Wednesday, March 27, 2013


When you have a puppy tag along with you to various public places, you get to meet a lot of people that you may otherwise never have.  Sometimes they can be rude, like when I walked into an empty sporting complex, past a sign that read, "No Dogs Allowed Except Service Animals." and the man walking in behind me sarcastically asked if I knew how to read.  

But more often than not, you get to interact with really sweet people who genuinely want to learn about Dante, and are cheering on his success.  When we were out to lunch on Sunday, I had the privilege of meeting two more of these.

Every single table in the main area was full, so they had opened up the private room (that can be reserved) for everyone.  There were two rows of table along each wall, with a narrow isle in between.  There was only one table left, right in the middle.  Because service animals do go pretty much everywhere, they need to be able to scrunch up small and stay out of the way, but the tables were so close that there was literally no where to put Dante where he wouldn't protrude into the isle.  A sixty-six pound Retriever does not fit completely under a chair, but in an attempt to get him as out-of-the-way as possible, I commanded Dante to go "under" my chair.  He did, but as he scooted around to get more comfortable, he moved the chair too.  It was really quite pathetic to watch, and I think everyone who saw him had pity (but trust me - he has those puppy eyes down pat!).  

There were two women at the table behind us who saw him and exclaimed, "Aww, poor baby!"  I replied that he would be OK because he does need to get used to itTheir table was in the corner, and therefore had some extra space up against the wall.  They said, "Let's switch tables.  He will have so much more room over here."  Before I could protest, they were gathering up their drinks, food and laptops and moving tables.  While it is important for Dante to be able to stay small, he does it well when asked to (and it is a pain to worry about someone stepping on him), so I thanked them profusely.  

 You never really know how people will react to a dog in public.  We have had multiple people roll their eyes and act disgusted at a the sight of a dog in the produce isle - and there is that one cashier at Kroger who always screams and refuses to check us out because she is afraid of dogs.  It is not every day that someone goes so out of the way to show kindness to a stranger.  But I was so appreciative for these sweet ladies.  

Usually I say no to petting as Dante is very people-oriented and will seek out attention.  But he had been great this day, so as we got up to leave, we said goodbye and one last "thanks" to them, and I asked if they wanted to greet him.  They told me that they didn't want to ask, but were so glad I offered.  Dante soaked up the attention and we parted our ways with smiles all around.  

So, today would you show kindness to a stranger?  It is such a blessing and goes farther than you think!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On Public Outings

I do not know how many times I have heard from people, "I wish I could bring my dog everywhere too."

Once you get past the "it is illegal unless they are service dogs," and into the it is "cool to have a dog with you at the movies," one really can not blame them, seeing that they have little-to-no experience with service dogs and the effort that it takes to get them comfortable in public.

 And it does take a lot of effort, and sometimes a good dose of embarrassment to traipse around with a puppy.  Once Dante got past the I-am-going-to-bark-my-head-off-because-I-am-bored phase, it has become a great deal more enjoyable.  While most of the time having Dante in tow adds a whole new level of fun and interesting, I leave him in his crate on a regular basis because I just need a break.  And I haven't even touched on the million things you bring in your doggy diaper bag: poop bags, treat pouch, clean-up supplies, water bottle, poop bags, vest, extra leash, pamphlets to hand out, oh and did I mention poop bags?

 There are some places that a puppy raiser does not enjoy taking their puppy to for one reason or another, but they do it anyways because it is good exposure.  Mine is Whole Foods.  Don't get me wrong, I actually like this store, but it is hard for a puppy.

It starts before you even get inside.  It is in the city, which means noise, noise, and lots of distractions.  Oh, and the train that comes through right across the street.  The only spot to "hurry" is the concrete strip between parking space rows.  This, in reality, isn't bad because puppies in training need to be able to relieve anywhere, but with all the distractions, and even though Dante is awesome about going on any surface, it takes a looooooong time to get business done.

Inside the store, the aisles are narrow, and it is always mobbed with people.  Again, this is a good thing for Dante to be able to work through, but it is inevitable that someone always bumps into him.  The fact that the floor is the same color as Dante's fur, does not help matters much either.

 You may be asking, "Then why do you go there?"  Because it is so good for Dante's training.  He may end up with someone who lives in the city and so he needs to be comfortable there and not get distracted.  He needs to learn how to stay focused on his handler when there are sooo many good things very close around him.  And he has already learned not to be startled and whip around when someone brushes up against his side.  So, we will continue on these, our not-so-favorite outings, loaded with treats! ;-)

If it weren't for the bright yellow vest, I don't think we would risk it ;-)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Road Trip

11 days.

2200 miles.

32 hours in the car.

2 different hotels.

2 different houses.

A little crazy.

A lot of family time.

Oh, and a couple of cats, too!

Dante came on his second big trip with my family.  We went up North to visit family.  We spent four total days driving, two of which were twelve-hours each.  I have said it before, and I will say it again: this dog is an awesome traveler!  It was a great trip for Dante because he had a ton of new experiences: new places to stay, new people, new stores, new animals to live with.  It could have been very overwhelming, but Dante did great.

On the way up, we stopped at Cabella's (outdoors store).  In the past, Dante has had trouble with taxidermy (barking at them in a museum, oops!), but this place was taxidermy heaven, and not a peep was heard!  Yay!

While we were there, there was lots of time with family and friends, lots of outings to new places, and lots of exploring my grandparent's farm and long walks.

Just a fraction of the damage that Sandy caused.

"Please let me go swimming!"

On the way home, we stopped in Nashville where we explored the replicated Parthenon.  I will admit that I was worried about Dante's behavior in a museum as we had been in the car for thirteen hours the day before, but he was very good, and no tantrums were had.  I do have to give him credit for saving his worst moments for the privacy of home.  ;-)

Totally oblivious - at least Dante is aware of these things :-)

Me, Dante, and Rebecca in front of Athena

Thursday, March 7, 2013

You Could Do That

"So you have to give them back?  I could never do that."

 This statement is probably one of the most-heard to puppy raisers.  Honestly, it annoys me a little bit.  Two things can be implied when this is said.  One, I don't love my puppy enough because I can just pass him along to someone else, and two, genuine admiration for what we puppy raisers do.

We can get the former out of the way quickly.  How could you not fall completely in love with a puppy that sticks to your side almost 24/7 for 18 months?  I can quite confidently assure you that every puppy raiser loves their puppy so much it hurts.  To be able to give them to someone who needs them, I believe, shows that you love them enough to let them go, and live the happiest and fullest lives - even if that life is away from you.

The latter is harder.  You could do it too.  Can I ask you a few questions?  Okay, good.  How often do you get to have such a cute, furry "service project" that involves every part of your life, not just a few set-aside hours per week?  It is a pretty special and humbling experience.  Yes, it is hard at times, but the fun far outweighs the rough.  How often can you invest so much into ONE life?  Pouring your love into a dog, so that they can then pour that out into someone else?  It is humbling.  My "standard" short answer is that someone else needs him more than I do.  While I love this dog so, so much, he has the chance to make a difference in a life.  And that life is of great value, so how could I not do it?

 No, I have not had to turn in a puppy yet, but I can pretty much guarantee you that my heart will be shattered on August 16, 2013 when I say goodbye to my baby boy.  But can I tell you a secret?  That's okay.  There are so many good things I could list as to why you should raise a puppy, but I am not known for dancing around with words, so I will put it bluntly: not everything we do in life is about ourselves.  My happiness (or lack thereof) is not the most important thing in the world.  I know Someone who has done so. much. more. for me.  It is okay to be broken sometimes.  It is okay to do hard things.  It is great to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Blast from the Past

A few weeks ago, I got in contact with Dante's grandma's Breeder Caretaker (still waiting to get in contact with D's mom).  He was so nice and turns out he did the D litter's weekly litter shots up until 8 weeks when the went out to their raisers.  He sent a bunch to me and they are too cute not to share(P.S. CCI color codes their puppies to keep track of birth order, etc.  Dante is the one with the hot pink collar.)

This is Dante's great grandma, grandma and mom.  Dante is the spitting image of his mom.  I can't get over how much he looks like her!

6 weeks litter shot.  Dante is second from right, sitting up.

7 week litter shot.  Dante is second from left, sitting up.

Thank you, Mr. K for the great photos and allowing me to share them!