Friday, February 28, 2014

The morning after, part 2


Life is not all work for Future Leader Dog puppies, inside or outside. It can be helpful for puppies to burn off energy and learn bite inhibition by playing together. But there are some important rules of play for safety and to help prevent a common reason for career-change later: too dog distracted.
1. Puppies should be well-matched. This can mean puppies of similar size or age, or with temperaments or physical traits that even the playing field.
Chippewa FLDs August and Sammy, while within one week of age, were not close in size when they were younger. Even though Sammy was much bigger, August was faster and more agile, so they made nice playmates.
2. Puppies must be calm before being releasing into play with other puppies.
Puppies must never play together when they are on leash. Working bandanas and/or jackets should be removed. Puppies should be able to sit calmly while the leash is unclipped and wait to be released into play.
3. One puppy should not control the play. Puppies should change positions. For example, one puppy should not always be "on top."
Playing puppies can get very noisy; Labs are especially vocal. When Chippewa raisers were just getting to know FLDs August and Sammy, they were concerned that Sammy's play was inappropriate. In November, when Deb and Tammy and I traveled to Baraga to check out the facility, we took the two pups with us - not only to show them off to the potential raisers in Baraga, but also to evaluate their play behavior.
We let August and Sammy play in our large hotel room in St. Ignace the night before heading to Baraga. As mentioned above, we determined that the two pups actually played quite well with each other.
4. Puppies should not get overly ramped up; they should be able to be called out of play periodically.
It is good practice to call puppies out of play before they get too excited. A reward for "settling" can be a re-release into play.
In that St. Ignace hotel, something interesting developed during puppy play. A much older and larger FLD Harper (who was also with us) started to roughhouse with August. Their energy ramped up. It was clear that Harper was calling the shots. Sammy, who had been pacing around the periphery of the action, plodded calmly into the fray and forced his stocky Lab body between Harper and August.
Sammy - the play police!

January 10, 2014

Deb demonstrated safe and proper puppy play with the Baraga pups and FLD Jedi. She suspected that Bear's handlers would be apprehensive about letting him loose with Axel and Jedi, both of whom were a bit larger, so she talked the men through releasing Axel and Jedi into play first.

A group of inmates are gathered around a lunch table, one is standing in the foreground on the right side. They are wearing blue uniforms with orange stripes on the arms and legs. In the background on the left is a short woman in a pink jacket and black pants. She is pointing to two puppies that are playing together on the shiny floor. A german shepherd puppy is on top of a yellow lab puppy.
Deb oversees the play of FLDs Jedi and Axel while the inmate raisers observe.

A yellow lab puppy on the left is wrestling with a dark german shepherd puppy on the right.
FLDs Axel and Jedi duke it out.

After some play time, and calling away and calming time, Deb had Bear's handlers release him too. Axel and Jedi made a beeline for Bear, almost smothering the tiny guy.

Bear squealed.

Deb reminded me of FLD Sammy as she practically body-blocked Bear's three inmate raisers from coming to his rescue. "Let them work it out," she said confidently.

"I'm shaking here," one of them said.

Before long, Bear got into Jedi's face. He meant business. Jedi backed off and headed for the door. "I'm not really scared of you," said his demeanor, "I just have to pee." An inmate took him outside. Axel took over in his place. Much to everyone's surprise, sweet little Bear growled and shook himself away, stomping off as if to say, "I showed you!"

"You see," Deb said. "Bear had to show Axel that he couldn't be bullied."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The morning after, part 1

January 10, 2014

After one night, smiles grew. One inmate cut his hair. This was the time for stories, questions and last minute advice before Deb and Tammy sprung FLDs Jedi and Harper and we headed south.


FLD Bear's team said that the black lab slept quietly all night. FLD Axel did not.

"He was up every two hours," one of Axel's handlers said. The vocal pup wouldn't settle down; other inmates were riled and wanted him to SHUT THE PUPPY UP. "So I got into the crate with him," he said. Axel's lead raiser added, "So we just shut the door on him."

RUM Steve piped up, "Who said our crates were too small?"

Last November, when Deb and Tammy and I toured the Baraga facility, Steve showed us a prototype crate that was constructed and installed in one of the living "pods." FLD Harper tried it out for size. We thought it might need to be a little bigger, especially if they raised a German Shepherd.

It appears we were wrong.

An older man dressed in a short-sleeved blue shirt with orange stripes on the shoulders and arms is holding a yellow lab puppy in his lap with both arms wrapped around it. His left elbow is resting on a shiny steel talbe. He has longish hair and a pair of glasses are up on the top of his head. He has a tattoo on the forearm of his right arm.
FLD Axel gets a big hug from one of his raisers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Puppy-less evening

January 9, 2014

three puppy-less puppy-raisers
in a Baraga hotel
with nowhere to go to
and no one to tell

in a Baraga hotel
they got a little silly
with stories to tell
their thoughts went willy-nilly

so they got a little silly
and lost track of the time
plans to eat went willy-nilly
three puppy-less puppy-raisers

Okay, so I got bogged down with words that rhyme in my poor attempt to write a "pantoum" poem. Why not just get right to it...

Deb and Tammy left FLDs Jedi and Harper for the night with inmate raisers in the Baraga Correctional Facility. Our plan was to revisit the prison in the morning. The men were sure to have questions after their first night caring for FLDs Axel and Bear.

With no puppy wrestling for entertainment, and a feeling like we had lost our left arms, we just hung out together, reading or surfing the web. (I don't go many places without my Apple laptop.)

Our earlier conversation about how the prison puppy-raising program might be changing my life bounced in my head. Like everything else surrounding this program, I serendipitously came across this article: "How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts." Co-founder Lynn Zwerling, a retired car saleswoman, thought that teaching inmates the "Zen of knitting" could help them learn life skills - like how to focus and accomplish goals.

What struck me was one inmate who expressed the feeling that Zwerling was like a mother to him.

"That's it!" I exclaimed to Deb and Tammy. I had been struggling with how to describe my attraction to these men-turned-into-boys-with-puppies. Their unconscious smiles while touching the puppies. Their polite behavior and graciousness toward us. The whole idea of puppies and inmates growing together.  "It's like a motherly feeling," I said.

A small black lab puppy wearing a blue bandana with a white triangle patch with red letters that says Future Leader Dog and a black paw print is sitting down facing left and away from the camera. An inmates hand is scratching the puppies head. The forearm is covered in tattoos.
FLD Bear gets a head scratch.

The maternal feelings took me by surprise. Even though I'm a self-professed "evil stepmother" (my husband has four kids and two grandsons) I've never had children of my own.

Here I am...

I find myself invested in their efforts. I want the inmate raisers to raise a nice puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind and learn some things in the process. Perhaps whatever led them to a life of crime can be mitigated by this experience. The act of giving up their puppies when the time comes holds the potential to become an emotional "trigger" for them. I hope that someone in the prison system recognizes this window of opportunity in addressing deep-seated issues. Helping the inmates deal with these issues could be a real game changer.

Deb and Tammy and I lost track of time. We needed to decide what to do about dinner. Staying in the room and finishing the one pound cinnamon roll wasn't an option. We could drive back to the Hilltop Family Restaurant in L'anse or we could take the elevator down and eat in the hotel. No one seemed willing to make a commitment.

"I don't really feel like going out," I ventured, my brain bursting. "Great!" Deb seconded. The hotel restaurant it was.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A caveat

Baraga Correctional Facility
January 9, 2014

FLD Bear was thirsty. When you spend as much time monitoring a puppy as I did with Bear the last 10 days, you learn to "read" his signals. Of course, it only made sense. Bear had just spent about five hours in his crate traveling across the UP in the Leader Dogs for the Blind van, was then welcomed by seemingly everyone at the facility and was now being handled by his new inmate puppy-raising team.

Heck, even I was thirsty by now!

But FLD Bear's new handler didn't understand why Bear was being squirmy. He had taken him out to "park" but still the pup wouldn't settle.

I said, "Do you have a bowl? I think he is thirsty."

In a shot, the inmate handed Bear's leash to his teammate and went off to get a water dish. He returned with a shiny stainless steel bowl and asked, "How much water should I put in it?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Fill it up."

Turns out that FLD Bear wasn't the only thirsty puppy.

A black lab puppy and a larger german shepherd puppy are vying to get a drink from a stainless steel bowl on the floor. The two pups are held on leashs by two inmates dressed in the prison uniform - blue shirts and pants with orange stripes on the shoulders and legs. In the background are two more inmates sitting down smiling and watching.
FLD Bear gets his head under FLD Jedi and is first to the bowl of water.

A close up shot of the black lab and german shepherd puppy drinking water out of a stainless steel bowl. Both are wearing blue bandanas. The black lab's head is dripping with water and there is water splashed out of the bowl.
The two pups make quick work of the water, and not too neatly!

"Can you guess what's going to happen next?" I asked.

"He'll need to park," the inmate raisers answered in chorus. "Yep," I said. "Bear is a real good peer."

Sometime later, and not too much later, FLD Bear started to pull toward the door. He whined. His handler asked Tammy if he should take the pup out to park.

Too late!

A close shot at floor level of a small black lab puppy sitting between the feet of his handler. The handler has blue pants with an orange stripon the side and is wearing black shoes. He is stepping on the brown leash of the pup, who is wearing a blue bandana with a white trianble patch with red letters that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print. The pup is looking over his right shoulder and one could say his expression looks "guilty." Beneath him is a puddle of pee!
FLD Bear tried to tell his handler he needed to go out, but he just couldn't hold it any longer.

The handler grabbed him up and ran outside. "He peed again!" he said after coming back in from the cold. But FLD Bear wasn't done. A clean up crew had three more puddles to sop up before the afternoon training session was over. 

"Patti warned you," Deb said.

Two men dressed in the prison uniform of blue shirts and blue pants with orange stripes on the shoulders and legs are squatting behind a small black lab puppy. The man on the left is handing the leash to the man on the right. The puppy is sitting down but turning to face the second man. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana.
"He needs to go out again!"

Thursday, February 13, 2014


January 9, 2014

We entered Housing Unit 8 at the Baraga Correctional Facility, the celebrity feeling disappearing with a metallic CHA-CHINK. This was real life. Steve, several prison officials and a couple of correction officers escorted Deb and Tammy and I, and Dr. Donna LeClaire (the local veterinarian who is volunteering with the program) through dim narrow hallways filled with men hanging around waiting for something to happen.

We came into an area more open, an intersection of hallways. Men filed in behind and around us. One man approached me; he clasped his hands behind his back as if he were taking an afternoon stroll. "What kind of camera is that?" he asked, leaning over my shoulder. "A Nikon," I said and turned away to capture a shot of FLD Bear. The little guy was straining against his leash toward a large entry way that led obviously into a restroom.

The inmate shadowed me. "You know," he said, "you can point your flash to the ceiling and get more light that way."

"Yes," I said. He wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know. I had taken a quick look at the shots from the other building and my camera settings didn't seem right. Most of the exposures were a little dark, and the flash was pointing up, so I thought a direct flash might work better. It wasn't until we were driving home the next day that I realized I neglected to synch the shutter speed with the flash.

I felt clumsy, and very small in the midst of tall men.

Deb had been talking with Steve about how she wanted to present the puppies to their new raisers. In Iowa prisons (where this program began), the raiser faces away when the puppy is brought in. Everyone else oohhhs and aahhhs while the puppy counselor lifts the bundle of fur over the inmate's shoulder. This elicits puppy-ear-licks and the bond begins.

Suddenly, Tammy and I realized our entourage was gone and she and I were alone amongst the inmates. I never saw where they went, but Tammy thought she knew which hall to take. I glanced around and spotted Dr. Donna standing against a wall, a group of men between us.

"Come on Donna," I motioned. "They went this way."

By the time we caught up to the group in the west side lunchroom, FLD Axel was busy washing the faces of his new team. Axel will live in this wing with his raisers; FLD Bear will live in the east wing. We ended up retreating to the east side lunchroom where "regular" inmates were hustled out so we could use the space. Deb had paperwork to complete and intended to conduct an initial training session with the three-person-teams of inmate raisers.

Steve instructed me that I was not to take photographs of any of the inmates that are not in the program. I erased the shots I snapped of FLD Bear near the bathroom, even though I felt sure that none of the inmates were identifiable. I didn't want to risk losing the privilege of documenting this program. Steve then asked the inmate raisers if they would sign waivers agreeing to allow me to take their pictures. A hearty "YES!" and a show of hands left no doubt that they were eager to appear in this blog.

"We can't see it," one of the men said to me when he asked for the blog's web address. "But we have families that can."

The Baraga puppy raisers have been patient in waiting for their story to be shown. Here is a start...

A small black lab puppy is held by three men sitting close togehter. The man on the left is wearing a blue knit hat and glasses and is pointing up with his right index finger. The middle man is holding the upper part of the puppy and has brown hair. The man on the right is holding the belly of the puppy and his head is shaved. Tattoos cover his left arm.They are all wearing blue shirts, the two on the right have orange stripes on the shoulders.
FLD Bear and his raisers mug for the camera. Do they look happy or what?

A small yellow lab is held by one man sitting in the middle of two other men at a metal table. The man on the left is african american and his head is bald and he is wearing glasses. The man in the middle has a buzz cut, and the man on the right has longer grey hair, he also has glasses pushed up on his head. They are all wearing blue shirts with orange stripes on the shoulders, with white tshirts underneath. They are smiling.
FLD Axel with his raisers. They kind of look happy too, eh?

An older golden retriever puppy is being hugged by a young man on the left and his leash is held by a tall  young man sitting down on the right. The men are looking at each other and smilling. They are both wearing blue shirts and pants. The one on the left has oranges stripes on the shoulders. There is a man in the backgroun on the right sitting at a metal table .
FLD Harper is handled by another team of Baraga raisers. Harper looks as excited as they do!

A picture of three young men, two on the left are sitting on metal seats attached to a metal talble, the one on the right is squatting down in front of the table. All are wearing blue shirts and pants with orange stripes on the shoulders and legs. All men have buzz cuts and some facial hair. The man on the right is holdig a small german shepherd puppy, who is standing on a grey "mat" and facing the camera. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana with a white triangle patch with red letters that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print.
Another team of inmate raisers handle Deb's current Leader Dog puppy, FLD Jedi.

A young man dressed in the blue prison uniform (with orange stripes on the shoulders and legs) is sitting on the left side, holding the leash of a small german shepherd puppy. A guard dressed in black is leaning over the puppy on the right side, his right hand is petting the puppy on its head.
FLD Jedi holds still for a meet & greet, compliments of a Baraga Correction Officer.

A fluffy little yellow lab puppy is sitting on the floor on the right side of the photo with a leash going up to the right. He is wearing a blue bandana with a white triangle patch with red letters that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print. There are blue pant legs with an orange stripe and white tennis shoes visible behind the puppy. On the left side of the photo are two 50 pound bags of Purina Pro Plan dog food. The puppy is looking at the camera.
FLD Axel finds an opportune place to sit. A true Lab.

A young man dressed in the prison uniform of blue shirt and blue pants with orange stripes on the shoulders and legs is holding a brown leash and squatting behind a small black lab puppy. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana with a white triangle patch with red letters that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print. The man has tattoos down both arms.
FLD Bear and his handler pay attention to Deb's lecture.

Several young men are on the left side facing a woman and a man standing on the left side. Ther eare three men standing in the background. The woman is wearing a tan shirt and blue jeans. The man next to her closer to the camera is looking down at a small black lab puppy. The puppy is sitting down faicing the man and looking up at him. The man is stepping on the puppy's leash. On the floor behind the puppy is a small red and blue dog bed. The tail of another puppy is visible beyong the bed.
Deb instructs one of FLD Bear's raisers how to teach "touch." The other inmate raisers look on.

A close up shot of the small black Lab reaching toward the inmate's hand with his nose. The puppy had been sitting down and has lifted his rear end to "touch" the open palm.
FLD Bear stretches forward to "touch."
A close up shot of the face of a small yellow lab puppy who is sleepoing on the floor. The puppy is facing the camera with its eyes closed and ears dragging on the floor.
Learning is hard work! FLD Axel takes a snooze.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Red carpet treatment

January 9, 2014

RUM Steve meets Deb and Tammy and I in the parking lot of the Baraga Correctional Facility. "There are some people here eager to meet Bear and Axel," he says. I hand over FLD Bear. "If you set him down he'll park," I say. Like a good little Future Leader Dog, Bear parks immediately. Winter potty training is great - with snow everywhere the pups do not discriminate where they park.

An outside shot in a parking lot (a red truck is in the background on the right) of a man with a buzz cut and glasses, wearing a black coat, is holding a small black lab puppy in his arms. The man is looking at the puppy with a huge smile on his face. A short brown haired woman is in the background behind him.
Steve holds FLD Bear while Deb parks FLD Axel. We're here!

FLD Axel, at the end of Deb's leash, parks too. I miss this photo: Axel looks up at Steve and sits up in the cutest "beg " position, his big front paws curled against his chest. "Pick me up too!" he seems to say. "My paws are cold!" These little guys can't regulate their body temperatures very well against the sub-zero cold.

When we enter a small man door to the visitor entrance, I feel like a celebrity walking the red carpet into the Oscars. More than 20 people are lined up and clapping. Flashes from the camera of a L'anse Sentinel reporter capture our arrival. It doesn't take long to realize that these people aren't excited to see us; it is all about the puppies. FLDs Axel and Bear are passed around the room long enough that they have to go out and park again.

A group of about 20 people pose in fornt of a windowed wall. One on the left side is holding a small yellow lab puppy, one to the right / middle side is holding a small black lab puppy.
Happy Baraga staff pose with FLDs Axel and Bear.
A closer shot of the people, with six men and one women. The man in the middle is holding the little yellow lab puppy, who is giving a big yawn. Everyone is smiling!
FLD Axel might be done with all the attention.

Eventually the commotion and people disperse and we can attend to the business of clearing us for entry into the unit. Yes, I can bring my camera in. Yes, we can bring in the paperwork and supplies for the puppies. Yes, we can bring in FLDs Harper and Jedi. No, we cannot bring anything else in.

A guard leads a new prisoner in for processing into the facility. The man's ankles and wrists are shackled with chains wrapped around his waist. As he shuffles by he glances over at the puppies. Warden Mackie points him out to us and says, "Look at that. They usually come in here with hard faces."

A short woman with short brown hair is standing on the left side. Next to her is a man in a suit, he is the warden. Next to him is another man with a mustache and a black leather jacket. On the far right side is the out-of-focus face of a small black lab. Photo bomb!
Photo bomb! FLD Bear sticks his head into the picture, much to everyone's amusement. (Deb Donnelly is on the left side, standing next to Warden Mackie.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dog spelled backwards

January 9, 2014

He said that we are role models, both for him and for the other inmate raisers. He said that Tammy and I are role models because we volunteer - for Leader Dogs for the Blind and the prison puppy-raising program. Another inmate raiser sitting nearby nodded his head and said, "Don't underestimate that."

I can't quite wrap my mind around the notion.

I help because I can. I help because it is fun - for a lot of reasons. I love going to the UP, I enjoy Tammy's company and friendship (and Deb's too, when she joins us), I keep learning about dog behavior and training. And, of course, I adore puppies!

But, a role model? It never entered my mind, beyond trying to be as accurate as possible in my training suggestions. (Remember "leg?" The inmate raisers pay attention to everything we say.)

On our drive across the UP from Chippewa to Baraga to deliver the facility's first two puppies, we stop at the Hilltop Family Restaurant in L'anse. For once, we are a little early. Over the world's largest cinnamon roll (yes, more than one pound, no, we couldn't finish it!), I share my inmate story with Deb and Tammy. I say I am not sure if or how my involvement with this program has changed my life.

"It's changed my life," Deb says. She says that she had never been in a prison before working this Leader Dog program. She says she has witnessed the inmates' demeanor open up overnight, after bringing puppies to them in the afternoon and visiting again the next morning. She says she has never visited the UP until these trips. And she says she enjoys our developing friendship.

"It has changed your life too," Deb says to me. "Even if you don't realize it."

Until my chat with the inmate raiser I had not thought very hard about the idea that my life might be changing. Like Deb, I had never seen the inside of a prison before visiting the Chippewa Correctional Facility last July. Until now, my only contact with convicted criminals has been with those in our local "Sheriff's Work Crew;" men and women clad in neon yellow vests and electronic tethers as they assist various groups in our community.

I find myself trying not to think about what the men might have done that landed them in prison. Thinking about it only leads me to wonder how the victims feel about the inmates participating in the puppy-raising program. But these men are serving time that our society has decreed to be just; do these same men not deserve a chance to turn themselves around?

I prefer to concentrate on the positive. I want to believe in justice, forgiveness and redemption. I do believe in the power of puppies to make the world a better place.

After all, dog spelled backwards is "god."

A black and white close photograph of a small black Lab's head. He is looking to the left. He is being held in the arms of an inmate. The forearm holding the puppy has a tattoo on it that says "HOPE." A leash is draped over the forearm.
FLD Bear, bringing hope.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Changing lives

Puppies do that.

Ask anyone involved with the Leader Dogs for the Blind prison puppy-raising program. Prison officials, Leader Dogs for the Blind staff, volunteers, inmate raisers and their families all feel that the program is life changing.

Can one assume that raising and training a puppy teaches patience? That loving and caring for a puppy teaches empathy? That returning a puppy to Leader Dogs after spending 24/7 with it for a year teaches a little something about loss and sacrifice?

These things may all be true; in fact, one inmate raiser told me that raising a puppy for Leader Dogs is teaching him patience. But not just the patience that an outside raiser might also learn, things like realizing that puppies really don't pee on the floor in front of you just to spite  you, or that it's hard sometimes to wait for the "reward-able" moment when your puppy is busy behaving on instinct.

No, this inmate raiser said that the patience he is learning has more to do with his reaction to other inmates, the ones who aren't supportive of the program. He didn't go into specifics, but the inference was that these other inmates copped an attitude that raised his ire. He said that in the past he might have gotten into a fight over it.

"But now when I get angry, I just look at him," he said, placing a hand gently on his puppy's back. He said that the puppy helps him realize what is really important, what the ultimate goal of raising the pup will do for a stranger.

Much like his puppy, he's learning self-control and redirection.

A small yellow Lab puppy is sitting with his rear legs askew on a light brown tile floor. He is wearing a blue bandana with a white triangle patch with the words Future Leader Dog in red and a black paw print. He is looking up to the left at an inmate raiser who is out of view. The raiser's legs in green pants are the only thing visible, and a brown leather leash attached to the puppy.
FLD Axel looks up at his handler. Deb once told the potential inmate raisers that she believed one reason why prison raised puppies are more successful is because the inmates raisers need the puppies as much as the puppies need them.

How has the Leader Dogs for the Blind prison puppy-raising program changed your life? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chippewa training - in photos

January 8, 2014

The Chippewa raisers weren't lined up waiting in the snow outside of Pike Unit when we finally arrived. Can't blame them, the wind was wicked cold. Rob was quick to bring some helpers to carry in the 50 pound bags of Purina Pro Plan Deb brought up from Leader Dogs for the Blind.

We handed off the new pups that were destined eventually for Baraga, FLDs Bear and Axel. Even FLD Jedi, the German Shepherd that Deb is raising now, went to an inmate handler. The inmates weren't excited at all. *cough

A bald young man is holding a small black lab in his tattooed arms. The puppy is facing to the left and is wearing a blue bandana.
FLD Bear.
A small yellow lab puppy is held by a young man with short dark hair. He is wearing the blue with orange stripe uniform of the prison, wth a white long stleeved shirt underneath. He has a huge smill on his face!
FLD Axel.
A small german shepheard puppy is lying on a light colored tile floor. He is wearing a blue bandana with a white and red patch that says Future Leader Dog in red letters with a black paw print. His body is facing to the right of the photo, but he is looking back over his shoulder to his left toward a pair of lower legs. The legs are wearing blue pants with an orange striped on the side, with tan boots. The puppy has a brown leather leash going up to the person.
FLD Jedi.


Two men are standing in front of metal prison tables, each with a golden retriever sitting at their left side.
FLDs Drummond and Bravo practice their "sits."

Three large puppies lie on a light colored tile floor while a woman dressed in a blue fleece jacket and blue jeans steps over them. She is on the left side facing away from the camera. Three inmate raisers stand opposite the dogs, facing the camera. There are several other men sitting in the background.
FLDs Bravo, Drummond and Zella (left to right) hold "down" positions while Deb steps over them and their handlers stand by.

A small yellow Lab puppy is facing to the left, his head is sniffing a hand that is at the floor level. A young man with short dark hair is squatting to the left of the puppy, handing him a treat. He is dressed in the blue prison uniform with an oragan strip down his shoulder. Another young man, dressed the same, is squatting behind him. That man is holding a brown leather leash.
Is FLD Axel being lured?

FLD Bear sits nicely in heel position, eyes intent on his soon-to-be-awarded treat.

At the floor-level shot of a small yellow lab walking from right to left toward a black water bowl that says Purina Pro Plan on it. A golden retriver's head is just peaking out from between the legs of an inmate wearting green pants and white tennis shoes. Another inmate is sitting behind the yellow pup wearing blue pants and blac shoes.
Learning new things makes a pup thirsty. FLD Axel heads for the water bowl. FLD Harper is happily chewing on a Nylabone.

A low-level shot of a small yellow lab in the distance, a bit out of focus. He is laying on his left side, asleep, with his brown leather leash on the floor in front of him. On the left side of the picture is the face of a larger yellow lab peeking out between inmates legs. They are wearing the blue prison pants with an orange stripe on the side.
After his drink of water, FLD Axel finds a quiet corner and takes a nap. FLD Zella hangs with her handler.
A bald man is squatting, facing away from the camera. He is wearing a white t-shirt and the blue and orange prison pants. A golden retriever is sprawled out on the floor facing the same way in the foreground. The dog's back legs look like frog legs!
Frog legs! FLD Bravo cools off after working his brain.

A full-sized yellow lab is lying on a light brown tile floor facing the camera. She is wearing a blue bandana with a white triangle patch with red letter that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print. Her brown leather leash is being held by a man off camera to the left, except for his lower legs and feet. He is wearing the blue pants with an orange  stripe down the side and white tennis shoes.
FLD Zella looks as though she is bored. "Really, now, all this fuss over a couple of puppies?"


After training, every Chippewa puppy went on furlough. Rob had arranged a presentation at the Pickford Fire Hall for several eastern U.P. Lions Club members. Deb talked to the group about Leader Dogs for the Blind and the prison puppy-raising program.

The pups were a big hit.

A woman dressed in a blue fleece jacket and blue jeans is kneeling on one knee on a wood floor facing a small german shepherd puppy. He is lying on a blue "mat" and facking her. She is gestering with her right hand, which has a black wrist brace on it, and is holding the pup's brown leather leash with her left hand at her right knee. A man and a woman are in the background on the right side smiling and watching the two.
Deb Donnelly talks to a group of Lions while FLD Jedi demonstrates "mat."

Three men and one woman sit on folding chairs. The first man and woman at the left are holding a yellow lab puppy. The third man is holding a black lab puppy.
FLDs Axel and Bear are great ambassadors for Leader Dogs for the Blind. The Lions Club members enjoyed holding the puppies.

A group of seven people are standing around with Future Leader Dog puppies. The woman on the far left, wearing all black and carrying a huge black purse, is interviewing a woman who is kneeling on the floor with her yellow lab puppy. Two of the other puppies are black labs, two are golden retrievers and two are yellow labs.
The Future Leader Dog pups and their furlough handlers are celebrities. A reporter from the St. Ignace News interviews the group before taking their photo.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Better late than never

January 8, 2014

Another winter blast hit southeastern Michigan with several inches of snow and temperatures below zero. Travel was slow leaving the city for Deb in the Leader Dogs for the Blind van. Then Tammy's car got stuck. It took a bit of time to get it unstuck and parked at Meijer's instead of her usual meetup spot on I-75.

In the foregroiund a ground of second grade kids are sitting on the floor looking away from the camer a toward a woman holding a small black lab puppy. She has short brown hair and is wearing a red fleece jacket and blue jeans. There is a white board in the background.
FLD Bear meets Surline second graders.
When I got the call from Tammy that they'd be an hour late picking me up another 100 miles north, I took advantage of the free time. Over the 10 days that I had had FLD Bear, every time I scheduled a visit to Mrs. Matthews' second-grade class at Surline Elementary, the school had a snow day. This was my last chance. This trip I would be handing Bear off to his new inmate raisers at the Baraga Correctional Facility.

I found Mrs. Matthews' class hard at work in the computer lab. FLD Dutch had been a frequent visitor during our year together so the students were well versed in Future Leader Dog protocol (not unlike when you meet a working Leader Dog). They contained their ooohhhhs and awwwwws and stayed at their computers. A snuggly FLD Bear welcomed their gentle pets with no mouthing as I carried him from station to station. Afterwards they gathered round for questions and to hear Bear's story.


Deb and Tammy and I were two hours late getting into the Chippewa Correctional Facility. Deb hoped that the guys had not given up on our arrival. "We were late last month too," Tammy said. "They guys weren't worried at all. They said they knew we would make it. 'You ladies are tough,' they said."

A picture taken from the back seat of a van, looking forward through the windshield. The view out the windshield is of a snowy road with trees along the side. The headlights of cars coming on can be seen. A woman with short brown hair wearing a purple jacket is driving.
Deb drives through the snow.

 Through rain or snow or sleet or hail, the delivery of puppies shall prevail.