RUNTRAILS' 2020 JOURNAL

 

  

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding on Miss Huff lantana flowers in our yard

 

   
 
 
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  JANUARY PUP-DATE ON 7-MONTH-OLD
SOUTHEASTERN GUIDE-DOG-IN-TRAINING, DON

FRIDAY, JANUARY 31

 
"Where's Don?"    
~ the question I now get from various associates at Sam's Club,
Target, Home Depot, and other stores if I'm shopping without Don!
 
 
Funny thing is, I don't know their names and they don't know mine, but they remember Don's name after meeting him only once or twice!

That's the kind of lasting impression this sweet puppy has on people.


I call him Dapper Don when he's wearing a spiffy bow tie.
This is one of his 7-month birthday photos.

There isn't much new to report on Don's basic guide training. It's mostly been a continuation of the cues (commands) I described in the December 11, 2019 journal entry series. He learns fast and loves to train. He already knows all the basic cues he's supposed to know by a year old. Now we practice in different settings so he learns to generalize them.

Each month our puppy raiser group usually has two Saturday morning meetings -- one a training session at a church in Marietta, the other a public outing somewhere different each time.

Outings have included shopping centers and malls, downtown Marietta Square, a firehouse, hospital, college library, Delta Airlines training facility, and coming in February, the Atlanta Braves stadium. We visit various types of settings where guide and service dogs might go with the people with whom they are matched after they graduate.

 
I took this slanted picture of Don on a private outing in downtown
Newnan with another raiser and guide pup in our group. (1-27-20)


The same day Don and I also toured part of the large At Home store
in Newnan.  He did great with these new exposures! (1-27-20)

Our first Atlanta puppy group meeting in January was an outing at Town Center Mall in Kennesaw. It was Don's first time inside an enclosed mall.

We practiced walking on the left side of the corridors like a working guide dog would do, went into several stores and a bathroom with noisy hand dryers, and practiced going up and down stairs.

The area coordinator walked with us for about 10 minutes and noted that Don isn't real confident in new situations and shows signs of stress. He also got ahead of me going up the set of stairs in the mall but stayed in heel position going down. He usually does well on stairs in both directions, as he did at the Kennesaw University Library in November:

That indicated I need to work with him more on stairs, especially in new settings where he might get more stressed out. We have no stairs at home so I have to take him places with different types of steps for practice.

In November, 2019 Jim's VFW post voted to donate $1,000 to Southeastern Guide Dogs to be designated specifically toward the service dog program.

As quartermaster, Jim is the one who writes the checks. He sent it to SEGD before the end of the year but waited until our group met at Town Center Mall in early January to present a "publicity" check to Ellen, our area coordinator:


Jim is front left with the check; Don and I are second from the right. Four other
raisers and pups in our group were not present for the photo. (1-11-20)

We were able to apply the $1,000 VFW donation to our 2020 Walkathon account so it could be used toward our group's goal of raising at least $5,000.

One of the ways Southeastern raises money is through the puppy naming sponsorship program. Puppies are named to honor or memorialize a person, a beloved dog, a sports team, a college, or anything else that is appropriate. Don was named after someone's father but I don't know much more than that.

An individual puppy raiser can sponsor a puppy for $4,000. Raiser groups and other sponsors must donate $5,000 to name a puppy to commemorate or honor someone. Our group ended up raising over $7,000 in the 2020 Walkathon fund drive.


These are the cards we received to use for fundraising for this year's Walkathon.

For our second January meeting our raiser group met at our usual venue for our monthly training and information session, which usually lasts for a couple hours.

In the training sessions we always go over basic obedience skills, similar to what is required for the AKC Canine Good Citizen tests, and also guide-specific commands like "down under."

Our regional manager, Laura, then introduced us to a new relaxation protocol and used already-relaxed Don as the demo-dog:


Don's littermate Frank is in the down-under position beneath the chair in the background.

At this session we also had a detailed presentation by a veterinarian about canine first aid and canine CPR, which was very useful information for Don and our own two dogs.


Another puppy raiser practices CPR on a dog dummy.

IMPULSE CONTROL:  SOCIALIZING WITH PEOPLE & OTHER DOGS

Although the pups usually don't wear their guide puppy coats in these training sessions at the church, they are discouraged from mingling with the other pups. Group members are allowed to pet them but sparingly or with intent, such as to accustom them to body handling from a stranger. It's all part of their training.

Don loves everybody but he is either well enough trained or reserved enough that he does not approach most people unless I tell him it's OK. He's very polite, calm, somewhat timid sometimes, and doesn't jump up on people. He's been like that since we got him at 13 weeks old.


Don was curious about these "kids" in a plaza at The Avenue in Peachtree 
City but quickly figured out they weren't going to play with him!  (1-16-20)

When Don is ten months old we need to discontinue all petting in public when he is "working" -- i.e., has his guide coat on -- because he won't be able to do that while in a guide harness or service vest.

I usually don't walk Don for exercise with his guide coat on. I save that for going into stores or other buildings, walking around shopping areas, participating in our public puppy group outings, etc. He already knows the difference when he's got his coat on, and he's noticeably more serious. Don can interact more freely with people on our informal walks.

Above and below:  I like to take Don to Sam's Club early in the morning
when the store isn't real busy. The employees LOVE him.  (1-21-20)

In our puppy group meetings and outings, as well as in public places when he's wearing his coat, Don is not very distracted by other dogs, which is good. He's usually more interested in meeting people than dogs. 

He is somewhat distracted by other dogs on our walks but mostly continues in heel position when we pass them. I keep him on the left side of the path, move farther off the path if necessary, encourage him to keep walking, and give him a treat and/or verbal praise when he's successful. 


Can you see Daddy's new commemorative brick at the military veterans'
memorial in Peachtree City? It's in the lower R. corner of this picture.  (1-4-20)

He is still rather naive about which dogs are approachable and which ones aren't. We do not allow him to greet other dogs when in coat or in our group training sessions, and are very choosy which dogs he greets on his walks when out of coat, since not all encounters with dogs on leashes go well.

There are three female Labs we see regularly on our walks, and one of our neighbor's small dogs, that he's allowed to greet because I know there won't be any problems.

Don has never been impulsive about wildlife on our walks. He notices deer, squirrels, ducks, geese, rabbits, and other critters and sometimes wants to stop for a few seconds to watch them but he has never, ever tried to pull toward them.


What duck??  (Line Creek pier, 1-21-20)


Relaxing at Line Creek pier (1-21-20)

Don generally heels well on a loose leash with only a flat collar. We haven't needed to use an Infinity or Martingale collar on him to control pulling. Southeastern allows those for more rambunctious pups.

They do not allow halters like we use with Holly and Casey (Easy-Walk or Freedom No-Pull), and Don doesn't need one of those anyway.


Another hike at Line Creek  (1-29-20)

The main problem we have with Don on walks is that he wants to turn them into sniffaris. He is very scent-distracted on our multi-use paths where other dogs have pottied. He doesn't mark with his own scent yet, but he sure is interested in reading all the other p-mail!

Scent distraction isn't a problem on residential streets or in shopping areas and stores, except pet shops. It's still hard to walk him past all the dog food and treats at Petco or Petsmart. He does better where there is just one pet food aisle in stores like Target, Kroger's, and Sam's Club.


Good boy!  Desensitization in the pet snack aisle at Target (1-8-20)

Otherwise, Don behaves very well in stores and other buildings. Because of his size and calm demeanor people are usually surprised that he is so young.

SEVEN MONTHS OLD -- ALREADY??

Time has flown. Don turned seven months old on January 4. He is becoming a Big Boy -- 62+ pounds early this month.


Dapper Don on his 7-month birthday 1-4-20

He's tall, long, and lean and has outgrown his small 32" crate. We are borrowing two mid-sized crates (36" and 42") to use in the bedroom at night and when we take him to the regional puppy conference in February.

The next photo shows Don in the 36" crate. When he stands up he already touches the top of that crate! After a few days we folded it up and are using the 42" crate at night. One of our flat dog beds fits inside to give him some cushioning.

We still have our own 48" crate in the kitchen-family room area for day use, when we're outside or away from the house. It is shown below.

When we're home Don is usually right next to me, even in the bathroom! He's becoming a Velcro dog, which is a good thing for a guide dog who needs to be near his blind handler. Some of the pups have trouble with separation anxiety when they go back to campus for advanced training but most quickly adjust and become even more bonded with their "fur-ever" handlers.

A couple weeks ago I began putting Don on a tie-down for naps by my side of the bed a couple afternoons a week and gradually more frequently overnight.

At eight months of age the pups can be on tie-downs instead of in a crate every night. He's doing very well with that. He can curl up or sprawl out on one of the comfy doggie "sofa" beds and still remain close to me.

He often sprawls out like this during the day or night:

Above and below:   Are we comfy yet??? 

Jim sometimes jokes, "What's wrong with HIM??" when he walks into a room and sees Don lying like that. It's an inside joke that amuses us.

We still need to keep him in a crate sometimes, just for practice. Southeastern wants all the pups to be comfortable using crates even when they are old enough to go back for advanced training.

There will be times when they need to rest or sleep in a crate -- e.g., at a sitter's house temporarily, and even during initial training on campus with their match, the blind person or veteran who receives them when they are fully trained at about two years of age.

Don readily goes into any of the crates because he's compliant -- and knows he'll get a treat for being a Good Boy. If we're gone for two or three hours I give him a small Kong stuffed with peanut butter to keep him busy and wear him out enough to take a nap.

These are two other food "puzzles" we got the dogs in November -- a Kong Wobbler (above) and
a Bob-a-Lot (below).  It takes them a few minutes to get several pieces of kibble out of either toy.

FORMAL PUP-DATES

Southeastern Guide Dogs does a good job tracking its puppies while they are with their puppy raisers. In addition to regular contacts in person with the volunteer area coordinators and regional managers (on the staff), raisers also provide detailed online information at several intervals.

When pups are nearing eight months old the raisers are required to complete their first PupDate online. It's a summary of the puppy's training, temperament, exposures (outings), reaction to various stimuli, improvements/problems, medical info, etc. so the area coordinators and regional managers can do any necessary trouble-shooting.

Raisers are also asked to submit several photos of the puppies and some of their favorite things to do. That information goes to the sponsors who paid Big Bucks to name the puppy, so I made sure to send in some of Don's cutest pictures and listed his favorite activities/traits.


This isn't a photo I sent with the formal Pup-Date but I did mention
how well Don gets along with Holly (in foreground) and Casey. (1-1-20)

I got a nice e-mail back from a woman in SEGD's philanthropy department who said the information and photos I sent "made her day" and she knows the sponsors will love it. That made ME feel good.

I reiterated that it would be fine for Southeastern to let the sponsors know about this web journal and my Facebook page but I don't know if they ever shared that information. I know nothing about the sponsor couple except that they named Don to honor one of their fathers.

Don continues to get along well with Holly and Casey. They're a fun bunch! At the end of January he weighs about ten pounds more than Holly and is almost the same weight as Casey.

The girls sometimes join our training sessions because they know treats are involved. It's good practice for them and they're learning some new things, too:

I think they will miss Don as much as Jim and I do when he has to go back for advanced training in the fall. I don't want to think about that . . .

The Number One response I get when talking with prospective puppy raisers I meet on my walks and in stores is, "But it would be too hard to give up the puppy after a year!"

I know they are right. It's going to be even harder than I thought it would be when we first got him. I acknowledge to people that it will be hard to take Don back, but I know someone else needs him more than I do so they can become more independent..

Next entry:  Don's eight-month update in our home

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

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2020 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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