Sunday, August 29, 2010

Middle of the Night Adventure

In Kyle's nine month post, I mentioned that he has complete freedom in my room at night and has never broken my trust. My sister Kassie was here for the weekend, and her dog Boo also slept free in the room. Since Boo and Kyle basically ignore each other, that didn't change Kyle's routine much.

However, last night Kyle was acting weird. I woke up in the middle of the night because Kyle was pacing the floor. He never stirs from his dog bed until morning, so that caught my attention. I got out of bed to comfort him, but he wouldn't settle down. Since I was intent on sleeping even if Kyle wanted to be awake, I finally resorted to tying him down at the head of the bed.

I don't know how long that lasted before Kyle started crying...literally. He whined really loud over and over. Kyle may be a barker, but he isn't much of a whiner. Several times I patted him and rolled over, but he wouldn't settle. After a bit Kyle jumped on me. Because he was tied down, he couldn't get on the bed all the way, but Kyle's front paws landed right on me. That move finally broke through my sleepy mind and startled me awake. I realized something was wrong with Kyle.

The moment I got out of bed and grabbed Kyle's leash, he calmed down. When I opened the bedroom door, he ran down the stairs and stood at the front door. That is when I realized that I had left it unlocked. I had a slight panic attack and was hesitant to open the door. Was whatever upset Kyle on the other side of my unlocked door?

I calmed myself and decided to head outside. After all, Kyle could protect me, right? Whatever! If I ever get attacked, all I think Kyle would do is jump on the person and lick them. He is just that friendly.

When we got outside, Kyle pulled me to the grass and went to the bathroom immediately. Kyle had normal "business" right before bed, but now he was sick. Poor little guy! I felt like a jerk making him work for so long to wake me up so that he could do his business.

There is a point to this long story. I am so proud of Kyle for not having an accident in the house. When I ignored him over and over, he could have given up on me, but he didn't. I've often wondered how strong Kyle's house training is. Now I know. There is no need for me to worry about him having accidents. Way to go boy! He seriously amazed me.

I still cannot figure out what triggered Kyle getting sick when he was healthy at 11:00 pm and sick at 4:00 am. Thankfully, he seems a little sleepy but otherwise fine today. He even went to church with me and seemed happy to be out and about.

Since I've been bad about including pictures with my recent posts, here's a cute one Kassie snapped on her phone last night. This is not staged. Kyle voluntarily positioned himself this way in my lap. He was chewing his bone, but then he started falling asleep like this. Silly boy!

(Kyle lying in my lap on his back with his hind legs splayed. One front leg is hanging down his torso and the other is hugging my arm. His back is twisted in a weird way.)

P.S. I woke up the morning and realized that I forgot to lock the door when I came in from Kyle's bathroom break. It's a good thing nobody tried to break in last night.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Museum of Ancient Life

Today the local Museum of Ancient Life was only $2, so my friend Katie called and asked if Kyle and I wanted to go. I love that Katie included Kyle in the invitation! Of course, we said yes.

The first exhibit in the museum is a room where you can watch people working with actual fossils. Today only one man was working far away from the window, but it was fun to see all of the dinosaur heads lined up near the front of the room.

(Kyle in front of several dinosaur skulls. In the back right corner, there is a man hard at work, but I cannot tell what he is doing.)

One of the first exhibits we visited was a representation of dinosaur remains buried in the ground. A fake stream with real fish in it ran alongside the exhibit. Kyle spotted the fish and they held his attention for several minutes before I pulled him away. He was hilarious. I wish I had a fish tank.

(It was impossible to capture the fake stream and Kyle in a picture, but you can see how intently he is watching this exhibit.)

Besides the stream, not much of the museum was interesting to Kyle. The place was packed and absolutely chaotic. After all, it really inexpensive and the perfect last summer outing before school starts tomorrow. Despite that, Kyle successfully navigated all of the crowds. He even managed to ignore the myriads of children that tried to pet him. Considering kids are one of his favorite things, that was wonderful.

(Kyle looking annoyed because Katie was snapping his picture while he was in a down.)

I've wanted to know Kyle's weight for quite a while. According to the DinoScale at the museum, Kyle weighs 50 pounds. That makes him slightly lighter than a Ingenia. The golden question is, what is an Ingenia?

(Kyle on the DinoScale. He really didn't want his picture taken and refused to look at the camera.)

(A closeup of the scale showing that and Ingenia weighed approximately 55 pounds.)

Near the end of the museum Kyle and I encountered a shark. It had pretty scary looking teeth and a red rimmed mouth. Are they really this color in nature? If so, their coloring just adds to their frightening appearance. (Cue Jaws music.)

(I held Kyle as I donned a terrified looking face. I cannot tell if Kyle's closed eyes are a sign of a willingness to play along or annoyance that I was picking him up once again.)

The final skeleton as we were leaving was of a baby mammoth. The exhibit said that it was less than a year old. It only had the tinniest of tusks that were starting to grow. I bet in real life the mammoth was actually kind of cute.

(I held Kyle up to show that he and the mammoth were about the same age and size. However, the mammoth baby would have towered over him in adulthood.)

My favorite exhibit is one that couldn't be captured on camera. It is a dark tunnel of a room with a suspended bridge and lights that look like stars surrounding you. (I love stars!) I think the room was to represent space. I loved it and so did Kyle. Turk and Mesa would not have liked walking over a grate-like bridge in a dark room that enveloped them. Kyle didn't think a thing of it. He never ceases to amaze me!

Nine Things at Nine Months

Kyle is three quarters of a year old! I love how grown up my boy is getting, but I want to freeze him right now. The nasty realization that nine months is six months away from fifteen months hit me a few days ago. In simpler English, that means Kyle and I only have about half a year left together. Yikes! Six months isn't long enough.

Knowing Kyle, that is more than enough time for him to be ready for formal harness training though. He is a great puppy who is rapidly growing into an incredible dog!

In honor of his nine month birthday, here are nine fun things about Kyle.
  1. Kyle is 100% trustworthy off leash in my room at night. He has never misbehaved while I'm asleep even if I decide to sleep in.
  2. Kyle is growing up behaviorally and physically. He is now wearing his adult collar and a large puppy jacket. He is still as skinny as ever though.
  3. At the start of the month Kyle outgrew his gentle leader, and I haven't replaced it. He's been head collar free for four weeks now!
  4. This may be silly, but Kyle finally decided he is capable of holding his own bone while he gnaws on it. He still prefers that I hold it, but he is exhibiting more independence.
  5. Kyle loves ice cubes! He can chomp them in no time flat. When we go out to eat fast food, I order him a cup of ice because it makes him so happy. Kyle will stop whatever he is doing and run to me if he hears the freezer open. I'm excited to see if his fascination with ice continues as winter approaches.
  6. I often get asked if Kyle is sick or tired because he loves to sprawl out on cold tile or linoleum. If we stand in any line for very long, his well formed down changes to a sprawl so that he can cool down more.
  7. Kyle's personality is perfect for a guide dog. He prefers to go nonstop and really can work all day without getting worn out. However, if I ask him to settle at my feet, he's asleep or at least calmly resting within seconds. I love it!
  8. Kyle has won the hearts of all my coworkers. I cannot count the number of teachers and staff that have stopped me in the halls the past few days to complement Kyle's behavior. He really has been a model student.
  9. This is selfish, but I love how much Kyle loves me. Dogs really are man's best friend. Of course, I'm rather fond of him, too!
Happy nine months Kyle! You are well on your way to being a phenomenal guide dog!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Letter for my Students

Last week I asked for help writing a paper for my students explaining the volunteer work I am doing with Kyle. I got several great replies. Thank you! As promised, here is the finished product.

This year in English class you are going to have a unique opportunity. I am a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. My responsibilities as a volunteer include teaching puppies basic obedience and socializing them by taking them everywhere I go. That means I will be bringing a puppy to school with me every day.

Right now I am raising my third puppy Kyle. He is a nine-month-old, male, yellow Labrador. Kyle is an extremely well behaved dog. He knows most of his basic commands and understands how to behave in public. His size makes him look almost like an adult dog, but he is still very much a puppy. Kyle will be with me for about six more months. During this time, Kyle’s primary task will be to cement all of the skills he has learned over the past few months.

Kyle will probably return to Guide Dogs for the Blind campus for formal training in early spring. That means I will most likely be bringing another, much younger, puppy with me for the last few months of school. Also, I occasionally will bring other puppies from my club with me while Kyle spends time in other raiser’s homes. The purpose of puppy trades is to expose puppies-in-training to as many situations as possible.

I need the help of all of my students to properly train Kyle for his future work as a guide dog. Your job is simple. I need you to completely ignore Kyle. Puppies naturally know they are adorable and seek attention. They need to know that in public the only person that will pay them attention is their raiser. This helps the puppies focus on their work and bond with their handlers. Thus, as hard as it may be, please ignore Kyle during the school day.

If we all do our parts, Kyle will sleep or play quietly behind my desk, and we’ll forget he is even in the room. That way, you will be able to learn English, and Kyle can learn to be a guide dog at the same time.

Guide Dog Puppy Etiquette
  • As tempting as it may be to pet a guide dog in training, remember that this puppy will be responsible for leading someone who is visually impaired. The puppy should never be distracted from his or her duty. A person’s safety will depend on their dog’s alertness and concentration.
  • At times, it is okay to ask someone if you may pet their guide dog puppy. Use prudent judgment before asking. Many people enjoy introducing their puppies when they have the time. The puppy’s primary responsibility is to its partner, and it is important that the puppy not become solicitous.
  • A guide dog puppy should never be offered food or other distracting treats. Puppies are fed on a schedule and follow a specific diet in order to keep them in optimum condition. Even slight deviations from their routine can disrupt their regular eating and relieving schedules and seriously inconvenience their raisers. Guide dog puppies are trained to resist offers of food so that they will be able to visit restaurants without begging. Feeding treats to a puppy-in-training weakens this training.
  • It’s not all work and no play for guide dogs in training. When they are not in their puppy vests, they are treated in much the same way as pets. However, for their safety they are only allowed to play with specific toys. Please don’t offer them toys without first asking their raiser’s permission.
  • A guide dog puppy can make mistakes and must be corrected in order to maintain its training. This correction usually involves a verbal admonishment coupled with a leash correction, followed by praise when the dog regains focus and correctly follows a command. Guide dog puppy raisers have been taught the appropriate correction methods to use with their dogs.
  • Access laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Utah Human Services Code, permit people who are training future guide dogs anywhere the general public is allowed, including taxis and buses, restaurants, theaters, stores, schools, hotels, apartment and office buildings.
  • Before asking a question of a person handling a dog, allow them to complete the task at hand.
  • Remain calm in your approach and mannerisms. If you act excited or anxious, a puppy will mirror your emotions.
  • Never tease a puppy-in-training. It is extremely important for puppies’ socialization that they learn to trust all humans, not just their raisers.
  • When you see a puppy-in-training you know, refrain from calling out his or her name. Doing this could cause a puppy to become distracted when working.
If you have any questions about guide dogs or puppy raising, I would be more than happy to answer them outside of English class time. You are also welcome to access Guide Dogs for the Blind’s website: guidedogs.com.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School Help?

Right now Kyle and I are sitting in my classroom getting ready for school to start next week. I just decided to send a paper home with my students on the first day of school explaining the volunteer work I am doing with Kyle and whatever puppy follows him in the spring.

Have any puppy raisers out there made fliers to pass out to classmates, coworkers, etc? If you have, would you mind sharing them with me?

Even if you haven't passed anything out, what do you think I should include?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Graduation!

Friday Kyle celebrated a special event with me. I received my master's degree as Kyle cheered me on.

I debated walking across the stage with Kyle since I've seen several great pictures of other raisers doing just that. After much debate, I decided to be less conspicuous. Hence, my friend Liz and her husband Luke kept Kyle in the audience for me. I wanted Kyle to be there for the event, and this seemed like the perfect compromise.

After graduation  I met up with Liz, Luke, and Kyle. Liz completed the same master's degree I just received. In fact, she was my encouragement to go back to school. Throughout the program, Liz understood all of the up and downs and was one of my biggest cheerleaders. At graduation she brought me a beautiful bouquet.

(Kyle though my flowers smelled wonderful and wanted to eat them. I love his tongue reaching toward the bouquet.)

We found my thesis chair and I got a picture with her. Remember this is the woman who doesn't really like dogs. After we took a couple human only pictures, my chair is the one who suggested that we get a couple shots with Kyle in them. I love that woman and her support of all aspects of my life!

(Kyle in front of me and my thesis chair. I'm actually wearing the my chair's graduation gown and hood from her master's degree.)

I didn't start puppy raising again until I finished the coursework for my degree. Kyle arrived a couple weeks after my last class ended. Having him around for this stressful summer of thesis work sure made the process a lot more enjoyable. Thank you Kyle for cuddling me when I was too stressed to think and for giving me an excuse to take a break and go for a walk! We made it!

A year from now I hope the roles are reversed as I get to attend Kyle's graduation!

Variety from the Puppy Truck

Thursday a much anticipated puppy truck came to Utah. Most of my puppy club gathered at the truck to celebrate the arrival of three new puppies.

 (For those who haven't seen a picture before, this is our puppy stork...the puppy truck.)

The first puppy that came off the truck for our club went to a first time raiser. The raiser has tons of contagious enthusiasm that spread to her family and our club. She brought her father, children, and grandchildren to meet their new arrival.

(Our new raiser couldn't stop bouncing around in excitement as the drivers retrieved her pup.)

This addition ended up being a female yellow lab named Antigua. She has a wonderful darker color and seems to be a petite little thing.

(Antigua with her new mom.)

The second puppy that came off the truck for our club went to a second time raiser. While we are all excited for the new addition, it meant that Spike was headed to formal training/breeder evaluations. Good luck Spike!

This new club puppy is a male black lab named Clyde. His name sounds fitting of a horse. Since Clyde was way bigger than the other two puppies our club received, it seems that his name suits him.

(Clyde with his new mom. Look at the size of those paws!)

The last addition two our club is one of two celebrities in the puppy raising world right now. Megan is extremely lucky to be raising the little guy as her tenth puppy. Ever since Megan found out that he was headed our way, she could hardly contain her excitement.

(Megan waiting for her new arrival.)

Everyone spent the week debating this new arrival's name. I wanted Swiss or Smores, but another raiser got a last minute, prophetic vote in with a candy bar.

(Megan holding a Snickers bar.)

After much anticipation one of the first two chocolate labs born in sixteen years joined our club. Little Snickers is sure going to get a lot of attention over the next year of life in our club.

(Megan and Snickers meeting each other as they touch noses. He is a gentle little guy.)

The best part of our new arrivals is that we got a puppy in each color lab possible. What great variety! It will be fun to watch such unique puppies grow up alongside each other.

(Snickers with Megan, Antigua with her raiser, and Clyde with his raiser in front of the puppy truck.)

These puppies have a lot to learn, but the have great raisers that will get them there. The preliminary reports from their raisers suggest that they are doing incredibly!

(Snickers tried on Kyle's large puppy jacket to show just how much growing he has to do.)

Finally, since I had practically ignored Kyle for the whole outing while I played with younger pups, I had to get a picture of Kyle in front of the truck. Thanks Kyle for being well behaved and letting me play. I still love you even if you aren't tiny any more!

(My big guy in front of the puppy truck. Even if the baby puppies are cute, I wouldn't trade them for my boy!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Colorful Colorado

In Colorado there is a popular bumper sticker that states "Not a native, but I got here as fast as I could." My family moved to Colorado when I was almost 12-years-old and immediately agreed with that sentiment. They stayed there for over nine years. For a family that moves about every two years, that is a really long time.

Kyle's first puppy home was in Colorado. Thus, while we both ended up in Utah, the "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" sign sure brought a huge smile to my face. Kyle was asleep, but we stopped a bit down the road so that we could both enjoy a break on Colorado soil.

(Kyle in a great down-stay near the top of Monarch Pass.)

The first stop on our trip was my hometown where my best friend from high school, Sarah, and her dog, Sam, live.

When we got to Sarah's house, she surprised me with an early birthday celebration. This was Kyle's first opportunity to watch someone open gifts. He got excited about the process and decided to help me.

(Kyle was really interested in seeing what was in my box. He was disappointed to find out that there weren't any puppy toys. However, I loved all of my gifts!)

Both Sarah and I were fairly nervous about how Sam and Kyle would get along. They have such different sizes, temperaments, and ages that we could have had problems. However, all our worries were for naught. They got along just fine.

(Sam, a 5-year-old Scottie, relaxed on the couch while Kyle sat next to him on the floor.)

Kyle and I spent our first full day in Colorado playing in my hometown. Kyle's favorite spot was Sarah's parents' backyard. He and Sam had a blast running around. The yard is huge, so it was a great place to practice off leash recalls.

(Kyle was "in the doghouse" for part of the time while we played in the back yard.)

The main purpose of our trip to Colorado was four days of camping in Marble. That meant Sarah and I loaded up both dogs and drove for five hours. Kyle started out on the floor and Sam had the back seat, but they both ended up sharing the seat in the end.

(Kyle and Sam curled up together on the seat.)

About halfway through the drive, we stopped at Independence Pass on the Continental Divide. The pictures show just how breathtaking this spot of earth is.

(Kyle and I in front of mountains in the distance. Kyle may be getting heavy, but I still can pick him up like a baby.)

When we sat down for a rest on a bench, we ended up meeting a puppy sitter from a Colorado club. I was suprised that she recognized Kyle as a dog in training since he wasn't wearing his puppy jacket. Sarah pointed out that I was wearing a "Born to Lead" tee-shirt. Silly me!

We had a great visit about Kyle, and the puppy sitter offered to take our picture. However, after being stuck in a car for the second day in a week, Kyle was a bit of a goof ball.Sam definitely put on a better show of his obedience training at that point.

(Kyle tried to squirm every-which-way in my arms while Sam sat calmly in Sarah's lap.)

A few minutes later, we headed down the trail and Kyle decided to sit wonderfully for a picture in front of the Independence Pass sign. I guess he just needed to get his wiggles out. Truth be told, I did too.

(Kyle sat like a human in my lap with his front paws hanging over my arm. The silly boy enjoys sitting like this whenever I let him.)

Kyle and I also had to get a picture with Sarah and Sam. If you look at our feet, Sarah and I are sitting in the exact same pose. That makes me laugh.

(Our group of four in front of the sign and a pond. I love the little ponds that dot this area.)

After we got to our campsite and pitched our tents, we headed to an old marble quarry to see the antiquated equipment. I was amazed by the shear quantity of marble. The marble used in the Lincoln Memorial and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came from this area.

 (Kyle and Sam posed on a marble table that reminded me of Aslan's table in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.)

On another day of our camping trip, we headed to some natural hot springs. At first Kyle was really hesitant of getting in the water. However, after he saw Sam playing, Kyle decided that the water wasn't that bad. He especially liked trying to catch the water we squirted up with our hands.

(Kyle and Sarah sitting in a hot spring with the river in the background.)

(At one point I enjoyed a hot spring while Kyle dried out on the beach behind us.)

Usually our camping trips include a lot of hiking. Sarah and I have been known to hike two trails a day for a few days in a row. However, this year my broken foot limited our hiking abilities, so we stayed to flat trails and the main streets of tiny towns. Kyle and Sam loved all of the walking and stayed alert and active all day. At night, the two of them crashed in the tent. I loved having Kyle right next to me as we slept. He is my cuddle bug after all.

By the last full day of camping, Kyle finally got tired enough to take a nap. After a long walk, he crashed under a tree. Since he previously spent his time trying to eat the pine needles and twigs under the tree, this was major progress.

(Kyle is collapsed on his side in the shade of a giant pine tree.)

While we loved camping, it was nice to get back to Sarah's house. On our last day in town, Kyle and I visited the church were I grew up. That, more than anything else on the trip, felt like coming home. The congregation was full of people who shaped the person I am today. I loved giving them hugs and catching up on our years apart. I wish I could still see them every Sunday.

Since I come from a large family with several sisters who look alike, some people in the congregation questioned which sister I was when they spotted me in the pew. However, they saw Kyle and figured out that I was Amanda before having to ask. After all, they remembered me with Turk and Mesa in times past. Kyle was a saint (insert cheesy laugh here) at church and won over the hearts of all of my friends. He sure can be a charmer!

Kyle and I love Utah, but Colorado also has a piece of my heart. I know that Kyle loved going to his home state as well. I don't know if Kyle will make it back again before his recall next spring, but I look forward to many more adventures showing puppies-in-training where Turk, Mesa, and I grew up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Week with Paris and Julimae

While Kyle was having the time of his life in California with Megan, I got to spoil Paris and play with Julimae.

Paris and Julimae may come from different homes, but they already know each other, so they got along wonderfully. A lot of the time Julimae was on a leash next to me, and Paris was allowed to be free in the house. Since the girls wanted to play, Paris would carry her toys over to Julimae so that they could play tug. Although she growled loudly, Paris was incredibly gentle with Julimae. Julimae in turn loved all the interaction.

(Paris and Julimae playing tug in the yard.)

Every now and then I wanted a turn to play with Julimae. I loved playing with this little girl. She has a lot of spunk!

(Julimae playing tug with me. I love how enthusiastically she played.)

Baby puppies' facial expressions are so different than that of older puppies. Julimae still tilts her head to the side when she is trying to figure out the world. Every time she did it, Julimae made me break out in a huge grin.

(Julimae with her head tilted to the side and her tongue hanging out.)

As Julimae was headed home, I asked her family to snap a picture of me with their little girl. I really enjoyed playing with her. She is incredibly trained for her age and has an adorable personality. I hope to spend more time with her as she gets older.

(Me holding Julimae right before she headed home. Julimae has a huge puppy grin on her face.)

While I already knew Paris is an incredible dog from observing her with Megan, that fact hit home this past week. Paris is practically perfectly trained and has a fun loving personality. She and I got along fabiously and it was really hard to return her to Megan at the end of the week.

One of my favorite things about spending time with Paris was the ability to spoil her in non-guide dog ways. She got to sleep on my bed, eat fun treats, and play with all kinds of fun toys. I didn't realize how much I miss having a pet dog around my home.

(Paris slept on my bed and even cuddled with me at times.)

(Paris loves her stuffed animals and carried them around everywhere. I have no idea why she didn't get cottonmouth.)

Last week my grandma broke her wrist on the way to visit me. Thus, she ended up spending two days on my couch. My grandma loves dogs, so Paris got practice as a therapy dog.

(Paris comforting my grandma who is laying on the couch.)

Paris and Julimae won more than my heart. Almost every day the neighborhood kids came over to play with both girls. They even helped me work on Paris' new tricks. Both girls are pretty special dogs.
(Paris with three neighbor girls.)

Any time either of these wonderful dogs wants to visit, I'd love to have them back in my home!