Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. I got a great gift today. Fable was in phase 4 on the phase report this morning. Good job little girl! She is moving along at a nice steady pace. Hopefully this will continue, through with the holidays her trainer maybe taking so days off that could affect her progress and the progress of her string. That is what happened over Thanksgiving. But since I’m tracking all the dogs on the phase report it is easy to see if the other dogs that are most likely in her string are moving along the same way she is. Just one more phase report for the year. I’m proud of Fable for making it this far and though I hope she will become a guide dog, it is more important that she be doing something that she enjoys, even if that isn’t being a guide dog.
Still behind on pupdates, but Fable moved on to phase 3 last week. Hoping for phase 4 tomorrow in her training to become a guide dog. Here is what they learn in phase 3:
- 3rd up-curb exercise
- dog boot intros
- preliminary obedience & guide work testing (instructor under blindfold)
I wonder how she will take to the booties? Sometimes she can be kind of body sensitive. Kind of exciting that she is doing her first blindfold test too. I wonder if this is a phase that gets many dogs career changed. I think I’ll check it out….
So I checked over the phase reports for 2015 and I learned some things. Not too surprising the largest number of career changes happen in phase 0, the medical evaluation stage. I have 28 dogs who showed up on the phase report in 0 and then were career changed. Only 12 dogs were dropped after phase 1. Then there is a big jump in phase 2 and phase 3 with 23 dogs being cc’d in each of these phases. Phase 4 is 15 dogs. Phase 5 jumps a bit to 18. Then in drops off to 7 dogs dropped in both phase 6 and 7. Another surprise is the number of dogs career changed in phase 8. I had down 18 dogs. Plus there could be more that I don’t know about. Of course there are final tests on phase 8 as they make sure that dogs are ready to be guide dogs before they are matched and train with their new partners for two weeks in class.
So Fable is at a critical point in her training right now. Not sure how the holidays will effect her progress. I’m sure that the trainers take at least a little time off during Christmas and New Years.
I’ve neglected updating on Fable’s progress in formal harness training. On this last week’s report she was in phase 2, after being in phase 1 for two weeks. This was most likely due to the Thanksgiving holiday as only a few dogs moved to the next phase last week. In phase 2 she is learning:
- Pattern training continues
- 2nd up-curb exercise
- distraction route in town
- responsible lead exercise
- food protocol continues
I finally got Fable’s official portrait picked, printed, stretched and hung on our wall. We have nine photos up there now. Some how nine seems like so much more than eight. I think some of it is that I had two rows of four photos and now I have three rows of three. It fills the wall up very differently. I put up enough nails when I started this wall above our stairs for the alphabet so it is easy to rearrange the photos as we add more puppies. I need to get on doing a photo shoot for Galaxy. She turned 7 months old this week. I’d like to have her portrait up by the time we have her going away party, not almost 7 weeks after she leaves for training.
Things have been crazy on the dog front around here lately. Before we knew that Galaxy was coming, I agreed to help out a guide dog user who was having foot surgery and needed someone to take care of her guide dog while she is recovering. So we have had a three dogs here for the last couple of weeks. Holly is a good dog but the mix of the three of them is a handful at times. We have put x-pens and gates to good use every day. The three of them love to play with the Jolly Ball in the back yard.
Galaxy is amazing in her resilience in playing with the bigger dogs. She never gets intimidated and jumps right back into the ruckus even when she gets knocked over. One thing for sure, is I’m not ready to have a three dog household for any extended period of time. It took me about a week to realize the alphabetical serendipity of having an “H” named dog to add to our “F” & “G” dogs.
We were privileged to spend a whole week with two of the puppies we raised, Apex and Yakira. They flew in from Florida, with their owners just to visit us and do some sightseeing in the area. They are both healthy and happy in their careers and their lives in general.
We got gate passes so we could “help” Sue and Sharan, but it was really so we could see our pups asap. When they saw us they got super excited and ran to greet us. Not sure what everyone at the gate thought but it was super fun to have two happy black labs come running to say hi. It was so great going places with them.
Only fly in the ointment was Fable was in heat so she had to stay home. We did borrow another puppy in training, Tamara, for a few days. I wonder what people thought to see three black labs traveling around together. There favorite activity was watching the Tabernacle Choir practice.
I was sad to see them go. Too bad they don’t live down the street so we could all get together every week or so. Can’t wait until we can swing a trip to Florida to visit them!
We got word yesterday that Emma has been dropped from consideration as a breeder. She will be spayed and when she has healed she will start training to be a guide dog. She was dropped for TVD (Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia). It is a congenital and heritable heart defect that is fairly common in labs. Her condition is referred to as equivocal which means that the EKG shows she is in the gray area of the condition. From my research they don’t really know how much valve leakage is “normal” in dogs. It seems Emma has some leakage but not enough to be a problem for her health. But since it is an inheritable condition they don’t want to use dogs with even the equivocal form of the disease. I wonder if this is the same reason Yakira was dropped. All we found out for here was that her EKG wasn’t perfect.
Now the waiting begins for Emma to show up on the weekly phase reports. My guess is that it will be at least two weeks but could be as long as 4 more weeks. It would have been fun to see little Emma pups but I didn’t really expect her to be selected for breeding. Just doesn’t seem to be our lot to raiser breeders. I’m super happy to be raising guide dogs.
p.s. Fable is making great progress and is a fun and sometimes challenging puppy but very sweet and cute.
p.s.s. Today marks 5 years since we put Apex on the truck back to GDB to start his training as a guide dog.
As I looked back I realized I haven’t done an update on most of my pups since March so here goes:
Apex, the senior pup of the group turned 6 years old in May. He is still a happy and healthy boy. They went on a cruise to Key West in the spring. Apex is a frequent traveler. I wish I traveled to as many fun places as he does. Sue retired from a long-time position a couple of months ago, so Apex’s days are a little slower, though she has been super busy taking care of family and friends in need. Sue starts a substitute teaching job this fall. I’m sure Apex will enjoy being around the kids again after the summer off.
Banta still loves being a guide dog. She and Mark went out to dinner a while ago and as they were leaving a group of people where admiring Banta. One of them said, “your dog looks so happy.” She had her head and tail up and wagging as they walked out. Mark loves her spunky personality. They are such a perfect match. He wrote this about her recently:
She has learned a new bad habit. When we are going home and I have my cane, I undo her leash when we are getting close to our back gate. She lets me walk about 5 feet and then runs and either jumps and hits me in the back or runs around and punches me in the stomach. She does this about every 5 feet until we get home. It probably does not help that I start to laugh and give her treats when she punches me. Sometimes I reach out to grab her and she will jump and do a 360 turn in the air, of course that is worth another treat.
Casey and Carrie spent 10 days in Italy this year. She enjoyed the cobblestone streets and lounging in the sun. When they got home Carrie went through the final ceremonies for becoming a lawyer. She is working in the same firm where she articled. They moved her office to the sunny side of the building so that Casey could enjoy the sun. She is a fair weather girl.
Waffle met Carole two years ago on Sunday. She gained another sibling this year. It is a four dog household now. With Emma going to San Rafael there is a good chance we will be taking a trip there in a few months. Waffle lives in the area so I’m hoping the timing works out to see Waffle and meet Carole while we are there. No new photos of Waffle to share but Carole posted this Short Video on Facebook. I think you will be able to see it. Waffle plays the supporting role to her sister Shelley.
Yakira got to go on her first cruise in May. Apex who is a veteran cruiser was there to show her the ropes. So awesome that two of our pups got to go on a cruise together. Sharan had hip replacements soon after the cruise and is now starting to get out and about again. Yakira is enjoying life in Florida at just the pace she likes, slow and easy.
Zodiac and David just passed their year mark as a team this month. They are now officially a successful guide dog team. Zodiac is devoted to David and remains the same fun-loving dog he was as a puppy. I am hoping to plan a road trip to Missouri to see them in the near future.
Dune and Ashleigh have been a team for two months now. Though she is not a fan of the Arizona heat she loves being a guide dog. Here is some of what Ashleigh has said about Dune:
I have to say, Dune is an amazing guide. Dune is a spark plug. She always wants to get going and I am so happy to see her tail wag when I grab the harness. I really have seen her excitement and joy at being told she did a great job and getting a good pat on the head. It makes me smile regularly to see her tail wag in excitement at finding that tricky doorway or that randomly placed light post.
Emma will be getting on the puppy truck in two weeks from tomorrow. The last few weeks always go so fast. So much to fit into those last days. I never seem to get enough photos taken. I still need a really good picture for her official portrait. We are having the traditional farewell party for Emma a week from Sunday in the afternoon. If you are in the area and want to come let me know and I’ll send you our address. We are going to miss her lots, but she is ready to go and I’m excited to see if she wants to be a guide dog.
F puppy comes in just 13 days! Time to get geared up for a cute but clueless puppy. It is such a shock to go from a well-trained dog to the brand new puppy but it is also fun to see them for the first time, learn their name, and get to figure out their personality. Each puppy is different and we learn so much from each one of them. Still time to add names to the name guessing contest.
Boy that took longer than I planned. Guess I’d better do updates on the pups as they come in instead of doing them all at once. It will be my goal to get updates done every Friday.
We are off for a quick weekend camping trip so I’m taking a vacation from the writing challenge today, but I thought I’d share this crazy video I put together for Dune. The lyrics were a collaborative effort of an email group I’m on called the GDB Lounge with guide dog users and puppy raisers. I song is so much fun that we did our best to sing it at Dune’s graduation. It certainly isn’t a musical master piece but it is very Dune. I hope you enjoy it and that our very imperfect voices don’t mess up the spirit of the video too much. Click on the image above to see the video.
It has been more than a week since Dune graduated as a guide dog to Ashleigh! It was so much fun to see her. She looked so happy and healthy. Ashleigh is very good with handling Dune and her energetic personality. The class supervisor called Dune a pistol. She loves guiding and I think she will be a great guide dog for Ashleigh once she adjusts to the heat of Arizona. Yeah Dune! We are so proud of our spunky little girl. Here is a very crazy video of the moment we saw Dune for the first time since February.