Friday, May 30, 2014

May Graduation Part 3

Friday was graduation day!  We got up, and during breakfast in the hotel talked to many people about Moray and CCI.  I find it so funny that up there, we got SO many more comments about him being a "seeing eye dog" than I do down here.  It was fun to get to educate about other types of assistance dogs and CCI too!

We soon headed over the the venue for graduation.  We were there about an hour early and were talking with each other and other puppy raisers there too.  There were several local news reporters who were there, and of of them asked to interview Moray and I.

They ended up only using a few seconds of the clip, but it was still fun!  And Moray enjoyed a brief break in the "no licking" rule to ham it up!
This was Moray's first CCI event, and he had to work very, very hard to keep focused with 50+ other dogs there.  It definitely helps that all the others are as well behaved as he is, but it still took a lot of self control, and he ended up doing really well.  it took it out of him though, and he was out like a light the whole four hour drive back to my aunt and uncle's house afterwards! 
Lots of other awesome CCI dogs!

Good boy, Moray Man!
If you have never been to a Canine Companion's graduation, you are truly missing out on an amazing presentation of genuine love, sacrifice, joy, and hope.  I have said it before, and I'll say it again: CCI knows how to do it.  It was even more amazing to be "part of" it and see my uncle receive his new service dog, Hickory.  
Hickory's puppy raiser handing over the leash
With Hickory's trainer and puppy raiser 
All graduated!  I know your raiser is SO proud of you, Hickory!
We spent our last day at our family's house visiting, taking a nice long walk, and having some puppy play time with Hickory!

Hickory settling in at home

They played so well together and loved each other!

Hickory! And a squeaky ball, lol

Smart boy kept coming over because he knew I carried treats for Moray! ;)
It was a whirlwind trip, but great on all fronts.  Moray did so well and really showed me how much he is growing and maturing, and proved that he is able to handle more and more distractions and environments.  He was a sleepy boy all the way home!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May Graduation Part 2

We headed to Canine Companion's Northeast Campus on Long Island Thursday after brunch.  we had called them the week before asking if they offered tours before the graduation ceremony on Friday because the actual ceremony is held at a hotel and we really wanted to see the campus.  After hearing that we were puppy raisers from another region, they said we could get the "real" tour if we came Thursday, hehe!  That turned out to be perfect since we planned to stay the night there and see my aunt and uncle Thursday night anyway.  

We got just a little lost and ended up on 42nd Street.  It has been years since I've been in New York City, so it was fun to drive through anyways.  Moray slept the whole way, but (spoiler alert!) he *may* be back to work the city in the fall!

I would be lying if I said I didn't tell Moray more than once that he "better be on his best behavior!" Puppies will be puppies, and sixteen hours in the car over the last 48 hours didn't help him out much either!  But to his credit, he did very well and I was proud at how hard he tried...even if puppy brain took over a little!
With the infamous Woodstock!
It was really neat to tour the Northeast Region and see the similarities and differences compared to the Southeast.
Kennels! Don't remember the names of these sweeties.
Anyone know Nation or Maddie's raisers? Sweet girls!

Medical room

Some Advanced Training Dogs playing
Am I the only one who finds CCI's walls so amazingly inspiring?! Haha!
After our tour we got to see my aunt and uncle and meet sweet Hickory who they had been matched with.  We also got to sit in on the graduates' last lecture which was such a cool insight into the "other side" of CCI.  It was so neat to see this side of excitement, reception, and joy after only ever being on the side of tears and saying goodbye to the puppy you've raised and loved for 18 months.  To see and meet many of the new teams and families and hear about their stories from the last two weeks was an amazing experience.  I guess as a puppy raiser you have to imagine so much of what your dog is doing in Advanced Training and during Team Training that it was neat to see it become real.
Lecture time in the cafeteria. 

Hey Hickory!
I always find it fun the watch the difference in graduate dogs and puppies in training.  I get complimented on a daily basis about how well behaved my pups are.  Don't get me wrong: both Dante and Moray had/have pretty great public manners, but seeing the mature dogs who have had such extensive professional training side by side with puppies is so much fun for me.  And of course, being there Thursday, Moray was the only puppy in yellow until we went to the play yard, so I definitely had the little whippersnapper, haha! After the lecture wrapped up and we were talking together, we asked about taking Hickory and Moray out to the play yard, and one of the trainers looks at Moray and says, "Absolutely.  This one really needs it, huh?"  Oh Moray!  You try so hard to be a good boy, but sometimes you just need to run it out!

Levine! 4 months old and the only pup out there smaller than Moray my peanut!
Moray played very nicely the entire time, and ran hard, and I mean h-a-r-d for 45 minutes with other dogs who were graduating and a few puppies in training.  

We went out to dinner nearby, and Moray was excellent.  About 15 minutes into our meal, a group of puppy raisers, graduates, and supporters of CCI came in and sat a few tables away along with at least six other CCI puppies and dogs.  This was the first time Moray has ever seen other dogs in public (besides puppy class), and he did amazing.  He perked his head up as they all walked in and got settled, but never tried to get up or bring attention to himself.  He soon rested his head again, completely ignoring them, and went to sleep.  He was one tired pup and slept soundly in yes, our third different place in three days!

Monday, May 26, 2014

May Graduation Part 1

There have been lots of happenings in our lives in the more-than-a-month since I've last updated this corner of my life.  End of school busyness and some computer problems have kept me off, but Moray has had some exciting highlights and defining training moments that I would hate to skip.

About a month ago, my uncle who has been on the waiting list for almost two years for a dog from Canine Companions got the call that there had been a cancellation for the May Team Training and they had a spot available for him to attend.  

Team Training is period that lasts two weeks where students stay at CCI and learn how to work with their new assistance dogs.  This happens four times a year at all of CCI's campuses, and is culminated with a graduation ceremony where the puppy raisers of these dogs hand over the leash for the last time, but is also paired with matriculation of puppies into Advanced Training.  

I have only attended one graduation: when Dante Turned In at CCI's Southeast Region in Orlando last August.  To say the whole family was excited about my uncle finally being invited to team training at the Northeast Region in New York was an understatement.  We have family up north and my mom and I made the decision to drive up there to see them and attend graduation pretty off-the-cuff.  But with school ending just two days prior to leaving, and several other things, it all seemed to work out pretty perfectly.  

This was Moray's second road trip, but his longest at a grand total of about 2,500 miles covered in five days.  This trip challenged him, but didn't push him too far.  His skills grew noticeably and it was really neat to see how much he is maturing and learning, as well as how hard he tries and how willing he is to please.  
Good little traveler
We drove twelve hours the first day.  Moray was so good rotating between the backseat and his kennel.  We were gone five nights and we didn't stay in the same place two nights in a row.  Moray was so flexible and went along with the flow beautifully.  He may or may not have gotten some cuddles on the bed, too!
On our second day we got up bright and early and drove our last four hours before 9:30am!  We arrived at my grandparents' farm where Moray got lots of hellos and much needed play time in the yard, and his favorite - the stream!  He had SO much fun splashing, sniffing, and biting at the water.  He is unmistakably a labrador!

After some time to calm down again and visit, we went downtown and walked, window-shopped and just had fun.  Moray was curious and took some work to keep his focus, but did really well overall and enjoyed taking it all in.  We went into a frozen yogurt shop where the lady was very nice, but extremely worried about "all" Moray's fur.  She asked us to stay in the corner and not go by any of the food, and when kindly explaining didn't change her mind, we complied.  It's not always worth it to push, especially when you have the chance to leave as a fantastic representation of the behavior of how a working dog should act as Moray did.

This sums up his attitude perfectly.  Always happy, he is!

My grandparents, Mor, and I
Dinner for the two and four-legged, and a nice bone to chew rounded out our busy but fun first two days!