"Not My Dog": Tales from Puppy Raising

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Marley redux

Well, it's a breeze of a book -- I finished on Friday, right after Murphy's eval. (Since we were going to Bar Harbor, Murphy went home with Doris, another raiser/sitter, and thus I actually had an hour to read..

Apologies to Grogan re my note-taking/memory crack. He apparently kept a journal throughout his life.

However, this does not change the fact that I'd be tempted to kick him if I met him. Although I know he really did love that dog.
More soapbox on Marley & Me later.


At evals, Bessie decided that she wanted to work Murphy, so that she could see how he reacted/behaved for an unfamiliar person.

He. Was. A. Champ.

Construction? He flicked his ear and kept trotting along. Scary banging dumpter lid? You could practically see him roll his eyes. Please, he's saying, how often has that woman smashed together carts at Hannaford? Scary person? He wagged his tail. (Maybe he figured out that it was Ann in a hooded sweatshirt.)

Nina and I trailed behind, excitedly whispering and even clutching each other now and then. I teared up. At the risk of trivializing my flesh and blood, I felt almost like I did when I saw Andrew run jump on the school bus for the first day of kindergarten.

I know a lot could still go wrong, but I just have a good feeling that he's going to be a guide.

I intend to bawl my eyes out at several points along the way.

Oh, yes, anticlimactic: he got his jacket.

And Bessie is talking about taking him in for training in December, not January.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Murphy & Me

I finally have started reading Marley & Me and I may blow a gasket by the end. So far, I'm gleaning that they didn't even attempt to train him before he was about 8 months old, and now the author is baffled that this is a "bad" dog.
Expect me to be posting more as I work my way through, sparing Bob the periodic interruptions where I have to read things to him aloud in amazement.
Yet, people loved this book. People love dog stories. Wonder if anyone would buy one about a pretty good dog who got lots of training and ended up being a guide dog?
(From a reportorial/writing standpoint, I find it amusing and slightly stretching credibility that he recalls conversations 15 years ago to the word. Was he thinking of a book even then? I guess I'm relieved that my note-taking hasn't been more thorough. Perhaps there's hope for the 'Murphy & Me' book!)
Anyway, it does raise the interesting nurture vs. nature question. I think one of the whole things that's been a challenge for me in the guide dog process is that I feel like how Murphy does -- whether he succeeds or not -- reflects on me and how I've trained him. And to a point, it does. But at a point, too, the dog's nature has to triumph. That's where Murphy might have an advantage. From all accounts, he's a "pistol". If one more raiser tells me what a tough pup he is for a first-timer, I might scream. So, maybe he would have been a Marley without all this work.

Tomorrow is eval day, where we hope to officially get his GEB coat.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What we did Saturday

Murphy was beautifully behaved at the White Cane Walk .. we walked with two released dogs, a retired guide, and another puppy in training. I wish I had taken the camera to get a shot of Murphy, Jasper, Joseph and Jasek -- four handsome black Labs together.

Here's a link to the article in the Sunday Telegram.. in the guide dog photo, Doris and Jasper are in the background at left...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Moving along

When dog training goes well, it really gives you a lift.
I started this morning in a stressed-out, discouraged mood, frankly bordering on angry, for non-dog reasons.
Met Nina and Europe at Maine Med, and Murphy performed like a guide dog, behaving beautifully. Nina couldn't get over how much more mature he seems, even in the span of a couple weeks. 1 was a magic number for him, apparently.
As I drove home, suddenly everything, even the other stuff, seemed so much more manageable again.
When I got Murphy in November, I don't think I had much of an idea of some of the things that this year would throw at me. (Of course, you never do with life, do you?)
Murphy turned out to be a harder task than I ever expected, and brought me more self-doubt than I anticipated. That's true on other fronts. But things here have been hard in a different way than South Carolina, which was hard in the "if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger" sense of hard. I would say this past year has been a theme of moving on through disappointments, setbacks and doubt.
In South Carolina, I came to the conclusion that sometimes -- and I mean the work situation there -- the best choice in life is to throw up your hands, say screw it, this isn't working, and cut and run.
Here, it's been a year where cut and run wasn't an option on any front, really.
But Murphy is giving me hope that at least on his front, there's a reward for staying the course.

Mark your calendars

Murphy and Maddox are scheduled to go to New York for their IFTs on Jan. 9, 2007.

Of course, this being Guiding Eyes, that could -- and probably might -- change!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Also, another life truth.

No comment needed.

Why crates are good

Note the color and breed.....

Salem – A family of five was displaced from its home yesterday after the family dog started a fire by turning on the toaster while trying to get to a box of doughnuts.

The fire damaged the 27 Haverhill St. home of Steve and Joanne Berterand and killed the dog.

The incident happened while the family was at the Topsfield Fair, and the dog, a black Labrador retriever, apparently tried to get at a box of doughnuts that was on top of the toaster and accidentally turned on the toaster, according to Deputy Chief Michael P. Wallace

The thing is, I probably used to be one of the people who thought that crating a dog was bad. But now, I wouldn't have one without it. Even if Murphy flunks and becomes a "forever dog", he's going to have a crate.
I agree with the GEB philosophy of preventing him from being in a situation where he can be bad ... God knows how much havoc he could wreak without training and supervision. As it is, the tail is becoming a hazard to anything in its path.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Leaving his mark

Even if Murphy leaves and becomes a guide, I will always have a physical memory of his time here.
About six weeks ago, I was trying to exercise him on a long line in a groggy, nasty bug-induced state. Whether it was my haste, my innate clumsiness or the doping qualities of Robitussin, I failed to note the long line wrapped around my bare ankle before hurling Murphy's frisbee -- his favorite thing in the world.
In a word, ow.
I ended up with a neat 1/4 inch deep raw imprint of his line, about 3/4 inch wide, around two-thirds of my ankle. Within days, despite immediate washing and medicine, the wound had swollen and I had angry streaks of red halfway up my calf and down to my instep. I knew where that line had been, and so I wound up at the doctor for her to confirm that, yes, the wound was infected, and yes, I needed antibiotics.
Suffice it to say that visuals were considered and rejected for this topic. Six weeks later, and the thing is finally healed, but I suspect scarred for life. Right now it looks like a pink ankle bracelet. Thank goodness it's getting chillier and I have less opportunity to flash a bare ankle. I got lots of surreptitious looks.
I was thinking about it now, because I was thinking about how this nearly a year with Murphy has changed me, probably in a lot of ways that I don't even yet understand. I stitched a saying for Nina's 20th anniversary party: "Dogs leave pawprints on our hearts." And it really is true.
Murphy turned 1 on Sept. 15, and it's only sinking in how he has started to mature almost overnight. He still has his puppy moments, and he still is displaying stress in some situations. But I can actually start to visualize him guiding some day. And, more importantly, I think I'm actually reaching the point where I'm focusing on him, on us, and less about how I think he ought to be doing, or how I think other pups are doing.
"He will be what he is supposed to be," Nina said.
Dogs and Zen. Who've have thunk that Zen could come with so much chaos?