Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Puppy Class

(This is LONG.  I debated weather or not to post all of this, but decided it was best to be honest about it. So. . .)

I have not written much about Dante's puppy classes.  Being in an area where I am the only raiser has been a little challenging.  I really miss not having a group, especially having such a great group with GEB before I moved.  Now don't get me wrong, I have great support from our Puppy Program Manager and always get my questions answered, and I have found great support through all of you fellow puppy raiser bloggers as well.  There are very few organizations that would allow me to raise without a group here, so I am so, so thankful for CCI, and truly am grateful to be part of such an amazing organization.  But it is still hard at times not to have someone face-to-face.

We have attended three different puppy classes with Dante over the last few months.  We tried to avoid having to go to a pet store, so the first two were private classes.  The first trainer was good, but Dante ended up being the only puppy in the class.  And even though the trainer's philosophy was consistent with CCI, he didn't really know what to do with us since we did things slightly different, and being the only ones there was hard for a few reasons.  First, it didn't give Dante any socialization, and second, it didn't help us trying to just handle our differences quietly.  So, I think it was mutual that we moved on.

The second class was pretty messy.  My mom and I set it up to observe a class before we signed up.  The class that we saw was pretty good, so we signed Dante up, making sure to explain how we do things to the instructor to make sure she was comfortable with us.  The information we got on the class was vague at best, but we didn't think much of it.  It turned out that they did absolutely NO positive reinforcement.  It was not clear at all when we signed up.  You don't know how hard it was to watch the other owners yank and correct their pups into position, and not say anything.  Those poor pups had no idea what was expected of them.  So, we made it through the class trying our best to work Dante quietly, and decided to stick it out because Dante did need the socialization with other puppies, but knew that signing up for another one was not an option.

We spent a couple weeks trying to avoid going to Petco.  Its a long story about that.  But anyways.  We met with the trainer at Petco in our neighboring town, and LOVE him.  He is a former K9 police officer and his philosophy is spot on with CCI.  It has been so refreshing to go to a class where I actually take really good information home, and not just socialization for Dante.  

Dante graduated from his first class there last week.  We always get there early to get Dante settled and ready to work on time.  This week there was a couple with two Great Danes.  I know they are huge, but had never met one in person.  Oh my, I am glad they were so well behaved! ;-)  We decided to let Dante greet the older one (the other was a newly rescued puppy and a little rambunctious).  The Great Dane was so gentle and good with Dante!

Getting ready to greet:

Bragging moment: D's focus on me :-)

I LOVE when other pet owners initiate good, polite greeting where both pups have high standards of behavior :-)

Being our last week, we had a lot of fun with an obstacle course to work through.

Loose leash walking through the cones:

Dante is not a huge fan of the tunnel:

But he made it through (with lots of treats)!

One of the other puppies, Bandit's, mom is a pastry chef and made amazing treats for the puppies:

I only let Dante have a small one and took the one with his name home (which he has been getting little pieces of it everyday for the last week).

"Please release me!!!"

"I don't know how much longer I can 'wait'!"

We ended with some playtime with Bandit  The first two weeks Bandit was really hesitant about Dante, but they have grown to love each other and play really nicely.

So thankful for a such a great class for Dante!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shopping Malls

Last week Dante and I ventured out to the "real" (a.k.a. indoor) mall for the first time.  I must admit that it is quite sad that it took me almost 8 months of living here to get to the mall.

But anyways.  

We went in the afternoon.  It was not crowded, but it was pretty busy.  Because malls can be such overstimulating environments, we mostly just sat and watched everything going on so that Dante could take everything in.  He did well and was never overwhelmed, but he was very distracted and interested in everything.  We left with a we need to come back soon mentality.

Well, the opportunity to go back came sooner than expected, and we got to go yesterday morning.  One of the great things about being home schooled is that I can take Dante somewhere where it it usually loud and crowded, on a weekday morning when it is much quieter.  

We walked around some, and Dante was so good about checking in with me and keeping my pace.

We then checked out some of the little kid rides and watched some toddlers play on the playground.  I did not get any pictures of that because I figured I looked creepy enough just sitting there letting my dog watch their children ;-)

It took Dante lots of coaxing to "jump" on this.

There was no one in Build-A-Bear, and the woman who worked there was very nice, so we walked through all of it and took our time.  Let me just say it took all of Dante's self control not to grab one of those bears!

Watching the stuffing machine.

The "bath tub."  He didn't quite know what to do when it started shooting air.

Dante usually does fine with mirrors, but this one was along a whole wall, and when the "other dog" did not stop following him he barked at it twice.  Not ideal, but his barking has come a long way from where it was, so I'm not too worried.

Even though it was quiet by human standards, it was still one of Dante's biggest outings so far.  He was pretty tired when we left and slept most of the afternoon.

Tired in the food court

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesdays: Summertime Fun

Tail chasing blur. . .

'Cause sticks are sooooo much better than the $12 toy next to you. . .

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Funny things people say

*Reads the "Volunteer Puppy Raising Program" patch on Dante's vest*  "So is he the volunteer or are you?"

Little girl to her brother:  "You see him?  He's a guard dog.  You know how I know?  Look how BIIIIIIIIG he is!"

"Wait!  So you don't get paid for this?  You do it for FREE?!?"

 *6 or 7 year old*  "I'm scared of dogs.  Especially big dogs like him.  Can I pet him?"

Little kid to his/her parent:  "Mommy, there's a doggy in here!"
Mom:  "No there's not."
Kid: "Yes there is!  It's right there!"
Mom:  "There are no dogs in the mall.  You're just seeing things."
*Both walk away*  This has happened half-a-dozen times.  I feel bad for the kids who's parents will never believe them. . . 

And there are oh so many more, I just can't remember all of them!  Puppies certainly make for interesting conversations and lots of laughter!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

8 Months!

Dante is 8 months old already!  Its hard to believe that this was him only 6 short months ago:

And now this is what comes barreling down the hallway:

This month, I thought that we'd do 8 things that Dante needs to work on:

1.  Dante needs to work on not being so mouthy.  He was getting better about it, but recently started getting worse.  I have been told that it is in part a golden issue, but we still need to resolve it.

2.  Playing Fetch.  It is important for CCI pups to want to play fetch and bring things to you, because when they enter Advanced Training, they will be taught to retrieve dropped items, but that is a whole other post.

3.  Staying focused.  I can usually always get his attention, but we need to work on keeping his attention.

4.  Testing the limits.  When I ask Dante to settle (under a table, etc.) he will often grab his leash and growl (playing), and needs a correction before he comes to terms that he has to settle down.

5.  The "stand" command.  He will stand perfectly, but will not stay yet.

6.  Not soliciting attention.  But I must say that this is as much my fault as it is his.  Dante is on "no petting" status for an undetermined amount of time.

7.  Bringing items (shoes, socks, remote, etc.) to me when he picks them up.  I cannot correct him for picking these things up, because we don't want him to refuse to pick something up in Advanced Training due to being corrected for it as a puppy, so when he does pick things up, he needs to bring them directly to me.  He is getting MUCH better, but still has a ways to come.

8.  Not picking up his toys after he "drops" them.  He gives them up great, but will try to take them back from my hand.

Happy 8 months, Dante!!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

On Education

(Warning: this is my soapbox.  I try my best to write this as nicely as possible, but it is the truth and it really happens.)

Dante and I went to the library just like any other time.  I wanted to look at some stuff and brought some work that I had to get done.  I thought this would be a perfect time for Dante to get some "chilling out" practice.  

I was looking at some books at the end of an isle, about four rows in from the back corner.  I was just inside the isle, and Dante was on my left, just outside the isle. There is a huge table at this back corner that was currently filled with a group of high school students.  Now, I will try to write this sensitively, but from first glance, they did not seem like the most mature group of young adults I have ever met.  

I mind my own business, with my back to them, and then I hear what I think is someone barking.  I ignore it, but hear it again.  This is where I say "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!" to myself.  

Now, I have stood speechless on more than one occasion where grown men have made kissing noises at Dante.  Most of the time if you ignore them, they move on, but on one occasion he did not, I turned and politely explained Dante's training and asked him to stop, and he did.  

But this was not the same.  At all.  It is one thing to try to distract and get my dog's attention: he is already amazing distinguishing when someone is distracting him and I don't want him to give his attention to them, and when someone wants to greet him.  But it is completely different when you deliberately and insistently try to egg him on, work him up and try to get him to react.  I have spent FAR too much time teaching this pup NOT to bark in public for you to ruin it in less than 2 minutes.  You see where I'm heading, right?

By the fourth time, I decided that I could not let it go.  Reminding myself of Whom I represent, I did not lose my temper, but you can imagine that I was rather annoyed.  I commanded Dante to "let's go," and we walked determinedly to the last isle where the teenager was "hiding" behind the last shelf of books.  A chorus of "Oh"s from the table to our right, meaning that the rest of them were not expecting me to confront him.  

We came around the corner and I asked, "excuse me?"  In a you are the person I'm looking for, right? (sarcastic) tone.  I then gave a rather lengthy educational talk on service dogs, their jobs, and why you cannot distract them.  Including "distracting (insistently barking at) service dogs is harassment" statement. I would say that I was rather calm and composed, considering.  

You know what his answer was?  Apologize, you say?  I wish.  He then stated, "well, I didn't know he was still in training.  I thought he was yours."  (soapboxLike thinking that I was disabled and my dog was currently helping me, any more justifies your actions!!!

A few words on why it can be so detrimental to a service dog team, and I left.  Hearing, "did you see what happened with  _____ (teen's name)?"  "She actually came over and said something to him. . ."  following me as I walked away.  

As a puppy raiser, one of my most important jobs is educating the public.  And doing so in a manner that reflects well on myself and CCI.  I am always happy to talk to people about service dogs who genuinely want to learn about them.  But it is so much harder to keep the same positive mindset when educating more ignorant (for lack of a better word) individuals.  My goal in education?  That one less person will bark at a working team.  And if that is accomplished, then I have done my job. 

Dante asleep under the table at the library

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How do you give them up?

Is the most frequently asked question puppy raisers get.  Every single person Dante and I meet asks how I'll give him back.  As annoying as answering that question 54835987 times a day is, it is a good daily reminder that he is not mine.  

I have two answers to this.  One is long and explanatory, and the second straight to the point.  We'll start with the former.

First of all, puppy raisers know we have to give them back going into it.  We know that our pups are only on loan to us for an all-too-short amount of time.  And we sign up for it anyways with the hope of having the privilege to be a small part in helping someone gain independence.  If there is one thing we do not want to hear it is "I could never do that."  Yes you could.  It won't be any easier for me to give back a dog that I have taught, mentored, loved and has been with me almost 24/7 for the last 16 months, than you would.  We all will cry and sob and question the decision we made over a year ago to take this puppy in the first place.

But I have to tell you: these puppies bring so much to our lives in the time that we have them, that if you ask me (or anyone who has raised a puppy), I would definitely do it again.  If I had the choice to never have to give him up and never have known him; or having him in my life for even a short amount of time, I will do it again in a heartbeat (and I plan to :-).

I have heard it put this way "the pride lasts a lot longer than the sadness."  And even though I have not had to turn in a puppy yet, I think this is very true.  To see the puppy you have raised go on to reach their fullest potential and be such an important part in someone's life must be an amazing feeling.  As much as I will miss Dante when he goes back to CCI next year, I truly want him to succeed in whatever career he chooses.  

The second answer I have is much, much shorter and straight to the point.  But I think it will be the one I remind myself of the most in the weeks and days heading up to Dante's turn in.  So, here it is:  I think giving them back is one of those things that you never really know how you do, but God gives you the strength to do as you're doing it.  And that is truly comforting.  

So, puppy raisers, what is your answer to this question?

11 week old Dante

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Church Retreat

This past weekend, Dante and I attended a retreat with my church.  It was a stretch for Dante to be in public all weekend.  I have a tendency to over-prepare as far as keeping him busy and making sure I have (tons) of toys to play with during breaks, but he did much better then I expected.  

Friday night was just one workshop, and Dante did well and slept through the whole thing.  Usually this is the time when he gets his walk (because it's so hot during the day), so I was expecting him to need a toy to stay occupied, but he was very good.

On Saturday morning, we arrived at the camp and our workshop was at picnic tables outside, and Dante did OK.  He kept trying to eat the ants and dirt on the ground, but I gave him a Nylabone, and that kept him occupied most of the time. 

After lunch (where he took up the WHOLE underneath the table) we had some free time.  And Dante got to go . . . SWIMMING!

When he first set foot on the sand, and saw the lake, I could see him thinking "OMG!  I know what I'm doing here!!!  This is the BEST day ever!"  He must have remembered swimming with Margo.  He.  Went.  Crazy.  

By the time I got his vest and gentle leader off, he was so excited and crazy that he almost pulled me over.  I can walk on my ankle, but balance is still not the best, so before I landed on my face, I decided it best to hand him over to my mom and stick with picture taking.

I'm starting to wonder if I'm ever gonna break his habit of carrying the leash.

 He insisted on holding onto his leash until we gave him a ball.  He was so cute!  When he first went in, he was swimming funny trying to keep his whole body up high.  It took him half an hour to swim normally.

He had to come out every 5 minutes to shake off and get everyone else wet:

After an hour or so, we decided to get him out so he could get cleaned up and dried off.  After Dante calmed down, he then got to go on his first boat.  He didn't want to get into the canoe at first, but some kibble fixed that and he had a fabulous time!

Dante doesn't "wind down," but goes a mile a minute until you physically make him lie down, and then he conks out cold.  He was out in less then a minute of getting inside.  Then he slept . . .

. . . And slept . . .

. . . And slept . . .

He's not technically sleeping here, but you get the idea ;-)

. . . For the rest of the afternoon and night.  Tired puppies are good puppies.  Dante was a very good puppy.

On Sunday, I don't think Dante had recovered from all that swimming, and he slept all morning during service and lunch afterwards.

Oh, and he also got a matching shirt like the rest of us.  I took off his vest and let him wear it because everyone knows him and I knew there wouldn't be a problem with him.

I had to take this picture at lunch on Sunday as proof that he CAN, in fact, curl up in a tight ball!

 Have I mentioned how much Dante LOVES everyone at church??  And they love him.  A little too much.  I noticed especially after this weekend that Dante is getting too distracted by people (my fault as much as his), so we are back to "no petting" for a while.  

Dante was so good all weekend.  At the stage he's in right now, his behavior is often hit or miss, so I am so glad he did well.  

And to end, here are a few pics that my sister took of us working: