Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What changes they bring

March 7, 2014

Interest in the Leader Dogs for the Blind prison puppy-raising program is spreading. Two COs from the Ojibwa Correctional Facility came to observe our training session at Baraga. ARUS Tammy told them, "We knew it would make a difference, but we didn't realize it would be that quick." She added that there had been no grievances, complaints or tickets in two months. "When Copo came into the building, everything changed," she said.

FLD Copo must be one special pup.

Two weeks after our March visit, one of FLD Copo's raisers was faced with a decision. Ryan got news that he was finally accepted into a program that he had been hoping to get into, but that meant he would be transferred to a facility downstate. He had to choose between that program and the puppy-raising program.

A comment on this blog's "Baraga Correctional Facility" page stated that Ryan used "a cognitive decision making skill to weigh the pros and cons of taking the transfer." Ryan loved FLD Copo and enjoyed being part of the puppy-raising team. But Ryan has a son, a son he will likely be able to see when he is moved downstate.

ARUS Tammy said Ryan has changed. She said when he first came into the puppy-raising program some of the other raisers weren't excited to work with him. Now all the teams say they will miss him. "It has been amazing," she said. "I know he will leave prison and not come back because of the skills he learned in the Leader Dogs prison puppy raiser program."

A man dressed in the prison blue with orange striped uniform is sitting down and bending over a small black lab puppy that is in his lap. The man has his face almost touching the puppies head, the man is cradling the puppy's head with his right hand. The puppy's front paws rest across the man's right leg. The man has a tatoo on his right wrist.
Ryan and FLD Copo share a snuggle.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Losing status

March 7, 2014

My husband sometimes complains that he is a "non-person" when we are out and about with a Future Leader Dog puppy. Seems everyone in our county knew FLD Dutch. I was the "dog lady" on the other end of the leash and Andy was just "that guy" with me.

Even now, puppy-less, people look under our table on Sunday mornings when we are having breakfast in our local family restaurant. "No puppy?" they'll ask. So I understand when Ricky tells me that ever since having a black lab puppy around he has lost "status" in the prison.

"When I walk down the aisle," he says, "guys say ''s'up Bear?' They don't say 's'up Rick?' anymore."

A black lab puppy is lying half on a brown carpet square and half on a painted cement floor. He is facing away from the camer and lookng up at a man who is sitting on the right side of the photo. The man is bending over and looking at the puppy, his left forearm is resting on his left thigh. Two other men are sitting at a lunch table on the left and behind the puppy. All three are wearing the prison blue uniforms and looking at the puppy. The man on the left has his arms folded acrss his legs. The man behind has his right foot on the puppy's leash.
Ricky, Black and P share duties with FLD Bear.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A full agenda

March 7, 2014

What Tammy plans for an afternoon training session feels like a 400-level college class syllabus. Surely there is no way for us to get everything done in the allotted time! Yet, somehow she manages to lead the group through the relaxtation protocol, recall games, shaping calm greetings, rear leg work with a ladder, loose leash walking and blindfolded handler's exams followed by blindfolded recalls.


Baraga raisers formed a circle and took turns calling each puppy. "They were having fun," Tammy said.

A black lab puppy is running away from the camera toward a man dressed in prison blue uniform. The man is kneeling on the cement floor with his hands on his knees, calling the puppy. There are men and one woman standing in a circle on either side of the kneeling man, the men all have the prison uniforms on and the woman is to the kneeling man's left, she is wearing a grey sweatshirt and blue jeans. There is a golden retriever facing the woman, and a smaller black lab puppy is sitting facing the kneeling man from the right.
FLD Bear heads toward Steve during the recall game.
A man dressed in the prison blue uniform is kneeling down on a tile floor with a small black lab puppy between his knees. He is holding something in his hand in front of the pup's nose and looking down at the puppy. An african american man dressed in the prison blue uniform is bending over a yellow lab puppy. He has a treat in his right hand which is right in front of the yellow lab's face.
Sometimes a puppy gets distracted. Here FLD Axel is more interested in checking out FLD Copo than in coming to his handler. Tammy coached Mondo on when and how to use a "lure" to redirect Axel's attention.
The man on the left is kneeling with a small black lab puppy, he is holding the puppy by the collar and looking down at him. The puppy is sitting between his knees and is wearing a Future Leader Dog blue bandana. The yellow lab puppy is following the african american man's right hand, which is holding a treat. The yellow lab, also wearing a Future Leader Dog blue bandana, is reaching toward the man's hand. The man is backing up away from the black lab puppy. There are several men forming a circle around the two men and pups.
FLD Axel decides to follow Mondo.

A lure can be a useful tool in managing a situation such as getting your puppy from "A" to "B" when you know your puppy will not be able to ignore a big distraction. A lure can also help introduce a new behavior, like "down." However, the lure must be phased out quickly or the puppy won't have a chance to really learn - it will merely be following its nose!


The progressively difficult exercise to shape calm greetings gives the pups opportunities to earn rewards for sitting calmly in heel position. The greeters approach the handlers and pups from a distance, only a few steps at first, then stop and go back to the start position. Puppies who remain in a sit earn a reward. The helpers approach again, this time a bit closer. Puppies who hold a sit are treated. If any puppy gets up, the greeter turns and walks away.

Gradually the greeters move closer. Then they reach out to the pups without touching them. Eventually the greeters are able to walk up, shake hands with the handlers and reach down to pet the puppies.

The pups learned that doing nothing except sitting earns them a treat! How hard is that? The teams were able to work up to an excited greeting from two different people. FLD Bear surprised his team by holding still when, at the end, I rushed up to squeeze his puppy face.

"They did it beautifully," Tammy said. Everyone followed her directions. "Everybody," she said. "The greeters, the puppy raisers, the puppies." She wished we had videotaped the exercise. "It was picture perfect!"


Unit 8 has no stairs. We are told that a wooden set is being built for the puppies to practice on in the yard. RUM Steve warns that it will not be stationed near the fence.

In the meantime, the raisers walk their puppies through the rungs of a ladder. This helps the pups realize they have back legs!

Two men are bent over at the waist looking at two puppies. The man on the left is reaching to a small black lab, he is holding the pup's collar and leash with his left hand and luring the puppy with a treat in his right hand. The puppy is negotiating his way through the rungs of a ladder that is lying on the floor. The puppy is looking on the ground between the rungs. The man on the right is looking at a golden retriever who is sitting on his left side. The golden is wearing a Future Leader Dog bandaa. Both men are wearing the blue prison uniforms with orange strips on the legs and shoulders.
Ryan helps FLD Copo walk through the ladder while Luke and FLD Harper wait their turn.


Tammy demonstrates loose leash walking, first with FLD Harper and then with FLD Axel.

A yellow lab puppy is walking on the left side of a woman wearing a grey sweatshirt and blue jeans. You cannot see the woman's head or upper body. She is holding the leash loosely with her left hand and her right hand is in her right pocket. Five men dressed in blue prison uniforms are to the right watching, two are standing and three are sitting down. A small black lab is sitting on a grey mat on the far right side. You can just see a golden retriever lying down behind the woman's legs on the left side of the photo.
FLD Axel keeps a nice loose leash. Later, when viewing this photo, Tammy wanted me to make sure everyone knows when she marked Axel's loose leash with a "YES," her right hand was at her side and NOT in her pocket. "I was reaching for a treat just as you snapped the photo," she said.


Beno put the cardboard blindfold on and said, "I'm going to be blind the rest of the day." In the group photo from my last post, you can just see him in the back row wearing the blindfold.

A man dressed in the blue prison uniform is blindfolded and is bending over a small german shepherd puppy. The man is reaching down with his hands toward the puppy. The puppy is lying on his left side and is fast asleep.
Little FLD Dax is soooo tired he sleeps right through a handler's exam.
A man dressed in the blue prison uniform is cradling a small black lab puppy on its back in his lap. The man is blindfolded, he is holding the puppy's right front paw with his right hand and supporting the puppy with his left hand. The puppy is looking at the camera.
Do you think raiser Harvey cares much for FLD Copo?
A low shot of a yellow lab puppy slightly out of focus moving away from the camera, and looking to the left. A man dressed in the blue prison unform is squatting down facing the puppy with his arms hanging to the floor. The man is bald and is wearting a blindfold.
FLD Axel considers his options during a blind recall.

We are impressed with the Baraga inmates' teamwork. Tammy said, "When we did the ladder, each team made sure all three team members had a turn with the pup at the ladder." Later, when she asked for a volunteer to try the loose leash walking in front of the group, Ricky and P elected their teammate Black to work with FLD Bear. "Have him do it because he does a great job with loose leash walking," they said.


Friday, May 23, 2014

FLD Dax meets the teams

March 7, 2014

Before Tammy gets the group working their puppies, Chad brings FLD Dax around the room to meet everyone. Pups included!

There are three men in the foreground dressed in blue prison  uniforms. The one on the left is kneeling on his right knee and is holding a black lab puppy back from reaching toward a smaller german shepherd puppy being held by a man on the right, he is squatting down and looking up toward someone out of range of the camera to the left. Both puppies have their feet on the painted cement floor. A third man is sitting on a stool between the other two men and he is looking down toward the puppies. There are two men sitting down in the background.
FLD Bear, meet FLD Dax! Raiser Ricky holds an eager Bear from engaging with Dax.

One thing leads to another...we need a photo of the newest addition with his team.

Three men dressed in prison blue uniforms sit side by side on lunchroom stools. The man on the left has his forearms on his knees and is wearing a blue baseball hat, he is smilling at the camera. The man in the middle is holding the leash of a small german shephard puppy who is sitting between his feet on the floor. The man is holding the blue Future Leader Dog blue bandana in is right hand hanging down next to the puppy. This man is grinning at the camera. The man on the right also has his forearms on his knees and he is looking at the puppy. There are a few men in the background.
FLD Dax and his team, from left to right Kyle, Chad and Patrick.

"Can you take our photo too?" the others ask. I am so far behind on posting the guys are anxious for me to get pictures up here for their families to see. At long last, here are a few.

Three men dressed in prison blue uniforms gather around a young black lab puppy. The man on the left is holding the puppy in his left arm, his hand cradles the pup's chest. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and is looking at the camera, as is the man. The man in the middle is sitting on the other side of the metal table, leaning on his right elbow. He is looking at the camera. The man on the right has his right arm draped on the talbe and he is looking at the puppy with a big grin on his face. There is a mural painted on the wall behind them, it is a scene of mountains, grass and water.
FLD Copo and his team, from left to right Harvey, Ryan and Luke.
A yellow lab puppy is sitting on a grey "mat" between the feet of a man who is sitting on a lunchroom stool. The man is holding the puppy's leash in his left hand and his left forearm is resting on the metal table top. The man's right hand is reaching down to pet the pup's head. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana. The man is looking down at the pup. Behind the man is an african american man sitting at the table. He is wearing glasses and has his forearms resting on the table. On the right side of the picture is a third man who is sitting facing out from the end of the table, his forearms are resting on his thighs and he is looking over at thepuppy. He has a pair of glasses on the top of his head. There is a dog nylabone and a red folder on the talbe. The men are wearing the blue prison uniforms.
FLD Axel and his team, from left to right Beno, Mondo and Steve.
Three men are squatting in front of a steel wall on a tile floor. A young black lab puppy is sitting in front of the middle man, looking at the camera. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader  dog bandana. The men have their arms resting on their knees and are smiling at the camera. The man on the right is an african american and is wearing glasses.
FLD Bear and his team, left to right Black, Ricky and P.
Three men are standing in front of a steel wall. They are wearing prison blue uniforms. The middle man is cradling a young black lab in his left arm with a leather leash hanging down. The men on either side have their hands folded in front of themselves. The men are all smiling at the camera.
FLD Copo again, with his team.

So, we decided that a group photo would do.

A group shot of 18 men dressed in prison blue uniforms. Six of the men are kneeling or squatting down in front of the  others. There is a golden retriever and a yellow lab sitting in the front row. Three men in the back row are holding a black lab, a german shepherd and a black lab puppy. Everyone looks very happy!
The Baraga raisers and pups (plus FLD Harper, Tammy's puppy).

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A puppy brings love

March 7, 2014

A snow covered road stratches off into the distance. Snow is falling which makes it difficult to see the trees that line each sied of the road. A car is approaching in the left lane.A reminder when counting on alarm-clock puppies: they surprise you. FLD Dax slept all night. Lucky for us, Tammy had set the real alarm. By 7 a.m. we were on the road from the Soo to Baraga. A clear and sunny drive to Munising was a treat, but soon after the usual snow slowed our progress. Even so, we had plenty of time to stop for lunch at our favorite cinnamon-roll place - the Hilltop Family Restaurant in L'anse.

A quiet trip across the UP was another surprise. "Dax became a really good car rider," Tammy said.

The usual committee welcomed us into the Baraga Correctional Facility administration building. Here the Dax we knew reappeared - he had lots to say. We did not dawdle.

A person's lower legs (dressed in blue jeans and brown boots) are on the right side of the photo, the person's right hand is reaching to a small german shepherd puppy who is sitting down on a brown tile floor next to the person's right leg. The puppy is looking up and trying to mouth the person's hand. The puppy is wearing a Future Leader Dog blue bandana and a brown leash is attached to his collar.
FLD Dax tastes a hand.

RUM Steve met us outside Unit 8. "Are we going to get a ticket?" I asked, pointing out the Leader Dogs for the Blind van parked askew in the snow.

"You can put that big white van anywhere you want," he said and escorted us inside.

The teams sat ready in formation in the east wing lunchroom. Chad stood alone with his back to the door. The room was filled with "awwwwwws" as Tammy lifted FLD Dax over his shoulder.

A man dressed in prison blue pants and t-shirt is facing the camera on the left side of the photo. Behind him a woman with short white hair dressed in a blue parka and blue jeans approaches with a small german shepherd puppy in her right arm, the leather leash hanging down. A man in a black jacket is also standing behind with a golden retriever on his left side. Eight other men dressed in prison blues are sitting at steel lunch tables on the right side.
Puppy counselor Tammy presents FLD Dax to his raiser while the teams look on.

There are no words necessary for what came next...

A head shot of a man burying his face into the soft furry face of a small german shepherd puppy that is being handed over the man's left shoulder. The man has his eyes closed and appears to be drinking in the moment. The man's left hand is reaching up to the puppy's collar. The man has a large sliver watch on his writ and tatoos on his forearm. One of the tatoos is the word "hate."

The man still has his eyes closed and he seems to be in deep thought. The puppy is pressing the side of his face against the man's face with his front pays gripping the man's left shoulder. The man is holding the puppy's head with his left hand.

The man still has his eyes closed, but he is squinting is face and pulling slightly away from the puppy. The puppy likely nibbled on his ear. The man is still holding the pup with his left hand, and now his right hand is reaching up to the puppy. A leather leash is attached to the puppy's collar and is drapped to the right behind him.

The man has now taken the puppy in both his arms and is holding the pup with both his hands on the pup's body. The puppy is facing the man's face which is partially obscured. The man's eyes are still closed. There are more tatoos on the man's right arm, one is the word "love," which seems to represent what is happening - hate to love!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The party is over...

March 6, 2014

When the party dust settled, puppies and people relaxed.

A golden retriever is sitting on the right side between the legs of a man wearing the prison blue pants and white t-shirt, sitting on a stool. The man's head is out of the picture. The dog is wearing a blue bandana. A man sitting on the left, only his knee and left arm is visible, is reaching over to pet the dog under his chin. The man has a tatoo on his forearm that says "forever love."
Time for a little lovin' on FLD Bravo.

Jess talked to the group about working with her guide dog Nala. 

Four men are sitting on stools in a row, with two golden retrivers and one yellow lab. Three of the men have the prison blue pants and white t-shirts, the man on the far right has a blue shirt. The first golden is sitting facing the right in front of the first two men. The second golden is lying down between the legs of the thrid man, who is reaching down to the dog. The yellow lab is standing past the last man. The second and fourth men are holding guide dog harnesses. The second man's harness is brown leather with a yellow "do not pet me I'm working" sign on the handle. The fourth man's harness is white with a yellow harness.
Jess passes her guide dog harness around for the guys to compare with a Leader Dogs for the Blind harness that her husband uses with his Leader Dog. Jess and her husband are both visually impaired.


The Future Leader Dog puppies still had more work to do with volunteers who helped take the pups out on furlough. We met for dinner at the Sundown Lounge in Pickford. If it weren't for the tails sticking out from under our chairs, no one would have known there were a dozen dogs under the table!

After dinner, we regrouped at the Pickford Fire Hall. Tammy led everyone in the relaxation protocol to start the evening training session. We played a few recall games and practiced meet & greets, loose leash walking with dog distractions, and stairs. 

Three women are standing and holding the leashes of three yellow labs. The woman on the left is dressed in a black with white markings on her shirt and blue jeans - a small yellow lab is sitting on her left side wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana, the pup is looking up at her and she is looking down at the pup. The woman in the middle is close to the far wall and is wearing a red and white plaid shirt and blue jeans, she has short curly hair. The yellow lab is sitting in front of her facing her and is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog vest. The woman on the right is wearing a green sweatshirt and blue jeans, she has short brown hair. The yellow lab she has is sitting a few feet in front of her facing her and is wearing a Future Leader Dog bandana. There is a black lab in the corner of the picture on the right side, looking up at someone out of view. The floor is wood, as are the walls. There is a blue and sliver ladder lying on its side behind the woman dressed in black on the left. There is a wood bench seat on the right side against the far wall with a blue jacket drapped on it.
Puppy raiser Kim (on the left) works the relaxation protocoal with her puppy, FLD Kayla, while furlough volunteers work with FLD Bravo (center), FLD Zella and FLD Nell (black lab on the right).

Jess and Nala made a short presentation and spoke about how important it was for her to have a dog that knew how to settle. During a job interview with a potential employer who was already "suspicious" of her ability to do the job, Jess said that a "non-settled dog would have made things worse."

A small german shepherd puppy is lying on a wood floor facing the camera. He is wearing a blue bandana with a white patch with red letters that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print. The puppy's left ear is down and his right ear is up and leaning to the right over his head. He is looking right at the camera while licking his nose. A brown leash is attached to his collar.
A finally-settled FLD Dax mugs for the camera.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

FLD Bandit goes to school

patti's half-way house
May 9, 2014

Mrs. Matthew's second-grade class loves to have Future Leader Dog puppies visit. They are well-educated on how to interact with working dogs, so they wait for permission to pet. If no permission is given, they might be disappointed, but they understand why.

FLD Bandit snuggles on my lap while I answer questions. Some students want to know how LD Dutch is doing in Pennsylvania (he is doing great). Others want to know why Bandit is going to prison. Many share stories about their own dogs.

A group of second graders are sitting on the floor facing away from the camera. A couple of them have their hands riased. A woman dressed in a maroon t-shjirt and blue jeans with glasses and short brown hair is sitting in a rocking chair facing the kids. On her lap is a small chocolate lab.
Mrs. Matthews takes a photo of her class and  FLD Bandit on my lap. I am holding a Nylabone for Bandit to chew - instead of my hands!

After a while the children back up along the edge of the round rug and I set FLD Bandit down. He shows off for them, demonstrating how he's learned SIT, DOWN and TOUCH. He is also learning "leave it." Because Bandit stays focused on me, the children are allowed to pass by, one-by-one and give him a pet. He hardly notices the attention. (The treat I hold in my hand is more interesting to him!)

When the students return to their desks, FLD Bandit and I take a seat by the door and hang out for a little while.

A cute little chocolate lab puppy is sitting facing the camera. He is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and a brown leash is attached to his collar. In the background are second-graders at their desks, the one boy dressed in a green sweatshrit has his hand raised.
FLD Bandit hangs out with the second-graders. They are learning math!

The small chocolate lab is reaching up with his left from paw while he is sitting by the second-graders. The kids are behind him at their tables.
FLD Bandit says, "I know the answer!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The dogs, they had a party...

March 6, 2014

...and thought it was training!


To begin our session, puppy counselor Tammy led the group in three versions of the relaxation protocol. The relaxation protocol helps our puppies learn self-control. Basically they are asked to stay in position while the handler does all sorts of distracting behaviors - and they get a treat for not moving! It doesn't take them long to figure out what to do not do. 

(You can read about this protocol and download MP3 files at this link: http://championofmyheart.com/relaxation-protocol-mp3-files/.)

First up, relaxation while in a sit position.

Three men are standing in a row, a fourth is just out of the frame on the right side. Two other men are sitting behind and between the standing me. They are wearing prison blue pants and white t-shirts. The third and forth man (from left to right) are wearing the prison blue shirts over their t-shirts. The first two men have golden retriever puppies (almost adult) sitting on their left sides, they pups are wearing blue Future Leader Dog bandanas. The third man, and african american, has a black lab that is lying on the floor at his left side. The man just out of the frame has a yellow lab next to him, but you can only see her head. The men sitting down do not have puppies, they are just observing.
FLDs Harper, Bravo and Zella are sitting nicely, but FLD Sammy would rather lie down.

Second, relaxation in a down position.

Photo is taken from behind. Three dogs, from left to right a black lab and two golden retrievers, are lying down on a tile floor in a semi-circle; the legs of two men in prison blue pants with orange stripes are standing between them. All are facing away from the camera.
FLD Sammy can do this, just like FLDs Bravo and Harper. Good boys!

And lastly, relaxation in a stand position.

Now the three dogs are standing next to their handlers. The black lab is looking up his handler, as is the furthers golden. the middle golden is just looking ahead. In this shot you can see three men in the background on the left with smaller black labs, one is sitting and the other is down. There are two men sitting on the right side. A large black TV screen is hanging on the far wall in the background.
A standing FLD Sammy looks up at his handler as if to say, "This is it, right?"


Tammy likes to make training a fun experience for all. When she told the guys she needed nine chairs because they were going to play tic-tac-toe, they frowned. Who wants to play silly games? they seemed to be thinking.

It didn't take long before the competition turned fierce. Whose puppy could hold position? Whose puppy could not?

Lots going in in this picture. There are three rows of light blue chairs. Two men are sitting in the row to the far left, both with golden retrievers. The man closest to the camers has his down in a sit between his legs facing out, and the other man's do is sitting in front of him facing him. On man is about to sit in the middle chair of the middle row, the other chairs in this row are empty. His yellow lab is lying under the chair. The man is pointing with his left arm at someone in front of him. The last row to the right has threen men sitting int he chairs, the furthest one has a black lab sitting and facing him. A woman with a purple t-shirt and blue jeans is in the background with her hands raised about shoulder high. There are five other men inthe background.
Teams are SITS and DOWNS. Someone from the sidelines tosses a treat into the middle, trying to distract the puppies. Unfair? Well, that can happen in real life and our puppies must learn to ignore it! Who says games can't be training? (wink)

Still lots going on here. The photo is taken facing the fronts of the chairs, there are three rows of three chairs, and all chairs are empty. Several men and the woman are around the tic-tac-toe "board," and there are three puppies (a german shepherd and two yellow labs)  lying down under three of the chairs, completing a diagonal. There is one golde retriever in the last row in the middle standing up. There is also a black lab lying down on the left side, but not inthe game. He is looking to the left.
Teams are DOWNS and STANDS, but this time Tammy makes the game more challenging. Only puppies stay on the board - the handlers place them and have to walk away.

Realizing how much fun tic-tac-toe turned out to be, the guys jumped at the chance to play musical chairs. Tammy brought a CD loaded with songs about dogs. Her rules were a bit different than regular musical chairs. When the music stopped, there were seats for everyone, but the last puppy to get into a down position was out.  I dare say the game was just as amusing to watch!

There are four men in frount sitting on the blue chairs that are in one row, their puppies (black lab, yellow lab, black lab, and golden retriever)  are lying down under the chairs facing out. There are three men standing behind them and one woman.
When the music stops...it's a mad rush. Who can get their puppy "under" first?

There are three chairs in a triangle, all facing away from each other. Three men are walking around them with their puppies, a black lab, a yellow lab, and a black lab. There are men and the woman inthe background, and an african american man sitting down at a table in the background, running the music.
Puppy by puppy, all but three are eliminated. It is no surprise (to me) that the oldest pups are the last ones standing. Eventually, FLD Tara wins the round! And no surprise there - Tara was class-ready before coming to Chippewa, so she has had much more training than FLDs Zella and Nell.


Two young men dressed in prison blues sit on cafeteria stools. The man on the right is gesturing to the camera, his yellow lab is  lying between his legs facing the camers. The man on the left has his arms folded and is looking at the other man.
FLD Zella's handler leads the group in singing Happy Birthday to Zella and Nell. The pups turned one year old and are almost ready to return to Leader Dogs for the Blind for formal training.

A bald young man wearing a white t-shirt and prison blue pants is sqatting next to a black lab that is lying down under a chair facing out. The man is clapping his hands and looking at the dog. The lab has her chin on her front legs as if she is embarrassed! She is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLD Nell's handler giver her applause.

There is an anonymous poem about why dogs greet each other by sniffing their hinders. For the curious, here you go...


The dogs, they had a party
They came from near and far.
Some dogs came by taxi
And some dogs came by car.

Each dog signed his name
Upon a special book
And each dog hung his a**hole
Upon a special hook.

One dog was not invited,
And this aroused his ire.
He stormed into the party
And loudly shouted "FIRE!"

In the scene that followed,
The dogs forgot to look
And grabbed just any a**hole
From off of any hook.

And that is why when dogs roam
On land or sea or foam,
They sniff each others' a**holes,
In hopes they’ll find their own!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

We had no idea...and then we met

March 6, 2014

This day I finally got to meet fellow blogger Jess, and her guide dog Nala. (Nala is Jess's third guide dog. Her first two guide dogs came from Leader Dogs for the Blind; Nala is from a different guide dog school because Jess was living abroad at the time.)

Four years ago, when I started writing about my Future Leader Dog puppy-raising experiences on my other blog, "plays with puppies", I got virtually acquainted with Jess. She wrote her own blog about her experiences as a guide dog handler. Jess's blog is now titled "Walking Barefoot in the Sand." She also keeps a blog about her amazing athletic career - "Sea, Land and Tires."

Jess and I share some twists of fate...

My third Future Leader Dog Gus has the same Leader Dog "dad" as Jess's second Leader Dog Glacier. (Read my post, Introducing: JESS, Guest Blogger!)

In the spring of 2011, Jess was staying at Leader Dogs for the Blind for some brush up work with Glacier. On the night I came to visit the new handler of my "graduated" second puppy (Mike), Jess and I practically brushed elbows as we passed each other in the halls of the Polk Residence. We had no idea that we came so close to physically meeting.

In August of 2011, Jess read my blog post, FLD Gus Goes to the UP. My puppy Counselor, Tammy, snagged me into heading north for outings with some of her UP raisers. Turns out that one of Tammy's Canadian raisers worked with Jess's uncle. Small world.

That's not the end of it. With the advent of "puppies inside," Jess made another connection. Our visits to the Chippewa Correctional Facility, not very far south of the Soo, brought me close to her home. I had no idea she lived on the other side of the International Bridge. In January of 2014, we made arrangements to meet during a furlough outing with the Chippewa puppies, but a winter storm kept Jess north of the border. Later that month, she missed another training session with us because she was off competing in the Canadian Para Nordic ski nationals.

In the meantime, Jess and Nala crossed paths with Kim and FLD Kayla at a mall in the Canadian Soo. (Check out Jess's post Puppy Fix!) The two got connected through me and they started spending time together. Jess and Nala even came to the Chippewa Correctional Facility with Kim to meet the inmate raisers. Seeing the end result to one's puppy raising endeavor is always an inspiration.

FINALLY. We would meet! Jess and Nala were waiting for us back at Chippewa. They have become a regular part of the team.

Here is a link to Jess's blog describing this day: Another Prison Visit + Long Awaited Meeting.

An adult yellow lab is lying on a light brown tile floor, facing to the left. She is wearing a neon yellow guide dog harness. A woman and a man are sitting on blue plastic chairs behind the dog. The woman, on the left, is wearing a long sleev blue and white striped shirt and blue jeans and furry winter boots. Her hair is brown and streaked with blonde in the front and is neck lenght. The man is wearing the blue and orange pirson uniform and white tennis shoes. He is bald and is leaning toward the woman in conversation. A man wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants is standing behine to the far left, mostly out of view.
Guide dog Nala waits at the feet of Jess, who is in conversation with one of the Chippewa raisers.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thank you anyway, Bandit

patti's half-way house
May 4, 2014

If Bandit had not cried at 3:25 a.m. to go out and park, I would have missed the most spectacular clear sky. (We've had cloud blankets for days.) The night is so dark here that stars are visible to the horizon, and they twinkled through the unbudded trees. Jupiter flanked a crescent moon to the west. Above and beyond, the milky way's density reminded me of my insignificance. And in the north? The glow of the Aurora Borealis obscured the stars.

I was tempted to drag my tripod and camera outside, inspite of the need for more sleep.

I should have. Sleep did not come for a while anyway.

Mr. Bandit, upon return to his snuggly warm crate, whined, croaked, screamed, yipped, yapped and yodeled long enough to make me wonder if he wasn't finished with his duty. When he paused to take a breath, I took him back outside. He did pee again, but no "big" park was forthcoming.

Back in the crate, the green-eyed monster kept at it for what seemed like at least an hour.

Looking into the door of a small airline plastic sided dog crate with the door open, a small chocolate lab is lying down facing the camera, his eyes looking up adorably. He is laying on a green "mut mat" and there are two puppy toys on the right side, one is a yellow soft nylabone, the one tucked in by his belly is a green and blue nylabone rattle-type toy.
All sweet and Mr. Innocent now.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sneak preview: chocolate kisses

patti's half-way house
May 2, 2014

A sleepy-eyed chocolate lab puppy is being held in the arms of a woman wearing a blue polo shirts with Leader Dogs for the Blind logo above the left pocket. Only the woman's torso is visible and her left arm and hands. She has a brown leash slung over her left shoulder. The puppy is wearing a blue collar with a round silver tag with  Leader Dogs etched on the top and P-10676 underneath. The puppy has his left paw over the left hand of the woman.
FLD Bandit, upon his release from Leader Dogs for the Blind on May 2, 2014.

NAME: Bandit
BREED: Labrador Retriever
FUR: Chocolate
EYES: Adorable
WEIGHT: 11.2 pounds
CURRENT STATUS: Future Leader Dog in training
ASSIGNED LOCATION: Chippewa Correctional Faciltiy

The small chocolate lab is standing in front of a black statue of a german shepherd dog. The puppy is looking at the camera and the shot is taken from ground level. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana with a white patch with red letters that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print. A windo and a half brick wall and glass door are in the background.
FLD Bandit poses with the statue in front of the Leader Dogs for the Blind kennel.

The small chocolate lab puppy is standing next to a silver dog bowl, he is looking to the camera with a surprised expression. His eyes are wide open and you can see the whtie of the eye on the left. Behind the puppy is a white x-pen. Next to the bowl is a yellow and teal colored dog toy.
Busted? Naw, it's okay Bandit, you can finish your dinner!

A big black lab is lying on a pine laminate floor under a brown wood kitchen table. His head is to the left of the frame and his head is up, but his eyes are slightly closed looking at the camera. A chocolate lab puppy is sprawled across his rear legs with his head hanging down on the floor in an awkward position.
Our gentle cc'd Gus is tolerant of the puppy who likely is missing his litter.
The small chocolate lab is lying acroos the back paws of a large black lab; both are on a pine laminate floor under a brown kitchen table and both of their heads are on the left side of the photo. The black lab is behind the puppy and his head is up and looking at the camera. The puppy has just lifted his head and his tongue is sticking out.
Gus doesn't seem to mind the little guy snuggling up to him under our table, but it doesn't appear that Bandit appreciates getting his picture taken.

A close up, floor level shot of the head of the chocolate lab, his chin resting on the floor and his eyes just about to close. Behind him, and out of focus, is the blocky head of the  big black lab.
Both boys settle back to sleep.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Yooper time

March 6, 2014

We meet, as usual, in the visitor's entrance of the Chippewa Correctional Facility to get signed in. We trade our driver's licenses for our Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOT) visitor IDs. Tammy is given a locker key to stash the Leader Dogs for the Blind van keys; we emptied our pockets before we arrived. What we are able to bring in is documented on a manifest. My camera and flash. Tammy's bag of training tricks. Both of our treat bags.

FLDs Harper and Dax enter ike they are in charge of everything.

Paula and Dave are waiting for us. They have been visiting with Amy, an MDOT employee from a prsion in Jackson who wants to observe the program.

ARUS Rob brings FLD Nell with us on the long walk to check out the level 2 unit. Here we are subjected to another check in. Ironically, Amy is the only one who sets off the metal detector. A pat down clears her thick-soled metal-shank boots.

ARUS Don leads the tour through the unit. Tammy and I are impressed with a large conference room - we could really do some training with that much space. Pike Unit raisers will be able to come inside, but the guys here cannot get out to the Pike Unit. The big yard is a huge area with a pavilion, many sidewalks and a basefall field. If winter ever ends, this will be a wonderful training area.

The mens' living area is set up much like those we've seen at the Baraga Correctional Facility. Half walls separate spaces crowded with bunks, lockers and desks. As we walk down the dim, narrow aisle of one wing, men on lock down pay us no mind. At the far end Don tells us about the warden's plans to convert these eight-man "pods" to six-man in order to accommodate two dog kennels.

FLD Dax decides to put his two cents in and lets loose with a loud rendition of his nighttime singing. "Hey, there are dogs in here!" someone calls out.

Our group is subject to the scrutiny of men who are now sitting up on top of their bunks or hanging over the half walls of the pods. We navigate through reaching hands of those who squat at the entryways, eager to pet the puppies. Tammy lets them touch Harper, who calmly accepts the celebrity attention.

One young man sporting a full round beard asks about the dogs. I give a quick rundown of the puppy-raising program and ask him what he thinks. I am surprised with the thoughtfulness of his answer. "It will be really good for the guys," he says. "We have a lot of old timers."

We pause our tour in an area between wings. It feels like an intersection during rush hour when a buzzer blares and the men exit their quarters. Don points out where they plan to park puppies during the night, just beyond a set of double glass doors and in view of a correctional officer on duty. A grassy area alongside the building is edged with a chain link fence. Well, we assume that what is under the lingering snow drifts is a grassy area. It would make a nice run if the ends were closed off.

FLDs Harper, Nell and Dax are magnets. One man stops a few feet away and asks politely, "Can I pet your dogs?"  Of course! Another man wants to know how he can get a dog. That would be up to ARUS Don, when the time comes.

We drop the pups off at Pike Unit so we can grab a quick lunch at the pizza and sub joint down the road. Our training session with the guys is scheduled for 12:30 and it's after noon already. At one o'clock we are still eating and chatting. I say to Rob, "We're late."

"Naw," he replies. "It's no big deal."

No worries. Rob is on "yooper" time. Things happen when they happen.
A close shot at floor level of a small german shepherd puppy lying on his right side on a blue mat with his head toward the camera. His leash is next to him and a man's leg in blue pants is behind him. There are lunchroom seats in the background.
By the time we start our training session with the Pike Unit raisers, FLD Dax is tired out from his vocal night and morning tour.