Sunday, August 22, 2010

There's a word for that

Cool Beans
Gnarly monarch butterfly at CCI graduation
I'm a child of the 70's. An era of great music and horrifically bad fashion. Anyone else out there remember sporting those one piece pantsuits and trying not to fall off your platform shoes?  How about making your bell bottoms even bell bottomier by cutting into the seam and adding a triangle of bandanna fabric so when you walked between classes at school it sounded like a huge pillow fight with all those jeans smacking into each other?

Remember laying on the sidewalk in front of your house and yelling for your mom to come out and save you because your bell bottoms got jammed into your bike chain - again. 

To all you young folk out there trying to bring back 70's retro fashion. I'm asking nicely . . . please don't. Really.

Of course, we had our own slang back in the day as well. We expanded Cool into Cool Beans. (I can't explain why or how this one came about; or even why I still hear it said today.) Other ways to describe something wonderful was Boss, Funkadelic and, my favorite, That's gnarly, Dude.

In today's culture, I hear the word Awesome thrown around as if it means the same as Cool Beans, and frankly, it bugs me. Even worse, some folk will use Awesome as sarcasm. As in . . .  Dude, did you know your cat just threw up something kinda orange colored on your sofa?  Response: awesome.

That ain't right. Something awesome is, well, awe inspiring. Not just pretty good, but instead is the apex of wonderful. It stops you in your tracks. Maybe it causes you to pause and reflect on what is happening right in front of you. It is something divine.

If we misuse Awesome, then we're left with a diluted word and no way to explain the things that change lives.

Now this is Awesome
Something wonderful has happened. Our first CCI puppy, Inga IV, has graduated as Skilled Companion for a young boy. Ok, to be painfully honest about this, I'm pretty jazzed that I didn't totally screw up in raising this dog. 'Tis true. This admission alone speaks a volume about the professional training staff at CCI.

Inga IV
Inga and I spent nearly a year and a half together working on the basics; obedience, socialization and such. Her success was top of mind for that entire time. But while all this was going on, there was the knowledge that less than 50% of CCI pups in training actually make it to become assistance dogs. That thought follows a puppy raiser like a cloud of gnats; hard to swat away. You can do everything right, but what it really comes down to is if the dog wants to do the job.

Because CCI's values are so high, because they will not place a dog with someone unless it is absolutely the right thing to do, many of the pups are released from the service dog program. When I titled this blog Raising a Super Dog, it was because that's exactly what these dogs are. Not just really smart pets, but a level higher. Confident, healthy, compassionate and intuitive dogs with an unshakable work ethic.

So what happens to the pups that don't make it as a service dog? They become Change of Career dogs. COC's in CCI-speak. These dogs may move into another service field such as Search and Rescue or Therapy Dog jobs. Or they may become really wonderful & loving pets. 

The work that CCI does is amazing. I would even call it awesome. Because making a profound impact to a person's life, especially in a way that provides independence that wasn't there before, is nothing less than awesome.

And I honestly can't think of another word to describe it.

Yellow Cape (turn-in) Cookie
Blue Cape (graduation) Cookie

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend

Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
Here's the diet books, Mom.
A whiskery old quote by the cynical Groucho Marx. And the segue to telling you about our visit to Books and Co. at The Greene.

One of my favorite authors, Katrina Kittle, is celebrating the debut of her fourth book, The Blessings of the Animals.  She was at Books and Co. for a reading and book signing this past Friday. I first met Katrina a few years back when I was a volunteer tutor for the Ohio Reads program. She impressed me then as a woman filled with positive energy; someone very approachable and personable. What a delight to be in her presence again.

A review of Katrina's new book by Booklist tells us that “with subtle yet shimmering insight, Kittle explores the resilience of human nature and the indelible role animals play in healing shattered emotions.”  An affirming story of the healing power of animals? Sounds like something worth sharing to me. Time to put the cape on the dog and make a road trip to The Greene.

Micron and I made it in time to get a front row seat. Enough space to put his 72 lb. incredible hulk body and still have some leg room. And as it turned out, a fine place for a 10 month old puppy to act out. In my infinite wisdom, I decided he would get fed after this event, so we could sit through the reading without worrying about a potty alert. Right. So, no potty alerts but the furball knew it was getting past dinnertime and felt I needed a reminder.

Katrina Kittle and her admirer, Micron
It started with a soliciting paw on my leg. Ignore, ignore . . . I don't answer to begging dogs. Then it was the laser eye; I could see him staring at me with an intensity that was admittedly a little disconcerting.

We made it to Q&A time. Katrina explains how it's so important for us recognize the animals that have impacted our lives. This cued starving dog to say-it-sister with a high pitched yip as a final desperate act to let me know his stomach has now shrunk to the size of a walnut.  Ok, yeah it was funny. Well timed, you goofball. And now with everyone's attention on him, completely impossible to correct. Dang.

In the end, I'm all oh-my-god-I-can't believe-you-barked-in-public, while several people came up afterward to say how wonderful he was and oh so well-behaved. The dog finds some redemption in just being stinkin' adorable.

There's a book event later this month that sounds interesting. We'll give Micron another shot at Books and Co. for this.

But this time I'm packing a lunch for him.

Scoping for cute chicks at The Greene
As a postscript to our Katrina meeting, I also wanted to share her blog. Before the release of The Blessings of the Animals, she held a contest asking for essays on animals that have blessed our lives. I sent in some thoughts I had about the turn-in of our first CCI puppy, Inga. And was totally jazzed to get an honorable mention as recognition for my short essay.  A win for CCI as well; another way to raise awareness of this incredible organization and the work they do. The runner-ups for the dog essays are on her Canine Contenders post. Some touching stories out there for you dog lovers. Grab a hankie first.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Webster Street Market
Yeah, I'm with the band
Traveling around with Micron is kinda like hanging with a celebrity. I noticed this phenomena with our first CCI dog and it's the same with this pup.
Walking through public spots with a caped dog by my side I hear whispered remarks. We're hard wired to notice whispers, I think. Unless someone calls my name, I really don't hear conversations as I pass by folk. But a shishy shush comment perks the ears. 
Ok, so try this out. Think of a hot rock star; anyone you like. And for each time in the next paragraph you see a reference to "dog", replace with your rock star's name . . .
As I'm walking through the Farmers Market with Micron, I overhear things like "did you see that Dog!?" or "a lady with a Dog just walked by". Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone peek around a corner who says "holy cow, you're right! There is a Dog over there." It's like they're too shy to come up and talk to me and the Dog. 
So it's pretty great when folk will stop and talk to us instead of about us. I love it when someone asks if it's ok to pet Micron because it opens the opportunity to talk about what we're doing for CCI. I think it's way better than hanging out with Bon Jovi or something. But hey, that's just me.

Dayton Dragons Baseball
An American werewolf in London
Ok, so he's closer to a yellow dog in downtown Dayton.
Speaking of out and about, we brought Micron to walk around at the annual Celtic Festival. I wanted to hang a nickname on him that would make him feel like a Scot, but nothing clever came to mind. Mikey doesn't sound Scottish, Irish, Welsh or anything even close. He's an all American dog, so we embraced this heritage by hugging a huge baseball. Here's one proud California blonde.

We did manage a photo op with a fellow who seemed pretty authentic to me. If he's not a Scot, he sure as heck owns the look anyhow. Here he is working his Celtic charms on Micron. The dog looks rather blissful.

Dayton, Oh is a river city and is partly bordered by the Great Miami River. Before we got all modernized and everything Dayton had canals in the downtown area for commerce. Legend has it they were actually rather nasty and cesspool-ish. But today in the electronic age, we prefer to think of the former canal streets as a quaint old idea. 'Tis a much happier way of thinking. For a parting shot, here's Micron posing in front of a beautifully restored canal near Monument Street.
Sorry kid, we're not going swimming

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