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.

Pupdate – Zodiac’s Recall

studio shot of Zodiac ( black lab) - 3 months old - close up of his head and shoulders with just a little bit of pink tongue sticking out

Zodiac at 3 months

I’m working on my post about step one of the DOABLE approach but it probably won’t get done until tomorrow. But I have some late breaking news about Zodiac our puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind. I just got a call that Guide Dogs wants him to return for his harness training on the next puppy truck. So on the 19th of May early in the morning we will be putting our fun-loving boy on the truck. A couple of weeks ago he wasn’t going back until June. But par for the course in puppy raising things change and now he is on the truck. They usually don’t take neutered males until 15 months old and Zodiac turns 14 months on Friday. So he will be on the young side.

There are lots of things to do before he goes back. I’ve got an extra report to write and I’d love to finish his book so I can send a pdf along with him. Plus we like to throw a farewell party for our pups before they leave to give family, friends and neighbors a chance to say good-bye. I’m trying not to feel panicked about this because I know everything will be fine but my stomach isn’t sure it agrees.


Zodiac & Dune

Dune and Zodiac are both so cute. Well maybe Zodiac is more on the handsome side these days. He is a year old now and no longer looks like a puppy. They really enjoy each other’s company. It is amazing how many times the two of them will be laying down near each other and Dune looks like an exact copy of Zodiac, except she is smaller and yellow (of course).

We found out at puppy class this week that Zodiac is scheduled to go back to Guide Dogs for the Blind on the next puppy truck. That truck is expected to come on May 18th. I’ve had it in my head that he would be returning sometime in June but it isn’t looking that way. I figured out how to put a count down widget here on my blog so I can count down to his departure. I was so proud of him on Sunday. I got up to teach a lesson at church and left him by my chair. I forgot about him because I was so focused on teaching. But he was very good, even with a little toddler distraction right by him.

Dune has had some challenges this past week or so. Our snow all melted and she didn’t like not having snow to pee on. She had 4 accidents in one day! It had been about 3 weeks or more since she had a single accident let alone 4 in one day. She is doing better now but we are having to pay a lot more attention to her relieving. Since she was very young she would let us know when she needed an extra potty break by sitting by the door. Dune isn’t doing that much any more.

Dune is making some progress on her kennel stress. While she still isn’t quiet while we are gone she isn’t stressing out so much about it. Before she would get so stressed that not only her jaw was wet with drool, but the whole front, down to her legs would be soaked. Now even her jaw is dry. She also got the last of her puppy shots this week, so now she can go on walks and to parks and places like that.

We also got an email for Banta and Mark this week. It is always so exciting when I see that I’ve received an email from one of our puppies. Here is some of what Mark had to say:

Banta is doing very well.  For the most part she is working perfectly.  She has her stubborn moments.  We finally had a big snow a week ago.  Banta likes about 6 inches of snow.  We got about 10 inches and she seemed annoyed that all of her favorite places to play had too much snow.  Eventually she got in there and played like a crazy little girl.  She is so much fun, I love her to death.

All in all it has been a good week on the puppy raising front.

Good-bye to Yakira

last group photo with me, Zodiac and Yakira

We got up at 5 a.m. on Monday morning to get Yakira to the puppy truck on time. The drop off spot is about an hour from our home and they leave the first thing in the morning, after breakfast and walking the dogs already in their care. We like to get there early enough to help the puppy truck drivers walk the dogs. It seems to help make the process of sending off a puppy a little easier. There is a nice little walking path by the hotel where the puppy truck stops for the night.

Bill saying his last good-bye to Yakira

After all the dogs were walked it was time for all the new recall dogs to get on the truck. There were three dogs that morning and we went first. The puppy truck has two tiers of kennels and Yakira ended up on the top row. She got a large dog biscuit upon getting in to help make the kennel a more positive place. We said our last good-byes and took the last photos. The puppy truck drivers patient all the raisers. No one is rushed but no one takes unfair advantage of the situation either.

The puppy truck stopped Monday evening in Meridian, Idaho and finished the trip to Boring, Oregon and the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus there on Tuesday. We don’t expect to have any news on Yakira for a while. I think at this stage if we get news too quickly it probably won’t be good. Casey was dropped from breeder evals in just a couple of weeks. Banta was in breeder evals for months. We got some news after about a month and a half that she was in the last stages of breeder evaluations.

We all miss our sweet and gentle Yakira. But Zodiac is taking it harder than I expected. We are puppy sitting a four-month old yellow lab named Tim. I thought that would be enough to keep Zodiac from being too sad but it has worked. There is a sadness in his eyes and he doesn’t have much interest in many of the things that usually attract his attention. It seems the bond between Yakira and Zodiac was even stronger than we knew.

50 for 50 #40 – Have a Party

Party Table

When I made my idea list at the first of the year of things I thought would be fun to do to celebrate my 50th year, one of them was having a party. We have the tradition of having a farewell party for each of our puppies in training before the return to Guide Dogs for the Blind for the next stage of their training. Today it was Yakira’s turn to be the guest of honor. It isn’t anything fancy just a chance for our friends, neighbors and family to say good-by to the puppy. It is kind of a thank you for the little things they do in helping us raise successful guide dogs. For many people it is the first time they have seen the dog “out of jacket” and how they behave at home. At Apex’s party many people comment on how much like a regular dog he was at home.

voting for official portrait

We have a few treats and it is just a time to relax and enjoy each others company. I think the party helps me to mentally and emotionally prepare for the puppy to leave us. For Yakira’s party we had everyone vote for their favorite photo to be used for Yakira’s official portrait on our puppy portrait wall. We also had a card for everyone to sign. I’ll keep the card up somewhere until Yakira finds her next place in life, either as a breeder, a guide dog or in another career. Bill made cookies and caramel (these were a huge hit) and we had Scooby snacks and popcorn.

Yakira’s card

We also had a couple of Yakira’s good friends come to the party. Clifford (my sister’s career change dog) was here the party and Osaka (a fellow puppy in training) came to say good-by too. The four pups had lots of fun together. I have a celebration bandana that Yakira wore as the guest of honor (and so that visitors would have an easier time keeping track of who was who). With three black labs in the house it was quiet the party. The only treats for the dogs were bowls of ice cubes, given out at regular intervals.

Yakira, Clifford and Zodiac playing

It was a fun evening and both Yakira and Zodiac are exhausted. For that matter so are us humans. We have an early start tomorrow to get Yakira to the truck in the morning so I’ll wrap this up now.


Yakira – photo by Lisa Thompson

This week has been one of lasts. The last walk around the neighborhood with Yakira. The last puppy class. The last time to the local grocery store. The last time to work with Bill. The last time to go to church. Last sleepover. Last time having a lunch date with Bill.Then there are all the lasts that I didn’t realize were lasts when we did them. She has been so many places with us over the last year. Tomorrow marks one year since we first saw Yakira.

Yakira – October 13, 2011

Sometimes I get very sentimental and a bit sad but at the same time I’m excited to see what Yakira’s future will bring. We are having a farewell party for her on Sunday evening. Then we put her on the truck early Monday morning. This is all part of the puppy raising process. The good and the bad. So proud of the dog she has grown up to be. But also seeing her weaknesses and hoping that the change of environment and stress of this transition doesn’t bring out those weaknesses and make them a deal breaker. But also knowing that if they do, then being a breeder or a guide dog isn’t what is best for her future. So that is the last of the sappy stuff about Yakira being recalled to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Yakira and Waffle News


Yakira – photo by Karen Fuller

I got the official news today. Yakira will be returning to Guide Dogs for the Blind in just 12 days for breeder evaluations. It has been a bit of a roller coaster. First she is going in October, then no I think we will wait until November. But now it is real. I thought that the date was the 14th but we have an extra day. This is good because we like to do a farewell party for our puppies and Sunday is the easiest day to do that. She has to be to the truck very early in the morning so if her recall was the 14th we would have to do her farewell party this Sunday. I’m glad to have an extra week to get ready and to spread the word about her party.

Waffle – May 2012

Now for the really good news! Waffle was placed on August 31st with a middle-aged woman with special needs. She shares her home with two other mature women. Waffle goes nearly everywhere with her new partner, including on plane flights. The two of them are continuing their training with private session with a GDB employee. The adopter is VERY happy with Waffle. It is standard procedure to wait about a month to make sure that everyone is happy with the placement before the let the raiser know. I’m so happy that our little girl has her forever home and that she gets to be a service dog! Way to go Waffle!


Raising Skyler Video

I love the power that images and music have together. One of the things I want to learn how to do is videos. The closest thing I’ve done was in college. I took a class on what was then called multimedia. We put together slides with music using multiple slide projectors and special equipment that kept the slides and music synchronized. It was awesome. Today we use computers and software to do a similar thing. So when I saw this effective video a few days ago I knew I wanted to feature it here on my blog.

This video brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. I’m sure that part of the impact on me is because I relate to it as a puppy raiser. When it comes to sharing stories emotion is a big part of the impact. Stephanie did a great job combining the photos and the music to tell Skyler’s story. Here is Stephanie’s advice on how she put together this video;

I used Photostory to create this.  You import the photos into Photostory and then customize motion, choose the slide speed, add music and you are done.  I think the key to something like this is the music and the speed in which the slides switch making sure it fits with the music. And of course, good pictures 🙂

Stephanie makes this sound so doable. Now I’ve got to download Photostory and learn how to use this software. I can’t wait. Have you every done a video? What software do you do and what advice do you have for a beginner?

One Year Ago

Banta and Prestwick

It was one year ago today that we put Banta on the truck for Guide Dogs for the Blind. So I sent an email to Mark and Banta to let them know I was thinking about her. Mark sent back such a fun message and pictures of Banta with his previous guide Prestwick. The two of them look so much alike in their coloring that I was amazed. She looks so happy and I can tell how much Mark loves her by the way he talks about Banta.

Here is some of what Mark said about Banta:

We went to a hospital today forblood work and another test.  Banta was very excited.  Banta wentstraight to the lab and cafeteria with no direction from me.  She got alittle confused on the way to the Dr’s office, but it is a huge hospital withmany connected buildings.  I was very happy she remembered since we werelast there in June.  She is so funny when she is remembering routes shelearned but does not do frequently.  When she finds something she startsdancing around wagging her tail like crazy, I’m sure the food reward she getshas no influence on her excitement.  People probably think I am crazybecause I am usually laughing and talking to Banta like she is a person on dayslike today.  My first 2 dogs would walk towards their target and then turnand keep going.  As Banta approaches her target she speeds up thensuddenly jumps and does a 90 degree turn in the air then takes off towards hernext target.  I can’t help but laugh because she turns her work into agame and has fun.

Good-bye Casey

Yakira and Casey snuggled together in the back of the car

We got up super early this morning to take Casey to Ogden to put her on the truck. We could have dropped her off last night but I just didn’t see how spending another night on the truck was going to be of any benefit for her. We got there on time (7:00 a.m.) despite the fact that the alarm clock didn’t go off (it was set for p.m. instead of a.m.) and we had to hustle out the door as fast as we could. We had a bit of a wait once we got there because the drivers where still having breakfast. We could hear one of the pups on the truck making a bit of racket as we were waiting. We had Yakira with us in her kennel and I took her out and she relieved like a pro. So then she got to be loose in the back of the car with Casey. They were very cute together and Yakira snuggled up with Casey. Today is Yakira 2 month birthday so I put the birthday bandana on her and I put the celebration bandana on Casey for recall day.

Eventually the drivers came and I took Casey for one last walk. The hotel they stay in has a really nice walking path with a pond and lots of grass. When I was done I was going to put Casey back in the car so we could put her on the truck later after we helped walk dogs but she didn’t want anything to do with getting back in the car. So I was going to wait until Bill got back from walking the first dog he took out. But one of the drivers said it was fine to put Casey on and then we could come back after walking the dogs and say our final good-byes. She was on the upper level of kennels so I let the driver lift her up there.

Panera enjoying her walk

Then it was time for me to help walk dogs. The first dog I noticed was Panera. Her raiser is on a Yahoo list for guide dog users and puppy raisers and others who are associated with Guide Dogs for the Blind. I had told her that I’d try to walk Panera and get photos of her if I could. Panera got on the truck in Colorado on Friday. She is a big black lab at 73 pounds and not fat. And boy was she ready for a walk. I wasn’t completely prepared for her energy and I got a good shoulder yank the first time she ran to the end of the retractable. I kept a close eye on her after that and we did much better. We completed the circuit and did another half circuit to try to burn off a bit more of her energy.

Bill and Casey in her kennel with a wish bone toy

By the time I got back all the dogs were being taken care of so when Bill got back we gave some last loves to Casey. There was a wish bone shaped nylabone in Casey’s kennel, which is her favorite chew toy. Then all the puppies got two bone shaped doggy treats. And they were happily chewing away. I said by to Kasha who was right across the isle from Casey and Radison who was on the same side as Kasha but closer to the front. I gave Yakira another potty break which she did great on. She said high to one of the truck drivers before we got back in the car. He said the Yakira’s sister Yuma was given to a young, first time raiser in Colorado. By the time we were pulling out of the parking lot is was 8:30 a.m. So much for being on time for church this morning. Oh well, I wouldn’t change anything. It was a good morning even though we don’t know when we will see Casey again. There is always the possibility that we won’t get the chance to see her again. Not very likely but it is possible. Tonight she should be sleeping somewhere in the western part of Oregon and will arrive on campus in Boring tomorrow. We probably won’t hear anything about her for about a month.