Tuesday, January 28, 2014

No Swimming, Kolby

Today's Kolby Adventure took us to our local Aquatic Center. It wasn't very busy, a weekend will prove it to be crowded, but it was a good first experience for Mister. I liked how the front desk worker just smiled and said Have Fun when we walked in. No questions, no worries. It was great.
There was a family of six in the public swim section, and then three lap swimmers. We sat in the bleachers in front of the kids playing with their dad first. Kolby was very curious and attentive to the kids' screams and giggles. Here is proof.
When that became no big deal for Kolby ...
We moved to the Lap Swim section of the pool. He was used to the echo noise of the building and the smell of the chlorine, so he just laid down to watch. He was adorable as it looked like he really just wanted to join them. Oh, that would have been so much fun!
This video shows that Kolby was checking in with me, but would also watch the swimmers in front of him. I like how his head moves with the swimmer.
We went back to the action of the family in the pool. The second time through he just laid his head down to watch. And then he just closed his eyes and fell asleep. He was so calm throughout. He is ready for the crazy loud noise of a weekend Public Swim session.
No Swimming, Kolby - we are here to watch ... and sleep.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cabela's and Outlet Mall

The Chapter that we are associated with for Canine Companions is rather large and encompasses a vast area of mileage. It is not uncommon for many of our regular class-attending folks to live in opposite corners of our metro-area. When you find friends with whom you click it is then a juggling act on calendars and distance to figure out a time and a place to gather for a fun weekend outing. But it is so worth it!!  
Yesterday my kiddos and I enjoyed such an outing with two friends and our Puppies in Program to Cabela's and an Outlet Mall (which was ginormous and a place we will return for next year's school shopping). The pups in attendance were Merced; a 7 month old sweet girl with inquisitive eyes and her Raiser's fifth, sixth, seventh (I lost track!) puppy. And Helaine, a 12 month old adorable girl who is Kolby's girlfriend. The two always remember one another and find some way to kiss and throw googly-eyes at each other during their meetings. They are so darn cute together (and you think I am making this up!!). 
What happens on our outings when the puppies are just really solid and amazing? A lot of talking between the Raisers. Which is equally as important because the dogs are learning patience. Patience to hold their command until we Release them to keep walking. We had the pups work on Up, Jump, Under, Down, Roll, and lots of posing for pictures which is hit and miss. Both Helaine and Kolby see a camera and immediately turn their head the opposite direction. Merced is pretty confident in front of the camera - Lucky Puppy Raiser!!
I would love to find a way for the three of us to Puppy Raise siblings so that we start together on day one and go on many outings together. We would see the progression of the pups being all squiggly and wild in public, and then morph into these solid, calm puppies together. Wouldn't that be neat. 
We had a lot of head turns and attention drawn to our three pups together, and it is rewarding to add communication about Canine Companions with the public when they come over to pet and talk to our Puppies. 
Puppy Outings - either solo or with friends is a rewarding and relaxing adventure!

Thursday, January 23, 2014


There is something special about taking a Puppy in Program on outings. Is it always easy? No. There are certain aspects that one has to over look in order to get into a routine.
Like the weather. On days when it is pouring down rain with wind blowing sideways and the car door opens left to right, rather than up and down providing shelter, yeah ~ those days take extra motivation to take the time to get furry puppy in and out of the car while both two-and-four legged are becoming soaking wet.

Time constraints. Let's face it, there are times when you just want to get in - get errands accomplished - and get outta there. Taking a Puppy in Program severely slows down the speed in which one can get in and out of an errand. While it is perfectly acceptable to keep puppy safely home in the crate while running errands; after all the purpose of an outing for a puppy should be on training, it is equally as important (I think) to take puppy on errands so they get used to the shopping cart, or the speed in which some errands need to be, or get used to the Handler having to juggle multiple items and tasks with their hands while still maintaining control of the puppy leash (yes, this does take coordination and mastery of skill - which I now have). Valuable lessons are learned for the Puppy and Puppy Raiser on routine, fast errands.
And like crowds. Yes, of course, puppies are supposed to experience being in large crowds and unusual spaces and places in a safe way. It takes courage and bravery to be confident for your puppy, so it is easy to find excuses to back out of these social outings. When you find yourself in this position, you just have to jump in with faith that everything will work out great; and plan an exit strategy should it not. (HA!).

Having said these obstacles and encouragements,  I am not saying that I always adhere to my own wisdom. There are days when I wake with good intentions, but chicken-out. It is natural and I try hard not to beat myself up over it. I always strive to be the best volunteer for Kolby, and some days just don't allow for perfection. And I am learning to accept that. Real Life - that is the experience that Puppies in Program need ... and Kolby is getting that!
Today was not one of those days when everything worked out. Today we had a wonderful outing in the sunshine (cold, but manageable) in and out of the car, and a lovely walk and training in a Mall. This place is littered with Mall Walkers. They are easy to spot - they walk the perimeter in their walking shoes, carrying nothing, and have a very stern look of accomplishment in their eyes. As opposed to those meandering every which way with shopping bags and the look of deer in the headlights as they shop for this and that.

How do I know this?! Because after our multiple trips round the Mall circle doing random commands at random places, Kolby and I sat and watched. It was fun and agreed with the training principal that Puppies in Program need time to just 'relax' in their environment. They don't always need to be working, they need to be observing too.

Kolby held a perfect Down while I snapped a few pictures of him on my phone, and he watched a few passerby's. And then he rested his head on the floor between his front paws and just half watched, and half slept the remaining time away. A woman happened to join us on the long, half circular sofa in the Mall. She watched us for about five minutes, and then we caught each other's eye, and she started up a conversation about Kolby. She had been observing him and mentioned, "He really does not miss anything. He is very attentive. He is calm, yet attentive. He will be a wonderful addition for someone when it is his time." She was very sweet and heartfelt. She was referring to his eyes moving to sounds and people going by even though his head was perfectly still on the floor with an occasional check-in up-glance to me. I think she was right; I believe her too.
Kolby and I walked out of the Mall shortly after this nice woman left us with our happy tails wagging all the way to the car.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Never underestimate

Never underestimate the smarts of a Canine Companions Puppy in Program. They can certainly prove you wrong over and over and over again if you claim that they may not know a command as well as they should.

There is a group of Puppy Raisers for Canine Companions who use social media to it's highest with a private online chat conversation that is going on 14,000 messages between the six of us since December. That is a whole lot of chatter and I will admit it varies from soda pop to cute photos to deep personal stages in life to puppy training techniques to just LOL's in response. But nonetheless it is the most crazy, funniest, supportive, helpful chat in social media.

Recently, a few of us have been posting helpful training videos that we have taken of our Puppy in Program. I shared this Speak command of Kolby's, because this is his most recent achievement. Excuse the sideways video, I always forget which way to hold the phone while taking a video. It was too cute to disregard, so just flip your head to the side.
One of the videos shared was of Spunky - her Puppy Raiser was demonstrating the Stand command and Spunky was rocking it by standing perfectly still while the Puppy Raiser walked a full circle around her and just watched her. Spunky didn't move a muscle. Bravo!!

My response after the accolades was that this was a command that we were still perfecting with Kolby. He has a tendency to take a step forward and sometimes doesn't even hold the Stand before he chooses to Sit on the task. It has been a work in progress.

However, you never should underestimate the smarts of a Canine Companions Puppy because the same day that I made that statement (yesterday) Kolby and my son were assigned the task during Puppy Class last night. All the dogs were to go into a Stand position and hold it while the handler walked around the pup, returning in front of them with an extended leash, and just stay there until the Trainer gave the Release command.

Wouldn't ya' know ... Kolby stood, did not step forward, and remained standing the ENTIRE (which seemed like forever) timed exercise. I was so proud and so excited; and was a great reminder that Kolby knows more than I give him credit. We all have bad days, we all have good days, but it is the overall ability and consistency in training that counts.

Never give up - one day it will click and one day it will stick, and then you've got one very accomplished Puppy in Program, and one very proud Puppy Raiser!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Strangers and Photoshoot

I remember when Haddie reached that stage in training where everything just seemed to fall into place and daily outings were less about the challenge and more about just being together. Kolby has reached that spot. We have done the errands and outings to exhaustion, and now it is clear we must step up our game to find the challenging spots in life. That will be the focus of our remaining months.

A first happened recently when a complete stranger stopped Kolby and me to provide her diagnosis that my puppy was injured. She apparently followed me into the large one-stop-shop and had continued to follow me for about five minutes ... because she said she had been watching us closely. She was matter of fact that his back left leg was not working properly as he was not putting any pressure on it.

I had Kolby do a few turns and walk forward and backwards for me while on a long leash. Still not seeing what she had claimed, she pointed it out while he walked. Seeing that I had a person who was certain she knew more about my puppy than I did, I just thanked her in my most sincerest tone and hoped she would leave. She did.

Nothing was wrong with Kolby.

He just walks like a horse; both left feet together, both right feet together, left together, right together. That makes for a very swinging, sloppy, swaying look to his walk. Add in his long legs and skinny body, and you got yourself one Teenage looking boy!! A double check by our Trainer that same day, and Kolby is fine and the style in which he walks is fine too. It means nothing to his health or ability. Some dogs just walk this way (including one of our trainer's facility dogs). But thank you very adamant stranger.

While I seemed to have many outing photos of Haddie, I have very few random outing shots of Kolby. Mainly due to the coloring of him, versus the coloring of her, it does not bode well with photography without the perfect lighting and camera. My out-dated "smart phone" does not qualify as a "smart" camera. So, instead, we have many, many photo shoot ops of our Mister thanks to my daughter who is enjoying her natural photography talent (and soon to be enrolled in Photography class next Semester).

I will sign off this post with just a few of my favorites from the most recent photo shoot.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kolby's First Movie

The birthday boy was treated to the movies yesterday. The two of us watched Frozen while the kids were at school and my hubby was at work. The kids had already seen the movie on New Year's Day with their cousins and Grandparents, and hearing it was so good, I wanted to be sure to go. What better date than a birthday boy!!
I will admit that I came completely prepared for the worse from Kolby. Between the two puppies that I have raised, Kolby is much more interested in licking the floor than Haddie ever was. When I took Haddie to the movies, that was her obsession ~ licking the floor (I remember I was very surprised). So I figured that Kolby would have the same trait. I had packed the mini squirt bottle of water in a bag in my purse to help break the licking habit in the dark without making verbal corrections.

In addition, Kolby has just recently been very good about maintaining his Down without getting up on his own to do a voluntary Visit to check on me. I figured in a dark room with loud stereo sound, that he would be up and down for the entire 90 minutes. I really didn't have a prep for this, as a chew toy would have been too loud, and we have phased him out of treats - but I had the treat just in case, and a few other ideas in my head.

I am so super-duper proud to share that Kolby was fantastic; a complete dream date who deserved his giant toy stick birthday gift. There was only six of us in the theater and I sat in a section that had every seat clear. Not necessarily by choice, but with only 6 people and a huge room of seat selections, it would be rather odd to have all of us huddled together. It worked great, however, because I could then just focus all on Kolby and not worry about disrupting others.

Kolby immediately went into a Down position half under my chair and half beside me. I think he thought he was in Church. He laid there silent, resting his head on his paws, without moving for the first 20 minutes of previews. And then the theater got really dark, and I could not see him. Seriously, have you ever tried to find a black dog in a black room? Nearly impossible. Thank goodness the Yellow of his vest was visible, so I figured so long as the leash never tugged from my finger and the yellow was still at my side, then we must be there too.
But I really could not see his face ~ AT ALL. The stereo sound was so loud, I knew I couldn't have heard him licking, but I would have felt the movement of his leash. I felt nothing. At one point I bent closer to where I thought he was and found him actually starring at me with his perfect sideways glance that he is famous for. I smiled over his cuteness and my lack of being able to really see him. I decided to put the arm rest of the seat in front of his face down. I was taking a risk, because the cartoon action of the movie could throw him into stimulation overload ... but I went for it anyway.
That was the best decision I could have made in those 90-minutes. Not only could I see him (!!) through the reflection of the light shining from the movie, but he seriously watched the movie. I could see his eyes following along, his head never moved (except to rest it occasionally on the arm rest in front of him, at perfect chin level - awww), and his body was perfectly happy in his continued Down position. Every once in awhile he would look back at me and then look forward again to continue watching.

I had the BEST first birthday with Kolby - and I am positive he did too.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Kolby!!

Dear Kolby,

Happy FIRST Birthday!!! I know by your constant tail wags and silly grin that you have been having the time of your life this past year. From the moment you entered this world you were destined for big and amazing adventures. We are so happy that you are our little puppy to train for Canine Companions. We knew the moment we saw your puppy picture that you were just too cute with a glimmer of wise in your expression. You have held true to our first impressions.
Kolby, you have a definite comedic side to your character. I wouldn't say you are completely silly, because you are also so wise and don't miss a thing in life. But you have this way in your wiggle that makes your all-legged body flip and flop like an uncoordinated toddler. I am not sure if you will ever outgrown that, and part of me hopes you never do. It adds character and smiles to all who see you bounce, pounce, tip, and topple through life. You get this way the most when you are playing and having fun.
There is also the very serious side of you ~ any time you are wearing the Canine Companions Yellow Vest. You take life seriously when you need to, but can easily snap into your personality when someone new is simply talking to you on outings. You wag your tail, stare longing into their eyes, and communicate - "Keep talking. You are being too sweet. Ahhh Shucks, really? I'm that handsome and smart? Go on ... "
You love socks. You will find a sock no matter the location; in the couch, in the hamper, in the closet, in boots, in the dryer, etc, etc, etc. You find socks when we don't even know we were missing socks. You also love to carry anything in your mouth, although if we try to offer you something to Hold, you tend to look at us in all seriousness with a "Really?" face. You would prefer to choose what you want to pick up, and carry, than to hold anything we offer. Which is fine, as technically you are to save all that Holding training for Advanced Training. We don't train you on it, we just offer it to you and let you decide.
This picture is a good example. You would not hold the Birthday Bag for a Sweet Photo Op for anything. So my girl attached your favorite thing to hold, your keys, to the bag. It worked, but the photo is nothing like we had pictured it would go in our mind. Again, this is so you.
You have always walked perfectly on a loose leash, you love to be loved, your paws are your favorite character as you really enjoy showing them off (and we have found you admiring them far too many times), you always lick your food container after you drink your water, you came vocal but have learned to only Speak when asked, you continue to stretch for five minutes upon exiting your crate every. single. time., and your favorite thing are car rides (you will sit up an entire ride and enjoy your window view). You know your commands and are always eager to put them to use. You thrive when you are asked to work, and we are so happy that you are so happy.
Kolby - you are one healthy, wise, smart, funny, loving Seventy-Pound Puppy in Program and we are so honored to say we are your Puppy Raisers. We love you and we wish you all good things this year, and in life!

Your Puppy Family

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Snowcation, minus the snow

Every winter break we scoot over two passes to land in a German themed village surrounded by mountains. It is a breathtaking, quaint home away from home. We are privileged to stay at condo-style suites from clients of my husbands who have now become friends. The owners have always been so welcoming to our service puppies in training; her close friend is raising her 13th Guide Dog. The owners "get it" and will always stop by to say hello to Haddie, and now Kolby.
Kolby is a dream vacationer. Just as I thought Haddie was the best, Kolby is an equal. They travel without a peep from their kennels in the car surrounded by luggage, they follow house manners while in the condo, and enjoy all the activities our mountain village offers us while we are there. Many times that thing is surrounded by snow ~ a first glimpse for our pups.
But this year, we are lacking all of the white stuff on the West as the East is getting slammed. There were traces of snow in the mountain peaks and tree tops, and a little here and there in the village, but for the ease of discussion ... there was no snow. No snow pictures of Kolby. The little we received at our house in December will have to do for his experience unless something transpires quickly in the next month and a half.
We played a lot of games at the dinning room table overlooking Front Street. The shoppers below us and the twinkling lights of the town made for a beautiful atmosphere. Kolby enjoyed going under the table and lounging at our feet, or chewing on his bone next to the fireplace (and doing the Up and Lap command on my girl when he was instructed). During one magnetic darts baseball game that my hubby and son played, Kolby was intrigued by the flying pieces and literally sat and watched the boys play the entire game while my girl and I relaxed on the couch. Kolby just doesn't miss a thing.
Walks outside in the sunshine was not what I had pictured when we packed all our snow gear in hopes of a dumping. Kolby enjoyed learning how to maneuver walking on the occasional icey paths. He had adventured to this same village back in August, so the sights and smells might not have been new to him. It was hard to tell if he remembered as he is always just a cool-pup on outings. Not sure what really phases him or not.
**see below
Except for, however, whether it is his age or his character, that he continues to get startled over sudden noises. While his recovery is nice, I need to work more diligently on breaking this from him. Any tips are appreciated.
I hope in the next few months that we will get a chance to really enjoy some deep snow with Kolby. Whether that is in our neck of the woods, or another trip to the mountains, I think he would really enjoy himself in the white stuff.

**Explanation ~ Kolby loves his paws. They are cute substantial things at the end of long legs, so I can see why he loves them so much and why he uses them all. the. time. Way more than any dog I have ever met. He can hold your hand, use it to dig out a toy from under this or that, scratch his face and keep them hooked over his nose, kiss them, cuddle them, and use them for attention. So this picture is something we are teaching him not to do - the Retriever in him solicits love by putting his paws on you. If you ignore him (which is so hard to do!), he will eventually get the point. But until he gets the point - he will stay in this awkward position willing his sweet eyes to get you to pet him. What a balancing act that the picture does not do justice. His legs are completely off the ground ~ the connection being his chest to the floor. It looks so very uncomfortable but he does it all for love. Ohh, Kolby!!!