"Not My Dog": Tales from Puppy Raising

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A visit to NY

OK, it was a week ago, and I'm finally getting around to posting about the day I spent at Guiding Eyes last Thursday. I've been battling a bit of a bug, so it has been a matter of taking care of family, job, Nettie, etc. and the "blogger" role has been last in line!

Anyway, as people may have noted, I am a professional journalist. I got such a great response when I wrote about Murphy for my newspaper that I kept thinking that I would like to write even more. (The Murphy story started out about four times as long as what was published.)
So, I am hoping to pitch this experience to a longer forum. Hopefully it will work out. We will see.
I talked with some folks with Guiding Eyes, and they were gracious enough to let me come down for a research trip (the more research, the better the pitch.) even though there are no guarantees here.

I spent the morning following around Susan, a trainer, as she worked on Colonial Drive with some pups that are just starting out. It was such a great experience to get to watch how she is working the dogs, and what they're trying to accomplish at this stage. Susan is amazing -- she changed careers to come to GEB, and her passion for her work is so inspiring. I loved watching her patience with the dogs, and her eye for who they are and where they are at.

When I was getting ready to leave the training center and head up to the CDC, I couldn't help it -- I had to break my journalistic objectivity, and I broke down and asked Susan if I could see Murphy, if he happened to be in the kennel.
She called Woody, Murphy's trainer, to make sure it was ok with her -- sometimes, apparently, seeing the puppy raiser can upset the pup and confuse it. That was the last thing I wanted for Murphy, of course.
Well, Woody said immediately that it was ok for me to see him. I went out into community run, and Susan brought him out. He charged out straight toward me, and then he almost hesitated, like a doggie double-take and then got even more excited.

I like to think that he knew me. We played for about 5 or 10 minutes. I was blown
away -- he is even bigger. He's like a lanky kid who went off to college and hit the weight room. He's really filled out, but in a good way. Very barrel-chested and muscular. He resembles his dad, Farrell, even more, I would say, based on the photos I've seen of Farrell. I'm guessing he's at least 80 pounds now -- whew! His coat is as gorgeous and wavy as ever; he even sat on my feet to have a neck rub like I used to give him.

One last fierce hug, and Susan and I kenneled him. I also saw Maddox, who is in the next-door kennel and looks quite well, too.

Then I went to the CDC and spent the afternoon with Jane, who oversees the breeding. She walked me through how she decides to breed -- or not -- and we used Murphy's litter for a test case on why none of them bred. Then she and I went out on a brood/stud walk, where we went to Brewster and evaluated 10 dogs that were under consideration. It was fascinating to talk to her about the data and how she makes her choices, and then watch her evaluate. I ended up working a potential brood, Pandora, for Jane because she had three workers and four dogs in that group. (I was incredibly nervous that she would think I wasn't very good at working the dog! )

Luckily Pandora is an incredible dog. It looks like she will be bred, and in another "it's a small world" moment, she might go live with Farrell's family.

We finished off by Jane working out a mating and explaining to me how she chose the pairing. I will be watching eagerly to see how the Passion/Vernon puppies turn out!

everyone at GEB is so dedicated to what they do. The atmosphere is so dedicated. It seems like almost every staffer is raising/fostering, too. I got to meet Nia, Nettie's sister. I was introduced to Nia, and I immediately asked as soon as I heard "N" if she was the N306 litter, because she's about the exact same size as Nettie, and only slightly darker.

I have to think that there are a couple book chapters in the day... I think I first started thinking about a book pitch was when I read "Marley and Me" and it just made me so mad, that I wanted to tell people about how you can really work with a dog.

Anyway, the other "small world" moment was when I stayed in the guest house and my room had a photo of Diego, the pup that Sarah raised. It was nearly 10 p.m., I'd worked all day and then driven almost 5 hours, and I just laughed. It was such a perfect circle.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Go figure ...

Someone tell me why it is that you can have a puppy who's exhausted from the day's activity, snoozing away ... and when you seize this opportunity to try to clip their nails, the puppy immediately gets a spectacular second wind!

Some things don't change

The birdwatching is always good from the kitchen window, and little boys and puppies will always be friends.

I am admittedly biased, but how can you not go "awwwww" ?

And as a reminder, this shot from last summer:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

From last weekend

Diane emailed this picture of Nettie playing on the beach. Thanks, Diane!

Best analogy I've heard in a while

Tonight, as we discussed the dogs:

Bob: "Murphy was a 'learning to drive stick-shift in New York City' kind of dog."

Despite never having learned to drive stick shift in NYC, I think I get what he means.

Monday, March 19, 2007

So far, so good

In self-defense, I did cautiously let Nettie play yesterday afternoon. I kept her on the long line, but did not throw a ball or anything, just let her explore and race around at her own pace. She seemed to do well for 20 minutes, and I ended it then, figuring it's better to ease back in. So far, so good. I watched her like a hawk last night, and didn't see any hint of favoring the leg.

She had been getting somewhat obnoxious when she was restricted on exercise -- well, jumping more than usual -- so I'm glad to be past this.

She's quite a sweetie. She's lying on my feet and snoring as we speak. For a girl pup, she makes the most unladylike noises. You should hear her burp after she eats sometimes.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Who needs the rest cure?

Let's just say that Nettie is READY, READY, READY to run, and we still have a few days before the vet says it's ok to let her.
Which one of us do you think needs more rest? She's being a handful, bless her heart!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Technical difficulties, but a really nice weekend...

Yes, I know I've been text-heavy lately. The digital camera is broken. Hopefully we'll get it fixed soon, and hopefully there is not much wrong. It started acting up after I was taking pictures of Nettie playing in the snow, so Bob is suspicious that the problem is at our feet, although I don't remember it getting banged or anything. But I digress. I did get a cheap disposable and have been taking some pictures, so once that film is developed (remember that?), I'll scan them in.

Anyway, this weekend was great and I wish I had pictures. We went to our area coordinator's house on Saturday for a puppy playdate -- she has a fenced-in paddle court. It was Nettie; Europe, who is about 13 months; Kessler, who is 8 months; and Edward, a German Shepherd who is about 6 months. They all had a great time and played really nicely together. We let them romp for at least an hour. Nettie was exhausted at the end! I also had Andrew with me, as Bob was out of town, and he was pretty well-behaved too!

Nettie came along in the car and stayed in the crate while we did errands and grabbed lunch. The only glitch of the day was when she threw up in the crate -- probably just from all the running around, I think -- and of course I had only a few paper towels left. In a pinch, a poop bag will work.

Fortunately, the pet store was not far away, so we dashed over there. Andrew decided Nettie should get a small toy to make her feel better, and now that we had bought something, I had no qualms with smilingly requesting a large wad of paper towels to go, which they gladly gave.

Then, on Sunday, Nettie got a sleepover, so that we could go to NH for the night to see Bob. She went to a raiser who lives on Peaks Island, so we got a great socialization experience, of riding the ferry! I put Nettie's bandanna on, so people would not try to pet her. She jumped and pulled a lot when we first arrived at the terminal, but we were 20 minutes early, which gave us time for her to settle in.

It was relatively balmy here -- 40s -- so we rode on the upper deck outside. Nettie jumped a bit when they blew the horn, but otherwise settled in and by the end, looked like she'd been riding all her life. I was very proud of her. I think I got one excellent shot of her with the city in the distance. (Andrew was very cute -- he was very worried about her falling overboard, and constantly kept telling me to "keep her on a short leash, Mom!")

When we got to Diane's, we let her explore and check out the toys Diane had for her, then we walked down to the beach, where dogs are allowed to run off-leash. No one else was there, so it was perfect. I don't think Nettie has much water experience, and when she saw a seagull just offshore, she went flying into the water, covering about 20 feet in about six leaps. Then she came to an abrupt halt, with an amazed look on her face, in water up to her back. You could tell she was thinking, "WHAT!?! How did I get here?"

Diane said she was very good when she was there and on the ferry ride back, too.

She did give us a bit of a scare. Last weekend, when playing in the snow, she had slipped while chasing her ball and came up favoring a leg. I halted her play immediately and she seemed to walk it off in a couple minutes, and even wanted to go back and chase the ball more. I didn't think too much of it, but then on Saturday, during the play date, we thought she limped a bit toward the end. So we pulled her out of the yard and walked her around, and then it didn't seem like she was doing it any more. But Diane also thought she favored the leg a bit on Sunday night, after her beach outing.

Just to be safe, I talked to the GEB vets on Monday and got her in to our vet on Monday afternoon. (Again, a big plug for the Edgewood Animal Hospital in Gorham, ME for donating Nettie's care and Murphy's too.)

The good news is that the vet thinks that she hasn't torn anything. He does think she may have strained her leg last weekend when she fell, not badly enough that it showed up right away -- or that she doesn't want to play -- but enough that it's manifesting itself when she gets tired. She is taking an anti-inflammatory for 10 days, and we're not going to let her run off-leash or on a long line for several days. She already seems better, in that I haven't seen her favor it at all today. And actually, she already wants to run around, I can tell. This will be interesting by day 9!

Meanwhile, the stuffed squeaky pelican -- the "feel better" toy -- is getting a workout. She is at my feet honking it repeatedly. I do think it sounds more like a goose, though.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Nettie nicknames

I posted this on Sarah's blog in comments, but she inspired me to share some of Nettie's nicknames so far:

Nettie Spaghetti (thanks to Andrew)
Nettie Lou ( the middle name that Carol gave her)

the Netinator .. only when she's acting up!

Murphy's middle name, by the way, was Murphy O'Brien. He needed a good Irish middle name and this was an homage to my late mother-in-law, who truly would have believed that I had gone insane for embarking on this adventure. (It was her maiden name)
(Digression: Puppies, like children, need a middle name so that you can use the first name, middle name and last name all at once when you need to convey just how much /rapidly you need their attention.
I will never forget the time that Andrew, upon hearing me call the dog "Murphy O'Brien," solemnly inform him: "You'd better listen, mama's getting ticked off."

His other nicknames were pretty prosaic: MurphMurph was the most common.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Yay Murphy!!!!!!!!

I'm going to get the whole report up, but I don't have much time before work and I have to report the basics: I got Murphy's latest report card last night and it was ALL "good"s AND he is already in Phase 3!!
I had been waiting on pins and needles for it, as Maddox's came last week. I was surprised though, because Maddox's was for phase 2, and I didn't realize Murphy was in phase 3.
Anyway, I'm going to get all of it formatted, but I wanted to get Woody's (the trainer's) comments up for now.
I'm so proud and excited that I'm probably going to bore everyone I encounter today who knows Murphy, because this is very hard news to keep to myself!

Murphy has progressed nicely into this phase of training. We have just completed preliminary blindfold. He has a nice foundation and the beginnings of a solid work pattern. He is easy going and a conscientious worker. He is on the sensitive side with average distraction he is easily reached through voice. Murphy does have a bit of a scavenging problem often diving for food or paper on the ground or a treat that either he has dropped or I have inadvertantly dorpped. We will continue to work on this in the weeks and months to come.
Due to Murphy being of a more sensitive nature he has had a bit of a left tendency but with some work Murphy is becoming more confident in himself and is learning to maintain his strait line more consistently even when being pushed left. He has begun to learn to fight the handler and push back to the right. Good Boy!!

At times of uncertainty and confusion he can and does lack some inner confidence but with some verbal support he has been taking on more responsibility. He has been working on building his confidence in times when he needs to think a little more and problem solve his way out a situation. I can see him building a very nice work pattern. He works at a steady moderate pace with an average pull.

Murphy’s indoor work has been nice. Inside he has been learning to target different places such as stairs, escalators, elevators and different doors. Murphy has learned to ride both the escalator and the elevator.

Murphy has been a joy to work and I look forward to continuing his training. He will be starting traffic and platform training in the weeks to come.

Murphy’s roommate is still Gerard and the two have the best time romping around together both in the run and out during community run time.

(Lots more updates from the weekend and news of Nettie to come, but that has to wait for now.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I don't know quite what this says about me...

Andrew and I had errands to run on Saturday, including a stop at the redemption center to drop off a load of bottles. So we put Nettie in the car for the ride, even though I wouldn't be formally working her. (You cannot work a pup and a 5-year-old at the same time. Well, if you can, I'd like to meet you.)

Anyway, I had to briefly get out of the car to collect my money at the redemption center. When I got back in, things looked fine, with Nettie on the floorboard where she belongs, etc. I took another gulp of my coffee, and Andrew started giggling hysterically from the backseat.

"Nettie licked your coffee cup," he reported through peals of giggles.

You know what? I kept drinking. This enterprise runs on caffeine. I had 2/3 of a cup left, and I needed that coffee. Besides, it's not like she hasn't slurped my face before anyway. And hot coffee kills germs, right?