Monday, December 30, 2013

What tired Bear out?

Note to self: If you want the puppy to sleep through the night...well, as much as possible through the night...don't let him sleep all evening.
A small black Lab puppy is curled up facing the camera. His head is resting on a knitted, cream colored afghan and a yellow Nylabone toy is lying nexxt to his chin.
How could I resist?

FLD Bear is a snuggle-monster, to quote another puppy-raiser, and I admit to falling prey. After a busy first day on Saturday, Mr. Sleepy Bear wasn't the only one tired. I was more than willing to slouch about on the living room floor with him to keep me warm.

I should have followed his lead and dozed, too. A squeaking and a-howling woke me at 12:30 am, 2:00 am, and 4:30 am. At least Bear slept a couple of hours more before finally getting up for good.

What tired Bear out? A trip to nearby Rose City.

FLD Bear had his fist visit to Rose Valley Winery, a place where FLD Dutch was known to frequent. We stopped by my friends, the Downings. Two weeks ago they had taken Leader Dog mom Amber's litter of nine black puppies back to Rochester Hills. (The golden/lab mix puppies are now with their puppy-raisers.) And then Bear had his first grocery experience at Family Fare, where he was the hit of the day.

FLD Bear bounced around on the shiny floor in the produce section while I put lettuce, mushrooms and jalapeno peppers in my cart. I opted to carry him the rest of the way; I had a short list. One lady stopped me and said, "I think you must be having trouble shopping with your arms full. Would you like me to hold him while you finish?" I politely declined, although Bear tolerated quite a bit of ooohhhing and ahhhing without taste-testing her petting hand.

Sunday morning, after that long night of little sleep, FLD Bear made an appearance at the Rose City Cafe'. The waitresses and cooks stopped in their tracks to come to our table to greet him. By the time we finished eating, Bear had curled up in a ball under the table. All the regulars fell in love with him and wished him well in "prison."

Later that evening, when Bear was snuggled up in his bed, I woke him up. He didn't seem to mind the opportunity to earn more bits of kibble by learning his name. And my cc'd Gus did his best to tolerate Bear playing with his tail.

The rear end of a full-sized black Lab is to the left in the picture. A seven-week-old black lab puppy is behind the older dog, with it's right front paw lifted toward the dog.
Bear tries to get Gus's tail.

The large black lab is lying down next to a green couch on the right side of the picture, facing away from the camers. The puppy has a hold of his tail, and is giving it a good yank. He is in the foreground of the picture. They are on a multi-colored round rug. You can just see a red kong behind the puppy'es back leg. An older brown brindled dog is lying on the couch.
He succeeds! Gus is a real champ. Gypsy is on the couch to the right, trying to ignore the youngster. A German Shorthaired Pointer is collapsed on the other couch.

Last night, Bear woke me up at 4:00 am, and went back to sleep until after 6:00 am.

My strategy worked!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Welcome FLD Bear!

Pick up day, December 27, 2013. I am the lucky one to home FLD Bear until he heads up to his official raiser in the Baraga Correctional Facility in January. (Yep, I get the middle-of-the-night parking duty!)

A woman with dark, short hair is holding a small black lab puppy in front of her. She is wearing a pink shirt under a blue vest.
FLD Bear! The hand-off at Leader Dogs for the Blind.
A small black lab puppy is licking the cheek of a woman wearing glasses, with dark, short hair. She is smiling with her eyes closed. She is wearing a brown hooded sweatshirt with a blue vest.

Bear gives me a lick, and my husband, Andy, too.

Do you think Bear is going to like beards?

Of course, we had to take the usual picture of Bear next to the statue in front of the Leader Dog kennel building!
The woman with glasses and short dark hair is kneeling next to a black statue of a German Shepherd dog. She is holding a small black lab puppy in her arms.
There was so much salt on the ground I didn't want to put little Bear down. He seemed perfectly happy to stay snuggled in my arms!

A close up shot of the face of a six week old black lab puppy who is sleeping against a brown sweatshrit. His silver Leader Dog puppy tag hangs from his collar.
Sleeping on the way north.
A black lab puppy is facing the camera on his back legs, in mid-jump. His front paws are in the air. Behind him is a white x-pen section which keeps him safe in our laminate-floored kitchen. A grey mat is on the floor in front of him.
FLD Bear likes to play!
A very small and very cute black lab puppy is sitting on a laminate floor that looks like pine wood, facing the camera. In the distance to the left side is the edge of a silver water bowl. The puppy  has a slight tilt to his head, like he is flirting.
What a cutie-patootie! We're working on Bear learning his name. He sure likes to "sit" for attention!
A low-level picture of a small black lab puppy standing toward the camera. The background wall is knotty pine, and the laminate floor looks like pine too. The puppy's head is level with his body and his expression is endearing.
He is such a little guy!

So far, FLD Bear has been a real gem. When cc'd Gus greeted him, Bear thought he was back with his mommy and went right after his belly. Gus leapt up and away. I'm not your mommy!

Gypsy has been giving Bear a wide berth.

First night report: Last "park" at 11:00 pm, a little squawk at 3:38 am. Outside for a quick park and back to bed until Andy got up about 6:00 am. 

Play, park, sleep. Park, eat, park, play, sleep. Ah, the life of a puppy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's a go!

July 16, 2013
I was aware of men watching us. Some nodded hello. We went up a staircase and down a long, shiny-floored hall lined with wooden doors. These two-man rooms were not cells with iron bars, they were like dormitory rooms, fitted with bunk beds and two desks. Except for those of the potential puppy-raisers - one desk had been removed to make room for a metal crate.

We exited the building into the larger yard. I was paying attention to FLD Dutch, who was being his usual friendly "golden-deceiver" self, so details of our exit escape me now. The hot summer sun burned down on the backs of men who lifted weights, played basketball, and ran or walked the gravel track along the fence. Our puppies were just as interested in the inmates as they were of us.

The busy Pike Unit would afford ample opportunities for the inmate raisers to work with their puppies on self-control.

Back in the administration building, prison employees took our mug shots (our puppies were exempt). We filled out paperwork and were issued official ID cards. We would exchange our driver's licenses for these IDs when next we visited. FLD Dutch and the other puppies got lots of belly rubs, and we were released.

One month later, Deb and Tammy brought the first two puppies to Chippewa. FLD Bravo and FLD Drummond, both male Golden Retrievers, were handed over on August 14, 2013.

Here is part of the email that Tammy sent out afterwards:
It was an awesome experience!  I was wondering how Deb and I were going to bring in 2 puppies, our puppies, food, crates and supplies but there was no need to worry.  We were met by plenty of willing people to help out.  Oh the smiles we saw on the faces throughout the system.  The guys were waiting patiently in the classroom and you could feel the excitement in the air.  Paperwork was done.  Then Deb went over rules and the Puppy Timeline along with training sessions.  Puppies had to be parked and everybody marched out willingly and excitingly announced, “He parked!”  Puppies slept, played and worked.  Concerns were discussed.  These guys so want to do the right thing and asked so many great questions.  They were already making plans on how to handle certain situations.
On this trip we only had two pups to hand out so the other guys worked with the pup Deb had and my pup, Harper.  As we were approaching dinner and our time there was coming to an end, Deb made an announcement, "Hey, would you guys like to keep our puppies overnight, too?"  Even bigger smiles erupted.  So Harper and Dodger became prison pups too!  A scramble was made to set up crates, water and feed pups and park pups again.  I was assured that Harper would receive great care and I had no doubt of that!  Deb and I left and I think we were walking on clouds too.

The next morning we arrived to see the guys parking their pups like they had been doing it for years. We were told that the guards and other inmates didn't even notice the pups at all.  "We have invisible dogs!" the guys announced proudly!  (Isn't that what we puppy raisers strive to have the dog that nobody knows is there.)  We met in the dining room and the guys excitedly talked about their night-"He got up at 3 a.m. and parked and right back to bed."  “He got up at 6 a.m. and was scratching and whining so I took him out and he parked.” “He fell asleep under the desk so I gently picked him up and put him in his crate.  He didn't even wake up!"

One guy stood there with his pup in his arms and announced that this was the first dog he had touched in 23 years!

I think we felt like Santa Claus.  I am still smiling.
Six men stand and two men squat in front of a brick wall with two windows. Three of the men standing are holding small golden retriever puppies, one of the men squatting has an bit older golden retriever sitting in front of him.
Chippewa puppy raisers pose with their first two Future Leader Dog puppies, Bravo and Drummond (center), as well as FLD Dodger (brought by Deb Donnelly) and FLD Harper, Tammy's puppy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Five months later...

December 19, 2013


Eight men stand or crouch around Santa Claus, who is sitting with a golden retriever. Six of the men have Future Leader Dog puppies, as well as Santa. Two more goldens, one golden/lab cross (yellow), one yellow lab and two black labs.
Santa Claus and puppy raisers with their Future Leader Dog puppies during our December training session at Chippewa Correctional Facility.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas in July

July 16, 2013

It was a hot July morning. Inside Pike Unit there was no air-conditioning. With eyes upon us, we filed through the hustle and bustle of the central hub and into a closed-off room on one side. Other rooms behind the guard station had glass walls from floor to ceiling, rooms where inmates gathered to watch TV or hang about, rooms where meals were served and eaten.

The room we entered was crowded with rows of wood-topped tables and molded plastic chairs. Men in blue pants with orange stripes down the side of each leg and matching shirts with stenciled numbers on the back were sitting behind the tables, almost at attention. These were the men selected to become, hopefully, puppy raisers for Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Rob introduced us. Deb talked to the group about Leader Dogs, puppy-raising, and how the program might work at Chippewa. When she opened the floor to questions, the men deferred to one spokesman, who had a spiral notebook on the table in front of him.

One question he asked surprised me. "When we get out, will we still be able to raise puppies for Leader Dogs?" There seemed to be a collective sense of relief when Deb answered, "Sure!"

Deb had one last thing before touring the unit. "Do you guys want to pet them?" The looks on their faces as we handed over our leashes - priceless.

It was Christmas in July.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Nothing to hide

July 2013

With nothing to hide, it was still a relief when an email confirmed that my background check was okay. I was clear to enter the Chippewa Correctional Facility. Kind of ironic, eh, that one needs a clean background to enter a prison? Well, I suppose if one wants to exit said prison, a good check is imperative.

On July 16, I accompanied Deb Donnelly from Leader Dogs for the Blind and volunteer puppy-counselor Tammy Bartz to the prison. Deb was to make a final determination if the facility would be a good candidate for an inmate puppy-raising program. (See the Chippewa Correctional Facility page on this blog for the back-story.)

During Leader Dogs' annual "Puppy Days" (a day of celebration and learning for volunteer puppy raisers and breed stock hosts) a couple of summers ago, Warden James McKinney from the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility in Iowa was the featured speaker. His description of how the puppy-raising program at his prison, which started in 2002, had changed the atmosphere inside brought tears to my eyes then. The memory of his words brought a sense of anticipation now; I had no idea of what to expect at Chippewa.

In the visitors' entrance we were asked to remove everything from our pockets and leave them in a locker. No pens, no change, no keys, no wallets. We signed in. We gave up our driver's licenses to the guard behind the desk, who made a mark on the back of our right hands with some kind of invisible ink. Rob Batho, manager of Pike Unit where the program puppies would reside, met us, along with some other prison officials, and the Bardsleys, who where the ones who originally got things rolling.

None of our Future Leader Dog puppies needed a background check, nor where they searched or questioned.

Rob led us to a conference room where we met with Warden Jeff Woods, and some others. FLD Strider, cc'd Tripp, FLD Harper and FLD Dutch took their places under the long wooden table. The pups fell asleep as Deb discussed details about the Leader Dogs for the Blind inmate puppy-raising program. Warden Woods was definitely on board.

It was time for a tour. We exited the building and walked a short distance to a locked gate in a fence that stretched to the clouds and around the minimum security Pike Unit. Our contingent entered what appeared to be a "garden" yard. The gate swung closed behind us, locking with an emphatic CLICK.

We were inside.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Baraga "Bear" - a late Christmas gift

At 2:00 p.m. on December 27 I have an appointment at Leader Dogs for the Blind. A puppy care person will hand me a wiggly, tail-wagging, black Lab fur-ball that will likely lick my face and try to nibble my ears.

And I shall inhale...puppy breath.

Future Leader Dog (FLD) "Bear" will then head north with me to our home in the woods of northeastern Michigan. For two short weeks. Come the New Year, FLD Bear heads further north to what will be his foster home during the next 10 to 12 months.

FLD Bear is one of two puppies that is slated to be raised in the Baraga Correctional Facility in our grand state's Upper Peninsula. Or, as any true Michigander would call it, the UP.

I can hardly wait.

In the meantime, we have some catching up to do...