Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Good Stuff Jar Project

The 2013 Good "Stuff" Jar.
Censored for sensitive readers.*
You know who you are.
Food Lady! Micron yells from the kitchen. Bodine has his litter box feet on the counter again! 

[random scurrying sounds] And he's taking a bite out of every apple in the fruit bowl!, he says.

Ok, I say. Thanks, buddy.

Who does that anyway? says Micron. Every apple? Like the next one will taste different?

Don't worry about it, Mikey, I say. I'll take care of it in a minute.

Hey, that's a sign of insanity, right? Micron says, walking into the family room. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting ...hey, are you ok, Food Lady? You haven't hollered at the cat even once today.

Yeah, I'm good. I say to my card carryin' certified pet therapy dog.

Micron jumps onto the sofa to snuggle and I stroke his noggin until he closes his eyes.

I'm just getting a little melancholy. I say.

Micron's eyes pop back open and he looks at me with brows furrowed into worry lines. You're getting a what? Nuh uh. Is that really a good idea, Food Lady? he asks. I mean, don't you always tell people that you're just four paws away from being an animal hoarder? Even a little dog needs a lot of attention and chew bones and they still poop a lot and stuff. 

Well, you know how moody I get around the holiday season, I say.  And ...what? Little dog? Oh, I get it. A little Melon Collie. [eye roll] That's an old joke, my love.

I wasn't joking, says Micron, closing his eyes again. So anyway isn't it time to open the Good "Stuff" Jar? That might cheer you up a little. 
Micron, you sweet thing, I say. You're smarter than I look. That's a stellar idea and I'm glad you reminded me of it.

Read my lips, says Micron.
 No more puppies!
My sensitive dog remembers that I started the Good "Stuff" Jar at the end of last year while immersed in my annual post-holiday funkitude.  And it's a lofty goal, this project. What with keeping up with the burden of writing down the occasional happy events that we encounter throughout our days. That, and the challenge of remembering to do it.

It's oh too easy to plod along our daily paths and never give another thought to the bright moments once their shine has faded. And next thing you know, you're going about with heavy sighs and enigmatic lamentations of cantaloupes and Lassies.

So this year on December 31 we'll open the Good "Stuff" Jar in celebration of a year well spent. I imagine a bright ray of light to escape the mouth of this former sauerkraut jar. Perhaps some angelic singing as we lefty loosie the lid of the thing. Yeah, I know, I know. Best not to set the bar too high lest we face the disappointment of reality mingled with vague sauerkraut fumes. But really, at the very least, I think there's a smile or two awaiting us in there.

I'm counting on it, actually.

And with the end of year looming on the horizon of our Gregorian calendar, this seems a fine time to take a look back at our last few months of dog inspired adventures here on Raising a Super Dog.

This post aglow before you is the final of 2013. I've challenged myself with a minimum of two posts weekly, with Story Sunday and Wordless Wednesday being the feature stories. Although sorely tempted to slack off, I can stand (yeah, I'm sitting) before you and say that I never wavered even once.  I totally met this goal and then took it out for drinks.  I'm jazzed to tell you that we slapped out a full 110 blog posts intended for your entertainment.

And I've enjoyed sharing every story and photo with you, my faithful readers and fans of all things Dog. Thanks for hanging with us on our life's journey with our canine heartmates Euka, Micron and Jager.  Y'all are great.

I spent some time going through our dog adventures this morning, which turned out to be a mood lifter for my weary soul. The Blog Archive in the panel to your right will take you through each story month by month. I invite you to lose yourself there for a while, should you find yourself wanting to wax nostalgic for the dogs' derring-do of yore. But as ain't nobody got time for that, allow me to throw you a bone, so to speak, and I'll highlight my personal favorites of 2013.

Donna's Top 20 of 2013

Euka II

Um, Food Lady? Don't look
behind you.
(Micron is playing yellow
submarine in a mud bank. True story)
We started things off in January with our New Year Goals for Miss Euka.  At a three months old, we had a lot on our plate to get this little girl ready for her Advanced Training at Canine Companions for Independence.  And we're almost there, people. Less than five months to go now, can you believe it?

After starting life as a celebrity, being on the Eukanuba livestream for her first eight weeks of life, Euka uses her star status to rub hocks with other well known folk.  We had the pleasure of meeting Temple Grandin and author Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess).  Photo ops included, of course. So we got proof that I didn't just make this stuff up.

The extraordinary E litter celebrated their first birthday in September. We got the Ohio E's back together for a photo shoot.  Cute, cute, cute. And cute.  There's four of them, you know.

Aaargh, this puppy! Not the best of timing, yet a true adventure trying to get a Halloween photo of this puppy before she went off to The Spa at CCI. It's a Then this happened kinda story.

The Mighty Micron

In Pet-it Jury Trial Micron serves as judge and jury. And witness, counsel and defendant, too. But not well. Something about jack of all trades but master of none.

They're all guilty. Don't ask.

I'm thwarted in a yet another warm and fuzzy photo session with the mighty Micron at That ain't chocolate. Never turn your back on a water dog.

Micron masters the art of being a literacy tutor at Tutelage in relaxation and Time flies at the library.  He also falls in love with a pair of boots, so there's that.

Not to be outdone by Euka's infamy, Micron stars in his own short Indie film of Mutiny of the Bounty.  That title is not a typo. The paper towels fought back.

We ran Micron through a series of canine cognition games with Dognition. Prior to each session, I tried to guess his results. That didn't work out well for me. His three stories are Hereand Here, and final profile results are Here.  Spoiler alert: the goober dog is more clever than I gave him credit for. Again, don't turn your back on him.

What is this word fixation? And why are you looking at me and not Micron? A special project was in the works at Fishin' balm.  And it's not lowering my standards, people. It's dialing down to realistic goals, that's all.


I'm kinda of a big deal.
We give Jager his moment in the spotlight with Master of the Hunt Part I and Part II. I'd intended to stir up some intrigue with an unsolved mystery in Part I, but really it's more just a curiosity of the style of an itch that can't be scratched.

More profound thoughts from our little knobby headed friend is found at Jager's dog nose wisdom.

Volunteer Puppy Raising

Five things I stopped doing was a popular post of the past and so was put out as a rerun in May. This takes you into the life of a volunteer puppy raiser just a bit.

Then for a slightly darker look, we gotcha some cautionary tales on Not all sunshine and rainbows.  Poop walking is involved here.

And the random stuff

Let the wookiee win.
I won a new dog in a raffle! Kind of. Well, I won it.  But it's not really a dog. She just looks like one. Pretty much, anyway. Introducing Cap'n Windy on Raffle me this.  Pfft to the naysayers. Everybody was just jealous of my good fortune.

This one just makes me laugh. It's the last photo in the post that gets you, actually. You may not see it coming at Pareidolia has landed.

Wait ... is that twenty one? Gads, I'm not good with numbers. I've counted three or four times and come up with a different number of links each time. See, I can't even tell you how many times I've tallied these up.

But no matter. I hope you find something enjoyable on the ride.

Any other favorites from you all? Please do let me know. Feedback is the fuel that keeps a blogger's life blood pumping, after all.

All of us at Raising a Super Dog wish you and yours a blessed, fortuitous and Happy New Year.  One that is filled with adventures and stories to share. So glad you're hanging out with us for ours.

*The Good Shit Jar. Because good shit happens too, you know.  Easy to make your own for this upcoming year.  You need an empty jar, some scraps of paper and a pen well secured so nobody walks off with the damned thing again. Depressive state of mind optional.

Christmas is all around

The Christmas spirit is all around, right?  

Well, it is indeed. And quite literally for the two yeller dogs. All around their noggins.

I admit with some self admonishment that I never thought about tossing a wreath about a dog's wither regions as a photo prop.  But once I saw Tippi's holiday photo (a pup in training for Canine Companions for Independence), I was struck with inspiration. 

You ever get all excited and take your dog to the backyard and attempt to stuff their head through a decorated wreath?  Yeah, me neither. Turns out it's not a natural thing that gets well processed in the dog brain.  

With a little practice, some serious what-the-heck-is-this-thing sniffing and copious dog cookies, we did it, though.  

And here's these two beautiful creatures to wish you all a Merry Christmas season and Happy New Year. 

Gimme da cookie!   Micron at 4 years old.

Euka, 15 months

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Birthday to the Yax Man

The soulful Mr. Yaxley just
before his third birthday

So who remembers staring back into those old soul eyes of this fella?

Longtime followers of Raising a Super Dog may get a hit of nostalgia as they meet the gaze of our former pup, the ever handsome, Yaxley. We raised Yaxley for Canine Companions for Independence; the third pup in this puppy raising gig we've got ourselves into. After a month in Advanced Training (Service Dog college, so to speak), Yaxley was released by CCI and began his new career in the field of Change of Career Dog.

Yaxley, and his fellow Yuletide Y littermates, celebrate their third birthday today. Each dog has been working in their chosen career field for the past few months. Some in the working dog field of Assistance Dogs and Medical Alert. Others are fulfilling their destinies as beloved pets.

What about the Yax Man, you ask? Our sensitive boy chose the natural career path of a stay at home nanny to a young boy. Just this month we had the pleasure of a visit by his adoptive family and were completely jazzed to see the love and commitment they show for each other.  What a blessing for all.

Yax at two months and fourteen months. Those eyes.

So on this day of celebration, I'd like to share some of my favorite blog posts of our journey with the Yax.

Out of the 70 plus stories on Raising a Super Dog from our year and a half together, these are the Yax-style posts that I still turn to for a smile.

The post for Yaxley's first birthday is worth it just for the videos. With thanks to Susie, the Y's breeder caretaker, we can sit back with a cuppa and enjoy watching these little hamsters on their first morning in the world. About three minutes of newborn puppy bliss.

Then we jump ahead in time in the second video to see the Yuletide Y's experience their first solid meal. Our little Yaxley has a starring moment in this one. It's an adorable awww moment with a snort giggle.

At the post of A calming influence. And not so much. I share a cautionary tale about showing off. You'd think I'd learn. I don't.

And finally at Fortunate One you get a dose of the kind of wisdom that comes from Chinese takeout.

Read on ... and enjoy our Yaxley puppies memories with us.

Happy Birthday to all the Yuletide Y's!

Euka, Ella and Yaxley meet for a playdate.  Euka says, hey Yax, I think
your kid is stuck to me or something.

Happy happy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Golden boy

Ah, lovely. A shot of our golden boy soaking up the rays. He does have a glow about him this wintery morn.

And something odd going on with his snooter, it seems.

Oh, Micron my love. You put your nose on crooked this morning.

But no matter, that should be an easy fix. A dog cookie should take care of it quite nicely, since that's likely why the boop button is in overdrive trying to locate his I'm-wearing-your-stoopid-hat reward.

And speaking of the proper holiday spirit, we have a short clip of Micron wishing you Christmas greetings.

I'm ridiculously annoyed that I can't take credit for this piece of art.  This was given to me by a co-worker, who just happens to be a high level manager. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my team at Eukanuba?


Sunday, December 15, 2013

She's snow kind of beauty

Euka II, our pale beauty, at 15 months

Oh heck yeah, people. With just a dab o'mousse and the right amount of root lifter, I've tamed this straight-as-string hillbilly hair into a perfectly acceptable coif.

And stellar timing, too, for this blue moon appearance of a Good Hair Day. Looming before me is the The Husband's boss's holiday party to hit tonight. So now, instead of the trifecta of my questionable table manners, awkward social skills, plus a hair style that makes folk wonder if I've been moving furniture while wearing a motorcycle helmet, we got us only two out of three.

It's gonna be a good day, Scooter.

You know what's great about Ohio? No, really. This time I'm not using the sarcasm font. I do appreciate the winter months that bring in lower humidity, which in turn promotes more flattering hair styles for those of us who are challenged in such matters.

And then, here in the midwest climes, we have the added bonus of beautiful snowscapes, don't we?  The change of seasons that keeps us appreciative of the beauty of nature and all it offers.

So I was pretty darn grateful to snap a few photos of our Miss Euka with the snow at her back before it started raining sleet. Because, you know. Ohio.

Euka at four months
It was just a year ago our California blonde was romping about in her first snowfall, an event we shared at It's Snow Fun Surviving a Blizzard.  And now at a mature-ish fifteen months old, Miss Euka gets a second shot at an Ohio winter.

Folk ask us where Euka will be when she graduates from advanced training at Canine Companions for
Independence. We have to give the brutally honest answer of ... we have no idea. It's not up to us, of course. CCI, and Euka herself, will decide when that time comes. Our CCI region covers fourteen states, but even that is only part of it all.

We know that Euka's skills could match a graduate from another region of CCI, as well. The Northwest, Southeast, Northeast, or possibly back to her birthplace of California.

Whatever her destiny, we know this will be her last winter with our family and so we want to get as much snow time in that we can possibly manage.

To heck and back with the Good Hair Day, I declare. Let's have some fun in the sleety Ohio rain, my pale beauty.

And despite the fact I can't find my car keys, I was able to locate the red bow we used last December for the First Snow photo shoot.


Just as gorgeous as she was last December, wouldn't you agree?  She would nearly blend into the snowscape like a winter fox if we didn't have that red bow on her.

Oh, I hear you though. But last year, you say, she was so stinkin' adorable with the red bow clutched between her little piranha puppy teeth. 

Let's see you manage that one again, you say in a taunting manner.

Oh Sure, I reply, flashing a self-assured and cocky half smile. I accept your challenge..

And then I fail.


This is not the adorable either one of us had in mind, now is it?

Nor was this. But it was, I think, what we all expected.

Final score of the day, y'all?

Good Hair Day: 0
Adorable puppy with bow in delicate, yet crocodilish, maw: 0
Beautiful California Blonde having a moment of bliss in the Ohio snow: 1+

It's a good day, y'all.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: He had one line

Can someone look at my tag, please? I forgot my name again.

We practiced his line that morning. His one line. 

Micron: Ger-woof!

Micron was tasked with ruffing an affirmation to the host of our Indie film at the Eukanuba headquarters. A fun and informative short film clip presented as a lead in to our corporate meeting this week.

Just a Woof on command. That's all he had to do.

Now this dog is not only proficient in the Speak command, but he actually knows two Speaks. Hold on, I'm gonna grab a doughnut while you pick your jaw off the floor.

Ok, y'all. I'm back.

So Micron can do Soft Speak for his indoor voice.  And Loud Speak for pants wetting volume.  He's awesome about being bilingual like that.

Still we practiced his line that morning. His one line. And when his moment in the limelight was nigh, I'm off stage right holding aloft a dog cookie and Micron!, I whisper. Speak Loud!

[crickets chirping]

Is this how the Toddlers with Tiaras moms feel?* This burning disappointment in their guts? C'mon, it's one bloody line.

After a few takes and some flapping gums air barks, we get it. The camera crew has dropped to my personal standard of that's good enuf and the thing is a wrap.

But ... where did we go wrong, I mulled later in my mental debriefing. Oh! Then it clicked.

We didn't practice the command while Micron was sitting in a blue chair.  And that's exactly it, you know. So yeah, Micron's noggin is bi-lingual, but his butt only speaks carpet. See, that makes sense, right?

*Disclaimer:  I've never actually watched that show, but I saw the previews and those moms looked like horrible people, so don't judge me too harshly on that one.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

There's snow sense in it

I've got my eye on you
You will regret this, hooman, says Bodine.

You know, cat o'mine, I say.  I suppose I will. But it feels good now. 

So, I continue. You'll be keeping [snort] an eye on me, right?

Oh, purrs Bodine. Count on it, chickeroo. You're certainly aware of the all-seeing and ever watchful eye that is kept near my Striped Tail of All Things Unholy?

The purring gets louder. You will awaken to its gaze upon you one morning. 

Roger that, I say. Like I wasn't, in fact, just today greeted by your feline Eye of Sauron hovering above me at Food O'clock this morning. Surely you can come up with a more clever vengeance for once.

And I immediately regret saying that out loud. I just don't learn sometimes.

A scene from the ill fated photo
shoot from
 We'll be there with bells on
Kinda like this idea for a holiday photo shoot with the dogs. I'm not even looking for perfection here; a simple good enuf would satisfy that tingly need for a Christmas pic of our four footed family. And it was a mere week ago, as we enjoyed the temperate climes of southwestern Ohio, I went at it. Gave it one heck of a try, I did. (click here for We'll be there with bells on).

All that work just to end up with a bunch of photos of my trio of festive dogs in front of dry brush pile. This backdrop of dead grass and bare sticks isn't emanating the aura of holiday cheer that I'm aiming for.

Sending Merry Christmas greetings from the Depths of Despair! our holiday cards would read.

But glory be to the Ohio weather patterns. In a matter of a couple of days, we went from temps in the sixties to a finger numbing mid-twenties. Oh, but this is good news. It is.  Cuz we got us some snow along with it.

Where just last week I was looking at that looming stick pile and thinking it was something only a match could fix, today I'm trekking through the white stuff that covers all the uglies in the backyard.

Don't let those expressions of practiced tolerance on their canine mugs sway your opinion.  These critters of ours are just dizzy with holiday spirit.

Um, Food Lady? says Micron. We can't feel our toes anymore. 

What are you talking about? I say, refocusing the camera lens. You have feet like Hobbits don't you?  You know, like furry on top and leathery on the bottom? You should be set for another few minutes.

Carry me, says Euka.

You might want to run back to the house
for a spatula,
says Micron.
Oh my, I say, rolling my eyes. Fine, let's get you delicate flowers back inside then. 

Ugh. Ok, I'm feeling some guilt here. Not so much as I'll feed them an extra meal or something. But watching the poor furries lift their cold, cold paws from the snow has tugged my maternal heartstrings. So before we wrap up to take everybody back in, I pull off Euka's working cape and fix a scarf about her neck.

Ok dogs, I say. We'll give you a chance to warm your toesies and maybe we can give it another ...Hey! Darn it, Micron!

Because this.

mmmmm .... snow

The big dog has now become One with the snow. A private Zen moment with the white matter like he's searching for some deeper meaning of it all.

Right.  And then this. A whole lot of this happened next.

And yep, they've done it again. The clever critters.

I just don't learn sometimes.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Caption This #13

What is Micron saying to Jager?  Worse, what is that look on Euka's face?

It was likely at this point when I should have been warned that things were about to go awry during last weekend's Holiday photo shoot.

But of course I was too distracted by trying to put the dogs in a pretty sit while keeping the Santa hat straight on Jager's pointy little head.

Gotcher your stoopid hats right here, Food Lady!
This top photo feels like a Caption This to me. There's a conspiracy plan being gelled, a coup in the works, a disturbance in The Force. Or something.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

We'll be there with bells on

Wait, there it is ... do you smell it, too? [sniff sniff snuffle] That peppery mix of decaying fall leaves and impending snow that we Ohioans know so well. Here in the Bermuda Triangle of weird weather patterns we recognize this heady aroma as the harbinger of the Christmas season.

Yeah, we know we should get out there and take care of that last layer of sycamore leaves, but darn it all, it's just too cold. There's no glory in leaf raking now that it's December, so we find some peace of mind in the thought that the snow will cover them up later.  And then when that melts in the spring, it'll compost those suckers into a nice fertilizing mulch for the new grass awakening from hibernation.

Just about makes sense, doesn't it?  You're welcome, my fellow Ohioans.

As we wave a tearful good-bye to the oh too short Midwestern autumn, we meet the new winter season poised on the threshold. Not really a hearty welcome for winter around here, though. This contrary season brings on too many low gray skies and chilly winds that rattle the tree limbs like dry bones.

Instead, I'd rather greet this unwelcome guest like a lost traveler who just needs some precise directions to get him to his destination.  I'd invite you in, I say to Winter. But you caught me in the middle of emptying the cat box and you know how that goes. Godspeed to on your journey and all, mister. Hope you make it to Toronto ok. I hear they're really nice up there. 

I leave Winter sitting on my porch steps to look over his map and decide now might be a good time to get some holiday photos of the dogs. At least before this guy realizes that he is indeed in Ohio. Which means we could be seeing some bitter temps anytime before now and February.

As I grab up the holiday props .... antlers, Santa hats, jingly bells, elf cap ... I'm on edge and the dogs pick up on it. I feel pressured, you know?  The days are shorter now, the sun's angle makes long shadows. My window for clean light for photos is rather limited.

Gads, that's not the only challenge we got here. Here's my list of lofty expectations ...

  • Three dogs
  • In a pretty sit
  • Composed in the same geographical area
  • Wearing festive holiday gear
Oh sure, and don't forget this one.
  • Eyes are open.  All six of 'em.
First, it's Jager. But, he says. The sun's in my eyes. 

It's overcast, I remind him. 

Then it's your Christmas sweater, says Jager. Did you get it on sale, at least?

Next it's Euka with the squinty eye look.

Honestly, she chimes in. There's a reason some of that stuff is so cheap on Black Friday. 

You know what, I say. Actually I get a lot of comments when I wear this. See, Rudolph's nose lights up when I press his right eyeball.

Uh huh, says Jager. Did you say "comments" or "compliments"? Pretty big difference there.

Right, I say. How 'bout jealous much?  

That's it, says Jager. You just hit it on the blinking nose. I'll be adding Tasteless Rudolph Sweater to my Christmas list.

I'll take two! says Euka [snort]

I decide to ignore the Duo of Sarcasm and raise the camera for another try.

Hey! says Micron, deciding to join the dialog.


Oh, for dog's sake, I say. Of course, there's a squirrel. We're in the back ... Micron!

Aargh, I didn't see that coming. A diversion tactic, Micron style. This guy is smarter than he lets on.

The big fella makes a break and grabs a maw full of the holiday gear from the pile on the ground.

And runs like his plume tail is aflame and only Euka can put it out.

I gotcher back, Micron! yells Euka. Keep running! 

Jager looks at the yellow dog melee, then back at me, with a hopeful gaze upon his big eyes.

Don't even, I warn him.

Fine. No matter. I did manage to get a shot of the three of them with all bullet-pointed criteria checked neatly off.

Just one more thing I should have added to the list, I think. It might be nice to get a shot without a dead stick pile looming in the background like an autumnal Armageddon.

Darn this season cross-over with its sans snow dead stick decor. Ohio is in serious need of an exterior decorator.  I'm just gonna have to try this again.

I'll break it to the dogs tomorrow. And after I find all the holiday props scattered about in the yard.

Because it might snow, you know. Any day now. [fingers drumming]  Oh, Mr. Winter, I call. Whatcha got planned for us this week, good lookin'?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Furry Blurries

Holy cow, it's been a year.

It was just before the Thanksgiving holiday that we puppy raisers welcomed the Canine Companions for Independence Ohio E's into our homes. Well,I gotta say that went by in a furry blur.

And speaking of blurring by furries, here's our cuties, Euka II, Ella, Emma and Everett, fresh from California and gamboling about for their first time on Ohio fescue.

And did you notice? Who do you think is that pale pup leading the the pack to new adventures?  Yeah, take a guess, Euka fans.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Not all sunshine and rainbows, y'all

Got toes?
It wasn't a loud scream, but was heartfelt nonetheless.  More like a vaguely verbalized noise that could have been an Oh!  Quickly followed by that scared me.

Micron! I admonish the then young dog who has moved his head under the partition to look into the next ladies room stall. Quit peeking, you perv. 

Because a bit of humor can diffuse an awkward situation. Right, sometimes it can. But humor is not always a horse you can bet on.

I don't know how effective this attempt was either. It's not like I was privy to any resulting gesticulations or facial expressions going on the other side of the TP wall.

Mistakes are made.
Lessons are learned.
Heh, did you see what I did there?  Privy? Ladies Room? hahahaha [snort].

Yeah, so anyway I was just reading the latest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Alex at Help on Four Legs. Alex has that magic blogging trifecta of being frank, funny and fearless. Where anyone scanning my adventures-in-puppy-raising posts will experience pretty much sunshine and rainbows and puppies riding unicorns, Alex is here to remind y'all that life can be very real sometimes. Her insightful stories of sharing her life with service dog, Bright, brings us into her world for a minute or two.

From my view as a volunteer puppy raiser I count on people like Alex. I do.  Those folk who are open about their personal experiences with a service dog at their side? It keeps me grounded in this puppy raising thing.

Alex recently posted Things that are awkward with a service dog. A knock on the head to remind me that my efforts in puppy raising are not all sunshine and rainbows. Maybe it's time to fess up on a couple of ... well, misadventures in puppy raising.

Here I'll share with you just a few examples of how, as a volunteer puppy raiser, I took one for the team. So to speak.

Dogs on airplanes

Yaxley fits comfortably at my feet in the regular seat
on the flight back home. My feet had a less
comfortable experience.
When pup-in-training Yaxley and I flew to a conference in Washington DC a couple years ago, we talked about this trek at When dogs can fly and With the wind at our backs.

Nobody claiming a clear mind enjoys the airport experience, right? That whole thing with hurry up and wait and messed up connections. Now add in the logistics of toileting a puppy, a face off with an energetic bomb sniffing dog and Hurricane Irene messing up the flight schedules. I was pretty darn proud of Yaxley, who was a rock star right up to, during and after the TSA pat down in DC. I, however, struggled with the kindness of strangers.

I don't usually engage in animated conversation for a full hour with my close friends, nevermind someone I just met. Say, like the flight attendant who bumped the paying customer from the coveted leg-room seat at the front of the small plane to allow the pup and me residence. Yaxley had a safe spot, I had reasonable leg room if I held them suspended straight out, and the FA had a jump seat. Right in front of me. Nose to nose we talked dogs.

For an hour.

Sure, I see you shaking your head.  I agree that's not so bad, really.  Even a devout introvert like me can survive something so basic as friendly conversation.

So let's move on to an edgier topic, shall we?

The Poop Walker

Excuse me, she said.  Did you see what your dog just did?

Here's a quiz question for you.  How many times does it take for your pup-in-training to drop a hearty steamer while walking for you to tag him as a Poop Walker?

One. The answer, of course, is one.  After that first time, every single outing with your puppy is stalked by those sisterly black clouds of Doubt and Insecurity.

How this puppy, no names mentioned but his initials are Micron, could pop out a well-formed loaf without even breaking stride is a enigma for the ages. A natural skill that's deigned to make lesser dogs jealous.

And this amazing feat marked the first time I considered a rear view mirror for our outings.

Micron has since outgrown such embarrassing outbursts, so to speak. But we do still deal with things like ...

The dog can't hold his licker

Oh, it's ok.  I don't mind if he licks my [blank].

That fill-in-the-blank answer might be hand or face or even small child. But rarely is this sentence completed with the word toes.  Seems that's a boundary not to be crossed.

A boundary that's hard to explain to the mighty Micron.

We puppy raisers go through great, and sometimes frustrating, effort to teach our charges not to lick folk. A challenge brought to a new level when big-hearted dog lovers encourage such behavior. And when we have a pup that considers their destiny directly in line with tasting folk, we're tasked with the near impossible.

Micron, who we once considered less than a problem solver, was able to avoid corrections by sticking his tongue out of the side his snout. The side not facing me.

It's simply not becoming of a service dog to lick people. Actually even more important, it's a behavior that distracting them from their most important job of all.

To pay attention to their handler.

It's that important.  And speaking of distractions . . .

Stuffed animals are his kryponite

He's unpredictable in his unpredictability.

That was the verdict on Micron, the definition of why this otherwise amazing dog was not meant to be a service dog.

I wish I could say this surprised me.  After all, I'm certainly no expert in the actual training of a service dog. I leave that important work to the professional trainers at CCI. Instead we puppy raisers are tasked with socialization, proper public behavior, some intermediate level commands and such.

But before Micron went off to Advanced Training at Canine Companions for Independence, I had some indication that he might not have the proper work ethic.

You may not actually need the red arrows to show you the object of Micron's attention, but I stuck them in there for the less attentive readers.

Those of you truly on the ball (get it?) in dog behavior may also notice the tell tale self-defense position of Snoopy's paws.  Ok, fine. Snoopy's entire body is one of please don't grab me and carry me around in your mouth.

How does a puppy raiser train out this fixation behavior?  I have not a clue. I still have to keep a close eye on Mr. Therapy Dog lest he grab a stuffed teddy bear from the gentle ladies at the assisted living center.

When your well-behaved puppy is the bad guy

After a while in this puppy raising gig, you learn to let some things just roll off your back like water from a duck.

Taking a pup-in-training into the public venue is a whole nuther kind of animal. Socializing the pup in places where dogs are not expected to be, or worse,  not permitted to be, is an experiment in polarization.  People either love it or hate it.

Many times the two teams are identified by facial expressions as obvious as colored jerseys.

In our local grocery super store I've seen kids fingering their noses before snatching a free grape in the produce section. One young girl was methodically poking holes in packages of chicken breasts with her index finger. A toddler is making up for a lack of a microphone by screaming full strength while his mom shops from aisle to aisle. Well handled and smooshed items are snatched from a child's desperate grasp and replaced on shelves.

Meanwhile I'm getting skunk eye for having a dog with me. And when I catch these glances, I admit it does irk me a bit that the CCI pup is better behaved than some kids.

You know how the grocery puts the high value items right there in the checkout line?  Yikes, it's hard enough for us grown ups to deny ourselves the ubiquitous choices in chocolate goodness. Saying No to our kids is even tougher.

A little girl is denied her chocolately reward by her dad. She throws herself into a neat little tantrum. When this is ignored, she uses toddler logic in her decision to run off at full speed.

And comes to a screeching halt to find herself eye to eye with a puppy the same height as her.

Cue in the total meltdown. Freak out. Fright fest. The screams, the horror in her eyes. The pup stands by my side, exactly as trained. Doesn't even flinch.

What happens next, do you think?  Go ahead, give it a guess.  Right, the dad swiftly lifts up the little girl, clutching her to his chest like she was just rescued from a rip tide or something. Oh, then the best part comes next. He looks at me, giving me a glare like this was all on me.

How dare I?

Like I said, sometimes it's water off a duck.  And then other times? This kind of stuff just raises my hackles. But I smile anyway, closed mouth.  No harm done, dude, my eyes say.

Jerk, my inside voice says.

That other critical job

Well, some of that is off my shoulders.  It's good to step off the rainbow once in a while and just share some real.

There's more, of course. So much more. We're out there doing stuff with our dogs where other dogs fear to tread. Or something. Anyway, we puppy raisers are doing what we can to knock down some barriers for the future handlers of these dogs. It may not be much. It may not even be enough.

But people, we know it's better than doing nothing. Puppy raising is not for the meek.

It's for those folk who love other people. And of course, we love these dogs.

Yeah, and adventure. That's good, too.

And that other thing that's not in the puppy raiser manual, but we do anyway?

We puppy raisers chronicle that pivotal first year of the dog's life. Whatever the destiny of these amazing creatures, we alone know the whole story of their puppy lives.

Oh, and the side benefit of all this memory making we're collecting ...

We got these dogs photo ready for y'all. These furries are no stranger to a camera.

Over the shoulder, you say?  Like this?

Yeah, you're welcome.  Oh hey, actually ... it's our pleasure.

It really is.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Like a finding a puppy in a leaf stack

We interrupt your day with a d'aww puppy photo.

Yeah, we didn't think you'd mind the eye candy break.

This was Miss Euka last year in her first Ohio leaf pile.  Holy cow, is this stinkin' adorable or what, people? It's not like the eight week old pup had a kill switch for being ridiculously cute. This was On all the time.

And now? What's that you say? The next photo looks like a Pinterest Fail ?  Hey now, I'll have you know that our girl is actually demonstrating a very nice Roll* command while keeping a level of Cute happening, albeit dialed down a notch or two.

Here's our lovely girl at a mature fourteen months.

*The Roll command for Canine Companions for Independence pups is not the Roll Over command. Euka is doing a lovely job of showing us how one maintains a calm posture of resting on one's backside. She practices this in the office as well.  Usually by showing off her girly parts.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dog Nose Wisdom

We need to talk

Hiya, says Jager. So, what are you doing right now? Nothing, right?

Actually, I say. After I make this grocery list, I need to pull the laundry out of the dryer before things get wrinkled and then empty the dishwasher. Stuff like that, because you know. Saturday and all. Why?

Aw, I dunno. says Jager.  It's just that my terrier senses are tingling and there's adventures happening out there somewhere. And I'm, well . . .  He pauses to look up and turns those big dark eyes to me.

I'm sitting here watching you shuffle through coupons, he says.

Aww, my little spotted dog needs some attention, 'tis true. Before we were puppy raising for Canine Companions for Independence, Jager was an only dog at our place. And from nearly his first Gotcha Day, he enjoyed spending his days at the office, socializing and noshing upon complimentary dog cookies.

Then we started volunteer puppy raising and the attention shifted. After a while folk in the office started to notice as well.

We never see Jager anymore, went the usual lamentations. It's not fair, we miss him. Someone threatens to start a grass roots movement in support of the little guy and get some billboard ads for me to come across on my commute to work.

The fella enjoys a solid fan base. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my teammates at P&G? I really do.  It doesn't even bother me when my dogs are greeted first with happy voices, then it's Oh hey, Donna. I love people who love my dogs.

And after seven years of co-habitation with the Jagermeister, we've certainly hit a groove. He's a low maintenance kinda guy, which has the unfortunate side effect of getting less attention than the other dogs.

So today, we'll honor the freaky little spotted dog by allowing him to share his thoughts of profundity.

Which had to be rewritten after explaining to the former street dog that profundity is way different than profanity.

Oh. Well, said Jager. That changes everything.

Jager's Dog Nose Wisdom

  1. When given a dog cookie, drop it and look miserably sad. You'll get a different cookie. Eat both.
  2. You don't have to speak Squirrel to know the tree rats are up there mocking you.
  3. I wonder if squirrels taste like chicken. 
  4. Don't underestimate the importance of alerting when the neighbors get home. My code is ten barks per car door slamming. More if I think everyone's lost count and I have to start over.
  5. The people who live here can't count.
  6. My middle name is Quiet!  I don't really like it much.
  7. By the way, it's not attitude, thank you very much.  It's Style.
  8. Always growl when chasing the tennis ball because that will intimidate the stupid thing.
  9. When around dogs bigger than me I can magically make myself the same size. On good days, I can be even bigger. I'm awesome that way.
  10. In my world, size does matter. 
  11. Standing on your toes while lifting one leg is an acquired skill. Let's just see you try it, puny hooman.
  12. When getting on the bed, start off as a tight little ball. Then stretch out until you're the size of a Rottweiler. If you're already a Rottweiler, think livestock. Don't forget to lock your joints.
  13. I chase the cat because he asked for it.
  14. I wonder if the cat tastes like chicken.
  15. I love almost every person I meet.  So if I act like I don't like someone, pay attention.
  16. If you eat a box of the Food Lady's fancy-nancy chocolates and get your stomach pumped at the vet, it's still worth it. Because you know. Car ride.
  17. Chocolates don't taste like chicken.
  18. I don't understand this word fixation. I thought you called it a tennis ball.
  19. Yeah, I realize that I haven't missed a meal in seven years, but before I moved in here I used to be hungry. What you call food aggression is just me being scared. 
  20. A tilted head will make people smile at you. Guaranteed.
This is like a training wheel for catching squirrels.

Huh. I guess that pretty much sums up life with the Jagerhund. We could likely go on for a while longer, but the little fella is giving me the laser light show with his eyes. And has the ratty yellow tennis ball at his feet. 

Yep, I obviously have better things to do with my time right now, y'all. 

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