Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another city outing

How did we get so lucky as to have the best puppy raiser friends? Last weekend we enjoyed another outing in the City with our sweet friend and her puppy in program. The only benefit of living two hours away from each other is that we get to enjoy the City which is the closest to middle as we can get; while still having something "to do".
The Aquarium. Our adventure was pretty amazing with the sea life that we got to see as humans, and expose our pups to at the same time. Kolby was interested in a Sea Otter that continued to swim past his face (below photo), but was less enthused by a River Otter that was full-on up in his grill on the other side of the glass. The River Otter became obsessed with Kolby and Helaine, while the two pups kept turning their heads and looking at one another as if to say, "Yeah, be jealous, River Otter ~ we got this thing called Service Work and we aren't impressed with your shenanigans." Our puppies were completely uninterested in this little guy who all the humans thought was Tote Adorbs.
Walking the busy, busy streets of the city proved once again that our puppies have been well socialized (we were unaware until we arrived, that there was a city parade later that evening which brought the crowds early during the day). Our puppies blended into the crowd and weaved between passerby's like a pro. We were beaming at the finality of a Summer Walk through the city with our two headed to college.
We were planning to eat our Seafood lunch on the Pier with the Gulls, but the enormous crowd of other like-minded lunch goers, and the intense heat of the sun, made us opt for indoor dining. Our pups were happy with our choice and immediately enjoyed their snooze under our table. There will be so many things I will miss about not having Kolby join us where we go, and having him by my feet while dinning out is kinda an extra special treat and very unique.
My friend and I were chatting days after this adventure; reflecting on the upcoming Turn In of our puppies. While we will be sad to see them go, and excited for the news of their decision to Graduate or come home, one thing we both realized ... both dogs are definitely ready for this next chapter in their life's journey. When you have a Puppy in Training who gets all the commands no matter the environment, who can blend into society, who can be playful when it is time and turn it off when it is not, who is going through the routine of being awesome ... then you know they are ready to up their game and try something new.
Helaine and Kolby are ready. They no longer needs us as Puppy Raisers, they need us as prayer warriors and cheerleaders for their next adventure. The biggest adventure and decision making time of their sweet, brave, young life.
To Kolby and Helaine ~ no matter your choice in placement, we are so very proud of you. Make your decision because of what you want in life, not what we want you to have in life. And while others may smirk that I am typing to two puppies, only Puppy Raisers in our position understand that you two know what we are saying, and know that it is your choice. Much love and Godspeed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Three Weeks

My heart just sank as I was viewing the calendar for upcoming things we have to cross off the To Do List. The breaking of my heart feels like it is torn in two and the tug in my stomach is my heart being caught before it reaches the floor.

In three weeks we will have already spent our first day in Napa Valley, touring the wine fields with the grapes still on the vine (our hope) and taking loads of photos of our children and of Kolby. In three weeks we will have our final days with Kolby as our Puppy in Program. And while we have done this before with our Haddie, it seems like we are starting over.

No two dogs are alike, although both dogs who are not alike, can both graduate. So while the process of Turn In will be "the same", the experience and memory will be different because Kolby is Kolby and he brings a new character and happenings with him.

As I was with Haddie, I could not predict her outcome. There were definite parts of my thinking that felt she was good enough to graduate, and then I'd think about some things that I thought would get her a ticket home. I feel the same with Kolby. Like humans, no dog is fool proof, so to predict one way or the other is just a lot of thought that is not worthy to think much about.

Kinda like guessing if your pregnant belly is carrying a Girl or a Boy. It will definitely be one or the other, but guessing will not make a bit of difference. The same with Puppies in Advanced Training. They will in fact either Graduate, or be a Change of Career.

So - in three weeks we will start the Kolby Waiting Game. And I have three weeks to wrap my head around him not being next to my feet at all times; of him not following me to the laundry room to drink his entire bowl full of water while I put a load into the wash, of him not making the biggest kerplunk onto the wooden floor when I start unloading the dishwasher, of him not jumping into the car to go on an outing, of his amber eyes not looking deep into my soul to will his way into a reward of praise, treat, or toy, of him not leaning against me at the large box store while we are standing still looking at something as if to say, "I'm still here", of him not peaking over the backseat, of him not rolling and stretching and taking his time getting up and fed and out in the morning.

Of him just not being him in our household.

Three weeks.


Gonna miss you, Mister!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another Camper Kolby Moment

Time has flown by and I have yet to post about one of our camping adventures in June. Kolby has always been a great camping puppy - he loves to ride in the RV, sleep under the table while I am preparing dinner, and patiently being invited up in my daughter's bed to sleep for the night.
He loves to go on walks to smell the fresh air of nature, and his favorite of all-time-camping-moment is when my daughter finds him a fresh stick to carry. And Kolby will carry and prance around with the stick in his mouth during a hike like he is the King of the World. It takes so little to please him.
This campsite was very relaxing; situated on a large lake with a fishing bridge. One late morning, my husband was going to stay back at camp to "smoke" salmon that he had caught earlier that morning over the campfire (it worked, by the way - yum). But my son wanted to go fishing off the bridge. My daughter joined Kolby and I for some photos ops while waiting for my son on the bridge; and then she went back to camp to spend time with her dad, while I continued to wait a few hours with my son.
During the wait, Kolby and I found a little cove area on our own bridge-like structure and sat together enjoying the fluffy white clouds and sunshine. It is amazing how many dogs go camping with their families. At one point about five dogs came around the area where Kolby and I were hanging out. It turned into an incredible learning environment for Kolby.
At first, he was interested in looking at the dogs (who thankfully were leashed), but then I turned it into a lesson in paying attention to me, not them. It didn't take long for Kolby to remember that I was way more interesting (insert ego boost). I called his name, offered a treat, and that was that. Kolby has amazing eye contact and will literally drool in anticipation that his eyes can will the behavior out of me to give him a cookie for good behavior.
It became so obvious that Kolby was maintaining awesome eye contact that the strangers with the said dogs started up a conversation with me. "Oh my goodness, look at his focus on you." which opened up my chance to share about Puppy Raising Kolby (he wasn't wearing his vest). It turned out to be a great conversation with a group of dads who had brought their kids to the lake. When the moms joined them fifteen minutes later, the dads were retelling the story of Kolby, and then others would over hear, and before I decided it was time to go back to camp to have lunch, everyone seemed to know Kolby (insert smile from me and Kolby's face below).
The fun part of Puppy Raising is sharing the joy of what it is that we do while our puppies are behaving so outstanding. It was definitely a Teamwork Moment that I will never forget.
The rest of the weekend was all about fishing, and more fishing, and campfires, and cuddles and walks with Kolby, and jokes and laughter. I am so thankful that we have camping memories of our family of four, and our cute four leggeds too.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

City Outing

At the time, I thought Kolby was a big boy at a mere age of five months and he would certainly handle a day-outing at a Museum in the city, complete with parks, a dock, water, geese, and boats. This was Kolby last year at the Museum. 
And he didn't prove me wrong that day, he certainly acted like a big boy and there were no concerns nor naughty stories to report. What I didn't realize was the sheer magnitude of taking it for granted that he was only a mere five months old. Both of my puppies have been excellent outing puppies, and I am very grateful. How many times can I roll the dice and get this? Shall I stop while I'm ahead? (kidding - challenges can be equally as rewarding). 
Yesterday I returned to the same Museum with our sweet friends for a day outing, but this time included going on a docked 1889 Tug Boat, walking through a slew of people at a festival, and riding the Light Rail for the sake of the experience in training. 
We had hoped to recreate some photos that were taken a year ago; to showcase the growth of our pups. But the exhibits where we were planning to do this had now been replaced with new exhibits. So, we had to skip that idea and just start over. 
Kolby was happy when we chose to stop for lunch, as he was able to take a mid-afternoon snooze. He got some attention from a table nearby, but was quick to keep looking at me while the lady was petting him. Kolby does this a lot, and even strangers pick up on his perfect eye contact on me while he is getting love from others. I am not sure what to take away from this. He came with amazing eye contact, but sometimes his look is more like, "Eeek, should they be doing this? I'm kinda working." and then his look also seems like he's saying, "Hey, look how awesomely-calm I am being. Cookie, please?" and then finally his look can say, "Really? I know I'm cute, but I was s.l.e.e.p.i.n.g."
The Light Rail ride was great because the Light Rail that we had taken Haddie on was in a city the opposite direction of where I usually live my life, and my days are getting rather short with Kolby to make the trek. So to have this experience for Kolby at a time when we were with friends and already out was perfect.
Like Haddie, Kolby acted like he had been there before and just settled at my feet. In fact, he settled at my friend's feet and used her cute Converse as a pillow. I am sure that his rides on the floor of our RV to go on camping adventures has helped him with the sway and movement of the Light Rail, and the many different noises compared to a car. He has rode a mini-transit bus last August, so perhaps he remembered subconsciously that trip too. Regardless, I am glad to have squeezed in this experience before he leaves to California. 
To get to our parked car, we chose to walk through the Wooden Boat Festival and Race arena where it was packed with athletes, booths, food, and live music with people enjoying their interpretive-inner-dancing-self. I looked down at Kolby and saw him wagging his tail, mouth open, tongue hanging out in a smile, as if he too was getting his inner-dancing-self into rhythm. I really believe he is a music-dog having been next to the piano weekly supporting my students in piano lessons. He just seemed so happy about his day that it made all of us smile and laugh; which just egg'd him on. 
Our day was not complete just yet, and Kolby maintained being out and about in public and on the go for 11 hours by the time we returned home. Upon leaving the city we were meeting my husband in a different town to sign papers on a new car. Although the leg work of finding the car and getting the bottom pricing complete had been done by my hubby the day prior, the paperwork part became equally as long. Nothing is fast about purchasing a car. 
We added another four hours onto our day and Kolby laid at our feet at the desk. When we got up to shake hands and go to the finance room where the signing took place, the salesman (who had come to the pow-wow after we had already been seated) was genuinely surprised that we had a dog under his desk. I found that a great sign as Kolby passed the "blend into the room" test. While we were signing the papers, my kiddos and Kolby remained in the lobby and about every Salesman had to stop by for some Kolby loves. My kiddos said he was great and loved the attention. 
Stopping at the grocery store for some much needed last-minute dinner toss-togethers, and we were pulling into the garage at 9:00p with a very happy puppy and puppy raisers who had lasted 11 hours on the go. 

Kolby proved that he can handle life outside of the house, and I am happy that he is headed to Santa Rosa with another grand experience under his collar. He has proven to me that he is a mellow-guy that can hang with people wherever they choose to go. The bottom line will be the choice of Kolby. While he will go wherever we go without protest or bad manners, he will need to choose if that is what he wants to do in life. Work or Change of Career. His choice. And I support either. 
LOVE YOU, KOLBY!!! Thanks for an incredibly relaxing, entertaining, and busy day. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kolby's Girlfriend

She is seven days older, about half his size, twenty pounds lighter, blonde and beautiful, and they have been in love since the day they met, March 13, 2013. 
Helaine and Kolby are headed to Santa Rosa in mid-August to begin their next Chapter with Canine Companions; Advanced Training. They have adventured to many different outings together, they have spent time at our house playing with "Purple Ball"; which they quickly figured out how to mutually hold at the same time, and they have been in weekly class together more times than not. They are the best of friends. 
Knowing that the two will be on campus together makes it more exciting to think about their next journey. Will they be training together? Will they be close to each other's kennel? Will they get to play in the yard together? Will they feel confident and strong knowing the other is there when their people are not? Will they Graduate together? 
In a perfect world, we would see them Graduating on the same date, to a single man and a single woman who meet during Team Training, surprised to find out that they are from the same city, and they instantly start a friendship-turned-relationship, get married, and live happily together ... all for the sake of our two puppies being now "married too" and living together for the rest of their long lives. 

Screech! Okay, back to reality. 

When Kolby returns to his birth city, I will not only be saying my Goodbye to my favorite boy, but I will also be saying Goodbye to a very dear friend. Helaine has been a sweet puppy that we have had the joy of watching grow from a wiggly, green eared nugget, to a strong, wise, and well mannered puppy. 
She has spent multiple nights at our house with her puppy raiser, we have seen her meet the next puppy that her Raiser will be raising for Canine Companions, we have seen her perform her best and work through new skills, my son and daughter had the privilege and joy of taking her to Fair last year, spending time on the bench with her, walking her through an Evaluation Course, and giving her lots of love. She is part of us, even though she was not our puppy to raise. 
Family. This crazy thing called "Volunteer Puppy Raising" is not about one puppy, but about many. And the funny thing is, there is always enough room in one's heart for all of them. 
Kolby's Girlfriend Helaine. I wish her lots of love and plenty of magical wishes for a fantastic journey. 
Love you, Helaine. 
So proud. 

Back from Prison

Kolby has been in the Puppy in Program Prison Program with Canine Companions for the last nine days while we have been on a dog-free camping trip. The Prison Program is extremely well run, and for Kolby to have undivided attention 24/7 in his training, he just up'd his readiness for Advanced Training at the Santa Rosa campus of Canine Companions; which happens in exactly. one. month.

I don't really know all that took place while in prison, and obviously I have never met the person that was responsible for Kolby, but I do know that this prison is extra attentive to the training of their puppies in program. Not only do the men who were chosen to be part of the Puppy Program have secured the trust of our Contract Trainer for their dog training skills, but they are also in a military prison which adds an entirely new level of commitment, rules, and guidelines.

I received a written report from the person in charge of Kolby and I was pleasantly surprised to get this third party view of my Mister. "The first thing I noticed is how well he knows his commands (at least compared to other visiting puppies). Kolby was very attentive. He's a very good boy and is welcomed back anytime."  That certainly made me feel good!! Because really, that is the reason why I chose to put him in the Prison Program while we were on vacation. I thought he was getting lazy and not very sharp. I think that mixing up training environments is good for puppies, as it helps them stay fresh and always on their toes learning (don't worry, all the Puppies in Program have plenty of "down time" to just be puppy too).

The area that Kolby needs continued work on is his Recall; meaning when playing out in the big, fenced prison yard, he doesn't always want to return to his handler when told to do so. I will need to practice this more thoroughly in different settings (insert my parent's acre fenced yard) because in my backyard, he will come to me on the first call. The distractions are no longer new and exciting at home, apparently. We will get this under wraps before his college due date. I will also be chatting with our Contract Trainer for more specific training options to get more trustworthy behavior from Kolby in this area.

Kolby came home very tired. He lived in a small trailer with four prisoners, and three other Puppies in Program who were all very young (under ten months). While he didn't go on outings outside of Prison, he did attend the dinning hall for his Handler's meals, the outdoor gym, and an office with a Parole Officer. He received great care and I am so thankful for the experiences that he received. Also, it is kinda nice to know that Kolby gave love and confidence to someone who is in need of getting his life back to positive. I like that Kolby has a history of prison life; not many pups can say that.

About the post's photo. I was working right here on my computer when my son said, "Hey Mom, look at Kolby." I turned around to see my sweet pup dressed up. It is not the "easiest" to dress a male puppy because the outfits of choice are somewhat limited. No boas, dresses, skirts, fluffy hats, etc that I see floating around Social Media of female Puppies in Program. So when I saw this, I had to snap a photo. Kolby was very calm and let my son "play dress-up" as if Kolby has done this daily of his 18-months with us. Kolby is ready for a future little girl or boy who would love to play dress-up with him upon Graduation. Just sayin'  ....

Glad to have my Mister back, but thankful for the experiences he had the last 9 days.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Too fast for me

Time is speedy and I am trying to catch it long enough to get caught up on blogging. But alas, I am finding it impossible and I just have to start on something!

Mister Kolby has had a lot of entertainment, new and old experiences, and a lot of fun the last month. I will do more justice to blogging upon my return from a week's vacation to our little slice of heaven on earth.

Kolby is currently at a Puppy Sitter's and it will take me a few days before my mind eases and I truly can relax and stop thinking about him more than a dozen times in a day.

Puppy Raising is really like having kids; when you go on a date with your husband, and all you can think about and talk about are the kids. This puppy is definitely personality-plus, and so to just send him off to his own vacation away from me and not think about him, is truly impossible.

Until I return to blogging, I will leave you with a series of photos that I took on the 4th of July. I think the photos are self-explanatory in some of his personality traits. From Hound Dog to Regal back to being funny all in a matter of minutes.

Love Mister Kolby!!!