Sunday, January 9, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Food avoidance training

On Thursday, I decided to go help Glenda work with “Wendy” on some food avoidance training. Wendy has had a few people sneak and give her food from the table, etc. and Glenda wanted to reinforce the fact that Wendy should be avoiding food from strangers. I thought this would be a great opportunity for Vienna as well. So I brought Vienna with me and we ended up working with both dogs. To prepare for the training exercise, we seeded the floor with several food items. A piece of bread, pita chips, peanuts, a crumbled granola bar. Wendy was first up and we place a long line on her. We let her explore the area and when she went for the food she got a verbal and/or leash correction. It didn’t take her long at all to remember this “game”. It was as if a light bulb went on and she was like “I remember this.” When she made the decision to walk past the food on the floor, we would praise her like crazy and give her a piece of kibble. She did really well with that, so we made it harder by added some yummy lunch meat on the floor, and then told her to go into a down stay, with the meat very close to her. She never went for anything on the floor. So we praised her and gave her kibble. Next, we made it more difficult by going out of sight. We did this for a very short time, then went back and rewarded her. We slowly built up the time in which we were out of sight. We were able to do it for three to four minutes and Wendy didn’t even try to eat the meat. What a good girl. Glenda was so proud of her!

Wendy in a down stay with bread, meat and chips all around her.

Wendy in a down stay avoiding many pieces of meat and a slice of bread.  Good girl!

Wendy in a down stay but this time she is trying so hard to avoid the food that she is laying as far away from the food as possible without breaking her down stay.  The look on her face is priceless!

Next up was Vienna and we started with just the basics on the floor (no meat). She went for it once and I gave her a correction. Then she realized what I wanted from her and she avoided the food completely. She didn’t even want to walk in the kitchen. With a little enticing, she would come in, but she wouldn’t even look at the food. Next, I put Vienna in a down stay with the food all around her.

Vienna in a down stay completely ignoring the bread and the pieces of meat.

When she made the decision not to go for the food (or even look at it) she was praised like crazy. She was such a fast learner and she wanted to do it right. She was doing so well that I pushed a piece of bread between her front paws. She did not react at all. So more praise for Vienna!

Vienna in a down stay with a piece of bread right between her front paws.

Next, I decided to put the meat on the floor. She went to sniff it when I put it down but I gave her a little correction then she completely ignored it.

Vienna is in a down stay with pieces of meat between her front paws.

Vienna still in a down stay ignoring the meat and bread that has been place even closer to her.  Good girl!

At this point, I knew we could start going out of sight. We stepped out of sight for about 30 seconds, and when we came back this is what we saw. Vienna would not even look at the temptation! PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE!!!

Vienna completely turning her head away from the food between her front paws!

We were able to work Vienna up to three to four minutes with us out of sight and it was not even a challenge. Because both of the dogs did so well with this, we took them one at a time and offered them the food from our hands. Now that was a little more tempting, but with a few little corrections, both dogs were turning their heads and backing away from the food. At the end of the training session, we took a picture of both dogs together. Didn’t they both do a great job?

Wendy and Vienna laying together in a down stay avoiding all of the food on the floor around them.

Finally an update!

Wow. I can’t believe how long it has been since I have posted about Vienna. She is still the sweet, awesome, easy pup she has always been. She is growing, finally, and she is now 43 pounds. We took her to the vet on Thursday to have her evaluated for Pano. Every now and then, we noticed a “catch” in one of her back hips, so GDB wanted to rule out Pano. Our vet did the evaluation and ruled out Pano, now we need to figure out if this is just normal grow a growing pup or if it is some more serious, like hip dysplasia. We will wait to see what GDB wants to do now, and hopefully they will order some x-rays so we will know for sure.

Over Christmas, we went to my Mom’s house. Vienna did wonderful being in different environment. In fact, it didn’t even phase her. There were a lot of people there, different routines, etc. and she took it all in stride. She even let me take a few Christmas photos of her. Take a look:

Vienna laying in front of the Christmas tree with lots of presents in the background.  She is wearing a Santa hat.

Vienna sitting in front of the Christmas tree with a Santa hat on next to a stuffed Reindeer.

Vienna sitting on top of a huge Christmas present in front of the Christmas tree.

We hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and you are having a happy New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reyna’s Graduation

Reyna laying down in harness with her head held high.

Two days prior to graduation, I was able to connect with Carol, Reyna's handler on the phone. She was a very nice lady from Alabama and Reyna is her second guide. She is a rehabilitation teacher for the blind and she works for the State of Alabama teaching braille, O&M, computers and independent living skills both in home and at a center. I was excited to hear she was employed and worked everyday. This is the first time one of my pups has gone with someone who worked, so I was very happy about that. She has two masters degrees, one in education and another in theological studies. We talked on the phone briefly, but we kept getting disconnected. We had a very upbeat conversation, and she was an outgoing, friendly person. She liked that Reyna was a very well mannered dog, and she also loved that Reyna had a kick to her personality when she was not in harness. Carol said she had exactly the same personality! She said that when people meet her they think that she is very nice and good with people, but as you get to know her, she has a kick to her personality as well. She was so impressed with Reyna's guide work as well. She did share with me that her first guide died tragically, but I will not go into that here on the blog. Carol was very happy that we were all coming to Oregon for the graduation.

We all met in the visitors center then shortly after we were escorted by GDB staff into the dorm. I was totally fine until we started walking to the dorm and I started thinking about seeing Reyna again and I could not hold back the tears. They put each family in separate rooms which was so nice. Reyna's following (all eight of us) gathered in the computer/ reading room which was a pretty big room. Yes, it was obvious by the number of people there that Reyna was loved! A trainer then came in and told us Reyna and Carol would be there shortly. He also told us what a great job we did raising Reyna and what a wonderful guide dog she has become. Then the moment came and Reyna and her partner entered the room.

Carol handing me the leash and Reyna is figuring out it is me!

It was really nice because Reyna was not in harness, and she was allowed to just go nuts! I greeted Reyna's handler and she immediately handed me the leash.

Reyna saying Hi to me as she jumps around with excitement.

As soon as that happened Reyna was jumping with excitement and she was giving me all kinds of kisses. She was moving so fast that she blurred the pictures Smile

Reyna blurs the picture as she jumps up to give me a kiss!

She had a huge smile on her face and she was so happy she almost jumped in my lap. Then she went to each person who was there and did the same thing. She went up to every person as if she was saying "Oh my gosh, you came too" and then she would turn the next person and the next person until she greeted all eight of us! She really was beside herself with happiness.

Reyna says hello to Tony.

Reyna goes nuts as she see's James

Reyna jumps up and gives Judi a kiss.

She kept coming back over to me and giving me her paw. She insisted that I hold her paw, and if I let go she would put it back in my hand. Check out that tail!

Reyna kept giving me her paw and wanting me to hold it.  She is laying down in front of me and her tail is wagging so fast it is blurry.

Then she would put her head in my lap. Then she would roll over on her back for a belly rub.

Reyna rolls over in front of me for a belly rub.

Then she decided she needed to give us all kisses.

Reyna gives me a big lick right on my lips.

Reyna gives kisses to Judi and James.

Reyna gives Tyler a big kiss on his cheek

I am bend down face to face with Reyna and she is looking straight into my eyes.

Reyna and I are face to face and I am giving her a kiss on her nose.

After all of the kisses, Reyna snuggled in Tyler's (my son) lap and she fell asleep. She was so content to be in his lap again. He just sat there on the floor with her for a long time.

Reyna on the floor laying in Tyler's lap with her paw in his hand.

Reyna asleep on the floor strecthed out in Tyler's lap.

I really appreciated how Reyna's handler just turned over the leash and let her be happy and excited to see us. Seeing Reyna so happy made her handler very happy and that was so good to see. After we visited for a while her handler gave us each a book (that had to do with dogs) and in the inside cover she wrote us all a special message.

Carol gives James his book.

The book I got was The Art of Racing in the Rain. Inside the front cover it said:

Dear Stephanie,

Your love and careful training of Reyna has really helped to create a marvel of a guide dog! I am so privileged to have this great gift. Thanks to each of you for being willing to let her come to me after you have invested so much time, energy, consistency, love and devotion to her training. With deep gratitude...

I cannot express how much that meant to us that she wrote a special note for each of us and she really understood the roles we all played in co-raising Reyna together. It didn't take her much time to write that, but the impact it had on all of us made it worth it for us to raise her and then give her up.

In fact, it was so good to see the bonding that had taken place between Reyna and her handler. Reyna could not take her eyes off of her, not even for a second for a picture!

Carol on the floor with Reyna who is in harness.  I am trying to get Reyna to look at the camera but she won't stop staring at Carol!

 Another photo of Carol on the floor with Reyna who is in harness.  I am still trying to get Reyna to look at the camera but she won't stop staring at Carol!

It was so clear that Reyna was happy and that meant so much to me. I went from feeling a little sad to feeling so much joy for both Reyna and her handler. I asked Reyna's handler what she asked for when she applied for her second dog and her trainer said she asked for "Reyna". He said it was that good of a match!

We had some gifts for her and Reyna also, so we gave her those. I made a photo book of Reyna's puppy-hood and she LOVED it.

Carol and I looking at the photo book I gave her of Reyna's puppyhood.

She still has some sight in one eye (tunnel vision) so she could actually she the photos! Reyna's trainer was with us most of the time and he really enjoyed looking at the photo book.

Photo of Reyna's trainer Toby, Carol and Reyna.  Toby and Carol are looking down at Reyna, and Reyna is looking up at them.

Then Reyna got about seven brand new toys, and she was happy about that! We continued to visit for quite some time. During this time, Reyna's trainer started telling us about training her. He was clearly in love with Reyna and he kept going over to her for kisses and affection. He said he had been training guide dogs for 13 years, and Reyna was one of his favorite dogs he has ever trained.

Photo of Reyna's trainer Toby on his knees as he smiles and holds Reyna's face.  Yup, they sure are bonded!

He even had a nickname for her, he called her Rey Rey. The emotional connection between the two of them was so strong. He said Reyna was one of the easiest dogs he has ever trained and that she learned everything the first time he showed her. He told us about a time when he was teaching her over head obstacles, and he showed her what to do with the clicker one time and she had it. Usually they pattern the dogs over and over again for the proper response, but not Reyna. She was such an over achiever. He said once he introduced the clicker, she progressed at warp speed.

Toby on his knees with Reyna as she is about to give him a huge kiss on his face.

I guess that explains how she went through training and class in 2.5 months! Her trainer also told us that when they do final testing on the dogs there is a rating scale they use. He said Reyna passed all of her final tests at the highest level possible! Wow, that was pretty neat to hear. But he said she failed her first obedience test because she did the command before he asked for it. LOL. Yup, she is our little over achiever! He laughed as he told as about that! He felt so strongly that Reyna and her handler were a perfect match and he really wanted me to know that.

Reyna as she gives Toby a huge kiss on his face.

He said they had 12 class ready dogs and they had narrowed it down to 9 dogs for this class. They needed six dogs. He said there was never any question about what dog Reyna's handler would receive. He just verified the pace was right, and it was a done deal! He also told us stories about going into the kennel in the morning and how Reyna insisted that she worked with him first. She loved the work that much. He said a lot of the dogs do that, but Reyna was much more convincing then the other dogs, and it made her so happy, so he would take her first. He said she had such a love of learning that it made his job so easy. He asked me to raise another dog just like her and send her up to Oregon!

We got our photos taken then we went into the auditorium for the graduation. There were six graduates and we were the first ones up.

James and Judi about to walk on stage to present Reyna.

James handing Reyna over to Carol.

Carol speaking on stage at the graduation.

Reyna's handler said a few words, and myself and one of my co-raisers spoke.

One of my co-raisers, James, speaks at the graduation.

A photo of me speaking to Carol on stage at the graduation.

I said something along the lines of when you raise these pups and they return to GDB we miss them all like crazy. But then, there are some dogs who you not only miss, but who leave a huge void in your heart. Reyna was one of those dogs. I expressed my happiness and joy, and told Reyna's handler that I know losing her first guide left a huge void in her heart and I think GDB picked the perfect dog to begin to fill that void back up again.

Carol and Reyna on stage at graduation.  Carol is looking down at Reyna and Reyna is looking up at Carol almost as if she is at attention or something!

I LOVED the Oregon graduation so much more than San Rafael. Having now participated in graduations on both campuses, Oregon is so much more personable and much less systematic.

After graduation, we hung out with Reyna and her handler and I got to see Reyna work a little bit. She was totally amazing!

Reyna guiding Carol in the dorm to her room.

Reyna and Carol working a curb.

We had planned on taking Reyna and her handler out to dinner after graduation. The GDB staff suggested a restaurant for us. There were two other graduates who were by themselves. One of them did not have his puppy raisers there and the other one did have her raisers there but they had to leave shortly after the graduation. So we decided to invite both of them along for dinner so they weren't left by themselves in the dorm. They were Mojave's handler and Novak's handler. So we all went out to a very nice dinner. It was the first time all three of the handlers had taken their dogs out on their own. It was really exciting.

Mojave's handler, Novak's handler and Carol and Reyna standing outside the restaurant.

I cracked up when we got to the restaurant because the first thing all of the graduates did was order a beer! I guess they couldn't drink while they were in class and they were so happy to have a drink! We all visited for a couple of hours over dinner, and all of the dogs were so well behaved. It was fun getting to know everyone.

Reyna sound asleep under the table at dinner.  Such a good girl!

As we left the restaurant, it became clear why Reyna was the star of her class. Her guidework and confidence was so far beyond what would be normal for a new guide. She has super high initiative, and you can see how proud of herself she is as she does her job correctly.

Finally I get a photo of Carol and Reyna with Reyna looking at the camera!

Reyna looking up at me with the sweetest expression on her face.

Reyna in harness in Carol's room.

A close up of Reyna's face as she is asleep in harness.

We dropped everyone off back at the dorm and then it was time to say goodbye. That was hard for us, but we knew we would see both of them again as Reyna's handler invited us to come to Alabama! I heard from Reyna's handler yesterday and she told me about their flight home and how free she felt as they walked through the airport. They hit the ground running the day after they got home and they went to work. Reyna did well, but I think it was a bit too much of a change for her because she developed diarrhea the next day. Probably just stress from all of the newness. Her handler is going to call me in a few days to let me know how she is doing, and she decided to take a few days off of work to let Reyna adjust to her new environment.

A close up of Reyna's face as we said goodbye to her.

That is it for now! We are so proud of Reyna and we are excited for her and Carol to start their lives together!