Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Great Summer Reads for PR's and Other Dog Lovers

A new summer flower - Piper.

Some people love to read about dogs. I admit, I am one. Since summer is starting, oftentimes that can mean a "little" more free time to pick up a good book, maybe while puppy is napping or late at night or while on vacation. Maybe...? Here are some that I have enjoyed. Some I have downright loved. Favorites have a ** by them. Some you can probably check out at your local library:

To the Rescue by Elise Lufkin, 2009. This is a series of 2-3 page stories of rescue dogs that have gone on to do great things for people. It is an easy one to pick up and put down as each story takes just a few minutes to read.

** Last Dog on the Hill by Steve Duno, 2010. The best. I've read this book at least 3 times.

** Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan and Bret Witter, 2012. Wonderful book that helps you understand the importance of service dogs assisting wounded warriors with PTSD and other issues.

Comet's Tale by Steven Wolf and Lynette Padwa, 2012. A man rescues a greyhound, then ends up training him to be his service dog.

** Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson, 2011. So good, so inspiring. Michael and his guide dog Roselle, navigate through many dangers at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Michael's perspective on life as a blind person.

The Puppy that Came for Christmas by Megan Rix, 2011. A couple in the UK become puppy raisers. Very sweet book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, 2008. Written from the dog's perspective of total devotion to his family as they go thru many struggles. Inspirational.

Dog Behavior and Training Books
The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, PhD, 2002. Animal behaviorist and zoologist Patricia McConnell does a great job of explaining what dogs perceive and feel vs. what we think they do.

For the Love of a Dog by Patricia McConnell, PhD, 2006. Like the book above only much more detailed. Lots of science in this one.

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller, 2008. Great book.

** The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson, 2005. I read and reread this book.

The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete, 1991. Has some basics on starting puppies that I refer to over and over.

** 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance and Chalcy, 2007. A fun book for pet or therapy dog owners. Great photos throughout. Teaching your pet tricks sharpens their obedience skills and is fun. A therapy dog that does therapy work and tricks is a big hit with residents and kids of all ages. The sillier the tricks the better...and laughter is good medicine!

Do you have any dog books you've really enjoyed? I'd love to hear your comments below.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Piper just experienced his 8th week of life, which also coincided with his first week with me. Initially I thought "Well, just housebreak him and crate train him, feed and water him, give him some love, nothing too important." How wrong I was. A 7-week old puppy is a Sponge-Pup. EVERYTHING is a learning experience and school is all day long. In this short week, merely 7 days, here are some of the things Piper is learning.

Valuable dog socializing is going on at meal times.
1. Socializing with dogs:  My dogs are getting to be old fogies, and they were more than a little sulky when roly-poly Piper toddled in the door and into their lives (but not their hearts). However they know the routine and are veteran co-raisers. Their low growls and aloof manner have taught Piper to respect them. He does not nip them. At feeding time they all eat together and Piper has learned their food is off limits. It took two tries followed by two growls. Now we have harmony. This is important since I finished a dog who could have been a wonderful guide dog in all respects except for resource guarding food and toys from other dogs. For that reason alone she was career-changed. Little Piper is learning a valuable lesson at 7 weeks.

2. Socializing with me:  Piper missed his home and family. This was a hard transition for him and for the first few days he was lost. He wanted his old life back, not this new one that had been foisted on him. He cried shrilly when I put him in the crate at nights, but there was no way around that. So I read to him, thinking the sound of my voice, steady and monotone, would be a comfort to him, letting him know I was there. The hysteria would slowly quiet and after a few frustrated little whimpers, he would drift off to sleep. I even did this for the middle-of-the-night hysterics, and now it's not an issue. His crate is his sleeping chamber and he is OK.

Initially I was worried Piper wouldn't bond to me. He is a very independent little guy and the first few days he would go off by himself to explore or play with his toys. But as the days went by and we explored together he started to seek me out, and cuddle up just a little more. This morning Piper crawled up into my lap when he got tired and I knew he had bonded, and was putting his old life away.

3. Mouthing:  Wow, Piper wants something in his mouth ALL THE TIME.
Piper looks like a black bear cub - sharp teeth and all!
And when you are there, the convenient object for Piper is your hand, feet or clothes. With teeth like quills, this is no fun. So we are continually working on his bite inhibition. When he bites, I say "OW" once, loud, and lean into him and look hard at him. Most of the time he stops and will even turn away or lay down as if to say "My bad." Still he has to be reminded often. We pause a moment, then go on like nothing happened. I also try to redirect him with a toy he can bite. Piper is learning mouth control - really important.

4. Leash:  I use the leash to "park" Piper (read: go to the bathroom). The first few days he put on the brakes and twisted his little head from side to side, letting me know he did not want to be led by some giant, anywhere. But treats and coaxing and being very, very patient, and switching directions and tiny tugs are all doing their magic and he trots along pretty good now mostly.

Sleepy little Piper.
5. Infinite:  Time and my limited intelligence constrain me to list all the ways Piper is learning, but they are almost infinite! Every sight, sound and smell is brand-new and soaked up into his little sponge-brain. He's learning his name, to want to be with me, the lay of his new house and yard. New experiences abound. No wonder he gets so tired.

Our first few days together, I admit, were rocky! But the future awaits. All the world is a stage. My little Sponge-Pup is soaking up the stage of the world and I am his stage manager, timing his entrances and exits and making sure he has the right props to be successful.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Piper, Piper!

He's here! Our tiny new service pup in training. He came Saturday, May 18, on a rainy afternoon, and weighs 11.0 lbs wringing wet. This little fella is a black Lab from both show and field lines. His name is Piper. For the first time ever we had the exciting privilege of naming a puppy. Our first name choice was Pilot, but names are only used once at the school to avoid confusion. So our second choice was Piper.


He is a Piper. 

Busy, spunky and confident for a little guy of just seven weeks, yesterday he scrambled up on the riding lawn mower with his short little legs as if he'd done it all his life (of course the mower was not running). Exploring our yard, sheds and house, nothing seems to phase him. Something tells me Piper will keep me quite busy.

Note the size of those paws - love it!

Piper will be our first puppy raised through St Francis Service Dogs of Roanoke, Virginia. Although I loved raising with Southeastern Guide Dogs and will miss everything about working with them, I am also very excited about the switch to St Francis. More on this later. Today I just wanted to share Piper's brand new first photos.

A photograph of Piper's handsome father.

Piper and his two brothers, who are also being raised thru St Francis Service Dogs. Piper is on the right. These puppies were generously donated by a breeder from Raleigh, NC.

Piper marks the 8th time the puppy raising cycle has begun at the Cole house. Each cycle starts with fundamentals like crate training and middle of the night wake-ups, and continues along a fascinating journey as the puppy grows and develops. Because each pup has his/her unique spark, with each round of raising the raiser learns as well. Involved as PR's are with family, work, service, friends, etc., each puppy enters and impacts a special time in your life. For instance I can't think of my daughter's graduation without remembering 4-month Dorian's celebration with us. Or the move to Virginia without thinking of Wrangell's surprise visit to our neighbors! Raising service pups is a dynamic mix of unique pup blending with your present life - every time the experience is the same yet different, always demanding, yet ultimately very rewarding. Here we go again, with Piper!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Travels with a Turbulent Teen-Pup

Ah, the dog teens! One morning you wake up and your sweet, docile little puppy is BIG and STRONG and ACTIVE. You have just entered that wonderful season in a PR's life when your puppy's body grows faster than his self-control or his brain! And as if that isn't enough, the lines of communication that you thought you had so carefully forged with bonds of love and trust seem to have been unceremoniously cut. You ask puppy to SIT and he looks at you as if to say, "SIT? What foreign tongue do you speak? I search my list of dog vocabulary and SIT is not to be found. But sniping that half-eaten sandwich off the counter seems like a perfectly fine activity to me!" Welcome to the teens.

Downtown Chicago with Davey
I love the teens. Your dog has more stamina which gives you the freedom to go more places. The worry of busying your dog every half-hour to hour is not an issue, you can stay in public places for extended periods of time. Teen-pups can be incredibly endearing and fun. You are growing as a team of two. Unfortunately teen-pups can get rather complacent with their day-to-day routine ("Yawn, bor-ing!"). That is when they start "forgetting" so many of the behaviors you've been consistently training for months. You can get stuck in a rut. Pup's brain goes on autopilot. Or Pup can start predicting the next moves you make, and twist things to their advantage.

"Don't forget to pack the most important thing!" says Emmy.
However, when you take Teen-Pup traveling the tables are turned. The usual predictable routine is completely gone and every day is full of non-stop new adventures:  airports, hotels, strange houses and modes of transportation, unfamiliar neighborhoods, stores, people and tourist-like activities all stretch the Puppy in many directions. Right off the bat he's thinking:  "Wow, I woke up in this strange place - what's next?" Constantly he's asking a multitude of questions and looking to you for the answers and guidance. Answers as basic as "Where is the front door?" or "This car looks nothing like my car, so where do I sit?" or "What do we do this morning...this hour...how about in the next 10 minutes?"
Ranger at Denali National Park with Mt. McKinley in the background. As a guide dog in training he could hike in the park and ride the buses.

 Now I, Puppy Raiser and Fearless Leader, can indisputably climb back into the driver's seat and call the shots. And Puppy is back in the passenger seat (or sitting on the floor) like in the good old days looking up at me with respect and a little awe, instead of mischief. Rather than finding ways to circumnavigate Fearless Leader, Puppy is busily soaking up new sights, sounds, smells and sensations.

Lena and Emmy at a children's museum in West Virginia. Emmy says, "Cool doghouse!"
Family vacations with a guide dog in training can be lots of fun for everyone.

As a puppy raiser, traveling with my turbulent teen puppy can be a little challenging, but it is also a terrific training opportunity and ultimately very rewarding! In fact I would say that traveling with teen puppies is one of my best puppy raiser strategies for getting those turbulent teen-pups back on track, for forging stronger bonds and strengthening your team of two. By the time we get back home, I can see a world of difference in Teen-Pup. He is more mature, dare I say - grown-up? Broadening his horizons has made him a pup-of-the-world. That all adds up to great stuff for his future partner, yes!
Emmy explores a Pacific tide pool.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dorian, Fly

In Palmetto, Florida, on April 20, Dorian, my family and I took part in a solemn and inevitable puppy raiser ritual known as In For Training Day or "Guide Dog U". It is the day Southeastern Guide Dogs reclaims their puppies from the volunteer raisers who have nurtured them for a year or more. Though it is not an easy day for us PR's, it is right and good. And I know it is an exciting day for the trainers.

Frank and I give Dorian to one of the school trainers. Good-bye Mr D!

One by one the 25+ puppy raisers and their promising young charges are called forward. A brief good-bye and each puppy is led off by a school trainer to the Receiving Kennel. Here they will spend the next month settling in to their new life at the school, including some medical screening and temperament testing. After this they are moved to the Training Kennel where the dogs start their formal education as guide dogs.

Happily, Dorian has a wonderful room mate at the Receiving Kennel - his brother, Holden, who is very similar to Dorian in looks, build and exuberant spirit. In the days ahead I know they will be good company for each other. This photo shows handsome Holden on IFT Day.

Dorian and his sister, Liz, do down/stays while Lizzy looks at the camera. Liz's raiser, Susan, works at the Sheraton Sand Key, the hotel where we stayed. We laughed hard about some of the quirky traits that Dorian and Lizzy share. 

Dorian in front of his Guide Dog U sign. The sign shows him as a tiny puppy.

Dorian's ghost-presence still haunts me. Even on the drive back from Florida we kept thinking he was in the back of the car. You find yourself thinking, it's time to get water out for him, time to walk or feed him, then stop short to remember he is gone. Sometimes his presence is so real I feel he's just around the corner.

Sam with Dorian at the beach. Dorian is leaping for the sheer joy of it.

Dorian, you've been my ever-present shadow/light. We shared a year together that was rich and incredibly full. Now go, my young charge, and show me what you can do. I will be cheering you on and praying for you, as will my family, friends and the people you've touched at my church, in my PR group and in my community. So many people have played a part in raising you. I cannot look on you as my dog, you are everybody's dog.  We give you your future...now, Dorian, fly!

Dorian at his final puppy raiser meeting, looking so grown-up.