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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Valora Update

This picture of Valora was taken at a downtown Vancouver restaurant right after her evaluation with our community field representative (CFR). Miss Valora is almost 11 months old.  It's been hard to believe that she will be returning to campus in 4 or 5 months.  I'm very pleased with her progress.  This month has brought a new level of maturity and I can see Valora is outgrowing puppyhood.  We are still waiting for Valora to go into season, and I'm hoping that doesn't happen the month before she returns to training.  The evaluation went well and Valora demonstrated how she isn't afraid of anything like noisy downtown traffic, the MAX, waterfalls, or construction.  She walks over all kinds of surfaces and grates without hesitation and she can walk past distractions like people sitting on the sidewalk eating lunch without being distracted by food.  We were pleased to report that Valora is capable of spending time alone in the house without being destructive, and we are very happy with her house manners.  We still have a few things to work  on as no dog is perfect, but I feel like Valora is coming along nicely and will be ready for formal training when it's time.

After we finished our meal and Lyn was returning our plates to the restaurant, I saw Valora staring at something and I followed her eyes to see what she was staring at.  I then also became  fascinated by a nature drama in the weeds by the building.  A yellow jacket had found something that it appeared excited about but dropped it to go to another area when it suddenly got stopped by a spider web string.  It couldn't get out and in a mere second the spider was there wrapping it.  I kept thinking that it was going to be a battle of  who had the stronger poison, but really the yellow jacket never had a chance.   Alas, Lyn did not share our enthusiasm in this drama when he returned and wanted to leave, but I think I know how everything turned out.  A moment to remember with Valora. 

I was able to participate in Fun Day this year (with a dog no less).  The day before I got to Follow the Trainer in downtown Gresham.  This was a wonderful experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is able to do this whenever the opportunity is offered.  As the name suggests, follow the trainer involves following a trainer as the trainer works with a string of dogs in formal training.  Keep in mind that none of the techniques demonstrated are puppy raiser approved techniques.  These are all techniques that are part of formal training.

My group followed three dogs working in phase 4.  Each dog is worked on a route individually and the picture below is the first dog being released from a kennel to start work.

On this particular day, the dogs were learning how to find a bench.  The trainer was marking when the dog approached the bench, then marking when the dog touched the bench with her nose, then adding the command, and then when the command was understood, the trainer asked the dog to find a bench on the opposite side of the first bench.  This dog is being marked as she touches the bench with her nose.

All three dogs learned this command very quickly.  From bench targeting, we followed the dog and trainer through downtown Gresham.  This is a great place to begin training because there are so many distractions.  One of the main things the dogs were working on was dog distractions, and there were a number of these. 

We came to an outdoor seated area where there was a dog sitting with people outside.  One of the things trainers have started doing with dogs who are distracted is to take a "time out."  This means stopping for a short time, shortening the leash, and ignoring the dog so she can regroup and focus back on the trainer.  Then they walk on past the dog, unless the dog is still showing interest at which time the trainer goes back and repeats the process again. 

It was fascinating to watch the trainer with dog distractions as unwanted dog encounters can be the bane of my existence.  Even though the dogs were a bit distracted, every dog showed improvement in dog distractions by the end of the training session. 

Another issue with one of the dogs was body sensitivity to the harness, but there are techniques for everything and that was not ultimately a hindrance to working.  Once that harness was on, that dog was one focused and serious worker.  As per dog distractions, the trainer is looking for improvement in the behavior. 

The dogs that we watched had just been listed as being in phase 3, but it was Friday, the day the trainer submits the report to her supervisor, and these dogs were finishing phase 4.  Sure enough, they were listed as being in phase 4 on the next week's phase list and were in phase 5 on last Thursday's phase list report.  So, essentially by the time we get the phase reports the dogs are usually almost a week ahead of what is shown on the report.

Following a trainer is a great workout.  We moved at a fast clip and I think we may have walked at least 5 miles in the two hours we were following. I was happy that I was able to keep up.  I was glad I was able to attend and I hope to do it again some day.  I also wish the opportunity could be provided more than once a year so more people could attend.  I think every puppy raiser should do this at least once.

Fun Day was nice and Valora got to see her brother Vicente and half brothers Fogerty and Frederick.  We met at the same time so we just combined groups. 

That's Valora and Vicente.  Here are the two V's and two F's in a group picture.

The other highlight was the R+ talk in the auditorium that talked about the future changes with positive reinforcement in the near future.  I know not everyone is excited about this change, but I'm ecstatic.  I can't wait for the changes to take place.

So, that's sort of a Valora catch-up.  She's doing well.  She's met Elliott and was very appropriate in being able to stay by my side on leash or going to her bed when asked to do so.  When showing interest in seeing him, she appropriately sat down (although I didn't let her see him up close).  I think our dogs are amazing, but I'm trying to teach all the dogs in the house how to be around infants and young children, and hopefully teach young children how to act around dogs.  I don't think I'll be one of those posting pictures of a toddler hitting a dog to demonstrate how tolerant our dogs are. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Welcome to the World, Elliott

It's been a long wait, but my grandson Elliott arrived nine days post dates (July 9) after what seemed to be a quick labor until it wasn't and he was born via C-section weighing 8 pounds 5 ounces.  My daughter spent all Monday preparing an argument about how the midwives should induce her and Monday evening I went to bed without my phone.  Upon being awakened by my husband at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning I learned that my daughter and her husband had been at the hospital since 3 something a.m. and that there were 3 messages on my phone stating that they were going to the hospital, that they were at the hospital, and then that my daughter had had an epidural and was almost ready to push.  We arrived at the hospital two hours later fully expecting to meet our grandson shortly but he wasn't born until 3:22 that afternoon.  By the time he was born all four grandparents were in the waiting room as well as my youngest son, Tim.  We spent the time texting family members (especially my sister in Virginia who kept me sane), and my son-in-law who did an excellent job keeping us up-to-date on my daughter's progress and condition.  It was a wonderful albeit stressful day.  I can't believe I'm a grandmother!

So, I'm smitten with my new grandson and I think he's perfect and beautiful.  I've felt really lucky to have spent so much time with him in his first two weeks of life.  I look forward to seeing him grow up and to see more of his personality as he develops. I have a feeling I might not be blogging very much in the near future--priorities are shifting.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Flyby Post Where I Mention Yumi's Graduation

Yes, Yumi graduated!  It was a significant day in my life and I have oodles of pictures that documented the event, but the pictures aren't all in one place.  Most of the pictures are on Facebook or are spread out among three computers, or the pictures were taken on someone else's camera and I don't have access to them. 

Yumi did remember us.  I believe I bent down to find a camera when Yumi and her new handler, LaRee, came walking over to meet us thinking I would document the greeting, and suddenly there was excited Yumi with her paws on my shoulders giving me a Labby bath.  It was sweet beyond words.  Yumi was more mature than when I last saw her, but she was still herself.  I have heard people say they didn't recognize the dog that greeted them because the dog  had changed so much, but that wasn't Yumi.  I didn't hear much about her training experience, but did hear that she was a reliably consistent worker.  I'm proud of her.

The graduation ceremony kind of passed by in a dreamlike state, I was concentrating more on getting to know LaRee and Yumi as partners than what was happening during the ceremony.  I gave my camera to Karren and gave up trying to take pictures myself.  So many people showed up that we knew and it meant a lot to me to have them there.  Fortunately I was able to take the day off and really enjoy spending time with many of the people who had been part of team Yumi.  Anna and Vicente were there and we got a lot of pictures of Vicente and Valora together.  Valora got to see Yumi again and tried to play with her in the exact same way she played with her as a 10-week-old puppy.  We had to separate them - I believe it was a bit overwhelming for Yumi.  It's just amazing what dogs remember.  They lived together a total of a week!

Yumi lives nearby on a ranch with a 2000-pound bull named Darrell Ribeye (I just love that name), an Arabian horse, a rabbit, two cats, and chickens.  Her new handler is wonderful and Yumi will be traveling with her to different cattle shows and horse shows around the country.  Yes, we miss Yumi, but having a working service animal is a different and preferable experience to having a dog career changed.  We're delighted that Yumi is doing what she was bred to do.  I'm satisfied that Yumi is in good hands with LaRee who keeps her animals for a lifetime. 

I hear that Yumi is doing fine with one cat, chickens, and the rabbit.  She has been observing Darrell Ribeye and the horse from a safe distance and the last I heard that hadn't changed.  Knowing Yumi, she'll get there. 

Yumi is still in our hearts, but our lives have been consumed with the new grandson who will be making an appearance in the next month or so.  Valora has been a delight and I'm crazy about her. She's eight months now and I'm very conscious of the fact that her time with us is more than halfway over.   I hope to post more about her, but blogging seems to have taken a backseat to other priorities.  Next time I write, I'll be writing about Valora (glad to report that I'm finally calling Valora by her name now rather than by Yumi's).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In Class!


It's nearly 3 a.m. and I keep playing this morning's e-mail notification over and over in my head. I have to keep pinching myself that it's real! It was verified today that Yumi has a match and she and her new partner are learning to be a guide team.  Yay, Yumi!   I don't know yet who Yumi's partner is or where she'll be living and working, but I'm just delighted that Yumi will be of service to someone.  I hope her partner loves her, though I know it can take time to feel that trust and establish the bond that makes a good team.  I look forward to meeting Yumi's partner and hope he/she looks forward to meeting us.  I'm so curious what it was about Yumi that made her a match and I want to know what her trainers thought about Yumi.

I should hear about where Yumi is going to be living and working in a few days.  In the meantime, I'm sending out good thoughts and wishes to Yumi and her new partner and hope that the training period goes as smoothly as possible. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


A day I've been waiting for!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 2013

February is supposed to be a short month, but it's felt like a long month to me.  Here are a few highlights.

First and foremost, my daughter and son-in-law are having a baby boy!  Lyn and I are going to be grandparents to a grandson!  I've spent a fair portion of this month gathering patterns and yarn to knit baby things and we're planning to make one of our upstairs rooms into the grandchild room (when it's available - we still have roommates).  My daughter wanted to have at least one element of surprise in her son's birth, so we will not know the name until he is born.  I can't blame her - people can be awful with opinions and it is a very personal thing.  I doesn't mean I don't try to figure it out though.  I got a hint and made about 10 pages of names based on that hint and showed them to my daughter hoping she'd tell me if I had gotten one right.  She told me I did, but would not even tell me which name the page was on.  So, back to wondering.  See, I'm not even telling what the hint is to prove to my daughter how I can keep a secret in hopes that she will reveal the name! Regardless, I'm excited about the baby's arrival.

The "V" litter got together on the same day I found out about the baby's gender.  Unfortunately, I could not be there with Valora because she got sick again.  I had to go up to the GDB campus to get medication for her and she has been on something called Tylan for the whole month.  At any rate, the V litter got together and Vicente's raiser took lots of nice pictures.  Here is a collage picture that Anna put together of all the puppies.

The pups

Valora is in the collage because Vicente and his raisers stopped by on their way home to meet Valora.  Vicente and Valora got to meet and play for a little while.  Here they are sharing a big blue Jolly Ball.

Vicente and Valora

Valora is the smallest of all the puppies and Vicente is the largest.  I think Valora remembered Vicente.  The other three puppies are in the same puppy club and I gathered they didn't think the puppies recognized one another as littermates.  Anna said they all the puppies had very similar personalities and traits. 

Valora has done well with the Tylan and we are beginning outings.  She's been to a few small high school basketball games and has started going to Quaker Meeting with Lyn.  Apparently she was the inspiration of someone's message during one meeting after she started chewing on that person's shoe laces.   Valora's personality is beginning to blossom, too.  I have a lot of pictures of Valora, but they're all on my phone and I haven't been able to download them onto the computer.  Here's one taken about 2 weeks ago that shows the healthier, less skinny, and playful puppy Valora has become:

I've struggled with work schedule and attending puppy meetings, so this week we officially joined another group on Portland that meets on one of my days off - Sight in the City.  I will miss my old group, but I think we'll be in touch and I'll see them at GDB events and around town.  It's going to be fun to be part of a newer smaller group.  It will also be a good experience for Valora to have a lot of urban exposure since most of the meetings and outings take place in downtown Portland. It's also just fun to be in downtown Portland on a regular basis.

Finally, Yumi completed phase 4 last week and is working on phase 5.  I'm fully aware that she could be career changed at any point, but I have a gut feeling she's going to make it.  I'll wait for notification that she's been placed, but I'm beginning to sort through pictures and to think about highlights of her time with us to share with her future partner.  I often wonder who that person will be and wonder if that person has already started the process of getting a guide dog.  Just 3 more phases, Yumi.  Maybe this time next month I'll be writing about Yumi being in class!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Go Yumi Go!

Early this week I was told that Yumi was still in the breeding department, hadn't been spayed yet due to delays from the holidays, but that she was doing fine and would be in a string eventually.  I truly did not expect to see her on the phase list for at least 3 weeks.  However, I just checked and there she was!


Phase 0 is a kennel adjustment period where a dog's personality and temperament is evaluated to help instructors determine the most effective way to train each individual dog.  Dogs are given every opportunity to enjoy the kennel experience with a lot of kennel enrichment like special toys, roommates, cuddle time with humans, playtime in an enclosed outdoor area, aromatherapy, massage, walks on campus, etc.  Yumi has been in the kennel environment for a while, so I think she'll be in phase 1 soon.  I'm looking forward to following her progress!