Monday, July 28, 2014

One year already!?

I left you hanging in time with my last post, patient readers, which took place in April at the Chippewa Correctional Facility. I have yet to tell you of our May and June travels to the UP prisons...the delivery of two more puppies to Chippewa and two more to Baraga, "tagging" and games, puppy furloughs and more. I will go back, I promise. But first, this...

July, 2014

Any puppy raiser will tell you - a year with a Future Leader Dog passes by much too quickly. Even when there are times you wonder if your brand new puppy will ever sleep through the night, never mind when it will get the idea that outside is the place to "park," the year is over before you know it.

Just when you've survived adolescent aggravations, it is time. Time for your puppy to return to Leader Dogs for the Blind. Time for your puppy to make good on all your hard work. Time to see if your puppy has what it takes to become a working guide dog.

For puppy raisers who are also prison inmates, this fast-fled year comes with mixed emotions. While never having spent a night in prison myself I can only guess that, normally, prison time creeps by for inmates counting the days until parole. For a select group of puppy-raising inmates at the Chippewa Correctional Facility, caring for Future Leader Dog puppies has made this past year fly. Now puppies must leave. And soon some raisers will make parole.

In July of 2013, Deb Donnelly (Puppy Developement Supervisor at Leader Dogs), along with puppy counselor Tammy, myself and volunteers Dave and Paula, met with Warden Jeffrey Woods and his staff at the facility. ARUS Rob gave us a tour of Pike Unit. We met a polite group of carefully selected inmates who hoped to become puppy raisers. We showed off Deb's career-changed German Shepherd Tripp, and FLDs Strider, Harper, and Dutch.

Deb gave the facility a Leader Dogs "paws up." A month later, she and Tammy handed off two male golden retriever puppies to the first two-men teams. FLDs Drummond and Bravo blazed the way for Michigan's first prison puppy raising program.

You might have been reading the "rest of the story."

Now, almost one year later, the two-golden boys are due to return to Leader Dogs for formal guide dog training. But not until the Chippewa Correctional Facility opened its gates for supporters of the program. On July 17, 2014, over 100 guests willingly entered the prison to enjoy a one-year-anniversary celebration, Chippewa Puppy Days!

A prison committee consisting of staff and inmate raisers planned the party. Speeches by the warden, ARUS Rob, and Deb pointed out the benefits of this win-win arrangement. Dr. Richard Bennett, DVM, who donates his services to the program, joked to the Lions Club members in the crowd that he had brought some feline distemper shots along with him. Elaine and her working Leader Dog Ischgi expressed heartfelt thanks to the raisers for their hard work in helping give independence to the blind and visually impaired.

It was all very moving.

The puppy raisers performed a demonstration with their puppies to show off the self-control the pups have learned. Basketballs, recalling dogs, men running and clapping and stepping over the pups and every puppy did their best.

A slightly from-above shot of a crowd on the right and front, sitting on white and blue plastic chairs facing away from the camera and to the left, where two lines of men dressed in white t-shirts and blue prison pants are lined up with their puppies on their left sides. There are posters on the gymnasium wall thanking sponsors and annoucing Leader Dogs for the Blind and Chippew Correctional Facilitiy Puppy Days. There is a large white screen hanging down from high on the far wall.
The Chippewa raisers and their Future Leader Dog puppies line up for their demonstration.
It was impressive.

And then. Four of the raisers spoke about what the experience over the past year has meant to them. Morrison, who is raising Bravo, Scott raising Drummond, Ro raising Sammy, and Doug raising Chewy. (Stay tuned for more on what these men had to say...)

There was not a dry eye in the place.

Afterwards, as the raisers stood along the sidewall of the gymnasium with their teams, the crowd filed by and shook hands with each one and greeted their puppies. Later, one raiser expressed his amazement over the attention. "I thought everyone would head right over to the food," he said. (Chippewa has a culinary arts program - the homemade gourmet pizzas and sweet deserts were delicious!)

I am proud to be associated with this group of dedicated individuals. Per ARUS Rob and the raisers' request, I put together a slideshow of our year at Chippewa to show at Puppy Days. Here it is!

To view Northern Michigan's 9/10 News coverage of the event, visit

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The rest of the journey...

April 11-12, 2014
NOT in the UP

Thus began the long ride back to Leader Dogs for the Blind for Nell, Zella and Tara. Here is the "rest of the story," as reported by Tammy, Leader Dog Puppy Counselor:
All the girls were great on their ride downstate. When I dropped Patti off...she helped park all the dogs. They willingly jumped back into the van ready for an adventure!
The girls were to stay at my house for the night and return to Leader Dog the following afternoon. As many of you know I have four dogs living in my house, so with the girls this would make seven! I do not have a large house, but do have a large yard for them all to run off some energy. I brought the girls in one-by-one to meet my crew and released them into the backyard for a free-for-all! Fun was had by all. By the way, Zella was in season (her second one since being placed in the prison setting.)
A slightly blurry shot of a fenced in back yard with seven dogs running around. The dog in the foreground facing left is a yellow lab, wearing panties because she is in heat. Close beyond her are two black labs running toward her. There seems to be a couple of posts in the background on the right where there are two more black labs and two golden way beyond them, running away from the camera.
Seven dogs romp in Tammy's yard.
There are five dogs sitting and one dog standing facing the camera. From left to right, a black lab sitting, a yellow lab standing, a black lab sitting, a golden retriever sitting, a black lab sitting, and a golden retriever sitting. There is a black lab's right paw just inside the frame on the far right side. The dogs are sitting on a wooden deck against a vinyl sided wall.
Seven dogs in a row: Ivan, Zella, Ruckus, Midas, Tara, Harper, and Nell. (Nell was sitting there so nicely but I only got her foot in the picture.) So then, everybody was put on a down stay but Miss Zella decided she had enough and decided to go explore.

Here is the final installment of our adventure. We arrived at Leader Dog around 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 12. Tara was the first to be returned. I took pictures of her by the German Shepherd statue outside the kennel entrance and then by the front desk.
On the left, a black lab, wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana sits next to a stature of a german shepherd, facing the camera. The dog statue is all black and the dog is in a sitting position. The lab's leash is looped around the statue's front leg. There is a brick wall below a window behind them.
FLD Tara posing in front of the Leader Dog kennel.
 In the in-take room she weighed in and checked out the toy box.
This shot is taken from above, looking down into a wooden box with about 14 large Nylabone dog toys in the bottom of it. A black lab's head is over the right edge of the box, the dog is standing on white tile.
"Is that all there is? Then I don't want one."

Next came Miss Nell. She had to say "hello" to the nice German Shepherd statue before posing for her picture.
In this shot of the german shepherd stature, the statue is on the left side and a black lab is sitting on the right with its leash wrapped around one of the statue's legs. The lab is leaning toward the statue and sniffing its muzzle. The lab is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
Nell gives the statue a sniff.
Nell explored the intake room, weighed in, and looked in the toy box. She decided she didn't want to bring one back to the kennel with her, either.
A black lab is walking toward the camera with its tongue hanging out, its tail must be wagging becuase it is blurry! The dog is right of a couch that has a beige background and blue, maroon, orange, red and other colors of designs in the fabric. There is a yellow and blue plastric chair in the background beyond the couch. There is an off-white desk in the background mostly out of view on the right side. There seems to be someone standing by the desk, only the lower leg and foot is visible. The floor is a cream coloredtile.
Nell checks out the intake room.

 Finally, it was Miss Zella's turn.
A yellow lab is now sitting on the left side, next to the german sheperd statue. Her leash is also looped around the leg of the statue and she is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and looking at the camera.
Miss Zella poses by the statue.
The yellow lab is sitting on the left side in the picture, looking up to the camera on the tile floor. To the right is the wooden box, the lid of which is closed now and there are pictures of toys and a bandana on the top with the word "Toys" in red.
"Can I look?"
Zella made her selection and in true Golden fashion (she is a golden retriever/lab mix) had to parade around the room showing it to everybody. She even carried it almost all the way to the kennel.
A yellow lab is standing in a large commercial dog kennel, looking forward and to the right. She is standing on a blue karunda dog bed and there are a couple of toys on the floor to the left. There is a blue sign on the right top that says "Dog care only."
Miss Zella hangs out in her new kennel.

We wish Tara, Nell and Zella all the best in their new adventure!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

There comes a time...

April 11, 2014

The games are over.

This day's training is complete. We retreat into a small classroom in Pike Unit to process the three puppies that are returning to Leader Dogs for the Blind. It is time for them to start formal guide dog training.

FLDs Nell, Zella and Tara - the "parolees" as the guys dub them. 

Three portraits of inmate raisers and their puppies that are leaving to go to Leader Dogs for the Blind. The man on the left is kneeling on one knee with his black lab standing on his left side. The man is bald and is wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants. He is smiling and has his left arm around the dog's back. The dog is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The middle picture is a closer shot of a darker skinned man with his right arm wrapped around a yellow lab's neck in an embrace. The man is wearing the prison blue uniform and looking  seriously right at the camera. The dog's head is facing up and to the left and appears to be trying to get out of the embrace. The man has the dog's leash in his right hand. The man on the right is squatting with a black lab sitting on his left side. The man is smiling at the camera, he right forearm is resting on his right knee and his right hand is holding the leash. His left arm is draped over the back of the lab. the dog is looking at the camera.
From left to right, raiser Justin with FLD Nell, raiser Abe with FLD Zella, and raiser Jeremy with FLD Tara.

 There are not many questions from the somber group. 

Four men are sitting on light blue plastic chairs in a row facing the camera. The first man, left to right, is wearing green pants and a white shirt and glasses, the second man is wearig blue pants and a white shirt, the third man is wearing maroon pants and a white t-shirt, and the fourt man is wearing the blue prison uniform. All the men have puppies lying down beneath them on the floor and under their chairs. The dogs are, left to right, a golden retriever, a yellow lab, a golden retriever and a yellow lab. The dogs are all lying on their left sides with their heads facing left and are asleep. The men all have sad faces.
Everyone seems tired out.

Tammy asks me to share my story about meeting Gail, Leader Dog Dutch's new partner. I meant to tell them how proud and sad and anxious I felt when I left that silly Golden at Leader Dog last November, how I tried not to think about him living there in the kennels, how waiting so long for news of his progress was excruciating. I wanted to tell them how my heart burned, especially when I chose not to take another puppy right away, yet how this prison program gave me "puppy fixes" to help with the waiting.

I only remember to tell them it was a long wait, but it was great to see Gail pick up the harness and say, "Dutch, find the door." Off he went, his tail wagging in time to my heartbeats. In the end the long wait was worth it, seeing the happy team.

A group of about 11 men circle a small carpeted room, some kneeling on the floor, others standing and the rest sitting in light blue plastic chairs. The man staning in the middle is taking a photo of the man sitting on the right with a black lab sitting between his knees. There are yellow labs, golden retrievers and a german shepherd puppy with the men.
Doug snaps a photo of Jeremy and FLD Tara. The men share a long good-bye to the three that are leaving.

Tammy asks for stories in return. Abe laughs at Zella's "snorting." Harlin remembers the first day Abe got Zella. "She dragged him all over the place!" Everyone agrees that now, Zella is Abe's "champion."

Justin is animated with his falling-on-the-ice-taking-Nell-out-to-park story. Nell stole her bandana and then Justin's full cup of coffee. The poor guy slipped and fell three times trying to round her up. "I was so mad!" he exclaims, but laughs at himself with all of us. Justin describes how the guys stored small cartons of milk in the snow banks to keep them cold. "She grabbed one of those and bit it and drank it all," he says.

Churchard tells an elaborate tale about Tara and Nell. Tara, leash dragging behind her, snuck into Nell's cell, grabbed her Kong and took it back to her own cell. Nell would have nothing of it; she trotted down to Tara's cell and took the thief by her leash to bring the toy back.

The mood lightens with the stories.

Tammy announces each puppy's grown up "dog" number as she drapes an official Leader Dog chain collar and new tag over each neck. "That's the first time a parolee gets a number going out!" Harlin says.

A close shot of a woman (on the left) wearing a purple sweatshirt putting a chain collar over the nost of a yellow lab, which is being held by the man on the right. He is wearing the blue prison uniform. Both the woman and the man are bending toward the middle over the lab. A second yellow lab is sneaking into the middle of things from the left, its leash being held by a man behind wearing a green sweatshirt and blue pants, sitting down on a blue plastic chair. This man's head is out of view.
Tammy slides the new collar over Zella's head. FLD August is curious. His turn is coming.
A man wearing a white t-shirt and the prison blue pants with orange stripe is sitting on a light blue plastic chair, leaning over onto a desk and facing away from the camera. A black lab is lying on the carpeted floor under the chair. A woman wearing blue jeans and a purple sweatshirt is standing on the right side, leaning over the desk.
Nell relaxes while Justin and Tammy fill out the turn-in paperwork.
A bald man wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants is on the floor with his hands on the body of a black lab. The lab is lying on its left side with its head toward the camera. The man is resting his head on his right knee.
Justin and Nell.

It is time.

There are two men on the left in the background sitting on chairs facing the camera. The man on the far left is wearing a white t-shirt and maroon pants and there is a golden retriever sitting on the carpet between the man's knees. The man next to him is wearing the prison blue uniform and is resting his forearms on his knees with his hands clasped between them. There is a man to the left coming in a door, leaning over a black lab wearing a light blue jacket. This man is wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants. On the right side are two men stting on light blue chairs facing the left. The man closest to the camera on the far right is wearing a light orange shirt and prison blue pants and is leaning over to pet a german shepherd with his right hand. The german shepherd is lying on the carpet under his chair. The next man is wearing the prison blue uniform and has his elbos on his knees. A black lab is lying on its left side under the man's chair.
Cody and FLD Baker can be seen in the background coming in from the yard.

In the bustle to leave the room, I remember FLD Baker. Cody has been handling her since we left her on our way to Baraga, but I don't see them. I finally find him in the doorway to the yard. "I took her outside because I was crying a little," he whispers.

There comes a time in every puppy raiser's life to let go. To wish one's puppy "dogspeed." This time came early for Nell, Zella and Tara's raisers. The three pups came to Chippewa as "finishers," a little older than the rest. Their leaving is bound to leave a big hole in Unit 8. The raisers still with puppies feel the pain, too.

Justin, Abe and Jeremy walk their puppies out to the Leader Dog van and put them into crates. Morrison says that when it is time for his puppy to go, "I'm going to put Bravo on a down/stay and just go to my room."

The bald man in a white t-shirt is holding the chin of a black lab and pressing his face toward the lab. The lab is inside of an airline dog crate, facing out, with the wire door open wide.
Justin says his final good-bye to Nell.
The man in the prison blue uniform is leaning in toward a yellow lab that is inside a dog airline crate. The man is gripping the wire door with his left hand and holding the jaw of the lab with his right hand, his face pressed against the face of the dog.
Abe already said good-bye, but returns to Zella one last time.
A man waring a blue shirt with a long sleeved white shirt under it is walking away from the Leader Dog white van, he is looking down and is holding a green treat bag and a leash in his hands, which are by his waist.
Jeremy turns away from the Leader Dogs for the Blind van after putting Tara into a crate.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Outside simulation

April 11, 2014

One thing that stands out during the dice game is how the teams root for each puppy, even if it isn't their own. When Tammy asked Eric to heel FLD August through the cones a second time, it felt like we were in a baseball stadium, the batter facing a 3-2 count with two outs and bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to win or lose the game. A proud Eric nodded to the cheering crowd as August rounded the last cone for a home-run performance.

As the last team tosses the dice it is about noon. Inmates assigned to clean the lunchroom hover outside the door. Tammy has more tricks in her training bag and the raisers want to keep working, so we move out to the yard. Piles of snow linger yet the sun is shining and the temperature is quite pleasant.


The set-up.
Tammy asks for five chairs; she sets two facing the door to Pike Unit and three in a row behind them facing to the side. This game will simulate a visit to a busy doctor's office. Eric and Dave sit in the two chairs. I sit in the middle chair of the group of three with a notepad and pen. A squeaky toy is staged a bit beyond.

The task.
The handler and his FLD will enter the "waiting room," maneuver around the waiting "patients" and take a seat next to me. Hopefully, he will settle his puppy before I hand him the notepad and pen. I will give three instructions.
  1. Write down your puppy's name and number.
  2. Write down your name.
  3. Write down one thing your puppy has taught you.
After writing, the handler will exit with his puppy, passing by the squeaky toy.

The challenge.
Of course, nothing goes easy. Those of you who raise puppies on the outside will recognize the scenario. As the team approaches the waiting room, Tammy acts much like many people in the general public. "I know I'm not supposed to," she squeals, reaching out, "but I just HAVE to pet your puppy!" She encourages Eric and Dave to do the same. By the time the handler reaches me, the puppy is wound up and not interested in going "under" the chair. Surprisingly, most of the puppies care less about the squeaky toy.

A tall, african american man is standing in the distance in the middle of the photo, near a set of double doors, one of which is open. He is wearing the prison blue pants and a long sleeved white t-shirt. He is looking down at a yellow lab which is sitting on his left side looking back at him. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The man's right hand is in a fist at his chest and his left hand hanging at his side is holding the leash. In the foreground are two men sitting in light blue plastic chairs, facing hte first man. The man on the left is wearing a white t-shirt and has a ponytail, his hair is grey. The man on the right is wearing a green sweatshirt and is bald. There is a woman standing far on the right, half out of view. She is wearing dark glases, blue jeans, a grey t-shirt and purple hoodie that is unzipped. It is very sunny out.
Josh gets FLD August's attention before braving the waiting room gauntlet. Eric (left) and Dave (right) are August's raisers, so this will prove exceptionally challenging. In the end, Josh does a great job keeping the pup's focus on him.

A clsoe over-the-shoulder shot of a man wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants. The man is on the far right side and half out of the frame. He is sitting and holds a notepad on his right knee and is writing on it with a pen in his right hand. His left hand is supporting the notepad and a leash is looped around his left wrist. A yellow lab is standing at the end of the leash in front of the man, facing away and to the right. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana. They are on cement and there is snow piled up in the distance. The sun is casting a dark shadow from the dog.
Churchard writes his answers to my three questions while hanging on to FLD Ekco's leash. Managing the puppy while trying to write (and remember the questions) proves to be the biggest challenge to the men!

Playing games makes it easy to forget that all the while the puppy is being trained to maintain a loose leash, generalize cues like "under" or "sit," and ignore distractions. The waiting room game in particular points out to the inmate raisers what outside raisers deal with every day when socializing their puppies. Strong obedience skills make these situations easier to manage.

As if to prove that point, Tammy has the group do one last loose leash heeling exercise.

A group of men and puppies are walking from side to side amongst each other. The man in the middle in the foreground is wearing the prison blue uniform and is walking to the left. He is holding the leash with both hands near his waist, a black lab is walking on his left side. In the background is a man in a white t-shirt and green pants waling to the left with a small german shepherd. The woman in a grey t-shirt and purple hoodie is in the very background standing with her hands on her hips near a red brick wall.
Tammy has the group divide into two and face each other. In a series of planned steps, she has the teams approach and retreat with their puppies until they can walk closely by and swap sides. Then she has half the group sit their puppies while the rest weave in and out among them.

 Coming up, time to say good-bye...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Training games!

Tammy's training games make "work" fun for the handlers as well as the puppies. First up, the "contraband" dice game we played at the Baraga Correctional Facility.

A bald man with a goatee wearing green pants and a white t-shirt has just tossed a pair of six inch dice. The dice are out of focus in mid-air in front of him. His left hand is holding the leash of a young german shepherd puppy, who is pulling to the right toward a small black lab. There are two other men sitting on the right side. The first man, wearing blue pants and a white t-shirt, is holding the leash of the black lab, who is standing between his legs looking at the german shepherd. The man's right hand is reaching toward the puppy's chest. The man on the far right is wearing green pants and a long sleeved white t-shirt and glasses; he is looking down at the puppy and he has his left leg crossed over his right leg at the ankle. There are several other people sitting behind the man standing.
Doug tosses the dice, but FLD Chewy is more interested in FLD Ashley.
The same man is now in mid-jump of a series of 10 jumping jacks. The german shepherd puppy is now sitting on his left side looking up at him. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The people sitting around behind him are watching.
Now FLD Chewy seems curious as to why Doug is jumping and flailing his arms.
A different man, dressed in blue pants and a white t-shirt has just thrown the same dice, which are caught in mid-air by the camera. The man is holding a leash at his chest with his right hand and at his waist with his left hand. A golden retriever is sitting at his left side looking up at the dice. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There is a woman dressed in blue jeans and a grey t-shirt with her arms on her hips behind and to the right of the man. Another man is sitting down on the far right. He is wearing the prison blue pants and a green sweatshirt. His arms are folded on his chest. A golden retriever is lying down underneath him.
Matt throws the dice and is amused at FLD Harper's intense attention.
This man is now in mid jumping-jack and he is looking down at the golden retriever, who is looking back at him. The woman standing behind is smiling at the pair. The photo now shows two men sitting on the right side, the same man with the golden, and the man with the black lab, who is also lying niced under him. There are two other women sitting down directly behind the man jumping.
Good boy, Harper!
A different man is in mid jumping-jack with his feet off the floor and his arms spread wide. He is the one wearing blue pants and a green sweatshirt. A golden retriever is sitting at his left side looking up at him. Another  yellow lab is standing in the foreground, looking toward the man and golden retriever. The lab is being held by a leash and is wearing a blue bandana. There is an orange cone in front of the golden retriever and a pair of large six inch dice on the floor too. Three women are sitting behind the man and one woman, dressed in blue jeans and a grey t-shirt with her hands on her hips, is standing behing and to the right.
FLD Drummond keeps close watch on Scott, who is in mid-air doing jumping jacks. Lucky number seven has been rolled several times and the task is: "Sit your puppy while you do 10 jumping jacks." I'm not sure, but I think FLD Ekco is the interested puppy in the foreground.
The woman dressed in jeans and a grey t-shirt is standing on the left side of the photo, looking to the right. A man wearing blue prison pants and a white t-shirt and is bald, is standing in the middle of the photo with his arms at his side. He is looking down to the right at a yellow lab that is sitting on a tile floor. The puppy's leash is laying on the floor next to her, attached to her collar. She is wearing a blue bandana. There are two large six inch dice about to come to rest on the floor in the foreground. The man with blue priosn pants and a green sweat shirt is sitting on the right side with his arms crossed on his chets. Ther eare three women sitting on chairs behind the others.
Churchard and FLD Ekco wait for the dice to land.
The bald man in the white t-shirt is squatting down facing away from the camera on the right side. The yellow lab is coming toward him, dragging her leash, her right front paw is crossing in front of her left paw. The man in the green sweatshirt sitting in the background is bending over to pet the golden retriever that is lying onf the floor beneath him. There are three more men in the background sitting in a row on stools attached to lunch tables. All of their faces are out of the camera's view. They are all wearing white t-shirts, one is wearing green pants, the two on the right side are wearing the blue prison pants.
The task this time is a recall across the room. Even though Churchard has only had FLD Ekco for two days, the pup comes to him when he calls. And ignores the dice distractions and all the other puppies!
A man wearing the blue prison pants and a white t-shirt is walking by some orange cones on the tile floor with a yellow lab, who is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The man is looking down at the puppy with his right hand in a fist up high on his chest. The puppy is slightly in front of the man, looking up at his hand. The leash is fairly tight. There are six men sitting on the lunchroom table seats in the background, all are wearing white t-shirts and blue prison pants, except one man has green pants. There are three black lab puppies underneath three of the men. The puppy on the far left is standing, the other two are lying down. There is also a chew toy on the floor in front of the puppy on the right.
Eric and FLD August's task is to loose leash heel through a series of orange cones. It appears that Eric might have a treat in his right hand, which could be causing August to swing in front of him. Tammy has them repeat the exercise because the leash was a bit tight; she knows they can do better. And they do!
A man dressed in maroon sweat pants and a white t-shirt is bending over toward a golden retriever that is standing in front of him, facing him and away from the camera. The man is holding out a green plush toy to the puppy and holding the dog's leash with his left hand. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and a black body harness. There is an orange cone just visible in the foreground. There are three women sitting in the background but not quite visible, and the woman in jeans and a grey t-shirt with her hands on her hips standing behind the dog, but she is only visible from her shoulders down.
Morrison offers FLD Bravo a plush toy to "take" as part of his task. Bravo isn't sure and has to be coaxed to take it. The pup readily "gives" the toy back to Morrison when asked.

Coming next - a game that simulates a real-world situation....

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A full agenda, inside

April 11, 2014


Starting our training session with the relaxation protocol is a great way to set a calm and attentive atmosphere. Tammy reads instructions to the group and has them vary positions. First the dogs sit, then stand, then relax into a down.

Two men stand with black labs sitting at their left sides. Both men are looking down at the puppies. The first man, on the left, is wearing blue pants and a white t-shirt. The puppy is wearing a baby-blue working jacket and is facing him slightly. The other man on the right is african american and is wearing the blue pants and shirt prison uniform. His puppy is looking up at him. There are lunch tables in the background.
FLDs Baker and Sammy sit next to Cody and Ro.
A man dressed in the prison blue uniform is leaning over a yellow lab, placing a treat in her mouth. The lab is lying on the tile floor, her leash is draped across her front legs. She is wearing panties because she is in heat. A second man is leaning against a lunch table with his hands crossed  at his waist. He is bald with tatoos on his foreamrs, he is wearing green prison pants and a white t-shirt.
Abe gives FLD Zella a treat while Doug looks on. (Zella is wearing panties because she is in heat. Every puppy is a potential breeder for Leader Dogs for the Blind, so they are not spayed or neutered until after they return for training.)


With settled puppies, Tammy has the handlers practice "name recognition." She and I step to each team and lightly distract the puppies with a quiet "Well, hello puppy!" or a soft clap. The goal is that the puppy will look back at the handler when its name is called. One time. All the teams do well. Then Tammy and I approach with a bit more enthusiasm. This is more of a challenge!

A floor-level photo of a young black lab trying to approach the camera. Her right front paw is mid-air. A man, sitting down on a stool attached to a lunch table, is holding the pup's collar in his right hand and her leash in his left. He is wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants with an orange strip. His head and shoulders are out of view. There is another table to the right of the puppy.
FLD Ashley has a difficult time resisting me. Good catch Robert!


One way to "proof" a puppy (checking to see if it knows its commands) is to ask for a behavior from a not-so-typical, not-in-heel position. Think your puppy knows "sit?" Try asking it to sit with your back turned, or from five feet away, or while sitting in a chair or kneeling on the floor. Tammy says this exercise demonstrates where work is needed.

A man is standing on the left side with his back to a black lab. The man is bald and is wearing blue prison pants and a white t-shirt. He has his hands clasped in front of him and is looking over his left shoulder. The puppy is sitting on the tile floor a foot or so behind the man and is looking up at him. The pup's leash is lying on the floor. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There are several men with their puppies in the background to the right.
Justin peaks over his shoulder at FLD Nell, who sits on cue.


We practice meet and greets and everyone without a puppy gets in on the action. The room is filled with mayhem, but the puppies (for the most part) take everything in stride.

Next up - handler's exams. Tammy and I get the honors of putting our hands on each puppy. We check eyes, ears, teeth, lift each paw and run a slicker brush down their backs. FLD Ashely is very wiggly. "You can support her by her collar," I tell her raiser, Robert. "And try holding some treats in your hand right in front of her nose."

A man is kneeling on his right knee with a german shepherd puppy sitting between his knees. The man is holding something in his right hand above the puppy's snout. The man is looking at the camera, he has a goatee and is bald. He has tatoos on his forearm. He is wearing green pants and a white t-shirt. The puppy's leash is handing down in front of him. There are a few men in the background.
FLD Chewy looks like he is eager for more food!

We also check the puppies' weight using the Purina ® Body Condition Tool. We have the men rate their puppies on a scale from one (severely underweight) to nine (clinically obese). Numbers four and five (ribs can be felt, a waist is visible from above, and there is a "tummy tuck" visible from the side) are "ideal."

Tammy suggests that FLD Chewy's team raise his daily food allotment, as she thinks he feels a bit underweight.


With the idea that training should be fun, Tammy comes up with all sorts of games which challenge the puppies' self-control. Stay tuned...