Pupdate – Banta & Casey

Mark, Banta and a friend at the Bolder 10K


This week marks two years since Banta and Mark graduated from the San Rafael campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Here is what Mark had to say about their anniversary:

“It has been a very quick two years.  Each day for the last two weeks I have been thinking about what we did in training that day two years ago.  It is all good memories.  I have really enjoyed Banta and she has taught me a lot about patience.  I can not imagine a more perfect puppy at this time in my life, I love her to death.”


We got a wonderful email for Carrie and Casey this week. Carrie has finished law school and is now studying for the bar. She already has a job lined up for when she passes the bar. Here is what Carrie had to say about the past year:

“Casey is such a joy, I love her to pieces and she has saved me on quite a few occasions (stopping when I didn’t see a car pulling out of a driveway, disobeying my forward command when I didn’t see stairs, etc.). She has such a bounce in her step and playful spirit. Everyone who meets her, loves her. Her coat shimmers, and everyone comments on how she still looks like such a puppy. I have so much gratitude for her and cherish every moment with her. She has her head on my feet right now, as we prepare for another long week. I gave her today off and free ran her at a local schoolyard, then let her have a long sniff.”

Here are some photos from their recent vacation:


Pupdate – Zodiac

Zodiac was on the phase 0 report this week! Yeah! I know it may seem silly to be so excited to see his name but it seems like a little text message from our boy saying, “I’m here and doing fine.” The harness training at Guide Dogs for the Blind is broken into 8 phases plus they have what they call phase zero for when they dogs first get to campus, get physicals, adjust etc.

Here is the second spread in Zodiac’s puppyhood book.

“One day when he was young the back door wasn’t latched and Zodiac had a digging adventure out in the back yard. It took me a while to figure out how he got such a dirty nose in his “just earned my puppy coat” pictures.One of the zaniest things that Zodiac loves to do is dig in his empty dog dish. I usually take it to mean that he would like some ice cubes. Zodiac loves ice cubes! He will grab an ice-cube or two and dash into the living room to munch down on them or chase them around the kitchen.”

Phase Zero: Arrival Period

Before formal training begins, the new dog is introduced to the GDB kennels, campus walks and the formal training program.

Health Screening and Kennel Socialization

During this important transitional period, each dog receives a preliminary physical exam, performed by a Canine Welfare Technician (CWT). The CWT thoroughly inspects each dog from head to tail and checks the nose, teeth, eyes, ears, coat, skin and feet. Any ailments, abnormalities or concerns are noted and brought to the attention of GDB’s veterinary staff. Most dogs that enter training are in excellent condition, although some may require medication for minor ailments such as an ear or eye infections.
During the first week on campus, dogs receive the following:

  • Hip X-rays
  • A formal in-for-training physical by a GDB veterinarian
  • An eye exam by a veterinary ophthalmology specialist
  • An accurate weight

During the veterinary physical examination, each dog also receives vaccines for:

  • Distemper Adenovirus
  • Parvovirus
  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordatella
  • Rabies

Once physical examinations are finished, each dog is formally assigned to a group of dogs (called a “string”) and a specific training kennel. Instructors train four dogs at a time, which enables them to get the dogs out approximately twice a day, every day. A string can range from 8 to 20 dogs, depending on the campus, staffing capabilities and overall class matching needs.

During this introductory period, each dog’s personality and manageability are evaluated to help prepare instructors in how to motivate and teach each dog most effectively.

Phase Zero normally coincides with the team of instructors returning from a session in class followed by visits to
clients in their home areas. Prior to the team’s return, CWTs, float instructor staff, and qualified volunteers care for the new dogs helping them adapt to the kennel environment in an engaging and positive manner. Dogs are initially put into a kennel by themselves, which is conducive to cuddling and ice cube enrichment. Once X-rays and physicals are done, dogs are often paired (“doubled”) together in a kennel.

Week Zero Activities

  • Walks on campus and playtime in an enclosed grass paddock
  • Doubling kennelmates that play well together
  • Daily grooming
  • Medication administration, as needed
  • Human and dog interactive play or cuddle sessions
  • Introduction to community run playtime
  • Kennel enrichment activities

Kennel enrichment is anything that stimulates the senses and puts the dogs at ease in a kennel environment. The primary focus of the CWTs is to care for and provide kennel enrichment for the dogs. Some enrichment activities take place daily for every dog, other activities are done intermittently, and others still are targeted towards specific dogs (for example, dogs that are slow to adjust to kennel life; boarding or retired guides; career change dogs, and breeding stock dogs waiting for homes). Kennel enrichment activities are continuously evolving and the CWT staff is always coming up with ways to entertain and stimulate the dogs. Enrichment activities are many, including:

  • Bones and chewable toys; food stuffed Kongs and ice cubes
  • Hanging toys with or without food in them
  • Plush and squeaky toys–closely monitored (not recommended for raisers or clients)
  • Interactive toys (rings, etc.)
  • Baby pools filled with water or a toy and/or playground equipment
  • Scents: vanilla, peppermint, anise, lemon, almond, etc sprayed in the kennel
  • Bubbles, mirrors, wind catchers, sound machines, music
  • T-Touch, Pilates, massage and Reiki
  • Behavior training for dogs that need additional socialization, or for career change dogs or breeder dogs awaiting placement.
  • Exercise: walks, treadmill, enclosed grass paddocks
  • Cuddle time

Training Department staff carefully observes each new string of dogs to make sure that each dog makes as smooth an adjustment to the kennels as possible.

Selected dogs may receive any additional attention in the following areas as needed:

  • Agility programs
  • Extra play sessions in community run
  • Frequent walks on campus
  • Consistent, supervised time in the Training Department office
  • Nights spent supervised in the dormitory
  • Any specialized programs specific to the needs of that dog (vet care, extra time in the office, etc.)

(from Guide Dogs for the Blind Phase Descriptions)


Adjectives for Focus

DOABLE Sidebar DMaking a list of adjectives that describe  what you want your finished story project to be can help you stay focused on the desired outcome. Think of the words not only as guides but also as inspiration as you move forward with your project. It would be a great to post your list of adjectives where you can see them and remember why you are doing your story project. You could add sketches or pictures or anything that helps to communicate the feelings you want your project to generate in those you will share it with.

Using “My Grandma Mary” again as an example, here are a list of adjectives for what I hoped to do:

  • appealing (I wanted it to draw the child into the story)
  • accurate (I wanted it be true to the known facts)
  • ageless (I hoped to appeal to many age groups for many years to come)
  • appropriate (I wanted the information shared to take into account the age of the target audience)
  • courageous (I wanted the courage of Mary and the other pioneer to be felt)
  • determined (I wanted the reader to understand that it took determination to reach Utah)
  • grandmotherly (I wanted the reader to relate to Mary Taylor as if she were their own grandma)
  • happy (I wanted the happy times of Mary’s life and journey to be present too)
  • hopeful (I wanted the kids to know that they can have hope even when things are at their worst)
  • hungry (I wanted them to understand how very hungry she was)
  • inspirational (I wanted Mary’s story to inspire them)
  • short (I wanted to keep the story short and easily read in a few minutes)
  • spiritual (I wanted the reader to feel Mary’s testimony)
  • thankful (I wanted the reader to feel Mary’s gratitude despite the trials of her life)

Another thing to keep in mind as you start on a new story project is who the intended audience is. With “My Grandma Mary” I kept in mind that I wanted it to most appealing for kids between 5 and 10 years old. Remembering this helped with many important decisions along the way.

Try making an adjective list about a new story project or one that you are already working on and see if the process is helpful for you.

The Many Mediums of a Story Project

DOABLE Sidebar DLet’s say that you’ve narrowed down your story project and have a good idea of what you want to do and why you want to do this story project, the next big question is what medium to do want to use to tell this story?

I’ll use my great-great-grandmother, Mary Taylor again as an example. I knew I wanted to do a story project about her and I had decided that I wanted to focus on her journey from England to Utah with the Martin Handcart company. I also knew that I wanted to do something that would be appealing to kids. I figured that if it was approachable for kids, adults would take time to learn about Mary Taylor too.

So looking at the 100 story projects post, and narrow it down. My first run through I deleted things that weren’t about her journey. That got me down to about 40 Then I deleted those that would not be very appealing to children. That took off about 20 more. Next I looked again at which ones would really tell the story of her journey and not just aspects of her experience and would appeal to kids ages 5 to 10. That got me down to the following list:

  1. make a story book with illustration of Mary’s childhood and journey to Zion (did that – it is so close to being ready to publish)
  2. make that story book into an ebook
  3. make that story book into an enhanced ebook with sound etc.
  4. make that story book into a video with narration and background music
  5. make a coloring book about Mary’s life (I could probably adapt the illustrations from “My Grandma Mary” for this)
  6. design surprise balls that tell a story about Mary Taylor
  7. make puppets to act out stories from Mary Taylor’s life
  8. make a video of the puppet show
  9. put together a story box about Mary Taylor

Looking at this more focused short list you could do some more brainstorming and ask yourself are there some different media that I could use to expand this list. Here are some extra ideas that come to mind:

  • make an animated video using claymation or other media
  • make paper dolls for the characters in Mary’s story
  • instead of having an adult illustrate the book have a child or children draw the images after learning about Mary’s story

The first five could be grouped together, because in completing the first one (make a story book), much of the work is already done for the next three. It is sharing it and enhancing it in different ways. Using different media. In some ways the story box could be the final end of several story projects about Mary Taylor all with the goal in mind of creating a story box about her life and/or her journey to Utah in 1856. The box could contain the story book and/or ebook, video etc, a coloring book, puppets and a script or scripts to perform or a video, and a surprise ball as a kind of summary of Mary’s story and trinkets to remind the kids what they learned about their ancestor. That would be really cool.

I didn’t make this list when I started the story book about Mary’s journey, but if I had I would then need to choose which story project to do first. The story box would be out because it is more appropriate as a long-term goal. Someone with more experience with puppets and script writing might pick that as a first project. But since my experience is mainly with books I would probably still pick that as my first project. Even the color book idea is a natural extension of the story book. If I was more comfortable with video that could be the starter project and then the book would be taken from still of the video. There are lots of options and mediums. Which one or ones you choose depends on you, your talents, your interests and your resources. The story book project turned out to be perfect for me because my niece was on board to illustrate it.

Does this example help you to see how to take a long list that you have brainstormed and narrow it down. There is not one right answer for a story project. Follow your intuition and move forward. This can be a fun process so let it inspire you. Then keep that vision alive as you take the many steps to complete your story project.

I’ve been inspired by this brainstorming exercise, I hope you have too. Now it is time for you to do something similar for your next story project!


100 Story Project Ideas

DOABLE Sidebar DThere are so many types of story projects. Let’s use one of my projects as an example. Many months ago I decided I wanted to learn more about my great-great-grandmother, Mary Taylor and share some of that with my family. This has lead to several story projects about her that I’ve already done and many more that I would like to do. I’m sure there are even more that I haven’t even thought of yet. Let’s see how many different story projects I can come up with about Mary Taylor:

  1. go to Martin’s Cove for a hands on experience (did that)
  2. make a video from our experience in Martin’s Cove
  3. make a simple book to share with family about her life and her journey with the Martin handcart company (did that)
  4. build a handcart replica
  5. live for one day or even one meal on the rations that the Martin Handcart company had
  6. reenact the journey of the Martin Handcart company from its start in Liverpool England to its arrival in the Salt Lake Valley
  7. build a diorama of Coton-on-the-Elms
  8. build a model of the ship Horizon
  9. follow the journey of the Martin Handcart company day by day in 1856 (did that)
  10. make a serial graphic novel based on the experiences of the hardcart pioneers
  11. share it to coincide with Mary’s journey to Zion
  12. travel to England the area that Mary grew up
  13. write about my experiences and share it with my family
  14. use google earth to take a virtual journey to Mary’s birthplace
  15. use google earth to follow Mary’s journey with the Martin Handcart company
  16. make it into a video to share with others
  17. using google earth create a virtual scavenger hunt about Mary’s life and the places she has been
  18. make a story book with illustration of Mary’s childhood and journey to Zion (did that – it is so close to being ready to publish)
  19. make that story book into an ebook
  20. make that story book into an enhanced ebook with sound etc.
  21. make that story book into a video with narration and background music
  22. using family members make a video about Mary Taylor
  23. make a music video with Mary favorite song “The Handcart Song”
  24. learn the Mary’s childhood song “In the Merry Green Fields of Oland” similar to “Old McDonald
  25. make an illustrated video of “In the Merry Green Fields of Oland”
  26. make an illustrated children’s book inspired by “In the Merry Green Fields of Oland”
  27. create a board game inspired by the handcart pioneers
  28. learn and then teach how to play the game “Going to Zion”
  29. learn to make simple toys from Mary’s time and share them with my family
  30. make a video game inspired by the experiences of the handcart pioneers
  31. Gather photos of all the known possessions of Mary Taylor and put them into a book form to share with family, including stories about each item
  32. also share that book as an ebook
  33. learn about cooking in the late 19th century in England and Utah
  34. make how to videos to share what I learn
  35. make a cookbook with recipes that Mary probably cooked
  36. learn homemaking skills for the late 19th century
  37. learn about dressmaking in the 1850s
  38. learn about the French surge dress we have that Mary made
  39. create a modern-day pattern for her dress
  40. create craft and/or home decor ideas using Mary’s dress making skills
  41. make a quilt about Mary’s Life
  42. make a quilt about the Martin Handcart Company
  43. make patterns for those quilts to share with others including the stories behind the blocks chosen
  44. learn about the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when that Mary joined the church in England
  45. watch “Seventeen Miracles” and/or other pioneer movies as a family
  46. organize a Mary Taylor descendants reunion
  47. compile all the descendants of Mary Taylor into a book
  48. make a Facebook page for the descendants of Mary Taylor
  49. design a charm necklace/key chain in honor of Mary Taylor
  50. visit Mary’s grave site
  51. visit all know locations that she lived
  52. do a “decades” book about Mary’s life
  53. do something everyday for one year to honor Mary
  54. compile those experiences into a book
  55. compile those experiences into a video
  56. write a book about what Mary has taught me
  57. design surprise balls that tell a story about Mary Taylor
  58. create a memory jar in honor of Mary and/or my experiences learning about her
  59. put together a story box about Mary Taylor
  60. make a music cd inspire by Mary Taylor including “The Handcart Song”, “In the Merry Green Fields of Oland” and other songs from the late 19th century
  61. make a shadow box about Mary Taylor (I’ve sort of done this with a tea-cup that was hers but there is much more that I could do)
  62. make a coloring book about Mary’s life (I could probably adapt the illustration from “My Grandma Mary” for this)
  63. give a gift basket inspired by Mary Taylor – include other story project like “My Grandma Mary” in the basket
  64. make a memory wreath about Mary Taylor
  65. make an old-fashioned Christmas wreath inspired by Mary Taylor with decoration from the late 19th century
  66. make a doll house inspired by one of Mary Taylor’s homes
  67. research the history of each of Mary’s last names: Taylor, Upton, Simmons and Robinson
  68. put together a book about Mary’s names
  69. find any coat of arms from Mary’s history or design a coat of arms inspired by her life
  70. make t-shirts inspired by Mary Taylor
  71. find and/or create maps about Mary Taylor’s life
  72. make a calendar for the coming year with all the important dates in Mary Taylor’s life
  73. celebrate Mary Taylor’s birthday
  74. make a trivia game with facts about Mary Taylor and life in the late 19th century
  75. make an audio record of stories about Mary Taylor – recruit family members to help with this project
  76. make puppets to act out stories from Mary Taylor’s life
  77. make a video of the puppet show
  78. pick one of Mary’s home and research the history of that spot
  79. make duplicates of the photo we have of Mary Taylor and make sure everyone in the family has a copy
  80. create a collage about Mary Taylor
  81. make a Christmas ornament with Mary Taylor’s photo
  82. make or find Christmas ornaments like those common in Mary’s Life time
  83. plan a Christmas meal similar to what Mary Taylor would have enjoyed
  84. decorate your house and/or Christmas tree in the way in would have been done in the late 19th century
  85. make flash cards about Mary Taylor’s life
  86. make flash cards about the Willie and Martin Handcart companies
  87. make a memory game inspired by Mary Taylor
  88. gather family traditions from the late 19th century and choose a few to make a part of your traditions in honor of Mary Taylor
  89. keep a record of your new family traditions so that future generations will know where they came from
  90. set up a photo shoot inspired by the late 19th century and invite family members to get their photos taken
  91. compile these photos into a book to share with everyone
  92. make an advent calendar inspired by Mary Taylor and/or the late 19th century
  93. make a puzzle with Mary Taylor’s picture or a collage or a set of puzzles from the illustrations in “My Grandma Mary” book
  94. make a family tree that shows the connection between Mary Taylor and each family member
  95. make a Christmas card inspire by Mary Taylor (did that)
  96. make a time capsule with all the things we all the Mary Taylor story projects
  97. write a song about Mary Taylor and what she means to me
  98. make a family planner with facts about Mary Taylor and important dates in her life
  99. make an infographic about Mary Taylor
  100. have “Mary Taylor” come for dinner

Most of these idea could be applied to your ancestor and there are many more story project ideas that you could come up with. There is no shortage of ideas. The challenge is to choose one and make it happen. Remember to start with smaller simpler projects.

Did my list inspire you? If you don’t already have a story project you are working on, I challenge you to decide on one today.

Shadow from A to Z

The sixth anniversary of our pet dog, Shadow’s, passing was just a few days ago so I thought this would be a good time to share this project. I put this book together a couple of years after Shadow died. It was my way of writing his life history but not in a chronological way. I used the letter so f the alphabet and chose words that described Shadow as the structure for telling stories about his life with us. This book was therapeutic for me and in many ways is a legacy for all the puppies we are now raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind. It is the precursor for all the puppyhood books I am doing for them. I used digital scrapbooking papers and elements on the pages.

Do you have a story project that would lend itself to the alphabet approach instead of the more traditional chronological approach?

Joy Jar

P1040284A fairly normal week other than adjusting to Zodiac’s departure. It is nice that things have really warmed up and summer is on its way.

  • taking a nap
  • talking with my dad
  • sunshine
  • Casey’s 3rd birthday
  • Dune and Beacon snuggling
  • Dune’s personality
  • hiking with Dune
  • Bill getting home
  • email and photos from Waffle
  • snuggling with Dune
  • finishing planting my garden
  • Apex’s 5th birthday
  • getting a hair cut
  • raising Zodiac
  • dejunking the house
  • a one dog household
  • finishing Volume 6 of “Our Family”
  • growing things
  • hair out of my eyes
  • finishing watching the RootsTech feed

Pupdate – Apex, Banta, Casey, Waffle & Yakira

We have had news from several of our puppies over the last couple of weeks. It always makes my day when I see something in my in-box from one of them.

Apex on the cruise to Alaska


Today is Apex’s 5th birthday. He is getting a doggie cake made from dog food, fruits and veggies. It is vet approved. Photos will be coming later of his celebration. We also got a few photos from their recent trip to Alaska. What a lucky dog!

Glacier Bay National Park


Two years ago Banta was in class. Mark said last week “Banta has been an awesome guide, even with some of her stubborn traits.” They enjoy participating in 5k and 10k walks on many weekends during the summer months. They are doing a 10k in Bolder this weekend.


Casey’s 3rd birthday was yesterday. And last year at this time she was in class preparing for graduation with her handler. My how time flies.




Earlier this month marked two years since we first met Waffle. And this week I got an email from Carole and Waffle, including photos.

Waffle is doing wonderfully! She is incredibly smart and likes agility and playing with other dogs. She also has quite an independent streak like to go off exploring on her own whenever possible.

Waffle and Tucker


Last month I got an email from Diane and Yakira. They have had some adjustments as a team, which is normal. But with adjustments they are back to being a happily working team again.

Pupdate – Zodiac

from Zodiac’s puppyhood book

No news on Zodiac this week. He hasn’t made it to the phase report yet but I didn’t see any of the pups that were on the truck with him either. He should show up next week, unless the holiday weekend disrupts things. But in many ways no news is good news at this point. A phone call would be a really bad thing. It could only mean that he was career changed.

At this point I would expect that he is getting adjusted to the routines on Guide Dogs for the Blind’s campus. They usually have a kennel mate and Zodiac will have a canine welfare technician to make sure he is healthy and happy. The will also be doing medical exams and he will have walks and playtime.

Above is the first spread in Zodiac’s puppyhood book. I’ll post one spread each week along with an update on how he is doing in training. Here is the text for that page:

Most puppy raisers think their dog is the cutest, but of course they are wrong, Zodiac is really the cutest puppy ever! He was a very solidly built. At 13 months he was 65 lbs. even though he isn’t a very tall dog. I expect he will put on a few more pounds as his muscles continue to develop. Zodiac has matured into a very handsome nicely put together dog.