Monday, May 31, 2010

Blog Stalking

I love reading all of the service dog blogs out on the web. Reading about other people's adventures training dogs for all types of careers inspires me in my work with Kyle. Sometimes I read wonderful training tips, and sometimes I realize my dog isn't the only one to invent new forms of naughtiness. When I raised Turk and Mesa, I had a small (but strong) support network. With Kyle, I feel like I have a vast group of friends to help me along and that makes a huge difference.

With that said, sometimes I find incredibly fun things on other guide dog blogs. Tonight a friend pointed me in the direction of a blog with pictures of Kermit, Kyle's brother. Now I have at least found the names of all Kyle's siblings. Kermit is the first one of which I have seen a picture (except GDB's littermate photos). Kermit is an adorable dog that looks a lot like Kyle except a tad darker. He also seems to have Kyle's affinity for being a cuddle bug!

The best part of finding Kermit's picture is that it led me to a picture of Kyle while he was still in his first puppy club. It appears that Kyle has always loved sitting in people's laps. I swear that my little guy thinks he is a human baby at times. He makes me laugh!

I love the connections I have with the raisers in my puppy club, and I also love branching out to raisers across the country!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last Week of School

This week I complete my fifth year of teaching, and Kyle completes his first year as a student. Quite frankly, Kyle got off pretty easily with only having to attend the last three weeks of school! Most of my students would love to sign up for that deal.

Monday was the last day of classes. As a special treat, my students asked if they could tie Kyle down to their desks instead of mine. His tie down ended up being passed from desk to desk over the course of a class period. Kyle really needs to learn to spell one word: S-P-O-I-L-E-D.

(Kyle is standing in the middle of several student desks and getting petted by two kids at once.)

Tuesday was yearbook signing day, which translated to all kinds of fun. My classroom tends to be a hang out spot for several groups of kids, so Kyle had constant entertainment.

I knew it would be a laid back sort of day, so I brought extra toys for Kyle. Several students took turns playing tug with Kyle. Without fail, they are all amazed by the effectiveness of his "that's enough" command. Jake especially had fun playing tug with Kyle. Because my classroom floor is so slick, Kyle slid every which way during tug, but he didn't mind.

(Kyle is sliding while Jake plays tug with him. Jake didn't realize I was recording the game while they played.)

On a personal note, I got to sign yearbooks for tons of students. Since I teach tenth grade (the lowest grade in our high school) I know a large percentage of the students in the building. I love when kids come to visit me year after year. As a result, I get to sign a lot of yearbooks. That is always a bittersweet experience because I miss my daily contact with kids as the move to eleventh grade. Even worse is knowing I probably won't see them at all once they graduate. Little notes, like the one below, make the journey worth it though.

 (This is a sweet note from a student thanking me for being her teacher.)

Kyle couldn't be left out of the yearbook signing fun. He was the most popular student in my classes after all. A paw print with his name ended up in multiple student yearbooks to prove that he is already making a mark on people's lives.

Since yearbook day is so laid back, students get away with all sorts of things that wouldn't be allowed on a regular school day. Kyle wasn't the only puppy in campus as a result. One former student brought two of her six-week-old Yorkie puppies to school with her. They were tiny! I would have liked to show them to Kyle to see how he reacted to little dogs, but they were both wrapped in a blanket and sound asleep. As any puppy raiser can attest, it's exhausting going on outings when you are a young puppy.

(The Yorkie puppies are curled up and sound asleep in a white blanket.)

By midday everyone's yearbook was signed, and students had cleared out of the building. That left one very forlorn puppy without any playmates. Poor Kyle had to spend the remainder of the day tied down to my desk and relaxing like a good service puppy should.

(Kyle looked at me with his big puppy eyes and goughnut in his mouth as if to ask where all his friends and playmates had gone.)

Today is a fairly laid back day. The seniors are on a class trip to an amusement park. Since my stomach cannot tolerate most rides and guide dog rules state that Kyle cannot ride any rides, we declined to be chaperons. My classroom is already clean and packed up for the summer, so we are just relaxing. I actually closed my door for a while, took off Kyle's puppy jacket, and let three straggling students (probably the only three in the building) play with Kyle to the point that he is exhausted. I haven't ever seen him collapse like this before. It's kind of nice.

Tomorrow I have to work graduation and cannot focus on Kyle, so after our club meeting tonight he is going to a puppy sitter's house over night. They have a nine-month-old black lab named Christina, so Kyle should have fun playing with a friend tonight and tomorrow. Kyle won't even be gone a full 24 hours, but I'll miss him none-the-less.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Six Things at Six Months

Happy half-birthday Kyle! People, and dogs, need more than one special day a year. Thanks to a great roommate, I now understand the worth of celebrating half-birthdays. Yesterday was Kyle's special day.

In honor of Kyle being six months (and a day) old, here are six great things about him.
  1. Kyle is wonderfully behaved on outings and receives lots of complements.
  2. Kyle's best command is "do your business." Honestly, I've never met a guide dog half as good as him at obeying this command.
  3. Kyle loves people. He is happiest when he is getting some human attention.
  4. With his head collar, Kyle has mastered walking on a loose leash.
  5. Kyle has learned to settle himself really well. He is great at sleeping through my teaching and church.
  6. Kyle is a cuddle bug. I can always count on him laying on my lap or legs just to be near me. By far, this is my favorite thing about him!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Going Green

In the spirit of coordinating all of Kyle's accessories, he is going green. A fellow club member makes beautiful green leashes, so I asked her to make one for Kyle. Today she brought it to our club meeting.

 (Kyle modeling his green leash and gentle leader in front of flowers.)

In addition to his green leash, Kyle also got a green gentle leader. For the past week and a half Kyle has done wonderfully in his halti. He walks perfectly and self corrects any bad behaviors. However, the poor boy still hates it. Any time we pause for a second, he starts rubbing his face on my legs or the ground. Since the gentle leader has less fabric on the dog's head, I asked to try one of them on Kyle for a few days. Right now the verdict is that he doesn't mind it as much (though he still rubs sometimes), but the gentle leader isn't quite as effective. We'll rotate the halti and gentle leader for a few days before making a final decision.

(Kyle giving me an annoyed look because I made him pose for too many pictures. His matching leash, gentle leader, and vest sure look nice though.)

Kyle has been a real trooper as we have run several errands. Now he is contentedly sleeping at my feet in the public library while I type this blog entry.

(Kyle lying on the library floor. He opened his eyes when he heard the camera, but he is out cold now.)

The day after I got Kyle I brought him to the library for one of our first outings. His behavior that day and today are drastically different. The first time we came he tried to solicit attention from everyone who even looked our way, and today he is just taking everything in stride. I'm proud of Kyle's progress. Way to go!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Smart Student

As the school year winds down, most of my students have disengaged their minds. One bright student is the exception. This student is actively soaking up the world around him, and as a result has learned a few useful things over the past couple weeks. You guessed it; the student is Kyle.

(Kyle is lying on his back in the middle of my classroom.)

Kyle has figured out that he is irresistible to students. Everyone wants to play with the cute puppy. When I mentioned bringing a dog to school a couple months ago, some students professed a dislike for K9s. Even those kids pat Kyle on the head as they walk by.

For the sake of Kyle's training, I've instituted a strict don't pet the guide dog without permission rule. Also, if Kyle tries to lick students, they know they have to back away immediately.

Kyle learned that his puppy dog eyes won't work on students anymore even if he doesn't understand the rules. Today he figured out a new trick. During class he kept rolling over on his back with his feet straight in the air.

(Kyle is lying on his back and looking straight up. His ears look like rabbit ears as a result.)

Kyle's new position elicited a new round of pleas from my students. Bryce* especially took up the roll of Kyle's voice. He adamantly declared, "Miss, he really wants his belly scratched." Bryce has a terrible time focusing in class, so I used Kyle as a bribe. When Bryce finished his work, Kyle got his belly scratched.

(Both Kyle and Bryce enjoyed the reward for the Bryce's hard work.)

Other students stop in every day at lunch or after school to play with Kyle. Like any school aged kid, Kyle now enjoys these times way more than the rest of the school day. My students are learning appropriate guide dog play and basic training.

Amy* has gotten especially good at working with Kyle. I still cannot get him to stop liking me, but he doesn't lick Amy any more. Kyle knows that she is a great playmate, and he must not want her to move away and leave him alone.

(Kyle is happily chewing on his goughnut while Amy sits on the floor and holds it for him.)

Kyle actually loves to sit on the lap of Amy and the other students that come into my classroom after school. Lucky for him, most of them like to cuddle puppies. I love that the lunch and after school kids play with Kyle because I worry about his only human interaction coming from me. They help socialize him while I get a break to work on my end of the school day chores. It is a win-win situation for everyone students, me, and especially Kyle.

(Kyle is half lying on Amy's lap. She is holding his nylabone while he chews on it. Not pictured are the other students sitting in a circle who are taking turns holding the bone and cuddling Kyle.)

*Any student names I ever post will be changed to protect my students' identities. I just hate telling stories with all pronouns. That's the English teacher in me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vet Visit

Kyle came off the truck with a bag of special puppy chow. It turns out that he has a history of tummy trouble. As of Friday, he hadn't been sick with me. However, I got strict instructions to take him to the vet the moment he got sick instead of trying a bland diet first. I have to admit that worried me.

My club leader wanted me to get Kyle in to meet his vet before we had any issues, so off we went. At the vet's office Kyle wanted to play with with a cute poodle in the the waiting room, but she didn't want much to do with him. More than that, Kyle was a model patient.

Kyle weighed in at 37.1 pounds. At that weight, he is bigger than labs who are much older than him in our club. I think he still looks small, but he seems destined to be a good size. The vet declared that he is going to be tall and lanky. We'll see if her prophecy proves true.

We spent a bit of time looking at Kyle's old vet records. In the end, Kyle was put on 21 days of Tylan powder to help his digestive tract. I had just taken him to two feedings a day. Since he has to have medicine three times a day, we went back to three feeding a day. Kyle is much happier about that fact than I am.

I also found out that Kyle's food is a prescription food. After a phone call to every vet in the county, I still cannot locate a bag of it before he will run out of the current bag. Yikes! My vet had the adult formula in stock, but that won't help him. Kyle needs to be transitioned to a regular puppy chow anyway, so now is the perfect time. I did learn that a 33% change in food is way too drastic for my little guy and ended up making him sick. Sorry Kyle! Thankfully, that was quickly cleared up. Now I am adding two more kibbles of the new food to each meal. He is up to 14 new kibbles and doing great! Doing things this way, he will have just enough to eat until our new bag of food comes on Thursday. The new food should be the last bag of prescription food. Yea!

(By the end of our vet's visit, Kyle was showing off his "puppy dog" eyes. I think having his temperature checked had something to do with that.)

As a reward for being such a great patient, Kyle and I headed to PetSmart. I have to brag about my puppy! He behaved perfectly in that store. Kyle absolutely ignored everything unless invited to investigate. Several people stopped us and complemented him. One lovely brindled great dane puppy got to greet him, but Kyle pretty much ignored the girl. He didn't even look twice at an adorable 12-week-old yellow lab that I wanted play with. My boy is amazing!

(Kyle loved watching the little critters when I pointed them out to him. Two men were actually trying to buy a rat so we moved past them after a minute.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kyle Inspired Poetry

One of my students decided to make Kyle the subject of everything he wrote for one class period. During writer's notebook time students have ten minutes to write whatever they want, so he wrote a rap. We studied haikus during class. This student somehow convinced me that Kyle is a nature theme, so he also wrote a haiku about the little guy. Enjoy! (All grammar and punctuation are true to the author's original writing.)

So I walked into English class today.
I looked right down and the thing looked away.
He has 4 legs with a tail.
When it comes to blind people he will not fail.
Helping blind people is his trend
Thats the reason he's My Best Friend
Everyone loves him you cant pretend
When it comes to attention he can't comprehend
He's very smart and has lot's of style
He's a hero, His name is Kyle!
For warm ups he runs a mile
pick him first and he will make it worth while
He is big and his mom is small
He's not a baby so he does not crawl.
He is super cool you can't deny
Without Wings he can still fly!
He's the best dog ever! and that is why
At first sight you'll start to cry

trained professional
praises to cherished partner
second precious eyes

Thursday, May 13, 2010

First Puppy Club Meeting

Wednesday evening our puppy club met outside a local public library. With the addition of Picassa, Kyle, Breeze, and Jacinda to the group, we are up to 11 puppies-in-training and one in harness training in Oregon. That makes for quite the group!

Kyle loved meeting all of his new puppy friends. When we showed up he was bouncing all over the place trying to introduce himself. Thankfully after a couple minutes he calmed down and happily laid between my feet.

(Kyle lying between my legs and looking off in the distance.)

Since we had all the dogs together for the first time, a good potion of the meeting was spent trying to get a group picture. That was a hilarious undertaking. All of the pictures on my camera have at least two dogs and their raisers doing funny things. Thankfully a friend got a good shot. We didn't include all of our raisers in the photo, or we wouldn't have fit. Instead, we just have one raiser holding each dog.

(Back row: Spike (MLY), Meade (MBL), Picassa (FYL), Mara (FBL), Peanut (MBL); Front Row: Mosley (MYL), Kyle (MYL), Christina (FBL), Sugar (FGLD), Breeze (FYL), Jacinda (FBL))

At the end of the meeting Kyle got a Halti. The poor little guy hates it. In fact, if he could speak I think he would tell us that it is worse than a cone of shame. However, I love it! Until last night Kyle pulled on his leash in all directions and tripped me frequently. Now he walks with a perfect "J" in his leash (when he isn't trying to rub against my leg to get the Halti off).

(Kyle is sporting his new Halti with a pout on his face. This is the first time I have seen him flatten his ears back for anything. Hopefully he adjusts quickly.)

Now that Kyle walks sanely on a leash, I cannot wait to start taking him on more outings! Stay tuned for upcoming adventures.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kyle's First Full Day

I debated whether or not I should take Kyle’s first day off work so that I could just spend it with him. As fate had it, I got sick and had to call in a substitute teacher, so the decision was made for me.

We did get up in the morning to go put sub plans on my desk. The same students who made the welcome Mosley sign had made one for Kyle.

(This is the sign my students made. It says “Welcome Kyle” and has a puppy in a green vest.)

I ended up teaching part of first hour until the sub could get there. That was actually ideal as far as Kyle was concerned because it meant that he got to experience just a small taste of school before having to go all day.

When we got home Kyle was a great sport and played well on tie down while I slept for two more hours. Then we ventured downstairs where I put up the baby gate to barricade him in the living room. Kyle has great house manners! I’m so thankful for that. He played wonderfully with his toys while I worked on my thesis.

When the mail came, Kyle got a package. Ruby sent him the Kong prize he won on her blog. It took a minute to get Kyle interested in the package, but he ended up loving it.

(Kyle is investigating the packing peanuts in the package from Ruby.)

Kyle decided that his favorite toy in the package was the tiny Kong on a keychain. He ran all over the living room with it in his mouth and even tried to chew it. With the bigger Kongs available, I just had to laugh. Obviously Kyle doesn’t subscribe to the philosophy that bigger is better.

(Kyle is lying on his blue dog bed and happily chewing on my mini Kong keychain.)

After a bit Kyle decided that I could have my keychain. He investigated the Kong Wobbler and regular Kong. Now the regular Kong is one of his favorite toys. Thank you Ruby!

(Kyle finally found one of the actual dog toys interesting and is playing with the Kong Wobbler. I love how his ears are fanned out because his head is upside down.)

Later in the day I started feeling a lot better. I decided Kyle and I would go on a short adventure to the library. (You know I’m an English nerd when the first places I take my puppy are school and the library.) Kyle really struggled walking into the library, but once we turned in our books and found a table, he played with his new Kong at my feet. He eventually settled down for a nap. I tried to get a picture of him sleeping under the table with his legs straight in the air, but he woke up when I tried. Kyle was a great sport for most of the outing, but I made the mistake of pushing the limits of his endurance and kept him there so long that he got restless. After having Mosley last week, I have to remember that Kyle is still new to this working in public thing. Overall, I was happy with how he did, and I am looking forward to many more outings with him.

In the evening I discovered that one of Kyle’s activities is playing with his rope tug toy. He is missing several teeth, and I think pulling and chewing on the rope feels good on his gums. Hopefully all of his adult teeth will come in soon!

Kyle has a lot of spunk. His feisty yet gentle personality will serve him well as a future guide dog!

Picking Up Kyle

Sunday was quite the adventure. When we got to the puppy truck, all the dogs were being relieved and Kyle was out of the truck. I waited until they put him back (without even peeking). Then  my mom and I helped walk the recalled dogs so that they could relieve themselves.

(I'm walking a black lab and neither of us are paying any attention to the camera.)

When all the dogs had been walked, Kyle came off the truck. He was a wiggling ball of energy. I didn't account for the fact that he had been on the truck all day, so I thought that was his everyday personality. Thankfully he later calmed down a bit. :)

(Our first picture together. Kyle was jumping all over me giving me kisses while I laughed my head off.)

Eventually I picked him up and we got a few pictures of me hugging him while we both looked at the camera.

(I'm giving Kyle a giant hug. I love that this shot shows off his eraser pink nose and light spots on his lips.)
(Kyle resting against me while I look off in the distance with a huge smile on my face.)

I let Kyle run off some energy, then we were on for round two of pictures--this time in front of the puppy truck. That was the moment Kyle won my heart forever. When I picked Turk up thirteen years ago, he put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. To this day, that is one of my favorite memories of Turk. Kyle must have known that action was the fast track to my heart because he gave me a repeat performance and I melted.

(Kyle is resting his head on my shoulder while I stand with my back to the camera looking at the puppy truck.)

I wasn't the only person to get a transfer puppy off the truck. My friend and fellow club member Megan got a sweet nine-month-old female yellow lab named Picassa. She has the pinkest nose I've ever seen on a lab and a beautiful bushy tail. Kyle and Picassa weren't too cooperative for a group picture in front of the puppy truck, but we tried.

(Megan holding Picassa, and me holding Kyle. I feel bad because it looks like I'm about to drop Kyle in this picture, but I promise that I didn't drop him.)

While the puppy truck is known for delivering bundles of fun, it is also the place for dropping off recalled dogs (dogs ready for formal harness training). Megan just finished raising Paris. Paris is perhaps the best trained pup I've ever seen in one of my clubs (except Turk of course). While Megan got the fun of picking up a new pup Sunday, she also had to drop off a incredible dog. I have no doubt that Paris will go on to do great things.
(Megan kneeling next to Paris for one of their last pictures together.)

Since it was mother's day, my mom and grandma went with me to pick up my new little guy. My mom helped my sister and me raise Turk and Mesa, so she is supper excited to have another guide dog in the family.

(Here my mom is smiling while she holds the leash of her new grandpuppy.)

After the puppy truck, Grandma, Mom, Kyle, and I headed to my uncle's house for a mother's day dinner. My uncle's family was very receptive of Kyle, and they loved playing with him. When we took family pictures, they even offered to have Kyle in them. I have a wonderfully supportive family, and I am so thankful for them!

(Kyle and I are sitting on the lawn in between family photos.)
Kyle's first raisers wrote me a great letter telling me about everything they've done with him. One thing they mentioned was that Kyle loves to sit in their laps. I love cuddly dogs, so I hoped that habit would carry over to me. When I sat on the floor to watch a movie after dinner, Kyle curled right up in my lap and fell asleep.

(Kyle is curled in a tiny ball on my lap.)

I'm looking forward to many adventures with Kyle. He's a sweet little boy with a lot of spunk. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

He's here!

I picked up Kyle at the puppy truck this afternoon. He is an absolute sweetheart. For now I only have time to post one picture, but rest assured that more will be coming soon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mosley and Standardized Testing

I told my students that I would be puppysitting Mosley last week, so several students contributed to a welcome sign on the white board for him. After only two school days, Mosley is now the most popular student in my classes.

This is the second week of state core standardized testing, so my students are less than enthusiastic about coming to my class. Can you blame them? I hate to teach during standardized tests because all I do is sit at my desk and stare at my students filling in bubbles all day.

Mosley has made all the difference for core testing this year. Students who always stagger into my class at the last minute are showing up early to pet the puppy. Others’ sleepy eyes wander towards my desk where Mosley is tied down; then a grin literally spreads all the way to those same eyes. It is amazing to watch the instant transformation.

On a side note, every year art students make sculptures of themselves out of packing tape. Today students walked the halls taking pictures with their sculptures in different locations. Two students I've never met before noticed that it was my preparation hour, so they came in and took a picture of their sculpture sitting on a chair with Mosley at its feet.

Hopefully Kyle is as well received next week as Mosley has been thus far this week. Several students are so excited about the idea of training guide dogs that they are already talking to their parents about raising their own guide puppies. We’ll see if any end up attending puppy classes. Kyle might have puppy friends at school next year.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mara, Mosley, and Moving

If you haven't figured this out yet, my life has recently been ruled by my love for guide dogs. For anyone who knows me personally, you know that is not the way I typically work. I'm a logical thinker who takes forever to make well thought out decisions. However, back in about February I decided to raise another puppy. Everything I've done since has been a bit unlogical, but has helped me meet that goal.

At the top of the list of unlogical decisions was the choice to move. Until now, I've always had roommates. Only eight days before Kyle's arrival, I moved into my own townhome. Thankfully amazing friends moved everything from my old condo to my new townhome in less than two hours. A few even stayed and unpacked most of my boxes.

During Saturday's moving adventure, I puppysat a beautiful fourteen-month-old lab, Mara. She was a great sport about the time she had to spend kenneled while we moved heavy items. However, Mara especially loved playing with all my friends during the unpacking stage. I'm sure a few of them would have happily taken her home.

After most of the unpacking was completed, two friends accompanied Mara and me on a major shopping spree. While Mara didn't find the housewares section of the store too interesting (aside from lollipops kids had dropped on the floor), she was well behaved and earned lots of complements.

Mara had the most endearing habit in the car. She didn't like being stuck in the backseat alone, so she placed her head between the seats and rested it on my arm. My friend captured a picture of the two of us together at a stoplight.

Mara went home Saturday evening, but Mosley arrived Sunday morning. Mosley is an adorable 12-month-old yellow lab. Only a few minutes after getting dropped off, Mosley and I headed to church. Mosley settled at my feet and slept through the meeting while the kids around us had fun watching him.

After church Mosley helped me tackle the last of the unpacking in my office. He loved laying in all of the packing paper and peering into each new box. Having Mosley around made the chore fun.

Mosley will be with me until Saturday's puppy meeting, so I'll post more of our adventures together later.