Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sick Day Comfort

Sick L'il M and Marigold cuddle on the dog bed while watching Frozen for the umpteenth time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Golden Retriever, Marigold, dressed up as a marigold flower with her raiser, Anna of Arendelle.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A New Direction

It has been way too long to recap the past many months, so things will reveal themselves as they come up.  Ving went into formal training in July.  We hadn't reached 0 issues, but he was ready for the next step of his training.  Then, 2 weeks ago, Ving was the Demo dog at the Guide Dogs for the Blind graduation.  He was in Phase 7, the last phase before final testing.  Alas, today, I got the call that Ving had been Career Changed for distractability.  Reading the report, he was a lot of dog (which we knew, but hoped he would still fit the guide dog mold).   He also did not take to the kennel environment with the enthusiasm I thought he would.  We are hoping for Community Placement for the big guy.  Anyway, not exactly a great start to the week!

Ving prior to boarding the Puppy Truck in July

Monday, May 12, 2014

Esme is a graduate!

Our sweet (and smart!) Esme graduated as a guide dog just 3 fast months (to the day!) after returning for formal training.   She will be working in Oregon.   We had a short, but very sweet, reunion with our girl prior to graduation, in what ended up being a whirlwind trip to Portland (who doesn't love 26 hours in the car for a 3 1/2 day trip?).  Congratulations to Esme and her new friend, Charlotta!

Esme in harness!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ving a Ding

AKA da Ving Nut (spoken with Austrian accent), and Ding Ding.
L'il M pretending to be a dog with Ving
It's hard to believe that Ving has only been with our family for 1 month.  He is such an integrated member!  Ving is 8-months-old today, and has shown sooo much improvement over the past month that it makes me adore him all the more, and shows the potential that I really think he has to turn that corner into a really good dog.  I cannot imagine our house without him anymore.
Dillon and Ving try to get a little of the dog bed that Queen Esme is hogging!

Taking a look at the list of things to work on with Ving that I created last month, improvement can be easily measured:
  1. Recall- currently it is horrible off-leash.   Improved, still a long ways to go before I'd have any confidence.
  2. End the reflexive keep-away game. This has much improved due to almost continual wearing of a drag line, and much positive reinforcement of good choices he makes.  
  3. Settle in the house without a tie-down.
  4. Don't pick up things that aren't dog toys in house. Related to #2- much improved!
  5. Respond to his name.  I have a horrid cold right now, so maybe this is temporary, as my voice sounds so different from how he usually hears his name. Pretty darn good now, except under exciting distractions.
  6. Take food more gently.  To add to the fact that he gets excited about kibble, he has a canine with the tip broken off which makes his tooth really sharp! Rarely is this a problem anymore, but we won't cross it off just yet.
  7. Quiet behavior when he wants to do something else.  He has gotten better in the crate during the day, and is great all-night, but early mornings while I am relieving him and Esme are tough (when it's not his turn!) Very good, in general, but near dinner time or if he knows I'm doing something fun, then he sounds like a shrieking monkey.
  8. Four feet on the floor.  He's a kangaroo hopper if you hold his collar when he's excited to get somewhere.
Ving has just recently (like in the past 2 days) been freed of his constant drag line.  He no longer plays a circular game of keep away indoors when he gets something he shouldn't have (my floor plan aids Ving in this game!).  I can trust him not to steal attended food on the coffee table.  As long as Ving gets a good outing or an hour of good exercise, he settles in the house as well as any 8-month puppy I've known.  He has even shown that he will take a quiet day (no outing, minimal exercise), and still be chill in the house.  The next day better have some exercise though or he becomes Naughty Ving.
Ving in the snow

Outings with Ving are fun.  He is aware of everything, and requires me to constantly be paying attention and marking/rewarding his decision to stick with me in the face of people, interesting objects, and most difficult, other dogs.  Yesterday's trip to Home Depot was like taking L'il M to a toy store.  Forklifts, Christmas decorations, people, bins with small metal parts that made fun clinking noise all delighted Ving.  Unusual to our local Home Depot, no other dogs were there.  Maybe the frigid 14 degree weather kept them home, but not an adventurer like Ving!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, Esme!

Esme is 1!

Today that cute, little, black labby turned one!  Playing with Ving in the sunny, snowy yard, a long walk, nap by the fire, and extra doses of love made today the kind of day that Esme loves.

They ran around the swing set and each came running back with a branch broken by the storm
12 Things Esme:

  1. She's easy-going and low-energy.
  2. Sweet & cuddly are her middle names.
  3. Esme is the perfect size- not too big, not too small.
  4. She has been an old soul since she was little.
  5. Esme is a 2-yr-old's best friend.
  6. No outing/environment is too much for her.
  7. Zero fear issues, ever.
  8. Esme sits so far back on her rump sometimes, that she falls over backwards.
  9. She has a love/hate relationship with the car.  She loves to go, but dislikes the ride itself.
  10. Esme is a power chewer- she loves her sterilized bones!
  11. Her namesake is indeed the Twilight series, but ironically, GDB had an intern named Esme.
  12. Only 2-3 months until recall.
The Birthday Outtakes:
This is my happy face.

Can I please go chew my bone now?

Esme  & Ving at the end of a fun-filled day!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The New Kid on the Block

Sometimes puppy raisers do things that are a little crazy.  A little impulsive.  A little je ne sais crois.  Thanks to the blogging world, I found out that a puppy from a litter that tends to be energetic, ridiculously smart, and a bit opportunistic, was bouncing around with raisers, as he is a lot of dog.  After the ease of Esme (and Pilgrim), I could hardly ignore my desire to finish this boy.  Fortunately for me, he really had no where else to go, so Ving has joined our family.
Rudy, Esme, L'il M, Dillon, Ving

It took a day or two for the chaos to settle down a bit (I've had 3 GDB puppies this week!).  Once we developed some understandings, and a loose routine, Ving has been awesome!  He's very sweet.  He LOVES to be on the go.  He has great positional obedience and his relieving behavior seems good, so far. He keeps me constantly on my toes, and mentally engaged as one lapse in focus can result in really impulsive, bad behavior (so sorry about your nose, Mr Stick Horse).  I love that I can use kibble to reward his good behaviors constantly!  I think Ving has the potential to become a reliable dog with consistency and vigilance.

Ving turned 7-months-old on Saturday.  Since he has 8 months before recall, here are 8 things that I hope to work on before then.

  1. Recall- currently it is horrible off-leash.   
  2. End the reflexive keep-away game.  
  3. Settle in the house without a tie-down.
  4. Don't pick up things that aren't dog toys in house.
  5. Respond to his name.  I have a horrid cold right now, so maybe this is temporary, as my voice sounds so different from how he usually hears his name.
  6. Take food more gently.  To add to the fact that he gets excited about kibble, he has a canine with the tip broken off which makes his tooth really sharp!
  7. Quiet behavior when he wants to do something else.  He has gotten better in the crate during the day, and is great all-night, but early mornings while I am relieving him and Esme are tough (when it's not his turn!)
  8. Four feet on the floor.  He's a kangaroo hopper if you hold his collar when he's excited to get somewhere.
I am looking forward to the next 8 months with this crazy guy.  He is a great match for me personally, although I think L'il M might be a little disappointed when Esme leaves and she can't participate as much (Esme has been so cooperative with her!).  I am also grateful for Esme helping with his exercise program!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Weekend in Aspen

Esme got the chance to prove that she has overcome carsickness this weekend.  Road trip to Aspen, Colorado for a AA youth hockey tournament for my son.  The 6-hour drive was absolutely gorgeous!  Amazing mountain formations that led to beautiful yellow trees that just popped against the brown background.

Views from Hwy 70
The weekend was a busy one for Esme.  Shuttle bus rides, settling under many tables during dinners, screaming parents during very competitive games, lots of dogs (Aspen is very dog-friendly), sitting by the jacuzzi, sleeping on tie-down/loose in hotel room, fun little walks around the hockey rinks while waiting for the games to start.  Esme was a pro.  She is ready to be an easy-going guide dog.
Sitting by the hotel jacuzzi
Esme "chilling" during the game
Esme watching warm-ups

Esme & L'il M walking over a very tall bridge
Esme, not afraid of heights!
Look at Esme's cute pawprints!

The weekend ended on a Rocky Mountain high note with my son's hockey team winning the tournament!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tradition born, habit formed

Hiking has become a favorite around here lately.  The (pet) dogs love being able to run and sniff.  L'il M also loves to run free (without constant reminders to stay on the side of the road, etc).  L'il M runs after the dogs, but every now and then, she stops and does a recall with the dogs, rewarding them with kibble from her ever present bait bag that she carries.  It is quite funny.  I am not sure if she is resting her legs when she does it or if she just wants the dogs to pay attention to her.  It does seem to happen more frequently on the way up though.  Random recalls while hiking is something I did the first day we went hiking in a long time.  The dogs were so excited and I wanted to make sure they "remembered" and were motivated to come.  They were great, and then the next time I forgot to bring any kibble (which L'il M reminded me of).  Ever since then, L'il M has prioritized grabbing the bait bag before exiting the car at the trail head.  The irony of it is that this is exactly the method that I encouraged dog owners that I was working with to use in order to maintain some focus and responsiveness while their dogs were off-leash.  Many had such a hard time doing such a simple exercise.  So simple, in fact, that even a 2-yr-old can do it.  Habit formed.
Leia(our house guest), Dillon, L'il M, Esme, and Rudy posing in "the spot"

L'il M looks irritated that Leia is not posing for the camera
I hadn't planned on taking even more photos of our hike up to the same location.  But, toddlers are so routine oriented, and apparently I have formed a tradition of bringing a fruit leather (yes, the good old fashioned kind) for L'il M to have when we reach the top of our hike.  She begins asking about it when her legs start to tire.  There is a little bench at the top that allows enjoyment of the view while you rest your legs.  Now, pictures are also required before we begin the more downward continuation of the Outlook loop.  Tradition born.  This day, L'il M walked the whole way without needing to get a ride on my back.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

We took advantage of a beautiful fall day yesterday to hike Esme up to my favorite overlook for some pictures (since it will be very snowy when she is recalled!).
What a pretty girl!

Such a nice head for a girl!

Rudy, Esme, and Dillon

Not naptime, Esme...

The Dogs with L'il M who shows promise as a trail runner!
I love how this location gives such different mountain valley views by moving just a few feet in a different direction.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Running Again

We said goodbye to Levi on Monday, September 23rd.  Another life lost to the destruction of an aggressive lymphoma with T-cells.  Over the weekend, I kept thinking that giving up my GDB puppies for formal training scarcely holds a candle to the pain and torture of putting your beloved dog to sleep.  I wish it was not a choice that I have to make every decade or so.  Argh.  Why do I love these puppy dogs so?

Levi joined our family when he was 8-weeks-old.  The cutest little guy.  He was to be my running partner. He did not disappoint!  In 2006, I ran a marathon.  My last long run before race day was 26 miles.  Levi ran 22 of those miles with me!  He came home, took a good nap, and was back at his normal routine in the yard.
Levi at 8-weeks-old

Levi was a "smiler".  When he was naughty (which as a young dog happened a fair amount), he would curl his lip and tuck and twist his head in apology.  We attempted to teach the Smile on cue, but were never successful.

It was not until Rudy came to live with us that I discovered one of his naughtiest hobbies.   When my children were young, we had quiet time in the early afternoon (the toddler & I caught a little nap).  Apparently, Levi used this time to chase the pony and latch onto her tail while she ran about the field with a little Jack Russell hanging from her.  Rudy went into a crazy barking fit to be missing the fun.  I had been wondering what was happening to her previously beautiful tail...  In an instant I knew.  When I ran outside to rescue the pony, guess what Levi did? Smile.
Levi and his bestie, Dillon

For all his naughtiness when left to his own devices, Levi was extremely obedient.  He showed the utmost respect to both people and other dogs.  He loved big dogs, and equally hated small ones.  The dogs bigger than him were revered and kissed and attempted to be played with.  No comment on what potentially evil plots he had for the little dogs he saw.  I can say that I saw the mental wheels turning in his head...  Levi developed a kindred spirit for the guide dog puppies that came through our home over the years.

A life too short.  Potential unfulfilled.  Levi lived his life to his fullest ability.  Our home & family will miss him.  Words cannot express the dog that Levi was, or the special soul that he possesses.

RIP (Run in Peace)
Oct 18, 2003 - September 23, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Levi's Prayer


If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,

Then you must do what must be done
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad I understand,
Don't let grief then stay your hand.

For this day more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We've had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears,

You'd not want me to suffer so,
The time has come to let me go.

Take me where my need they'll tend,
And please stay with me until the end.

Hold me firm and speak to me.
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see,
The kindness that you did for me.

Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I've been saved.

Please do not grieve it must be you,
Who has this painful thing to do,

We've been so close, we two, these years
Don't let your heart hold back its tears.

For I am now in a better place,
And will be waiting to see your happy face.

So when you cross that final bridge,
Look for me...
I'll be standing next to the fridge.

Author Unknown

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Go Utes!

The last big football day for a few years in Utah today- BYU vs the U of U.  GO UTES!  In all honesty, I don't really follow football, but I have loved college rivalry football games since I attended Washington State University (ah, the good old days) and we played the University of Washington in the Apple Cup.

After putting our U flag out on the lawn, L'il M and I took Dillon and Rudy on a short hike to enjoy the gorgeous weather with a wonderful breeze!  The trees in the mountains are just beginning to turn red (really late this year).  The views were just amazing today!  I wish I had taken more pictures.

Look at those mountain trees!

Nothing like a little wind in your hair

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's been a crazy month!

A month has passed by... such busy days with back-to-school, birthdays, and a sick dog.

I decided (sub-consciously) to sprain my ankle coming down the stairs in August which seriously slowed down my ability to move into over-drive for this past month; really could've used that gear to stay on top of things.  For the first time, I finally tried to take the dogs & an overly-energetic 2-yr-old on a walk yesterday.  The ankle kills today.  <sigh>

In late August, young Prince came to stay with us for 8 days.  Prince is Esme's half brother (another Shawn puppy).  He was so good, and had a great time playing with Esme.  I was quite thankful to have him stay with us after spraining my ankle, since I could not walk Esme to wear her out.  The old saying about tired puppies being good puppies is so true.
Prince making a run for it with Esme hot on his heels.
Prince watching Disney Jr on the Ipad.  Seriously.

FUN trip to California to take my oldest daughter to her college.  We were able to get in a fantastic day at Huntington Beach before the great orientation weekend began.  L'il M loved the sand and waves.  She played happily for hours.  When the cool ocean water began to make her chilled, she went and rolled in the hot sand.  The child has no issue with being filthy, let me tell you.  :)  Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera to capture the moment.

Looking cool in California

The college orientation was first rate all the way.  Excellent food, and a fine mix of family activities with the necessary orientation information.  Here is a picture at the carnival evening complete with In & Out burgers.
Gotta love the Green Screen- this is 9pm after a hot & humid day!  Someone looks tired...
After returning home, school for the other kiddos was well under way, as well as hockey, and very quickly arriving birthdays.  My little Levi is still hanging in there; the prednisone makes a huge difference.  Saturday was a rough day for him.  I thought we had reached the last days.  It was very sad.  However, he has rebounded again, so we will just call it a bad day.  My optimism for beating the odds has been checked as I feel lumps all over his body now, and his lymph node has become enlarged.  I know the cancer is raging through his body.  He whimpers when I pick him up, as well as when he is bumped into by a less than careful black labby...  So, we try to get frequent car rides, and very careful petting in the areas less tender.  It's so hard, and I know the days are measured now.  He will be 10 on Oct 18.  I hope he can make it to that day, but I honestly think that might be a stretch.
Love you, Levi

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Alternative Ways

While waiting for the boys to come out of the Ice Rink last Sunday, L'il M, Esme and I relaxed in the shade of some grass.  L'il M thought she'd use the time to practice putting on/taking off of the vest.
She got it on right, but Esme rolled over preventing L'il M from buckling it

Trying it again

Hmmm...  that doesn't look right

Studying the situation

At this point, the boys returned so her attempts were done for the day.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Really bad news

I called my vet to check on biopsy reports on Levi's tumors.  I was, honestly, not expecting such horrible news.  The lab determined that Levi has a very aggressive form of Lymphoma under the dermis (I always thought lymphoma was only in the lymphs).  The lab said it has likely spread to other tissues (which it already has-vet removed another small lump about 2" over from the biggie).  Vet kind of implied that we are talking months.  Skin biopsy was not back yet, so that may add another whole element to this.  My poor boy.

As saddened as I am over this, I found out today that a most honorable, Christian man from my church had passed away this morning from a heart attack.  He was a high-school football coach, married, and has 3 boys.  He was coaching at the time.  He was only 39.  Life is precious.  We cannot take one day for granted.

Today has been a bit of a bummer.

"This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Thank you for ten adventure-filled years.  Thank you that I know to love on Levi a bit more than normal.  Thank you for helping me hold my family a little closer tonight.

A Working Weekend

As I have "matured" in my guide dog puppy raising experience, I have found that it is truly unnecessary to drag (I mean, take) your puppy everywhere anytime you go somewhere.  Quality of outing definitely trumps quantity of outings, in my opinion.  Esme has been no exception.  Until recently, her monthly reports seemed eerily absent of outings.  That said, any place that she has gone, she demonstrated total confidence and appropriate behavior, so I have not been too concerned.

This weekend was different, she got to be a busy working dog!  Saturday morning, a Leaders Meeting, with two CFRs, followed by a statewide Puppy Raiser Workshop.  So, what did Esme think of a large room full of 40 or so dogs?

The exception was her brief reunion with Eagle, her brother.  She gave him a sweet kiss on the nose, and a few extra body wiggles upon greeting.  The two Shawn/Darice puppies look nearly identical in the head.  I was even surprised that Eagle is pretty much the same size (small) as Esme.  They are both very submissive dog-dog greeters, which was kind of comical.
Esme and Eagle kiss hello
Esme & Eagle

Sunday was back-to-school shopping and more!  While waiting for my teenage boys to pick out some shoes, I had Esme try kenneling under the bench.  She was more than happy to get her shoulders under, but kind of forgot about the rear end...

After a few more stores, we went to lunch where Esme happily snoozed on the cool concrete (notice the pattern?).

Then we drove to Salt Lake City and made a short trip through Costco before heading over to the ice rink for a hockey scrimmage that my younger son was participating in.  Again, Esme just settled quickly and went to sleep.  In fact, if there was an award for the dog that settled most quickly, Esme might win!

All in all, a good, outing filled weekend for a dog that doesn't go much, and she handled it like a pro!