Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pool Safety

On Saturday, we had a great pool safety meeting at Area Coordinator Stephanie's house.  I put together a little slideshow of the meeting. Trainer Jen was there to give an explanation of one of the new techniques that she would like us to use.  I took some video and I will be doing another blog post just on that in a couple of days.

For now, let's concentrate on pool safety.  Make sure that your puppy doesn't just jump into the pool.  They should always go into the pool on command or wait for you to allow them into the pool.  Your puppy should always know where the steps are and how to get out of the pool should they accidentally fall in.

All of our pups had a very good time!  The raisers did as well. Thanks for a great meeting Stephanie and thanks also to Sami, one of our prospective raisers who made some amazing treats for the pups to practice with.  My next post will be with her recipe!

Music by Alison Krauss (Baby, Now that I've Found You)
Bonnie Raitt (Thing Called Love)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Being Flexible

Our meeting last Thursday was one of those meetings where Murphy's law was in attendance.  If something was going to go wrong, it did.  

For instance, we had a wonderful meeting planned at the Clearwater Ice Arena, but unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, that didn't work out.

Bill is our assistant AC and they were
puppy camping Liberty, a yellow lab.
 However, because we have an amazing AC and two amazing assistant ACs, we were able to figure out some alternatives in about 5 minutes flat.

So, Stephanie had us move down the road to the hotel parking lot where we proceeded to follow Bill's instruction for some obedience drills.

Stephanie was puppy camping Petey.

Megan's daughter came in costume, which was a great distraction. One of our puppies was very taken aback by it. She eventually got over it.  (I wonder what costume she will have next meeting? 8-)
Megan and her daughter, who came in a lizard costume.
We practiced the come command.  As we had three sets of prospective puppy raisers with us, we had them handling our puppies with some instructions from our puppy raisers.

Megan has Liberty.

Nancy has Petey.

Sami, a new prospective puppy raiser, practices the come command with Ava,
who is leaping back to her as Blair watches.
 After we all practiced for a while, we were able to do several different exposures in the hotel.  One exposure that we didn't expect was POPCORN.  It was EVERYWHERE.

There was a glass walkway.

There was an open stairway that Treasure and her raisers walked her down.
You could choose to walk up the stairway and take the elevator down or vice versa.  Commands used: find the elevator, forward up, forward down, sit, no (for the popcorn).  There was also a door to the pool where the switch command needed to be used.

Here's the whole group after the exposures! Nice work.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Visting Freedom Nursing Home!

AC Stephanie set up our meeting today at Freedom Square Nursing Home. This meeting was especially good as Coach had not yet had a nursing home visit and needed to check that box off on his IFT form! 8-)

Assistant AC Bill and his black lab Charity led the obedience portion of the meeting.
We met out front in the Wells Fargo parking lot and started with some basic obedience.

Here we are all lined up.  Coach is facing the wrong way.
 Assistant AC Bill led the obedience portion of the meeting and gave us some tips on why hand signals are useful to know, for example, those times when it is loud and your pup may not hear you, hand signals can let them know what you want them to do.

Black lab Ava is paying attention.
Then Nicole, who works at Freedom Square, told us what to expect from our visit.  She explained that we would be visiting with a group of seniors in a large meeting room first.  Then we would go to the dementia ward to visit those seniors.  Afterwards, as we had time, we could greet residents in their rooms on the way out.

Nursing homes are especially good exposures because of several key elements that they contain:

  • Number one is the elderly! Having exposure with the elderly is important for a guide dog puppy in training.  Not only can they have a different smell, but sometimes they can have lots of crumbs on them (if they are in a nursing home).  It's important for the puppy NOT to vacuum the residents.  Also, some of the residents can be very vocal, and not with words.  For instance, Mildred, who used to be a singer, wanted to go to the front door, but wasn't allowed to do that.  So, she started belting out different octaves/chords/notes to express her displeasure.  Man, this lady could sing.  That's something that could really startle a dog.  Our pups took it all in stride.
  • Wheelchairs: They can be scary.  Our pups were just fine around them and we had some young puppies with us too!
  • Walkers (the metal kind, not the humans 8-):  Walkers can be dropped, creating a clatter.  It's good to have your pups see one and be around one, just in case.  Plus, some residents put tennis balls on the feet of the walkers.  That can be a big distraction.
  • Smells: Nursing homes can have a different smell. Freedom Square didn't have one that I could detect, but our dogs probably could.  You have lots of elderly patients, there for different medical reasons.  You may have medicinal smells, disinfectant smells, cafeteria smells.  It's a good exposure for them.
Stephanie explains our Southeastern puppy program to the seniors.
When we arrived at the meeting room, Stephanie gave the residents a small introduction about the puppy program.

Yellow lab Liberty with her coat on waiting for the meet and greet.
Then we all dispersed around the room for the meet and greet.  The first question to ask was, "Do you like dogs?" If you got a yes for that, then you brought your puppy closer for petting.

Here we see four green-shirted raisers with puppies and the residents.
It went really well.  Everyone seemed to have a lovely time.

Liberty and raiser Karen with the one lone male resident at the meeting.

Melisa and black lab Pauline greet a resident and one of the helpers.
Everyone worked very hard to make sure that the residents met several of the puppies.

These two ladies really liked dogs.  Here they are with Pauline,
who is trying to give one of them a kiss.
When it was announced that one of the puppies was turning a year old tomorrow, this lovely resident started clapping and saying happy birthday.  She was so happy.  I really liked her joyous spirit.
This lady was very positive.

Ava stares into the camera.
These two ladies watched and waited for their turn with the puppies.

These two ladies were very patiently waiting for their turn with the puppies.

Finally a puppy appears!

In the end, everyone got to pet at least one puppy, if not two!  And they all clapped for us.

Photo of some of the residents clapping.
That doesn't often happen, so I thought it was worth documenting!  Then we made our way to the dementia ward.  This ward was a little different from the meeting area.

Lois and black lab Charity greet a female resident.

Fred explains what the coat means to a female resident as Coach looks on.

Nancy and Ava talk with another resident.

Everyone did there best to visit with the residents who did like dogs.  There were a few who did not like them, or who had just washed their hands, or who were sleeping.  It's a mixed bag on the dementia ward, but it is still a valuable exercise.  For those who do like dogs, it is so meaningful to be able to pet a dog again.

Lois and Charity chat with one of the male residents.
Charity is getting a walker exposure.

This man was super excited about having the dogs visit.
Liberty was very sweet and not bothered by the wheelchair.
In the end, we had to go.  We had lots of fun and the dogs had some wonderful experiences and exposures at Freedom Square!  Thank you Nicole for letting us visit and tell all the residents that we loved our visit!!

Photo of the whole group outside of the Freedom Square sign.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Threshers Baseball Game!

Last night our Southeastern Guide Dog Central Pinellas puppy raiser group joined the North Pinellas group for a joint meeting at the Thresher's stadium to watch a baseball game.  

Long shot of a bunch of green puppy raiser shirts gathered
at the front steps leading up to the stadium.
 We gathered in front of the steps leading up to the stadium to get our tickets and our list of exposures.  See, this wasn't just a fun baseball game: this was work!  Our puppies were going to have to accomplish some very specific goals.

Nancy and Blair with Ava, their black lab.

Steve and his goldadore Carly stands next to Fred with our black goldadore Coach.
Both dogs are in coat. Carly is lying down, Coach is standing.

Phinley, the Thresher's shark, rode by on the scooter and paid
a visit to Cochise, who was being handled by Michele.

Once we got our list, it was go to work!  We had at least 5 or 6 things we needed to do:

Sign for the men's restroom.
One of the places we needed to visit was the men's restroom.  Large stadium restrooms are great exposures for the puppies.  They are very different from your home bathrooms.  Think about it.  Would you let your dog lie down on the stadium bathroom floor?  What is a blind person going to do when they walk in with their guide dog and they need to use the bathroom?  How are they going to keep their dog standing?

The sign for the ladies restroom.
There is a stand command that can be used, but if your pup starts to sit, merely put your hand under his belly to get him back into a stand if you find that the hot dog, caramel corn, and three beers that you just consumed might cause you to be in the bathroom for longer than you thought.

Blair, Bob and Fred working their way down the list of exposures.
 In addition to restrooms, we had to visit the children's play area and Frenchy's which can be very crowded and noisy.
AC Stephanie and Asst. AC Lois.
 One of the other things that was important for us to do was to take our pups down a row of seats.  It was important that the row below us had people in it.  The goal was NOT to have your pup stick his nose into someone's ear or plate of food!

One of the yellow goldadores in coat.
Then there was the concession stop.  Make sure your pup doesn't jump up on the counter!  Check!

After the concession stand exposure, which Coach passed
with flying colors!, we stopped to eat and chat.
Thankfully, it was two for one drinks night, so we all got two for one....WATER! haha.  You were thinking something else, weren't you? 8-)  It was HOT!

Julie and Brian with Treasure, a black lab. who is in coat.
 We had a couple of new prospective raisers with us, so we spent some time with them.  I think we hooked them. 8-)

AC Carolyn and her husband Steve.
And it was nice to be with our old AC and see our friends in the North group!  In too short of a time it was time to go.

After a long evening, puppies and raisers start to leave the stadium.
 A successful time was had by all.

Wait, what was the score?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Largo Park Meeting: 1st Meeting with AC Stephanie!

Today was the first official meeting of the newly formed Central Pinellas Puppy Raiser group under the new leadership of Area Coordinator Stephanie, with Assistant ACs Lois and Bill.

AC Stephanie is smiling and ready to welcome everyone to Largo Park.
She has two leather guide dog harnesses in her hands for the older dogs to try on.
As we waited for the much smaller group to arrive, we chatted and let the dogs settle down.

Charity, Lois and Bill's puppy, looks directly into the camera.

Brian says hello to puppy Treasure.
 After everyone had arrived, we moved to another area for obedience.
Brian H. gives his puppy Treasure the sit command, and she pays rapt attention to him.
 Largo Park has some great exposures.  One in particular is a giant German Shepard.  Most of the dogs went right up to it without a problem.  Charity, however, did at first have a little problem, but since Bill and Lois are old hands at this (Charity is their 11th dog), it was extremely useful for the rest of the group to watch how they handled the situation.

 Charity barked and backed away.  Both Lois and Bill didn't coddle her, but instead got her to walk up to the statue at her own pace, taking small steps forward, with praise when she would go forward.

At first Charity barked at the statue and backed away.
The photo shows Lois standing firm and Charity backing away.
Lois was able to get Charity up to the statue and she covered the statue's eyes, as sometimes, it is the eyes (or lack thereof) that freak dogs out.

Charity is up at the statue and is able to sniff the statue's head.
 Then Lois took her all the way around the statue, notice her loose leash and she used praise the whole time.

Lois and Charity are walking around the back of the shepard statue. Charity is looking up at Lois.
 Lois lets Charity sniff and look at the statue all she wants and continues to praise her.

After all this, she walked Charity away and then walked her back up to the statue: no reaction!  Yea, Charity!!  Good girl!

It's important to remember that when your puppy sees something that startles them, let them approach it slowly, give lots of praise, and then return to the item again.  Perhaps next week, go back and try it again.  Or find another similar object and try it.

Photo of Debbie with guide dog Luke leaning against her .
Katie and Bo are behind her.  Katie is smiling

We had some special guests at our meeting: Debbie and Luke and Debbie's husband, and Katie and Bo and Katie's boyfriend.  They were all able to provide a valuable perspective to the conversation we had and it was great fun to have them with us!

Close up of Luke as Debbie presses his head into her thigh.
 Charity will be going in for training in August and she was able to try on the harness as well.

Charity with her harness on!

Bill is holding Charity's leash as she walks with the harness on.
 She had no problems walking in harness.
Coach walks by some statues of children and has no problems.

Another exposure: flags flapping. We are all standing in the memorial courtyard with 6 flagpoles.

 All of the puppies were very at ease with the flags flapping on the flagpoles, and it was a very windy day.

Ava managed her harness with ease.
One of our prospective puppy raiser families has very small children, so our puppies got to experience interactions with infants and small children today as well.

Puppy Pauline, Emma and raiser Melissa.

It got a bit hot, but we had plenty of water for Coach and Ava to share a drink.

Max and Emma continued to love on Pauline.