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Friday, August 31, 2012

Nostalgia, Scared, and other Feelings

I'm just so...I guess the word is tired. I'm tired of my position with Guide Dogs right now. And I'm tired of really not being able to do anything about it.

I know that not raising a puppy full time is good for me. Really I do. And if I didn't I could find a way around it. So, let's not confuse my tiredness with angry or frustrated or even unhappiness. I'm enjoying my break from raising full time and I'm happy with being a boarder. And I more than love my Frankie-boy! If I were raising full time I wouldn't be able to spend time with my Frankie! But, there are times when I want a puppy of my own around to motivate me to do better or to make me feel like I'm worth something or just to have anything life form around in the house that can't talk or make me feel bad about myself. I know that sounds like I'm unhappy, but these instances are far and few between. I guess I'm not really tired of position with Guide Dogs. What I'm really tired of is feeling these momentary lapses of judgement where I think, "Raising a full time puppy! Now there's a good idea!" For those of you out there who are one a break right now, do you feel them too sometimes? I have to admit, if my landlord hadn't said specifically no full time puppies I probably would have broken down by now. Haha! It's funny to think that all of my strength is coming from a piece of paper I signed.

As for my puppy group, I love being in charge of the facebook page. Publicity is as big a part of puppy raising groups as anything else. How else would we get people to come to our fund raising events? I really feel like I've helped a little when I work on the facebook page. So that's not the problem. The problem is that this summer I came home and someone from the group asked me, "So, have you raised a puppy before." *shocked face* It totally took me for a loop and I almost wanted to shout, "Has no one been talking about me?!" Haha! I suppose that's my own vanity, but still...I was slightly taken aback by the question. And there lies the problem. I feel almost like a stranger when I get back. Everything and everyone is new. This summer really wasn't too bad because Alicia was there and we went to school together so there was more to talk about than just puppy raising and she knew all of my pups.

And it's not like I don't like meeting new people and bragging about my past puppies to them. I really, really do. But I kinda feel like an old lady. *In old lady voice* "When I started puppy raising you had to have special permission from your CFR to use the food protocol. And not every puppy had to wear the gentle leader." In some cases I'm also confused. *continues in voice* "What is the new fangeled idea?" Haha! I don't think I'm allowed to feel old at this age.

I do think that being involved with GDBA here has caused some of the confusion. I'll be standing there telling the pups, "Busy busy!" before I realise that that's NOT their command to go to the bathroom. Or I'll say "left!" and wonder why a puppy who's older than a year doesn't know their directions yet...and then I realise we don't teach them that in the states. *face palm* I did feel pretty bad for Crescent a few times those first few hours together when I got a little agitated before I realised it was me and not her.

I guess what I'm feeling is scared. In two years I have to make the decision to stay here or go back to the states. At the moment, the states is winning just based on the fact that there is nothing keeping me here (which I'm really hoping some people out there are happy about). Now you might be thinking that two years is a long time away. But let me remind you that I've been in Scotland for two years and they've gone by at light year speed. And if I go back to the states and start raising again...will I have to start from scratch? Will we have stopped using the word 'sit'?! What if we start training ponies!? So much can happen and I don't want to be the little, old lady who uses techniques from the past.

I kinda want this feeling of scared to go away. I don't think it will. But I'd at least like it to stop manifesting itself in my feelings towards Guide Dogs. I know what I'm feeling when I sit down and think about it, but when the feelings are fleeting it's hard to tell the difference between "scared of the real world" and "I just want a puppy". I suppose I'm tired of feeling scared.

Grown ups out there...did you guys feel scared when you were nearing entering the real world and did you try to stay a child by hanging onto something that you had done when you were younger?

I hope that this wasn't a downer for anyone. I've just suddenly realised that I am graduating in less than two years and then I'll be a real live grown up. I guess...at least Hilly will be there for me. *smiles*

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Confessions of a Puppy Raiser: One Year Ago

A year ago today Hilly had her last evaluation with my CFR, Jim. I don't think I've ever really posted about what happened that sealed Hilly's fate as a Career Change. When I last posted about Hilly's last eval I sort of fudged the truth a little. I didn't lie...I just didn't tell the whole truth.

Note: This is a long post. If you get half way through it and think "This is long!" it's because it is. So,
you've been warned.

We had just gotten back into town after being in Ashland, Oregon for a little over a week for the Shakespeare Festival. When driving to the eval I thought that my part in Hilly's training was over. That no matter what, I could not influence her future in the Guide Dog program. Mostly because, I knew what the outcome of the eval would be.

As always, I arrived early. This time though, I didn't just allow and extra ten to twenty minutes to allow me time to find a parking space (sometimes the parking is REALLY bad). Instead, I got to the mall about half an hour early. It only took me ten minutes to find parking, but after that, I just sat in the car with Hilly. I knew I would need this time. At some point I started to cry. Not the deep shaking sobs that would come later that day, just silent tears. Mostly, they were of frustration and anger at myself. Like I said, I knew what Jim would say...even if he didn't know it yet. As I was sitting there starring at a tree, I felt Hilly stirring next to me (the back seat of my little Mini Cooper was a little messy so Hilly was on the floorboard in the front seat). I looked over and saw her resting her head between the gear sift and the emergency break like she always did. But this time, instead of sleeping, she was looking up at me. She was bored. Bored of being a Puppy in Training and ready to move on. And she was tired. Tired of me trying to make her into something she wasn't. I invited her up on the seat which she cautiously took; always prepared to for the set up she was. When she was eye level with me I told her how proud I was of her and held her for just a little while.

It took me about fifteen minutes to compose myself so that I could walk in through the mall doors with confidence. (It just wasn't time for everyone else to know.) So, even though I arrived half an hour early, I was pushing time a little when I finally found Mary and Jim. Before Jim started asking about Hilly, we all took a walk. Now, some people get really nervous around Jim, but I don't. I hadn't been nervous at an eval since my very first one. But I was on that day. It's ture that Jim is kinda a grumpy gus sometimes and he is pretty "strict", but he's a really good CFR. He doesn't make snap decisions and trusts the puppy raiser's judgement on their own puppy. Anyway, we finished the walk and went back to the food court.

That's when Jim started grilling me on Hilly. I told him all of her wonderful qualities and about the HUGE progress she had made since she came off the puppy truck. Then he took her from me and checked how she was with handling and how she walked on a flat leash. She did great during both. Then Jim brought her back to me and I put her back in a down under our table. That's when Jim surprised me and said something like, "She seems all ready so I'll just put her on the next recall in two weeks." He started scribbling her recall date on his sheet of paper as I sat there momentarily in shock.

What happened next was kind of like an out of body experience. Remember, I was pretty sure my part in this little show was over; that I wouldn't have to say anything. My spirit...or the part of me that wanted nothing more for Hilly to go back in for training floated out of my body and was forced to watch in horror. Forced to watch as the words came spilling out of my mouth. Those words that I never thought I would have to say.
"I can't let you do that Jim..."

Jim and Mary both looked a little surprised...I guess I probably did too. I had to tell him about how Hilly was unreliable, how she talks to you when she sees a dog, and how she was great with GDB pups but not with strange dogs. I spoke fast and didn't meet his eyes. I didn't want to have tell him what had happened in Ashland. Luckily, I didn't have to. He agreed with me that dogs that were exhibiting her kind of behaviour couldn't usually make it to being a Guide Dog. And with that it was done. My spirit watched as Jim changed "Recall" to "Career Change" and it sort of whithered. He told me how he never thought she would ever get to the point she was at now and said that if she had one more month he thought I could get her further. I'm pretty sure he meant it too. Jim doesn't just throw around compliments. Even still, my confidence had vanished.

Then we left. I cried. I cried hard. We sat in the car for five minutes before I thought I was safe enough to drive. I think Mary knew something happened in Ashland because a week and a half later she asked, "What happened in Ashland?" I guess she knows me and how I wouldn't have ever taken her off of a recall for anything less than something horrible happening.

So, here's how I knew what would happen at that meeting. I didn't want to be the one to say it, but I knew that she wouldn't be going back in for training. In Ashland, there is something called "the Green." It's a square patch of grass in between the three theaters where there are free shows before the ticketed shows begin. Since it's outside, people are allowed to bring their pets and are always quite a few dogs out there enjoying the sun and being able to get out of the house. We found a nice place on the grass away from dogs which Hilly had maneuvered around without too much fuss which made me pretty proud. We'd been watching for about half an hour when it happened. Hilly had been doing so good all day and she was just lying on my left dead asleep, so I let my guard down just a little and enjoyed the show. All of a sudden I felt a pull to my left and I was suddenly lying on the ground. Hilly had apparently lost her little labby mind and was going nuts, but I couldn't see why right away. Hey! I suddenly found myself starring up at the sky instead of at the musical performance. I quickly pulled her back to me and put her in a restrained calming sit. This means that her body was in my lap, one hand was under her resisting chin, and the other was holding her body so that she had my body and my hand pressing on their side of her. I somehow managed to breathe calmly until Hilly was under control...which took a good five minutes. At that point I asked my mom what had happened and she pointed to the left. A new dog had come and sat about five feet away from us. My heart kinda broke right then and there, but there was still a little hope left that it was a one time deal and I could just overlook it. I set her on my right and didn't have an issue the rest of the night. Unfortunately, that incident made her take ten steps back. She was whining harder and louder than ever when she saw another dog and she had started to lunge again. She had given up and, to be honest, somewhere in that week and a half I did too.

Ignoring dogs just isn't who Hilly is and she made her choice. I would have been a bad raiser to have ignored it.

I'm still hurting from it a little. My confidence hasn't completely come back as a puppy raiser and I second guess myself more often than I should. That will come back with time and possibly another full time puppy. There are even still times when I wonder if I made the right choice to stop Jim. Of course these times usually come right before Hilly does something incredibly stupid that reminds me why she should never ever be in charge for someone else's safety.

Hilly still talks to you when she sees a dog she wants to say hi to. She still thinks that stalling cars are the coolest thing ever and will jump up and down and all around to see if they'll play with her. She is still stubborn about sniffing something until SHE is done sniffing it. Now, I'm still upset that she didn't make it, but I'm more happy that she's mine.

Friday, August 10, 2012

An Introduction: Meet Frankie

Hi everyone! My name is Frankie.
Frankie sitting in front of a flower bed.
Auntie Erin was thinking real hard for the past couple of days on how to introduce me properly to the blog, but I convinced her that I was old enough to say hi myself. I also convinced her to let me tell you all about the past three days. But first she says I need to introduce myself proper like.

As you already know, my name is Frankie. Sometimes Auntie Erin calls me Franks though...or Small Fry or Short Pants. I am really small for my age, but great things comes in small packages right? I am one quarter golden retriever and three quarters lab. And Erin says that I was exactly what they had in mind when they started breeder labs and goldens together...besides having lab fur. I am confident and what she calls "bomb proof", but I'm also really goofy and "needy". I know it's not cool for guys to like cuddles but sometimes you just wants to curl up in your person lap. I am also what they call a "sponsored puppy." That means that someone out there paid Guide Dogs a LOT of money to get to name me and in return they get pictures of me and get updates on me and, if they help set it up, get to meet me. I have not met my sponsors yet but we are hoping to meet them someday before I leave for harness training. Anyway, I'm almost 7 months old but I've known my Auntie Erin since I was a little baby. The reason I am only just now posting on the blog is because now about once a month I'll be over at Auntie Erin's. Sometimes she says it'll only be for a day, but it could be for a weekend or a whole week. It just depends on how busy she is at school. I think that's all you need to know about me for now.

Oh, wait! Fetch is also my most favouritest games.

Day 1: I gots to Auntie Erin's new house on Tuesday night and boy was I happy to see her! Almost as happy as I was to see her after she got back from being back home for a whole month. We did not do a whole bunch of stuff that evening cos she had some stuff she needed to take care of. I guess that's what it is like when you move into a new place. But we did go for a walk after it stopped raining so that she could show me where my potty was. My potty is a little away from the house as we only use the front garden for the first and last potty break of the day. Otherwise I use the field just about 10 seconds away from the house. The first time we went there I peed before we got there, but Auntie Erin said that was ok and we went all the way to the toilet anyway to see if I had to go some more. Now all she has to do is ask me to "Find the Toilet" and I pull her over to the little spot next to the tree where I also pee. After I got to use the toilet we went for a short walk onto the University campus. She says that I might get to go there to class one day so I should know where it is and how to maneuver through it before it is filled with students. Did you hear that? I'm gonna be a College Dog! Then it was bedtime since I had my dinner before getting to Auntie Erin's house.

Day 2: For all the puppies out there, your people will not like it if you drink ALL the water in the big water dish before bed and then start poking them with your nose at 4 in the morning because you gots to pee. Auntie Erin said that she was glad I did not pee in her room and woke me up, but also that I was not suppose to drink all of the water at once. So, I only get a little water at a time now to stop me from waking her up at what she calls "ridiculous o' clock in the morning." After I had peed we did get to sleep for another two hours before my tummy woke me up...so I woke Erin up. We both had breakfast and then she had a shower. Then we went for a walk in the park right next to her house. She let me off lead for only a little part of it since she was not sure if I would come back to her when she called. I guess she did not know that I like to walk right next to my human even if I am off lead. Then it was home for lunch time for the both of us. Then she took me to the grocery store after I got to use the toilet again. She made me wear the puppy jacket and I do not really like it. It is itchy and bothersome but she said I had to wear it in the store so that there would be no question that I was allowed in. She said I did mostly good on our trip but that I did not need to pee right before entering the store or right after we left. She is glad I did not go inside the store, but that since I had peed before I left that I should hold it until we got back home. After we got home we both had some dinner and then took our evening walk. Today is when I learned "Find the Bin." That's my command to take Auntie Erin to the Doggie Pot where all of the doggie poo is put. We did another route around campus, but this time we went a different way to and from. She said it depends on where she needs to be which way she goes, but that I would know the difference. On yesterday's route she told me to "Find Campus" and on this route she told me to "Find the Library". I know the library is on campus, but going to the library side puts us on a different part of campus. I am still really learning the route to and from campus, but she said the more often I go the easier it will be for me.

Day 3: Yesterday was kind of a lazy day. I did not wake Auntie Erin up at four. Instead I waited until my tummy woke me up at 6. Then we did the park again only this time I was off lead for the entire time and she brought my rubber stick. I gots to play fetch for a long time and gots really dirty cos, even though it was a sunny day, there was still mud everywhere. After playing fetch for a long time she says we need to take our walk through the park. So, we goes on the walk, but I decide that it would be more fun to keep a hold of the stick for the whole time. She did have to leash me back up when there was another dog near us, but she says I did very good because we I started running towards it she told me to "leave it" and then "come" and I stopped and then went straight back to her. We walked back through the park but somewhere on the way back she decides to get a picture of me. So, of course I barks at her because it is time to play not take pictures. After I let her take her dumb pictures we start walking again. On our way out we met this really old lab. He was a lot of fun and like to try and pounce on me, but he was a lot bigger than me. It turns out that he was a retired Guide Dog. No wonder the old guy did not mind playing with a puppy. Before he left he wished me lucks in my training and told me that being a Guide Dog was really, really fun. Then we went home and had a lazy day only to be interrupted by our third walk to campus. This time we took a route that was like half the first and half the second. She said she wanted to show me as much of the campus while no one was there so that I would not be overwhelmed if I came with here and there were students everywhere. Really though, how many students can there be? This time once we got off campus she told me to "Go Find Home" and I takes her all the way back home.

Day 4: Today I go back home with my raisers. Auntie Erin says that we'll take one more free run in the park before I have to leave though. She says that I have done really good because I have learned to find her house and find the doggie pot while I have been with her. And that I have gotten better on my right turns. They are harder than left turns. I'm not too sad about leaving cos I'll see Auntie Erin again in about two weeks for puppy class. She says I'm so funny at class because when we do a puppy swap I stare at her. Well!? I guy's gotta make sure that his person is still there and still loves him doesn't he!?

Until next time guys!  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A New Blog

I was going to post something up about Fun Day today, but I think it has to wait. I'm still trying to organize it to where I don't seem like I'm rambling. So, instead I thought I would share a blog with you.

Today is Dog Day for the students who are currently in class on the California campus. Dog Day is the day that the students meet their new partner for the first time. It is a day filled with high emotions. For some, they are wondering if they will love this new dog as much as the last and for others I'm sure it's a day that will go down as "one of my most memorable days" as they prepare to meet their very first Guides. For raisers with puppies in phase 8 of formal training this whole week is filled with anticipation as we wait to hear if our puppy is officially "In Class."

For this particular woman, today is not only the day she meets her next Guide but also the day she meets her first Guide from Guide Dogs for the Blind. I have followed her journey since she applied to Guide Dogs and have felt all the doubts and uncertainties that goes with making such a huge decision. I have also seen her overcome many of them.

This is her blog. It's called Six Feet Over and so far, she makes me smile. Seeing someone who is so happy, so excited about getting their new Guide really makes the whole puppy raising thing worth while. Whoever's puppy is matched with her is a very lucky puppy raiser indeed.

I hope you all join me in wishing this most recent class of Guide Dogs for the Blind a happy Dog Day and a successful three weeks of training!