Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Nightmare on Puppy Street

Once upon a time, there was a cute cuddly puppy named Raelyn who loved to play and chew. This amazing little puppy really, really, really, really, really doesn't like to be in her crate. She needs to be held and petted quietly in a lap and then sleepily shoved in her crate to go to bed at night. This had been going great and all was well in Puppyland.

Then late one dark and non-stormy night (also called Tuesday) disaster struck tranquil Puppyland! About an hour after *finally* quieting down in her crate and going to sleep (1am)....strange horking noises were emerging from her general direction. "OH NO," said the sleeping villagers in Puppyland, "What is going on?!" Raelyn apparently had an upset tummy and puked in her crate (which she promptly tried to eat...eww). One drowsy villager took her outside while the other dutifully cleaned up the mess in her crate. Wide awake she was, yet back in the crate she found herself. "Sound the alarm," Raelyn cried, "All is not well in Puppyland as I am trapped in this godforsaken prison!" The loud alarm noises (whining, barking, whiny barks) erupted out of the little cute puppy for about 30 minutes despite the best efforts of the villagers to correct/ignore her behavior. Ahhh...the villagers sighed once the snuggly beast had accepted her situation and went back to sleep while snoring loudly.

You might think that would be the end of the story....but you would be WRONG as once again the puppy alarm was sounding at 3:30am. The villagers cried from their bed, "Curses you cute cuddly vile beast!" Again the sleepy villagers had to endure the long torture of waiting for the puppy monster to finally go back to sleep. Alas, the time eventually came that the noisy creature again slumbered (and praise to the puppy gods that she slept until 9:30am).


Monday, April 27, 2009

Too many friends, so little time

Sundays used to be relaxing. Not anymore!

We started off our day getting up early as Raelyn wants to get out of the crate to relieve, eat breakfast, and then play. At the butt-crack of dawn on a sunday, play is not a word in my vocabulary, so back in the crate she went! We are working on the barking/whining, but it is going to be a slow painful process. She eventually quieted down and we were able to get in a little bit of sleep before we had to wake up for Dale's game.

Dale plays soccer games on sunday mornings in a rec soccer league, so we decided to take Raelyn to her first sporting event. She did really great! The noises, people, and new environment didn't phase her one bit. At first she wanted to Bend it like Beckham and run/play along side the players, but she finally calmed down and watched. The ball intrigued her, but not overly so which was surprising. She also learned that bobby pins are not acceptable puppy food (she didn't like it one bit when I fished it out of her mouth).

Right after the game we came home and had lunch and then we had to zoom over to our bi-monthly Puppy Club meeting for all of the people who are involved with raising guide dogs. It is a great training and socialization session where we learn tips and are able to ask questions about all things puppy. This was Raelyn's first meeting so she charmed the pants off of everyone and made so many new friends. She stayed pretty calm in the beginning (only 1 bark) and then she was totally chill. After a while, all of the morning activity caught up to her and she went out like a light. She tuned out all of the other dogs and people and went to sleep. Sometimes she would peek out if something seemed interesting, but other than that she could have cared less about what was going on. It is amazing that she can be so calm in such a crazy new situation.

After the meeting, we made a pit stop at Wendy's where she was on good behavior. She is all over the place since she is so young, so taking her into a fine restaurant isn't such a great idea. However, Wendy's she can handle as her etiquette is more appropriate for a cheeseburger.

All of that activity totally tired her out, so she crashed for the rest of the afternoon/evening and slept well last night!

Today both Dale and I had to get things done at work, so Raelyn went to visit with Mardie, a fabulous puppy sitter, for the day. She did wonderfully with the puppy sitter and Mardie had lots of great advice for us as she has dealt with LOTS of baby puppies before.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fearless Puppy In Action!

Raelynn had a good start to the weekend and is hoping everyone else did too!

Raelynn is an early riser (7am) compared to us. If it were up to Dale and I, we wouldn't be up and around on a Saturday until at least 11 as we are lazy like that. This morning I got up with Raelynn and gave her breakfast. I really wanted more sleep, so back into the crate she went! She wasn't super happy about that and was upset for a bit, but then finally calmed down. It was great as she didn't wake up again until 9:30. We are so glad that she does well in the crate during the night so we don't have to be getting up every few hours to let her out to relieve. :)

We learned that Raelynn snores and makes other funny noises when she sleeps. While Dale and I were watching TV in the late morning, we heard these weird noises and looked over and saw Raelynn in the middle of a very interactive dream since she was whining and running in her sleep. It was super cute! Will need to get a video of it sometime.

No accidents the entire day! She "did her business" so good everytime we took her outside. She is learning so quickly. We are happy.

We are starting to work on the "sit" command. Give her a few days and she'll have it figured out.

Today we had fun being social. Raelynn met one of our friendly neighbors and his dog while we were out on our walk. She did really well meeting Steve and Bailey. We practiced good manners. A long way to go still, but we'll get there.

Then friends of ours (Court, Michelle, and Kate) stopped by to meet Raelynn for the first time. Raelynn did great and was very friendly to all including the little one who unconsciously practiced puppy handling.

Today we confirmed that Raelynn is a fearless dog. Nothing phases her. She takes new things in stride and says, "Bring it on!" Unlike the kitties, the vaccuum doesn't bother her one bit! She notices cars, but isn't frightened. She is always excited to visit new places and meet new people.

Friday, April 24, 2009

First Official Outing and Lessons in Futility

Well today was a VERY exciting day! Raelyn went on her first official outing and did splendid!

This morning I had to teach a research class up at Dominican University in San Rafael. We were not planning on doing a whole lot during class, so I decided to take Raelyn with me. She put on her little puppy vest (guide dog in training official uniform) and off we went! She didn't mind having "clothes" on one bit, which was quite surprising... She looks very official and super adorable. :)

She then found herself going back inside her crate once in the car. She was not having any of that and was frustrated, so she whiny barked in the backseat for about 5-10 minutes. I just cranked up the Bon Jovi and sang along while she did some crappy, out of tune back up vocals. ( I have to practice as I'm lead singer for our most excellent band Mario Speedwagon in the Rock Band video game). Finally, I lost my back up singer as she realized she wasn't getting out of the crate so she powered down and went to sleep for the rest of the drive up to Dominican. It is super awesome that she doesn't care about being in the car. Yay!

Once we got to Dominican, there was so much to sniff! She walked on her own part of the way from the car to the science building, but we weren't making as much forward progress as we needed to since class starts at 9 so I carried her the rest of the way. Once we got to the building she was an attention magnet! Everyone wanted to come meet her and she did pretty good. A bit jumpy when she was excited to meet new people, so we will have to work on that. But she was very friendly with everyone and did great with all the touching and petting. Not much was done during class as Raelyn was WAY more interesting than graphs and science projects, but we got the important stuff done. Afterward we hung out in the grassy area outside making lots of new friends while eating super tasty grass and pine cones. No indoor accidents, so our visit was a HUGE success! She doesn't really go potty anyways in new places since relieving is not as exciting as sniffing all the new surroundings.

After we left Dominican, Raelyn was totally pooped and crashed in her crate immediately. On the way home, we had to make a pit stop at the other school I teach at (San Francisco State University) to pick up something in the department office. As she walked/was carried to the building, she loved to watch all of the people walk by on the sidewalk and wanted to make friends with all of them. There were so many people she didn't know where to start sometimes. We made our way to the office and were instantly surrounded by people gushing and fawning all over her and wanting to take her picture. It was like she had her own paparazzi! Again no indoor accidents and very friendly and well behaved the entire time.

Our adventures really wiped her out, so she proceeded to totally crash the rest of the afternoon until almost dinner time.

While Dale and I were eating dinner we discovered that we have another puppy trainer in the house. Shadow (our fraidy housecat) decided to grow a backbone and sit out of reach but in full view of Raelyn. Shadow just watched nonchalantly as Raelyn was going nuts trying to get at her to play. Raelyn would bark and whine and kitty just sat there quietly and patiently licking herself without a care in the world. Dale and I watched on in pure shock... Finally Raelyn figured out that all of the racket wasn't helping her situation so she just shut up and quietly sat back on her haunches. Apparently Shadow is a budding dog trainer.

So to recap what we learned today:
-Raelyn travels like she is a seasoned commuter.

-She thinks everyone is her BFF.

-Raelyn is a charmer and a half, melting everyone in sight and turning them into piles of oogly googly.

-Our cat Shadow is better at ignoring Raelyn than we are.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cute puppy hiccups!

Raelyn has survived another day! Hooray!

Well to start off, we have to admit that the "honeymoon" period with Raelyn has quickly come and gone. She is spunky, full of energy, and sassy!

She wasn't as good in the crate last night as she was the first night. She was very whiny, barky, and unhappy to be in the crate and not have us in her direct line of sight. (Our poor neighbors...) Dale, the awesome puppy guy he is, went and laid next to her crate and slowly rolled away from her so she would stay calm and quiet. Worked like a charm! She slept through night once she calmed down.

It is so amazing how quickly Raelyn is learning new things. In less than 24 hours, she figured out that lunging after and barking at the kitties is not productive, so she quit doing that for the most part. Most importantly, she has figured out that she needs to go outside before she can go potty! We will take her outside and she will "Do her business" just like that. A few times she whined and then went to the door to indicate that she wanted to go out and shortly after that she relieved. She has always relieved on a leash, so she is doing great with that. We are learning her cues so that helps as well!

I think the funniest and cutest thing we have learned so far about Raelyn is that she gets the hiccups whenever she chews on her bone for an extended period of time. At first I was concerned as she was making weird noises, but when I listened and watched closely she just had the hiccups! She gets them regularly after bone chewing sessions. The cutest thing ever! :) She also really loves to sleep upside down. Paws up and belly showing, kind of spread eagle...hilarous!

She is full of crazy energy! Holy cow. We took her out for 2 walks around the complex today and she ate up every minute of it. Sniffing around at all sorts of things. She walks great on a leash most of the time. Pretty amazing. While we have been out for our brief walks, the neighbors are coming out of the woodwork and are drawn to Raelyn. They have all gushed about how cute she is and how they could help with taking her out for walks. Tonight she met her first adult dog friend named Bear who lives with Tara 2 doors down. Raelyn did pretty well. She sniffed and wanted to play. A little bit of jumping, but no barking, so it went well. Bear was super tolerant and friendly and didn't mind a bit!

With all of her energy we have discovered she loves to "dance". We will jump around in front of her and she'll jump and dance around too. Sometimes she will get a little too excited so she'll lunge at you and try to nip, so we end that game.

Raelyn has also decided that being on a tie down isn't so bad after all. As long as you take a little bit of time to pet her and calm her down before you walk away, she doesn't mind most of the time. She stays quiet, chews her toys, and is mellow. Crazy how quickly she learns! Although she did end up sleeping most of the day and when she is sleeping she doesn't care about much of anything.

As part of her training we are supposed to do frequent "puppy handling" which is where you calmly poke and prode the puppy all over. You rub in between all of her toes, around her body, her tail, and play with her ears. The reason why this is important is because when she is with her blind partner, her partner can't see if there is anything wrong with her, so they will handle the dog and carefully check to make sure everything feels okay. Raelyn is totally cool with having everything touched and being puppy handled. When she is in the mood for play, then she will try to mouth/gnaw at you, but all other times she just sits there and goes to sleep.

Hopefully she will be okay tonight and not wake the neighbors! Wish us luck! :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Puppy's First 24 hours

Well we made it more than 24 hours and we still have 1 puppy and 2 kitties intact! Raelyn is settling right into her new home as she has made herself comfortable and already thinks she has the run of the place (much to the kitties chagrin).

We found out a few interesting facts about Raelyn today:
1. She can sleep through the night and hold it for more than 7 hours.
2. She LOVES water.
3. She gets very upset when the kitties and the dog in the mirror won't play with her.
4. She does NOT like to be left alone when she is wide awake.
5. She can't get enough ice cubes.
6. She is a natural on a leash.

So last night we prepared for the worst. We thought we would have a night full of whining with barking and have to get up every few hours to let her go potty, but it turned out she slept through the whole night without a peep! I was worried so I woke up at 7 (super early for me) to take her outside and feed her breakfast. Like Dale, Raelyn is not a morning dog. She was comfy and still didn't want to get out of her crate, so I had to pull her out. Crazy dog.

Both Dale and I left for work and she went right back in her crate ready to go back to sleep. I came home after teaching and she was super calm and mellow. Once out of her crate, we had her second great relieve (potty) of the day followed by lunch. While exploring the back patio, the lawn sprinklers turned on and she LOVED standing in the mist. Additionally, sometimes when she drinks from her water dish she tries to fit in all 4 feet. Needless to say, there is a quite a water mess when she is through. We are going to get a small plastic swimming pool for her to get her kicks.

While we were hanging out together during the day, Raelyn was wide awake and would want to play sometimes and other times just chill. We discovered that she has a loud frustration bark and whine which is prominently displayed when the kitties and the dog in the mirror will not play with her. If she is awake she needs to keep you in sight at all times or else all hell breaks lose, if she can't get to you. She isn't so good with her "alone time". She would go ballistic if I went around the corner and she couldn't get to me. Because she can't stand being by herself, she quickly understood a sort of "Come" as she'll trot right over to me if she can't see me and I call her. Pretty cute!

To distract her and get out some of her chewing energy, I found that ice cubes are a savior. She can't get enough and will chew on them all day if she had the chance.

After dinner this evening, we wanted to tire Raelyn out so hopefully she would sleep just as well tonight, so we took her for her first official walk. We went around the townhouse complex which is great because there are wide paved areas that she can trot along without being too distracted. She does great on a leash! She follows right with you and sometimes she'll take some of the leash in her mouth and prance around. It was a toss up between who had more fun Dale or the puppy!

Now the power switch has been turned to the off position and I think Raelyn will sleep well tonight! All-in-all a successful first day and we look forward to many more to come! :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Raelyn has entered the building!

Woohoo! The long waited day has finally arrived and without further ado, I introduce....Raelyn (pronounced Ray-lynn, we think). Raelyn is an 8 week old female black lab weighing in at about 10 lbs, most of that being skin. She was born February 21, 2009 to Cabby and Dorinda. She is super cute and lots of fun.

I picked her up from Guide Dogs and put her in her crate for the ride home and she did fabulous. A few minutes of whining, but I was whining at that point too because it felt like it was 100 degrees in the car. After we started driving and had the AC full blast, she calmed right down and went to sleep for the entire 1 hour drive home.

We arrived home and she was so excited to explore and sniff. She was very mellow at the beginning and easy going. Once she found out that she couldn't play with the kitties and was unable to romp around free since she was on a leash, she got a bit irrate. Raelyn wanted nothing more than to play with Shadow, but Shadow was all "Oh hell no." Raelyn whined and barked at Shadow which is definately not the best way to make kitty want to play with her, but whatever. The cats are keeping a wide distance, so Raelyn will figure it out eventually.

Dale came home and she warmed right up to him as Dale is the ultimate cross-species chick magnet. Raelyn adores all things Dale. Loves to play with him. Loves to sit next to him. Loves to sleep in his lap.

She has become comfortable in her new home really fast. We are becoming better at predicting when she wants to pee, but she is so fast luckily we have tile floors! Pooping has all been
outside and she gives good warning so that's great. She'll have us trained in no time.

She REALLY loves to chew on anything she can put in her mouth. She likes her drag line and tie down cable a lot. We are trying to bait and switch with more appropriate chew toys, so we'll see how that goes. She discovered that our deck is not made of wood! Apparently it is very tasty and made of chewy fake plastic wood. I sprayed some Bitter Apple on it, so hopefully she loses interest quickly.

She is not a big fan of the tie down. Whining quite a bit because she is so frustrated. When she is calm we will go over to her and pet her. After a throwing quite a fit for a few minutes, she laid down and went to sleep.

"Uncle" Frank came over to visit on his way home from work. So Raelyn had her first official visitor. She was more interested in sleeping at the time, so she didn't care much about Frank. Our cats love Frank as they remember him as the guy with seafood breath, so he will have to eat something more appropriate when he comes over next time.

She seems to love her crate already. It was funny, when she was tired after playing with Dale after he came home, she walked right into her crate and plopped down. Hopefully that bodes well for sleeping in the crate at night!

Our first day was a success and everyone is still alive. Raelyn is full of it, so it will be quite an adventure! :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Almost there!

Whew! We haven't even picked up our guide dog puppy and I'm already tired. Dale and I decided to raise a guide dog puppy back in early February and we are finally 3 days away from meeting our new friend. The process has been long, but Guide Dogs for the Blind ( really wants to make sure you are totally committed and not a complete nut job.

-So you may be wondering why on earth are you raising a guide dog puppy?

Well, while our cats are fun they aren't as interactive as we would like them to be. Dale has been wanting a dog for a while, but I wasn't ready to make the long term 15 year commitment that getting a pet dog would mean. So I was trying to figure out what our other options were when I remembered that when I drive up to teach at Dominican University in San Rafael, I notice there are lots of blind people walking with guide dogs. It made me think of a girl in high school who was raising a guide dog and brought it into school one day. I remembered how cool I thought it would be to be a part of that. So I started looking around online and found out that San Rafael doesn't have lots of blind people running around on the streets, the dogs that I saw on were in training from the Guide Dogs for the Blind center which is located near Dominican. (Funny side note, Guide Dogs has another training facility up in Boring, OR near where Grandpa Dan and Grandma Irene used to live!) So I read about becoming a guide dog puppy raiser and thought it sounded interesting, so I signed up for more information. Next thing I know I'm talking to one of the super friendly leaders of our local area guide dog puppy raising club, Robin. She answered all of my questions and was so enthusiastic about the process, that I was hooked. She suggested we start attending the meetings and so our journey began!

-What does it take to prove you aren't a total lunatic?

Guide Dogs for the Blind is serious about raising their puppies, so they want to make sure that you are ready for the commitment that it is going to take and so they properly vet you (no pun intended). There are many hoops to jump through starting with attending the Puppy Club meetings that are held twice a month. To demonstrate your commitment and to show that you can be reliable enough to come to regular meetings on time, we had to go to 3 consecutive meetings. The meetings were great as they introduced us to many new wonderful people who have in the past or are currently raising puppies.

Once we went to the meetings, we received the Official Training Manual which we had to read. There was a 100 question multiple choice test (just kidding). Reading the manual was very useful as it gives a lot of details on exactly how Guide Dogs wants you to raise their puppy. Dale and I are used to reading a lot of dry information, so the manual didn't scare us in the slightest especially since it had pictures of cute puppies on the front. I emailed the leaders of our puppy club the next day and told them that we wanted in!

Next we had to have a home interview visit with the leaders of the club to make sure our house was appropriate and to give suggestions about what we needed to fix to get our house puppy ready. (I'm sure they were also making sure we weren't total psychos.) After our application was filled out and we were approved by the leaders, we were ready for our puppy! Oh no, it wasn't that easy.

First to understand what is it like to have a guide dog puppy in our house, we had to puppy sit (baby sit) 3 times for other puppies in the club. After some scheduling madness, I set it all up and we were ready to have some puppy time. We ended up sitting Amity, an 8 month old female black lab, twice for the day. She and I had excellent adventures. We went to the library where we were swarmed by 40 1st graders all totally googly-eyed over a puppy in the library. Since I obviously had a dog, they knew I would want to know all about their pets. So I heard about a beagle named Larry who liked to sit on the couch, a parrot named Lucky, and also about how they loved gymnastics...6 year olds are pretty random. We also took a trip to the hardware store. That was when I realized that if you were single raising a guide dog puppy would be the best thing EVER! You walk around with a dog in a store which draws attention and is an obvious conversation starter AND you look all sensitive and nice because you are raising a guide dog. If that doesn't score digits, I don't know what would...

Our other puppy sitting adventure was with Neola, a 12 month old female black lab, for an entire weekend. We picked her up and off we went! We went on a long hike with friends (Charlotte and Alex) and then went over to visit other friends for the evening (Court and Michelle). We decided to go out to dinner at a Thai restaurant, but we needed to make sure they would allow the puppy to come in too. I called and finally got their okay after slowly repeating in a loud voice "I AM RAISING A GUIDE DOG PUPPY. CAN I BRING IT INTO YOUR RESTAURANT? WHAT IS A GUIDE DOG? YOU KNOW BLIND PEOPLE? BLIND AS IS PEOPLE WHO CAN'T SEE BECAUSE THEIR EYES DON'T WORK..." Dinner was great and it was a huge compliment as we got up to leave the waiter told us with surprised eyes that he didn't even realize we had a dog with us. The next day was fun as I finally realized the swollen teat that I noticed the day before was actually a tick, so the puppy raiser took Neola to the vet and got it all checked out.

The suprising thing was that after all that the kitties don't totally hate us. Daisy asserted her dominance and was all, "Get the F away from me...Don't make me smack you." Puppies learned real quick to leave Daisy alone. Shadow was really intrigued and curious about them. She would casually go over to sniff and then run away when the big dog would come towards her. So this bodes well for when we get our puppy.

Now that we have done the puppy sitting we are even more excited about getting our puppy and starting the process. It will definitely be tough and will required lots of hard work, but it will be fun and rewarding as well. Dale and I attended a graduation ceremony at Guide Dogs last month for the guide dog graduates and their blind partners. It was a really amazing thing to hear the blind people share how much having a guide dog partner meant to them. The dogs truely change people's lives and the whole event was so inspiring.

-So what do we mean when we say we are raising a guide dog puppy?

Our job as puppy raisers is to socialize and teach the puppy basic commands and manners. We not only house train the puppy, but also teach it to relieve on a leash and on command. We will teach it basic commands like sit, stay, down, and come. We will be responsible for taking the puppy to many different places to get the puppy used to being in crowded busy places where they will most likely find themselves with their blind partner. We take the puppy to school, work, store, library, sporting events, restaurants, movies, friend's houses, and pretty much anywhere you can think of. Although fully trained guide dogs are allowed by law to go anywhere with their blind partners, the puppies in training are not considered to be service animals, so we are only able to take the puppy into places that allow us entry. The guide dog puppies require a lot of attention, handling, managing, and training, so it is a tough job almost like keeping Britney out of rehab.

-So when do we get our puppy already?

After going through everything, we are totally psyched about getting our guide dog puppy. Almost 3 months after we started this whole process, we got an email saying our puppy is ready to be picked up from Guide Dogs on 4/18. Which was actually about a week or two before we thought we'd get one! So we have been scrambling around trying to make sure we have everything ready. All we know is that the puppy may be a female black lab with a first name that starts with "R" (we don't get to name the puppy, the center does it all so that way none of the dogs have the same name). As long as it isn't named Rachael I'm cool with it. Dale says we can refer to it as R-tard when it isn't minding.

The plan is to pick up the puppy on monday (4/20) afternoon! And take lots of pictures! We are going to embark on an epic journey and here we will be chronicling our crazy adventures. Wish us luck and tune in for the next installment of Puppy Madness! :)