The Name Game

Stephen had a BIG day today visiting Mrs. Kotwitz’s (aka daughter Julie) 2nd grade class. It was his 1st time to be around so many youngsters! I think overall he was a bit stressed, but he handled it all well.

We began with a book. Looking Out for Sara by Glenna Lang. (Rhythm did a review of this book on her blog – HERE.

The kids seemed to like the book and we had a good discussion about the world of the Blind. I don’t think Stephen thought too much of the book, but he was really interested in the shoe laces that were right under his nose. Letting the kids pet him while I read was a little much for this little guy, so I put him under me for the duration.

After storytime, I let everyone pet Stephen a bit – just a few at a time. Then I decided to let them play a game with Stephen. At home, Stephen and I play the Name Game. I call his name and if he responds he gets a treat! He knows his name REALLY well. At home, he comes running if he’s out of sight and if he’s close by he comes to attention. He’s good at this game!! Or so I thought.

I thought it would be a good one since he does so well at home. I expected him to be a little off his game because he was in a strange environment and he didn’t know these kids. But I gave all the kids a couple of treats for him and had them sit at their tables. Mrs Kotwitz went around and picked an individual to call Stephen. I instructed them to be nice and loud and clear and if he came to say “Yes!” and give him a treat. Well, evidently he doesn’t really know his NAME! He seems to just know ME! My VOICE is what he’s responding to at home! So, sometimes he didn’t acknowledge his name at all. Sometimes he looked at me.

We tried it a bit differently. I had the student stand kind of close to me and call his name. At first he just looked at me still, but after a couple of times he figured out that that hand over there had a treat in it and he would follow the hand. But not necessarily his name.

So, the day turned into a learning experience for me! I know that dog’s don’t naturally transfer knowledge from one environment to another and from one person to another, but I expected him to do better than he did. So, now we’re going to be playing the Name Game with a lot more people in a lot more places!!

Be ready! Stephen and I may show up at your front door!!

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A Birthday Party

Stephen is not the only dog residing at the 7 Acre Wood. He shares space and time with the Big Man on Campus, Walker.

Walker was once a Guide Dog Pup in Training just like Stephen. He was part of a prison program that Southeastern was involved with at one time, and was raised at a women’s facility in Ft Worth. We were his weekend raisers.

After going off to College at Southeastern he was Career Changed. This means that  he went through his guide dog training course, and then a decision was made that he would be more suited to a different career path. In Walker’s case, it involved a knee injury. One bad enough that the school felt his working life would be limited. So, Walker came back to live here with us and became a Therapy Dog. And that turned out to be just the right job for him!

Walker helping out in West, Tx after an explosion disaster

He spent several years going to school and reading with students. He walked the halls of school and greeted each and every student and teacher. He brought smiles to everyone.

He also helped out at Pate Rehab Hospital in Dallas encouraging patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries to do what their therapists asked of them, and he visited a Juvenile Detention Center where he helped bring smiles to rebellious teens.

Walker is quite famous in certain circles as an artist. He paints with his tail!

Now Walker is retired and lives a pretty uneventful life at the 7 Acre Wood. Until a pup shows up to turn his days upside down.

Walker recently had a birthday. #11! Every year since he was a pup, we try to get together with 2 of his brothers who live near by and have a big celebration. One brother couldn’t make it this year, but we had some fun with brother, Honor, and some other canine friends. Stephen thought it was all rather grand!

Honor and Walker
Birthday boys enjoying their Frosty Paws!
Stephen and new friend Lily

Birthdays are times to celebrate. Even for dogs. Every year that they are with us is precious time. Time goes by so fast. One minute they’re a rowdy pup and the next they’re grey and slowing down. These last couple of years have taught me so much about appreciating how fleeting time can be. I don’t know how much longer Walker will be with us. You can’t really count on any tomorrows. So, I try to make every day with Walker a good day. I’ve kind of thrown a wrench into that idea by bringing a pup into our lives, but Walker is learning to appreciate little Stephen a bit. Maybe they’ll get to be good buddies. Time will tell.

I wish you all Happy Days – whether it’s Birthdays or not. Make the most of them!!

All Around the Town

Stephen just recently got his “Big Boy Coat.” This means he is now old enough to go out into public in a big way. His coat is his official introduction to the public that he is a “Guide Dog Puppy in Training.” In Texas pups in training have access rights the same as working dogs – as long as they are accompanied by a trainer. The puppy raiser is considered to be the pup’s trainer.

Stephen was not overly excited about his new attire. That thing rubbing his belly was a bit of a nuisance. But that’s part of his training. As a working guide dog, it will be necessary for him to wear a harness that goes around his belly and his chest. His new coat will help him get comfortable with all that equipment.

Since Stephen’s uniform is now complete, he can accompany me on adventures out and about town. We have been doing easy outings so far. Not too much noise or chaos. Like the post office.

And the bank

And the Dr. office – where they were very impressed with how polite he was.

And church. For a quiet evening of Stations of the Cross

And our busiest evening took place at a Public Meeting held at the high school. This was a meeting to let our local citizens learn about options being proposed for a 2nd bridge across our Paluxy River. There were LOTS of local folks there along with big maps on easels and maps on tables. Lots of milling around. Lots of legs and feet and hands wanting to pet. Everyone wanted to meet Stephen. And he was a real champ!

After we viewed all the maps and wrote out our comments we took some photos out in front of the high school.

And then he didn’t want to leave!

He said – You go on without me!!

Stephen is becoming a Man About Town. His fame is spreading!

Y’all have a good weekend!!

 

A Training Lollapalooza!

Well, we just experienced a pretty intense weekend of training and dogs and people and distractions and fun, fun, fun!

This was the FIRST Puppy Training Conference starring our Southeastern Regional Manager – Cheryl Herman and hosted by our friends down in Houston – the Houston Puppy Raisers! It was 2 days of training. Learning new techniques and new ideas – new for the pups and new for us handlers. There were 17 dogs in attendance. 6 little ones from the Dallas area, 10 older pups from the Houston area, and one little guy who was on his way to his new home in Ft Worth.

The training emphasis was on “Yes!” marker use and impulse control.  The school uses clicker training when the pups go off to college in Florida, but they don’t want us puppy raisers using clickers. So, we use the marker word “Yes!” and treats! With this training, timing is crucial! If you miss the EXACT moment that the pup does the correct behavior, you might be training him to do something very different from what you’re after. We practiced this timing bouncing tennis balls. The “Yes!” had to come at the exact moment the ball hit the floor! And then a treat should follow.

Impulse control is also crucial. You can’t have a guide dog who is leading a visually impaired partner get distracted by another dog walking by, or food on the ground, or squirrels, or people, or strange noises, or whatever. Those working guide dogs have to keep their attention on their person and that person’s safety.  It’s a serious job!!

Lots of yummies around on the floor!!

Positioning is also crucial. A guide dog needs to be able to stand right beside their person – straight on without moving in front or sideways. If the dog gets out of position, it throws the person out of position and then everybody gets messed up.

Whew!! Lots to think about! And lots to work on!!

There was plenty of down time for the little guys. Play time, chill time.

Stephen and brother Griffy
Brotherly love!
Pups in the elevator!
Stephen, Griffy , Dottie

It was a long drive to Houston, but well worth the time. Thanks to the Houston group and to Cheryl for making it all happen!!

Biddable

Southeastern Guide Dogs breeds and trains working dogs – dogs who will hopefully grow up to be Guide Dogs for the seeing impaired or possibly service dogs for injured veterans. The school wants to be confident in the dogs that they place with these folks so they do all that they can to insure their dogs are healthy and happy and strong – physically and mentally.

Meeting new friends at the 7 Acre Wood

When their pups are about 8 weeks old they do a puppy assessment that gives them a pretty good idea if a pup will have what it takes to become a working dog. If the pup gets a good score on this assessment, it is placed with a volunteer puppy raiser to be raised in a family setting rather than a kennel.

The report that I received about Stephen’s assessment says that he is –

a biddable puppy that connects well with the handler. He will need support when checking out new environments and objects. Reward Stephen for independent exploration and allow him to check things our at his own pace. Repeat exposures will help Stephen gain confidence. Stephen recovers quickly from stressful situations.

Stairs can be pretty scary! Especially open ones.

A Biddable puppy. That’s Stephen. That means that he’s happy to do what you ask of him. He wants you to be happy. That is Stephen in a nutshell.  I have found him to be curious about his new environment and quick to check out new things. No hesitation. No backing away. Sniff, examine, let’s go!

He knows his name and seems to be quite happy with it, coming quickly with a sparkle in his eye. “You called? What’s next?! Where’s that treat?!”

Doing a nice Sit/Stay at White Rock Lake

He enjoys training sessions and is quick to pick up what I’m asking of him. He’s looking to be a good one!

Tomorrow he and I are off to Houston for a Puppy Conference! This event is being hosted by the Houston area puppy raisers. There will be LOTS of pups there and a couple of trainers from the school. I’ve never been to such an affair. Stephen and I both will be experiencing a new situation. It should be lots of fun!!

I’ll let you know all about it when we return!

Welcoming STEPHEN!!

After a 2 1/2 year hiatus from puppy raising due to family matters,  we are back in the ballgame! Our family matters made it necessary to rehome Marni and she finished out her last few months with another family. She did go off to College and worked hard on her graduate work, but found it difficult to take charge and make decisions on her own. So, she was career changed and now lives a Happy, Happy life with my brother.

But now comes Stephen. On February 23, I flew out to Florida with other Dallas area puppy raisers who were ” turning in” their pups for college time. And we all came home with new pups! Siblings from the same litter.  Stephen, Arthur, Griffy, and Dottie. Mom is Dolly and Dad is Buddy. They were born November 12, 2017 and were 14 weeks old when we picked them up. Stephen weighed in at 23.4 lbs. A nice big boy!

Those pups had a busy weekend in our hands! Dinner at Miller’s, a walk thru De Soto Park where they experienced their 1st river water! Lots of walking and smelling new smells and seeing new sights and meeting new faces. And we topped it off with a crazy gauntlet at the airport and a long rough flight home to Dallas. Then Stephen got an extra 2 more hours in the car to his new home in Glen Rose!

It was Puppy Pile time everywhere!!

Stephen has now been at the 7 Acre Wood for nearly 2 weeks and has already had many adventures. He’s had a lot to adjust to! Whew!!

So, stay tuned for more of The Adventures of Stephen in Wonderland!

The days and nights of a Guide Dog Puppy in training