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Category Archives: service dogs

I’d know your face anywhere

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As I’m duck-walking to the nursery window [ow-ow-ow], a dark cloud of doubt is strolling smoothly behind me. A good mother would recognize her own baby, of course. So in about thirty seconds I’m going to find out what I am. A Good Mom or should we go ahead and call Children’s Services now?

I’m tense with anxiety. Will I know at first glance which bundled nugget of baby goodness belongs to me in that room? Or will I stand there like an idiot, just pretending like I’m admiring all the beautiful infants that came into the world the past evening?

Right. I’ve gone with Option 2. Or rather, none of these squalling and wrinkled human beans look like something the Husband and I made. Well, that’s just great. Now how to best handle this with the nurse walking towards me?  Which one is mine? is something I can’t seem to force into intelligible words.

Instead I say, My baby’s not in here. Where is he?  Because really, I don’t see him. He’s not in the nursery. My mommy radar is telling me this. That dark cloud has turned from doubt to concern and preparing to dump a rainstorm of panic about my head.

Oh, Mrs. Sword, says the kindly nurse. Your son is in intensive care for observation. We kept him there overnight just to keep an eye on him.  Let me get him for you.

We had a bit of rough go of it, the night my Favorite Kid entered the world. In the end though, all was well.  And some of the health worries we had over the past nine months turned out to be no big deal after all. The worst of it was a broken nose on the poor baby bean, which made a pretty gnarly first photo, I do admit. 

We were then, and still today, truly blessed.
_________________________________________

It’s this blessed life that got us into this puppy raising gig with Canine Companions for Independence.  Sure, I love the part of bringing a new puppy into my home about every year or so, but I also get that feel-good thing about playing a small part in making someone’s life better in a profound way. More about this is on a post from earlier in the year at Not Purely Altruistic.

Because CCI uses Labradors and Golden Retrievers, and crosses of these two breeds, we can get the pups in two colors: yellow or black. And people have asked me, don’t they all pretty much look the same? How can you tell which one is your pup-in-training when there’s a bunch of them together in one photo?

A puppy raiser knows, is my reply.  And we do. We can identify our pups at a glance – it’s their face, their posture, how they move.

And honestly folk, even to the casual eye, isn’t it easy to see each dog is unique in their own beautiful way?

Let’s use the photo below as a fer instance. We’re at the Ohio State Fair this weekend raising awareness of CCI at our meet-and-greet booth. Good for CCI and some great socialization training for our pups. These furries are different ages, even varying shades of yellow, but we’ll look deeper into appearances than that. 

From Left: Yaxley, Hana, Oneida, Van, Natalie and Frankie in front.

The position of the head tells us quite a bit; three have solid eye contact with their handlers. The light lady in the center, the black-coated chick on the end and the big fella in front. Oneida, Natalie and Frankie are wearing blue capes identifying them as assistance dogs. Each has eyes locked onto their handler and they are not going to let their person leave their line of sight.

It gives me chills to see this devotion and their canine sense of responsibility.

The other three are pups in training. This photo op reminded be of the paparazzi moms taking pictures of a group of teenagers posing in Prom attire – the kids never know which camera to be smiling at. Yaxley is on the left looking at the puppy raiser to my immediate right. Eight month old Hana seems zeroed in on me and wondering if I’m good for a biscuit treat.  And Van is between a dog and a hard place back in the corner and yet handling himself well.

Just when I get myself all confident in doggy ID, I find this on the camera’s memory card. Two yellow pups.

Ok, so one is Hana, the other Yaxley.  Both got each other’s back for greeting passersby.  The pink leash helps me to pick out Hana without actually looking at her name badge. And Yaxley has her by a few pounds, too, so there’s that.

Here’s Oneida who is working a little harder than the pups. Here’s how to properly greet people, young ones. Pay attention now, she says. A fully trained assistance dog, she shows her stuff by engaging folk with adorable hand shakes.

Just look at Frankie, here.  No ordinary pet, he has old soul eyes, don’t you think? The wisdom of the ages on this six year old fella.

Alrighty, now a challenge for y’all.  If you’ve been following Yaxley for a while, this should be an easy one for you. Let’s put your Puppy ID skills to the test.

Eleven pups in the litter, but we can take the two cutie patooties on the lower right out of the equation.  Nine yellow pups to select from here.

Which one is Yaxley, do ya think?

Hint: he’s yellow


Drop your guess in the comments.  I’ll let y’all off the hook with the answer in this week’s Wordless Wednesday post.

Good luck and may the odds be in your favor.

Can I pet your dog?

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Why, yes my ears do feel like velvet, sez Yaxley.

Can I pet your dog?


Yes you may, thank you for asking first.

As lovers of all things dog, we puppy raisers do enjoy meeting other appreciators of our furry companions.  My heart gets warmly stoked when I encounter toddlers with a seemingly instinctual affection for dogs. With a smile and a squeal, they reach out to grab a fistful of doggie goodness. I absolutely love this.

We do come across children with a deep fear of our dogs from time to time. More than just a hesitation to be introduced to something new and different that you might see in a two year old kidlet. I’m talking about the eight year old girl who sees a well-behaved Labrador on a leash and shrinks behind their parent for protection, sometimes accompanied by the trill of a B-movie scream. Whether this fear reaction is nature or nurture, only the family knows.  Certainly an early-in-life mishap with a family dog could sour a kid. Or maybe a nasty experience with the pet of a friend. But I’m saddened when I consider that an ugly childhood experience with dog will block the way to all the joys that dogs can bring to life.

Awaiting his audience. That’s the 4H tent across
the way. Chicks, ducklings, goats & more.

I’m reminded of this when Yaxley and I are volunteering at the Canine Companions for Independence meet & greet booth last weekend.  We’re at the Aullwood Farm Babies Fest and it’s just a glorious day, weather-wise. Yaxley is teamed at the booth with fellow CCI pups in training, TJ and Jorja. They greet their young audience while their puppy raisers educate parents on how CCI works with people with disabilities.

Ask first before you pet, the moms say. Hold your hand out so the dog can smell you.  

Our pups are pros at this thing. Sitting calmly, they will allow all manner of handling by the young folk.

Seeing a father encouraging his son to pet Yaxley, it was obvious the little guy was just not sure about this yellow creature larger than he. With Yax in a Down, my pup is now a warm and fuzzy statue of sorts; he is motionless. In this moment, the world melts away as I take on this all important task of showing this gentle kidlet that dogs don’t have to be scary and mysterious things. And Yaxley, the consummate professional in kid comforting, performs his magic.  After a few minutes, the yellow pup is receiving full body hugs, the tow headed lad’s face pressed against Yaxley’s belly.

And that’s one kid down. But many more are still out there in need of a positive dog experience.

Your dog is just beautiful. I want to pet him so bad, but I know he’s working.

Thanks, he is a handsome fella, isn’t he? Actually, we’re out today to work on socializing and encouraging calm greetings. You may pet him if you like.

When we give CCI presentations at schools, Service Dog Etiquette is always an important thing to cover with the kids. It’s ok to ask if you can pet the dog, we tell the kids. Many people love to talk about their service dogs and what they do. But don’t get your feelings hurt if the person says No. It just means that they need their service dog to be focused right now. It’s not a good time for any distractions to their work. Remember to be polite and say something nice, like OK, have a good day.

CCI’s website has an informational page on How should people behave around an assistance dog?    A good resource for those with questions on can I pet your dog? 

Not a surprise to see Number One on the bullet point list is Don’t touch the dog without asking permission first. Many assistance dog teams appreciate that their companion is a social bridge. A conversation starter, so to speak, to meet new people. But other times, it’s critical that the dog focus on their handler. So, yeah, always ask first.  It’s nothing personal if you get a sorry, not right now.  Oh, and this drive-by petting thing, well I gotta say that it’s not the little kids that do it. In my little bubble of experience, I find it’s grown men that will pat the dog’s rump as you pass each other. It’s not that I’m jealous, mind you. But it’s distracting for the dog, fellas. What if someone did that to you? Oh. Well, um, on to the next bullet point then.

Never feed the dog.  Ah, the power of a dog cookie. Talk about encouraging a dog to lose his train of thought. But we know better about this one anyway, don’t we?  Dunno about you, but I would stop mid-conversation if someone waved a frosted brownie in front of my nose. We all have our weaknesses.

Speak to the person, not the assistance dog.  Hey, eyes up here mister. Again, the distraction factor for the dog, not to mention how ’bout a little respect for a fellow human bean?

Bring ’em on, says Jorga

Don’t whistle or make sounds to the dog. Ugh, why would someone do this?  I was in Tim Horton’s tucking into one of their amazing breakfast sandwiches when I hear a low whistle from a couple of tables over. And not for me, the wolf whistle ship has sailed away a decade ago. It’s for my pup in training under the table. Some hayseed and his grizzly buddy are entertaining themselves by trying to distract the pup. Inga, of course, made me proud by being smarter than the two of them. She turns her pretty head and looks out the window. I give the two of them The Look and properly abashed they go back to their coffee.

Never make assumptions about the individual’s intelligence, feelings or capability.  We’re quick to judge, aren’t we?  Sure, I do it too. Like when I refer to some chowderhead as a hayseed. And I’m ashamed when I catch myself. Not all talents are obvious, some disabilities are invisible.

These pups are pros at being handled.
 Jorja gets a dental exam by a boy scout.

And CCI’s final bullet point on this topic, Don’t be afraid of the dog.  A CCI dog is bred for temperament, carefully tested and selected for appropriate behavior. These dogs are not mere pets with a passing grade in basic obedience. A CCI assistance dog has been socialized by their puppy raiser in different public venues for a been there done that attitude. Then professionally trained at CCI in the ways of an assistance dog. If you see the blue & yellow CCI cape, you’re looking at a well-mannered, confident dog.  Guaranteed.

When I get the question, will that dog protect you if someone attacks you?, it’s tempting to respond with wanna give it a try and find out? But that would be wrong in so many ways. First, because if the inquirer did rise to the challenge, I’m pretty much screwed. And second, because it’s not becoming to be a smartass when educating people about the pup in training. We do like to keep things on a positive note.

A youngster reaches a comfort level petting away
 from the business end of the pup.

If we cook this all down into a reduction sauce, what’s the real message here?  Just the basics of civilization, don’t you think?  Be polite and respectful of others.  .

Be sure to check out CCI’s page where more information on this topic is available at How should people behave around an assistance dog?

Jorja catches a power nap before the next shift.
It’s not a cat nap, she says. Stop calling it that.
Yaxley enjoys a hug. He says boys smell like french fries.

Working Dog face

At the tender age of five months, we slipped the working cape over Micron’s noggin and snapped the clip under his belly. You’re not a little puppy anymore, we tell him, it’s time to start acting like a big dog now.

The Mighty Micron at five months

I capture this momentous occasion with a snapshot. To the uninitiated, this may appear to be a pup taking things serious. I’m a big dog now!  See that look of focus on his adorable button-nosed face?  Ah, but look again. That wide legged stance, alert posture. Those brown eyes are indeed focused, but alas not on either of his handlers. Now people, what one word comes to mind when you look at this?  Right. Ok, let’s all say it together, shall we  . . .

Squirrel!

Yep, the distraction factor, just one of the behaviors that makes Micron so charming.

As we were out and about to socialize this fluffy boy over the next year, we’d be asked, so, what do you think he’ll be doing?  A good question that. Of the four types of assistance dogs that Canine Companions for Independence trains and provides, where did we feel Micron would fit? As volunteer puppy raisers, we don’t socialize and train for any one specific purpose. We move forward with our eye on the horizon and try our best to get the pup ready for the Advanced Training program at CCI.  Once there the professional trainers work with the dogs for another six to nine months to determine how their skill sets and personalities best fit in the assistance dog world.

But sure, it’s fun to fantasize about the destiny of the pup in your charge. Of course, it turned out that thinking that Micron would make it through more than three months of Advanced Training was my own personal fantasy. But long before being faced with stark reality, I’d squint my eyes and picture him as a Service Dog or Skilled Companion Dog. Oh, that would be glorious!  But truth be told, that vision was a little blurry. Holding onto that warm thought was like nailing jello to a wall.  It just didn’t feel right. As a pup, Micron just never took anything seriously. Walking into a room, any room, it was like he would throw out his front paws and shout, That’s right, people! The party starts . . . NOW!

Ok then, so what about a Hearing Dog? Well, kinda the same thing I guess. Hey! Hey! he’d nudge to alert his person, didja see it? There’s a squirrel!  I’ll be right back.   No, I suspected CCI’s high value system wouldn’t be able to overlook this behavior. There’s a very specific personality that’s required to be a Hearing Dog and tree rat retrieval isn’t gonna be a required skill.

Even on matriculation day, Micron jokes
with Karsen about picking up chicks at college.

Which leaves the role of Facility Dog. Now, this one gave me a tinkling spark of hope. Micron loves people and basks in any attention he receives. It’s hard to describe really, but it’s kinda like he glows. No, not like emitting a light, but maybe more like an aura about him. People tell me they feel better being near him, by petting him. Now if I could just bottle this magical stuff he has, we could share it and make the world a better place.

When talking with folk about CCI dogs, it seems most have some understanding of the work of Service Dogs, Skilled Companion Dogs and Hearing Dogs. These are teams you come across in daily life in the public arena of the world. A Facility Dog, however, doesn’t get out as much into the public eye.  Not that they’re behind the scenes, mind you. These dogs earn their kibble.  From CCI’s website, we learn . . .

Facility Dogs are expertly trained dogs who partner with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation or education setting.

CCI Facility Dogs are trustworthy in professional environments and can perform over 40 commands designed to motivate and inspire clients with special needs.

Facility Dogs are needed in educational settings, such as special education classrooms. And an amazing program that’s really been taking off over the past few months are the Courthouse Dogs, who promote a feeling of calm and security in a visitation setting. My fellow dog lovin’ friends, you can certainly see this, right? Imagine a child about to testify in a courtroom. A stressful situation for any of us, but for a kid with less life experience this can be downright terrifying. Now imagine being able to stroke a calm, friendly Labrador before you walk out there to take your place on the witness stand. No really, close your eyes and think about this. Can you feel the difference it makes? Absolutely incredible stuff, I think.

And in the healthcare setting, our CCI Facility Dogs are trained to assist with medical rehabilitation.  They are there to motivate and encourage folk to pull through otherwise difficult tasks. How so? you ask. Ah, another good question. Well, let me share something pretty darn cool with y’all.

The ruggedly handsome Jarvis was teamed with Margie Benge of Triangle Therapy Services in February, 2012.  For those of you out there on Facebook, I invite you to check out Triangle Therapy Service’s page, especially the photo album on Jarvis – First month at work. Margie’s photos tell the story of the important job of a dog involved with occupational therapy with children. Talk about the Wow factor.

If you’re not on Facebook, then what the heck are you doing with all your spare time anyway? Cleaning the house or something? No what I mean is, check out their website at Triangle Therapy Services to learn more about their pediatric occupational and speech therapy work.

After Micron’s turn in to CCI’s Advanced Training program, I held onto the Facility Dog dream for a while. Actually, for three whole months until The Phone Call.  But, I plead, he loves people!  He has an aura and everything! Can’t he be a Facility Dog?  To which Gwen replies, Yeah, it was a nice try, Donna. But there’s too much Microness there.   Too much Micron happening? Sure, I can see that.  Heck, I lived with it for eighteen months, so the news was not a shocker.

What? This is my Serious Look [snort]

What to do with this college dropout?  Well, that’s where the pet therapy training comes in.

At a glance, there could be some connection seen between a CCI Facility Dog and a dog involved in a Pet Therapy program. In the world of assistance dogs, there’s even some ambiguity with terms among different organizations just to keep us all a bit confused. Lessee if I can help with this without making things worse.

Both occupations require a calm, confident dog. A canine who is at their best around people. A good start, but let’s summarize the nitty gritty of things to see what’s really different here.

A Facility Dog’s work is goal oriented.  The dog is highly trained dog to guide an individual – adult or child – with a specific task. Such as physical rehabilitation, in which the dog is assisting an individual in improving a motor skill or relearning how to use certain muscles after an injury. This type of work is termed as Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), bringing the term therapy as another ingredient into the confusion soup. Some of CCI’s Facility Dogs are indeed assigned to AAT work in healthcare. But you recall that other Facility Dogs may be working in a courtroom environment or elementary classroom.  All assignments, however, are goal oriented.

How ’bout this? My mouth is closed.
Serious enuf for ya now?

Now a dog involved in Pet Therapy is pretty much what the title says. A person and their pet dog who goes out to make the world a happier place. A noble goal to be sure, but not the goal oriented work of a Facility Dog. What this team does is more recreational.  Showing up to bring a smile to someone. Ask anyone who’s had their day changed after a visit by a pet therapy team and you’ll understand the value of the program. I’m telling you from experience, the training is tough. No doubt there. But it is a different focus on skill sets for you and your dog.  In our pet therapy course, we’re reinforcing good behavior and basic obedience skills. We’re not doing anything especially fancy here. With me and Mike, our thing is encouraging party boy to show some self-control. Like not trying to take the yellow tennis balls off the feet of the walker.  While someone is using it.

So in the past I was telling Micron to stop it already with the goofy looks and put on your working dog face, because darn it, you’re wearing your cape and you’ve got to look serious, and well . . .

Today I can look into those sparkling brown eyes and smile back at his open mouthed doggie grin. I know now this is his working dog face.  His job is to bring happiness into a room. Any room.

raising a super dog
There it is. Micron’s working dog face.
The one we know and love so well.

Wish us luck, won’t you?  Four weeks down and six more to go in our pet therapy training. So far, so good, but we need plenty of positive thoughts sent our way.  This dog has a destiny, you know.

Rambam’s Ladder

Not long ago, a co-worker asked me “If you were in a crowded room and someone yelled GEEK!, would you turn around?”  Oh, ha ha, Funny Guy. Well yeah, maybe. But only because I totally own it.
There’s nothing wrong with having geek tendencies, you know. Ok, I will admit there may be a couple of drawbacks. My dog handling abilities somewhat overshadow my people skills, ’tis true. And I’ve never been a slave to fashion. That’s sadly obvious to the general public as well. But I can do amazing things with Photoshop and that’s a skill that that I wouldn’t trade for any amount of cute shoes. And that fancy computer you’re using to read this?  I could take the thing down to individual parts and put it back together again, I could.
And all you Gen Xers lamenting that your mom is on Facebook? Well kids, it was my generation that created the technology so you didn’t have to tape your facebook pages to your school lockers. That’s right, I’m that old. An aging geek, yikes.
Why confess to all this? I don’t really know, other than to mention a kick-ass presentation I created on PowerPoint for those times when I get out of the house for the occasional CCI talk. The husband, CCI pup and I were presenting to a Civitan group and I come to the slide with the statistics:
Then it hits me — 1,082 puppy raisers volunteering for CCI. That’s a lot of puppy raisers, now. And then I think, but how many people are there in the U.S.? A billion and two? No, that can’t be right. Google tells me we’ve got us a population in the neighborhood of 310 million.  I’m thinking we should be able to squeeze a few more puppy raisers out of that number.

I know there’s a lot of dog lovers out there. Micron and I meet you all the time during our outings. We hear your stories of the funny dogs you have, the beloved dogs you’ve lost. So, what are y’all doing for the next year and a half?  Don’t let anything I say bluff you; I’m only good with dogs because I love being around them. I’m certainly no expert in the ways of dog behavior, in spite of my inability to successfully interact with people.

Let me brief you on the skills you need to be a volunteer puppy raiser. Do you love people and dogs? Wanna do something fun that will help bring someone independence? Well, there’s a good start. CCI isn’t looking for professional dog handlers to raise these dogs. Instead if you can offer a safe, consistent environment for these fuzzies and are willing to learn some basic training skills . . . and you have a big heart, that’ll about do it.

Oh, and that part about “giving them up?”  No messing around with that.  It is a hard thing to do. But you know what? It can be done. There’s 1,082 of us doing it all the time. Some of us turn to a box of tissues and good friends at turn-in time. Others take that box of tissues and set them right next to our Margarita. I’ll leave you to wonder which I am.
Another confession for you. I’m living a blessed life and want to give back in some way. I may be about the age of fellow geekster, Bill Gates, but nowhere near his net worth. Philanthropy is not going to be my thing. Puppy raising for CCI is fun and exciting and best of all, something I can do. In my own small way, I can actually be part of something that will change someones life. How cool is that? Pretty darn cool, I say.
In a prior life as a catechist, I taught a faith formation class for seventh grade kids. One of my favorite lesson plans for the Christmas season involved Julie Salamon’s book Rambam’s Ladder, a Meditation on Generosity and Why it is Necessary to Give. Ms. Salamon tells us about Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, a twelfth century physician, philosopher and scholar. Also known by his Greek name, Maimonides, or by an acronym of his full name, Rambam.  I’ll be referring to him here as Rambam as that’s the title of the book and because it’s fun to say out loud.
Being knee-deep in the knowledge that seventh grade catechism students are newly self-aware and just realizing there’s a whole world in which to get into trouble, I appreciated any opportunity to discuss ways they could make the world a better place.  My weapon of choice was Rambam’s Ladder of Charity. Now, I won’t hold you for an hour in a classroom while you sit on a cold, hard plastic chair and be told repeatedly to keep your hands to yourself. We’re all grown-ups here, so let’s just hit the highlights.
Rambam describes eight steps on the ladder, the bottom rung being “Reluctance: to give begrudgingly.” That’s when you give only because you feel you have to. It’s a good thing, to be sure. But you can do better, he says.
You can give cheerfully, but less than is proper. Or donate only after being asked. Next up is giving before being asked, but risk make the recipient feel shame. Moving higher is to give to someone you don’t know, yet ensuring that your name is known as the donor. Even better though, says Rambam, is to give to someone you know, but you remain anonymous.
Just a couple more; we’ve made it almost to the top.  Next step up is to give to someone you don’t know and to do so anonymously.
So what’s the top rung? What’s the best we can do on this Ladder of Charity? That would be the Gift of Self-reliance.  Julie Salamon describes this as a gift or a loan, or to find work for the recipient, so that they never have to ask for help again. She gives examples of helping someone find gainful employment or starting a business, as well as helping someone through an addiction. This is pretty powerful stuff and just a bit challenging to cram into a 12 year old’s brain. But right or wrong, stuff it in there I did.
So anyone seeing the connection to the work of Canine Companions for Independence?  I do. I’m seeing a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. An organization that provides a new level of independence free of charge.
This twelfth century scholar certainly wasn’t thinking about assistance dogs, of course. But I’m feeling the spirit of his intention is covered here. Hey, I’m no saint; just ask my mom. Just kidding, don’t ask my mom, please. (Hi Mom, I love you!).  But I’m feeling good about what I’m trying to do with this puppy raising business. As all CCI puppy raisers should. 

You know, you could feel good about this too. Think about it. Pray on it. Then call CCI and ask some questions on what it takes to be a puppy raiser. You’ll love it, I promise you.

Get started at their website: CCI Puppy Raising Program

Yeah, I bet you’re Morning Person, too

”So,” begins the rather benign comment from a close friend. “You got your Christmas shopping done yet?”

My mind fills with turmoil not unlike a class 4 hurricane. Holy cow, is it that time of year again? Yeah sure, I know. It’s now post-Thanksgiving, so I should probably consider giving things a kick start. But the crowds, the mall, the challenge of finding the perfect gift for those I love. I’m just not feeling it yet.


I eye early shoppers with the same wariness that I give morning people (where do they come from?).  I know y’all are out there rarin’ to go and all, but please . . . just give me a minute.  I’ll catch up with you in just a bit and then we can all share in the glory of the day. In the meantime, however, I’m at peace in my little world of denial. It’s a happy place we call Donna Land. Everybody knows me there and they’re all really nice. The dark roast coffee’s always freshly brewed there. And Krispy Kreme’s are only one weight watcher point value . .  sigh.
Right, on to thinking about holiday shopping. I had an opportunity to get started on this during a recent CCI event at Barnes & Noble.  Fellow puppy raisers Esther and Bud organize a free gift wrapping service at B&N every Christmas season.  We were there this past Saturday, just after Thanksgiving. Micron and I took an early afternoon shift to help raise awareness of Canine Companions for Independence.
  

Let’s do this thing!

Micron just loves the kids. Little boys smell like french fries and the girls like cotton candy. He’s a friendly, calm dog that children find very approachable. If only I could just encourage him to keep his tongue to himself. More than one hapless tyke has received a wet willy from this dog. Remember the Wizard of Oz and the cowardly lion’s tail?  How it was always moving around like it had a mind of its own?  Well, that’s Micron’s tongue.

Me: “Micron, don’t lick.” 
Random mother: “Oh, it’s ok if he licks my kid.” 
Me: (inside thoughts: NO IT’S NOT!) “We really don’t want the pups to lick people. It’s not becoming of a service dog. Part of his training and all, you know.” 
Random mother: (inside thoughts: WHAT A MEANIE!) “Oh. Ok.”



I smell cotton candy.

All you moms out there . . . I wish I could let this dog lick all the ketchup off your adorable kid’s faces. I really do. But, this isn’t a pet dog. We’re working hard towards a goal. This big, yellow guy is going to grow into something wonderful. Somehow and in some way, this dog will change someone’s life. And we’re going to get there darn it, even if I have to rubberband this furball’s wild tongue to his jaw.

Ugh, just kidding of course. About the rubberband thing. Not the goal. We’ll reach our goal, we will. 

Just watch us.

Julie waiting to work her new fan base.
 
Julie and Micron taking a wee break.



Working for kibble

It’s not hard to make Micron a happy dog. He is, by nature, a glass half full kinda guy. He finds most things in life are pretty good (naps, belly rubs, fresh bowl of water) and other events are wonderful (car ride, getting attention from the Starbucks girls), and then he has his ecstasy moments (I gotcher smelly sneaker!). 

But what is true euphoria for a dog? Anyone lucky enough to have a food motivated dog knows. Both these dogs know when mealtime is around here. We keep things on a tight schedule, because honestly, I really like to keep the #2’s on schedule too, if you know what I mean. So when 7:00 rolls around, there’s some serious restlessness in the household. After the bowl is licked to a shine, Micron will run to the nearest person to give his thanksgiving for the nouvelle cuisine. “Food Lady!” he says, “You’ve outdone yourself again. That was the best bowl yet!” His tail wags so hard that the tip is touching his sides.

It probably doesn’t need mentioning that this dog is really, really easy to train.

But hey, everything comes with a price, doesn’t it? This pup has to work for his daily kibble. In addition to his service dog training, he is an ambassador for CCI. We make the occasional public appearances and work at CCI booths to raise awareness of this amazing human services organization. Let’s look at a couple of our fall outings.

Aullwood Apple Fest



Micron and Bullet.
They’re not exactly manning the booth, 
but dogging the booth doesn’t sound right, either.

 One of my very favorite local events, the Apple Fest at Aullwood Audubon Center & Farm. I love being outdoors on a beautiful fall day with the smell of wood smoke in the air. Apple butter is cooking in kettles and apple pie is baking in the dutch ovens over an open fire. Puppy raisers Jerry and Jerri manage the CCI booth at this annual event. This year they brought their 17th pup, Bullet. Seventeenth puppy. These guys are pros in the CCI puppy raising business –my heroes and mentors.

Also working the booth for crowd control was pup in training, Karsen, and COC Fergo, the big sweetie.



Babe magnet, Bullet


We get a lot of traffic at the CCI booth over the two-day fest. Really, it is essentially non-stop. It’s a great opportunity to allow the dogs to learn calm greetings and talk to folk about the work that CCI does. We answer questions while the pups work on their fan base.


A firm handshake and good eye contact.
I was especially looking forward to this as it would be Micron’s first contact with farm animals. I learned from experience that the goats are not a really great first step as far as livestock goes (sorry, Inga).  A goat will stare a little too long before they go all freak out on you. So we started with just walking around to get exposed to some novel smells.




Hi sheep thing. Nice to smell you.

 

First we met a gentle, old sheep, which went really well. A sniff, sniff and we moved on. Next was the barn.



Hogs, mini whinnies, an alpaca, and a couple of calves. Nothing we can’t handle. It’s all good. We can check farm animals off the New Experiences list for CCI.

I just got my head around that sheep thing
and now there’s this?



Apple butter a’cookin’.



Aullwood Farm is a good family visit anytime, really. It’s an educational farm for kids to learn about livestock and agriculture. For folk within driving distance of the Dayton area, check out the farm and the adjoining nature center and gardens. Always time well spent.

Micron poses in the herb garden



Jungle Jim’s Fall Festival


Micron and Julie

We spent a chilly afternoon at the Jungle Jim’s International Market. Definitely hoodie weather, but much better than sweating it out on a hot summer day. Micron met up with pups in training Owen and Julie for an afternoon Meet and Greet. Julie is nearly five months old and quite the crowd draw. Owen is 18 months and will be matriculating at the November 12 CCI graduation ceremony in Dublin.

Julie was adorable, Owen was professional and Micron was, well, you can see from the photos. Micron was his usual self.



What is Owen thinking?  Probably don’t wanna know.

  

Julie and her adorable head tilt



I’m one of those unfortunate people who turns into an idiot when a camera is in my hands. All manner of squeaks, clicks and meows come from me in an attempt to get a dog to lift their ears and look at the lens.

I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t get the occasional reward, such as that puppy head tilt of Julie’s. Just look at that adorable mug. She brought back some wonderful memories of Inga as a pup (sniff).
Long time puppy raisers Steve and Bonnie facilitated the CCI booth for this event. Jungle Jim’s is an eclectic shopping experience, sorta like an amusement park in a grocery. We decided to try out some shopping after working the CCI booth. It was our first time at the place and we found we needed a map to find our way around the international marketplace. Micron did a wonderful job exploring with us, but we knew it was time to put a cap on things when he dropped onto the floor in England and fell asleep. It was a long afternoon, the poor fella.

  

It was a bit chilly out.
Julie provides a hand warming service.

Micron Dog and Jungle Dog.
Maybe just me, but I prefer food with less personality.
And self awareness.
Do they ever get to be “dogs”?
Questions we get as puppy raisers from concerned dog lovers. Is it all work for these dogs?  Do they have to wear their capes all the time? Don’t they ever get to be “dogs?”
Of course they do, people. We undress these fuzzies, give the Release command and stand back. But you know, it helps to have a visual sometimes. The Gold Rush Champions chapter of CCI put together an excellent video that will relieve some of those working dog worries. Talk about time well spent – if you’re a dog lover, you won’t be asking for these four minutes back. 
Check out the video at:
 Do service dogs get to play?.

Ten Ten in Penn

Pennsylvania Oct 2010

Autumn is upon us! I do love this time of year; the cool mornings and just the way the air smells. I’ve never been a big fan of summer.  Being of questionable breeding, I tend to perspire more than the average person and it’s, well, just unbecoming.  So while families are taking off on road trips to roast in the unforgiving summer heat, I prefer to hold out until October. Leaf peepin’ is my thing.

Yep, it’s time to pack up gear into the RV and hit the road. RV you say?  Nice.  Yeah, hold onto that jealous thought just a sec. Speaking of unbecoming, I’ve christened the thing as The SWRCT. That awkward acronym stands for the “six-wheeled-rolling-cat-turd,” excuse my French. It moves when you hit the gas, it stops when you brake. And it holds all our stuff and the dogs. And that’s good enough for me and my value system.

We bought this rattle trap a few years ago so we could take our dogs along on our travel adventures. It puts a whole new edge to vacations, having dogs with you. The kid used to be part of all this, but now he’s all grown up and everything and off to college. We do miss having him on our road travels. So this trip, there was nothing to do about it, except borrow a friend’s dog to take with us. We hooked up with the sweet Fergo, a nine year old CCI COC.

So we’re off in the RV to Pennsylvania with three dogs, a fridge full of food and enough dog kibble to feed a sled dog team. Micron was thrilled to have Fergo with us. He would cram a toy in Fergo’s face and was all hey fergo be my friend let’s play fergo hey fergo where ya going be my friend fergo. But the old man just wanted some quiet time that didn’t involve yellow puppies in his face.

They finally reached a compromise of sorts.

Be my friend, Fergo

 As CCI puppy raisers, we look for opportunities to expose the pup to different environments.Socialization is one of the most critical tasks we have. Consider this – someday this dog will go wherever his person will want to go. It really helps if the dog has an attitude of been-there, done-that and can focus on his job, not a new experience.

Cabela’s was a good stop for Micron. We walked through the dark tunnel aquarium complete with monstrous catfish looking at him with their hungry little beady eyes, followed by a casual stroll around the taxidermied critters. Micron gave a sniff-sniff into the air and was able to move on. Well done, yellow dog.
Hey, hand me that little stuffed rabbit, will ya?

Off to Hershey for some huge antique car show thingy. Otherwise known as long walks with the dogs and a trip to the outlet mall for me. We set up camp in a field near Hershey Park, which the powers-that-be have cruelly closed for the season. But no matter, we take pictures of it anyway.


No fun for you today

  



Saying cheese for the food lady.

We don’t tow a car for this trip, so gotta hoof it if I want to go anywhere. The more benevolent Hershey powers-that-be have placed an outlet mall about a half mile from where we park the SWRCT.  Micron and I are off to go shopping. We hit the very excellent Times to Remember scrapbook store where Micron is treated like a rock star by the staff.

Where else can you find Hershey Kiss stickers?
After Husband finds some rusty antique car parts, we’re off again for a day tour of Lancaster County. We choose a nice little campground for an overnighter. Roamers’ Retreat is just outside Bird-in-Hand and is nestled next to some gorgeous farmland. 

The boys loved it.



I love dogs. So I would never say traveling with three dogs would drive you to drink. But we did still drive to get some drink. We stopped at Adams County Winery last year on our road trip to buy rusty car parts, so wanted to make sure we fit time in this year’s schedule as well. Micron met the resident winery golden retriever, Rusty, and made a new friend. Well, kind of. Not sure how old Rusty is, but guessing around the same era as Fergo. The whole hey rusty be my friend let’s play rusty, went over as well as it had with Fergo. 



They should name a yellow wine after me.



Rusty won’t play with me.



Rusty has his own wine named after him, Rusty’s Red. How cool is that?  We didn’t sample that one, though. We did grab a couple of bottles of Stray Cat Strut, a very nice dry white wine. And a bottle of Scrapple, a rather odd name for a sweetly spiced wine.
This place is great. Friendly staff and affordable prices. And they have a golden retriever to greet you at the door. Pretty cool, I think.
Time to wrap up the trip. Final stop is Gettysburg and an overnighter at the KOA. In our road travels in the SWRCT, I’ve really come to appreciate KOA’s. They’re by design very well run; both kid and dog friendly. It’s usually a KOA that has the enclosed dog run so they can do their duty off leash. The Gettysburg KOA actually had a Camp K9 with agility equipment and plenty of space to run off some energy. Which the dogs would have done if they could have ever reached their personal goal of sniffing each little rock and pebble in the place.



M-o-o-o-o-m!  Fergo won’t let me in the cabin!

Good trip with good dogs. Time to head out for the long drive back home where the boys will continue to leave their mark along the I-70 rest stops. For myself, I’m looking forward to a meal that doesn’t have dog hair as a condiment.








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