Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Oh yeah. Jager

I'm all clean and bright and shiny . . .
I brought Jager into the office yesterday and was reminded that it's been, oh I dunno, maybe a few months since he was last there.

Did you get a new dog? I was asked more than a couple of times. Or just as shaming -  poor Jager. Did she let you out of the basement for a day?

Somewhat guilt ridden, I will attempt to redeem myself by highlighting the spotted dog on today's WW post. But will now trump that redemption by having a little fun at his expense.

 Jager does not have a good relationship with water. He acts like bath time involves boiling acid.

And our trip to Myrtle Beach was fraught with such peril along the seashore.

That poor dog.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You're kind of a big deal

A gift from CCI pup in training, Rocket.
Rocket is being raised in Colorado and has his own dog blog.
Which color do you want, blue or purple?

Gimme the purple one.

Don't draw a dog. It'll just make you sad.

With purple crayon poised over the white butcher paper covering the restaurant table, I hesitate. What to draw while we're awaiting our pasta dinners?  Sorely lacking in any artistic ability, I could do the same clever little cartoon fish that I usually scrawl out, but I ordered seafood and that seems insensitive. Ugh, quit being silly, I tell myself. My mood is in a bruised state and I'm getting weary of putting on a brave front.

We pass the time by writing our names upside down and with our non-dominant hands. 

My Favorite Kid, left handed and right brained, is the artist of the family. While I draw the crayon version of a play-doh snake, he creates a very nice portrait of "Labrador retriever in blue crayon". 

You told me not to draw a dog because it would make me sad, I say.

It makes me happy, he says.

Ah, he's got the right attitude. Let's celebrate the journey that brought us to where we are right now. And I begin to feel a little better about this end of a busy day. Twelve hours filled with the roller coaster extremes of emotional highs and lows.

We arrive in Dublin in early morning with Yaxley in tow to meet up with other CCI puppy raisers for training and workshop. That's Dublin, Ohio (the Heart of America!), the same state that holds other such landlocked exotic locales as Russia, Bellfontaine, Lebanon and Versailles. Each pronounced differently than one would expect, and in some cases, make one cringe a little.

Yaxley (L) and Yoda (R)
Yaxley reunites with his littermate, Yoda, who was raised in Illinois. The two haven't seen each other since they flew in from Santa Rosa eighteen months ago. They looked liked twins at eight week old powder puffs, but today we see some very distinct differences in their appearance.

Both are devastatingly handsome, of course.  At least some things never change.

Watching the college babes.
We take a break from the workshop and move from the conference room to the auditorium, to attend CCI's August Graduation ceremony.  I do try to make it to each graduation ceremony, held four times a year, as it keeps me grounded in this puppy raising thing. A visceral reminder that this isn't my dog. Of why I do this.  But actually, our attendance today is rather obligatory as it's Yaxley's matriculation into Advanced Training.

Puppy raisers and their charges being recognized on stage. I'm on the right
(in lavender) clutching my carnation and sporting a look on my face like
 I wonder if they'll make an even trade - flower for dog?
(photo courtesy Marty M., puppy raiser)
Like Christmas, it's been on the calendar and I know full well it's coming, but doesn't mean I'm totally prepared for it. And the day shows up anyway, regardless of my self-imposed state of denial.

After the puppy raiser recognition, we return to our seats for the main event. The Pièce de résistance, pardon my French.

We watch as seven people, both children and adults, receive their fully trained assistance dogs. Graduates and dogs have completed two full weeks of intensive Team Training to reach today. (The dogs have completed six months of Advanced Training.) All have worked hard for this glorious moment when they can mark the beginning on the next path of their life.  More than a constant companion, these highly trained assistance dogs are at the ready to change their partner's life in a deep and profound way.

The graduate is introduced on stage and when the name of their assistance dog is announced to us in the audience, we watch as the puppy raiser of this amazing creature enters the stage and hands the leash to the grad. Symbolic that, the handing over of the leash. A closure of sorts for the puppy raiser. I did this just for you, my friend. And I thank you for allowing me this awesome moment, thinks the puppy raiser.

The dog may give one last glance to the puppy raiser (I love you), but they then turn to their new partner and with a doggie smile and tail wag, they say What are we doing next? I'm ready for ya!  We witness the bond that is already there. One that will grow even stronger over the next few years. We watch as a young boy in a wheelchair asks his dog to Lap. The dog puts front legs gently onto the boys lap and leans in for a bear hug. Tail wagging as the boy presses his head into his dog's soft fur. Amid the aaahs, there are sniffles heard about the auditorium.

How can we do this puppy raising thing? you ask. How can we "give them up?"   Yeah, people, that's how.

We joke around the office about how to keep Yaxley from Advanced Training. Who do I need to talk to about this? asks one high level manager, only partly kidding. My friend and co-worker attended this ceremony for the first time so she could give Yaxley one last hug. Afterwards, she says, Now I get it. I understand what Yaxley's supposed to do. I really want him to pass the program and graduate.

I can describe all this to you and try to show you in words. But people, it's attending a CCI graduation or seeing these assistance dogs in action that brings it home. It's actually takes being in the presence of something awesome to really understand it, I think. 

Sure, I'm sad to not have Yaxley in my life anymore. It's been a great ride these past eighteen months and I do love that dog. A very lot. And a week later I still look for him or reach out to pat his yellow noggin and my eyes tear up a little. But our time together is done. I'm left with knowing I did my best by him and CCI - and hope that it was enough.

Because in six months, I want to hand over the leash. I want that last glance back before he turns to his new partner to wag his tail and ask What's next?

I want, I want. It's not about me, though. In the end, as with all the CCI pups, it will be Yaxley that determines his next path. Will he do well in his new place at CCI, will he be strong and take on the training like this is what he was born to do? Or will he not be the right stuff of an assistance dog?  Some behavioral infraction that will take him to the fork in the road that leads to being an excellent pet for someone?

The professional trainers at CCI will take him through this dog college of sorts. They'll show him what he needs to know.

And we'll be right here waiting to hear about his progress. With high hopes, positive thoughts and fingers crossed. And some prayers, too.

We'll keep y'all in the loop here. Good news or not so much, updates on Yaxley will be here so we can continue to ride together on this amazing journey.

Hey lookit! I can be as still as a, well, you know.

One college grad down, one to go.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Head Butt Love

We interrupt our Yaxley reports to bring you this image of inter-species bonding. They say a head butt by a cat is the ultimate compliment, so Micron should be feeling the love here.

But unfortunately, this is Bodine the Sociopathic Cat we're talking about. He's pretty much Head Butt (I love you, man!) followed by a fully clawed smack on the pink nose (eat THIS, scurvy dog!). 

Cats are weird, Micron says.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You look good in blue

Yaxley looking sporty in his matriculation cape. He wears it well.

More later on the ceremony.  But today I'm gonna be busy hugging Micron and Jager.

I'm sure you understand. [sniffle]

Friday, August 17, 2012

The downside to cake

Who invited this guy?
Can I help you find something? asks the bakery clerk.

Please, I say. I'm in Kroger's bakery section leafing through their cake decoration book. Flipping past the pages of Disney princesses, Sponge Bobs and Spiderman cake photos.

With the exception of Blue's Clues, there's not anything much dog related. And for a matriculation party? I'm not sure this young girl would even recognize the word.

So, let's keep it simple. I'd like to get something with a dog theme, but with dignity, you know? I say.  Nothing cartoonish or silly. I want to tell her the dog is going to college. I decide to keep this little factoid inside my head for now.

But it's obvious I have her stumped. And the sample book just proves to me that the category of "dogs matriculating into advanced training at service dog college" is a unique niche.  Of course I knew that already.  Even after raising two other CCI puppies, this is the first time I've ordered a cake for a matriculation party.

I'm then struck with inspiration.  Oh I know!  A Face Cake!  That will be perfect, I think. I'll print out a nice photo of Yaxley and they can make it into an edible image on the cake. Blue and yellow embellishments will keep it all CCI-like.  Yep, that'll do quite nicely. 

A lovely job, I think. Thanks bakery people!

The icing matches the CCI colors. And Yax's name is spelled right.
The four-dot embellishments are paw prints.  I think.

We'd sent out invitations at work the week before. With the promise of dog hugs and free cake, we're expecting a lot of folk to stop by to give their best wishes to Yaxley.

It was a BYOD open house celebration. Bring Your Own Dog.  And some of Yaxley's best friends showed up - Scarlet, Natas, Micron and P&G's VP of Canine Communications, Pawl Griffin.

Not sure why Yaxley looks so down in this photo. Perhaps missing his crush, Jolie, who couldn't make the celebration. Reminds me a bit of It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To. 

Which is now an ear worm, stuck in an endless loop in my head. You too? Yeah, sorry 'bout that.

I took six shots of this group. Pawl Griffin was moving in every one, the stinker.

They all wanted to do the usual dog party games, like I Can Name That Smell in One Sniff and Who Can Eat a Dog Biscuit the Fastest.  We had to set boundaries, though, and remind them the game Today is Hump Day is not appropriate in the office environment.

Natas, Micron, Pawl Griffin and Yaxley
Ok people, now here's the downside to a face cake. There's some weird neuron clicking in our noggins that rejects the idea of actually consuming something that's looking back at you. My sister, the selective vegetarian, won't eat anything that has a face. Except shrimp, go figure. So, that means she won't eat anything that has a face, unless it tastes good deep fried in batter. Which by the way, I think shrimp look like sea bugs, with beady eyes and all those skittery legs. And crabs? Ocean spiders, they are. Go ahead, think about it a second. I have a thing about not consuming anything that looks like a bug. Unless it tastes good deep fried. That's how we roll in my family.

So anyway, after all is said and eaten, Yaxley's image remains.  Those expressive eyes looking up at you from all that cake goodness. Everyone who meets Yaxley mentions those soft, brown eyes. They are the windows to his soul, as they say.

The image of Yax's noggin is pretty much the exact size of one serving.

You guys left Yaxley's face, I say. It's ok to take that piece, it's just cake you know.

We saved that piece for you, they say.

Um, ok. I said. Thanks?  Of course, there's no way I could take a fork to it either. I mean, just look at it.  He's making eye contact and everything. Don't eat me, Bro, those eyes implore us.

Party hangover
Snippets of the party conversations:

So, do you think he's gonna make it?

This is it, Yaxley [sniff].  Good bye, big guy.

What are you gonna do now? Get another puppy?

Micron's going to really miss him when he's gone, isn't he?
Just one last [sob!] hug.

I started to realize it was sounding like we needed to get a priest in here for Last Rites or something. Holy cow, time to ground myself.

This isn't the end of Yaxley. Instead, we're sending him off to his destiny. Advanced Training, Dog College or boot camp - whatever we want to call it. He has more to learn, things to do. In a perfect world, he will graduate in six months as a service dog.

But it's not a perfect world, right? I don't know what's going to happen over these next few months, nobody does. It's not going to hold me back from sending positive thoughts his way, though.

Yaxley is going to rock somebody's world.

On our final day with Yaxley in our home, it's a fine time to thank P&G Pet Care and all my co-workers for being so supportive of the CCI puppy raising program.  Honest to God, we couldn't have done this without you.

Especially Mary Ann, Amy and Jeff during the early puppy weeks while we were preparing to move to the new office.  And Heather for being there as I found my groove with work/life balance. Thanks to Laurie for those therapeutic doggie massages. And Russ for tormenting the snot out of the pup and providing those opportunities to encourage good behavior.  Kristie, Andrea, Tracy, Nina and everyone who offered up their own dogs as suitable playmates for Yaxley. Thanks to Mere, who understands it's ok to goof around with Micron, but Yaxley is serious business.

Tomorrow is the big day, people.  While I haven't seen the list yet, I would guess there will be about two dozen of us turning these amazing pups over to CCI in our region. The same in the other regions, as well. Keep all us puppy raisers in your thoughts, won't you?

We know we're doing something pretty darn cool and amazing here. We want to do this thing.

But we're gonna cry anyway.

You gonna eat that? asks Scarlet

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

That silver lining is actually a holding tank

That silver lining is actually a holding tank
Aaah! Son of a . . . I'm getting soaked! I cry.  In balancing a dog leash, three tote bags and an impressively ineffectual umbrella, the fifteen foot walk to the truck may as well be a city block long. Minutes before we are ready to leave the house, the sky opens up the flood gates to dump a deluge upon us. And with the bonus feature of rather aggressive gusts of wind, it feels like I'm taking a cold shower with my clothes on. And it's only 6:00 a.m.  Yep, it's gonna be a good day, Scooter.

Yaxley, Car! Jump! I ask the pup to get in the back seat of the truck cab. It's dark and difficult for him to see where exactly he should be landing. I don't blame him for hesitating a moment. The truck sits pretty high (it's a manly man truck after all) and with all that rain in his eyes, it's just not a sure thing.  Ok, fine. No prob. I'll just set the tote bags in the front, switch the umbrella to the other hand and . . .

[bleep]! [bleep]! [bleep] it! Aargh! In my frantic struggle, I've tipped the umbrella and have now soaked the last dry part of my back.

Do you need some help? asks the Husband. He's sitting all dry and cozy in the driver's seat and watching the drama unfold. All that's missing here is the bowl of popcorn in his lap

Naw, I'm good. I say.  Nothing left to do here, but fold the umbrella and toss in on the cab floor. With one hand under his chest and the other snuggled into his goodies, I lift the dog and settle him into the back seat without further ado. I then heave my five foot something self up and into the manly man truck, resulting in a wedgie that I'm going to get to know personally over the next two hour drive. With the confidence of woman who knows, I can tell you that I am completely soaked through.

Well, we've got time to dry on our way to Bowling Green State University, I think. And if I don't touch my hair now, I imagine maybe it'll dry into some kicky look that will make me look all cutting edge stylish. A glance into the visor mirror tells me otherwise. Great. I shift in my seat a little in an attempt to dislodge the wedgie. No go. The truck fills with the aroma of wet dog and wasted hair spray.

This rain's gonna be good for the lawn, says the Husband in an attempt for casual conversation. I say nothing. I'm strong that way.

Inga visits Derek in 2009
Yeah, so a bit of a rough start for the day.  But really, it is gonna be a good one, you know.  We're off to see my favorite kid graduate from BGSU.  We're feeling pretty jazzed about the whole affair.

While it's absolutely not true that we replaced the kid with a dog and he should stop telling people that, it is a fact that we've raised three puppies for Canine Companions for Independence while he was away at college. I suppose I could have put the dog crate in his old bedroom, but that wouldn't have been right.  That's gonna be my new scrapbook room, of course.

But we couldn't be prouder of Derek. He's done so very well over these past four years.  Dean's list, President of his Delta Chi fraternity, Undergrad Student Government and heading several philanthropy events, he's achieved more than a degree over these four years

I recently read an article about the changes in child rearing during the past few generations. What do today's mothers want for their children as adults, asks the writer. Many will say number one on their list is that they want their kids to grow up "to be happy."  Compare that with a couple of generations ago when if you asked a mother what she wanted for her children, she would say "to be a good citizen." That factoid struck me. Heck, I'm no parenting expert. We only had the one practice kid, so our mistakes varied between the no biggies to the profound. But I'm thinking if you get the good citizen part down, then achieving a happy life is totally doable too. And my kid?  A good citizen, indeed. He know it's about what he can do to make the world a better place and not what's the world gonna do for him.

I'm liking this mindset. A lot.

Micron and Derek 2010

So, we brought Yaxley is along for the graduation experience, as well.  Good exposure to crowds and to patiently wait in a Down during the ceremony itself, which lasted about two hours. Yax only got up once which was to stand for the National Anthem cuz that's how we roll around here. 

Another puppy raiser asked if we were the only family in attendance with a good-looking dog. Which I replied, Yes. Yes, we were the only folk with a dog at the BGSU graduation, handsome or otherwise. And I also noted that my theory on drive-by pettings was supported by the events of the day.

Most people will ask if they may pet Yaxley. But the drive-by pettings I catch from the corner of my eye?  Always men. I've not been proven wrong yet on this observational theory. Darn it all fellas, the dog is wearing a cape and everything. C'mon, don't make me get out the hairy eyeball on you. It ain't pretty. Or so I've been told.  The ole' hairy eyeball kicks butt.

Yaxley and Derek at graduation 2012
But we're all pay attention now, Yaxley. In six months, we want to come to your graduation, too. The calendar's already marked for next February. We want you to do well in CCI's dog college so I can cry as you proudly walk to the stage.

Yax, my love, you can be both a good citizen and be happy. Just look at Derek. That's how we raised you guys.

So yeah, the kid's doing pretty darn well.  With a double major in psychology and sociology, he's ready to hit the work force. Do wish him luck, won't you? It's a tough job market out there for today's college grads.

And I've already moved my scrapbook stuff into the bedroom.

We're actually in this shot.  Lower right. 
I'm the chick with the bad hair.
You know, Yaxley, graduation is a good thing. You're next, big guy.

Wordless Wednesday: Yaxley is treat sized

See Yaxley in the melee? There he is, the little fella, right next to Micron's gaping maw. It looks like that wee noggin would fit neatly into that dark, slobbery abyss, doesn't it?

This pack of yeller dogs is, from left to right, Karsen, Yaxley, Micron and Kel. Photo was taken at our old office last year. Yax was about two and a half months old.

Final countdown folks.  Three days until Yaxley's matriculation into the Advanced Training program at Canine Companions for Independence. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Would we call it a Teddy Duck?

What do dogs dream about anyway?  With legs twitching and those muffled little barks that come out as squeaks, there's something rather exciting happening in that noggin. The cat is off limits in the real world, but in your dreams . . . well, the imagination's the limit. Chase that little bugger as far as you want, kiddo.

Or maybe, if you fell asleep with a stuffed duck in your mouth, you might be looking about your dreamworld for a water bowl to help with a serious case of cotton mouth.

A not-before-published photo of Yaxley from June 2011. Still a young fella sleeping with his, um. . .what would we call that, a Teddy Duck? Sadly, the duck later met his fate with the Mighty Micron, who eviscerated the thing.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It's my pleasure

Hey, Dad? Here, let me have your hand.

With fingers outstretched, a hand is placed atop the dog's warm and softy furred head.

A smile.

He looks just like Goldie, Dad.

A nod. The smile broadens.
The hand is making smooth stroking motions, fingers feeling the long hair on the dog's ears . . .

And then Micron starts up a vigorous slurping party with his tongue on the guy's hand and the moment is gone.

Oh! This dog and his tongue, I say, fishing into my bag for the hand sanitizer. Ugh, I'm so sorry. Here I have some. . .

No, it's ok, says the son. Goldie used to do the same thing. Dad would let her do that after he came home from work. It was how he relaxed.  See? Look at his face.

I do. His head is held high, the unseeing eyes focused on nothing, but his mind's eye is bringing back memories of his Goldie for him.  This is a man who has known the love of a golden retriever.

And in this frozen little niblet of time, he is happy. 

Thank you, says the son.

It's my pleasure, I say.

Because it's true.

And so goes our mvPTa volunteer work as a pet therapy team at Hospice of Dayton. We still have oh-so-much to learn at this gig, but our mistakes so far have been blessedly few.

I've learned that just because a family wants desperately for your team to visit, the patient may not always agree. Some may even have a fear of dogs that we need to be in tune to.

Micron's learning that some other therapy dogs actually have a need for a little personal space and don't want his tongue up their left nostril right now, thank you very much.

And we're both learning those things that you just can't get in a training session.  The truths that can only be reached by the experience of it all.

Every room we enter has a person with a life story. We don't know any of the chapters they've written, but we do know that if we make it into their story it will not be anything more than a few words surrounded by parentheses (we saw a dog today).  But that's ok, really. We're not after any big picture stuff here.

All we have to offer is a moment of peace of mind or to be able to open up a happy memory that's been put away in deep storage. To bring a distraction to the heavy thoughts of the day.

That we can do, Micron and I. 

Good Dog, Mikey, I say.

Micron looks at me and wags his tail.  It's my pleasure, he says.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Flower Power

Puppy Flower photo courtesy S. Nash

I suppose I could extend the Puppy ID Challenge from our last post I'd know your face anywhere, and see who might be able to pick Yaxley out of this mix. But that just wouldn't seem right.  Even I, the humble puppy raiser, wouldn't know which yellow nugget of puppy breath is Yax without seeing the green collar for proper identification.  Not with their adorable snouts deep into their puppy gruel like that.

Each pup is assigned a color at birth and each color is representative of birth order. And yep, Yaxley is the pup with the green collar on the far left of the litter photo below.  You can almost make out that ridge he has on his nose. But those eyes!

His eyes are what folk notice first about him.  The kid can work it.

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