Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Fifteen days until we board a plane for Orlando, Florida.

Sixteen days until I leave Dante at the Canine Companions kennels.

Seventeen days until I return home with an empty leash.

While I knew before I even picked Dante up that this day would come, it is still hard to believe that my work with Dante is coming to a close.  

I'm going to miss this dog.  Sure, he has put me through a lot.  More so than I have posted here.  Most of the time sometimes I didn't think we were going to make it this far.  But we have.  And while there are certainly things he does - or doesn't do - that drive me crazy, everyday I stand in awe that this is the same dog that I had eight months ago.

I am past the panicking stage about Dante's skill level. I am past the Oh my gosh, if he doesn't make it it is all my fault stage.  I am at the point where, even with his quirks, I know he is ready for this.  Oh, and I am now entering the stage where I want to cry as each day brings me closer to August 16th.

My family has an extremely busy schedule the next two weeks, so this week the lasts have already started, as it is Dante's last "normal" week here.  Saturday was his last puppy class, Monday was his last trip to Starbucks, where they adore him.  Last night we took a trip to Lowe's.  Walking the isles and practicing commands with Dante brought back so much.  This was one of Dante's first outings besides the library and post office.  This is where he learned the "Up" command on the many counters and boxed merchandise.  This is where, for the first time, he worked perfectly without getting distracted by another dog in the store.

It is easy to be caught up on remembering and cherishing these last few days with Dante.  And don't get me wrong - I do want to cherish them.  But thinking of a friend who will be anxiously awaiting the call if the dog her family raised makes a match next week, or the dozens of excited students who will be starting Team Training with their new service dogs on Monday keep things in perspective.  They keep me grounded that I can do this.  And not only that I can, but that I want to.

Visit, while on a high chair


Just being good


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

He Fetches

Starting from when Dante was eight or nine weeks old, I have spent countless hours trying to teach him to fetch.  We started in the upstairs hallway, on a long leash, and once he got that down, we played off leash, then started over downstairs in the house, and so on.  Dante loves to chase after toys, but teaching Fetch was exhausting.  Trying to get Dante excited, switching toys every throw, and tons of treats.  On Sunday, Dante played Fetch for a full 15 minutes in the back yard (still with tons of treats), and I was floored that he stayed interested that long.

 Moray is a different story.  The dog fetches.  

Dante, Moray and I were playing in the backyard together, and I threw a ball for them.  Dante lost interest after a few minutes, and went to find a stick.  Moray raced after the ball and brought it to me.  I, of course, praised and gave him a treat.  I threw it again, not really thinking he would bring it back, but sure enough, he did.

I took Moray out by himself the other day to see if he would really Fetch.  He does.

I try not to compare Dante and Moray, but I am totally flabbergasted that Moray doesn't even need to be taught.  Sure, I want to put a "fetch" command with it, but it is so much easier when he is already doing it.

We take this oppertunity to work on impulse control and his commands, asking for a "sit" or "shake" or "speak" before each throw.

Sitting before throwing the ball.


"Moray, here!"

It is SO much fun that Moray wants to fetch, and even seeks me out for attention when he is free in the yard.  Love this sweet baby!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Puppy Raising Workshop

Last Friday my mom, Dante, Moray, and I packed up and made the three-and-a-half hour drive to Nashville.  

Our Southeast Region Puppy Program Manager along with an Advanced Training Trainer came up to do a puppy raising workshop for Tennessee and surrounding area puppy raisers.

Dante has traveled a multitude of times, but this was Moray's first trip.  Being only 14 weeks old, he is not allowed to go on public outings yet, and just in the past few days have we turned a corner in potty training.  Needless to say, this was a huge trip for Moray, but he did fantastic.

We usually don't tell hotels we have a dog(s) with us, because we don't want compromised service.  It is easier to ask forgiveness, than beg permission. ;-)  We have yet to stay anywhere where they are not welcoming of our puppies, and this motel was great, too.  With Moray's unpredictable potty habits right now, it was much easier to stay in a motel where we had quicker access outside.

After unpacking and feeding the puppies, we went to dinner at Panera Bread.  Since Moray is not old enough to do public outings yet, we planned on sitting outside with them, but it turned out to be quieter and less distracting to sit just inside the side door.  Moray did well for his first time.  I think having Dante there to help show him what to do helped a lot!

We decided to go check out the facility where the workshop would be on Saturday, so that Moray would get a feel for it before it was busy and overwhelming.  The man working there was so nice and gave us a tour of the whole place.  Moray was a little unsure of some of the flooring, that I hadn't even noticed.  he does so well with taking on new things, that it is easy to forget he has not been exposed to a lot and needs a little more time to figure some things out.

My boys and I on a huge rocking chair
Saturday started with a trip to Starbucks with Young and his raisers for breakfast.  You think one puppy gets a lot of attention, try three!

"You got more kibble, right?"

I guess Young didn't like his "down" command ;-)

We had a fabulous time at the workshop!  Unfortunately, with my mom and I both working puppies, we took very few photos.  We gained so much information, and left with renewed motivation for why we do this. 

Moray was the youngest puppy there, so he got to do some demo-ing with our PPM.
  One of the things I was looking forward to most was meeting Katherine and Novel.  We have been following each other in puppy raising through our blogs and Facebook for over a year now, and it was so neat to get to finally meet them!

Novel, Puck, and Dante

Katherine and Novel, R and Puck, and Dante and I
In all, we had seventeen puppies and two graduate dogs representing five states.  It was so great to talk with so many people who understand exactly what puppy raising is all about, the good, the bad, and the funny! ;-)

The group.  Picture from CCI's Facebook page

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Roller Coaster

I don't know how many times I had heard from people that puppy raising is a roller coaster.  I knew it would have its ups and downs, but I don't think I truly, whole-heartedly believed them.

I honestly do not even know where I am going with this post.  I have not had enough time in the past few weeks to sit down and sort through my thoughts on my own, let alone write a coherent blog post.  Sometimes I just have to write, even if I don't publish it, just to get my thoughts straight for my own good.  We'll see where we end up.

 Hourly, my thoughts and emotions about Dante's imminent Matriculation are changing.

Did you see how good he did with that distraction?  I think he just might make it.

Oh my gosh!  He didn't just steal that hand towel for the umpteenth time today, did he?  There is no way this dog is ever gonna graduate...

We just spent 1.5 hours in the mall, and not once did he need any more than a verbal correction.  He went "under" the table and never tried to lick a single crumb!

You seriously just blew off my "here" command and headed for the kitchen with a wagging tail?  You're not going to make it to your first report card...

Oh, the list could go on, but I think you get the gist.  

I knew all along that I will miss my boy like crazy, but I was not prepared for the emotions of worry that would come up as well (it doesn't help that many things he has just started since the spring).  I don't really know why, but I guess I kind of figured we would have things "sorted out" by this point.

First and foremost, I know it is wrong to worry about anything because my God cares even about these seemingly small things, such as Dante, and knows exactly where he will fit best.

I think right now, the not knowing which way Dante will go is the hardest.  While I would be ecstatic to see Dante graduate, because this is what I have raised him for, I will welcome him back as my pet in a heartbeat.  Even in the midst of this roller coaster ride, I know that Dante is ready for this next step in Advanced Training, whether he thrives and graduates, or decides it is not for him.  He will make the decision on what he wants to do.

People ask me all the time what will happen if he "fails"?  Advanced Training is not about Dante "failing" or "passing."  It is unfair to expect every single one of the (around) 1,000 puppies born to Canine Companions each year to become assistance dogs.  If he graduates, good for him!  He found his place in life!  If he gets released?  It is still good for him, because he found his place in life!

It is so hard not to worry.  It is so hard not to say, "I should have done this better,"  or "I should have done that differently."  My job is not to get Dante to graduation.  I remind myself of this every day.  My job is to get him to Turn In, and cheer him on as he decides for himself where he will go from there.

Puppy raising is the closest to a roller coaster you'll ever get me on, haha!  With three weeks until Turn In, I know that it is nowhere near over.  It has been hard at times.  But it has been so, so good!  I wouldn't trade a single minute of it for a break from the ups and downs.

Wordless Wednesday

Someone mailed his matriculation packet in today. Three weeks...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pool Party!

Early last week, and email came addressed to Dante and Moray from their best friend, CCI puppy Young.  Dante and Moray (and the humans) were invited to their first pool party with Young, his raisers, and Chief, Gregor, and Ivy.  To say we had a blast is an understatement!  Dante got a little over-excited and accidentally fell in.  It took a lot of coaxing (and cookies!) to get him back in the water, but he got fairly comfortable.  Dante thinks he is Hot Stuff, but when he is nervous, he melts into a 68 lb. baby who clings to "His Hannah" (seriously, you should have seen the scratches on my arms and back from him clinging to me).  Moray was in heaven!  He came right in, and even though he couldn't stay afloat, he kept swimming.  Someone just had to keep a hand under that belly to keep him up.  ;-)

Thank you to Young and his raisers for being such awesome hosts!

**All photos courtesy of Marsh Creative Studios**

Young and his raiser

Young and Moray

My sister and Moray

My big baby ;-)

"I think I can, I think I can..."

This one just makes me laugh

Young trying to get Dante to play with him

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Working Together

This week was the first time I have taken Dante and Moray on an outing together.  My mom, sister, and I headed to the outdoor mall.  It is a great place to bring the two puppies because Dante can work in and out of stores with my mom while Moray and I work on his loose leash walking, polite greetings, "sits," and "shakes."

We went right when they opened on a Monday morning, so there were very few people or added distractions.  Dante was in a little bit of a funk because he was jealous that I had Moray, and it was the first time I have made him wear his gentle leader in about 10 days because of his hotspot.  But it is good for him to be able to work with someone else besides "his person."

I put Moray on top of this wall because even though he won't learn "jump" for a few more months, it is good to get him used to being up off the ground so he won't be afraid.

Moray was very excited to see his big brother when we met up with them again!  Dante wagged his tail, but let him know that this is working time, not play time ;)

Yup, Moray outgrew his baby cape.  I cannot believe he is getting so big already!

It can hard to balance having two CCI puppies at one time, as it is different than two pets.  But it has been so great for both Dante and Moray, as well as growing my skills as a handler.  I love these two boys!

Note:  You have probably noticed, but I finally changed the blog!  Our URL ( remains the same, but we do have a new name.  If you have been so kind as to add "Days with Dante" to your blog roll, our name will not change automatically  to "Puppies and Possibilities" on your blog, but has to be changed manually.  Thank you!

Monday, July 8, 2013


Last summer was not my summer.  I landed myself in the emergency room twice, and Dante accompanied me to countless allergist and orthopedic appointments through to the fall.

Needless to say, I had high hopes for this summer.

I have been to the vet too many times in the last month.  As most of you know, Moray had been sick twice with kennel cough and a urinary track infection, and this week was poor Dante's turn. 

Dante started not acting right on Friday night, but I summed up his quietness to running hard on the playground that afternoon with Moray and Young.  I woke up Saturday morning only to have my mom tell me that she had been up until 4am with Dante because he was whining and restless, but she could not figure out what was wrong.

When I got him out of his kennel I noticed under his ear and the side of his face was wet/oozy and he wouldn't let me touch it.  Thankfully our vet was open this weekend.

The perfect mixture of bug bites/scratching/swimming and not drying out quick enough, caused Dante to develop a hotspot under his ear/cheek.

This poor baby spent pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday sleeping.  He was so pitiful and literally thought he was dying.  This is the first time that Dante has been sick and my heart broke that he didn't understand what had happened.

Dante's hotspot.  This is from Saturday, it is looking much better today.
Wallowing in sorrow amidst his favorite toys.

By Sunday night, the antibiotics had kicked in and it looked a lot better.  I knew when he came trotting out of the kitchen carrying a hand towel that he was back to himself again.  ;-)

He is doing much, much better today, and was getting restless and mischevious in the house, so I took him to Starbucks and a quick grocery stop, and he was so glad to get out.  Because of the placement of his hotspot, he cannot wear his gentle leader for a little while, but proved himself to do well on just his flat collar.  

Just a peep of his healing hotspot shows from under his ear.

So now that sickness has made the rounds to everyone, we should be done, right???