lot at me - I'm not sure why because I was very nice to them.

Marley and I went on a 45 minute walk, and I saw a lot of birds that I wanted to chase. Then we played outside with all the neighbor dogs - Lucy, Lily, Abby the french poodle and Marley. I've never been so tired in my life. I'm taking a nap right now trying to recover.

There was a dinner party here last night and I met a whole bunch of people and snuggled up with all of them. Everyone really likes me here, and they all like to hold me and squeeze me.

Marley has some really cool toys and he likes to play tug of war with me. Sometimes he wins, sometimes I win. I'm sending you some pictures because I'm sure you are missing me. Have a good time in Washington with Kathy and Joy, and I'll see you on Wednesday.

Happy Mother's Day!

Love, Boston

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bath Night

Boston had a big night tonight so we wanted to make sure she was spankin' clean. She still fits in the kitchen sink if she has two feet in each tub. Boston behaved herself pretty well, but of course had to get a taste of the soap. How many adults does it take to give a 20# puppy a bath? Two.

We attended Helping Paws' Spring Graduation tonight, where two individuals received service dogs. What an exciting time that is. It was the first large group event for Boston and she did quite well. With all the activity I had to work harder to keep her attention on me. I also realized this was the first time Boston has heard applause. She was puzzled at the noise at first, but easily accepted it as the program went on.

I am leaving for Washington, DC in the morning and Boston is spending the time with a friend, Julie. Julie met us at graduation to pick up Boston. I felt like a mother giving a new babysitter instructions. I wrote out a list and also had to tell Julie everything I could think of. And then, of course, on the way home had to call Julie because I forgot something. I keep thinking of other things I forgot to tell her but am restraining myself from calling.

It's the first time away from home for Boston so will be interesting to hear how it went. In talking with Julie we realized I forgot to pack the boots.

Oops, sorry Julie.

Good luck.