Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Happy Dance and Other Peculiar Dog Behaviours

You ever notice, dear dog owner, the never ending optimism of dogs as they follow you around the kitchen, hoping for a treat and you never ever fed them out of your hand any people food … It is particularly odd for Calvin as he has this weird trained behaviour of not eating any human food in the house even if I drop it. Unlike outside in restaurants where anything below knee level is fair game …

Calvin follows me all around my kitchen, and not just follows me but insists on being right behind my feet or standing between my legs at optimal tripping angle. He never ever gives up so it is a good thing I can not see his expression as I would surely fall for the sad eyes.

I also love the happy dance he does when it is feeding time … he stands in one place and tap dances like he is about to get steak or has to really pee …the click click click of his nails is so rhythmic …hard not to smile and be happy.

And why, dear reader, does he not hear me when he is directly next to me during guide work or obedience work but if I am at the other end of the house and I even touch his food bowl he comes barreling from inside his kennel at lightning speed …

(oh, look who just came out of his bed to take a drink ,,, it is after ten pm young man, who do you think will be taking you out in an hour … good night Calvin)

Why is it they insist on cleaning themselves on their you-know-wheres and then insist on licking your face … Sure I pick up his poop, sure I stick my hand in his mouth if he eating something other then kibble, sure I brush his teeth, rub his tummy and clean his paws from the rain but even humans have their limits … I mean this kid even eats gum off the underside of tables at restaurants, yes you read correctly …ggggrrrrrr-oss.

Next time we will discuss why they think they are children and really behave as such … sleep well my friends and dream of big bowls of kibble

Calvin and human david

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Thanksgiving Thoughts … a week Later

I had some thoughts on what my first US Thanksgiving as a Naturalized Citizen meant to me … they are a week late for a number reasons but mostly because life has been busy but in good ways … I have little time to write these things, later at night is a most reflective time. It is so late that Calvin just crawled off to bed which means he must really be tired because he hardly leaves my side …

As interesting as the last almost two years have been, and it is difficult for me to think about where I was when this crazy ride started and where I am today because it makes me wonder where I will be in two years, or in eight or so when I may have to retire Calvin .. I am thankful for him every day and all the incredible people who brought him to me …

People, that is what I am most thankful for. I am appreciating all my loyal friends, my entire family and my co-workers who have supported me over this roller coaster.

I am thankful for their past, present and future support, friendship and their continued good health and improved health.

I am thankful for those friends I have made on this recent journey, people who do not know the meaning of give up or surrender. They truly define chutzpah. They know who they are and I am thankful they have come to help so I may perhaps help them and others.

OK, I am also thankful for the Habs, that the Giants won the World Series without Barry Bonds and of course for the Allouettes showing the Canadian folks that it was NOT a fluke last year and if you want to try for a third round, bring it on, sorry K.

Cheers and may everyone get a tummy rub, Calvin seems to really enjoy them

David and guide dog Calvin

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday night - part deux

As the first week came to an end, I realized that the long days were much more mentally andemotionally challenging then physically ... Sure the walks or routes were challenging but they only lasted and hour or so and when there were victories along the way, or setbacks but recoveries attained with the help of their fantastic instructors and support staff, it was better then what I had been experiencing for most of the last 18 months ... one step forward, three steps back ... Being my first guide, I was only beginning to realize all the doors he would open for me, and to this very day I continue to do so. Except for the doors he runs me into but most of those are my fault ... No kidding, no doors have hit me but my legs and hear have hit a few tree branches .. if any GDB employees are reading this, or handlers, yes I re-worked those occurences ... sometimes I am not sure Calvin does not do this kind of thing because he knows at the end is some food reward ... Yes, these guides are very food motivated ... Moreso then someone in the last hours of Yom KIppur ...

So the week ended much much better then it began. There were definite days early on when I was convinced I was making a huge error and was ready to go home ... I was put on a list somewhere and everyone kept asking how was I doing ... even some of the other dogs were caught talking to Calvin in the corner telling him to give me a break and sit once or twice ... It got to a point where I would say sit and he would lie down ... Not sure if this was because he was listening to me, scared or just tired of hearing my voice I just took it as a victory.

I do remember one bus trip we took from the dorms in Boring to Gresham. The instructors told us that for those rides, the dogs had to remain sitting. Lying down there would not be enough room for all of us and standing was too dangerous for them. I still belive that that was a load of poop but it was meant to get us to control our dogs and do something they were not used to. Thanks for telling us that they had really never been asked to sit on a vehicle before. Well all the other dogs mostly got it. Calvin? Well, let's just say I was considering slew footing him to get him to sit ... I went a few rides struggling with how to get him to sit and stay ... finally the supervisor took pity on my and showed how to hold onto him close to his collar, put one leg behind him and just not let him move. I went the next three rides with a sitting dog and was so very proud until a little voice from the back of the bus asked why I was doing that when they told us the day before we could have them lie down. So we were a little different. It was not the first time and won't be the last.

The days leading into the second week and the first few days, until Wednesday slowed down a bit. We had less guide work, more doen time and things started to really feel more natural. We went shopping in a mall, I walked with another team and did a bit of gift shopping. Had my first contact with a member of the sighted public with a dog. In line at a bookstore there was a father with his two young sons. We were second in line to make our purchases so I said, "Calvin, sit pleas". Yes, i say please and thank you. Just being polite to my four legged human.

When I said that I heard a ruckus, yes a ruckus from the group in front of me. With a sad voice the younger of the two brothers told me "MY name is Calvin". The Dad offered to trade my Calvin for his.

No way I said. Not for anything.

Getting tired now and tomorrow I have a Guide Dog for the Blind Puppy Raiser of Mid Peninsula outing ...Calvins first group play date ... I will report on that tomorrow or early in the week since this blog seems to be working now ...

Oh, yes, for those not aware, I also became an Naturalized American citizen and started back at work last week. and i turned 45. Here's to the next a45

until tomorrow friends and family

The Saturday Night Post, November 13th, 2010 - all the news fit to print ... before the site crashes

OK, another shot at this ... I got some tech advice so this should work ..
The last I left our canine hero, we were in week two of training and the first week had it poopy days, or the days i could not even find the poopy ... but that got so much better I no longer fear the scoop or the scoop of the poop ... what I do fear is Indian food ... when Calvin hounds some up off the floor of my favourite place and transports it home and deposits it on my living room floor the next day - with a very familiar scent from the night before ... i.e., spicy food does not digest in dog's digestive tract ...

Anyway, back to week two of trianing ... from wht I can recall ... Clearly I was learning quite a bit, like how to function on less and less sleep ... there were more very very late night as we were fortunate to have San Jose weather in usually rainy Portland ... I had way too much cold weather clothing and mot enough clean underwear, um, sorry mother, I mean not enough clean t-shirts .. so I did laundry more often and, well stayed chatting with my new little family/friends ...

I do recall one evening when abut five of us decided to watch a movie so we spent about way too long choosing a movie, a vhs movie I might add, from the dorm's collection, settling on one with Steve Martin called Mixed Nuts ..

Joke - how many blind folks does it take to start a movie?
Answer - five, four guide dogs and about thiry minutes ...
Only to find out that someone with a very off sense of humour or bad braille skills put Shrek Two in the Mixed Nuts box ... so down to two remaining willing participants we watched that one ...

Funny, I do not think we all tried to watch another movie ...

Some word about Calvin and his guide work, at this stage ... Not sure if I posted about this before but as much trouble as I was having with obedience, his guide work, or rather our team work went very well from the get go ... Our first walk I kept saying to myslef, this is amazing ... so much build up to this point and now I am walking (with my eyes closed) and not hitting anything. Later I found out we are supposed to let our instructions know if we close our eyes - for us low vision folks .. oops ...

We walked routes in the small town near the dorms, called GResham which a little bigger then Ste-Agathe for you Montreal folks and sort of like a small district in San Francisco ... the hardest thing for me there was remembering the streets we were to walk on our own later that week, the firt week ... in retrospect, concentrating so much on what direction I was supposed to be travelling I forgot to think about guide work and just followed Calvin ... On Thursday in that first week we did out first two night routes for which I have no vision at all except if there is street lights and my days hanging under light posts are done and over ...

With the chill night air giving Calvin a little extra energy, or the thought of the bean bag chair tht awaited him at the end, he sped off that first route with a little extra bounce in his step ... I just KISS, as our supervisor kept telling us to do and just went with him. I am sure it helped to know that our instructors were following close behind but I had mo idea how close .. anyway we breezed through it and it was sort of an emotional moment for me as I never ever thought I would be able to walk alone at night again ... OK, stop crying D, it is not big deal ...

Calvin did not walk me into anything that night or any other night ... yet .... He did almost walk me into a tree another day route and I am reminded about that so let me tell you about Calvin, trail walking and booties ... somewhere later in the second week, we went to a new area to experience, among other things, trail walking. Now this was not hiking, just trail that had small rocks, pebbles or packed dirt ... So I found Calvin's Kryptonite - he slowed right down and he did not make me change my socks and underwear as often ... sorry for the image ... He was kind of slow so my instructor suggested n the way back we try his little booties that we are given for escalator and cold or hot weather travel ... they are also for walking on surfaces that may hurt his little pads ... So here we are at the beginning of the trail and I am struggling to put four little velcro attached booties on the dog with all the style of socks and sandles style and he is not loving this but as with most other things he is trusting me and staying in place. Staying so much that after I was dripping in sweat and his little booties were on, I pick up the harness and give him the forward command. No response. Command repeated. Nope. I put down the harness ahndle,lean over and give him a pep talk that Gene Wilder would be proud of talking to his monster to walk ... Nada. On my instructors suggetion I pull him and he stumbles forward. Victory. Perhaps we will move some ... and then , BOOM! Like underdog his neurons connect, oh yes, I can walk in these and proceeds to run like speedy gonzalez, me slipping on the rocks barley keeping up, not to mention my footing ... My instructor is porbably thinking I may be in trouble because she sort of yells for me to stop grabs my arm and I see about three inches in front of me her ahd and right behing that a nice solid, tree ... that was a close one. Mental note, get heavier booties for the dog.

Well, I will make this part one of the post and not push my luck .. if this posts successfully, I will continue it later or tomorrow ...

On the next post ... "This is why we can not have nice thngs ..."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I have been taught, not really learned completely yet how to get him to sit, lie down, heel, andd acome near me so I can put on his leash, harness etc. The obedience stuff like this has not gone too well. He is very distracted but I think that is partrially I am still somewhat tentative in my obedience commands and also there are many distraactions here. He has a ton of energy which is what I asked for so I can ony blame myself but that also means that during guide work and play timehe is really going fast and is easy to work with. By awork I mean guide work which has gone very welll or rather much better athen obedience work but I guess that will get easier as I get more confortable with that part of our time.I have received pretty much all of the equipment I will need which inclues a leash, a harness, some really cute booties for escalator travel or wet conditions. I got his second and third toys today, a bone and a rubber ring for pull games. The bones they are allowed are called Nila bones, no reagular bones are allowed or suggested but I hear from some folks in my class that they give their old guides sterilized marrow bones or something like that. Even in the toys, Guide Dogs never suggesta any ball, toys that can be torn apart or will distract them from guide work. Stuff like tennis balls are common in the world so if they see them as toys they can become distracted ... but rules may be made to be broken .. for now I will follow them and then when we are back home I will see what he can be good with. Mostly also anyathing that they can destroy and eat that will cause problems are out ...I did discover that some of my obedince issues can be resolved if I can get a bean bag chair. In general it is discouraged to allow the dog on any furniture because they can not distinguish between your sofa at home and those elsewhere ... but when I plop down on a bean bag chair he becomes a sicty pound lap dog and just sits on my lap and sleeps ...He also has the really cute habit of holding my hand or rather putting his pay in my hand and just staying like that ... for family, that is what reminds me of Walden so I really like that in calvin... Calvin also like to rest his head on my knee or leg and just rest there. This afternoon when he was taking a quick nap, as was I, I leaned over the bed to where he sleeps on the floor next to me and while he was snoring, he put his paw on my hand ..And yes, he snores but I have him set up for a sleep apnea assessment ... got it F?I learned how to clean his ears which he is not so fond of and also to brush his teeth today which he loves ... mostly it tastes like chicken, the toothpaste smells like chicken and not the good kind but he really loves it.Good news for me he seems to be a quick reliver - which means within minutes of going out for bathroom duties he goes very quicky. I am learning how to scoop the poop tomorrow, so far they have been doing that for us ...So far I have gone up and down on my experience in terms of being really pleased with my perfprmaace and being really frustrated. The word has gotten around the staff here and they are calling me a bit of a perfectionist ... I just do not agree but that I think I should have learned how to do much of what we have been shown. I know it has ony been a few days or less but overall I am thrilled on my choice to come hereand my choice of choosing Guide Dogs versus other schools ...I have worked through some of the obedience things and as handlers of this blog can attest to, it is difficult the first time, or so I am told but still the first actual guide work went really well. Calvin hardly makes any mistakes and I am sure most of them are because I am saying the wrong this or in the wrong way but he has already stopped me from walking across a street with a car that webt too early and guided me through sidewalks with lots of obstacles ... I walked the same route that he guided me through just with a white cane and I was really amazed of all the things I found that he just blew past safely.He is a really fast walker so out full speed guiding pace will be faster then what I I can do with a cane ... the one thing I notice is that I no longer have to find obstacles in order to avoid them.Of course, our first two guided walks were kind of emotional for when I finally sat down and thought if what doors he will open up for me. I did much of my guided work today with my eyes closed to feel what it will be like at night. We will have to do a solo night walk anyway to graduate. Trust is quickly building and is of course cirtical for the team.Team is what we call the handler and guide duo and I really feel like we are quickly approaching that even it awill still take weeks or months for us to bond and there is complete trust ... Pretty soon we will be finishing each other's sentences.A work about the school and the instructors and trainers. I could not have wished for a more supportive group. Althoug I have nothing to compare it to, when I have been almost ready to throw the towel, they have instinclively stepped and got me what I needed. I have had a few of those moments but I guesss these experiences have been much like the past months for me so as long there is more progress then setbacks then I am OK.There is just so very much info to remember and so little time or down time I hope I recall half of it. If not, I am sure Calvin will remind me.We have done much of our trainig in a small town closeby called Greshem, not sure how it is spellt but on Saturday we start guide work in Portland and I belive that is where we will have our final test ...The dorm here remains very comfortable and the meals continue to be outstanding ... I have had all from scratch meals, clazones, chicken vegatable lasagne, fallafel (tomorrow so we will see if it as good as Falaffel Drive In) ... for breakfast tomorrow I am having bagels that the chef makes herslef here .. I will suggest a special bagel breakfast with eggs and cheese ... I call it a bagelette ...We recieved our first toys for the dog tonight and I had my first play session with him. They suggest only a ten or fifteen minute session so we played tug with a rubber donut .. and my mild mannered dog who all I heard from all of a sudden started to growl and bark like he was about to attack but all the while his tail wagging madly ... He is going to be a ton of fun ...He seems a little more energetic then the other dogs in my class but I am the youngest here so I am happy about his character .. he always seems really happy to see me but I am his food and toy for the next ten years or so, I am happy to oblige ...Well, he has been alone for almost an hour now, on tie down in my room so I better go as I have some lecture material to read and I have dog slobber all over my clothes so I think I better shower ..I hope this has not been too boring for you, if you got this far ...I am sure I am missing some funny moments but I will try to post earlier tomorrow or next time so I can be more awakecheers to allDavid and CalvinCalvin and his Hobbies

Hello all, this computer is talking really funny so I am going to just type and hope afor the best. I tried to post last night and twice the night before but the only one that went out was the details of Calvin ... so here is a recap of what I think I missed to post and what has happened over the last two and half days, my time with Calvin so far.

Monday, October 11, 2010

May I introduce

My new friend.

Pics perhaps later this week

He is a pure yellow lab, he is 23.5 inches tall, weighs 63 pounds, he has darker ears and tail.

His name is Calvin.

Yes, Karen, his name is Calvin.

We had some interesting obedience issues today but I will learn.

Now I really need to sleep

until tomorrow

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hair of the Dog

Helloall and to all a good evening - the proper title for this first real post might as well have been "My first day of rehab" as no slight to how I spent my Saturday night or those in attendance. Let me explain, briefly, kind readers.

Last night I had the honour of attending a wedding of a very good friend of mine, you know who you are. Without naming names or going into details, I did not think I could drink that much, and I refused easily more then half of the drinks I was offered. The food was fantastic and endless. As some of readers will recall my expression, which is common amongst the kids of my time, I almost drank my face off. So, hence I felt as if I was checking into reahb today rather then  guide dog training - perhaps this is an intervention and I am really getting a service dog that will keep me away from food and alcohol.

Anyway, the wedding was great, and I did manage to get a few hours of sleep. It is now about 9pm Sunday evening and I am sitting aone in the computer room of the Boring Oregon campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

My experience so far ahas been extremely positive - the staff I have met so far are warm, friendly and very supportive. I expected nothing less and I have not been disappointed so far. I have only met four of the staff and I am very much looking to meeting the trainers and as I found out just today, my new companion.

Yes, I will get my dog tomorrow so tonight marks the last day I will not pick up the poop and I am looking forward to it.

The weather is a little rainy, as expected but the new dorm facilities here are great and, bonus, the kithcen and chef are amazing. Tomorrow I am havong a veggie empanada for lunch and grilled salmon with basmattie rice for dinner. I had three brownies today so I will be hitting the treadmill after thos post ... or not.

My class is small, only six of us, three newbies and three getting their next guide. They too are really nice and great resources for what I am about to experience.

Did I mention I am exhausted and a bit hung over ...  I think I just heard Lindsay Lohan down the hall ...

I will try to post again tomorrow with pictures but not sure I will have time ... plus the machines in the computer room are rather old - they have floppy drives. AT least they are 3.5" drives and not the five and a quarter ones ... it may crash at anytime but then again so may I ...

So the dogs are on campus, the trainer I met does know theur names and they already have an idea of which dog each of us are getting but they will not tell ...Apparently they used to play some jokes on handlers before they gave them their dogs to mess with their minds. This is an environment that my father would love, lots of chances for practical jokes ... I know he would have been proud today - when they were giving us the tour and showed us the smoking area I asked how many of their guide dogs smoke ...

OK, good might Gracie ..

A demain
Go Habs Go
David and woof ...