Thursday, June 14, 2012

So...What happens now?

So many have asked us -- "so now what -- what happens to Smokey?".. Well, Smokey is now back at Southeastern Guide Dog's main campus at Palmetto, FL, attending "Guide Dog University".

We spent many hours training Smokey on basic obedience, how to navigate stairs and doors with a visually impaired person, as well as the necessary social skills to be a service dog out in public places.  Now comes the difficult training and Southeastern Guide Dogs has the certified dog trainers and the process to accomplish it.

The first hurdle that Smokey had to face was life in the "Freshman Dorm".  He was paired up with 3 other male dogs as his kennel mates.  Remember Smokey was "an only dog" at our house and had his own crate, pillow, water bowel and toys.  So he had to adjust to living with other dogs and learn proper kennel manners like waiting for all kennel mates to be served their food before being released to eat, sitting at the kennel entrance while accepting the leash etc.

He was housed there in the Freshmen Dorm for about 3 weeks while he was evaluated for heath, manners, aggression, etc.  We were happy to hear that he successfully passed all of those evaluations with no issues noted.  We were fairly sure aggression, temperament, and social skills were not going going to be an issue, but you never know what can be hiding in those hips and elbows that can prevent them from being a working dog.  During this time of transition, the pups are given lots of time to run together, go for walks with volunteers and be loved and petted by Canine Care Assistants and Trainers.

After all of the evaluations were completed, Smokey along with other pups that went In For Training at the same time were assigned to a training team and moved to the training kennel.  We have gotten a few pictures and reports via Twitter (which is checked at our house at least 10 times per day), and we get monthly training reports from the trainers.  The reports so far have made us glow with pride.  We continue to hope and pray that Smokey's health continues to be good and that he can continue to absorb the training at the school.

Tweet photo on April 5: Smokey is Ready to Work!

Tweet photo on April 17 - Smokey will pose for FOOD!
Tweet photo on May 3: Smokey surveys the library
Many people have asked us if we will know if Smokey gets matched with a visually impaired person and if we will know who gets him.  The answer is Yes.  If Smokey get's matched with a visually impaired person, we will go back to Florida for what is called "Puppy Raiser Day".  During this day we will get to see Smokey and his "forever person" work together.  We will also get to eat lunch with them and get to know them.  After puppy raiser day there is a "no contact" period of 90 days to allow the new team time to focus on working together.  Then communication between us and the new handler is allowed. 

There are 3 phases of training and as of today (6/14/2012) Smokey is in Phase 2, learning how to travel on escalators. Southeastern has been SO GOOD to keep us posted on Smokey's progress, even sending a personalized postcard and letter to "mom and dad" to let us know how he is doing. We love it!

Smokey's postcard

So now we are waiting as patiently as possible for the day when "THAT CALL" comes to tell us his training is complete and he has been matched with a person who needs him.  We know that person  will grow to love and appreciate him as much as we do.

April 25, 2012 -- Smokey in harness

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