Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kolby's got keys

I don't really know "why" it was so important to buy Kolby his own set of keys. I mean, realistically, if I am giving keys for Kolby to train and practice carrying around (whether inside, outside, or during a public adventure), do I really think that I am going to be so careless as to let him drop them and not retrieve them?!
But it is the peace of mind that said keys are not mine which allows me to relax during the training process. Hence, I purchased keys for Kolby. Explaining to the Hardward Man that I did not want my five keys cut was fun, and a great public service announcement for Canine Companions. Working it every chance I get.

Kolby loves to carry anything and everything around in his mouth. The trick is not allowing him to chew anything and everything that lands in his mouth. That part is a work in progress. I have found that a good game of Fetch usually does the trick pretty quickly.

 I love how happy Kolby is when he has a job to do. This dog loves to work; he is best behaved while working. An idle mind for Kolby has the opportunity to open up a can of naughty ~ not so much now that he is nearing his 1st Birthday, but it isn't fully guaranteed either.

Kolby's got Keys ... and my girl's got Driver's Ed next month!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Keeping It Real

Our Trainer has always made it clear that our puppies need to be able to snuggle and lay quietly with people, and if furniture is being used to cuddle, then the puppies must only lay upon it when asked. Every puppy needs to know the difference. How you train that is not that hard. A firm No when the puppy volunteers to jump upon the furniture, and then a happy and encouraging Yes once it gets upon after being commanded to do so.

When Kolby was little we had a dickens of a time getting him to stay Off the couch. He had formed a great habit of running through the house with his squeaky toy blazing wildly before he would take a flying leap onto the couch, pause, wait for an audience to form, and then immediately jump off, back to running through the house at lightening speed, only to find himself back on the couch before any of us could get his attention to "stop already!".

This was a long ordeal that I had to embarrassingly admit to when I dropped him off with his first Puppy Sitters. But, thankfully, they took it very seriously as well, and Mister has not performed this Flying Leap Antic since his return home from his week's vacation (way back in July). Hooray!!

So, the concept of staying off until commanded has finally settled into Kolby and he is giving a perfect 10 performance at staying off all furnitures unless asked.

Just this week in Puppy Class, we were all cheering for Kolby, giving him mighty praises for his great turn around in maturity, when yesterday my girl had just put her feet up on the couch from a long day at school, and I had sat on the arm of our big comfy chair to chat about her day while Mister gave me the eager, willful, sweet, puppy-dog-face that he is so famous for - the one that says, "Attention, please?"

I patted my lap and said, "Kolby, Lap!" ... to which the proper response would be for him to put his two front legs over the top of my lap, keeping his two back legs standing on the ground. Easy. He has done this a bazillion times since he was old enough to reach my lap (which for him was just shy of 3 months old due to his long legs!).
All of a sudden, my focused puppy did a complete Jump and all Four legs came bounding in the air and I had no reaction but to Catch My 67 Pound Puppy in Mid-Air!! Voila!! And then there he sat upon my Lap without moving yet perfectly relaxed, not necessarily shocked by his actions, but more as if to say, "This IS the command you wanted, right?" My girl immediately snapped a photo (because after all, a smartphone is never far from any teenage girl).

Side note:
Kolby has long ears. The longest ears short of a Coonhound I have ever seen. But with that comes some work at keeping them clean and free of infection. So far so good with Kolby, but today as I was cleaning, he let out a yelp. So I paused, changed ears, and all was fine. I went back to the other and he let out another whimper. I immediately scheduled an appointment with the Doc to be sure to get him in before our busy weekend, and sure enough, our Mister has his first ear infection and it is a hefty one. For it to be "this bad" without a prior complaint, means my boy is mighty tough. I now have a great ear wash product to use once the current meds are complete to keep those ears squeaky-clean. Kolby is on the road to recovery.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One in a million

There really are no words for this, other than my husband is an amazing photographer that captured the funniest picture recently. Two dogs were playing in the dog park on Canine Companions campus, appropriately wrestling and playing leap frog. The longer I look at this photo, the more I see, and the harder I laugh.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ten Months

Ten important facts about Kolby during his 10th month:

1. Kolby weighs 66.5 pounds with a height of 25" to his shoulder.

2. Kolby loves car rides. I drive a Rav4 and I have a pet-seat-belt harness that I have clipped to the cargo ties in the back of the Rav that he wears when he rides. With the arm rest divider down in the backseat, he has the option to rest his head forward facing. Kolby's ride of choice, however, is sitting up straight looking out the back window. For my entertainment, it is fun to turn on the back windshield wiper to watch him jump with a startled motion as it gets started.

3. Kolby has always walked perfectly on a loose leash. He came this way, and it is heaven taking him up or down staircases on outings.

4. Kolby loves to stretch. Give him space and he will sprawl out his long legs and take up everything in his path. He has never been one to bounce out of his kennel, rather he takes the slow motion route and enjoys every moment of his stretch and roll.

5. Kolby has many nicknames. The first was given to him early in life when as a baby-puppy he would snap the air like a Gator at anything that moved across his path, hence his affectionate name became Kolby Gator. Thankfully he has matured and we use that only in memory of his highly playful side. His mature nickname is now Kolby Jack, after the yummy cheese we all love just like him. And finally, Mister ... just because it fits so perfectly.
6. Kolby will snore like a Grandpa when he is cradled in your arms, or on your lap, or beside you. He rarely snores when he is sleeping solo.

7. Kolby's best feature are his eyes that melt all those that have the joy of seeing him. He has just enough Golden Retriever droop to them, and amber coloring from the Labrador, to make you give in to whatever it is he is pleading for.

8. Kolby is not perfect; his naughty side is just his way of keeping all of us real. You know he is naughty when his ears perk, his skin flashes forward to make his face all wrinkled, his bum is in the air, and his tail is going wild. You haven't experienced Kolby Naughty until you have seen this.

9. Kolby loves his front paws so much that he wants to share them with anyone and everything. He has been known to tackle your feet with a two-front-paw jump, he boxes the air around playmates to get their attention, and he will always, always rub his face with his front paws when he wakes up in the morning.

10. Kolby is a gem. He has the intelligence of a highly attentive working dog, the mellowness of an old farm dog, a bounce in his step that keeps him a leader, and the heart of an angel. At 10 months old, he has already become an amazing light and love to all those that have the pleasure of spending time with him.
I love you, Kolby, Kolby Gator, Kolby Jack, Mister ... my baby. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Post Prison Boot Camp Kolby

It has been a few days since I picked Kolby up from Prison. He came home with a weepy eye, so it was a sign that perhaps he had a cold and wasn't feeling too well. Therefore, I didn't know how to judge his amazing behavior the first 24 hours home; was he just that tired and not feeling well, or was this the new and improvement, Post Prison Boot Camp Kolby?!

It is the new Kolby.

What was once a puppy that could not hold still, and who followed the rules on his terms, is now the ever obedient and complying puppy. Part maturity perhaps, but I will never go so far as to ignore the simple fact that he was really in a military prison, being handled by real military prisoners, in a confined area for 2.5 weeks. With that came high structure, authority, and lots and lots of undivided attention and focus on Kolby's training.

I was fortunate enough to visit the prison the day that I took him there, and I left more confident about him being there than I thought I would. I am more of a control freak, so when my puppies go on Puppy Sitter adventures to other Puppy Raisers houses, I am on edge wondering if the Puppy will be "good enough" for them, and in turn if the Raisers will be "good enough" for my puppy. It always works out, but I am just admitting that there is a lot of worry and anxiety during the transition.

This time, I handed the leash with Kolby attached to his new Handler with much confidence. I had toured the facility, and while it is heavily controlled and guarded, there was much movement among the prisoners too. The men who were in the Puppy Program were selected after an intense application and interview board, and of the approximate 125 prisoners, only about 9 are accepted.

Once chosen, the prisoners are allowed to go to the puppy program building where they will live and raise their assigned puppy. The building is more in line of a renovated school portable with three pods of living space in a single aisle separated by a door or gate for the puppies sake; this allows the one room portable to have divisions so the puppies are not overly interacting among one another.

While it is a privilege to be in the puppy program, there is nothing overly fancy about the new digs for these prisoners. In addition, there is no reduction in sentence for being in the puppy program; each must continue to serve out their full length of time.

But in the end, I knew it was the best place for Kolby because as his Handler took the leash from me, in full military order, he showed a distinct sense of pride, respect, and ownership of his new task at hand ~ to get Kolby to respect authority. And that he did.

I am so proud of "whatever" happened in prison with Kolby because the outcome has been immediate and accurate. Kolby is quick to respond to all of his commands, he carries himself with more confidence, and he has found that he can stop moving while in the house (aka: he will maintain a very long Down when commanded without fidgeting and thinking he needs to get up to check to see if his Down is over). He always had a mellow side, but now he has a mature, realistic, go with the flow mellowness that I am so happy to see.

I look into Kolby's eyes and I see peace. I see an understanding that he gets it ~ he does not have to be Mister Into Everything, but he can be Mister I Know Everything. And that he does; one smart puppy has come home to carry out his training and learn about life. I am so excited to see where Kolby's journey takes him.

And - Kolby now enjoys some snuggle time on the couch with me before he gets into his kennel for the night. We had tried this previously and the poor puppy was just so move-oriented that he would never just lay down, he would pounce and bounce.

This week, once the family has retired upstairs to get ready for bed, I have told Kolby "Jump" and patted the couch. He will then slowly walk up (yes, seriously, walk ... he is so darn tall, there is no need to "Jump", but that is the only command I can think to associate what it is that I want him to do). And then he will immediately lay on top of me, and lay his head on my shoulder, and quickly start snoring ever so softly. Oh, the big baby - I just love him.
However, we are working on this part ~ the Release while he is in this position. He reverts back to his old ways where he will ignore me or open one eye and stare at me from about five inches away. I will admit, it's not like I am really encouraging him to get Off anyway, because I like this snuggle time just as much as he does.

Post Prison Boot Camp Kolby is a complete success!!

Thank you, Prisoners, for a job well done and for giving back so abundantly. You are a nice part of Kolby's greatness and I will keep you posted about his journey forward.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Meeting Kashi

While we were in California last week, we were so excited when we got a text from the Puppy Raiser of Kolby's sister Kashi. She lives in the area of Santa Rosa and had a free evening to meet up with us at the hotel. It had been a long day, but nothing was going to stop us from meeting Kashi and chatting with her Puppy Raiser. 
The photos show my tiredness, but I am counting on the fact that Kashi is the focus of these pictures. She was so mellow, it really made me wonder if Kolby was just the loose canon in the family. I really don't know how to explain Kolby - he is mellow, but yet busy. He is wise, but yet can stare at you and do nothing. He is sweet, but yet has a prankster side. 
(Well, happy to report all of this has changed for Kolby, but since I am writing this a week later, those were the thoughts going through my head as Kashi was at my side). 
I would describe Kashi as a lover; she is very mellow and loved to do the Visit command. The photo below shows Kashi doing a Visit on my son's hand for minutes; resting peacefully. She will make a fabulous teammate for any Canine Companions recipient; whether that is Service, Companion, or Therapy. Kashi has it. 
I actually got to enjoy Kashi and her Puppy Raiser more than once, because there was a little something the two two-leggeds forgot to do when we were together the first time. So the second time I also was so lucky to meet Kashi's roommate, Zaire. Zaire Turned In the same day as Haddie and was proudly chosen as a Breeder for Canine Companions. She is one sweetheart and I can not wait until it is her turn to be a Momma. She will be fantastic and her puppies equal. 
I love the friendship between Zaire and Kashi. They both just sat in the car while the two Puppy Raisers chatted. What good dogs. 
Thank you, C, for letting us meet Kashi as a big girl, and for bringing Zaire too. I appreciate the time you took to hang with us ~ and I'm looking forward to some Sibling Play Time on August 14th, the night before Turn In. You are doing fabulous work with Kashi - nice job!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Yesterday I picked up Kolby from his two and a half week stay in Prison. I was so excited to get my long legged Mister back into our house. While the weeks flew by with activities and prepping for our road trip, I was excited to get back into the routine of Puppy Raising. Seeing Haddie, meeting Sharon, and being on the campus of Canine Companions over the weekend really spiced up my motivation that I need Kolby to graduate. I want to go to Graduation all over again!
Because I had already received a tour of the correctional facility where Kolby had stayed, I didn't have to go on base to pick him up. It was a much faster and easier pickup. We both arrived about fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, and as I was pulling into the McDonald's parking lot - I could see his ears flapping in the breeze in the gravel lot adjacent to where the Parole Officer's truck was parked. 

Aww, my boy!!
Kolby didn't have the same reaction that Haddie did when he saw me (wink), but he came prancing my way and put his head between my knees ~ something he is famous for doing; it is his way of giving love to you. I returned lots of love to him before I loaded him in the car. He caught a slight cold over the weekend along with his puppy-mates in training, so I am sure that had something to do with his tired behavior, but at the same time, I am sure that Prison wore him out (all in a good way).
Soon we were on the road and traveling the opposite direction to pickup our Beagle who had been staying with our sweet friend, and breeder, of Cora. She had a week of fun among her sized beagle friends, three in fact ran that household, and when I pulled into the driveway, I saw three adorable little Beagle Heads baying from the living room window. My baby girl was leading the pack. 

It was good to have both pups loaded into the car to head home and get back to routine. After a bath for both, they promptly fell asleep in their kennels while air drying the remaining damp from their yummy smelling fur. 
It feels great to see my long legged black handsome guy roaming the house. People have asked if his behavior has changed and while I don't believe in jinxing ... I will have to clarify ... that so far so good. For a dog that was already mellow, he seems to have mellowed out even more. He is not as fidgety when he is hanging out in the house. He has chosen to lay down at my feet multiple times, rather than continuous wandering. He is more quick to listen and follow commands. We will continue to work on both, as we want to capture in praise his awesome choices and keep moving forward. 

YAY - so happy to have my baby boy and girl back home. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Haddie, Service Dog

I will admit, we were Puppy Raiser #2 of seventeen to take their puppy off of the Puppy Truck. We knew our time with Haddie had a limit so it is obvious that we wanted to capture every one of those.
As I walked across the parking lot, I really didn't have an expectation in my mind of how this all would go. I hadn't been dreaming or thinking extensively about that moment when we would take the leash from her Trainer. I just wanted it to be the way it was going to be, and not have any let down, or high level of something that maybe wouldn't even happen. I just wanted it to be.
Erin, Haddie's Trainer for the first six months of her training, was in the van. We had never met and now wasn't the time to chit-chat about life, but we both had beaming smiles when she found out which dog we were there to pickup. She had nothing but praise about our sweet puppy. And it wasn't until later when I thought - this was Erin's goodbye too, yet she was so strong and didn't hesitate getting Haddie out of her crate and into our arms.
And there she was ~ all yellow, super clean, and extra soft. Haddie had been extremely well cared for and looked like a very mature and grown-up girl. Our puppy, was now a Service Dog, and as I looked into her eyes, I told her how very Proud I was of her. The kids and I continued to love on Haddie as Mike did an amazing job taking photos. And then ...
... and then it clicked. All of a sudden Haddie jumped on my girl and gave her a thousand kisses on her lips and cheeks. My girl was laughing and we all knew at that moment Haddie remembered us. Haddie jumped off of my girl, turned, and jumped to me with smothering kisses and a speedy tail. Of course I couldn't stop her, and I didn't want to either, and just as fast as she had powered her way onto my face, she turned once again and supplied my son with a very hearty welcome of joy. Ohhh, the love that Haddie gave each of us was just perfect.
We settled her down for photos and time together. My sweet friend from California and fellow Puppy Raiser was there to celebrate with us, and did a fabulous job of capturing our moments with Haddie. I don't know what I would have done had we not had that extra set of hands, eyes, and squeaky toy to get our photos of our puppy. Thank you, Monica!!
The hour seemed to be in slow motion. I was thankful for that, but there came a time when it felt right to keep the momentum of this gift to Sharon on a continuous path. It was time to head into the building and find our seats for Graduation.
As we sat and waited, my mind flicked back and forth between the February day when we were sitting in that same room going through the Matriculation ~ walking across the stage with Haddie to receive her ribbon around her neck. She seemed so mature and ready for Advanced Training, yet so puppy-like at only 20 months old. I looked at her present day and she was different. Her maturity was strong, at just shy of 2.5 years old, my girl had grown up a lot, learned a lot, and was ready to start her life of work for Sharon. It was a great feeling; to know the puppy Haddie and to see the mature Haddie.
Haddie was much calmer in the seating area than she had been outside. She sensed the change in atmosphere and the seriousness of our attitude. While she would snuggle on our lap with a Visit command, or get her front paws across our legs in a Lap command, Haddie was in full concentration in looking at each of us. I like to think that she knew this was our goodbye; our final time alone with her.
At one point, shortly before it was our turn to present her on stage, I said, "Haddie ~ where is (insert my daughter's name)." and Haddie looked directly at my girl and went over to her for final loves. Then after she had been back in front of me for awhile, I said, "Haddie ~ where is (insert my son's name)." and she looked directly at my son and went over to him.
This is something that my girl had taught Haddie while she was in our care. My daughter would say, "Where is ..." and call out a family member's name. To which Haddie would respond by searching the house until she found them. It was one of our favorite things while she was with us. She knew exactly what she was doing, and knew everyone's name.

She remembered - nine months with a dozen extra, advanced training commands later - she remembered.

My husband handed his fancy camera to our friend, and we walked up the side aisle as a family. We had been instructed to stand up in front, waiting while they introduced our Graduate. While the Trainer was talking about Sharon, I happened to look over at my son who was standing next to me. He had been so strong for so long, but now the emotions were evident. My daughter quickly followed and with tears that were full of joy and peace and the realization that we had done this ... we had raised a Service Dog ... we walked up on stage as a family.
As my family hugged Sharon one at a time, I had the leash in my hand with Haddie wiggling her behind in pure excitement. She hadn't seen Sharon since the night prior as Haddie had spent the entire morning away from Sharon. After I Thanked Sharon, giving her a huge hug, I proudly handed the leash to Sharon, patted Haddie's head, and we walked off the stage.
I sat in the audience and watched Sharon and Haddie - not paying any attention to the Graduates who followed, but just soaked in the beauty of seeing Haddie so confident, strong, able, and focused on Sharon. I watched at Sharon positioned Haddie in a Heal position, and Haddie took no time following the command. I saw a few tears wiped from Sharon's cheek, I saw Haddie get up and climb a bit onto Sharon for hugs, and more tail wags. Haddie was working.
I continued to rub my son's back as he calmed down - and I knew at that moment that what was expected of my family was huge. Two years ago we were newbie puppy raisers, enjoying the ups and downs of getting a highly intelligent puppy focused on a working lifestyle, of obeying commands and teaching her not to be afraid of anything in the real world. We fell in love, and without a second thought, we stood strong and gave the leash back to Canine Companions for the hope that Haddie could change the life of one individual.
And here we were - among our Canine Companions family - cherishing the beauty of our volunteer work that our puppy had exactly changed a life. The tears were of accomplishment, and praise that our prayers had been answered. We had done something big, and worthwhile, and amazing - yet I felt so small. Haddie is the gem in all of this, and I am so honored to say that we raised this puppy, that we knew her from 10 weeks of fluff to a mature and wise adult dog.
When the ceremony was complete, we met Sharon in the lobby for one final photo. With paws on Sharon's lap, and a wagging tail, our family of four behind them, the photo was snapped and forever cherished of the Service Dog named Haddie with her favorite, most loved, forever person, Sharon.

Godspeed, Sharon and Haddie, for a life filled with love, laughter, and memories together.

Thank you for all of our answered prayers, Lord ~ for the spark to get us started in Puppy Raising, for our first puppy who filled us with laughter and responsibility, for the wisdom to know how to train and learn along the way, for the strength to give her back, for the peace to accept that Haddie belongs to Sharon. We are grateful for all that you have taught us during this entire process. Thank you for your never-ending love, and for this perfect day. Amen.
My final footsies with Haddie

Meeting Sharon

I was so at peace that I did not have the typical butterflies that could easily have swirled around as we left from the hotel to the campus of Canine Companions. Friday, November 8th, was the day we were to meet Sharon, see Haddie again, and watch the two Graduate into a beautiful Service Dog Team. The moment we had been waiting for was finally here ~ everything about our volunteer Puppy Raising of Haddie was coming to a close on this day ~ and I could not have been any more happy, excited, joyous, and proud.
Other than my phone completely freezing, and becoming non-recoverable, as we pulled out of the parking lot (insert panic - as we needed contact with our dear friends and family), the day went smoothly. Perfectly, in fact. And looking back, the closure of my phone to all those supporting, cheering, and waiting for me to share this story back home and around the country, really was perfect too, because it really made me focus on every detail and every second of this best Canine Companions Day.
Prior to the eleven o'clock meeting of the Puppy Program Manager to officially start our day, we enjoyed the gift shop, strolled the campus taking pictures of the beautiful grounds with lemon trees, fountains and statues, and met up with our sweet friends at the dog park. With the 75 degree temp, clear blue skies with yellow rays beaming upon us, the dry air, the quietness of campus, it really did not feel like a typical November we had ever experienced. We soaked in the beautiful weather and took our time enjoying everything about this day.
In the square outside of the Administration Building, we were handed an envelope, and inside was Sharon's quick bio that she had filled out about her interests, and a picture of our Graduating Service Dog Team. It was our first photo that we saw of Sharon, and of Haddie, and we were all smiles as it certainly bumped up the excitement even greater that this was really about to happen.
The large reception room in Gittinger Hall was set with long, white, linen lined tables and a massive bunch of people anticipating their first meeting of their Graduate, or their Puppy Raiser. We were escorted to Sharon, and I kept it together (somewhat) and gave her a giant hug. I knew from the moment she spoke she was a very sweet, kind, and fun-loving person. We got right into introductions of our two families and found our seats at the table. From there - the conversation flowed. (In respect to Sharon, I have cropped all photos as I forgot to receive her permission to post her photo). 
God made this match ~ evident in so many ways, but the most interesting was the story of Sharon's much loved pet labs, a black and a chocolate - one named Hailey, one named Maddie - who have recently passed away. While one will never replace the other, it gave me chills to see the connection of Haddie, a yellow lab, to Hailey and Maddie. Sharon was beaming  - thank you, God, for even the little things that add to the big things that make this match so perfect.

The lunch could not have gone any smoother, as we chatted nonstop while we got to know one another. Sharon gave me a beautiful bracelet that she had made; a silver chain with dog paw print links. I immediately put it on and have worn it every day. What a kind reminder of our new connection. The gift bag that we gave to Sharon was unwrapped and we shared stories of Haddie, and listened to the new things that Haddie has been trained to do for Sharon. We sat in awe that our puppy has grown so much to do so much.
Puppy Raisers cover 30 basic commands and socialize the puppy to the outside world. But there are very definite training commands that we are not allowed to teach our puppy as they are so advanced. So to hear stories that Haddie can pick up Sharon's Kindle off the floor, or a piece of paper, or a credit card made us so proud. Those are just a few of the many new things that our girl has learned to do since being in College since February. And to hear Sharon tell the stories of learning to work with Haddie - to purposefully drop these objects and watch Haddie pick them up for her for the first time - no words. Simply beaming.
Similar stories that made our table of new friendship laugh were the non-working times for Haddie. We had put Haddie's coveted Red Ball in Sharon's Gift Bag. It was one of the first things she pulled out of the bag with a surprised look on her face. They had figured out that Haddie loved to play ball, and the day prior the team went on a field trip to the pet store. They had purchased a Green Ball identical to the Red Ball that Haddie grew up loving (and this is a very unique ball, so it was another amazing connection). She said when they gave the ball to Haddie later that day, she went crazy spinning and playing ~ she definitely remembered.

As the luncheon came to a close, we knew the next chapter in this perfect day was the moment we would get to meet Haddie, and present Haddie to Sharon on stage at the Graduation Ceremony. Sharon was so encouraging as she wished us a sweet goodbye with a "Get going, you got to go see Haddie!!"
And with that - we were off to drive to the Center of Spiritual Living where the puppy vans were waiting and the ceremony would start in one hour.