Monday, December 23, 2013


Moray had his very first trip into the city last weekend when he came with me to see the Nutcracker ballet downtown.

I am so proud of this boy and the progress he has made in his training.  Moray is a little on the softer side, and we have taken outings pretty slowly over the last few months to keep things light and positive; visiting the same few places many times until he is completely comfortable before moving on.

In everything we did that night from "hurrying" between parked cars, to staying calm and focused with lots of people around, he did fantastic.  He saw lots of people in layers of clothes and bundled up, carriage dogs, horses, and trollies.  He got excited at the horses, but was rock-solid and confidant the entire night!

One thing I was especially thankful for was Canine Companions' choice in vest color.  No, I have not always been a fan of bright yellow, but having a black dog in a poorly-lit venue gave me a new appreciation for that.  Moray stayed close to me as we wove through people, and stood still when we stopped.  I do not think he got stepped on a single time.  It sounds like a little victory, but for Moray, that could have put him back into being hyper-vigilant in keeping his eye on his surroundings instead of me.  We have been working hard on his calmness and focus in public so this outing really showed me just how far he has come!

The ballet was a little over two hours with one intermission.  Moray was very still and good under my seat most of the time.  He got just a little antsy in the last 15 minutes, but when we got up to leave, many of the people around us exclaimed they had no idea a dog was in the theater.  By far the best compliment any puppy raiser can get!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


On Thursday the 19th Dante turned two years old!  Poor, neglected boy did not get a blog post on his birthday, but I just keep telling myself that we had too much fun to have time for that.  There was lots of ball playing, and running free with squeaky toys:

Last year, we made a special trip to the doggy bakery.  I knew that I was going to do that with each of my puppies on their only birthday with me, but this time was Dante's first of many birthdays as mine.  So, I guess the tradition has really just begun.

Dante knows that this place is his store, and goes borderline crazy every time we have been there.  It does not help that the owner and employees spoil him rotten, so I resort to basic just-don't-lunge-at-toys-you-want-or-jump-on-the-counters behavior.  Not great, I know but heck, he's not in training anymore (but don't worry, his training isn't going to pot -- he keeps his skills up and is learning new, fun ones too; more on that later).

Before heading home, we drove through Starbucks.  Dante was sitting in the passenger side with my sister, and the lady at the window commented on how beautiful he is.  I said thank you, and told her it was his birthday, and she came back with whipped cream for him!  I only allowed him a little bit, but he loved it!

Lots more play time (are you sensing a theme here?), and then Dante and Moray got their birthday treats!  They have this whole eating thing down to a science:  check it out first while we Wait:

Look off into the distance, resisting the urge to break the Sit command:

Check with me:


Yeah...the plates weren't really necessary in hindsight...

Then switch places to be sure the other one did not leave any precious crumbs: 

Happy birthday, Dante!  This time last year I did not know where you would be now.  Often I marvel at the potential and intelligence that you possess, but there are moments that remind me that you are right where you belong too.  Some of which are when I take away the dishtowel you stole for the millionth time today, but especially in the way you look at me with those always-sparkling eyes and understand every word I say and every move I make.  I love you, my very own Mr. D!

Thursday, December 12, 2013


 If I had to choose one word to summarize Moray, Sweet would come out without even thinking.  I am not really sure where to start to describe Moray's personality.  He is coming up on his eight month day next week, and that adorable big head and boxy face steals my heart a little more every day.

Moray is easy going and so willing to please.  He makes the best eye contact, and his serious, business-like curiosity as to when that next piece of kibble is coming melts my heart day after day.  My family teases that he "isn't the sharpest tool in the shed," but he is always up to an outing, some play time, learning new commands, or a lazy nap in his sunny spot.  Pretty much whatever you do, he is just ready to go along, no questions asked.

When it was decided to wait until he turns nine months to neuter him, I was not so sure I would be able to wait that long.  Unaltered, male teenage puppies are not really my idea of a fun time.  In fact, I swore a long time ago (ahem...when Dante was at that stage) that I would never be willing to raise a potential male breeder.  I know we are still only entering adolescents, but Moray is the sweetest, most serene puppy almost all the time.  

Sure, he is still a puppy, and the puppy brain make its appearance sometimes.  He is a solicitor of attention, and thinks he should personally welcome everyone who walks into a store.  TYBAR (Tuck Your Butt And Run) still comes out, and crazy eights are run around the dining room table and into the family room sometimes.  But that will subside with age and experience.  He is still so innocent, and I truly believe the thought of disobeying me never crosses his mind.  Those are the qualities that make me believe that this sweet boy could really make fantastic service dog, and I truly hope that the Sweetness that is Moray will be something that never subsides.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Puppy Adventures

(Tonight's post comes to you courtesy of inclement weather causing the cancellation of tomorrow's classes, which means no homework to finish right now!)

Once a month the raisers and Canine Companions puppies in my are get together.  We now have three puppies on program in my area (insert happy squeals).  November's meet-up took place at our outdoor mall, and was exciting because it was our newest puppy, Hardy's, first time with us.

Hardy, with Young in the back

We practiced calm greeting, settling, and took a walk -- stopping periodically to work on our skills: from "sit," to "jump," and everything in between.

Left to right: Moray, Hardy, and Young
The puppies were at three months, seven months, and eleven months, and seeing the differences in each stage side by side was so much fun.  I will admit that I had the "bad boy" for the evening.  Young is mature enough to know it was working time, Hardy is young enough to be just a little aloof, and my still-unaltered tween was just a little on the crazy side.  In his defense, Moray tries so very hard to be a good boy, listen, and keep his attention on me.  He self-corrects himself when he breaks his "sit" command, and those eyes just flash back and forth from my face, to the others, to the treat pouch on my hip.  So precious!  Even at his adolescent stage, he still has such a sweet innocence that I adore.  As if he doesn't realize he has the option to disobey me yet.  We shall see how long that lasts!

I love our mini Canine Companions group and the support and camaraderie that come with it!

We tried putting them all on the bench.  I told you I had the bad boy...

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Thanksgiving is over, December is here, the tree and lights are up, and only ten weekdays days stand between me and Christmas break.  It is easy to wish away the days and weeks until (fill in the blank) happens, but right now I am cherishing this past week.

On our way home from the airport last Monday.

It has come with some adjustments for all of us, but has been so, so sweet.  

I have been surprised by how much Dante has grown and matured during his time in Advanced Training.  He is a calmer, more solid dog, interacts much more appropriately with Moray, and has better house manners.

For a little while it was hard not to be disappointed about his release because he is so much better, but there have been a few moments throughout the week where Dante pulls his antics, and I know deep down that his release was the right decision.  Not only the right decision for him, but I think we all do better without the pressure of such high standard to fulfill.  This goofy golden obviously is not going to be stuck in a mold.

Dante is still getting used to his new role as spoiled rotten pet, co-puppy raiser, and warmer of the bed.  He does not quite understand why Moray gets to go on outing and he does not, but he'll get there with the help of the privaleges that have come his way.  *wink*

He did, however, get to come along to pick out our Christmas tree on Friday, and to the tennis courts Thursday afternoon.

Keeping his skills up, and loving not having to wear a gentle leader anymore.
Dante with two of my sisters.

Today I am grateful for the memories we have already made, and the ones that await in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


 On Monday, November 25, 2013 Dante arrived at his forever home.  

He came eleven days after he was released.  At times during that week-and-a-half, it seemed way too long, but I am glad I had a little time.  Don't get me wrong: I love Dante with all of my heart, and am truly, very, really, so happy to have him as my very own, but I needed that time.  

Dante's career change did not come as a total surprise, but it is still hard news to digest.  After twenty-three months of training, hoping, and striving, letting go of that dream for him was hard.  

Maybe it was the fact that he was So. Close. to making it into the Hearing Dog program.  Most likely, it would not have been any easier if it happened a month or two ago.

But one thing I have come to learn in the last eleven days: Dante is truly where he belongs.  

It may not be where I originally envisioned him, but I have no doubt that his purpose in this world is just beginning.

More than that, I know I cannot keep all this Happy to myself.

But I sure am blessed to get to share in it.

(And since you made it through that long, sappy post: here's the video of the reunion.)

Friday, November 15, 2013


About 9:40am Thursday morning, Moray and I were just getting out of the car to head to Chemistry class when I received a text from my sister.  It was the simple words that our Puppy Program Manager called and our mom was on the phone with her right then.  There is one thing every puppy raiser dreads when they have a puppy in Advanced Training, and that is a phone call.  

All I knew as Moray and I walked into the building was that it was indeed the dreaded call, and that it had been decided that Dante will be released from Professional Training.  I was still waiting with a promise that my mom would call me as soon as she was off the phone.  I thought I was holding it together fairly well.  My best friend was waiting for the previous class to let out, and as soon as she saw me knew something was not right.  She hugged me and the tears that started then came and went for the rest of the day. 

Dante is Dante and there is no one that can change that.  Our PPM told us that although Dante's behavior and commands are impeccable on-leash, as soon as he thinks he can get away with something, he gets a mind of his own.  Dante is off the charts smart, very independent-minded, and needs a strong hand to manage him and give him the discipline he needs.  She told us that when she told his trainers Dante was our first puppy, they could not believe we were able to teach my hard-headed boy all that we had.  Not that I want that to come across as bragging or anything like that, but she assured us it was just his personality, and there was not much we could have done differently to curb this behavior.  

She told us that Dante's release was a hard decision for them as well.  They had been doing a lot of sound work evaluating him for the Hearing Dog program, and he was doing fantastic and excelling in it.  The decision boiled down to the fact that Dante is just not trustworthy enough for placement.

Even though I have seen this coming for some time, it is hard news to accept.  For almost two years, we have worked and striven toward the dream that Dante would become a Service Dog.  There have been many ups and a few downs along this journey of puppy raising, and it is extremely hard to let go of that dream.  Being honest, it is hard to realize that Dante's future is no longer in "limbo" with the hope he could still make a placement.  It is final, and even though he will have a great life, and still will share his love and laughter in different ways, the passing of this dream for him is hard to come to terms with.

While we are still figuring out a travel plan and agenda for Dante, we know he will be coming back to spend life as a spoiled rotten "Change of Career" pet; me as his forever family, and he as the very first dog I will ever call my own.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2nd Advanced Training Report

Last week I was surprised to receive Dante's second Advanced Training report.  Canine Companions' training schedule goes by semesters.  Each semester lasts three months; between each matriculation/graduation.  Normally, dogs are in training for two semesters, but sometimes three if they do not make a match during Team Training.  This past weekend was Graduation, so that means that Dante has officially made it through his first semester!

Dante has started learning to work alongside a wheelchair now.  He is working on "get" -- to retrieve something off the floor, "hold" -- to hold something in his mouth, and "push" -- to push drawers closed/buttons, etc.  They are also doing sound work with him, so that means Hearing Dog training could still be in the picture.  

Dante was a tough puppy to raise.  He is very independent, energetic, and off the charts smart.  He knows how to challenge, and will take advantage of you if the slightest chance presents itself.  I have hoped and prayed he would mature and these issues would fade in a new place, with many new things to learn, and under the guidance and experience of professional trainers.  Unfortunately, these issues are coming up again.  The only thing that surprised me was that they said he is showing some slight signs of stress while training as well.  The comments in his report also said that they are keeping close attention on him, but are concerned about these issues.  
Odina & Dante right before their first flight to Orlando for Turn In.

In all honesty, it was disheartening but not surprising to read his report.  I know that CCI and his trainers are giving him every chance they can.  I know that they want him to succeed as much as I do, and are doing their very best to steer him in the right direction.  I also know that each Canine Companions dog chooses their own path, and whatever Dante chooses to do will be the very best place for him.