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Monday, November 23, 2009

To Be Continued

























How do you like these fun "before" and "after" pictures of Duckie? He has turned out to be quite a dog. But really, Dakota's story has only just begun! You can follow the further adventures of Ben and Dakota at:


They are so awesome!

...And, is anyone just a teeny bit curious to see who our new puppy will be? Well, it's...
(Drum roll please!)

...Wait, you don't really think I'm going to tell you right here, do you?! Of course not! Because I want all that pent-up curiosity to force you to click on over to:


So hightail it on over there! Update your bookmarks, become a follower, leave us some comments. We're just like our puppies: will work for praise!

Tail wags to all, and thanks for being such a terrific audience!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Then and Now

Dakota and Ben by a truck with Dakota's puppy photo on the door You gotta love this...Dakota as an 8-week-old puppy (above, on van) and now, an all-grown-up service dog.

He & Ben have been hard at work lately.


Ben grooms Dakota

They've practiced going all kinds of places together.


Ben plays Wii while Duckie watches

...Actually, that looks like fun!

Keep on wishing them well as they continue their training together!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Off to a Great Start!

When we puppy raisers turn in our well-trained (we hope!) dogs at the end of our time with them, there's a pretty normal phenomenon that they seem to go through to one degree or another...we call it "regression." The dog can seem to go backwards in his training, as if he's "forgotten" what he had earlier done so well. As I understand it, a lot of this is due to the stresses of the transition, and the dog being a situational learner just takes a while to get back up to speed. So, to be honest, although I was confident that Dakota "knew his stuff" I didn't really expect to see much out of him for a bit...it seemed only realistic that he'd take a while to transition to his new handler & new surroundings.

Now you know why you could've knocked me over with a feather when I got a call from Michelle early yesterday afternoon saying that within 20 minutes of being handed over to Ben, his new owner (yeah! I got permission to tell you his name!), Duckie accurately alerted him to high blood glucose levels. GO, DUCKIE!!! :-) I was literally choking back the tears (of joy!) in Wal-Mart (which is where I was when I got her call)...I'm sure everyone thought I was a bit odd but hey, I'm sort of used to that by now! I thought I couldn't be happier until...

...later in the afternoon, I got the email that...Dakota did it again!

...AND...a note later on that he'd done it again! Can you say WOW?!

Now, I know that as a team they've got a lot of work to do, and I'm sure Dakota still has much to learn. But you really can't ask for a better start than that.

Michelle & Ben's Dad have sent me a few photos & said they were OK to post so...meet Ben!

Dakota and his new owner, a young boy What a great team, don't you think? Yeah, I think they were pretty much made for each other. Duckie needed his very own person to look after. He's going to get to go to school with Ben & everything. Way cool! Here they are getting ready to go on their first walk...
Ben bends over to give Dakota a pat as they begin a walk

Notice the awesome reflective tape on the chest piece of Duckie's jacket. I love it!
Ben & Dakota, who is wearing service dog jacket with reflective chest piece
...Just chillin' , waiting for the day's work to start...
Dakota and Ben relaxing on the bed together
I think Dakota has finally found his niche. Keep up the good work, Ben...you guys will do great!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gone...Never Forgotten!


Fittingly, the day we gave Dakota back to GDTx for final training with his partner was November 14, World Diabetes Day. We are so excited that we were able to prepare him for his career as a diabetic alert dog and look forward to hearing about his progress (more on that later!)
family photo with Dakota

This has definitely been a family effort!

Our last week with Duckie was pretty relaxed and normal, and we made a last visit to many of our favorite spots.

Dakota smiles from behind a big tree stump



A walk in the woods is fun this time of year!








kids with Dakota and some flowers



Just hanging out with the kids...what could be better?










Dakota and Beth in the fork of a large oak






Of course, Duckie had to help me run some errands and do a little shopping, just like always.





Dakota looks up at Beth as they enter a store together



Dakota watches while I pick out stuff at Hobby Lobby










Just a dog doing his job!









Dakota & Beth in front of the shopping cart

Dakota loves to "find the counter" when it's time to pay for our purchases. 95% of the time he also finds me the shortest line -- what a talent! I think that's because he's aiming for the counter itself and just wants to get me as close as possible...he certainly doesn't mind waiting as much as I do!





Of course, we spent plenty of time just relaxing at home and playing with his favorite toys (yes, Julia, he still loves the tire!)...

Dakota with a tire toy in front of a green bush

Dakota giving Beth his paw Guide dog puppies are NOT supposed to "shake hands"!...and, I promise I did not teach him this! I mentioned it to Sarah, Willie's trainer, once...she said, "Oh yes, all our doodles have done that! We call it 'the paw of love.'" Then she gave me some helpful tips for how to discourage it. After all, if you couldn't see, you really wouldn't want your dog doing this randomly. He could spill your drink...knock you off balance...who knows what. But eventually, when Dakota left the guide dog program, I just gave up. So here he is, giving me his solemn pawshake that he'll do his best and make us proud!

Probably the top question/comment that we puppyraisers hear is, "But how do you give them up?" or just flat, "I could never give them up!" Of course, they're right, it's no cakewalk. But honestly, how many worthwhile things in life are easy? The people who eventually receive these dogs are amazing individuals who have decided not to let their physical setbacks define their lives. They inspire me...and I am so happy that I can help!

We'll definitely miss Dakota, but I'm not the slightest bit sad for him. He's got a fabulous, loving home, a family who needs him, and a job he loves. He'll do great! It's bittersweet. But we're so, so very proud.

When Michelle came to get him he was ready...brushed to within an inch of his life and all bursting with excitement.


Dakota looks out from Michelle's car, fur shining in the sun


"OK, Michelle, what are we waiting for?"


Dakota enjoys a last friendly pat as he waits in the car


A last pat from Katharine...


Dakota smiles to his family as Michelle gets ready to drive away

...and he's off! We love you, Duckie!

Starting Monday the 16th, Dakota embarks on a 3-week intensive training program with his new handler. The first portion is in residence at the GDTx center. Then they'll move on to work in his home and daily routes.

I've withheld personal information about Duckie's new family in order to respect their privacy...BUT...there is a rumor going around that his new partner might be starting a blog of his own!! If so, I will most definitely post a link here so that you can keep up with them. They'll be quite a team, that's for sure!

Also, Michelle all but promised me a few photos from their training, so you certainly need to keep checking back for that also...

...AND...of course you'll want to stay tuned for new doodle puppy updates!

And so life goes on. The house seems empty and I miss the squishy doodle nose in my face every morning. But I wouldn't have it any other way, and Dakota's doing what he was born to do. That's what it's all about!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Improvise

Improvise, roll with it, go with the flow. Pretty good mottoes because, let's face it, I have yet to meet the day that turned out just as I thought it would. Case in point: Michelle had asked me to take Duckie on a bus this week for one of our walks, as his new schedule will include regular bus rides. No problem, we know the drill, so I just went online, grabbed the city bus schedule, drove downtown & parked near a bus stop where we'd be able to catch a familiar route -- a convenient loop. Of course, assistant trainers Charissa & Katharine were along just for fun.

But alas, on arriving at our stop we saw a sign that bus schedules had been cut back, and the one we'd planned on taking wasn't running til the evening. So, yeah, those online schedules aren't all they're cracked up to be! Not to be so easily deterred, we figured that as long as we were downtown, by george, we were going to ride a bus. Any bus. After all, it's not like we were actually trying to get anywhere! Here we are, 3 people and a dog who are all fond of walking, so I just decided we'd get on one, ride it as far as we were willing to go, then walk back to the car if we had to. And that's just what we did.

Duckie was bursting with eagerness to board, and once we'd found a seat he tucked in nicely. People's reactions to him were interesting. As usual he created quite a sensation, which as usual he ignored, settling in for a relaxed ride. Good dog! The guy across the aisle struck up a long, and I do mean long, conversation about service dogs and other assorted topics. Amazing how with Dakota along, I never have a shortage of people to talk to! In the end, though, I was just ready for a break so finally at an opportune stop I nodded to the kids, stood up, and we all exited.

Serendipitously, it just so happened that we got off right at Chipotle, one of our favorite places to eat. Couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it!

Who, me, bring a dog in the restaurant? What dog?

Oh...that dog!

Fortified by chicken tacos, the girls and I were ready for the long trek back to the car. Busy traffic, a construction zone, folks walking their pet dogs, and of course the random person making silly noises at him...Dakota took it all in stride. All in all, it was a very fun day, and a good exercise in improvisation.

Dakota is due to leave our home for the last time this weekend, and then it's on to official classes with his new person! He's definitely more enthusiastic about his scent work than ever. When he alerts he gets very excited and proud, more so than with anything else we've taught him. I know it'll take time to transfer over from working with scent samples to real life work, but he's ready for the transition.

And it probably doesn't take too much to figure out what the next step is for our family. Of course, another guide dog puppy! We got to meet these six adorable puppies at Dixie's Doodles for their 5-week test last Saturday (forgot my camera, can you believe it?!) Here's a link where you can see them all...which one do you think is volunteering to be the next guide dog?

http://www.dixiesdoodles.com/2009_chessy_october/2009_chessy_october_week5.html

We won't know for sure which one it'll be until after their 7-week test. But if all goes well, one of them should come home with us after Thanksgiving! We are so excited. I'm sure the new puppy will have potential and personality all its own for us to discover. I have a feeling we'll have plenty of new opportunities to improvise!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hi from Dakota


So, everybody, what have you been up to lately? Whatever it is, I bet I can top it! First off, I spent a day working at the training center with all the other guide dog puppies. We had to do a bunch of obedience work and training exercises to help us pups get used to doing our work even with other dogs around. Mom said I was way too excited and needed to settle down...and I (eventually) did!

The first game was kind of like musical chairs, only with hula hoops. We were given a limited time to go from one hula hoop to the next, trying to ignore all our doggy buddies, and get ourselves sitting politely before time was up. Tougher than it sounds, believe me!

Next we had to practice "tucking in," like service dogs have to do in buses and other tight quarters. It was a lot easier for me than some of those big guys, but we all did it...even giant Jethro!


We also practiced getting on and off a "bus," which was really just chairs set up in close formation. Other than poking the person in front of me with my nose (for some reason people don't like that, go figure!), I did pretty well.

The most challenging real-life situation was at lunchtime, when the puppy raisers had to go through a buffet line and fix their plates with one hand, while keeping us dogs under control with the other. When I saw Twist on the other side of the table, I was tempted to just make a grab at her, but Mom was pretty determined that wasn't going to happen. Oh well!

The other pups got to play when we were done, but since I start class with my new human in just a few days, there was NO way our boss, Michelle, was going to take a chance on something happening to me. I had to sit out. As if those dogs could even catch me! Believe me, I was pretty upset about that. But I forgave her when she gave me a bunch of new treats. She says they're supplements for healthy joints, but she's gotta be confused...they're definitely dog candy!

Look what else is new...I've got a brand new designer outfit! Since I'll be doing diabetic alert work instead of guide work, I've got a wardrobe of tan jackets that say "GDTX SERVICE DOG" on them. Pretty awesome, don't you think? The webbing is a nifty desert camo print, and a chest piece is being designed to go with it that will say, "I'M WORKING." Plus, since they're custom-made for me, I've finally got clothes that fit! I used to embarrass my family by scratching at my old jackets in public...but you would scratch at your clothes too, if they were made for someone twice your size!
I don't have any pictures of the whole next week, because my family went on vacation without me and I got to visit different people while they were gone. I started off at the good old Greenwood School with my friend Tracy...she doesn't have a guide dog puppy of her own right now so I filled in as best I could, helping her stir up -- wait, I mean look after -- all those cute little munchkins who come over every day.

Next, it was off to Michelle's house. Let me tell you, that Michelle lady works...hard! It was go, go, go all the time. She really kept me busy. We had work, and walks, and meetings, and I even got an "assessment" from our head trainer (I couldn't tell it from a regular walk, but they seemed to think it was important!) Then, when we got home to her pet dogs, I had to take them all in hand and show them who was boss. A tough job, but someone has to do it! By the end of each day I was really exhausted. Fortunately someone must've given Michelle the memo that I sleep on people beds now, so I didn't have any explaining to do.

Michelle is a very discerning person -- almost as smart as a labradoodle, I'd say. She finally figured out what I've been trying to explain to my family all along...I much prefer eating from a plate! Sensitive doodle ears like mine HATE annoying noises, and the tinny jingle of my kibbles rattling around a ceramic bowl is just like nails on a chalkboard to me. Who can eat with all that racket? One night she just poured my food out on the floor and I ate it all up and even wanted more! So now I get to eat out of paper plates. They're nice and quiet, and my ears don't touch the sides. Finally, someone who understands me!

But let me tell you, it was great to get home yesterday and see my family again. I've got one last week with them before I head off for my new work and new people. But first...

...time for a looooooooooong nap!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Counting Down

Just a few more weeks to go until Dakota graduates from our house to join his new family. They'll train together at the GDTx center, followed by more customized training in their home location and daily routes...just like any client receiving a guide dog! I'm so excited about that.

I'm less than excited, I'll admit, about the actual goodbye! Dakota's last week here will probably be the first week of November, and since we have some family travel planned between now and then, his time with us is even shorter. It really seems to me that the more ups and downs you share with a puppy, the more invested you are in his future and the tougher it can be to turn over the leash. We've been through so much with this guy...remember back when he was a guide dog puppy? That just seems ages ago now! In the last couple of months our lives have changed so much as we've researched Type I diabetes, diabetic alert dogs, and scent training. We've learned a lot in such a short time, kind of like Dakota!


But despite goodbyes, I'm so eager to see him at work in his new job that honestly, I'm looking forward to it too...albeit with butterflies in my stomach! And while we're counting down here, I imagine his new handler is counting down too. I can't imagine what that must feel like!

It's a bird...it's a plane...no, it's Super Duck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Distractions

**Sorry, no pictures this week -- our photographer is on a trip. We miss you, Charissa!**

It's a cool, cloudy evening and as shadows begin to close in, people gather at the shopping complex. Small children run squealing through the playscape as their parents sit chatting. Pet dogs are there too, and an occasional bark rings out. The mouthwatering aromas of food pour out of restaurants as couples stroll toward dinner. On the patio, rowdy cheering erupts as people root for their favorite teams on the big screen. But we're not here for any of that. "Team Dakota" is on a mission!

So far we've gotten Duckie to alert us to the scents associated with high and low blood sugar, giving us a distinct signal for each one. But he needs to practice this work in a real-world setting. Will he still be interested in playing our little game when he's surrounded by all his favorite distractions? This is the perfect place to find out.

I wait for the kids, Dakota at heel, to disappear around the corner and then I open the cooler with its containers of scent samples. Grabbing one from the "low" jar, I stuff it in a pocket and head off by a different route to meet them at a predetermined spot.

As I arrive, it's clear that we've accomplished our first goal: Dakota is definitely distracted! He's so engrossed in the antics of a large golden retriever that he scarcely acknowledges my arrival. Charissa practices obedience work with him and he cooperates, but you can see his focus isn't really up to par. We circle around, chatting, and still nothing from Dakota. So we decide to sit down at some picnic tables...

...when all of a sudden, Dakota's head snaps around, sniffing. As if magnetized to that special scent, he leaves Charissa's side to snuffle loudly at my pocket and then he just STARES at me. Still, I don't do anything, waiting for him to give a definite alert. He looks at me as if to say, "Hey, I know, and you know I know, so what's the big deal?" I suppress a laugh and attempt to act like I haven't noticed anything. "Oh, all right!" you can almost hear Dakota say. He rears back on his hind legs and deliberately plants both forepaws on my leg -- our signal for "low." "GOOD BOY!" I praise him, probably much too loudly for public decorum. I'm sure this looks really great to other people...here I'm actually praising a dog, a service dog no less, for jumping up on me?! I just hope I don't have to try and explain this one! But we're elated. It's a definite success!

Dakota gets his well-deserved liver nugget, but I think he's equally excited about all the fuss we make over him. As he prances around happily, he seems to be glancing about to see if anyone's noticed how great he is! Probably a bit disappointed not to be the center of the world's attention, he settles back in to people-watching...and we get ready to repeat the whole procedure.

We practice a couple more times, varying the type of scent and where it's hidden, then meander to a nearby movie theater. Again, the Friday evening traffic, crowds, and popcorn work as strong distractions. Dakota's definitely interested in his surroundings...but time and again, he shows that he loves his work too and enjoys doing it in various situations. His reaction time varies but he never keeps us waiting too long. The more we play, the more alert he seems to get...we're making progress!

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Museums



This week brought a special visitor: Grandpa! It was a great excuse for the whole family to get out and enjoy ourselves a bit. We spent a day visiting the Texas Natural Science Center at UT.


A whole museum full of bones...for a dog, what's not to like? We all had a good time. I like this picture of Dakota and the dinosaur bone.


"Why don't they come this size at Petco?"

Outside, there were even seats made in the shape of dinosaur vertebrae. Duckie & I thought that was funny!




Big sabertooth kitty only looks fierce...we're not scared!


...And back at home, we're playing a lot of scent-related games for Dakota's diabetic alert training. They're so much fun for him, though, I've never quite broken it to him that this is actually "work"! In one of our games, I secretly hide a scent sample somewhere on my person while someone else distracts Dakota by playing with him outside or in another room. When he returns, he has to first of all notice the scent without a command from anyone; then alert me appropriately. Today I've hidden it in my pocket. He's supposed to alert by jumping up and placing his front feet on me (something he is not allowed to do under other circumstances!)


video


Making progress! This is a big job, Dakota's far from done, and there's lots for him to learn...but I think he's come a long way in a short time. He has definitely gotten wise to my sneaky ways of hiding scent samples while he's gone and now he's gotten suspicious...he'll usually come "check" me as soon as he comes in the room to make sure he didn't miss anything. Of course, I'm sure that's exactly what his new owner would want him to do, so maybe that's a good thing!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Busy Days


As we've been introducing Dakota to scent work lately, it's occurred to me that his guide dog experience is a terrific basis for the new work. Guide work, even just the basic work that we puppy raisers do, really teaches the dogs to think for themselves. Guide dogs know lots of commands, but what really sets them apart in my mind is that they do the bulk of their work "on their own" -- they must make appropriate decisions without commands from the human partner. Sitting at curbs, slowing down for changes in footing, avoiding overhead obstacles -- it's all up to the dog to negotiate using his own judgment.

In the same way, right now we're teaching Dakota to recognize the scent associated with "high" and "low" blood sugars, and linking a distinctive alert to each one. But the key is that eventually those scents will become their own cue for an alert -- he'll have to decide to give the alert with no command from his handler. Having seen his ability to handle basic guide work in this way, I know he's got it in him...it will just take lots of work and practice. I'm really thrilled that we get to be involved in his basic training and we're extremely excited with his progress!

In the meantime, we're keeping up lots of obedience work and socialization, as usual. With October just around the corner, Halloween displays are everywhere. Dakota didn't know what to think of this sinister-looking character. He was so curious and wanted to sniff her, but...what a scary cackle!


video

Monday, September 21, 2009

Art Appreciation for Dogs

Dakota's scent training for diabetic alert work began this past Thursday, and we're thrilled with his response.  He's naturally curious and eager to please, and so far we're also impressed with his nose...keep up the good work, Duckie!


Switching gears a little...Dakota celebrated Austin's "free museum day" by going along with us Sunday to Austin's beautiful Blanton Museum of Art.  The folks at the Blanton were very welcoming of him as a service dog and radioed ahead so that none of the docents would be taken by surprise when we walked in.  We enjoyed the wide array of exhibits while Dakota sat politely and people-watched.  He pretty much ignored the two-dimensional art, but the sculptures fascinated him.  His favorite was a larger-than-life piece entitled, "Dying Gaul."  The subject had apparently gotten the worst of a skirmish with Roman forces and was kind of lying on one side, arm outstretched, on a platform that put him just above Duckie level.  Put yourself in Dakota's paws, though, and he was...obviously...trying to reach out and give a tummy rub!  Dakota got quite excited and wanted to sniff and lick his hand...I had to discreetly walk away into the adjoining room!  Overall, though, Dakota did just great, especially with all the crowds.  I was pretty pleased with him.

This particular piece of "art" was not featured at the Blanton, but it's so quirky-Austin that I just had to get a picture.  It's designed to encourage responsible dog ownership, as you can see!  Apparently the pile of dirt in the background represents the amount of waste generated daily by Austin dogs...wow....



"Hey, I always have clean walks, it wasn't me!"

Have a good week, everyone, and wish Dakota luck as he continues his new training!


Dakota's a Winner!

Thank you to Erin & her crew ( http://gdfpuppyraiser.blogspot.com/ ) for this fun award!  Took me quite a while to figure out how to post it, so I don't know how much of a blogger I really am.  If you like great pictures of adorable dogs, you've really got to check out Erin's blog featuring the escapades of two dachshunds and an ever-changing array of service-dog-in-training sidekicks.





Way to go, Duckie, we always knew you were a winner!




Friday, September 11, 2009

Career Change?

Yes, Dakota's had a change in his career path. Kind of like when you start college and switch majors midstream, it means some retooling and extra work, but it's all worth it in the end! The family he met last week thinks he's a great match so all systems are go. Now, instead of training to be a guide dog, he's training to be a diabetes alert dog.

I can hear it all the way through cyberspace..."A what?" Since I've been answering that question about Dakota all his life it just doesn't faze me any more. In fact it seems almost fitting! (Passerby: "He's a what?" Me, for the thousandth time: "A labradoodle...")

Dogs have this amazing sense of smell, as I'm sure you know. In fact, guide dogs use their sense of smell for some of their "finds" ("find the trash can, " "find the boys," "find the girls" -- for the men's and ladies' restrooms). I remember my surprise when I was working Willie at a new strip mall and he suddenly "lost" his ability to find me a trash can. Later I realized that since it was new construction, the trash cans had no trash in them yet and he just didn't recognize them without their characteristic scent!

At any rate, Duckie will soon be training for a new scent "find" -- only this time he'll be using his nose to detect a drop or spike in his partner's blood glucose levels. He'll then learn to give an "alert" to his person, who can do a quick test and take appropriate action to keep the levels in the target zone. To the uninitiated it might almost seems superfluous to have a service dog for this purpose. But what I've learned is that many type I diabetics can become unaware of the physical symptoms of their "highs" and "lows." These swings can be fast and dangerous. In these cases, specially trained service dogs can be a real life saver, as they can often learn to alert long before the situation reaches a critical point. Think Dakota's up to it?...Yeah, I do too!

So far, we've had to retrain him in two areas. The first one was teaching him to walk at heel (right by my side), rather than in guide position (a little ahead). That took...well...all of one walk. He really seems to get the idea. I'm the one having trouble remembering! Old habits die hard, and I guess I'm older than he is, so there you go!

The second (get ready to laugh): we had to teach him to sleep on the bed! Again, this is much harder for me than for him. We have never ever ever let him on the furniture...AT ALL! Guide dogs don't do that. However, one of the times he'll be needed most will be nighttime and we want him close to his new person, should a blood sugar drop occur in the middle of the night. SO...(and I can hardly believe I'm saying this)...he's been getting to sleep with Katharine. Of course they both love it! The first time we asked him to get on the bed he dashed around it 2 or 3 times, like, "You're kidding, right?!...Oh you aren't?...well, here goes!" ...and with one leap he was up. He's never looked back, and seems to feel it's only his proper place now. So all you puppy raisers out there, let this be a lesson to you. All those months of careful training can be undone in just about ten seconds! Thankfully he's smart enough to get the difference between a bed and the other furniture and has never attempted to get on the couch or anything else. And here's the funniest part: the very next time I told him to "Go to bed" (our normal command for him to go to his crate)...guess where he went? That's right, the people bed! He just looked at me like, "Well, this is my bed now!" Funny dog...perhaps a bit too smart for his own good...

We may call it a career change, but to Dakota it's nothing short of a promotion!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's All About the People...

Dakota's such a people-focused dog. While we're working, his eyes and ears are on me. If we go out to eat or something and he's under my chair, he always positions himself so he can people-watch. But when the jacket's off and he's actually allowed to socialize with people, he couldn't be happier. Well, the jacket came off and he got to meet some wonderful new people on Thursday!

It was what we call the matching visit, where a potential client and service dog meet for the first time, get to know one another, and get a feel for whether and how this whole thing is going to work out. Normally, puppy raisers don't get to be a part of this at all, so I was thrilled that Dakota's prospective new family wanted to visit him in his own home. We were so excited! I can't say much else yet, but things did seem to go well and for Duckie it was obviously love at first sight (first sniff?...first lick?)

And really, when all's said and done, that's what this whole puppy-raising thing is about: the people. At first, it seems like it's about the dogs. After all, that's the side of it that we work on -- transforming our adorable but totally uncivilized little puppies into well-mannered, highly skilled guide dogs. But seeing a guide dog at work with his partner (especially when that dog was once your puppy!) truly reminds you that it's about the people. There's a synergy, a bond between the two that is quite amazing. Any disability just seems to melt away and all you see is a confident person getting on with and enjoying her life...with the help of a very special dog. It's a great feeling to know you've been able to contribute toward that cause.

Although Dakota will be a different type of service dog, that's essentially what his life will be about too -- his person. And I don't think he could be any happier! We're excited to see what the future holds for him and his partner.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What's Your MPH?

No, we're not talking about miles per hour! It's just become a family joke that Dakota gets very low mph, or "miles per hug." A big cuddler, he needs (or at least wants!) constant refills of hugs and pats to keep him going. Of course since no one seems to mind obliging him, I guess you could say it works out pretty well!


After a hectic week accompanying us everywhere from the orthodontist's office, to the mall, to the grocery store (and all points in between), Dakota got another brand new experience on Saturday: attending a GDTx speakers' workshop.



No, we're not teaching him to "speak" -- that will be my job! There were at least half a dozen other dogs in the classroom when we walked in -- all working guides. Dakota was so excited that he began to pull and whine and even barked a couple of times. I took him to the back and we did a little obedience work together, which helped to settle him down. Then we found a seat, and he was really quite good for the rest of the two-hour meeting, apart from a little more whining at the start when a guide dog and his person came and sat right in front of us. But he settled in with the help of occasional reminders from me and a few well-timed pieces of liver! Afterward, his reward was getting some hugs and attention from several of the folks who had come to the meeting. It was fun to see some of our GDTx friends and get to know a few new people as well.
One more picture for you to enjoy...just look at the beautiful GDTx vehicle with all those handsome guide dogs emblazoned all over it!


...and who might that be, larger than life, right on the door in front?

You bet, that's Dakota! He was a pretty cute baby, you have to admit. Of course we got a huge kick out of seeing OUR puppy driving up! Hopefully this vehicle gets better fuel economy than Dakota's famously low "mph"...although Katharine has pointed out that to make up for it, Duckie's mpk (miles per kibble) is extremely high!