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?