Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
He & Ben have been hard at work lately.
...Actually, that looks like fun!
Keep on wishing them well as they continue their training together!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
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...
I think Dakota has finally found his niche. Keep up the good work, Ben...you guys will do great!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
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.
A walk in the woods is fun this time of year!
Of course, Duckie had to help me run some errands and do a little shopping, just like always.
Just a dog doing his job!
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!
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.
"OK, Michelle, what are we waiting for?"
A last pat from Katharine...
...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
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?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
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!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
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!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
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
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.
Outside, there were even seats made in the shape of dinosaur vertebrae. Duckie & I thought that was funny!
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!