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.
We got some not so good news on Yakira recently. Her handler has decided to return Yakira to Guide Dogs for the Blind. They ended up not being a very good match. Diane loves to talk long walks and hike in the mountains and along the beach. While Yakira did great guiding in stores and malls and her house behaviors were great, she just didn’t do well with the long walks on the bike trail. Plus she didn’t deal well with puddles and mud and ddebris from trees so she never dared take her on trails for to the beach.
We have been concerned for their partnership for several months but hoped that we were just not reading between the lines correctly. We are very grateful that Diane made this decision soon enough that there is a chance that Yakira might be reissued to another handler. She will be evaluated when she gets back to campus and they will decided if she will be career changed or partnered with a new blind person.
Yakira gets on a puppy truck headed to San Rafael tomorrow. When she gets there, someone from their Oregon campus will meet her and take her back to where she was originally trained. While we hope and pray that Yakira still wants to be a guide dog, we realize that may not be the case. Whatever her future brings, I’m sure that she will do something wonderful with it. If not as a guide dog than maybe as another kind of service dog. We hope to have an update on Yakira in a couple of weeks.
I haven’t posted about Dune in a long time. She is doing great and started to look like a grown-up. She is entering those teen years and developing a few little rebellious behaviors but nothing too bad. I finally found out all the names of her littermates yesterday when the GDB littermate book came out. Here is what I now have on the Bosworth/Cava litter born 11/11/2012:
- Deanli – male
- Disco – female
- Dixie – female
- Drexel – male
- Dune – female
- Durham – male
- PADS Penny II – female
They are all yellow. You probably notice that one names stands out. Penny was donated to Pacific Assistance Dogs Society in British Columbia, so they named her. A number of young puppies were donated to PADS at the same time as Dune’s sister Penny. I found this cute video and there is a good chance one of these yellow labs in Dune’s sister Penny.
It is a regular practice of many of the service dog schools around the world to exchange puppies or breeders to help everyone have better genetic diversity. You may not remember but Yakira’s dad (Pike) on loan to GDB for six months from Austrailia and her mother was the result of a female donated to a school in Holland and then one of her offspring was sent back to GDB. Casey’s (Dune’s aunt) dad (Jay) was donated to GDB by an organization in Korea. I find the pups pedigrees very interesting.
I’ve neglected getting photos taken of Dune. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t taken any pictures since Zodiac left more than a month ago. Time to make it a priority and stop putting it off.
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.
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!
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.
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.
On September 30, 2011 Waffle was transferred to Claraliz Fernandez to finish raising. She is part of the Salt Lake Tech Guide Dog class for high school students. These students work hard in this class and have to attend for a year before they can get the opportunity to raise a puppy. Waffle will remain with Claraliz and be apart of her life and family though out the school year. Then in June of 2012 she will get on the puppy truck and return to Guide Dogs for the Blind to complete her training to become a guide dog for a blind or visually impaired person.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think the hardest thing about having a guide dog is probably their retirement. The average guide dog works for about seven years, so most handlers have to go through this process several times in their lives. There are three basic reasons that a guide dog retires. The most common is age. Just like with people, dogs eventually get too old to do the work of a guide dog. For most dogs this is about 9 or 10 years old. Another reason for retiring a guide dog is health. Some dog develop health problems that make it difficult or impossible to work. The last reason is some dogs just decide they don’t want guide anymore and are ready for the more relaxed life of being a pet. This is sometime brought on by stress or a traumatic incident while working as a guide dog.
Whatever the reason for retiring a guide it is a difficult and painful process for the handler. Guide Dogs for the Blind has a blog set up for “remembering the people and dogs of Guide Dogs for the Blind.” Some of the most resent post include:
Marly: Gone But Not Forgotten (a tribute by Juliet Cody to her first guide dog)
One of the Greatest Guide Dog Retirement Jobs Ever! (the story of guide dog Leslie and the second career her family found for her when she had difficulty with retirement)
Mathew: The Dog with a Heart of Gold (this dog was retired early due to sever allergies)
Remembering Havarti (tender story of a very short career)
Thank You, Firestone (short poem)
I encourage you to take some time and read about the impact these amazing dogs have on the lives of those they come in contact with.