Friday, January 30, 2015

Adventures with Ace | Day Seven

Our final full day with Ace. The weather is beautiful and we enjoyed a lot of today outside. A nice walk during the morning, and time spent watching a Neighborhood Football Game after the kids returned from their half-day at school. It has been a relaxing and lovely day with Ace.
Dear Ace, 

I first met you while I was visiting JBLM to do an interview with the Parole Officer about an article I was writing for our Chapter of Canine Companions. You were a very fluffy 10-ish weeks old and had a sparkle to your eye that you still have today. The Parole Officer was doing some commands with you in her office where we met, and I was stunned at how smart you were at such a young age. Every one was in love with Ace!!

You grew-up and we were reunited just this week. I didn't really know what to expect, but I was ready to meet any challenge that you brought forward. However, you didn't bring any to the table. 

You are a very compliant puppy. Your house manners are impeccable, and if all the puppies raised could be as house mannered as you - I could easily have five at a time. You listen and follow directions every. single. time. Your handlers should be very proud of you. 

You are so loving. You love to get attention from any person who is willing to take a moment to give it to you. While you don't solicit for attention, you are always ready to receive with a wagging tail and a cute smile. And sometimes, you just lean in so far that you actually know how to "hug". Your happiness is contagious. 

But you also have a silly side that keeps it real. I have lost count on how many times you have bonked your head on something because you were traveling forward but looking backwards. So many times I gave out a warning of "Ohhh, watch it ..." and thunk - there goes your nose right into the side of the workbench, or the corner of the wall, or the arm of the couch, or the side of the kitchen island, etc. You have to remember that life is just as interesting ahead of you as it is behind you. 

Which leads me to the fact that you are very observant. Nothing gets past you - your head is always in motion figuring out this sound and that. But the good news is that you respond to your name. You will check in with your handler when asked. This is the important key to have in your life, so always remember to look at the person saying your name. 

Thank you for coming into our life, even for just a week, because you brought with you a sense of calm, a smile that only a Golden can give, laughter that we were missing over a four-legged, and so much love. And as far as your hair? Yeah, it may be all over the cargo area of my car, but the journey was so worth every single leave-behind. 

We see a bright journey ahead for you, Ace. We will be following your journey in Santa Rosa, cheering you on with your fan club up North, and praying for all good things for you. Stay strong, continue minding your manners and working hard, and before you know it - you will be flying independence with your new partner just like the Ace that you are. 
Much love, Ace. 
Your Puppy Sitters 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Adventures with Ace | Day Six

Ace and I had so much fun today. We went to a museum that couldn't have been any more perfect. This was not your standard "Please be quiet" type of Museum, but rather it was interactive with lots of exhibit sounds, and a just an overall great training opportunity.
Our first order of business when we arrived was to visit the Space Station section of the Museum, which happened to be across the street. It meant that we had to use a pedestrian bridge over a very busy street (although the photos can't prove that). Ace found that trucks are louder than cars when you stand over them. He had no issue with the height of the bridge or the movement underneath him. It was fun to snap a few photos.
This particular building was funded by, dedicated to, and named after the parent's of a very close friend of mine. If you have been following my blog since the beginning, you know that I have a friend who gives me one thousand percent support on Puppy Raising and has been on many adventures with Haddie and Kolby. She is a treasured friend. The Spaceflight Academy is new since Kolby's departure ~ I was happy I had a great puppy in Ace to take with me to see it for the first time.
I noticed that every section of the museum there were sounds coming from different speakers in all different places (sometimes from the ceiling, sometimes from the floor, sometimes the wall), or we'd pass a room with no door where one could sit and watch a film on a large screen. There was plenty of noises all around us, and so it was good for Ace to have that added distraction. It is amazing how much I focus on my surroundings when I have a Puppy in Program in tow. 
When we were done with the space-section, we paused on the bridge again on our return to the main campus of the museum. 
I thought this was just too cute. I figured that Ace would appreciate his picture by this particular plane in a room full of choices of World War planes and bombers.
We passed a few kiddos on field trips and every student warned their peer "don't touch the dog, it's working.".... "don't touch the dog" ... "you aren't supposed to touch them" ... "he's so cute, I want to touch him" ... "I wish I could touch him".  I give credit to the kiddos of our society - they get it!! Unlike the grown man (not part of the field trip) who walked by and patted Ace on the head. While we were standing. Doing nothing but observing people. Ace just got a pat on the head. I smirked and watched the man continue to walk away. Had the field trip kiddos not been following the museum tour guide to their next destination, I would have piped up and said, "I over heard you talking and ..." all the children would have been offered to love Ace!!
I have found, like Haddie, and like a lot of puppies who are raised for Canine Companions, that over time, the puppies start to snub the camera. As the day continued Ace got less and less interested in looking at the camera. Apparently, I had overused my right to photograph his handsomeness. That's ok, I got this one to remember my view of outings with sweet Ace. 
Before we returned to the car, we stood in the parking lot which is next to the largest airfield in our area. Private planes, jets, and helicopters use this strip, big cargo planes take off and land here, as well as the military. While we were there, we got to see this little private jet take off. One would think it would be a tiny noise from across the strip, but I can assure you those little jets are mighty loud. Look at Ace's ears pinned back to the noise in the second photo. That was his only movement - he didn't get up from his commanded Sit, or move a muscle. Nice work, Ace!!
And then - my heart sank. Just as I was turning onto the main road from the parking lot for our return home, I noticed a HUGE Navy plane coming in for a landing. Ohhhhhh, Aaaaaacccceeeee - we missed it!!! I was crushed. It would have been the. perfect. experience. ever. (for myself and Ace)!!

It just means you will have to return for another Puppy Sitting Adventure, my friend!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Adventures with Ace | Day Five

Sometimes it's just the little things that can make a difference to a puppy. Ace and I picked up shopping today and I am finding that this little buddy is very much into his world. He knows what is going on at all times. He is one smart puppy.
I never thought about mannequins until I had Haddie visit a store for the first time. She was literally stunned in her tracks to see a non-scented human. It really took me back by surprise that she was so curious about this motionless human structure. Eventually it became a no brainer for her, but the process was one we worked on. Kolby was interested in them too, but he wasn't as phased as Haddie had been - he just wanted to get their attention and a few loves, but it never happened.

Today, Ace was in a Heel Sit position when I noticed he was gazing intently at something ahead of us. I looked to find this headless mannequin:
HA!! Yeah, that would freak me out too if I thought it were real life. Upon closer inspection Ace was still not too sure about this head-less woman. We spent some time hanging out by "her" until he lost interest in the novelty.
We found fun balloon dogs on a leash. I remember when Kolby got his photo taken with them too. Ace was very interested in their float and natural bounce. Again, we spent time until he figured it was not a toy, and they were not going to harm him.
Next, the indoor swimming pool was calling Ace's name. I like taking the dogs here because the way in which sound travels is so different than other places, not to mention the strong smell of chlorine (not a common scent), and splashing children.
All was going fine with the baby class, Ace seemed to be bored, but then the toddlers arrived and the outing got more interesting.
Ace perked up his ears at the sounds of their squeals and chatter about "a dog at the pool". Although the class was not right in front of us, as I had hoped, it still created the affect I was hoping this outing would carry. Every splash of kicking feet got Ace to sit up straight in curiosity. If we happened to be able to get closer, I wouldn't doubt that he'd want to jump right in to join them.
Sounds of doors closing behind employees who were working-about created a much bigger sound than a regular door in a building, and Ace was aware. He was non-stop Mr. Attention to Detail, but every time I said his name, he would respond with good eye contact.
This included when he was focused on the pool action. I am so proud of him. It was a great outing to the swimming pool with Ace!! However, I wish we both could have gone for a swim.
We ended the night with a long car ride to Puppy Class. The kids and I have not been to a class in a very long time, due to Kolby's leave in August. It felt so good to be back in the action among previous and new peers. We had a great time reconnecting with our Contract Trainer, and we had great dialogue as a class throughout. It was really fun.
Oh, right - we were there to train Ace!! Yeah, this cutie was a rock star and didn't have any issue. To be expected, as Command work is Ace's specialty. I love working a well trained dog. They just float.

Ace - ours days together are coming to a close. I can't believe we only have two full days left before you return home. I am seriously going to miss you, Buddy!! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Adventures with Ace | Day Four

My original plans with Ace got postponed until tomorrow. My girl sent me a text just as we were getting organized to leave that she needed to come home from school. Her congested head and laryngitis was too much to handle while at school. It didn't work out as planned when she left this morning. No big deal, we were still able to give Ace some training at the house. 
Although, not so exciting as to create an entirely lengthy blog-post over (wink).  The highlights were his ability to greet two visitors calmly at the door and maintain his manners while the visitors were here. My sister-in-law stopped by and stayed a bit to catch up, and my neighbor came over just to see Ace face to face. It was pretty cute that he has a mini fan club already from being a visiting puppy. He is pretty magnetic that way. 
Other highlights consisted of keeping my girl company by laying next to the couch where she slept, and following me around doing commands as I did some house cleaning. It is much more fun to have a puppy shadow while cleaning the house than not. I have missed that. 

Tonight was the final round of piano lessons for the week and Ace did stellar. This time he greeted my students at the door by maintaining a Sit and keeping calm during his greeting. Then he followed us into the living room where he obeyed the Down command next to my chair. At the end of every lesson, he received lots of praise and love from each student. Every student jokingly asked if they could take him home. 
My last piano family are sweet friends who we had planned to have Haddie live with if she was chosen as a Change of Career Puppy. She graduated, and while they were happy for her success, they were also torn that the bond they had made with her, after seeing her every Monday from her 8 weeks to 20 months, had come to a forever end. It was hard. 

They have supported our raising of Kolby and have just been amazing to share the ups and downs of Puppy Raising. I hope one day their schedule allows for them to become Puppy Raisers. I know they would be amazing at this volunteer role. One day ... 
When it was their turn for lessons, I didn't have Ace stay in a Down by my side. Instead I let my friend (the mom) have complete control of Ace. It is correct to say that they. were. both. on. Cloud. 9. It was a great way to end Ace's Piano Lesson experience as the two just cuddled and enjoyed each other's company for the entire lesson. I kept hearing her ooh's and ahhs', and Ace's soft purr of snores as he melted into her. It was adorable and a great memory. 

Tomorrow we will pick up where we left off and hit the road with more adventures. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Adventures with Ace | Day Three

Let's all go to the movies, Let's all go to the movies ...
Ace wanted to see Paddington today while the kids were learning at school, so I found a theater that had an early showing. When I have taken my previous Puppies in Program to the movies during a school day, the theater was pretty dead. I had about five people joining Haddie and me for the Disney film Chimpanzee on Earth Day 2012, and o.n.e. additional person watching Frozen a year ago January on Kolby's birthday. I thought the same was going to be true today; especially after picking the 9:50am showing.

I began to question my purpose as I was driving the distance to get to the theater. But I learned a valuable lesson, every outing is an adventure and serves a purpose. I was pleasantly surprised to find that while the lobby was empty, the theater had already begun filling up with small children with parents when we entered. I learned later that the school district that serves this theater's zip code did not have school today. We lucked out.
I found an empty row and sat in the middle. This was the first movie theater I had been to where the seat bottoms did not flip up. They were stationary in the down position and they were rather low to the ground. This made for an interesting situation with Ace. I opted for his bum to be somewhat "Under" and his head and shoulders to be facing forward. This actually worked best so that I could see his reaction to the popcorn spilling, the wiggly feet dangling, and the movie screen ahead of him between the seats of the mother/daughter who chose to sit in them before the feature began.

When Kolby went to the movies, he actually watched the movie. The entire movie. The. Entire. Movie. I was shocked and found it that much more enjoyable (as if Frozen needed any additional enjoyment added!). I was thinking that perhaps Ace would watch it too as he had a prime view.
Eventually, a family of 6 sat right next to us, and with the mother/daughter in front of us, I settled in for a great Puppy Raiser opportunity to teach this young boy movie manners. That is, until Ace swirled his head from side to side, pausing briefly to sniff the air of popcorn and sweets, and then turned his head away from the movie screen, and rested his head on his front leg.
Light's out for the theater, and lights out for Ace. The End. I watched Paddington essentially alone. Sigh.
The valuable lesson learned - you can't predict the outing, so just go for it!! No matter if the theater is empty or full, if popcorn spills or doesn't, if people ask to pet Ace or not, the adventure in learning is just that - it is an adventure, so take it.

Ace's evening was spent listening to Piano Lessons that I teach from my home. Ace did stellar and held a long Down (no tie out) for the hours spent teaching back to back lessons. This was my view:
This was Ace as soon as the students started playing.
The student's loved having a puppy again attend their lessons. Ace received his attention after each lesson and it was so fun to see him melt into the young kiddo's arms. He is such a sweet and loving, big boy. I'm really going to miss him when he heads back home. We will have round two of lessons tomorrow.
I believe in you, Buddy. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Adventures with Ace | Day Two

Once I put Ace into the crate for the night, he slept soundly and didn't stir. We had a morning routine similar to what our pups go through on a weekend; breakfast, playtime, and then upstairs to the bathroom to hold an extended Down Stay while I shower and get ready. Ace is working on his extended Down Stays while in a Puppy Sitter's house (as opposed to his living arrangement that he does not test). So on this first morning with me, I opted for a tie out so he could see the ropes of my routine first. We will try it again tomorrow without the tie out.

Next, we headed to Church. We have two services, and we took Ace to the first one. My son asked to be in charge of Ace and before my son could get the command "Under" spoken, Ace had found the underneath side of the pew and settled in. Ace was silent and steady. 
His popularity grew exponentially when we were in the foyer after the service. While our Church is very familiar with our puppies attending church, Ace does not look like Kolby, so everyone had to come say Hello. It was a great learning experience for Ace to have strangers greet him one after another, and for the human greeters to learn more about the Puppy Program at the prison through Canine Companions. Ace was a terrific spokesdog - he was fabulous at maintaining his Sit and not licking. 
During second service my son and I stayed in the Fireside Room (a social room with coffee, chairs, sofas, and a fireplace) where more people visited with Ace, and then as the second service attenders entered the service, my son walked the various hallways, rooms, and outdoors with Ace working commands (while I stayed in the Fireside Room with friends). I know my son enjoyed his one on one time with Ace; both work great as a team. 
Cora needed to be out and about after our being away at Church, so I introduced Ace to Cora. It was rather uneventful. The story is Ace held his Down, while Cora got to beg and beg and beg for the treats that were in my pocket. Cora is highly food motivated, so it works in my favor. She held her antsy pants just long enough for me to snap a few photos before I had to succumb to giving her her treats. Ace was a touch excited to see her zoom through the house (because Cora rarely walks when she is let free from her crate after we've been gone), but when I commanded a Don't to Ace, he immediately would back off and stop his excitement of a chase. Oh, the absolute perks of a well-trained dog is a very happy handler. 
Because Ace had been in a human-environment all morning, and the weather was gorgeous today with low-60's temperatures, I came home for a quick lunch and Ace and I hit the sidewalk for a leisurely, long stroll in the neighborhood. It was so peaceful and beautiful!! Ace got to pass a pressure washer in action on a driveway, a man washing his car, a moving truck backing up, other walkers, a cat running behind a truck, other dogs on leashes on the opposite side of the sidewalk, and ... a dog off leash. 
A dog off leash is my biggest concern and frustration whenever I am walking; with or without a puppy in tow. I knew this little one was not a huge threat, as it was only about 12 inches tall, but I didn't know if it would be a pester. Luckily, I saw that the owners were out too, so I quickly gathered that I had back-up should something go haywire. 
As soon as the dog saw Ace and started to enter the street to cross towards us, I had Ace sit. And he did. And Ace stayed. The. Entire. Time. The owner was calling the dogs name, but the dog was perfectly ignoring the owner. Eventually the owner caught up to the dog and picked up Fluffy, apologized, complimented Ace, and that was that. I was so glad nothing happened, but very happy that Ace Sat and didn't find Fluffy more interesting than my command. 

Ace was tired from his morning's outing and his afternoon walk, so he eagerly greeted nap time upon return home. 

Before we closed the day and welcomed evening, my daughter grabbed the camera and enjoyed a photo shoot with Ace. He is natural model because his command work is so spot-on. She was able to get some fantastic photos, and I am sure Ace's Handlers will be happy to have all of them to keep. Here are just 3 out of 280 snapped. More will be showcased throughout the week (wink).  
Ace - thank you for being such an easy-going, well-rounded, happy and loving puppy. Thank you for being a good ambassador for Canine Companions and the prison program who are raising you. You are definitely making all of them so proud after all of the dedication and hard work they have put toward raising you. It is great to see they have really found the best in you, and have made you shine. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Adventures with Ace | Day One

Canine Companions has four puppies currently being raised at a military prison a few zip codes away. The pups live there, learn there, and have a great bond with their prison-handlers. Their puppy outings consist of locations in the correctional facility that the prison-handler is allowed to be, but then Parole Officers or Puppy Sitters take the puppies to experience non-prison life when scheduled.
We are honored to have been asked if we wanted a turn at socializing one of their puppies who returns to Canine Companions in May. We checked our calendar and we were a Yes!! We picked up 16 month old ACE this morning, and hit the outings. He will be with us for seven days, and we hope those days go very slowly. We are already in love with Ace. 

I know Ace is a cross, but he certainly has more attributes of Golden than Lab. This is our first experience with the fluffy fur, and while Kolby was only 1/4 Golden, he had a Golden brain more like 3/4. That part does not phase me, I think I am pretty good at figuring out the Golden side. His fluffiness is the part I am getting used to, and I am pleasantly surprised I am enjoying it as much as I am along the way. 
When we arrived home, we let him explore the house. I noticed right away that he had a fabulous walk-trot; I will need to get it on video to share. His nails are perfectly short (jealous) and so he was very quiet when he trotted through the rooms of our house, learning about his environment. It was offered that he is very curious, and I found that quickly to be true. I set our first day together for Ace's success, not testing boundaries to see "what he would do". After managed exploration and chew-time on his antler, I set him on a tie-out and got a few things accomplished around my house. 

I need to be very clear, Ace came very clean and well brushed. But my son loves the U-Dog Wash at our favorite feed store and he was begging that we should take Ace ... today!! I knew it was somewhat useless because the four-legged boy was totally clean, smelled fine, and looked adorable, but my two-legged boy won. Of course it would be an excellent training opportunity. So I text'd my sweet friend (pro-groomer) for some quick tips on bathing, drying, and grooming almost-full Goldens. 
We had about an hour before we had to leave for the bath so I took the time to give Ace a walk. After all, he would at least be "dirty" enough for me to "justify" a bath, right?! Actually - YES!! I didn't realize how much sidewalk water from the morning rain would splash up to get Ace covered on his belly and legs. Now my conscious could justify the bath to come (wink).
Ace was a bit distracted with random noises in the neighborhood (as mentioned he could be distractable during his pickup) but he was also very easy to regain focus. His recovery was always spot-on. So yes, he looked at the garage door we passed that opened, the loud motorcycle that zoomed down the street, the bird that took flight from the yard, the blowing leaf, the kids who ran from one side of the street to the next, and the golf ball that took flight from Tee 9. But every step, and every turn of the head, Ace kept his feet walking with his leash loose and turned it into a "no big deal". So proud of Ace. 
I came home to wipe him down and we ran through all the Commands. If he didn't already pick up that we were privy to the Puppy Raiser Lingo, then I wanted him to know it before I took him out in public. He passed my testing and we piled back into the car. Ace was great at the U-Dog Wash ... he walked right up the metal ramp and settled in for his bath. We were the only ones there to start, but by the time we got to the drying part of Ace's bath, the room filled to capacity with six stranger dogs joining. Ace was adorable; he peeked over the shoulder of my son (who was doing all the work) to see the dogs pass our cubby, but he kept his bum seated and didn't move - just his head moved over and around my son's to get a good view. Adorable. 
The drying of Ace took forever, as we knew it would, but the end result was awesome. He is a very fluffy Golden now. He was great at standing still when asked, and sitting when asked. We brought his brush and you could tell that grooming was very routine for him. He was a charmer; stationary until we gave him the Release command. Bravo, Ace!! Thank you. 
For enduring our entertainment in Bath-Time ... we took Ace through the Feed store to smell everything and to buy him a gift. He promised he would share with the other puppies he lives with, but he wanted to wear it first. No problem, Buddy. 
Although it was now dark outside, Ace's night was not over. I had to retrieve my daughter from rehearsal of a musical that she is in this Spring. I arrived a touch early for pickup so that Ace and I could watch some of the action. And he did watch!! If the cast moved left, his head moved left, if the cast moved right, his head moved right. Adorbs. Both Directors and a Cast Member have raised five puppies for Canine Companions but are currently on a rest from volunteering. They remember all the commands and etiquette, and were thrilled to meet Ace and give him some appropriate attention. Ace soaked in the love and acted like the celebrity that he is. 
But wait - there's more ... we needed a few items at the big chain grocery store so we headed there on the way home. While this trip was truly an in and out, Ace was solid. We'll return during the week many times and for longer intervals because this is my go-to-store. Ace will know it well, but so far it was already a "no big deal". 

Finally at home, we decided to give Ace a break in his new digs - the soft crate that used to be Kolby's. We set it up and let Ace chill while we had dinner. The funny thing is that our Beagle  (who is not much of a big dog fan; she prefers her own-kind) walked over to Ace while he was in the crate and literally snuggled against the soft fabric to feel him breathing on her. It was shocking and adorable. She has NEVER EVER done this with any of our puppies, nor my parent's dog who just left our house after a two-week stay. I am excited for Ace and Cora to meet (non-crated) tomorrow. I was giving today for both of them to smell each other and take turns being crated.  

We had dinner late tonight due to my daughter's rehearsal, so after dinner it was relaxing-time for the humans and snuggle-time for Ace. He quickly found this spot and fell asleep. 
I think Adventures with Ace | Day One was a huge success. I give the handlers and raisers of Ace a lot of credit, because Ace has never spent time with us before, he has never been to our house, our zip code, and doesn't know how we work ... and Ace held a calm, loving, and smart demeanor throughout the busy day. 

 Welcome, Ace ... Goodnight.