Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yeah, I bet you're Morning Person, too

"So," begins the rather benign comment from a close friend. "You got your Christmas shopping done yet?"

My mind fills with turmoil not unlike a class 4 hurricane. Holy cow, is it that time of year again? Yeah sure, I know. It's now post-Thanksgiving, so I should probably consider giving things a kick start. But the crowds, the mall, the challenge of finding the perfect gift for those I love. I'm just not feeling it yet.

I eye early shoppers with the same wariness that I give morning people (where do they come from?).  I know y'all are out there rarin' to go and all, but please . . . just give me a minute.  I'll catch up with you in just a bit and then we can all share in the glory of the day. In the meantime, however, I'm at peace in my little world of denial. It's a happy place we call Donna Land. Everybody knows me there and they're all really nice. The dark roast coffee's always freshly brewed there. And Krispy Kreme's are only one weight watcher point value . .  sigh.

Right, on to thinking about holiday shopping. I had an opportunity to get started on this during a recent CCI event at Barnes & Noble.  Fellow puppy raisers Esther and Bud organize a free gift wrapping service at B&N every Christmas season.  We were there this past Saturday, just after Thanksgiving. Micron and I took an early afternoon shift to help raise awareness of Canine Companions for Independence.

Let's do this thing!

Micron just loves the kids. Little boys smell like french fries and the girls like cotton candy. He's a friendly, calm dog that children find very approachable. If only I could just encourage him to keep his tongue to himself. More than one hapless tyke has received a wet willy from this dog. Remember the Wizard of Oz and the cowardly lion's tail?  How it was always moving around like it had a mind of its own?  Well, that's Micron's tongue.

Me: "Micron, don't lick." 
Random mother: "Oh, it's ok if he licks my kid." 
Me: (inside thoughts: NO IT'S NOT!) "We really don't want the pups to lick people. It's not becoming of a service dog. Part of his training and all, you know." 
Random mother: (inside thoughts: WHAT A MEANIE!) "Oh. Ok."

I smell cotton candy.
All you moms out there . . . I wish I could let this dog lick all the ketchup off your adorable kid's faces. I really do. But, this isn't a pet dog. We're working hard towards a goal. This big, yellow guy is going to grow into something wonderful. Somehow and in some way, this dog will change someone's life. And we're going to get there darn it, even if I have to rubberband this furball's wild tongue to his jaw.

Ugh, just kidding of course. About the rubberband thing. Not the goal. We'll reach our goal, we will. 

Just watch us.

Julie waiting to work her new fan base.
Julie and Micron taking a wee break.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Working for kibble

It's not hard to make Micron a happy dog. He is, by nature, a glass half full kinda guy. He finds most things in life are pretty good (naps, belly rubs, fresh bowl of water) and other events are wonderful (car ride, getting attention from the Starbucks girls), and then he has his ecstasy moments (I gotcher smelly sneaker!). 

But what is true euphoria for a dog? Anyone lucky enough to have a food motivated dog knows. Both these dogs know when mealtime is around here. We keep things on a tight schedule, because honestly, I really like to keep the #2's on schedule too, if you know what I mean. So when 7:00 rolls around, there's some serious restlessness in the household. After the bowl is licked to a shine, Micron will run to the nearest person to give his thanksgiving for the nouvelle cuisine. "Food Lady!" he says, "You've outdone yourself again. That was the best bowl yet!" His tail wags so hard that the tip is touching his sides.

It probably doesn't need mentioning that this dog is really, really easy to train.

But hey, everything comes with a price, doesn't it? This pup has to work for his daily kibble. In addition to his service dog training, he is an ambassador for CCI. We make the occasional public appearances and work at CCI booths to raise awareness of this amazing human services organization. Let's look at a couple of our fall outings.

Aullwood Apple Fest

Micron and Bullet.
They're not exactly manning the booth, 
but dogging the booth doesn't sound right, either.
 One of my very favorite local events, the Apple Fest at Aullwood Audubon Center & Farm. I love being outdoors on a beautiful fall day with the smell of wood smoke in the air. Apple butter is cooking in kettles and apple pie is baking in the dutch ovens over an open fire. Puppy raisers Jerry and Jerri manage the CCI booth at this annual event. This year they brought their 17th pup, Bullet. Seventeenth puppy. These guys are pros in the CCI puppy raising business --my heroes and mentors.

Also working the booth for crowd control was pup in training, Karsen, and COC Fergo, the big sweetie.

Babe magnet, Bullet

We get a lot of traffic at the CCI booth over the two-day fest. Really, it is essentially non-stop. It's a great opportunity to allow the dogs to learn calm greetings and talk to folk about the work that CCI does. We answer questions while the pups work on their fan base.

A firm handshake and good eye contact.
I was especially looking forward to this as it would be Micron's first contact with farm animals. I learned from experience that the goats are not a really great first step as far as livestock goes (sorry, Inga).  A goat will stare a little too long before they go all freak out on you. So we started with just walking around to get exposed to some novel smells.

Hi sheep thing. Nice to smell you.

First we met a gentle, old sheep, which went really well. A sniff, sniff and we moved on. Next was the barn.

Hogs, mini whinnies, an alpaca, and a couple of calves. Nothing we can't handle. It's all good. We can check farm animals off the New Experiences list for CCI.

I just got my head around that sheep thing
and now there's this?

Apple butter a'cookin'.

Aullwood Farm is a good family visit anytime, really. It's an educational farm for kids to learn about livestock and agriculture. For folk within driving distance of the Dayton area, check out the farm and the adjoining nature center and gardens. Always time well spent.

Micron poses in the herb garden

Jungle Jim's Fall Festival

Micron and Julie
We spent a chilly afternoon at the Jungle Jim's International Market. Definitely hoodie weather, but much better than sweating it out on a hot summer day. Micron met up with pups in training Owen and Julie for an afternoon Meet and Greet. Julie is nearly five months old and quite the crowd draw. Owen is 18 months and will be matriculating at the November 12 CCI graduation ceremony in Dublin.

Julie was adorable, Owen was professional and Micron was, well, you can see from the photos. Micron was his usual self.

What is Owen thinking?  Probably don't wanna know.
Julie and her adorable head tilt

I'm one of those unfortunate people who turns into an idiot when a camera is in my hands. All manner of squeaks, clicks and meows come from me in an attempt to get a dog to lift their ears and look at the lens.

I wouldn't do it if I didn't get the occasional reward, such as that puppy head tilt of Julie's. Just look at that adorable mug. She brought back some wonderful memories of Inga as a pup (sniff).

Long time puppy raisers Steve and Bonnie facilitated the CCI booth for this event. Jungle Jim's is an eclectic shopping experience, sorta like an amusement park in a grocery. We decided to try out some shopping after working the CCI booth. It was our first time at the place and we found we needed a map to find our way around the international marketplace. Micron did a wonderful job exploring with us, but we knew it was time to put a cap on things when he dropped onto the floor in England and fell asleep. It was a long afternoon, the poor fella.
It was a bit chilly out.
Julie provides a hand warming service.

Micron Dog and Jungle Dog.
Maybe just me, but I prefer food with less personality.
And self awareness.

Do they ever get to be "dogs"?

Questions we get as puppy raisers from concerned dog lovers. Is it all work for these dogs?  Do they have to wear their capes all the time? Don't they ever get to be "dogs?"

Of course they do, people. We undress these fuzzies, give the Release command and stand back. But you know, it helps to have a visual sometimes. The Gold Rush Champions chapter of CCI put together an excellent video that will relieve some of those working dog worries. Talk about time well spent - if you're a dog lover, you won't be asking for these four minutes back. 

Check out the video at:

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