Sunday, October 31, 2010

Approaching One Year

Gosh, it's hard to believe how fast the time goes! Trapper will be a year old in November. He has had quite a few adventures over the past couple of weeks, mostly not with us. We took a little trip to Wildacres in North Carolina, and Trapper spent some time with Drake, and David, as well as a nice play date with Melisa and brother Duke. Apparently he was pretty good, or at least they were kind enough to not tell us:)

Yesterday we took Trapper to a Serbian Folk Dancing Show. The music was very loud, lots of jumping and stomping, an accordion, a violin, drum, and a clarinet I believe, and he did quite well. Sat in front of our seat, and although I tried to take a picture, it was too dark. He is so big he stretched out in front of three seats! Every time we go somewhere like that, I try to imagine how he will ever fit on an airplane, but as our fellow puppy raisers have noted, somehow they do fit.

As time passes, I realize that I no longer have to say "no" as often, he mostly listens to commands, and all in all is turning into a very nicely behaved young man. I even made the bed this morning and he didn't eat the foam overlay! That in itself is a big accomplishment. He made a small move towards the towel yesterday, and after a brief "leave it", he walked away. Could it be?

He has a long list of things he no longer does, like chewing, mouthing, stealing (almost), and I realize that all of these changes eventually happen over time and repeated consistent instructions. He is still Velcro, but in a good way. It's a lot of work raising a puppy, and those first months are exhausting trying to keep up with the little tyke. I chuckle when I read the blogs of other raisers with their new puppies. But one day, they "get it". He even likes the cats, and they like him. Of course, from what I'm told, that's when you get the letter to bring your puppy in for training.......and then you get to start all over:)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Trapper Truly Traveled To Teach

We were very privileged and fortunate to be able to travel this week to St. Augustine to visit with the students at The Florida School for The Deaf and The Blind, FSDB for short. Founded in 1885, the school is part of the public school system. "The School has grown from three small buildings on five acres to 47 major buildings on nearly 80 acres of land" as per their website. Our audience also grew, from 8th grade students, to 6th, 7th and 8th.

The day started early as we had a long drive to St. Augustine. We put Trapper on a tie down in the back seat and that seemed to work better for all of us. Otherwise, he is shifting around the entire trip trying to get comfortable, while squishing my legs in the foot well.

We arrived at about 1 pm, scheduling our talk at 1:45. Our audience was about 90 students, as well as their teachers. We met in a small auditorium and were given instructions on the microphone, and the interpreters that were present. They would sign what I was saying to the students, and when the children had questions of us, they would interpret so we could understand. That part went so smoothly, I forgot I had an interpreter signing.

The students had LOTS of questions, and they were very good questions. Where are Trapper’s parents? What toys can he play with? How many hours a day does he have to wear his coat? How do you know he is happy? What happens if he can’t be a guide dog for some reason? What happens if the guide dog user dies? How did we get involved? What was our training? Can you show us some of his commands? Why does he have a chain on his neck? And…what would happen if you let him off leash? Hee hee, you don’t want to know.

Trapper did beautifully! He greeted 90 plus kids and their teachers, didn’t bark once, although he did squeak a little on stage. He was quite obedient when given his commands, but did become a little restless in the middle. Larry was chief puppy wrangler and had him do his puppy exercises, and even took a trip outside to get some of his energy out. When we asked him if he was happy, he wagged his tail obediently:)

The students were VERY good! They were all quite polite in taking turns asking questions which made the entire visit go smoothly. It is an interesting assignment for the students, and they are fortunate to have several components of the assignment come visit. The book outlines the raising of a guide dog, and then giving him back to the school, and his placement with a guide dog user. An actual guide dog user will be visiting to share their experience receiving a dog, and the author of the book will visit the school to speak to the students. I’d say the students are very fortunate to have all of these experiences, and Trapper was glad to be a part of it!

The last leg of our trip, we passed a carousel and stopped to see if we could expose Trapper. As w got out of the car there was a big NO PETS sign and I thought to myself, I hope we don't have a problem taking him inside, even in coat. We opened the gate and the manager of the ride says to his employee, "Now this is exactly what I was telling you about. These guide dogs, even when they are in training, have access to any place they want....if they want to ride the carousel, you have to let them including the dog". I was so surprised to hear him state things correctly, and complemented him on his knowledge. He asked if we wanted a picture of Trapper on the ride, and of course we obliged.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Social Butterfly

Larry and I have come to realize Trapper has a busier social calendar than we do. He spent a weekend with David and managed to go see the Rays and go out for dinner. Drake took him to the beach to play not too long ago. The Sessions took him to meet the St. Pete Police Department. And of course, he had a swimming soiree with his brother Duke.

I took him with me when I went for a massage earlier this week and he was WONDERFUL with a capital W. Of course when we arrived, everyone wanted to pet him. He has arrived at the "no petting in coat" age which is going to be a challenge at times. He has such a sweet "Yes I would love to be petted" look, I find folks are already bent over with their hand on his head before I have a chance to blink. The manager of that location looked at me with saucer size eyes and asked "Are you here for a massage???" Well yes, as a matter of fact we are. Actually, one poor woman asked me if Trapper was there for a massage, and I jokingly said yes. She went on and on about how massage is so good for your pet, which it is. But if I am paying for it, it is for me:) We went into the room, and of course, being the toweliban that he is, he spied a used towel on the floor. We quickly removed it and put him on his tie down. Then, you get ready for the massage, lie down on the table...quietly...unable to look at the dog....straining to hear any crunching noises, licking sounds, etc. Not a thing! He was quickly put to sleep by the music and we survived. Thanks to Ken at Massage Envy for allowing the boy in the room.

Today, we stopped at the Open House at Fire Station No. 7 and let Trapper sniff the trucks, boots, hoses, etc. of the firehouse. He did quite well and decided he still wants to be a guide dog, although the nice fireman would have had him stay on as the station mascot I am sure.

We headed downtown to the Saturday Morning Market. Lots of people there, and lots of dogs and different smells. There were big dogs, little dogs, hot dogs and brats:) He was exposed to so much, and he did great. He sniffed a few puppies, and of course he got sniffed. One woman approached us and said a friend of hers was on his third guide dog, they had changed his life. That is always nice to hear.

Trapper has a big excursion next week. We are going to St. Augustine to do a presentation to the Florida School for The Deaf and The Blind. Every year the school has an author come and visit. They usually try to prepare the students by reading one of the author's books. This year the author is Pamela Bauer Mueller. She is the author of several books for older children, including "Hello, Goodbye, I Love You" about the relationship between a guide dog trainer, the dog, and the visually-impaired person who eventually gets the dog. So, we are taking Trapper to visit the 7th and 8th grade students and allow them to ask questions about the raising of a guide dog. We are very honored to be able to have this opportunity. And to the students, if you are reading this, Trapper is very excited to be able to meet all of you next week! He is practicing his "best behavior" manners:)

And now? Off to Red Mesa for dinner...