Monday, December 31, 2012

DYK? More puppy goodness on FaceBook


Did you know you can find more photos of Euka II and her friends on Raising a Super Dog's FaceBook page?

Two new albums were added this week of the polar bear pup's acts of derring do and holiday celebrations.

Click the photo captions below for a direct link to adorable puppy photos.  We hope you enjoy!

Euka's Snow Album
Euka's First Christmas Album

Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's snow fun surviving a blizzard

It's like taking photos of a polar bear on an iceberg. 

It's snow fun surviving a blizzard 

"There was little warning that it would be so bad -- that an elderly woman would burn her furniture to keep warm, that some species of birds would be nearly killed off in Ohio.  
The temperature was in the 40s the day before, and then, just like that, vehicles were stranded in snowdrifts 15 feet deep. Diesel fuel froze, so trucks couldn't move even on clear roads. An Ohio National Guard general started out for work in the morning and he couldn't get home for seven days." (excerpt from Blizzard of 1978, The Columbus Dispatch)
We all seem to have that someone in our family - parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle - from that generation who lived through the Great Depression. Who comes to mind for you?  You don't even need to hear their childhood stories to know this is true, right? They have the tell-tale habits of a survivor.  Behaviors like food squirreling and insisting on using produce days past its prime when we would just toss those limp carrots away.  They repair even the simplest of items to make it last as long as possible. Not everything goes out of style in their opinion.  This leisure suit is still perfectly fine, thank you very much, Grandpa says as he adjusts his ultra-wide necktie before Sunday Mass. Oh, did you know a plaid shirt is ok with pin-striped pants if both are in the green family? True story, but in hindsight that might have just been personal fashion sense, not a survival behavior.  My father-in-law could not be swayed otherwise, which is fine. It was just another one of the things that made him so charming, the sweet guy.

Even experiencing something as short-lived as horrendous weather can bring out subtle survivor skills in us. Nearly 34 years after Ohio's Blizzard of  '78, I still can't scan a kitchen cupboard without estimating how many days of food we have in there. In a pinch those spaghetti noodles could be matched with the can of stewed tomatoes.  Things like that float through my head like wisps of smoke. I can't not do it. We may not eat in the fancy style we've become accustomed to, I think, but it beats melting snow for sustenance.

The walk to the school bus was about a 9.5 on the Suck Scale.
If you read October's ghost story post Ghosts in the Walls, this image on the left may ring a bell. The red arrow points to the foundation of the remains of my childhood home. The yellow arrow is the end of the gravel lane that meets the nearest road, a quarter mile away.

The Blizzard of '78 was a unique weather phenomena for Ohio, holding the record for the most powerful winter storm in the history of our fine Midwestern state.

"About two or three times per winter, a low-pressure system from Mexico heads north, and at the same time, an Alberta clipper from Canada heads south. Virtually every time that happens, they miss each other. "But during the Blizzard of '78, the storms kind of collided and they intensified each other into one massive storm," said Jeffrey Rogers, a geography professor at Ohio State University.  "We don't know what the odds are, but it must be extremely low," Rogers said. "It certainly is an event that hasn't happened since then.""  (excerpt from Blizzard of 1978, The Columbus Dispatch)
So yeah, it was weird and it was sudden. Considering the super low temps and snowdrifts measuring twice the height of cars, we had us some drama dropped into our cozy laps. We, all of Ohio, found ourselves caught totally unprepared of what we were to awake to that January morning. And the story of my family is that we were trapped far from our country road in a small farming community. Our gravel lane to freedom held possession of the highest of the snow drifts and was impassable by car or foot. So after a few days of canned soup, we packed in winter gear to trek across the frozen cornfield to meet a family friend. The country road finally snowplowed, Richard was able to meet us at the end of the lane to drive us to the IGA in town.

Pretty harsh stuff, right? Oh, there's more y'all. My sister and I were teenagers. My brother was elementary school age. And my mom?  Mom was ready to throttle the lot of us.  Why can't we have the Red Cross do a helicopter food drop instead, I whined as we broke new trail going back to the farmhouse. We're PEOPLE, not beasts of burden. You know, we could all DIE out here in this field and NOBODY would find our bodies for mo. . . WAAAAH!  I trip over a frozen furrow, performing a gymnastic face plant at the same time as tossing my personal load of hard earned groceries into the snow. Mom looks back and sighs in that way she did back then and, without breaking her stride, keeps on going. And my sister was pretty much yin to my yang at this point. Any other time at each other's throats, we now shared a common bond in that snow-covered field and so joined our forces together to create a beautiful harmony of self-centered teenage discontent and promises of weekly therapy sessions just to overcome this inconceivable hardship of our young lives.

A massive run-on sentence, that last one. But an awesome one, right?

When we all look back on difficult times as these, let's give a special remembrance to mothers. Maybe even a special award to moms of teenage girls. Something like "Thanks for not killing us, Mom, even though you probably could have done it and gotten away with it for a few weeks at least until spring thaw."  I don't know. Would that even fit on a trophy?

So we got us some snow this week

Go fig. Turns out the local weather forecast was pretty spot on and we were hit with more snow on one short day than we saw all last winter. Those hours of heavy snowfall and heavy winds had all of us children of the Great Blizzard generation going on about our memories of that one historical winter storm.

And yet, it still surprises me a little to see people who live within a mile of the local Kroger go into OMG mode to hit the shelves like they've got an underground bunker to restock.  Hey, you know what, neighbors? I think to myself.  This ain't nuthin'.  You wanna snowstorm? I'll tell you about a storm. And anyway, you could walk here from your house if it came down to it.  But that's just survivor talk. I don't want to walk it either. But you know, I could. hahahahasnort. Just messing with y'all. We'll be right here eating egg noodles with Pace Picante before that happens.

But in between these hard moments of survival, it's a fine distraction to open the backdoor and let the dogs out to do their thing in the white wonder of it all.  Euka has now finally discovered that magic experience that is playing in deep snow.  So sit back, grab a warm beverage and scroll down to enjoy the innocence of dogs playing in the wintry weather. 

Because I should go now. I need to call my mom.

Euka is mastering the Look of Innocence.  She's getting pretty good at it, too.
 What's in your mouth now, Euka? I will ask.  Muthin', she mumbles back.

Muthin in that mouth, you say?
Our houseguest for the week, COC Kel.
Kel and Micron set aside their mission to ignore each other for a
hearty game of Gimme Back My Friggin' Stick.
Micron communes with the snow. He sort of made a snow angel, but
like a high pitched whistle, you'd have to be a dog to get it.
Euka keeps an assured clear distance from the big dogs to avoid
getting steamrollered. But, she insists, she is the Chaser.
She wants you to know that.
(Check out Raising a Super Dog's FaceBook page for even more snow photos at Euka's Snow Album.)
Are you a Blizzard of '78 survivor too?   Share your harrowing tales of bravery in the face of snowdoom in the comments.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A bit cold in the snooter

The day after Christmas, we get our post holiday snow. And then some. Here in Ohio, we have blizzard conditions of the like we haven't seen in a few years.

About a week ago, I couldn't wait for Euka's first snow. 

And now I'm thinking maybe I shouldn't have wished so hard, but it's too late to take it back now.  Nothing to do about it, but let the dogs out to play in the stuff. 

Euka was going all multi-sensory in the backyard with this new discovery. She got a bit stopped up when she got to what does it smell like?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nothing to fear

I am a Eukanuba puppy, says Euka the puppy.
Wake up, Euka. We're here.  Euka blinks her eyes and looks out the car door to see what today's adventure might be.  She's slept soundly during our road trip to the regional center for Canine Companions for Independence, but the the sights and smells have snapped her to attention. Discovering new stuff is caffeine for puppy brains.

I slip on her working girl cape and gentle leader while she's still in the backseat of the car, then lift her out to explore. A moment is needed to evacuate the puppy hydration tank before we step inside the center. This is her first time meeting so many other CCI puppies outside of her litter and I'm prepared for the excited response her quick little puppy brain will command of her agile peanut sized body.

Ha ha, just kidding y'all. I really did think I was ready for her puppy reaction, but that was just me being silly.

Hi! Hi! Hi! Hey! Hi!, says Euka.  Hi! I'm Euka Don't! who-are-you-do-you-like-to play-piranha-attack-i-sure-do! i'll-go-first-and-debone-you-rawr!

Oh sure, the girly girl gets some slack for being a ball of electric energy driven by a two month old random puppy thoughts. But let's work on some self-control here. I walk her aside and give her a few minutes so she can observe the room and process all this activity going on around her. Euka's a clever girl and it doesn't take long for her to understand that all the older pups are in a calm Sit or Down. She wants to play, but senses the mood of the room is different. I realize we're working on a puppy timer that's about to ding. I'm looking forward to starting the training session to get her moving again.

The CCI trainers have stations set up pretty much like the local session earlier this month (Time to ramp it up) with the Ohio Four. This time around is kicked up a notch and offers more distractions with new dogs and a different venue. Euka experiences a second wave of excitement to see that littermates Everett, Ella and Emma are here as well.  A sniffed greeting among the siblings assures all is as it should be and we all move on to the challenge stations.

On the left is Everett looking rather confident after stepping up and onto a novel surface. In the background is Ella on the balance beam following the lead of her puppy raiser, Maggie.

Other training stations are designed for the older puppies and we find we needed to tweak things just a bit to ensure that the session ends on a positive note.

A Sit or Down is an implied Stay for a service dog. Fully trained, a service dog understands that he is to stay in place and be alert for the next request of his handler. Some of the stations were designed to build on the foundation of this behavior.

A young pup is introduced to this, then the puppy raiser increases the duration and distractions over the next few months.

And as nothing should feel weird under service dog's toes, or even his furry butt, there are novel surfaces about for the pups to perform Sits and Downs. Here on the right we have Euka going for extra credit by sitting on the station sign and the plastic sheeting, the little over-achiever.

Oh! But what's that jingle we hear, puppies? Could it be? Look pups, Santa Claus showed up  to introduce you to the novelty of a traditional myth sporting a full beard and fuzz trimmed clothes. That right kids, even Santa is part of your training today.

But let's pause here a moment and think this one through. How many photos have you seen of a screaming kid propped up on Santa's flocked knee?  I'm not talking just miserable, but the kid is out and out scared spitless and possibly a little swampy in the knickers. What brings this about, do you think? The fella's generous facial hair or the victorian era fashion sense perhaps? The wafting essence of Stranger Danger? It's all a bit heavy for some kids to process.

So what about an adult dog that has never encountered such a thing before? Lookit, a highly trained service dog is just not a fella that is gonna raise his hackles and startle bark at big, bearded men. So we start now.

Heyya Santa! Heads up there, big guy! We gotcha a puppy alert, code blue & yellow!  The Ohio Four pose rather nicely for an adorable portrait of calm repose. What's that you say? How did we do it? How many people did it take to make this happen? Oh, merely just a few experienced puppy raisers at hand, plus a professional CCI trainer. Pretty helpful that Santa is a puppy raiser too. Yeah, and that squeaky toy to get all four pups to at least face the same general direction.

From the left is Everett, Ella, Euka II and Emma.

Santa does love puppies. But we knew that already, didn't we?  Euka gets a extra lovin' squeeze from the jolly old elf.

Four puppy noggins, so many things to discover. From a curly beard to shiny boots to flashing Christmas lights, and just what is in those boxes anyway, it took a few shots to get these critters all looking one way.

But look again to see what's missing here.

Discomfort, fear, lack of confidence. Right, stuff like that. Not a snippet of negative response. A fine gift indeed to the puppy raisers of the Ohio Four.

Here at the Sword House we wish a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season to all of you. Be safe, enjoy renewed family time and make some new memories, y'all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: You're gonna need a bigger bowl

To paraphrase the words of Chief Brody, you're gonna need a bigger bowl there, Euka my love.

Now look at the photo again.  The relaxed posture, the closed eyes. If this were a video, you'd see the dream twitches, too. Yep, the chick fell asleep in the empty water bowl.

I give you your awww moment of the day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A dozen, give or take.

These guys are less than impressed with
this Gregorian phenomena.
Tell us when it's Food O'clock, they say.

Yeah, so it's 12-12-12 today. The last repeating number date of the century, they say.  We're not going to be alive to see the next one, they say.  Do something remarkable to mark the date, they say.

Aargh! Like I need one more thing to add to my To Do list. Stop pressuring me with this stuff, will ya?

So how 'bout it? Today at 12:12pm on 12-12-12, what were you doing? Anything special that you'll remember forever and ever?  Something you'll tell the grandkids when they visit you years from now?  Hey, Grandma, they'd ask with shining eyes. Tell us the story again of what you were doing at 12:12pm on 12-12-12!

[sigh] Ok, here's my story. I was driving between P&G offices with one hand on the wheel and a Jimmy John's in the other while trying not to get caught speeding.  Don't try this yourself, of course. It's a learned skill best left to the experts. By experts, I mean crazy people who spend their lunch hours in their car driving between offices.

Relax, relax.  I didn't have any dogs with me in the car. And that, my friends, is the remarkable thing about today for me. I spent five whole hours without a dog.  Pretty rare, that.

So here ya go: at 12 mins,12 secs after 12 o' clock on Dec 12th, the time will be 12:12:12,12/12/12 & 12 days before Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Time to ramp it up

Everett & Ella invent TubeBall, a new puppy game. It's a little hard to explain because the rules keep changing depending on who has the ball.
Fergo, my friend, you know how much I love you, I say to this handsome black dog. Just because you're you.

But the old fella just looks up at me with those soulful brown eyes. Eyes that have seen puppy after puppy pass through his puppy raisers' home. Eyes that have known love and can return deep affection without a word being said.

Eyes that are now looking deep into my own and saying "Cookie?"  He nudges my right front jeans pocket.  The magic place that dog treats come from.

Alright, you handsome fella. I have to give in to his sweetness. There's just nothing else to be done about it.  Just one. I need the rest for Euka's training today.

Fergo and I, we're old friends. A CCI release dog and beloved pet of Emma's puppy raisers. We once took Fergo on a vacation road trip with us (see Ten Ten in Penn) when his folk needed a puppy sitter for a week. You know, nothing is as bonding as traveling in an RV together. After a solid week of shared residence in a six wheeled rolling house, everyone inside has experienced, and shared, the complete toolbox of emotions. And have revealed all hidden personality traits. Ah, but Fergo was a doll the entire road trip, the best dog in the house. I do love this big sweetie.

But today's about working with the E's and exposing them to different experiences. The dog treats in my pocket are currency to pay the young Euka for a job well done. I'm hoping to be broke by the end of the afternoon.

Along with Euka, we have littermates Everett, Ella and Emma. A few minutes of playtime is an excellent idea to get some of the puppy heebie jeebies out.  Run puppies! Run!, we encourage. As if they need it.  A handful of dog lovin' neighbors pop by with their kids to help with socialization. Well, so far so good. Easy peasie. Ok, now it's time to psych ourselves and get down to business here. Put on your working faces puppies, this is serious stuff now.

Many of the training stations are similar to the experiences the E's had with their breeder caretaker and so won't be the first time they seen such things. But repeated positive experiences as their growing puppy brains develop will help them as they continue to encounter the new and different that crosses their path.

On the left, Euka and Emma are walking on a wobble board. As working dogs, they'll be asked to walk across different surfaces. A service dog can't try to avoid or move around an unfamiliar surface, so confidence here is a requirement.

The photo at the top of the post has Everett and Ella in a tube during playtime. As a training exercise we put the pups in a Sit/Stay at one end, then called them through to the other. An enclosed environment is another situation that we want them to be comfortable with. Think about air travel; there's not much room at the feet of an individual traveling with their service dog by airplane. That's indeed some tight quarters in the cabin, for both man and beast, so we want the pups to know that it's still safe when in a space that surrounds their body.

Moving along, we reach the ramp station. Can the pups accept this surface, one that will have them exposed above the ground?

Everett says it's a cake walk. He doesn't just strut up the thing, but does it with a frisbee in his mouth, the little show-off.  C'mon girls, he taunts. Bet ya a dog cookie you can't get me up here!

Hey you girly girls! I got the frisbee and you don't!  Emma has a look on her face like, I'm gonna pound him.

The girls, of course, rise to the challenge of their brother. He is in possession of the frisbee, after all. And that just won't do.

Ella is next up the ramp, giving the thing a close inspection before she makes it to the apex so she can smear her brother and claim her victory prize.

We clear the deck chair of the distraction of now rastlin' puppies and give Euka her chance to explore. And the usually fearless Euka surprised us by needing some encouragement. We tried with a dog cookie a couple of times, but it wasn't until Everett came tearing back up the slide (Comin' through! he yells) that she found her motivation. Yep, the spirit of competition. With Everett standing at the top, wagging his tail, Euka looks at him with a Like heck you are expression and charges to the top to pound him.

Aw, this ain't nuthin', says Euka. Try to gimme a challenge next time.

Emma has at it like she's done this all before, too.

Well done, little pups!  And with a renewed sense of purpose and control, we then move on to a photo shoot of the four to bring their first training class to a successful close.

Wanna take a guess? How many puppy raisers does it take to get four eleven-week-old puppies to sit nicely on a lawn swing. Ha ha, y'all. No, it's not twenty, but thanks for thanking that. Actually, I'm not gonna tell you because it's too embarrassing.

But I will admit that Fergo was a huge help as a photographer's assistant. The big sweetie.

Fergo helps to set up the E's for their photo shoot.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Ohio Four find their groove

For those that recall our first ill-fated photo shoot of the Ohio Four at Like Cub Scouts Tanked on Mountain Dew, I am just filled to bursting with pride to show you that we can indeed get these little squirrels together in one photo.

Sure, they're older and wiser now after three weeks. Heck, we all are. And we puppy raisers of the Ohio Four have been working hard to find our groove with our new charges. Each one unique in personality, temperament and energy level.

From left to right - Ella, Emma, Everett and Euka at eleven weeks old.  Being raised for Canine Companions for Independence.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I'm checking email on the laptop when Micron walks into the kitchen, drains the water bowl like a swamp monster and then flomps to the floor. A heavy canine sigh as he looks up at me with those soft brown eyes.

Mikey, my love, I say. You look like you're carrying the weight of the world upon your withers. Wassup, dude?

She's hogging the dog bed, he mumbles. All I have is this cold, hard floor [soft whine].

Right, big guy. The cool, smooth floor. Which has always been your first choice. I remind him. I've never seen you even sniff that dog bed, never mind lay on it.  And hey, by the way, "she" is has a name. It's Euka and she'll be here a while you know. So, Micron honey, fess up. What's really the problem here?

He closes his eyes and sighs again. She, that Euka dog, keeps biting my Tail of Wondrous Beauty. Well, that and my ears and feet and I don't know how, but She Euka somehow got my tongue and . . .

I stop typing on the laptop and turn to look at him. Oh, Micron, you've been such a tolerant guy these past three weeks. You know what? I've been answering the same two questions since Euka showed up here. Everyone wants to know how she's doing with her training and such. And then folk want to know how you're adapting with this big change in your life, too.

Really? He lifts his head. The hint of a doggie smile on his face. And you tell them I'm suffering, right? That I'm a martyr for the sake of a shoe eating little carpet stainer? That I must taste like chicken because my tender flesh is being gnawed upon by a She piranha with four legs? How my life's purpose has been diminished to the bleak tasks of merely eating and sleeping while I await the sunrise just to do it over again? Is that what you tell them?  His tail starts to wag.

Micron, you are such a goober, I say. What I tell everyone is that Euka is doing just wonderful with her training and how she's actually not eating shoes and staining the carpet. And then I say how well the two of you are getting along now.  You've been so very sweet about sharing toys and playing chase in the backyard.  I'm thinking that once this puppy chewing phase has passed, that the two of you will be pretty good pals.  

And now that I think about it, I have seen the two of you share that dog bed, too.  I pull up a photo and turn the laptop to show him. See, Euka even scootched her head off to give you room, the little sweet thing. 

What!? Micron blinks hard and looks at me. You have got to be kidding me.

Yeah, I'm just yankin' your chain, I laugh. But c'mon, it is pretty funny. And a little pathetic too, I guess.  But there's more here. I was able to get some shots of you two playing nicely together.  Look, I think you'll like these. 

See, like this one. The symbolism of kinship. You and Euka are breaking bread together. Get it? Bread?  It's a gingerbread man! hahaha . . .

Micron looks at me. Uh huh, what else ya got?

. . . hahaha [snort]. Ok, big guy, I continue. Here's a couple of you two sharing another toy. Well ok, not a toy really. It seems you two have developed an allergy to the plethora of doggie toys I trip over in the kitchen. You're playing Keep Away with a scrap of newspaper. It was kind of a short lived game.

Oh yeah! says Micron. That was a good game. I won, too. She Euka will never get it now. I made sure of that [slurp], guaranteed.

Sure, it all comes out ok in the end, doesn't it, I say. So to speak. Hey, look at this one. Euka is all airborne coming at you. 

Airborne, Microns says. Right, just like a bad cold.

So whaddya think now, Mikey? I ask. I rub his head and scratch that magic place behind his ears. Life isn't really all so bleak now, is it? You still have your Therapy Dog work and now you get to play with a housemate that at least has a sense of humor. Unlike other canine [cough jager] housemates. And folk still care so much about you that they want to know how you're faring.

And you, Micron my love, have a huge responsibility as a big furry brother to Euka. She needs to learn so much over these next months. And you're just the guy to be a tutor to this young student. 

You're right! I have like worldly experience and stuff. And here's exactly where we need to start, says Micron looking at the next photo on the screen. She Euka needs to work on her poker face. Just look at this!  It's like you asked what we're up to and I shrug and say 'nuthin much'.  But the kid has a guilty look on her mug. She totally gives us away. He stands up and looks out into the family room.

Oh hey, She Euka, c'mere wll ya? calls Micron. School's now in session, kiddo.

What? No, we're not doing anything [smack gulp]
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