Sunday, April 1, 2012

Friday - Open House at Southeastern's campus

Friday - March 2...St.Petersburg, FL

After driving all day Wednesday and Thursday, Smokey needed to burn off some energy and stretch those long, spindly legs. 

We got up early Friday morning and took a walk in the big city.  It was good exposure for him.  Stopping at the cross walks and waiting on the Don't Walk/Walk lights.  We don't have a lot of the Walk/Don't Walk lights where we live, and it seemed like he was actually watching the traffic flow.

On Friday Afternoon, Southeastern had an open house for raisers and Walkathon folks.

This was our first time to see the campus. This is a very impressive operation.  The grounds are meticulous, and the layout is perfect for training guide dogs and the visually impaired.  Everybody we met was so friendly, helpful and proud of the campus and the work they were doing.  It didn't seem to matter if they were trainers, administrative folks, canine techs, employees or volunteers.  They enjoyed their job and were proud of their mission.

The photo above shows a walkway through a beautiful garden full of tropical type plants.  The walkways wind around and come to cross walks, rail crossings, and curbs.  These areas are used to train and test dogs and students.

As we have stated before, Southeastern Guide Dogs is totally contribution and volunteer driven.  The bricks in the sidewalk are etched with names of contributors.  The benches along the way also have a plaque of major contributors to the cause.  

The campus is about 25 acres.  The campus has an administrative building and a dormitory for the students during their 26 day stay.  There is a kennel for the puppies and new moms.  Another kennel us used for isolation of new pups coming in for training, and a larger kennel is used for the dogs that are progressing through their stages of training.  The kennels were all clean, and the dogs had large runs.  Several times while we were there dogs were let out in their runs for exercise.  They were zooping around and playing what looked like a game of chase or canine tag.  They looked like they were having a ball.

These vans are certainly eye catching.  

 A rolling billboard.  

This rock has been the site of many "last photo op" for many a raiser and puppy going back for training and is in front of the administrative/dormitory building.

The area in the photo above is a courtyard type affair with a gazebo. This area is relatively new and is used for training sessions, a gathering place for tours and presentations and the site for "Guide Dog U" when dogs are surrendered back to the school for final training.  Our experience with Guide Dog U will be discussed in a later post.

As part of the Open House, we had an obedience seminar for raisers.  We have come to realize there is an unwritten rule somewhere that says "anytime there is more than three puppy raisers in one place there shall be an obedience session".  Seriously we love these sessions, and always pick up some tidbit that we didn't know or forgot about.  It is also good for the dogs because they get to work around other dogs at times like these.  It is good practice because they will train together with other dogs when they return to the school.  Also, eventual guide dog users have friends that are also visually impaired so chances are they will come in contact with other guide dogs and need to know how to work without being distracted by them. 

Greg and Smokey working on the "Come" command.

Various raisers working on "sit/stay", "down/stay", and "heel" commands in the courtyard.  To give you an idea of the size of this area, I would say there were probably 30 folks working with their dogs during this time.

That was fun Dad, what is next ?  I'm a little hungry and a lot thirsty after all of that training.  How about a kibble ?

This is the training kennel.  Dogs that go back to the school for training first go to a smaller kennel where they learn the basics of kennel life, and go through health and temperament testing.  After a clean bill of health they will come here to the training kennel.  Trainers and techs work with the dogs almost daily.  They get chances to exercise during the day.  Volunteers some times come and walk them on campus.  Dogs that don't happen to be training on a particular day will sometimes spend time in one of the administrative offices.  In the offices, they get needed people interaction and get to practice their inside manners.  Some of these dogs may get placed with someone who works in an office, so practicing inside manners and becoming re-familiarized with tie downs etc. is a must.

Above is a picture of a Smooth Coat Collie.  I think at this time there were only two of this breed left at Southeastern.  I believe one has since been placed with a graduate, and the other is still in the training kennel.

This is in the Puppy Kennel.  Each run has a card for the pups in the run along with important info like Dam and Sire, birth date, .... most importantly it has their micro-chip information.  The techs have hand held readers, so they know they have the right pup when they take them out for shots or other vet care.

You can see why a micro chip reader would come in handy.  Which pup is Suzy?  The yellow female you say?  Still leaves a few possibilities.

This is a "puppy hugging" session in the puppy kennel, which is an almost daily occurrence.  It must be a local favorite also.  A couple of times were told by locals that they go down to the school every couple of months to get in some "puppy hugging" time.  Everybody has to use anti bacterial gel on their hands to cut down on the possibility of  an outbreak of some sort in the kennel.  You get down on the floor and they open the puppy flood gates.  They come charging in like the running of the bulls.

Like two kids after the same toy.  They were healthy little guys and gals.

Okay, who wants to pet me now.  
Yeah, I know I'm cute, as a matter of fact I am the cutest.

While at the puppy kennel, we saw Stross' tag.  She wasn't in the run, but was outside exercising with her litter mates.  At this point, we had already been told she would be our next pup.  We were to pick her up the next day.  We had seen pictures, but were dying to meet her.  Stross's Dad is Sparky.  Sparky was raised a couple of years ago by one of the Houston raisers (Cindy).  Cindy is really excited, because 6 out of 7 of this Sparky liter is coming to Houston to be raised.

Melissa sweet talked one of the puppy kennel techs into letting us meet Stross.  She is a real cutie, and must have had a reputation in the puppy kennel.  The tech indicated Stross was a Diva in her own mind. We have since nicknamed her, Stross the Boss, Drama queen and full of beans. (we will explain THAT in a future post, too).

She is a little wiggle worm.

If you hold her, she likes to hang her head sideways or upside down.

Then out comes the tongue.  
(We think she is really just making faces for the camera!)

After the tour of the campus, we went back to St. Petersburg for the night.  Our last night with Smokey.  We went out to dinner with several puppy raisers.  The Houston group was well represented, and we met some raisers from other areas of the country.  Again, all good people doing good work for a great cause.

The view from our table at Cha Cha Coconuts...on the Pier

Smokey had another big day.  He saw lots of folks, lots of dogs, and saw what will be his temporary home.  He crashed pretty quickly back at the hotel.  Unbeknownst to him, the next day, his world was about to change big time.  He would be leaving us.  We knew this was what Smokey was born and bred to do. We were just hoping and praying that he would be healthy enough to carry on with training and that he responded well to the great trainers at Southeastern.   As he goes off to Guide Dog U he will take a big piece of our hearts with him.  It's been a fun year and he is a great pup.

Our next blog post will be about Walk-a-Thon stop back by again soon!

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