Saturday, July 23, 2011

Freshly baked road apples

As a Boy Scout leader, I have opportunities to mentor these young fellows so they're clear on certain important facts.

For example, one cold, rainy morning we're ironically covering the risks of heat exhaustion during outside activities. I tell the boys to drink lots and lots of water and how to identify the signs of a heat emergency - heart rate, sweating, mental disorientation, and the such.

And as a scout leader of the female gender, I want to make sure they are clear on other important facts topical to this subject. Just in case their moms haven't hit on this learning yet.

Listen up, boys, cuz you need to know this one for later.

Boys sweat. But girls glisten.

It's true, of course. There's another lesson involving how women blossom, but that's off topic.

(And so while we're off topic. Have you even been riding in the car with your lab puppy sound asleep in the back seat and he releases a blossom so aromatic that he actually wakes himself up?  Yep, Yaxley did that.  He lifted his head, twitched his nose and looked at each of us in the car with a look on his face of  "dang people, which one of you guys dealt that one?")

Breyerfest or bust
But back to the subject at hand of how to have fun in the Midwestern sun. It's not just for Boy Scouts, you know.  We girls know how to have a good time in the great outdoors, too.  It's just we need to have horses around to make the dehydration worth our while.

The two nieces and I make an annual trip to the Kentucky Horse Park each July. An overnighter with two days of adventure in the Kentucky humidity. This year we brought CCI pup, Yaxley, with us. And because life is so boring when things are too easy, one niece breaks a bone in her foot the week before and is using crutches.

Not a problem, I say. We're hardly delicate flowers here. Pack up your water bottles, girls, and let's hit the road.

So we do. Actually I'm glad we're bringing Yaxley on this trip. He was a walking advertisement for CCI and helped to raise awareness of the work the organization does. And more, we were able to introduce him to some new sights, sounds and smells.

New experiences are pretty important in the socialization of a young service dog in training. So, let me share with you some of the new and different that the young Yaxley got to experience in his recent southern adventure.

Number one on his New Experience List happens just as we enter the horse park.  The wondrous scent of road apples.  Just what is that magical mound on the road?, Yaxley is wondering.  Heavenly.  I don't pretend to understand the relationship between dogs and horse manure, but I do know to firmly steer him away from the temptation that is recycled hay.

And this next photo, you say?  What is going on here?  We see the fair Princess of Gimp as she stands next to her would be knight in soldered armor. First, I'll tell you to not be too worried about the horse. It's not real.  The fellow, however, is spam in a can in that suit under the blazing Kentucky sun. I never saw the guy move. He reminded me of the campfire dinners you make in aluminum foil. And I was left hoping there wasn't some poor hapless fellow that got second shift in that well-seasoned armor.
Sir Knight of Lexington with his well-armored steed, a fair princess
and a yellow dog. 
Okie-doke. So we can check off 1) fake horse in armor and 2) a talking can of person.  Now let's find some real horses.

But before we do, a quick stop at the craft tent for face painting.  An adorable painted cat face for one niece and a lovely butterfly tattooed on the other.  Yaxley waits patiently for the girls as they get their Kentucky ink. He enjoys the attention from some kids watching a magic show.

A nice chin rub (and free advertisement for the Gentle Leader)
Ok, let's start small, so to speak. Maybe I should have had the girls stand next to the miniature horse. Then we could have seen it in the photo.

Well, that went well with Yaxley.  He's just taking this all in and moving right along with things. Going just swell until the Sheriff's horse gave him a hearty snort. Yax put that interaction into the category of that just ain't right, so we go off to find a gentler horse that doesn't look like it wants to eat dogs for breakfast.

Yax keeping a comfortable distance from the Snort Monster.
Seeing spots
A new and, um, different sight. For all of us.
Pecos, a dazzling Andalusian Stallion

 Yaxley checks out the Parade of Breeds

Ah, here's a truly benign equine.  Doesn't move, doesn't smell funny.

And doesn't snort at you.

And then there's this sight to behold.  I'm wondering, in his doggy mind, does Yaxley see a critter with two heads and four legs? What must be rolling through his noggin on this one?

The afternoon was wrapped up with a handful of the obligatory Kentucky Horse Park photo opps.

Man O'War monument way off in the background.
Yaxley is rewarded for his good behavior with some ear ruffling and belly rubs from his new fans.


 And we prepare to leave Kentucky Horse Park and begin to look forward to next year's trip.

I'll hold his leash. 
No, I'll hold it! 

Not quite ready to leave our Kentucky adventures behind, we decide to stop at the Georgetown Cracker Barrel for a late lunch. So here we are as we walk through the door . . . an obviously fatigued chick who appears to be one step away from heat stroke. Gimpy girl on crutches sporting a butterfly tattoo and hollywood shades. And Cat Girl walking her caped crusader dog on lead.

The restaurant manager stands at the hostess station and moves his eyes - in this order - from the yellow dog, to the cat, to Miss Hollywood and then resting on the obvious leader of this rock band - the chubby and heavily glistening broad. He apparently has not seen the likes of us in recent times and needs a moment to wrap his head around this charming image standing before him.

"Excellent!" He says, smiling and showing more teeth than you would expect to see, "Let's find you fine folk a table."  

Thanks, cowboy.  The girls and I are so hungry, we could eat a . . . um, well I guess we could eat a spinach salad or something.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dogs for a dollar

Yaxley is ready to do his business at Buehler's.
No, not that business, he's selling hot dogs.
"You have dogs for sale?"
"That's right.  One dollar for a hot dog and the brats are a dollar fifty"
"Um. I mean the dogs . . . are they up for adoption or something?"

And so begins an awkward segue into explaining our pups in training for Canine Companions for Independence.

Yaxley and I spent a gorgeous Saturday afternoon with other CCI supporters at Buehler's Fresh Foods in Delaware, Ohio. It was a Grilling Dogs with the CCI Dogs fundraising event located at the wonderfully shaded entrance to the store. A nice little setup with hot dogs, brats, drinks, and chips for sale. And slices of pie fresh from the bakery. Enough good stuff to draw a hungry crowd. 

As food booth volunteers, we were given the options of food prep, running the cash drawer or crowd socializing with the pups. I'm kinda stumped on how to share my job choice without sounding lazy, so I'll just be up front about it and lay it all out there for you.

Look, I already cook a meal nearly every bleary-eyed evening after a long day at work goofing around with budgets. So thinking I'll pass on any opportunities involving food or math. Socializing, though?  That sounds easy. Especially since I'll be holding the leash of an adorable puppy that will be doing most of the work.

So with my work ethic safely stowed away, I pulled up a $29.99 lawn chair and awaited our audience.

Hey, it's not like Yaxley had to do the work all by himself. He had lots of help in greeting folk. Jones was there to break up the heavy work load, so poor Yax didn't have the carry that burden of greeting every little kid that stopped by to give a belly rub.

Jones and Yaxley ready to work the crowd

Just a little bit closer, kid.  Almost . . . close . . . enuf . . . to. . . lick
Then just in time as the lunch crowd is showing up, the relief team of Haiku and Dahl are there to assist.  In hindsight, in the photo below I now realize there's a large red arrow that's pointed directly at Dahl's labrador noggin. And then yet another arrow is right there at her, um, tail.  Certainly not intentional and my apologies to Dahl for any loss of dignity. But still -- it makes me giggle when I look at it.

Ok, everybody say Cookie!
Yaxley, Haiku and Dahl smile for the camera.

And then, oh the glory of it all, another young puppy shows up. Yaxley makes a seamless and immediate shift change from professional crowd socializer to six month puppy goofball.  Hey there cutie, he says.  What's your name?

Girly girl Jada.
Check out those soulful brown eyes.
Yaxley meets the glorious Jada, an eight month old CCI pup in training. And his puppy brain short-circuits. Just as the neurons start misfiring and inspiring random puppy behavior, I'm handed Jada's leash to hold for a minute. And Yaxley announces that it's now Break TimeHey Jada, let's rassle!

I unhinge Yaxley's puppy snout from Jada's front leg and try to explain that, Yax honey, Jada's not that kind of girl.

She's well-behaved.

We gather up some self-control and get back to work.  Then Yaxley tells me enough is enough, Food Lady.  I certainly can't expect him to work all day.

Aw, can't I just chew on her leg for a few minutes?

So Yaxley and Jada declare an official nap time for all working dogs.

Dahl shows the youngsters how the pros do it.

Dahl!  Dahl!  Lookit me!  I'm doing it!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Micron and the campus life

Micron, October 2010
On May 13 Micron returned to the North Central Regional campus of Canine Companions for Independence to begin his advanced training as an assistance dog.

Our work as volunteer puppy raisers was officially done on that day.  We did everything we could during our eighteen months with Micron to prepare him for the next step on his journey. A happy puppyhood that was focused on socialization and encouraging excellent manners.

So it's very cool that CCI provides monthly progress reports to the puppy raisers during the six months of advanced training. Hey, we know this isn't our dog and never was. But darn it all, we fell in love with his handsome mug and want to know that he's doing well at dog college.
Micron prepares for campus life by visiting
Bowling Green State University

And he is.  Micron's CCI trainer tells us that he has moved right into his new digs and having a great time getting to know the other dogs in training.

The first month in advanced training is focused on acclimating the dog into their new environment and reinforcing the commands taught by the puppy raiser. Micron's enthusiasm for life is getting him into a bit of trouble and it seems he may need to learn a little self-control.  Yeah, Micron is a people lover.  He greets everyone with his attitude of "Everybody loves me!  You will too!"

So let's keep our fingers crossed for his continued success in advanced training. One month down and five more to go.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

TYDTWD Eukanuba style

Doggy smiles on CCI pups Yaxley & Red

Ok, so how many of you knew that last Friday was the official Take Your Dog to Work Day?


Uh huh.  Yeah, even in my dog riddled world, that kibble of info slipped past me. But then, it's kinda every day that I take my dog to work with me. I'm rather blessed in that - working in a pet food business definitely has its perks. But apparently, this particular event has been going on for some time now.

The official TYDTWD website officially states . . .
First celebrated in 1999, Pet Sitters International’s Take Your Dog To Work Day® was created to celebrate the great companions dogs make and to encourage their adoption from humane societies, animal shelters and breed rescue clubs. This annual event asks pet lovers to celebrate the humane-canine bond and promote pet adoption by encouraging their employers to support TYDTWDay by opening their workplace to employees’ four-legged friends on this one special day.
Well, who knew? But any efforts to raise awareness of adopting shelter and rescue dogs grabs my attention. And even better, my office celebrated this auspicious event by coordinating some fun lunchtime activities with our fuzzy co-workers.  Now, there's many of us that do bring our dogs into the office to spend the work day with us, so we get the occasional impromptu play date in our company pet park when the potty schedules coincide.  But since this was an official holiday, on this day we had some creative organized activities.

So, we started off with the Longest Sit/Stay. Ah, I thought, this should go well.  I'll try to keep my poker face and not obnoxiously gloat when Yaxley knocks the socks off everyone with his solid Sit/Stay.  Right.  Once again, I overestimated my dog handling skills expecting a six month old puppy to have conscious free-flowing thoughts while surrounded by gobs of dogs. Yax's noggin kinda short-circuited.  While he wasn't the first to break his Stay, he wasn't the third one either.
Alrighty then, let's do a quiet time-out and watch the older dogs do the next activity.

Next up - the Potato Walk. This involved walking a straight line while a potato is balanced on a serving spoon in one hand, the dog on leash in the other hand.  Last to drop their potato wins.  Sure, I tell Yaxley, we could have done that one, kid.  Naw, we couldn't. Let's be real. Maybe in another six months.

Last event was a twist on musical chairs. From our vantage point, this may have much more fun to spectate than participate. In place of chairs, pawprints were set about in a circle. Dogs and owners walked around the pawprints to music; when the music stopped, the dogs were to sit on the pawprint.  Now CCI pups are taught to walk, Sit and Down on unusual surfaces.  Many pet dogs are not. That was fun part to watch - utter refusal to place their doggy rump down on that. The rules were quickly adjusted to allow the dogs to just stand on a pawprint. The players were eliminated as a pawprint was taken away each turn, the winner is the last dog standing.

Here 's Yaxley and his co-workers burning off some energy before the games.  You'll see the pawprints on the ground that were so carefully measured out and placed in a circle being scattered about by the excited dogs.

Now check out the faces on these pups. You don't need to be an expert in canine body language to see that these are dog smiles.
Yaxley and Diamond

Yaxley and his BFF, Natas
Of course we had refreshments for the fuzzies, as well.  A round of Frosty Paws for everyone. Yaxley got a euphoric Zen moment going with his cup.  

We had a bit of a side discussion about Frosty Paws.  Someone asked if anyone thought a person could buy these dog treats by mistake and actually eat it? What would happen?

Well, it ain't gonna kill ya. But you probably won't enjoy it as much as your pup does, that lack of sugar and all. Guessing it would be a once in a lifetime experience. Self-correcting behavior, as it were.

Frosty (Paws) Nose
More photos of the event are on the Eukanuba and Iams pages for those of you who partake in the Facebook experience.

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