Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yaxley's Five for Five


A co-worker had overhead me talking about Yaxley's Dog Blog the other day.  "Oh, good stuff, I bet," says my friend, "things like first I slept all day, then I ate dog food."

"No, silly," I say, "that's his Twitter. The blog has pictures."

Yeah, I know. Managing a Twitter account for Yaxley would be a little much.  But a Dog Blog stuffed with puppy photos? Oh, I'm all over that.

Yaxley is now five months old and growing up quite nicely. What a sturdy temperament; he has been so easy to work with.  For his five month birthday milestone let's catch up on five things happening in his puppy life right now.

Puppy chewing is reduced to Yellow Alert
Yaxley is working on his adult teeth; nearly all the new white chiclets are in. The need to chew something is not so intense anymore. You can just hear the furniture in the house breath a sigh of relief.  Jager, too.

I found a puppy molar on the carpet at work. While what I thought was kinda exciting (Look! A puppy tooth!), others apparently saw the bloody little nub in a different light. Ugh, sorry about that, guys.


We got us new digs
Spending our workdays in the new office. Getting used to the new place and Yaxley's been spending most of his time working on his fan base there.  He really has settled in nicely; folk are impressed that a five month old puppy is so well-behaved. But, being a CCI pup, I wouldn't expect anything less of him. The CCI pups are just made that way.

People ask if my pet dog is as well-behaved as this little yellow CCI pup.  At this point, I drop eye contact and say quietly, not really. No, actually Jager is a little freaky.  But to my defense, Jager was a rescue who found us.  So all his weirdness is stuff he kinda just showed up with. Like the time I walk into the dining room to see Jager standing on the table. He's shoulder-deep munching in a Mikesell's potato chip bag like it's the first meal he's had since the last full moon. He didn't get that bad behavior from me. I sit down to eat potato chips.

Making new fuzzy friends
Because the new office is pet friendly, the company has provided a dog park for the fuzzies to get outside for a good run and have some green grass to do their duty. And also because all office dogs are required to pass a behavioral assessment and health check, there's a confidence that everybody will pretty much get along just fine out there.

Yaxley's new best friend at the office is a gorgeous German Shepherd.  A big teddy bear of a dog.  And big he is. Natas and Yax do indeed play well together, in a kinda big brother - little brother way. Natas could easily body slam the little yellow guy into the well fertilized turf, but he doesn't. They take turns rolling each other onto the ground in a give and take. Adorable to watch, unless it's just rained, which was a learning for me.  I now know to keep a large bath towel at my desk to recover from mucky play sessions.

It's all about choices, you know. Do I want a bored, restless puppy at my desk in the afternoon? Or a damp, stinky one? My philosophy? A tired puppy is a good puppy.  By good, I mean napping.

Now on the other paw, Yaxley doesn't seem to understand the big brother rules for his fellow Yorkie and Chihuahua office friends. Yax says, Let's run!  Let's roll around!  Let me carry you around for a minute!  It's taking a little bit more time for these closer-to-the-ground guys to warm up to him.

Steppin' out

Yaxley is now working on his socialization skills by visiting new places. In addition to puppy obedience classes, he's made it to our local library and that emergency trip to the shoe store. Now usually a girl doesn't have to claim an emergency just to buy shoes, but I was getting desperate. A bit of a double whammy to me last Monday.  The office is a huge campus, about a million and two acres big spread across three floors. Of course, it's not really, but wear the wrong shoes and that 1:00 meeting might as well be in BFE, excuse my French.

Anyway, I'm over an hour from home and we have puppy class in the evening. So Yaxley got the shoe shopping experience. Holy dog, he says, just look at all these chew toys!  Yeah, that was interesting, but really it went very well. And I wobbled straight back to the car and gnawed the plastic tag off my snappy new flip flops. I got black ones to match my dress slacks, so as to keep that polished look.

Hand me downs

Weighing in at 41 pounds, Yax is where he should be at his age. Like the teenage boy that will someday grow into those size 11 feet, Yax's body will need to catch up to his lanky build and basset hound ears.

Yaxley on his five month birthday, May 2011
Now the ironically named Micron at five months was just a little bigger of a fellow. He just started life as a big-boned dog and by the five month mark was a massive 53 pounds.

At Micron's turn-in a couple weeks ago, CCI requested for his puppy cape to be returned as well. Because I am a forward thinker, yet sadly not a deep thinker, I asked if I could hang onto it as Yaxley was nearly five months. He would be wearing the logo cape soon, so it was agreed Micron's cape would be handed down to Yaxley.

A good idea, however not a great idea.  In 20/20 hindsight, we shoulda traded in Micron's cape for one just a bit smaller.



Micron on his five month birthday, Feb 2010
So hang tight, we have more dog adventures to come now with Yaxley as he grows into a CCI pup in training.  Promise - it will be more than just sleeping and eating from here on out.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Aullwood farm baby

 Saturday, March 14 2011.  A bit rainy last Saturday at the Farm Babies Festival at Aullwood Farm, but if you were wearing sensible shoes and proper rain gear, then you would have got along just fine.

Wish I were one of those kind of people.

But no matter. In the end I didn't actually sprain my ankle and with enough hairspray in the coif, I was able to repel the rain as if I were wearing a motorcycle helmet. My excuse for forsaking all my scout leader training (Be prepared!)?  Well, this was the day after Micron's turn-in at CCI and my humble brain was still processing things. Yeah, I'm going with that. It sounds more robust than just another over-40 moment, I think.

Looks like Bullet's down for a nap.
The energizer puppy, however, is still going strong.
Aullwood stationed our CCI booth in a great spot, under the shelter of a hack berry tree and deliciously downwind of the kettle corn guy.  Yaxley and his fellow fuzzy friends, Bullet, Julee and Bonnie, spent the day giving out free puppy hugs to all who stopped by. 


This was Yaxley's first big public outing. When we showed up to help out at the CCI info table, I said we would only stay as long as the pup could handle things. At the first sign of the puppy equivalent of a meltdown, I would take the little feller home. The little delicate flower that he is and all.

You're kinda missing the belly, kid, but this'll work too

So it seems the first to give out were my poor hapless feet in those idiotic sandals. But the puppy? Still happily building his new fan base.  Then I start to worry about how bad my hair actually looked. A hand drill wouldn't even break through that hairspray force field now.  So, Yax my love, ready to go?  No. No he's not. Things to smell, kids to lick, grass to eat.



We lasted right through to late afternoon, that little stinker. We only left when we did, because I was getting nervous about having to walk the half mile back to the car in those flippin' shoes.  Gettin' out while the gettin' is good, you know.

Bring 'em on!  Is that all ya got for me?

Before we left Aullwood, we did take a quick tour of the barn so Yaxley could enjoy a full sensory 3-D experience in odor-rama.  A little horse road apple here, some sheep stuff there. Again, I know this fragile little guy isn't ready yet for the big time. We're just shopping for smells, not rubbing noses with anybody here.


Except the pig actually. OK, so we're rubbing noses with the pig. I didn't see that fella until he stuck his juicy, quivering snout from the fence slats. Alrighty then, checking Kissed a Pig off the new experience list. 

Apparently, I've underestimated the confidence level of this little yeller feller. Yaxley has walked into every situation with tail held high and nose in the air. 

He's up and ready for the next adventure. Food Lady, he says, I'm so bored. Let's go do something!


Comparing who smells more delightful when wet.
Dog or alpaca? I say either is an acquired taste, so to speak.
Bullet poses in the herb garden at Aullwood

I kinda like the smell of wet dog in the morning

The lovely Julee takes a much needed break
 
Oh yeah, at the Farm Babies Festival? There were for real
farm babies there too. A pair of adorable eight-week-old kids
that we though were badly bred poodles at first glance.
Trying to get a serious portrait type shot of Bullet.
Realized later that he's resting his dog bum on that rock.

Don't cry because it's over


Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.       -Dr. Suess

Some of us are good with change. I've met people, always at work it seems, that proudly claim to be Claim Agents. They wear this self-proclaimed title like a flag. And good for them, I say. More power to you and all that.  But there come times when it would be nice that instead of stirring that big pot of life, could we just keep things at a simmer for a couple hours?

But even a slow simmer person as myself will admit that life changes can bring excitement and renewal. My job has recently moved to another location which has me driving over a hundred miles round trip each workday. On the suck scale, I'd give the commute an eight out of ten. But truth be told, once I'm settled in at my desk, I kinda love it. Surrounded by windows now instead of the prior florescent-lighted cube farm environment. Great co-workers and a rewarding job at a good company. It really is pretty great. They pay me to show up and work, not to say nice things. So they get that one for free.

Micron and Karsen sporting their
matriculation capes
But some change is bittersweet. We've all encountered that, haven't we? Good and not so good all mixed together. Last Friday was one of those for us.

Micron is now off to advanced training at CCI's North Central Regional Center. Dog college, so to speak. Our work with him is done and we've said our good-byes. 

Isn't that hard to do, we're asked, to give them up?  The answer is a hearty yes. Indeed, it's tough to do, to return the dog to CCI. But you know, if it were easy, then honestly, something ain't right. You might think that we fall madly in love with these fuzzies somewhere over those fourteen to sixteen months we have them. Not true, I say. That magic moment actually happens when you pick up the eight week old cotton ball and look into those brown eyes for the first time. Mutual trust, respect and admiration. And isn't that the meat-and-potatoes of  true love?

So what the heck are we doing here? Why throw ourselves so willingly into all this drama and  emotional gymnastics?  I couldn't possibly answer this for any other puppy raiser. Of the thousand plus CCI puppy raisers out there, each could share their own motivation. But as a personal expert on, well, my personal self, let me share my vision.

I see . . .
  • A young person with the confidence to attend college and live independently with their companion. 
  • A dog who provides comfort that they are there by your side for only one reason. You.
  • A dog creating a social bridge for a child with a disability. Who perhaps finds it easier to make new friendships with their dog by their side.
  • A person who is no longer afraid to travel. Who no longer sleeps in the hotel chair, but instead can get a good night's sleep knowing their Hearing Assistance dog will wake them in case of a fire alarm or a knock on the door.
  • A dog in an elementary school classroom. Laying quietly as the kids practice their flashcards on his side.

So, what is Micron's destiny? How's he going to do at CCI U?  Dunno yet.

But know what?  I bet he'll make us proud whatever he chooses to do.

Hey Karsen, let's go scope out the cute chicks at CCI U.
You thinking brunettes or blondes?


College boys, Micron (CCI U) and Derek (BGSU)

Crying towel, a gift from fellow puppy raiser, Elisa.


A gift from Mars' puppy raiser, Marianne.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Matriculating M's

Micron at Lookout Point, the highest elevation in Dayton.

When we're out and about with Micron, he has folk so impressed with his fabulous manners that we sometimes get requests to train their dogs for them. Or mayhaps would the same behavioral techniques work on kids, too?

Of course, we have to gently answer with a big fat No to both queries. We're not professional dog trainers and well, we only had one kid to practice our parenting skills on, so no profundity to share on that topic either.

So how do we know what to do with this CCI pup? Who trains the trainer, that is?

Well, our CCI family does. As volunteer Puppy Raisers (PR's in CCI-speak) we have a network of rather knowledgeable folk that are there to help us every paw step of the way. The CCI Puppy Raiser Coordinator is our first line expert. Suzanne is just a phone call away to advise me on how to quiet a very vocal puppy or to troubleshoot a dog that can't seem to hold his licker. (Micron's Pavlovian response to seeing a tot in a stroller is to lick his lips in anticipation of a full face slurpfest. Not a behavior becoming of a service dog, you know.)

The local chapter group with other PR's is something we couldn't live without, either. We have access to folk who are raising their eleventh CCI puppy. Or their seventeenth.  Or how about that dedicated couple working on pup #32.  Wow.  So whatever puppy nonsense may be going on in your house with the furball in your charge, you know someone else has had a very similar experience somewhere along the line.

But we're a big group, this CCI family. A nationwide organization, Canine Companions for Independence is of the oldest and largest of the service dog providers. And truly, the connections I enjoy most is interacting with the other PR's from my pup's litter.

We talk, we share. Do the littermates share any personality styles? Sure, but each is still unique. To unify this extended family, fellow PR, Marianne, has coined the term dogs-in-law, and I think that fits quite nicely.

Micron at B&N ready to show off his manners. And good looks.


Over the past eighteen months the PR's of the amazing M litter have been sharing photos and stories.  And now, we're providing emotional support as we prepare to return these beautiful dogs back to CCI to finish their training. This week, on either May 13 or 14, the M litter puppies will be matriculating into CCI's Advanced Training program. We're sending them off to dog college, so to speak.

How do we give them back? With a box of tissues and a lot of pride. And the support of like-minded people who are now part of our family.

We caught up with five of Micron's littermates and their PR's. Here are Madden, Mars, Molina, Madias and Meryl and their PR's as they share some photos, thoughts and their hopes for the future.

Madden


PR's Regina and Dave share these words about their pup, Madden.

What to say about Madden . . . he is beautiful inside and out. Our Zen dog who is gentle, and sweet and soulful, and loves to carry items around the house - not chewing but just carrying and bringing them to you and gently waiting until you take them. He works with special children each week and is at ease which puts them at ease. Did I mention he is sweet?



Madden is pup #9 for us and by far the hardest for me to return. He is deliberate and slow and mellow and thoughtful and that is what I will miss. Being around Madden is very calming; I think he can do anything he wants - Skilled Companion, Service Dog, or Facility Dog. But not Hearing Dog. as he does not have nearly the drive or energy.




A dream to raise and loves the outside playing with other pups, but perfectly content by your side. Our hope for Madden is that he is matched with someone who will appreciate what he has to offer and our CCI Northeast Regional Center is so very good at making those matches.

Mars
Mars
Mars is being raised in Denver by PR Marianne and John. I giggled when I read this. She could have easily been describing Micron instead of Mars.

He LOVES to carry things and will try to take something out of my hand if he thinks he should carry it for me. I keep telling him it's MY decision, not his. My favorite is when he carries the blue plastic recycling bin back to my office after I take it out to empty it. He is SOOOO pleased with himself. He is also the snuggliest puppy we've had and will crawl into my lap with his teddy bear.



I asked Marianne how she thought Mars might wow the CCI trainers. See "carrying things" above.  Also, should they need a tennis ball retrieved from anywhere, Mars is the dog for the job. He's a bit obsessive about tennis balls and has stalked people at the gym who have tennis balls in their gym bags. This is not a good thing.



Puppy Mars
And hopes for his destiny? John and I hope he graduates, of course. I think he'd be a dynamite Facility Dog, but I trust the trainers to determine his major once he settles in at college.  As long as he ends up with someone who will love the stuffing out of him we will be happy.




We feel incredibly lucky to have raised a rare black fluffy! Especially one as funny and sweet as Mars. He is a one-of-a-kind dog in so many ways and even though he's our 7th, the final goodbye at CCI on the 14th is going to wrenching for John and I. Puppy #8, Rocket, better be on his toes because we are going to need some serious adorable to go home to!

Speaking of dogs-in-law, Mars recently traveled across the country to New Jersey for a doggy reunion with littermate Madden. You can read more of this adventure on Mars' blog at:  Mars' DogBlog - Reunion!

Madden (L) and Mars (R) together again

Molina
PR Michael shared these photos of the Molina, a yellow fluffy who shares some good looks with Micron.


Molina at six weeks
Molina attending a dog show
Madias
We're seeing some fluffy similarity in the good looks department here too. Madias is being raised by MaryAngela in New York.
Madias at six weeks
Madias enjoying the country life  (is that a John Deere collar?)
Madias
Meryl

I've just recently caught up with Kim, the PR of lovely Meryl, who has created a video showing a day in the life of a CCI puppy-in-program.  Spend a few of minutes to watch beauty in motion. A very nicely done video. Enjoy . . .

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