Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Thank you to Kashi's Puppy Raiser for sending me this picture via text. It made my morning. Can you tell they are related? Brother Kolby on top and Sister Kashi on the bottom - cute 7 month olds!!

Monday, August 26, 2013


One of the perks of our Canine Companions for Independence Chapter is that the littles 18 and under can go to a 4H class with their puppy (outside of a regular class made up of adults raisers). The 4H club is made of Puppy Raisers and Graduates of Canine Companions, the Co-Leaders are the Contract Trainer for our Region with her sister and brother-in-law. It is a fantastic set-up and the members and families are beyond incredible.
Seeing young Puppy Raisers mixing, and being friends with, and mentoring peers with, a variety of different learning or physical disabilities with their own Skilled Companions dog, is a life skill that truly warms my heart. My kids are very fortunate to experience this real life scenario and learn how to communicate and work with a wide variety of individuals. This is the second school year being involved with the 4H side of our Chapter.
However, this was Kolby's first time, and last time, at Fair as he will Turn In to Santa Rosa a week before Fair next year. Last year we experienced Fair with a 14 month highly trained, ready to go, Puppy in Training - Haddie. This year was a different experience with our 7 month old, getting-there, Puppy in Training. It was a great example of working hard, and not giving up for our children. 
In a nutshell, Kolby really did do fantastic. He was amazing on the bench, not only receiving a lot of oohs and aaahs over his big ears and pleading puppy eyes, but he handled the public, the smells, the fast pace, the noise, the long days (13 hours), and being surrounded by other pups in tight quarters - everything stimulation overload - Fabulously! Absolutely no complaints or concerns in regards to that area of Fair and Kolby. He rocked!!
The struggle came four times in the Show Ring when it was all about Showmanship. Those four moments seemed to last an eternity and made the weekend three times as long (heehee). Let's just say that Kolby is no model, and has no interest in showing his beauty. He hated (I really try hard not to use that word, but it truly is the best word) the show-collar; a very thin gold choke-chain attached high on his neck. Hated It. This meant that Kolby refused to walk into position, and stand appropriately. To the point where the Judge ( three out of the four times during the weekend) gave the kids a pass to "stop trying". Ha!
My only concern with this is if he Graduates and receives a Handler who has longed to join a mixed-breed confirmation class ... I will just nod and say, "Best of Luck". Otherwise, everything done in the Showmanship ring has no bearing on higher education at Canine Companions, whew, but for the sake of Kolby learning how to wear different collars and textures we will keep exposing him to the show collar before he leaves for California.
(Side note - both kids showed Kolby this weekend, which meant that he was worked twice as much as any of the other dogs. I think if I were to do a redo, we would have flipped a coin and decided which kiddo was going to show Kolby in which event. He was really worked hard for his age over the two days).  
When my kids showed Kolby, and although he was a pain, they kept their cool and demonstrated that they knew what they was doing; the questions posed by the Judge were answered correctly to receive high marks. However, my girl received Reserved Champion, and got to return to "do it all over again" with other Reserved Champions. Her first thought was, "Really? I gotta do this again?!"
Time had passed between the two showings, so she reviewed the errors she had made and was ready to try again. In the end, she got Kolby to stack for a good five seconds (HA!), just enough time for the Judge to see Kolby's beautify the way he should have done all along. She received high verbal praise from the Judge as The Most Improved and walked out as the Reserve Grand Champion!! Way to go - making your best better and not giving up!! She was beaming.
Now, for Kolby he LOVED to work anything that had to do with Canine Companions skills and expectations. He was in his element and showed that he had full concentration on his Handlers (my kiddos) for every command and situation. Control Training (Handler + Kolby in the ring + Judge = going through commands asked by the Judge through an obstacle course) received both of my kids high marks and Champion Ribbons. They did a fabulous job and it was fun to see the great Teamwork they had with Kolby. 
The Evaluation Course was another fun event where the Handler and Kolby walked a route through the Fairgrounds in a group of other 4H Canine Companions Members and two Judges - the kids were rated on their Handling Skills, and Kolby was rated for his skills as a Puppy in Training. This was our favorite part of the entire weekend. It is the real-deal for our Puppy Raising skills. The Judges are experienced Puppy Raisers hand picked by our Contract Trainer. They know their stuff, and so it is a great review from a well qualified Raiser as to what the kids are doing right, how the puppy is doing, and how they can improve. 
The kids did wonderful in this event too - receiving high marks and being awarded a Reserve Champion for my girl, and a Judge's Choice Award for my son. Both of my kids love working their puppy in public, and they do a wonderful job!! It is a thrill to watch them work. But my son loves working any puppy in public, and volunteered to work two other Canine Companion Puppies for adults who (obviously) are not part of 4H, but wanted their puppy to experience the Fair atmosphere for training reasons, and to have their puppy evaluated.
My son was in heaven - he thought it was the best thing ever. As a result, my son walked the Evaluation Course 3-times, each being about 30 to 40 minutes in length ... receiving the Judge's Choice Award for never giving up and taking on the extra responsibility.  
The additional events for the Fair included Agility (a for-fun event that another club sponsored), and Mixed Breed Confirmation; like Showmanship, but this time the scores are all about the dog, and nothing about the Handler. Needless to say, Kolby received the "Thanks for participating" Award ... insert grin. 
And saving a very special part for last - our dear friend who is Puppy Raising Helaine was asked to come to Sunday's Fair events (Evaluation, Control, Agility, Confirmation). Our Contract Trainer knew that she had years (decades perhaps) of 4H dog experience, Guide Dogs Puppy Raising experience, and now Canine Companions Puppy Raising experience ... and the point was for her to learn the ropes of Judging for the green light to Judge next year. 
The kids were so excited that Helaine was going to be on the bench on Sunday - in their care, and that my son was going to take Helaine on the Evaluation Course. Through the craziness of the morning my friend was quickly promoted to Evaluation Course Judge when the other judge never showed (turned-out to be running late), but our friend continued to hold title of Judge with the other Judge. Yay! 
While our friend didn't officially rate my kiddos, nor her own dog, she was there to observe and give unbiased attention. It was so fun to see her in action and we were so impressed with her Public Speaking skills to our 4H Club when it came time to hand out the awards. She is truly a Leader and we would be thrilled to have her officially part of our 4H Team. She is top notch and so much fun! 
Helaine did wonderful on the bench, cuddled with my son, received a lot of crowd attention at the Petting Bench with both my kids, received lots of laughs in the Agility Ring with my son (remember, most of Agility is foreign to our puppies, but they were sooooo cute they attracted a huge crowd!!), and overall she was a great addition to our day. We were so lucky to have her there, and our friend too!!
Fair was long, tiring, crazy-scheduled, never a dull moment, random eating schedules, late nights, early mornings ... but by far outweighed by life experiences, confidence building, teamwork, growth, friendships, encouragement, laughter, and lots of smiles. 
Quote by my girl driving away from the Fairgrounds at 10:45p last night ... "I was hesitant about my first Fair experience ~ not really wanting to go. Remember, you kinda forced me into this. But you were right - I fell in love with Fair. That was amazing." 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Not all dogs are alike and what works in discipline with one dog may not work with another. I am finding how to work the Troublemaker side of Kolby.

You would think that a discipline procedure for a puppy would consistent of hands-on removal, appropriate verbal cues in a loud voice, or even a firm scruff that is Canine Companions appropriate. Through trial and error, and the help of our amazing Contract Trainer, I am finding that purely Ignoring Kolby is the kiss of death to our long legged, over-sized, floppy-eared, somewhat clumsy puppy.

Yes, my boy - who had started a bad habit of putting himself into a Lap while I was on the computer, or when we were sitting on the sofa, did not respond to verbal negative cues of Don't and physical removal. That only seemed to inspire him to continue to Lap-us more.

However, when we would lift up our hands, and turn our face the opposite direction (as he continued to Lap and crawl his way up our side, and onto our lap) was eventually far more effective than any verbal or physical contact. It lasted a good five days of consistent ignoring him and he got the point.

Now we can sit on the sofa or at the computer, and he will Stand, Sit, or Down beside us. No more crawling upon us for attention.

Kolby is also going through a Troublemaker phase of snapping the air. Again, we tried the verbal commands, the physical removal ... but it wasn't until we decided to go for the Ignoring Kolby completely, has things actually started to look like he is getting it.

After multiple long discussions with our Trainer, we decided to change plans and this is what we are doing now: the humans leave the room for one minute (putting us behind a closed door), or we turn our back on Kolby. Both instances we say Nothing to him. We ignore him completely, giving him no reaction. The point will be that Kolby can not be the leader when he is seeking attention. Because for Kolby, any attention is good attention, and by snapping he is getting negative attention.

It is very easy for Puppy Raisers to raise their voice and get "all excited" over a negative behavior. The puppy (aka: Kolby) may interpret that as fun and games and a party. So, doing the opposite (aka: nothing) creates no fun and game, and no party. We will also be upp'ing our "all excited" voice over positive behavior, because it is obvious Kolby likes a party.

(Side note: I am not sure why he needs as much attention as he does, perhaps he just loves to work that much, that even five minutes of down-time, so I can get some of my obligations done while sitting, drives him stir-crazy.)

This is what I wrote to my Contract Trainer today:

Hey T* - So today has been a typical-snappy morning. But I had to laugh because as I was standing in the laundry room with the sliding pocket door closed, I could hear Kolby pressing his nose up against the door, breathing heavy ... and then I could see his tongue sliding under the door. I stayed for a minute, holding my laughter. I came back to sit at the computer, and he went back to snapping ... so I turned my back. I found his head on my lap in a Visit. Ahhh. I acknowledged his good choice. He went back to snapping, I turned my back - he put himself in a Side next to me with a closed mouth. I acknowledged. He is now walking the house being good. I think this just might work - thanks for your help! We're off to give him a good walk around the 'hood. 

She replied:

Excellent. So it is making him think about what kind of attention he wants. So that is perfect. 

I am confident that this too shall pass, and I am sharing the Trouble-maker side of Kolby so I don't forget that they are Still Puppies. They do not come perfect. A favorite slogan that I love from Canine Companions is this: Service Dogs aren't born, they're raised. Yes, we must raise them to know the rules and expectations, and Kolby is just in that phase where he is learning to learn the rules.

I remember with Haddie - her naughty side at this age-group and thinking, "Ohh, mannnn, you are never going to make it past the first month of Advanced Training." You just never know - so never throw in the towel.

Love you, Kolby - Troublemaker side and all!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The K Litter

The Special K Litter has a growing bond among their Breeder Caretaker and Puppy Raisers. It has been fun to follow along in the growth of these fabulous six puppies. The most fun is seeing their similarities in character and mannerisms, regardless of the fact that all but two siblings are being raised in regions that are too far to mingle. And then you pause and realize that you've never thought about it before, but that puppies are twins, and why couldn't there be identical twins among the four-leggeds?

What do you think?
Thank you to the Puppy Raiser of Kira who is all-knowing and all-talented with photography and computers to capture this nice photo gallery. What a fun surprise ~ Thanks, J!!!

Friday, August 16, 2013


Our plans for our family-fun-day today didn't get us as far North as we had originally thought it would. My husband had an important, impromptu meeting at work that he had to manage, so a late start meant a farther trip down the road was not going to happen.
But no worries, we were all on the same page and changed our destination for the big city. We woke to Sunshine and everyone was in a cheerful mood. We talked about today's National Graduation Day for Canine Companions with a positive heart, and we were cheering on our friends near and far who were Turning In their dogs today, or celebrating in other's Graduation.
It was the best, perfect, non-Haddie-Graduation Day!
There is a restaurant in the city that has two different levels of dinning. The indoor, fancy side has a large selection of seafood and a great, full view of the water. The outdoor seating has a walk-up counter that you can order a very select variety of seafood and take your tray to a picnic style seating outside on the Pier. Still with a great view, but with the perk of Seagulls.

And when I mean Seagulls, I don't just mean one to five, I am talking about a volume of fifty or more. It is "the place" to go if you were a Tourist in this city. We played tourist today.

There is a sign that reads, "Please do not worry about over feeding the Seagulls. They eat lightly. Just don't feed the Pigeons." HA!  And everyone on the Pier were feeding the Seagulls their French Fries (the fish on everyone's order I guess was deemed "not worthy" because I didn't see anyone offering the flying frenzied crew a piece of fish).
I wish I had a video camera on Kolby when we walked up to the top of the staircase, looking down at all the Seagulls sitting on the railing and in the water waiting for the sitters at the picnic tables to offer up their goods. Kolby walked to the top of the stairs, no big deal ... and the noises of the Seagulls were very load, hard to miss, annoying. He didn't notice them as they were about eight steps lower than we were on the Pier. He was just playing it cool looking farther out across the water, I guess.
And then, one flew beside his head and to the railing in front of him ... and Kolby immediately noticed and sat and stared. He was in shock. He didn't move. He saw the fifty or more Seagulls all squawking, flying, and moving about. It was adorable and funny all at once.
I was waiting for him to charge, lunge, bark, anything ... it was a true test of patience and good manners on Kolby's part to do nothing but look at the Seagulls and not move. I called his name, and when he immediately looked at me, I knew we were good.
I stayed for a little bit letting him get the grasp of the chaos, while my kids grabbed a table with partial shade for Kolby. And then we walked down the stairs, next to all the gulls on the railing, and to our bench along the side of the restaurant. Kolby immediately went into a Down and stayed while we ate our lunch. Minus him moving his nose rather quickly at a passing feather at his feet, Kolby paid no attention to any of the crazy noise and movement of the birds.
I was more fidgety than he was! I didn't trust the birds not to come after my plate of food, but in reality, the Gulls did stay away from all the tables. As if they had been trained.
We walked the Piers, went into some shops, took photos and had a lot of fun just meandering through the waterfront area of our city. Kolby passed other dogs (thankfully all on leash) and Kolby did not pay attention to them (even though one cute little scruffy dog didn't want to follow his owner down the street once he say Kolby. It was one of those tug and pull situations trying to get little doggie away from Kolby, but as far as I was concerned, my pup was doing great and it was good training for Kolby).
Kolby met his first horse. He was invited to smell the front leg of this large horse while the owner/worker held the reins of the horse to make sure that both animals stayed confident. Kolby was very interested in the horses leg, but after a little while he turned to look at me, as if to say, "Okay, I'm done. Check it off my list."
We had so much fun! A perfect get-away as we text'd, off and on throughout the day, my sweet friend in California who was on the Santa Rosa Canine Companions campus in support of everyone. She lives close enough where she tries to attend every Graduation throughout the year(s). She is super awesome. It was fun to get photos of random happenings, made us feel like we were still part of the celebration. It meant a lot. Thanks, M!!!
As I cradled Kolby after his grooming session tonight, and as his eyes got heavier and heavier as I rubbed all four of his paws in a spa-like-manner, it occurred to me how much Trust Kolby had in me today. This was his first time on the streets of the city. It is a very different experience than any outing we have been to so far in his young life.
There were crowds of people we had to weave in and out of, stopping sometimes to look both ways in foot traffic, to cut over to a store. He had to Trust me that I would give him time to Hurry (and to find an appropriate place to do such), and I would know when he would need to do that. He had to Trust me that I would not let other dogs get in his face, and that I knew when to back away of other dogs, and put him on the opposite side of me. Kolby had to Trust that the Gulls were not going to attack him as I made him walk passed them and sit by my feet, and he had to Trust that not licking the wooden Pier was the right thing to do too. Kolby had to Trust that smelling that large, black, furry leg of a horse was okay and that although the horse was big, it was as gentle as Kolby, so long as Kolby respected the leg. Kolby had to Trust crossing the street, getting pet from strangers, tucking his tail out of the way, and close-by Heals, were all about loving and protecting him.
Trust. Just as Kolby had Trusted me - through all the adventures that he weaved in and out of today, I too must Trust that God has our life in the palm of His hand as we weave in and out of our daily adventures. When the day is over, we too can relax and feel good about the protection that He provides.
Puppy Raising is a gift ~ it is more than just 30 commands and fun adventures. There are deeper meanings and life lessons when you open your heart to see them, even when time is spent on the less glamourous side ... when you are spending time massaging the paw of your four-legged buddy.

Today was a fantastic, non-Haddie-Graduation Day!


Camping Stick

Remember this photo? It was taken at the end of May when we tucked away to this fun lake with Kolby just shy of 5 months.
Now look at this handsome fella at 7 months old at the same lake. He has grown about twenty-five pounds between the two photos.
We started our drive on Sunday and got caught in a very strong rainstorm the closer we got to Camp. But it left soon enough and we were able to enjoy a nice leisurely walk with Kolby before it turned dark.
The next two days the sun was out and the warmth sprinkled down between the trees. It was awesome. Kolby is a camper. I think he enjoys hanging out under the trees and going for walks on the pine cone forest floor, and smelling the wild animal scents which we can't. There is a burn ban in affect in our area, so no firewood to smell, but sometimes that is okay.
Kolby also does very well in our RV too. For the times when he needs to just "chill out" we have a tie-out under the eating table and a very fluffy bathmat for him to lay down on (black of course helps disguise dog hair, but makes for poor photos). And his crate fits perfectly between the RV wall and my side of the bed. I found during this trip that Kolby snores. Not as loud as Haddie ever was, but he does make noise. Adorable.
One of Kolby's best features is his loose leash walking; even while on a hike where it is tempting with so many different sights, sounds, and smells, he will continue in a great Heal or Side. I love that about him ~ he is a joy to take all places as a result.
My son found a very clean stick on our morning walk, and gave it to Kolby about ten minutes into our adventure. Hand over heart in honesty, Kolby did not drop that stick, did not move that stick, and looked to not even swallow (!) for another HOUR of it in his mouth. He was so proud and took the job of carrying it very seriously.
Throughout the rest of the camping days and nights when we went for a walk, after he completed his Hurry command, I would give him the stick while we walked. It was "his thing" and the walk in his step had a little bit of a prance to it - he was that happy. Show-off  ... when other dogs on leashes would pass by, Kolby would look at them with a proud, puffed chest as he continued to walk past with his stick.
The stick is now at our house. To be continued for another adventure ...

Thursday, August 15, 2013


This is not to add to the drama of life, but rather to remember the scenario when we are going-on-raising our 20th puppy in the year 2049. What was it like when we first started?!

Last Wednesday I received the call from Canine Companions that Haddie did not have a match. That was blogged about and I received wonderful comments and support. Thank you!! The week continued, and by each passing day our family was handling it well.

I canceled our Train tickets and used our full refund money to purchase new tires on our Toyota (which were desperately needed) with the possibility that we would get a status change on Haddie, and we would need to drive to California the day before Graduation.

(Spoiler Alert; as you can see, I am typing this the day before Graduation, so you can already guess the outcome).

We held onto our hotel reservations because those you can cancel truly at the last minute without penalty. We also had a two-night camping reservation to the same Lake we camped back in May that we were willing to forfeit for the trip to California. But since California looked out of the picture, we went camping. It was a great get-away, but I must admit that we all had Haddie on the mind. Holding out hope that perhaps her status would change.

While camping, I received an email from a Puppy Raiser in our Chapter who I had just talked with on Saturday; both our girls were being held in Advanced Training for a November Graduation. But Monday's email were cheers that her dog had been matched over the weekend, and she would be Graduating on Friday.

The Roller Coaster was not over for our family. Tuesday night at Puppy Class, we learned that others in our Chapter, who had matched the week prior, had not received their "final Graduation Call." There was still Hope.

By Wednesday morning, I reasoned that with our many-states-away travel to California, it warranted an early call to Canine Companions to check the status of Haddie. It has been known that phone calls of final status can be given as late as Wednesday night. We just needed to know.

The person I talked to was very polite and she didn't think twice about my phoning them, instead of the protocol of them phoning us. She shared that Haddie's status had not changed. She will remain in Advanced Training with the hopes of Side Placement prior to November, or a November Graduation. I hung up the phone, and cancelled our hotel reservation online, and our Puppy Sitters for Kolby and our beagle Cora.

It was official.

Today - today it is raining and it does not feel like summer and we are all in a funk. I will be honest and let you know that it is hard to kiss goodbye a Graduation for a puppy that you have set your heart to Graduate in August 2013 since we received her in August 2011. I knew that she could be released at any moment, but when she made it this far and entered Team Training - the let down was really hard.

And did I mention, it is raining?!

I am trying not to think about Haddie, alone in her kennel while the rest of the dogs keep working, and their Trainers keep preparing for the final goodbye of their String, and working with the recipients one on one. I am hoping my racing mind is all drama and is not reality.

I am hoping the reality is Haddie is basking in the California Sunshine with some amazing volunteer who has come to campus to love on those Team Training dogs that did not get a match, and that Haddie is getting all the attention that she is so deserving of, while she waits for Advanced Training to continue.

Tomorrow - the day of Graduation - we will be cheering from our home state for the wonderful Graduates and their Forever Person, because that is what it is all about. There ARE people and dogs who have been matched and that is the blessing that needs to be honored and celebrated.

Our family will be making a day-vacation tomorrow to a destination in our state that will be awesome to sneak away to. A celebration of our own for the job well done in raising Haddie, and for the Graduation that is taking place tomorrow, and for our continued wait.

"Everything will be alright in the end. 
So if it's not alright, it is not yet the end." 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A great friend

My children have been involved in a Church Music-Drama Camp this past week. My daughter was a student leader that helped with teaching the choreography, and my son had one of the main leads. Everyone did a great job! But as we were getting ready last night to leave - I stumbled across this.

This is what I was referring to in an earlier post, where Kolby will find one person in the family and be their shadow until he gets bored, and then he will move onto someone else.
As I was cleaning up dinner, I realized that my sidekick was not in the room with me. Apparently, he was bored of kitchen-duty. I let it be for awhile and then I went searching. I found him laying next to my girl on the dance floor in the Bonus Room where she was doing her hair for the night. I wish the camera phone was of high quality, because in real life it was adorable. His expression is lost in the photo.

I like how he was just hanging-out. He didn't mess with her, or her things, he was just curious enough to what she was doing that he volunteered to lay down and stay with her.

Kolby is a great friend.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Did someone say, Orthodontist?!

Kolby heard the words on Tuesday when he hopped into the car and was being buckled in. We were headed to the Ortho for my son, but somehow I am sure, Kolby thought it had something to do with him. Afterall, have you seen his silly smile? He does this all the time, by the way.
When we parked and went around to the back of the car to put on his Vest and Gentler Leader, we got this reaction from Kolby.
Oh yes, he stayed there long enough for us to realize he was not budging, he was not going to Stand, he was not moving. My girl had time to take out her phone, and snap a few photos. Kolby was in a stand-off; those eyes and feet stance say, "I'm not going to the Ortho-don-tist!"

We finally coaxed him out and assured him that the Ortho-don-tist was for my son, not for Kolby. He promptly tail wagged his way into the office, and fell asleep at my feet in the lobby for the entire 30 minute appointment.

See, Kolby, that wasn't so bad, right?!