Monday, June 13, 2011

June puppy raiser meeting

Puppy camp is over and it's our last day with Hannah.
It's also time for our June puppy raiser meeting in Houston.
We took Hannah to the monthly puppy raiser meeting with us, to exchange back for Smokey.
First off, Carol shares her experiences with Smokey this past week in puppy camp.  She also demonstrates some obedience commands with Smokey.
We all share our experiences from puppy camp, and tell highlites of our week with the different pups.
The pups get comfie as we talk. See how relaxed Hannah is?
 Houston is always a good boy and very patient in meetings.
 He is a big boy and it's sometimes a challenge to get him DOWN and UNDER the little chairs we have to sit in.
 Here he stretches to get comfie...
and entertain us a bit
Next, Carol brings out a distraction...
...a little windup stuffed dog that walks and raises it's ears up and down. 
It really gets the dog's attention...
The reason for this exercise is to teach the dogs to ignore distractions -- ALL distractions!  The pups are all very interested, but none of them take the bait. Such good pups!!
 Watching closely, but Houston never even moved.
 Next, everyone puts down distractions they brought from home to test the pups even more.
One by one, the pups were led through and around the "distraction obstacle course" to teach and reinforce the desired behavior.
 Distractions included things like flip flops, spanish moss, pecans, magnolia leaves, sea shells...
 Socks, tree bark, toys, previously chewed gum, among other things..
 In and out..
 Around and around...
 Checking everything out...
 All did very well...

til all were weary and tired out of the game..
To better identify with the experiences of a visually impaired guide dog handler, the puppy raisers did some role play exercises to understand the difficulty of working with a dog without the benefit of sight. Our first exercise is something all puppy raisers do several times a day....putting the service jacket on the pup. 

To help us understand the process, Carol did a demonstration of the proper technique. To begin the exercise, we give the COME and then the STAND command. Hold the dog's leash and remove the pup's jacket by pulling it off the dog's head and sliding it over the leash. Then we put on the blindfold.
 Reach down and find the dog and grasp it's collar.
Give the pup the STAND command and feel the jacket to find the raised print on the outside of the jacket.  Thread the neckhole of jacket, printed side out, onto the leash.
Pull the jacket all the way down the leash and feel for the pup's head - then slide the jacket over the dog's head and smooth the jacket down in place.
Reach down to feel for the clasp on the jacket and snap it closed.
Now everybody got to practice putting the jackets on while wearing a blindfold.
 Greg removed Smokey's jacket and gives Smokey the STAND command
 Threading the jacket through the leash and over Smokey's head
 Snapping the jacket clasps closed
 Our next role play exercise was to simulate having a meal at a table while handling, and keeping track of, our pup without the benefit of sight. We put the blindfolds on and seated ourselves at the table. We gave the pups the UNDER and DOWN command to put them in place at our feet below the table. Then Carol placed cupcakes in front of everyone and told us to eat them.
Locating the cupcakes on the table in front of us was the first challenge. Keeping the dogs in place during this exercise was another challenge. Eating the cupcakes while blindfolded was yet another challenge. 
These exercises really hit home to demonstrate first hand the experience of using a guide dog in everyday life. It is so important that our pups are well behaved and follow commands EVERY time.  We so often take for granted our gift of vision, and the necessary role it plays in our everyday lives.

As puppy raisers for Southeastern Guide Dogs, we look forward to what is called "puppy raiser day". That is the day we will meet the visually impaired student that is ultimately matched with the guide dog pup that we have raised. This meeting takes place at Southeastern Guide Dog campus in Palmetto, Florida. Each puppy raiser will have lunch with the student who is receiving the pup, and is responsible for serving lunch to him/her and assisting them with the meal that we will share with them.

Thanks, Carol, for sharing these activities with us, and keeping us aware of the importance and priority of what we are doing in raising these pups. It was a great meeting!
Smokey was pooped by the time we got home last night. He had a great time at puppy camp and was ready for a nap after dinner. I caught this photo of him napping under the coffee table - after playing with his racoon.  It's quite a coincidental pose considering our activites today!

Welcome home, Smokey bear!
Later yall!

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