Pupdate: Yakira, Dune & Emma

Yakira’s first Halloween

The biggest thing this week on the puppy front is having the plans in place to get Yakira to her new home in Florida. Her journey starts tomorrow when a generous puppy raiser will pick Yakira up from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Sunday morning they will drive her to Ontario, Oregon where we will meet them. It will be a super exciting moment to see Yakira again. We will head home as soon as we can get back on the road. Dune and Emma are joining us on the trip so it will be fun to have these three girls all together in the car.

Monday, we get to spend the whole day with Yakira just hanging out at home, having fun and taking lots of pictures. I’m sure a few of Yakira’s friends will stop by to see her too.

Tuesday morning we take Yakira to the airport for the last leg of her journey to Florida. She will arrive late afternoon to a very excited and loving new owner and an amazing extended family. I can’t wait to hear about her new like and see photos of Yakira and Apex together.

This week Dune had her first official eval. It went pretty well. She had some trouble with not wanting to lay down for our CFR (Community Field Representative) and her toe nails need trimming.

Emma is a fast growing, happy little puppy. She got all her shots last Friday and so now has lots more option socializing. Emma is a wonderful combination of calmness and confidence.



Pupdate: Yakira

Yakira at six months

It was kind of strange today, realizing that it has been a week since we got the news that Yakira had been career changed. The first few days after that were kind of crazy. We had decisions to make about her future. Since Yakira was a guide for less than a year it was our responsibility to decide what should happen. Saturday morning the perfect placement for Yakira came to light. Yakira is going to live in Florida and join Apex’s extended family. Apex’s handler, Sue was chatting with her mother about Yakira and the inspiration hit that Yakira would be the perfect companion for Sue’s mom. Sue called us to find out if it was possible and we said yes and agreed that it was a great idea.

We have spent the last week trying to figure out the logistics of getting Yakira from Oregon to Florida. Not an easy task because there are no direct flights making it too long for Yakira to go by cargo. 18 hours in a crate is just not a good idea. So the current plan is to get Yakira to us in the next week or so and then send her by direct flight to Florida. There are a few possibilities and if those don’t work out we will drive to Oregon to pick her up. I’m excited to have Yakira stay with us for a day or two between the legs of her cross-country trip. I’m just as excited for her to get to Florida and get adjusted to her new family!


Another Zodiac Pupdate!


I got a call today that Zodiac has been chosen for in home training. This means that instead of the blind person coming to the campus in Oregon to train with Zodiac, Zodiac will be going to the blind person’s home in Missouri so they can training together. Zodiac will be flying to Missouri this weekend with a trainer. The trainer will work the Zodiac and his new partner until August 20th. We will be heading to Oregon later this week to say good-bye to Zodiac before he starts this new adventure. He won’t be present at a formal graduation though he and his partner will be mentioned and an upcoming graduation ceremony. We are excited and happy that Zodiac is going to be a guide dog.

Pupdate – Good Luck to Zodiac

Bill, Dune, Zodiac & Raelyn on recall morning

It has been a busy weekend with puppy stuff. On Friday we had a farewell party for Zodiac. Nothing fancy, just some cookies, snack mix and lemonade. It is a tradition with each of our puppies, a chance to celebrate them and give family, friends and neighbors and chance to say good-bye. I think it is also for me. It helps me process the pups departure and come to terms with not having them around. Zodiac had lots of fun. His favorite people from church came and some of his puppy friends. At one point we had five labs at our house. That was crazy.

Saturday we had a big Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy training meeting. Lots of puppies there. With dogs ready to leave for harness training, like Zodiac, to very young puppies who just got off the puppy truck on Thursday. I learned lots of things from the visiting Community Field Representative from Oregon. It was a great opportunity to learn from someone new.

After the meeting Zodiac has his final evaluation. I’ve been a bit paranoid all week that they would decide that he wasn’t ready to go back or they would career change him on the spot. It is crazy the kinds of thoughts that can get into my head sometimes. We took Zodiac and Dune to the movies on Saturday night as one last outing for all of us together.

Sunday morning we got up very early so that we could get Zodiac to Ogden by 7:00 a.m. It was raining pretty hard when we left home but as we traveled north the skies cleared and the sun came up on a beautiful day. The hotel where the puppy truck stops for the night has a lovely walking path with trees and a pond and waterfall. I took both Zodiac and Dune for walks before the puppy truck drivers came out to the truck. Then we helped walk the puppies that had been picked up previously. I really enjoy doing this and meeting new pups and thinking about their puppy raisers. I walked an in-season female named Moxy. She was a happy and good girl. Bill got to walk Zodiac’s brother Zenith. Their temperaments are amazingly similar. Zenith reminded me a bit of Apex (our first puppy in training) which isn’t too surprising since Apex’s dad is Zodiac and Zenith’s grandfather.

We took Dune and Zodiac for one last walk together. Then it was time for Zodiac to get on the truck. That is the hardest part. He didn’t love getting into one of the kennels in the puppy truck but Zodiac did it anyway. We know he is in good hands. They stopped in Boise for a break Sunday afternoon and spent the night in Pendelton, Oregon. Zodiac would have arrived on the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus in Boring, Oregon on Monday afternoon.

Another puppy raiser that I know from a Yahoo group dropped her puppy off on campus yesterday. She saw Zodiac’s name on the wall in the kennel kitchen along with the other puppies that are expected to arrive on this recall. I like knowing that Zodiac has been on campus twice before, so he is sure to recognize it on his arrival. There is a whole team of experienced and caring people who are now taking care of him. They will help him adjust to life on campus. The next step for him is a thorough physical to make sure his eyes and heart and joints etc. are all working right. Now we play the waiting game. Waiting each week for the phase report to see how he is doing.

Graduation Day – Yakira

Yakira at Diane’s feet

We left Friday morning for Yakira’s graduation, after dropping Dune off at my friend’s for puppy sitting. The roads were great but the trip was long. I’m always ready to be there after about an hour or two of driving. It really is a pretty drive but 12 hours is a long time in the car. Zodiac is an excellent traveler and was very patient and willing to get back in the car even when we could tell he was tired of it. We finally got to Gresham and settled into our hotel for the night.

Mount Hood

On Saturday, we woke up to blue skies. I was so excited. I’ve been to Oregon for 3 other graduations and never had a glimpse of Mount Hood. But this time it was perfectly clear. We drove around the area a bit before graduations trying to get a photo. We got to Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Boring, Oregon campus a little early so we could take Zodiac on the “Oregon Trail” that goes through the natural vegetation on the back edge of campus, before he had to go in a kennel in the kennel kitchen. You can’t have a puppy in training with you while you are presenting the dog you raised during graduation. He loved the walk but wasn’t so happy about going into the kennel.

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video of seeing Yakira for the first time since October

Finally the time came for us to see Yakira and meet her new partner. It was kind of funny because Yakira was a little slow in figuring out who we were. But once she realized she was a happy girl. Bill was holding her leash and she started doing some crazy labby loops and got away from him and looped off to say hi to one of the other pups in class. Yakira looked great and very happy. Her handler, Diane, is a great match and we enjoyed getting to know her. She still has her retired guide, Betty Jo so Yakira has a buddy to hang out with at home. It was so nice to just hang out with Yakira and her partner and get lots of puppy loves. I was hoping that Yakira would move somewhere warm and her new home is in southern California so that is perfect for her.

Yakira giving Bill a kiss

We got a chance to meet Yakira’s sister Yumi’s raisers at graduation. She said that Yakira is just like Yumi except she is black instead of yellow. I also got to meet another of the graduates who I know from a guide dog user/puppy raiser email group I’m on. Her partner, Tyra is Yakira’s half-sister.

Yakira looking up at Diane

After graduation I got Zodiac from the kennel kitchen and we took him and Yakira out to the paddock behind the dorms and let them romp for a few minutes to get reacquainted and then went out to eat afterwards with Diane and Yakira. GDB has made another great match for our girl. She is going to love her new home in southern California and her new life as a guide dog. Yakira was not Diane’s original match on dog day. But it soon became clear that this first dog just wasn’t going to be a good match for Diane’s career. She recently got her masters and will be working with disable college students to make sure they have the accommodation they need for their disability. This first dog will make someone a wonderful partner but she just didn’t settle quickly enough after interruptions for Diane’s job situation. The trainers brought Diane two new dogs to try and she choose Yakira.

Yakira & Zodiac under the table at dinner

The hardest part was decided it was time to take Yakira and Diane back to the dorms. There is this moment after you drop them off when the puppy you raised realizes that you aren’t staying. You can see them processing it in their minds. It isn’t that they don’t want to go with their handler. They are happy to do that. I think they would like it if we could be around too. Even more than the formal graduation ceremony, that is the moment, for me, when they truly move on to their new life. It was a great day but very exhausting.

On Sunday morning we went back to campus to pick up a career change dog named Pauletta. Pauletta has arthritis in her lower back and so her puppy raisers are adopting her. She was recalled a few weeks ago for breeder evals but the arthritis changes everything. They were trying to figure out how to get her to Denver. She wasn’t cleared for air travel after her spay but it was fine for her to travel by car. So we brought her home with us and they got up super early Monday morning to pick her up and then headed right back home. It was fun to watch that reunion. Pauletta will be certified as a Therapy Dog and do great things with her life even though she won’t be a guide dog. GDB is so full of wonderful people. It was nice to be able to do something to help Pauletta get home to her family faster. Below is the video I shot of Pauletta seeing one of her puppy raisers for the first time since she went back to Guide Dogs for the Blind. You can hear Zodiac barking in the background, unhappy not to be part of the reunion.

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Pauletta watching out our front door

Pupdate – Yakira in Class

Yakira – photo by Lisa Thompson

We got the call this week that as puppy raisers we work for. Late Wednesday morning we got the news that Yakira is in class and scheduled to graduate on February 2nd. Since Yakira was still in phase 7 last week on the phase report I didn’t think about her being matched up this week. I was just focused on the next phase report that comes out on Thursdays. So when our club leader called on Wednesday before lunch I thought it would be something about Dune. But she asked if we could be in Oregon for a graduation next Saturday! Dog day is on Monday but one of the students dog didn’t work out for some reason and Yakira was matched with that student. We are waiting for the official letter to get a name and address for Yakira’s handler. Maybe it will come tomorrow. It took me about a day to get over my shock at the news. I’m so excited to see Yakira again and meet her partner!

On a side note, Dune is doing great. She is an amazing little girl. More about her and Zodiac in a future pupdate.

50 for 50 #41 – A Walk in the Woods

trail along the back of GDB’s Oregon campus

This past weekend I went with my friend Lisa to Oregon for Parker’s graduation as a guide dog. Lisa finished raising Parker when his original raisers moved to Florida when he was about a year old. One of my favorite parts of the trip was a couple of walks I took. The reminded me so much of the many walks our pet dog, Shadow, and I took while we lived in Boston for a few months. I love how the parks and other areas around Boston keep the natural look of the trees and plants. These walks turned out to be a perfect way to celebrate my 50th year this week.


The first walk was by our hotel. From the our 4th floor window we could see a paved trail so on Saturday morning before we went to Parker’s graduation we took Zodiac out for a walk and explored the trail. It was lovely. Everything was freshly washed with last night’s rain. The path wound its way through a little patch of natural vegetation with tall trees and blackberry brambles. I wished I had my camera with me it was so lush with moss and ferns. The only disappointment was how short it was. It came out of the trees onto the parking lot of a Costco that we didn’t know was there.


A few hours later. Zodiac and I were exploring Guide Dogs for the Blind campus in Boring while we waited for graduation time. Lisa was visiting with Parker and his new handler. I had heard about what students call “the Oregon trail” on campus and I set out to see if I could find it. We did! on the back edge of campus there is a loop that runs along the back of the kennels and then into what looks like the natural growth of the area. It was very much like the trail by our hotel with lots more blackberry bushes and huge tall trees. This time I was prepared with my camera and got a few shots off. We took the loop twice and enjoyed every minute of it. For me there is nothing more therapeutic than a walk through nature. This was perfect after the long drive from Utah. I’ve learned over the years that I need to have sometime out in nature to be at my best in coping with the stresses of everyday life. I don’t do it often enough these days.

ferns and moss covered wood

leaves and pine needles on the trail

Zodiac enjoying a sniff

50 for 50 #23 – See the Ocean

Rockaway Beach, Oregon

While we were in Oregon we drove another hour and a half so that I could see the ocean to celebrate by 50th year. It was a rainy day so we missed much of the beautiful view of the Oregon coast but it was surprisingly not too cold. When we got to Rockaway Beach I bundled up in a heavy sweat shirt plus rain gear. I didn’t want to get cold. I wanted to enjoy myself.

Me and Parker on Rockaway Beach

There were only a few other people on the beach. I like it that way. As we wandered along getting closer to the water’s edge we were rather surprised when the next wave came in closer than the earlier waves. We scrambled to keep of the of way but I didn’t make it. I felt that shock of cold water on my feet but then I decided to just enjoy it. I got soaked half way up my calves before we left the beach.

My feet in the Pacific Ocean

We just enjoyed ourselves strolling along on the sand and in the water. I picked up a rock, some broken shells and a couple of crab shells. Before we left the rain stopped and that made it easier to see what was going on around us. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And I think Bill and Parker did too. I’d love to go back sometime in the future.

Parker on Rockaway Beach

Do you have a favorite beach? I’m not sure if I have a favorite but if I had to pick one I think it would be La Jolla near San Diego, California. What do you like to do when you go to the beach? I love to wade and look for interesting rocks, shells etc.