Saturday, December 19, 2009
Natalie's home for two weeks for her Winter holiday break. It's good to have her back. I don't always notice how much I miss having her around until she's hear again. We went to the mall last night and she was on her best behavior. Her trainer, Cindi, gave me the handle that her boy will use for us to practice with over the break. I haven't put it on her harness yet, but I'm planning on working with her on some other things tomorrow so we can add that in as well. I've noticed that she now seems to think "sit" means she should sit for a second and then she's free to stand again so I want to work on that with her tomorrow. Also, we'll work on her out-of-sight down/stays as Cindi suggested. I think she probably just needs a refresher on that because I know she used to be pretty good with them.
Here are some pictures from today:
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It used to take a lot to make me cry, but it seems to happen more and more frequently the closer Natalie gets to being placed with her partner. I feel like a parent who's watched her child grow up, graduate from college and now has to say goodbye as she watches them move on with their life- to bigger & better things. On one hand, it's sad.... Natalie has been a big part of my life for the last (nearly) two years. I can't deny that I've become quite attached to her. But, there's still that other hand...
As Natalie grew and matured from a fuzzy, little puppy to a sleek, mature adult, I was aware that she was something special, something different. When other dogs her age would have ignored their natural instinct and let loose, she often surpised me by embracing it. She comforted people when they most needed it- even if it meant she had to spend time away from me (which was generally unheard of). She walked next to a wheelchair, with little guidance, like she'd been doing it her entire life. She learned new cues with a great determination to figure out exactly what was being asked of her. Walking amongst 42,000 students on campus at Penn State, she amazed me by ignoring every single one of them and focusing solely on her job. It was after all of this that I realized what I had unconsciously known for quite some time- that Natalie was born to be someone's Service Dog.
Last Winter, I took Nattie to the dog park in State College to burn off some energy. Natalie loves to run and especially loves being chased by other dogs, so I was happy to see a large group of dogs there that day for her to play with. But, as I stood at one end of the enclosed field talking to the owners, I couldn't find her playing amongst the other dogs. My eyes scanned the field and finally stopped at the far side where someone's little boy was wandering. Tears sprang to my eyes as I took in the sight; there right by his side was my Natalie. As the boy walked aimlessly around she followed him step-for-step, completely glued to him. The other dogs ran wildly around, but Nat ignored them all to instead listen to the boy chatter nonsense in her ear. Until then, I hadn't considered the possibility of her being placed with a child. It seemed to me that most of the dogs went to people in wheelchairs. But as I watched the pair of them trek through their own imagined world, I realized how magical that could be.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The answer was Isaac's. Isaac's allows you to host "community nights" where 25% of supporters' food and drink bills go to your cause. The total cost to raise and train service dogs from puppies to adults is $20,000. Through SSD's personal grants and fundraising, this is reduced to about $5,000 per partner. That's still a pretty hefty price, though well worth it, therefore I decided to raise the money at Isaac's for Natalie's new family. It may not end up being much, but I hope it helps some.
Below are the emails between me and the coordinator of the community nights at Isaac's. I'm very excited to get this all set up!
I'm hoping to be able to team up with Isaac's in order to fundraise for a cause that's very dear to me. I am a volunteer Puppy Raiser for Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD), located in Harrisburg, PA. For the past year and a half I have been raising SSD Natalie for them. Natalie has been a special part of my life. I brought her home at 8 weeks old, when "home" at the time was an apartment off-campus at Penn State, University Park. Natalie grew up as a true Penn Stater; she accompanied me to classes, visited friends' dorms, rode the jam-packed campus buses, showed her Penn State pride on football weekends by donning a jersey, and even walked in my graduation with me. She was well-received by faculty and students alike as a much-needed doggie stress reliever and a welcomed break from the almost dog-less campus. In July, Natalie entered Advanced Training at SSD, meaning she went on to the SSD kennel to learn the tasks she would need to know in order to help her future partner. Natalie comes home to stay with me each weekend, part of SSD's kennel stress-relieving program, and though I've missed having her by my side all the time, I've known for a while now that she is ready to become a full-fledged Service Dog for someone in need. Happily, a few weeks ago Natalie was matched with a little boy who has Autism. As his certified Service Dog, she will accompany and support him through his life. In February, Natalie and her boy will go through "Team Training," a rigorous two-week training period that readies both the human and dog partners for their future working life together. I know this is the perfect match for Natalie as she has always loved children and will be ecstatic to have her "very own" little boy.
Natalie turns two on December 1st and in thinking of a special way to celebrate her birthday, I thought of what I could do for her new family. The total cost of raising and training a puppy to become a Service Dog is $20,000. Through SSD's personal fundraising and grants, the price is reduced to about $5,000 per client. Although this reduction is significant, the cost is still a lot for many families. I would like to host a night at Isaac's in honor of Natalie's birthday, her successful journey to becoming a Service Dog, and her little boy in which the money raised will go to the boy's family to help with the cost they will have to pay for her. I would like to do it on or near December 1st and at a location in the Harrisburg area. If possible, I was thinking of potentially hosting another night at your West Chester (where I'm from) location so that friends and family in that area could attend as well.
Please let me know if any of this is possible and if you have any questions for me. Feel free to check out SSD's website at http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/ssd/ssd.php for more information on them. I've attached a couple pictures of Natalie as well. :)
Thank you for your email. I have organized thousands (literally) of fundraisers and your email brought tears to my ears! We would be delighted to partner with you and what a wonderful way to celebrate Natalie’s birthday and new life.
In a nutshell, here is how our fun and easy Community Night fundraiser works:
1. Isaac's donates 25% of food and beverage sales, from 5:00 p.m. through 9:00 p.m., on a Sunday through Thursday night, at the one Isaac's restaurant of your choice. (Our Granite Run, West York, Lionville, and Lemoyne Isaac’s do not do fundraisers on Mondays.) We send the check to your charitable organization within 2-3 weeks of your fundraiser.
2. Each participant hands in a flyer that indicates to our server they are part of your fundraiser. (I am attaching a sample flyer. You can revise this one or make up a new one...either way, I need to approve it before distribution.)
3. You do not receive credit from our regular diners (customers dining without your flyer) and you may not hand out your flyer in our parking lot or in our restaurant to customers not associated with your fundraiser.
4. Please follow this link to our fundraising calendar to pick your date and restaurant: http://www.isaacsdeli.com/fundraising_calendar.asp and then let me know.
5. The more participants you bring into our restaurant, the bigger our 25% donation is to you. YOU are responsible for promoting this event (posters, flyers, emails, contacting local news media, if desired, etc. etc.)....we do not do it for you. So, the harder you work, the more money you will make. How much you make is really up to you!
This entire fundraiser is really quite simple and lots of fun for your organization...and everyone needs to eat! I look forward to your reply and the privilege of working with your organization.
Community Care Coordinator
Isaac's Restaurant & Deli
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Friday, October 23, 2009
Recently Natalie went to a family for two weekends in a row, who happen to own her uncle discharged SSD Steele. I was fortunate enough to receive from them the report they handed in to SSD after the two weekends were up. The following is that report and it sounds like Natalie had a great time! :)
Natalie is a delight. She is well behaved, attentive and very affectionate. She loves (needs) to be with you, touching you, on your lap, pasted up against you at night,etc. She is a cuddler at night in bed.
She did very well at work. She never barked, would lay down at my feet if I stopped to talk to someone and spent the day in my office chewing on bones or resting on the big dog bed.
She left us know when she needed to go out. We could leave her alone in the house without being crated and she didn’t get into anything.
She immediately bonded with Steel and us and showed no signs of stress even that first weekend we had her. No panting, excessive drinking, whining, chewing, loose bowels, nothing.
She is very playful and likes to chase balls. She loved the dog park (we went 3 times) and got along with everyone.
She did not chase our cat or eat cat poop.
She loves to train and learns fast. I was working with Steel on the Easy button and unless someone else has done this with her she picked it up faster than Steel when I added the cue.
She does hump Steel. I have not seen her do it to any other dog and it is probably a dominance thing. He could care less.
We worked on elevators, stairs, entering and exiting doors without pulling and loose leash walking. I used her head halter in public but spent a little time each evening at home going in and out of our front door without it. I also worked her without it going into the dog park. It took us a very long time to get from the car to the park because of it. This is hard for her. We also took one walk a night without it. She actually is doing 100% better on our evening walk then the first time we had her. She generally pulls only when she has to go to the bathroom and then walks fairly nicely the rest of the way. We usually walk about 2 miles.
We worked her on both sides but she prefers the left and does better on the left. I have to admit we worked left more than right because that is what I am use to with most of the other dogs.
I only had her bark once coming out of the car when she saw the neighbors on their bikes. She also barked at me when we were working on getting to the dog park entrance and because of her pulling it was taking a long time.
She showed no signs of fear at the office, church, traffic or PA Ren Faire. We went to the Ren faire on 10/10 and she was great. She was not bothered by the greyhounds, elephant, noise or costumes. She laid at our feet when we watched shows or ate. For one show, she laid in Aaron’s lap while he sat on the ground. with people all around them. The only two spots that were a little challenging was the area where they were shooting marshmallows at people. However, she had her head collar on and it wasn’t really a problem. Then a man ask to pet her and unfortunately he was wearing a rabbit skin (real) codpiece which she found very interesting and sniffed him. We had to end the greeting. She did very nice greetings. We were there about 4 ½ hours.
On Sunday we took her to church and she stayed with Steel in the pew while we took communion up front. We ate at Isaac’s and she laid by my feet and then we took her swimming at the indoor pool in Dillsburg. She loved that. Both dogs swam and retrieved for about an hour.
She still has a lot of puppy in her but as I said, she is a delight. She loves people and loves being with them.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
About a month ago, Barely was matched with a little boy who has Autism. Due to circumstances relating to his disability, her name was changed to Natalie. Natalie, fondly referred to as "Bratalie" by myself and those aware of her bratty tendencies, will be placed with her partner in February. She has been in Advanced Training at the SSD kennel since July and will continue learning her Service Dog tasks until she is placed.
I am very proud of little Nattie and know the team of her and a little boy will be a perfect fit. She's always loved kids and will be in Heaven to have her very own boy! :-)
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Today Barely walked with me in my graduation ceremony at Penn State. She was awesome the entire 2 hours we were there. We waited in line to go into the auditorium for about 45 minutes, during which she either stood beside me, sat or lied down. Then once we got inside, she lied quietly at my feet while we waited to go up and receive "our" degree. I couldn't have asked her to be any better as we walked across the stage and I received my diploma and shook hands with the president and faculty. My parents even commented at how well she walked across the stage. It was as if she didn't know about 400 people were watching us (and maybe she actually didn't!).
After the ceremony, we went to a brunch hosted by the College of Agricultural Sciences (I'm an animal science major). So many people came up to us to tell me how well behaved she was and to ask me questions about her. Even the Animal Science Advising Coordinator came up to me and told me she was so glad I brought Barely. She said it made the major and college look really "cool" and was a good way to show future students in the audience the fun things they can do while attending Penn State. I was so glad to here that everyone enjoyed her being there and even more glad that I brought her.
For the past year and a half, Barely has been an integral part of my college life and life as a whole. When we walked across that stage together today, I felt like it was the perfect way to close our chapter together. Bare is going to Advanced Training on July 5th and I couldn't be prouder of her. It's funny to think back to last Spring Semester at school and remember her as a crazy, little puppy and then to fast forward to today and see how she has matured into a beautiful young dog. I truly believe she will be the perfect Service Dog for someone.
My biggest fear is that her attachment to me will end up hindering her transition into becoming a Service Dog. Although it breaks my heart to say it, my greatest wish is that she will be able to move on and find the same connection with someone who truly needs her. I feel as though I have readied her for her future career the best I possibly could and it will be with immense pride that I hand her off to her partner during the graduation ceremony next Spring.
Barely's patience, loyalty, and endless love are sure to make her the most incredible Service Dog there ever was.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I haven't updated in a while because I have been incredibly busy these past couple of weeks. Barely has been doing well with her continued training. I received an email 2 weeks ago saying Barely was to go into Advanced training April 5th, but then it was decided the trainers would not have enough time to devote to her so she will be going into AT in June/July with the rest of her litter. Phew!
The last two weekends, Barely and I visited our good friends in Lititz. Barely loves hanging out with her BFF Gretel and there are always a lot of other doggie friends there to play with including SSD Ross, (discharged) SSD Liberty, SSD Bryce, The Chihuahuas- Hansel, Feliz, Bo, & Kiwi; and Stella the Dachshund! Barely and Hansel's friendship had a bit of a rocky start but they have been getting closer the more we all hang out! :)
One weekend we went to the lake and all the dogs (all the Labs, anyway) went swimming. Bare still isn't sure about the whole "swimming" part, but she likes to splash around in the shallows where her feet can remain on the ground! She also likes to wait for Gretel to bring the toy back to shore and then pounce on her and steal it...ya gotta do, what ya gotta do!
This weekend Bare and I are once again taking a road trip to Lititz for Miss Gretel's 3rd birthday! We can't wait to see everyone and celebrate this momentous occasion!
Monday, March 30, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Barely never ceases to amaze me. Yesterday in English class she was phenomenal. She lied quietly under my desk during class. So quietly, in fact, that a student 3 seats away from us was so shocked to see a dog emerge from under the desk at the end of class he exclaimed, "Holy shit! Where'd that dog come from?!?!" I took that as a big compliment that Barely was so good he didn't even know she was there. Many other students and my professor commented on how good she was. Go Bare! :)
Then last night Barely and I went with a friend to Champs bar & grill for dinner and the Flyers game. Barely was an angel considering the (literally) hordes of people there and immense noise. She lied patiently under our table while we ate and then under the bar stool when we moved to watch the game. She did get tripped over twice because she refused to lie down out of the way, but then I was able to convince her it would be better for her to tuck herself under the stool. Towards the end of the game she gave up watching me intently for the next treat and started to fall asleep. (see picture above)
Just now I took her for a walk down the block and she surprised me once again. I decided to not use her Easy Walk to see how she did and was dumbfounded. She was amazing! She kept the leash slack about 90% of the time, the other 10% being when she pulled me over to the grass to do her potty dance or smelled something particularly interesting. But even with those few indiscretions, she was awesome. Not since she was a puppy have I been able to have a nice relaxing walk with her with only a collar and leash! I guess all that LLW work paid off!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Anyway, during class Barely was really good. I only heard her whine a single time, very softly but when I ignored it and then treated her for being quiet a little later, it never happened again. She did stand up a few times next me, but she was quiet about it and didn't browse around on the floor so I would wait until she went back into a down on her own and treat her. It was a pretty long class (an hour and 15 minutes) to take her to after her few months of hiatus, but overall I think she did really well. I'm hoping to take her to English class tomorrow. Wish us luck! :)
I think Barely and I have finally reached the turning point in her training. By this I mean that she has now done two lengthy down/stays for me in populated places without whining once! If you've read my Whining thread you know that this has been a major issue with Barely. Well, last weekend Barely and I accompanied Gretel & Linzey to Barnes & Noble where we sat in the Starbucks cafe area talking and reading magazines for a while (and by a while I mean over an hour). Barely snuggled up to Gretel and fell asleep for most of the time. She remained in a down/stay just about the entire time. (I'd also like to mention aka brag that I told her to stay and left to use the bathroom and she never moved once the entire time I was gone!)
Then tonight at Cold Stone, Barely surprised me again by lying nicely next to our little table while I had ice cream with a friend. Our table had the unfortunate position of being right next to the door where a long line formed. However, Barely was an angel and didn't pay attention to anyone unless they talked to directly to her in which case she looked at them and wagged her tail but still didn't move. It was easy enough to get her attention back after this too. A girl even stepped over Barely and she didn't budge or even look at the girl! I know this all doesn't mean we're completely past the problem yet, but I'm happy with these small successes.
Barely was also wonderful as we walked around campus today enjoying the weather. She gave me nice attention and ignored the hordes of students walking around. When we entered buildings, she hit the door open buttons dead-on on the first try just about every time. This is also a major success for Barely because it used to take her a few tries to actually hit the button right so the door would open.
Overall, I'm just very pleased with how Barely is coming along!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Tonight I first started with her favorite treat in the world: cheese. She was very willing to put her head in the harness for that! We kept repeating the "get dressed" cue over and over. Then I left the harness on her and practiced having her listen to commands with it (which is also part of the problem). She did well at this so I decided to take a break for a little while.
When I started again about an hour later, she still was showing some reluctance to put her head through the harness so I decided to change tactics. It's obvious Barely will willing put her head through it if she knows she's getting a treat, but she should be able to do it anytime- treat or no treat. So, when she tentatively stuck her nose through I praised her with a very excited "Good girl!!"and lots of pets then asked for her to get dressed again. She again stuck her nose in a little but wasn't sure so I repeated my praise. The 3rd time she stuck her head through and I erupted with complete excitement and plenty of "good girls" and "you're so smart!" She quickly got excited and loved the attention. Her tail started wagging faster and faster (something it doesn't do when I first put her harness on) and she rubbed up against me for more pets. We repeated this exercise several more times and each time I asked her to "get dressed" she would exuberantly shove her head through it and get visibly happy when I praised and pet her. I think this is a step in the right direction and I want to keep working on it every day.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I'm really hoping she gets evaluated for breeding and passes! Can you imagine?! Little Bare puppies!!! I would be a grandmother! :-O haha
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I'm ashamed to say that I have allowed her to get away with pulling when we go for walks for way too long. It's not like I let her just pull me down the sidewalk, I always shortened the leash enough that she couldn't do that, but she was still keeping it tight so that wasn't a good thing at all. It's strange how different she is once you put her SSD harness on and take her out in public. She rarely pulls me anymore in public. But obviously she realized she could get away with it when we go for walks...again, totally my fault. :( Anyway, I'm glad that she's catching on so quickly and I'll definitely keep it up!!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Barely and I ended up taking a trip to Whipple Dam again today because the dog park was a muddy mess and so were all the dogs playing in it. I'm not usually a clean freak about my car but I really didn't have the energy to give Bare a bath and scrape mud off my seats. We only stayed at the lake for a little while because there were guys ice fishing and I was worried Barely might run out there to them (she never actually tried, but she did give them a few glances). She has some solid recalls there until she found this rather large rock-looking thing and decided it would be fun to run around like crazy with it. Eventually I convinced her to drop it and we headed out to Target. I prefer Target over Walmart for the sole reason that it's way less crowded and people (thankfully) generally ignore us. I'm happy to say that not one person tried to pet Barely or even asked to. I love when people leave us alone!!!
She had an awesome down/stay in the book isle. I put her in position and then walked a little further down the isle to look at some books. As soon as I walked away a mother and her little boy came up the isle. The little boy looked like he really wanted to pet Barely but the mother told him he wasn't allowed to (yay for her!!). Bare turned her head to watch the little boy as he walked by within inches of her and her tail thumped a few times on the ground but she didn't change her position or move an inch. Then she looked right at me as if to say, "Didn't I do good, Mom?"
I'm really pleased with how good she has gotten at ignoring distractions in public. The one thing we definitely need to work on is stopping her from trying to sniff/lick/pick up things on the ground. She has a tendency to sniff noticeable spots on the ground. I'm beginning to wonder if I play an unintentional part in this though. I've recently noticed she seems more likely to notice something on the ground if I notice it first and look at it. Today she ignored a variety of things on the floor that I also ignored so maybe there's some truth to that claim??
The lady at the register told me she is raising two guide dogs (don't remember what organization it was for), a Lab and German Shepherd. She asked me what Barely will do as a service dog and we swapped condolences on having to give them up soon (her shepherd is going into training in a couple weeks). On the bus ride from the lot I park my car in, another woman asked me about her. Although I hate when people try to pet or talk to Barely, I love when people ask me directly about her training and how she'll help someone someday. I could probably go on forever about what Barely knows and what she will do and service dogs in general (hence this blog!). I like enlightening people about service dogs so that they hopefully will go share that information with other people. If everyone knew even just a little about service dogs and what they do than maybe there wouldn't be so many ignorant people out there causing problems for service dog teams!!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Anyway...that's my little rant. I don't think Barely's scarred for life or anything, she's pretty unfazable (yes, I know that's not a word). It was just really irritating.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Today we took the next step...adding "show me" after she alerts me (comes and touches my leg) to the alarm. I was amazed at how quickly she caught on that "show me" means go to the source of the alarm and basically point to it or touch it with your nose. I increased the difficulty by moving my cell phone around the room so she wasn't always pointing to the same spot. We're still perfecting this since she still tends to want to go find the alarm in places it was initally set, but she almost always finds it after some encouragement. I'm happy at how much she seems to really enjoy this work. It's just a big game for her...Ooo I get to come poke you when I hear the alarm and Ooo! look! look! here it is!! and of course the tons of treats she gets as rewards help too. :)
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I've never wanted anything less than the best for her, but I think there's always been a part of me that had hoped for some loop hole that might allow me to keep her forever. But in the end, I know I could never keep her from her real mission in life. I know she has the potential to become an awesome service dog for someone who really needs her and how could I ever stand in the way of a partnership that is destined to be incredible? I have no doubt that she will be quickly matched with someone. With her super-friendly, outgoing, and loving demeanor I know someone will immediately fall in love with her. The hard part is imagining her belonging to someone else...
I'm certain that wearing any form of makeup on graduation day will be a mistake. I'm going to be a complete mess. Of course I'll be sad that my journey with her will be over, but I'll also be infinitely proud that her journey with someone who truly needs her has just begun. I hope she finds someone young, loving, and active who will take her places she's never been before and show her things she's never seen. If I could have one wish for her it would be that she goes to someone who will love and appreciate her everyday as much as I have.
Barely's taught me so many things over the past year that I truly do owe her a huge thank you. She's showed me good things come when you work for them, that you can't judge a book by its cover, that patience is the key to success, that there's more than one way of looking at things and being stubborn won't get you anywhere, that sometimes the small things in life are the most important and the ones to be cherished, and that loving someone with your whole heart creates a bond that can never be broken.
The second question everyone always asks is if I would do this all over again. Would I raise another puppy even if it once again meant heartbreak in the end? Absolutely. There will never be another Barely, but that's something I'm thankful for. No new puppy can ever replace her or the bond I have with her, but that doesn't mean someone out there waiting for a service dog won't develop that same bond with another dog I raise, and that's what makes it all worth it. Because in the end it's not about me and the small role I've played, it's about the dog. The dog that will open new doors to light up a world of possibilities for someone who's been trapped in the dark for quite some time.