Is Your Credit Card Too Boring?

Friday, December 26, 2008

A New "Find"

Well, Dakota was back to work today, the day after Christ-
mas! Of course, since work is one of his favorite things, he didn't mind.

Today's walk was at the Texas State Capitol building. This is a great place to practice Dakota's "finds," where he leads me to certain objects on command (trash can, elevator, and seat, to name a few). On my agenda for today was to teach Dakota the new "find," "find the girls." This is the command for finding the ladies' restroom.

We warmed up with some obedience work, practiced on stairs, and did a few "finds" that he already knows. There were quite a few tourists today and plenty of distractions, but for the most part he settled in and did his work well in spite of it all.

To teach his new find, I took him to within a few feet of the ladies' room, told him, "Find the girls!," walked him to the restroom door, praised him and gave him a treat. He gave me a happy look of, "Oh! Is that all you want?" Of course part of the lesson is that each time we must actually go inside and use the facilities. After that, we repeated the process on the next floor. I stood within sight of the ladies' room, gave him his command, and his tail just went to wagging as he proudly took me straight to the door. He seemed to understand just what I wanted. The Capitol has restrooms on every level so we got lots of practice. I wonder if some of the tourists thought I had incontinence issues? I'll admit it was a bit embarrassing but hey, I was too proud of him to care much.

After all that work, it was time for some fun. Dog park here we come!

Just to add a little extra excitement to our day, Duckie had to throw up in the car on the way home. Don't worry, he's not really sick -- just drank lots of water at the dog park, and that combined with the running around was a little much for him. He's all back to normal and snoozing happily at my feet!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let's Get This Straight

Well, I thought you might like to see what we've been working on. Here's the issue:

Okay, I know it doesn't look too terrible to most of us, but this is what we call a "crooked sit." When a visually impaired person is relying on her guide dog, she will "line up" with his body. If I did that with Duckie right now, we'd walk right off the curb! So, we're trying to straighten up and fly right.

Dakota!! Are you even trying?! Actually, here he got distracted by a dog across the street and is trying to position himself for a better view.

Third time's a charm. What an improvement!

...And here we are getting ready to cross at the crosswalk. Duckie is doing his best to demonstrate the proper sitting technique: toes on the edge, at right angles to the curb. That way we'll cross straight -- and safely -- over.

After all that hard work, Dakota was ready to relax under the Christmas tree. Merry Christmas, y'all!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Look what greeted Duckie this morning when he went out! A sleet shower left a light blanket of white over everything...a big novelty for us here in Austin. After spending a few minutes in a futile attempt to eat it all, Duckie gave up and decided it was better for playing and rolling in. What fun!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A day at Cabela's

Today was a big day for Duckie. We got to meet Michelle for a training walk at Cabela's. I thought all the animal displays would be scary for a little guy like Dakota, but he surprised me and took it all pretty much in stride. What did give him pause was...strange to say...the kayaks! So what is it about a kayak that's scary? The fact that it's so big...makes a funny noise when tapped...or is it just how the hanging ones creak in the wind? I wish I knew! Here's Michelle helping Duckie get over his suspicions. Some reassurance and dog treats worked wonders and pretty soon he accepted them...cautiously!

The aquarium really captured Dakota's attention. He loved watching the giant fish. But what he loved even more was when...surprise...his best friend Sammy (Tracy's guide dog puppy) showed up to join us for the last half of our walk! It was a great chance for the pups to learn that although they love to get together for play, this was work time and they needed to pay attention and be well behaved. Duckie didn't want to believe this at first! He was so excited to see his buddy that all he could do was dance around, whine and bark. But after a while they both settled down (more or less) and we had a good walk together. When we were done, we sat down at the cafe upstairs and the people had a soda while the dogs more or less collapsed in excited exhaustion! It's all part of growing up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Do any of you out there like shopping? I love to shop! All those new sights and smells...all those people...the only thing I don't like is squeaky shopping carts. I think they should be banned! Here I am at the store today, helping to pick out party supplies.

Today while we were looking at some toys, one of them came to life! It was a giant yellow puppy, bigger than me, and it started barking! Can you believe it...barking in a store? I definitely know better than that! After making sure it wasn't going to attack us or anything, I decided it was nothing to worry about.

Until next time, happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Dakota had a friend over today -- Sammy, Tracy's new guide dog puppy-in-training. He is a golden retriever and just a wonderfully sweet, mellow boy with velvety-soft fur. We called him "The Velveteen Puppy." He's going to be a BIG dog -- he's a month younger than Duckie but already bigger! The boys had lots of fun running, playing, and being crazy together. In fact, they played so hard that within the first half hour or so, Dakota lost 3 more baby teeth. Well, they needed to come out! A good time was had by all. Thanks Tracy for sharing your puppy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Democracy & Dakota

Hi everybody, this is Dakota. Guess what? I got to go "vote" today. The main thing I know about voting is, you get to go to a big room where a bunch of people sitting at tables are waiting to meet you, say how cute you are, and ask questions. It was totally awesome! My mom went and pushed some buttons in a booth -- not sure what that was all about, but she seemed to think it was important. On the way out, I got to practice some "finds" -- that's where I find handy things like the trashcan, the door, or a seat for my mom. I had so much fun I think we should go again, but my family says there's a rule against that. Wonder why?

Well, everyone, make sure to go and vote today -- and get your sticker when you leave so you can look cool, like me!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Training walk today

Today Dakota got to go on a training walk with our puppy program manager, Michelle Pelletier. She asked what issues we'd been dealing with and I mentioned how Duckie likes to chase blowing leaves. Look what we ran into on our walk!

...Well, OK, so it's pretty hard to see, but in the background by the giant orange is...a man with a LEAF BLOWER! Oh boy! So Duckie got 2 distractions in one: a big scary noise and lots of exciting leaves blowing by. To my surprise, after just a few corrections from Michelle, Dakota treated them both as perfectly normal and controlled his urge to chase the flying leaves. I was so proud. So thanks, leaf blower guy, you were a big help today!

Look what else is new: Michelle brought us a new, bigger puppy jacket! Hurrah! Dakota's old one was getting so tight it was hard to keep it on. This one looks a little like a horse blanket on him...but hey, there's room for growth! I think Dakota's already bigger than his dad, who is a mini doodle. We'd love him to take after his mom, who is medium-sized.

So, all in all, we had a great day. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Dakota: "This is NOT a Halloween costume, it's my work clothes! Take me seriously, people!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Squeaky Clean

Today was Dakota's second official bath. He's got this wonderful soft fleecy non-shedding fur that...well, gets dirty from time to time! And although I think he's still too young for his coat to change from puppy fur to adult coat, something does seem to be going on because I'm actually getting a little red fur stuck in the brush in our grooming sessions -- something that didn't used to happen.

Anyhow, it helps that Duckie loves baths. We try to keep everything calm and controlled so he doesn't go too crazy, because he LOVES water.

Here we are midway through...he looks so small when he's wet! I know, maybe I'm a little crazy to use the kitchen sink, but the sprayer came in handy for rinsing! I'm sure he'll outgrow this venue by his next bathtime.

...And here he is all done, dry, and freshly brushed, with my fearless assistant Charissa.

"Aaahh...clean again!" (Actually, he's probably plotting his next roll in the mud...just so he can get another bath!)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dog Park!

Hey everybody, I discovered the most awesome place today! It's called the "dog park." I had a great time meeting new friends. Here I am with some of my pals.
My family laughed because I had a hard time deciding who to hang out with -- the people or their dogs! They say it's good for my "socialization," but I really think that's an excuse to go have fun. You should try it sometime!

Growing Up

It's been a busy month, and while our family took a week's vacation out of town, Duckie got to stay with the Weldon family, soon-to-be puppy raisers in north Austin. This was an exciting change for him. The Weldons have three active boys...AND a cat! Dakota got to have lots of exciting experiences with them, going all kinds of new places. They did such a good job with him. Thank you, Minda & family! Can't wait to see you get started with a guide dog puppy of your own!

In fact, when we got back from our trip, we all noticed that not only had Dakota gotten noticeably bigger in just a week, he also seemed a little more "grown up"! He's been more confident and attentive in new situations and around loud noises.

To make life more exciting, he's losing his puppy teeth! Right now he's lost all but one tooth on the front bottom, and the top front teeth are starting to drop too. Every spare moment is spent chewing as Duckie works on getting those new teeth grown in.

We're loving the gorgeous fall weather here in Austin. Dakota gets distracted by the blowing leaves, so that's something to work on! Here he's checking out the display of pumpkins at the grocery store.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Upstairs, Downstairs

An important part of any guide dog's training is learning how to negotiate stairs properly. When we come to stairs leading down, Dakota is supposed to indicate the step by sitting with his front paws on the edge. He's already starting to get this idea.

Next, we go down the stairs in a more or less smooth, steady manner. I say "more or less" because, as those of you who've had a puppy know, "smooth," "steady," and "puppy" aren't really words that go together! All those paws and steps kind of just get tangled up somehow. Never mind, we manage to make it down, and now it's time to go up again!

Dakota will eventually learn to indicate a step up by standing with his front paws resting on the first step. Right now, I'm just trying to get him to slow down a bit. His first inclination at "up" stairs is to attack them all at once and get it over with, bolting up two or three at a time! It's great to have an eager learner though, and I can already see a lot of improvement.

Here we are working stairs together.

"I don't know...those steps look awful steep!"

"Oh -- is that liver you've got there? Why didn't you just say so?"

"This is actually MUCH harder than it looks -- believe me!"

"That was a good day's work well done, don't ya think?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lessons from Frankie

Hi all -- Dakota here! I had so much fun over Labor Day weekend. I got to have a friend over for the weekend -- Frankie, one of our older guide dogs in training. I think he is SO COOL. He taught me lots of stuff:
  • Good manners pay off. I was amazed at how much treats & praise this guy got! But he showed me it was just because he knew how to sit instead of jump up; be quiet instead of bark; and play nicely with others. Wow, who knew? He would look at me as if to say, "Watch and learn..." and you better believe I did!
  • Good friends share everything. EXCEPT their food. Some things in a dog's life are just too important!
  • Chewing shoes is SO not cool! All the big dogs know better than this!

I'm signing off for now. Smiles and tail wags to everyone,


Thursday, August 21, 2008

School Days

While many kids are still enjoying their last few days of summer, our homeschool has been in session for almost two weeks now. Dakota finds the school day pretty boring and spends his time taking naps, chewing on toys, and GROWING! Here he studies a chew toy while Charissa studies language.

"Isn't it time for recess yet?" he seems to be asking.

But pretty soon it's Dakota's turn...time for a walk! Here he's waiting for the command, "Out of the bus." That's his signal to get out of whatever vehicle we're in and get ready for the walk. Now, this is the part of the school day he loves!!
Then it's back home to do what puppies do best...sleep. What do you think he dreams about?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Birdbath blues...

Of course all birds love birdbaths. This Duck is no different! But constantly downing gallons of water when our backs are turned can play a bit of havoc with housetraining. Here's how Dakota looks when he gets caught. He's thinking, "Uh-oh...busted again!"

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"He's a what?! No way..."

Yes, this is people's top response when they find out that little Dakota is a labradoodle, and a guide dog in training. Coming in a close 2nd is, "He looks just like a teddy bear come to life!" ...And 3rd, "I want one!" So maybe this would be a good time to note that if you're interested in labradoodles, you owe it to yourself to do some real homework. They're a complicated subject! Dakota's biased, but he recommends, his breeder's website, where you'll find a bunch of info & educational links.

The funny thing is that in just one week of training with Dakota, I've been asked to show my guide dog ID more times than I was asked in just about my whole time bringing up Willie! People just can't seem to believe that this cute little ball of fur could do such a big job! On my part, I've been pretty impressed with Duckie's confident, bright, happy-go-lucky approach to any and all new situations. Nothing seems to faze this guy.

Yesterday was our first trip to the mall. After getting stopped by security and creating a bit of a bottleneck at the entrance as everyone crowded around to get a look, it was off down the halls for a quick jaunt past the shops and a fun ride in the elevator. Dakota took everything in stride, smiling and wagging his tail at passersby as if he deserves all this attention. He's going to get a big head fast at this rate!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Doodle Has Landed

That's one small step for giant leap for the Lord family!

On Wednesday, our family brought Dakota home from The Greenwood School, where friend and fellow puppy raiser Tracy Schagen has been kind enough to keep him for his first week. Thanks Tracy!!

Dakota will be our 2nd puppy to raise for Guide Dogs of Texas. Willie, our 1st, is now at the GDTX training center in San Antonio, starting on his advanced training. Here's Willie and me at the Capitol.

As you can see from the picture Willie was not a labradoodle! So this will be a big learning curve for us. I'm sure Dakota will be happy to show us the ropes. We're excited about the new experience and have been trying to do a lot of doodle research to get ready.

I'm happy to report that, after wearing poor Tracy and her family to shreds, Dakota seems ready to settle in here. Our first night he slept almost too well -- I kept waking up because it was so quiet, afraid something had happened to him in his sleep! Last night we all had a good night though. Dakota made it from 11 pm to 5 am without a whimper. After a quick trip outside to "go busy" (guide dog code for "potty") I had to break the sad news to him that no, I wasn't feeling playful yet. He resigned himself to another hour or so of shuteye and then I, too, was ready to face the day!

We have been enjoying our first training walks immensely. We're keeping things pretty short and simple at this point. Our main goal right now is to give Dakota a lot of positive experiences in many different surroundings. Guide dogs have to be confident in all sorts of situations...and if there's one thing this guy's got, it's confidence! That, and a cute face. He's winning friends and influencing people everywhere, I'm afraid.

I'll leave you with a picture of Dakota checking out the westerns at the library. We kind of thought that fit with his name. That's all for now folks!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lord Help Us...

I've been saved by a Lord. Beth Lord came and picked up The Duke of Destruction. Beth, good luck. Be sure and call Ann if you need a sitter. She still thinks the duck is cute. I suppose you will be available to keep Toby while I'm on the cruise in January. He is missing Duckie so much he needs Puppy Prozac. The Greenwood kids were furious that Duckie was gone. They apparently didn't get the memo about him being a temporary guest here. Even Roel had misunderstood the situation. He came by in the afternoon and couldn't believe Duckie was really gone. Maybe I was a little hasty in having Beth drop her unpacking and rush over immediately with the entire family to gather up their Duck and all his belongings. Duckie took to the Lord family immediately. Every time Toby got close to them, he barked and snarled with all his seven pound might. Toby was totally entertained by the display of gnashing puppy teeth. Toby could not believe that they drove away without him. Greenwood is quiet again. Duckie, keep up the good work. You will rule the Lord kingdom in no time. This is Tracy Schagen signing out of Dakota's Tails.
For my final photos and videos of Duckie, go to You'll see Duckie at the vet and Dukie with fellow puppy raiser Sharon.

Duckie, Duke of Destruction

Puppyhood can be so hard. After a morning of tearing Toby limb from limb and chasing a chicken the size of a small goat, “the little duck of death” shipped out to Ann Beardon’s house for a playdate. You know things are getting rough when the sitter hires a sitter. The car ride over was scary for Duckie Duke, but he pulled himself together, bit at the tires and then got all vulnerable for Ann. She thinks he’s cute. I suppose he is cute as long as he is having things his way. Apparently she managed to see to Duckie’s comforts during their visit, because she was all giggly and sweet to him when I picked him up. The duality of this duck is amazing. If I complain a bit about him, people look at me like I’m cold hearted. They just can’t see through the fluff. There is a spooky quality about how the hair on his head never gets messed up. I see that round fluff head in my dreams at night…then I hear the scream, the groan…as he gnaws savagely at the bars of the crate. Two a.m., three a.m., four a.m. When I finally go open the crate, the big round head rises up at me...the big round eyes stare expressionless at the latch. He jumps out of the kennel with pathetic little whines of delight at being free. He quickly makes his way to the grass in the front yard to pee. Then he grabs a piece of trailing ivy from the garden and rips it away from its mother plant and runs out into the darkness. That’s when I remember that he needs to have on a leash. I check my pockets for treats… no pockets in my pajamas. I’m relieved to find that I don’t sleep with dog treats. I stumble back into the house for the leash. Ducky’s eyes pick up the glow from the porch light. His eyes follow me inside. He dashes for the door and beats me inside. For a moment, I imagine that he wants to lock me out of the house. Instead, he viciously seizes a sandal that was left by the door. He runs under the table with the sandal, daring me to come after it. That’s when I realize that I have no idea where my other two dogs are. Did they go out? Are they sleeping through this nightmare? I stagger over to the counter to get some dog treats. I whistle and call. Both my dogs come sleepily out of their beds to see what wonderful midnight snack we are having. They are not impressed with the puppy kibble I give them. Getting no attention for sandal destruction, Duckie decides to come lunging out from under the table and grabs Toby by the foot. Toby looks at me for permission to deal with the perpetrator. I turn and leave the room. Moments later, I hear Duckie yelp for mercy. He comes running to me as if he thinks I care what the monster Toby did to him. I scoop him up and gently dump him in his kennel. I wonder how long the howls will last this time. Toby drops his head and walks toward his kennel. He looks over at the puppy who is tuning his instruments with soft groans. He turns and goes down a dark hallway to the laundry room to sleep. I turn and go back to my room with my dachshund. I can only find one earplug. Ducky will poop earplug confetti in the morning.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Duckie's Revenge

Today Duckie got Toby back for all the batting and squashing. Roel held Toby down and let Duck beat up on ol' Toby for a while. We caught it all on tape, so go see the video at webshots.
Duckie is doing great on the leash. He loves to explore anywhere anytime. Even after a long day of play and yard work, Duckie walked on the leash for about a hundred yards. Then he was tuckered out. It takes a lot to get him tired enough to nap. He cat naps all day, but jumps awake anytime a person, pet or phone makes a sound. His most favorite napping spot is the hot back porch. He can sleep there by my shoes, all alone, not even a whimper. I'm a little worried that a hawk or vulture might fly off with him, so I've been making Toby nap outside with him. He doesn't seem to mind. Duck had three full meals again today and about a hundred little poops to go with his five hundred pees. No indoor accidents today, but we were doing yard work most of the day. He took one nap in the kennel with only twenty minutes of pre-nap hysteria. He had two breaks during the night.

Friday, July 25, 2008

8 Weeks going on 8 months

Ducky is ready for anything. He does not want to miss the action, so he is pretty much in the middle of everything around here. Since we are both too tired to think about this day, I'll leave it up to webshots to tell today's tail. I'm uploading some video clips and photos of Ducky's first full day of preschool. The day included chicken chasing, tug-o-war with Toby, an outdoor concert, first daytime nap in the puppy crate and Yeah! an entire cup of food! Ducky is turned on to kibble! Nothing like chasing kids and chickens to stimulate a duck's appetite.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

First Stop: Greenwood School

Duckie just arrived at The Greenwood School. He will be here until August 2nd. He is adapting well. He's a bit road weary, however, very sweet and tolerant of all the dogs, children, teachers, guinea pigs, chickens and roosters. He is not sure where he stands with children. He seems to be willing to play with one at a time, but two is a bit much. He is uninterested in food, but quite playful. His choice of sleeping place is under the office desk and therefore near the castors of the office chair. We’ll see how that goes. Toby, a rather large guide dog puppy, batted and squashed Duckie at their first meeting. Duckie is steering clear of the big guy now. He would like us to have a policy change about kennels. He’s pretty sure that doodles should not be kept in kennels.
See more photos at Dakota’s webshots album

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Welcome Dakota!

Hi, I'd like to introduce you to Dakota, the latest guide dog in training for Guide Dogs of Texas. This blog will be dedicated to the first 3 years of little Dakota's life as he learns to be a guide dog for the blind.

Dakota is a labradoodle from Dixie's Doodles in Georgetown, TX. He is the third doodle to join the guide dog family. Mason was our first ( and Trixie is our littlest doodle and our first girl, and now Dakota!

Please join us on this journey as we endeavor to make Dakota a great guide dog!

wag wag wag