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Category Archives: Inga

What is the plural for Abacus anyway?

dog in office
Your phone was ringing.  So I killed it.
You’re welcome.

So does it feel like it’s been twenty years?, asks a colleague.

No, not really, I say. More like twenty five.

Aw, just kidding. Like I’m sure the boss was just kidding when he said I should be good for another fifteen or twenty more. I worked out the math on that one and didn’t care much for the resulting sum.

Sure, I’ve been working at P&G Pet Care for a cool two decades, but it’s not like it’s been a quarter of a century or something. But hey, if I put in another twenty years, I’d be that much older too. I can imagine bags under my eyes sagging at the mere thought.

Yowza.  In dog years I’d be … well, let’s say getting kissing-cousin close to the Golden Years. Or what I would prefer to think of as my Margarita on the Beach Years.

And to stay true to any old-timer that’s been around the block enough times to wish there was a park bench halfway through, I have indeed seen a lot of change at our workplace.

Oh, but first allow me to start off here with a gentle, yet firm, smack-down on you smarty-pants out there and let you know we did actually have desktop computers back in the early days. We didn’t use abacuses.

Abacusi? Abaci?

Whatever. It wasn’t any funnier the first time I heard that accounting joke from some young new hire than it was the umpteenth.

Ok, so we didn’t have laptops when I started at Iams. Or Microsoft Office. Or even [cough] email. And maybe I did have to type out purchase orders on an IBM Selectric (that’s a typewriter, you know). But progress trudged onward and we tried like heck to keep up.

dogs in office
I taught her everything I know.

Today in the workplace we still use phones from time and again. Mostly though, mine sits silent on my desk and serves only as a prop to hold up documents for me to read. I don’t get snail mail anymore either. No, instead we have the technology of instant messaging to track each other down like ear-tagged wildlife. And I said instantly, right? As in, whatever you’re doing right now just stop it and pay attention to me because Ima pinging you here. On a good day, you’ll see five or six of these thingies flashing on the bottom on your monitor. Yay, Progress. Keep on keeping on, brother. You rock.

And of course I was around for the P&G acquisition of The Iams Company and experienced the growing pains of doing business as a large corporation instead of a privately held company Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, y’all. But it is different.

Setting all this talk of change aside, there is a particular job perk in our workplace culture that we continue to enjoy.

Our pet friendly office atmosphere.

And it’s been awesome, people. Not gonna lie.

All that stuff you hear about dogs lowering blood pressure, providing a calming presence and being therapeutic just by the good luck of being a dog … it’s all true. Our campus is ridiculously huge. Really, people get lost just trying to find a conference room. Still, we have folk stop by to spend a moment with Micron and they don’t work anywhere within a quarter mile of my cube.

puppy in crate
Puppy Micron power trains for his napping skills.
Level: Expert 

He’s like a guru on the mountain, this dog. What’s the true meaning of life, ask those sojourners who seek peace of mind.

Naps, says Micron. Lot’s of ’em. Rub my belly, oh yeah that’s it, and I’ll tutor you in the ways of nirvanic relaxation, young grazzzzzzzz  [snort].

And sure enough, Micron is a calming influence. All the dogs I’ve brought into the office have done their part in supporting the health and well-being claims of their ilk.

But still.

We’ve had the occasional burp, so to speak.

Jack burps

Right, burps. Remember earlier this month when I was going about all nostalgic about Jack the Wonder Dog and his Incredible Intestines? Perhaps unrelated to his culinary indiscretions, who knows really, a geriatric Jack found himself in need of a splenectomy.  That nasty spleen just had to go, says the vet. So post-surgery, I was worried about my old dog and decided to bring him into the office with me for a quiet day of observation. We were sailing along quite nicely, no problems, for almost a whole hour. Bored with the lack of drama, Jack pads behind me to the coffee station where a grab a cuppa refill.

Um, Food Lady, says Jack. I don’t feel so g … braaaack. I instinctively step back as my poor old dog empties his stomach contents onto the carpet right in front of the men’s room. Huh, was he really outside long enough to eat that much tree bark this morning? Oh, there’s his antibiotic pill, too. Better save that, I think.

But holy St. Ralph, people, the sound of it. It was all so … well, juicy. At nine in the morning, the office has suddenly taken on an after five o’clock feel. There is not a peep from anyone. No keyboards clacking, all conversation has stopped.

I’m apparently on my own here.

Ok, here’s the prob. Jack the Wonder Dog has just performed his favorite magic act – he made food. Experience tells me I have to clean this up real quick-like before he starts digging in. Yeah, and before anyone comes out of the men’s room and plants an unsuspecting penny loafer in the quivering mess. The same aspic gel that’s starting to leak under the restroom door like a scene from The Blob.

Gotta clean this up. Can’t leave the dog. Have to open the men’s room door, lord help me.

Now this was years before my puppy raising experiences made me a master of making canine bio spills disappear before you can blink twice. Think …think … what to do, but the obvious? Yes! I overturn a trash can, pull out the plastic garbage bag and just go to town, scooping up the most heinous part.

Whew, I say, wiping my brow. Disaster averted.

When’s lunch?, asks Jack the Wonder Dog.

No, I got this. Really.

This next story goes way back, too. No, keep going. C’mon back … c’mon back … there! We’re circa mid-’90’s and I’ve just met the new Vice President of Canine Communications for The Iams Company. A fresh young thing, she is. Petite, blonde and a just a day short of being fully housebroken.

Kersee, a namesake of the athlete Jackie Joyner Kersee, is just a pup on her first trip to the office. Sure, now I’m a veteran of pets in the workplace, but back then I admit I was taken aback when the pup dropped a package in front of my desk.

Sensitive to my open mouthed reaction, a colleague grabs, of all things, a paper plate and starts to scoop.

Ok, here’s the prob on this one. My new friend and co-worker is pregnant and very much so. Once she leans in start the cleanup attempt in earnest, she begins to gag.

We pause here with a question for you. What would you rather have in front of your desk: a fresh dog pile or a co-worker’s reflux gone wild?

Right. Neither. The correct answer is here, let me take care of this, ok? You go sit down for a minute.

Stop, Drop & Roll

service dog as puppy
Yaxley in his “Before” photo.

Are all these stories going to be about stuff coming out of dogs?, you ask. Because I have an root canal appointment or something I have to get to. 

Hahaha, I say. No, no we have another story that doesn’t involve such things. 
This might have been deer poop.
A cautionary tale of what happens when you start feeling uppity about your dog training skills, we share with you the story of the young Yaxley in A calming influence.

Clicking the link above will take you to the harrowing tale and its dramatic conclusion. No spoilers here, other than I will tell you that I’ve learned my lesson about pre-bragging.

Best to wait until after all is well and done.

three dogs playing
Yaxley, Micron and Karsen share the frisbee.
Or try to King Solomon the thing into thirds.
One or the other anyway.

It’s only slobber

Ok, ok I hear you. Let’s go into the lesser of the dog liquids. Dog slobber’s not so bad when you get down to it, right?

Especially when it’s coating a tennis ball. That’s not gross, people. It’s Good Times slime.

Embracing the knowledge that a tired dog is a good dog, our furry charges get playtime during the workday too.

Another bonus to the pet friendly office is that they have friends at recess. No sitting on the swings all alone for these fellas.

We don’t really call it recess, of course.

Nope, we’ve got a special command for our pups in training. We know and they know – it’s all business in the office for our dogs. Rules to be followed; manners to be perfected; biological events to be internalized.

But in the play yard, they sit and wait. Say it, say it, say our dogs. Please.

Dogs, we say. Release!

dog crate training
Inga and Naoko share a quiet moment in the crate.
Where is the rest of Naoko’s body? you ask.
I don’t know, I say. But it does appear Inga owns the fella.

service dog and puppy
Why. Won’t. It. Sleep?

Wordless Wednesday: A Lab-derriere cross


What do you get when you cross a Labrador with a terrier?

No really, I’m hoping you might know.  A lab-derriere cross, perhaps?

A vintage shot of Jager and our first CCI puppy, the lovely Inga, on vacation with us in the RV.  The cooler weather has inspired me with thoughts of autumn.  When then led to fond memories of a fall camping trip on Skyline Drive with these two road dogs.

Wait just a sec, you say.  Did we just see the words RV and camping trip used in the same context? C’mon now. Does one truly “camp out” in an RV?

And I would respond to this by saying that RV is an acronym, not a word. Otherwise, good catch, y’all.  Even traveling in a rustic beast such as this, we were far from roughing it.

But road trips with the dogs has always been my vacation of choice.  And I can prove it, too.  For those who want an early taste of autumn, grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte and do some leisurely clickin’ for our past RV adventures. 

Top 10 reasons to take an RV vacation with your dog

Recipe swap – RV Road Dawgs

Pawprints in the sand

Nature gets uppity (featuring the Joe Dirt car!)

It was a dark and stormy night

Chocolate: it’s not just for breakfast anymore

Color my world with dog

Spirits of the season

News hound

Would you photoshop a halo for me, Food Lady? asks the lovely Inga
puppy.  What? No, there’s nothing in my mouth.

You know how you can tell you’re in the home of a first time puppy raiser?

Oh, there are the subtle signs if you look in the right places.  See the tv remote held together with a rubber band? How ’bout those flip flops pockmarked with dental imprints? The ink pen next to the phone has been so chewed upon that you wonder how it can even work, let alone still be held comfortably.

And the puppy raiser has that hyper-vigilant look about her, always aware of where the puppy is and what she may be chewing on now.

In-GA! I call in a sing-song voice. Where ARE you?

Ah, our beautiful, intelligent, challenging first puppy, the lovely Inga.  She taught us how to be puppy raisers, absolutely true. But even more, she showed us what this gig is about.

Why we want to go through the house-breaking and puppy proofing of our humble abode. The reason for the consistent training, the socialization.

Because really, I’m just sweet thing.

And why the heartache of saying good-bye after our eighteen months of constant companionship is so completely worth it.

This past CCI August graduation became an experience of mental grounding. We were returning Yaxley to CCI that afternoon and working through the tender emotions that insist on squeezing your heart. This day brought something new to twist things up though. We were completely jazzed to find that Inga and her family made the trip to Dublin to attend the graduation.

Although we’ve had the supreme blessing to be able to keep in touch, we hadn’t seen Inga, Joseph and Julie since graduation two years prior. Near the the end of the luncheon, Julie says, would you mind holding Inga for a few minutes? I need to go see someone.

She hands the leash to me. Inga with her cool brown eyes looks from the Husband, then over to me. [blink] Then back to him and again to me. And for a brief minute, after it clicks, she becomes a puppy again.  Oh my dog! she says.It’s you guys!

Inga in deep thought about what to chew next.

She gives a courageous struggle to maintain her training before she loses the fight. Then just as quickly, she composes herself and is once again a professional. Why hello, Inga says. It’s so very nice to see you both.

That brief puppy remembrance is now safely stored away as one of the best moments of my life.

Julie returns and I hand the leash back to her and Joseph.

Thank you for letting us spend a few minutes with Inga, I say, I can’t tell you how much this means to us.

I would never keep her from you, says Julie.

don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry . . . Thank you, I croak. And we move on to talk with Joseph about his upcoming adventures and plans for school this year.


In the news

Joseph and Inga were in the news again this past week.  Click here for the full article at the Tribune-Review.
This time the two of them were raising awareness of the upcoming CCI DogFest to be held in the Pittsburgh area. From the article . . .

[CCI] will host its first Pittsburgh-region fundraiser, DogFest featuring Snoopy and Friends, Oct. 27. It will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at Peterswood Park, Shelter No. 4 in Venetia.  The event will feature a pledge walk with trick-or-treat stops, a silent auction and a costume contest for humans and dogs. All proceeds benefit the organization.

Joseph Leckenby and his assistance dog Inga take a stroll outside their
Mt. Lebanon home Monday, October 8, 2012. Inga graduated through
the program Canine Companions for Independence.
(Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review)

Friends, family and fans of Puppy Inga, be sure to click through the photo gallery on the website link. Our little chewer of things has grown up. And it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

“I like her so much,” said Joseph, 13, while sitting in his family’s Mt. Lebanon home with Inga’s head in his lap. 

Please excuse me now. I think I have something in my eye [sniffle].

Read more:
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

5 things I stopped doing after becoming a volunteer puppy raiser

It was four years ago that I began this journey as a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence. On September 5, 2008, we welcomed the lovely Inga into our lives as an eight week old cotton ball. In these mere few years there’s certainly been no shortage of opportunities to learn something new. Always those helpful life lessons on how to do things right.

But you know, there’s the other side of the leash as well.

And today I share with y’all . . .

Five Things I Stopped Doing After Becoming a Volunteer Puppy Raiser


1. Wishing I had three arms

We human beans been granted the brain power to multitask, but frustratingly enough, we’re a little short-handed, so to speak, on the body parts. This was especially apparent to me as a young mom carrying a fussy toddler in one arm and rummaging across the bottom of the purse for enough change to buy Tylenol because anything stronger needed a prescription. How many times did I wish for a third arm those days.

Kid munching on Cheerios in the highchair, dog strategically positioned with maw open like a moat gator catching the crumbs, dinner on the stove, pots soaking in the sink. You know the rest, the phone’s ringing, the man wants your attention for some such thing, and the washer buzzes that the load’s done. Those days it would have been nice to have one hand on a magazine, the other in a delicate grasp of a glass of chilled white. Instead my greatest wish was to have an extra appendage to just expedite the evening.

Um, speaking of needing a hand here

It’s different now, my mindset on this. Puppy raisers learn to do it all with only one hand free. Oh! Don’t even try to make that dirty, now. Honestly, people. I’m trying to be all serious here.

When folk ask me, would you like me to hold the dog while you do that, I politely decline.

You see, I wonder what it would be like if I actually had limited mobility. With this pup in training, how much can I trust him to hold a command, to stay still by my side until it’s time to move along again?  Can distractions be ignored? The best way for me, a fully physically able person, to determine this is to limit my own range of motion in some way.

So, I’m learning. Do you want to leave the pup with me while you go through the buffet line?, asks the Husband. Naw, I say. I’m good. I’d like to walk her near the food and reinforce her self-control.

With the leash in my left hand, I balance the plate and its mounded deep-fried buffet goodness in my dominant right. The pup is at Heel and totally solid. In tune with my movements, she answers every Let’s Go and stops to sit when I pause. We’re like dance partners. It’s beautiful.

Oh ugh, the sour cream is stuck to the spoon. My attempt to give the spoon a sharp shake to dislodge the clotted mass goes terribly awry.  The dairy glob takes a right turn at Albuquerque and bypasses my baked potato. Instead it smacks squarely on the pup’s cape. She looks up at me to ask what she should do about this.

Well, I say. Shit. Which I know is totally unacceptable at a buffet.  Even Golden Corral, the Wal-Mart of buffets. But in my defense, I kinda forgot myself, not having the previous life experience of slapping sour cream on a dog in a buffet line. How does one react to such things, anyway?

2. Asking my dogs to follow commands

Say it like you mean it, I tell co-workers. He’ll sit the first time. We dog lovers want to be gentle and caring with our furry family members. We want to be kind, we do.

What do the dogs want? Well, consistency is a good start. Ok, we say, you can lie on the sofa next to me, but not if you’re muddy. Yeah, that kind of thinking doesn’t chug well through a dog noggin.  And if you want them to sit, you tell them Sit with that tone that makes clear there’s not really an alternative option here. If you ask them kindly to sit and they just stand and look at you, you going to have to ask a second time. Or even a third. By the fourth SIT! with your hand pushing on their butt they will finally plant it. So now your dog knows that he doesn’t have to do anything until you ask four times. And that’s consistency.

So I don’t ask my dogs to do things. I let them know what behavior is expected and what will get them praise and possibly score them a cookie.

An assistance dog must be responsive. These dogs love having a job to do and want to do it well. And we want them to feel good about themselves, after all.

3. Leaving offerings to the food fairy

Did you catch that gaping maw moat alligator mentioned in Number One above? Ah, there was a magical time in my life that I didn’t really clean the kitchen floor all that much. I had a dog.

A friend with small children was lamenting about how her otherwise adorable kids had taken a carton of eggs out to the living room and cracked each one open on the carpet. A dozen eggs!, she cried. How do you even begin to get that out of the carpet?

You know what I’d do? I said, calmly sipping my coffee. I’d just let the dog out there. Better than a wet vac, in my experience. A Labrador would suck every trace of that egg slime out of the fiber, now wouldn’t he?

Oh, but it’s not the same with an assistance pup in training. An assistance dog cannot walk into a restaurant with his handler and be hoovering the carpet all the way to the table. And this starts with the puppy raiser.

With three dogs in the kitchen as I work at the cutting board, food flying everywhere like it has super powers or something. A potato morsel lands next to a dog nose, but no matter. These furries are being trained to ignore food on the ground.  Their goodies come from their food bowl or a dog cookie from my hand.

Why didn’t I do this before I was a puppy raiser? Never again will I have a begging dog at the dinner table.

So, whatcha eatin’?

4. Panic over a torn dewclaw

Or other such small things. Just like kids, the more dogs you have come through your house the more relaxed you get about minor emergencies.

I was a Cub Scout leader for a few years. I’d hear things like, Mrs. Sword! Bobby poked me in the eye with a stick! And I’d ask, Is it bleeding? Still got the marble in your head? You can still see? Then get back out there and play capture the flag, kiddo. Come back if you’ve cracked a rib or something.

Before puppy raising, we just had Jager as an Only Dog in the house. My sister went on a long deserved vacation and I’m keeping the kids for a couple of weeks.  The two kids are playing fetch with Jager in the backyard when he gets so excited he somehow rips a dewclaw. Holy cow, but do those things bleed.  I try some basic first aid, but the dog has ripped the thing at the root and there’s tissue damage as well.  Fine, no prob. Ok, maybe a little bit of a prob. I’m just a bit rattled.  I pack the kids and the bleeder in the car (Direct pressure, kids. Elevate that leg). and we head off to the vet for a stitch or two.

Jager can get a wee bit intense when playing

Problem is, I left all the bloody gauze and smeared blood all over the kitchen floor without nary a note of explanation. The Husband comes home from work to this CSI crime scene. Which one was it, he wonders. The wife, the niece or the nephew? Well, at least I answered my cell phone to What the hell is going on! to keep the police out of it all.

Since then, I’ve taken a Red Cross first aid course for pets. I’ve not had the opportunity to put a dog snout in my mouth to give CPR respirations, but I’m ready for it should the need arise.

With this gig of raising valuable dogs that aren’t even mine, well, I want to do the right thing to keep the furries safe, sound and healthy. I do feel more confident about handling certain canine emergencies. But still hoping to avoid the CPR dog snout thing.

5. Forgetting the camera. Again.

You just can’t plan for this kind of adorable

A pup in training is a 24/7 photo op. After about a hundred and two times of wishing I had a camera to capture the moment, I finally starting carrying a permanent purse camera. I was thwarted in the attempt to save money by buying an inexpensive model and had to replace the cheap little piece of electronic waste with another purse camera. And for serious stuff, I have my beloved Canon to capture the pretty portrait shots. It’s entirely possible I might have more cameras stashed about the house, too. Theoretically and all.

So, how many cameras do you have, asks the Husband as he observes me pulling equipment out of the camera bag like it’s a circus clown car. Oh, I don’t know, I admit. Isn’t that like asking how many pairs of shoes I have? [sigh] says the Husband.

Raising a puppy is a 24 hour gig. I want a camera to be there for all the adventures.

Awesome isn’t something that you can plan. It just happens.

That’s it, Micron!  Work it!

And in volunteer puppy raising, awesomeness happens a lot.

Wordless Wednesday: Please don’t eat the coneflowers

Brought out of the archives and dusted off, here we share one of my favorite photos of the lovely Inga

Our first CCI puppy on her first morning at our humble abode. Eating my fading coneflowers while looking directly into my eyes. And our first hint at the challenges to befall us as novice puppy raisers.

Friends and co-workers, would it surprise you to hear that Inga just celebrated her fourth birthday on July 9?  Four, y’all.  The lady’s been a Skilled Companion Dog for nearly two years now.

Time passes by so quickly, we know.  But sometimes it happens in a way that warms the heart, it truly does.

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