Update from Casey


This week marked one year since we put Casey on the truck back to Guide Dogs for the Blind. So I took that as an excuse to send a quick email to Casey and her partner. I was so excited when I got an email including photos back! Here are some excerpts:

Casey and I are doing really well. Casey has settled into the school routine nicely and has been well received at the law building. She provides comic relief in lectures because she tends to groan, snore and grunt her way through class! We have some long days – I have night classes on Tues. and Thurs. but she manages to get me home safely which I very much appreciate.

I just ordered her a raincoat because she HATES the rain! We have had nothing but sun all summer and fall – very unusual. It just started raining really hard a couple of days ago. She does not like puddles – avoids them like the plague, and slows down to a crawl when it rains. Did you guys notice this? I am hoping the raincoat will make her happier – rainboots might be next!

She’s also doing well at the swimming pool where I swim (she stays on deck with a tie down). She keeps a watchful eye on me when I get into the pool but eventually has a nap.

She happily chews on her nylabone and rolls around on her back, chasing her tail a few times a day. Our cat, Sammy, is still quite cranky about her but she steers clear of him. We have many, many different routes that we do around the neighbourhood and she knows them all – loves the chip trails at a nearby park and walking near the ocean. I love being able to go out for pleasure walks now – was not able to do that before, and now I walk a ton with her which is amazing. We get our fresh air and exercise every day.


Casey and her “cousin” Jasper

Nothing makes my day better than an email from one of pups unless it is an email from one of our pups including photos and I got both! We hadn’t heard any thing since just after they got home from class and I was concerned that we were going to have any ongoing contest with Casey. So this email was even more cherished. I sure hope that we can have some contact with the puppies we raise as they move on to the main purpose of their lives.



Casey’s Book

For each of the puppies we raise for Guide Dogs for the Blind, I make a book about them and their puppyhood. I finish it up once the puppy has graduated or moved on to his or her chosen career. Casey’s is now finished and I have a hard copy, printed on Blurb.com for Carrie, her handler.

To make getting each book completed more doable, I have a basic template for all the books with two main color schemes depending on if the pup is black or yellow. I change the accent colors and font to reflect the personality of the puppy. Using the first letter of their name, I pick words that help to describe the traits of each puppy. I find it a fun way to tell about a puppies growing up years in a non-chronological way.

Casey’s Book

Casey comes from breeding stock of the highest caliber. Her dad, Jay, was donated to Guide Dogs for the Blind from Korea and the Asian Guide Dog Breeding Network (AGBN). Exchanges between Guide Dog schools is part of an on going effort to improve the quality of dogs world wide.

The first word that comes to mind in describing Casey is calm. She is by far the calmest puppy we have raised for GDB and I think the calmest we have seen grow-up in our puppy club. She is content to hang out and wait but she is always happy to be out and about too. Casey is amazing in her ability to deal with lots of excitement around her and still keep her calm attitude. I doubt we will ever see another puppy quite like Casey.

Our house is built so the main floor cantilevers out over the basement.  This create a narrow ledge by the stairs that go upstairs from the split level entrance. I’ve tried to keep this ledge blocked off so that our puppies in training don’t get out on the ledge and then fall off and hurt themselves.
Well it didn’t take Casey long to figure out a way to get past the barrier but she didn’t fall off so eventually I just removed the barrier.  She only fell off once that I can remember and that was when she was laying down. In getting off the ledge she really has developed her skills at backing up.
I think she really liked to go out here because it put her at eye level with whoever was walking up the stairs. She also used it to keep Waffle (another puppy in training), from steeling her toys, which Waffle took great joy in doing.

Casey has a captivating personality. While being calm by nature she also loves to have fun and interact with the world. When she wags her tail her whole body gets involved. Her sweet nature is so charming that everyone loves her.

Casey has been blessing with a very loving and caring spirit. She seems to sense when someone is in need to some puppy love. One in the grocery store I notice that someone down the aisle had Casey’s attention. This was unusually because she was so far way and  Casey was so focused on her. When the lady got closer we allowed Casey to interact with her and they enjoyed a few moments together.
We never learned why Casey gave her special attention but she has shown over and over again an uncanny ability to recognize those that she can help with her loving and caring.

Like most labs, Casey is a happy soul. She enjoys life to the fullest and is pleasant to be around. Casey loves it when the door bell rings and the opportunity to meet someone new or to see and old friend appears. She thinks that everyone is her friend.

Casey has been cherished all of her life. Guide Dogs for the Blind has volunteers who go into the whelping kennels to lovingly handle this precious puppies.
That didn’t change when she was placed in my arms as she came off the puppy truck. There was a moment of shock when it was a little black lab instead of the yellow lab that we had been expecting but we didn’t care what color she was. It only took a second to fall in love with this sweet little girl.
She was amazingly easy to raise and stole the hearts of everyone who met her. Casey will touch many more lives in her future and she will be cherished by everyone of them.

Casey loves to chew. Her favorite nylabone shapes are the wish bone and the ring. She chewed through three wishbones while she was a puppy plus a ring and she even chewed the end off a Goughnuts stick so that it had to be replaced.  She also destroyed a couple of Kongs.
When she really gets into a chewing mode, her lips get all slobbery and her paws get wet too.

If Casey has a flaw it is her drive to keep things clean. We often refer to her has our Hoover Girl because she is always looking for an opportunity to get that last little crumb or lick-up that tiny spot on the floor. If she thinks she can get away with it she will go after whatever it is especially if it is edible. She is also know to clean the cupboard doors etc.

Sometimes Casey is so silly and comical. Casey lacked confidence when she was little and so we let her win at tug. This really seemed to help. She now plays what I call virtual tug because she takes turns at who wins. She actually looses on purpose so that I get to win too. Casey’s not a very good at pretending to lose. She just opens her mouth and lets go of the toy.
I really play it up after one of us wins and Casey gets all excited and wiggly. She will play this game with any toy that she can fit in her mouth, size doesn’t matter.

On May 21, 2012 just two days before her second birthday, Casey met Carrie. They trained together for two weeks at Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Oregon campus. It is interesting to note that Carrie celebrated her birthday the second week of their training. Now Casey is Carrie’s companion and partner. Carrie’s job is to love and care for Casey. Casey’s job is to love Carrie and keep her safe in their travels.

Casey has some unusual sides to her personality. She seems to have an obsession with ears. We got Casey when Banta (another puppy in training) was a year old. Casey and Banta were together for about three months. When Casey started teething she really got into chewing on Banta ears and Banta’s ears where often slobbery. One day Casey was loosing a tooth and she covered Banta’s ears with blood.
When Casey was about a year old we got Waffle. To our surprise, Casey decided that she should suck on Waffle’s ears too. We worried that Waffle’s ears would get sore with all the slobber so we used bitter apple to discourage Casey. It would work for a while but was only so effective. Neither Banta or Waffle seemed to mind.

In most ways Casey has a very compliant nature. She wants to please and she pays attention so she knows what it is you would like her to do. She was so nice to work with because of her willingness to obey. I’m sure that her compliance will serve her will in her future.

Casey is unusual in that she overlapped with three other puppies during her puppyhood. Banta was her mentor and taught her confidence. For Waffle, Casey was there through the five months we had her. They were true sisters having both affection and conflict. Casey and Yakira only had a couple of days together.

With a broad range of vocalizations, Casey is very good at expressing herself. She doesn’t really bark much but she as a full range of groans and grumbles and other little noises. She isn’t shy about sharing her feelings. Casey is so funny in they ways that she uses those subtle tones to communicate. We have never had such a verbal puppy.

Casey has ended up in costume several times over the 14 months that we had her. She looks so cute and the bright colors looks so good with her shiny black coat. I’ve ended up with costumes for Christmas, Halloween, the 4th of July and birthdays. I even made a bandana for her to wear on the day we put her on the puppy truck for GDB.

Even though Casey has a very calm way about her she knows how to have fun and just being a crazy puppy.  She of course loves to chew and she also loves to use my body parts as a prop for her toy. As Casey got older she learned to use her paws to hold her toys.  One of her favorite things to do is squirm around on her back will chewing on a favorite nylabone or dental dyno.
Sometimes Casey would race wildly through the house just for the sheer joy of running. It is so fun to see her tuck her back legs up under her body and bolt off down the hall. Then moments later she would come flying back into the room only to do it all over again.
You gotta love those crazy lab antics. They brings such youth and joy to a household.

I love cuddly puppies and Casey is one of the best cuddlers out there. Bill has a tradition of sitting down on the floor after he gets home from work each day to spend some one on one time with Casey. She would come and curl up between his legs and just revel in the attention from Bill. I have a dog bed under my desk and Casey spent lots of time curled up by my feet under my desk. We also took lots of naps together.

Besides being a calm, sweet and caring pooch, Casey completes the perfect puppy package by being cute not only in looks but also in personality. She has grown up to be an amazing dog and we so much enjoyed the time that she was part of our family.

We were so excited to finally hear the news that Casey would be a guide dog. It was a long time coming because she was in foster care with Pano for several months after she completed the final phase of training.
It was worth the wait. Casey and Carrie are a wonderful match. Casey now lives with Carrie, her husband and Sammy, their cat, in Victoria, British Columbia.
Casey was an easy puppy to raise and we hope that she will be a good guide for Carrie for many years to come, bringing joy to her life just as Casey did to ours. We look forward to hearing about their adventures together.

Update on Casey

Casey asleep on her new pillow

Casey is getting all settled into her new home as you can see from the photo above. I got an e-mail from Carrie earlier this week and here is some of what she said.

We have settled in nicely. Our plane trip home went smoothly. I even had to wake her up after the landing both times because she was sawing it off! I had a job interview first thing Monday morning, and she helped me win over the employer as I got the job (just a small part-time contract). She did great on our first day at the office last Thursday.

We are working on the cat-dog relations slowly but Sammy is coming around. Casey keeps showing Sammy how cute and playful she is but he is not quite convinced yet. We have done several long walks around my neighborhood towards the ocean and back. We’ve also gone to the pool where I swim 3 x per week and she was great on the pool deck. There are LOTS of dog distractions in my area – it is a very popular dog walking region, so we are working on that, plus trying to educate dog owners to keep moving past us as we don’t want to do the meet and greet while she’s working….

I gave her a day off today as it’s been a long week. We’re back at it this week with several appointments, bus rides, a trip to the vet to weigh her, etc. While I’m still tired and figuring out the routine, I am so thrilled to have her in my life – it is a huge difference, and I get so many smiles from the public!

Casey making friends with Sammy

It makes my day when ever I get e-mail from one of our pups and with photos it is even better. I’m so happy with the wonderful handlers for each of our first three pups.

Casey’s Graduation

Carrie and Casey outside Boccelli’s

Today Casey officially became a guide dog for her new partner Carrie. Guide Dogs for the Blind has an official graduation where the puppy raisers symbolically hands off the puppy they raised to their new handler. Before the ceremony we have an hour or so where we get to meet our puppy’s handler and see our pup that we haven’t seen since they got on the truck to return to GDB for formal harness training.

We arrived at GDB Boring, Oregon campus at 11:45 a.m. The rest of the puppy raisers where already there. Then the group went over to the dorm building. There we were taken to different areas around the building to wait for our puppy and their partner to be brought to us. Bill went off to find a bathroom and missed Casey and Carrie when they first come out. I saw them coming down the long hallway. It was so much fun to see her again. She didn’t seem much changed and was so happy to see me. She was just getting settled down when Bill came up and she practically jumped into his arms. We spent the next hour or so chatting and cuddling and petting Casey. Casey did the typical thing of rotating around between the three of us while keeping track of her training, Amy.

Me and Casey

We gave Carrie, Casey’s “Go to Bed Blanket” that I made her while she was a puppy and a couple of basic nylabones for Casey’s birthday which was last week. He handler gave us a delicious box of chocolates from Victoria. Carrie just finished her 2nd year of law school. She is thinking of becoming a law professor but hasn’t decided for sure. She lives in a small apartment in Victoria, BC with her husband and a cat. Casey is her first guide and she said there are 20 other GDB graduates on Vancouver Island. Her and Casey and a very good match, of course. Guide Dogs for the Blind is amazing at that.

Casey and Bill

We went out to eat after graduation to an Italian place in Gresham called Boccelli’s. It was a nice place to relax and get to know Carrie better. Casey and Carrie had an early trip to the airport in the morning so we took them back to campus after dinner. It was so much fun to see Casey again. She was her normal wiggly waggly self we she saw us and we enjoyed giving her lots of loves while we got to know Carrie. I’m sure that the two of them will quickly develop into an incredible team.

Casey by Carrie’s feet at dinner

Lots of Puppy News

Life has been crazy the last couple of weeks with everything going on, especially Wood Badge. That finished up yesterday, so now I’m trying to get caught up on the rest of my life. In the meantime lots of fun stuff has happened on the puppy front.

Apex and Sue are off to the Northeast for a family matter this week and Apex turned 4 years old on Thursday. I want to send him a present but it hasn’t happened yet.

I shared news about Banta last week.

The biggest news is that Casey is in class and will be graduating on June 2nd. We have been waiting since January for this news so it is extra sweet. Casey will be living with her handler in Victoria, British Columbia. This is extra neat because in about a year we are going on a cruise to Alaska with Apex and Sue and we will be with in a couple of hours of Victoria. So we will have to figure out a way to visit Casey either before or after the cruise. Casey also had a birthday this last week. On Wednesday she turned 2 years old. I’m so happy that she was partnered by her birthday.

I got a call from our club leader recently about Waffle. There was some concern about her from her last eval with our CFR (Community Field Representative) and she wanted Waffle to go to someone else for a few days to see how she is doing. So we got to pick up Waffle on Wednesday and take her to Wood Badge with us. Then Claraliz’s family and a big gathering today so she will be here until tomorrow. It was fun to take her to church today. Lots of the kids remember Waffle and enjoyed saying hi to her. When she was younger she hated when someone tried to pet the top of her head. She has grown-up and was very tolerant of all the head pats she got today. Waffle also turned 15 months old today. She will to return to Guide Dogs for the Blind on June 10th.

On the evaluation side of Waffle’s visit, she is doing good. She lacks some confidence but she handled the intensity and newness of Wood Badge very well. We didn’t see any reason she should be career changed at this point.

Next on our puppy list is Yakira. She went to Wood Badge with us the week of my birthday and she did really great. It is a noisy and busy environment with not much of a chance for the pups to really let loose. Well on Saturday afternoon an hour or two before we finished for the week Yakira went into season. So she is now on “house arrest” until 16th. This meant that Yakira couldn’t come back up to Wood Badge with us and we had to find a puppy sitter for her. There are only a few households in the club that are cleared to have an in season pup. One was going out-of-town and another is just a new puppy raiser. The last one was already puppy sitting another puppy, Pierre, so we made arrangements to swap Yakira and Pierre around. Pierre is intact so we were careful while dropping off and picking up Yakira. I made all these arrangements before I new that we were going to take Waffle with us to Wood Badge so we ended up with two dogs at Wood Badge, Waffle and Pierre.

Finally we get to Zodiac. He is really doing great. He has caught on to the relieving thing and Yakira has been a great mentor to him and teaching him how to behave. But our club leader said he was too young to go to Wood Badge. And after we got up there last week I was glad that he wasn’t there. It would have been really hard for a puppy that young. Zodiac was a one puppy sitter last week. A new raiser who is getter her first puppy on June 7th. Then for this week’s Wood Badge he went to another raiser who is also getter her first pup on the next puppy truck. When we made arrangements originally they were for Zodiac to be there until the end of Wood Badge Saturday but then we realized that it would be best for Waffle to stay with us for a couple more days. Three puppies in training is too much for one household so it worked out for Zodiac to extend his stay until Monday. We plan to pick him up late morning and get some photos of our “W”, “Y” and “Z” pups all together. It isn’t often that a raiser can have three of their pups together at one time.

Because we have Casey’s graduation this next weekend both Yakira and Zodiac will be going to puppy sitters again. Yakira will be returning to the same place as this past week but I don’t know where Zodiac will be. I’m guessing that our club leader has a spot picked out for him. Yakira’s timing on being in season was not helpful for our club leader. She was planning on Yakira being puppy sat by many of the new raisers in our club. It looks like Zodiac is getting that privilege instead. What an eventful last week or so in the puppy side of our life.

Phase 8!

Casey Close-up – photo by Lisa Thompson

We finally got news tonight that Casey is in phase 8. We haven’t seen the phase report yet but our leader used her connections to find out and will send the report along when it finally comes. Yeah Casey, way to go girl!

Phase 8 – Final Testing, Finishing and Pre-Matching

  • Final Obedience Test
  • Final Blindfold Test
  • Final Building Test
  • Final Traffic Test

NOTE: Dogs that receive passing grades are deemed “Class Ready Guides.” These dogs are fully qualified and ready to be issued to a client.

  • “Finishing” Routes
  • Practice with Less Experienced Handlers
  • NEW! Specialized Training

All dogs are introduced to hand and chair targeting. Instructors introduce pole targeting (for crosswalk buttons) on a few different routes.

  • If needed, select dogs may do custom work for identified clients (slower pace or fast pace, compromised balance — client who travels with a support cane, toed-out gait, etc.)
  • Pre Class Physicals (AKA: PCPs)
  • Final Class Preparations

Instructors size all dogs for new class collars, boots, head collars and harnesses. Pre-matches are done based on information gathered from home interview and pre-class phone call meeting.

  • Dormitory exposure

Dogs are walked through the dormitory building in preparation for their in-residence training.

  • Socialization

All specialized programs are complete for class ready dogs.
CWTs focus primarily on relaxing walks, kennel enrichment and play sessions for the dogs.

Now we just have to wait for that phone call. It should tell us she is in class. But sometimes dogs are still career changed at this late phase. The next class starts on January 16th so we could get that call as early as the 17th.

p.s. We got the phase report on Friday and Casey’s brother Crosby is in class scheduled to graduate on January 14th. Also Radison and Snickers are in phase 8 too.

Phase 7

Casey with gold bow around neck – photo by Lisa Thompson

Our CFR is still out so I just got the note from Lindsey today that Casey and Radison are both in phase 7! It is hard to believe that their training is almost done. I look forward each week to Thursday to find out how our sweet little girl is doing. Keep it up girl. You are almost there.

Phase 7 – Advanced Training
Obedience and Distraction Training

Continues as in phase 6. Dogs are handled by different instructors to teach them good responses are expected with new handlers.

Guidework Training
Advanced training includes work in both suburban and urban areas, and requires forward-looking decision-making (initiative).
These routes can consist of:

  •  City traffic patterns
  •  Difficult crossings
  •  Difficult clearance situation
  •  Areas with a challenging line
  •  Animal distractions
  •  Surface issues
  •  Curb approach challenges
  •  Pedestrian islands
  •  Crowded sidewalks
  •  Different pedestrian climate
  •  Additional city bus exposure
  •  Additional rapid transit ride exposure
  •  Additional and multiple escalators
  •  Rounded corners

Escalator Training Continues
Dogs now independently board, ride and exit.

Platform Training Continues
Avoidance of drop-off edges on pedestrian platforms of subway and rail systems.
Boarding and exiting trains.

Overhead Obstacle Clearance Training
Advanced overhead training occurs both on campus and in town, when available.

Continue as in previous phases, as needed.
Leash relieving practice on cement surfaces continues. Dogs that are not comfortable do additional socialization, as needed.