Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My buddy

So I came down with a bad cold for the third time in the past month or so and have been exhuasted all day. After classes I slept for about 3 hours. Bare was so good at just curling up on my bed and napping with me. I could tell after a while she was totally bored but she stayed with me. It's so nice having a buddy to stick with you when you're feeling pretty crappy. I think we're both feeling a little off since she's going through her puberty thing and I'm sick again. I don't know what I would do without my little buddy always here making me feel better. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Big Day for Barely

Yesterday Barely went into her first heat. I've been wondering when this was finally going to happen and frankly, was starting to get a little worried that it never would! Well, it has and it's really not that big of a problem. The biggest issue is the daily argument Barely and I have over whether or not she should have to wear her diaper. I always win of course because, let's be honest, I'm the one who would have to deal with it if she didn't wear it. But, I feel bad because she just stands there or lies down and won't move. Normally she always follows me into the kitchen hoping I'll drop something on the floor, but today she stood in the doorway of my bedroom and peeked around the corner at me and wouldn't move until I offered her some cheese. :( A bit dramatic, yes, but sad all the same.

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

Back to the Basics

I took Bare for a walk around the neighborhood (neighborhood? ok, more like around the block) today and decided to work heavily on LLW (loose-leash walking for those of you not in on the service dog lingo). I did the whole "every time she pulled on the leash I plant my feet and make her come back to my side" thing. It definitely started to work. After a few times of that, Barely was catching on that we weren't going anywhere unless she kept the leash slack. I didn't bring any treats with me, but I figured the reward of just moving forward plus some praise would be enough and it definitely was. By the time we turned for home, she was consistently keeping the leash loose (with it only attached to her collar--no Easy Walk!). :)

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

Lazy Saturday

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

Ugh People

Ok, so maybe it was just because I was having a bad day yesterday, but I really wanted to punch this lady at the dog park (does this sound more like me now, Chris? lol). Katie and I brought Barely to play for a little and as soon as we let her in, 2 dogs rushed over and basically attacked her in a not-completely-aggressive-yet-still-rude-way. They were growling and caring on and although I don't think they meant anything serious by it, it was still pretty confrontational so Barely rolled over on her back in her usual "I just want to be friends" submissive way. Well, the stupid owner of the more rude dog out of the two was like, "Oh my god, she's playing dead! That's so funny!" Then she preceded to ask me if she always does this....umm nooo only when people have unruly, untrained dogs that are intimidating!! But what I really said was, "She's really submissive and they're all on top of her so..." or something like that. But her damn dog would not leave Barely alone and poor Bare just kept rolling over to avoid conflict. I've never seen her so submissive at the dog park, probably because dogs don't usually insist on constantly antagonizing her! Now, in truth, the American bulldog thing was probably just trying to play, but it was in a pretty dominating sort of way that annoyed the hell out of me. And the stupid owners would not control her! Even when I called Barely over to put her on the leash to leave and the bulldog was jumping all over her and growling they were slow to finally come over and pull her off (meanwhile I'm getting more and more pissed and to the point where I'm about to give the dog a huge shove if she doesn't stop jumping all over Barely and sounding ferocious). I've never had an experience like that at a dog park..NEVER. The owners had the nerve to say that they were duped into getting her obedience training after they adopted her...I'm sorry, no dog should act like that towards other dogs. It's one thing to play rough (Barely has no problem playing with Pits, Rotties, and even my friend's huge English bulldog), but a completelely different thing to be so dominating.

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


I've wanted a Great Dane ever since I read the book Amazing Gracie. I'm a big dog person...the bigger the dog, the more I like it. (Ok, so that's not always true, case in point- little Barely is only 50 pounds.) We have a Great Dane named Mickey who always boards at the kennel I work at. He has to stay in the break room because he's so big and he's pretty slobbery but all-in-all he's just a really sweet guy. I love that some people might find them scary when in reality I don't think I've ever met a mean Dane. The major thing holding me back (besides the potentially colossal vet bills) is that they generally only live to be around 7 years old or so. A seven year old Dane is considered sad is that? I think the general 11-13 years for a Lab is way too short as it is, but 7 years?! That's heartbreaking. But against my better judgement, I've been looking to Danes for adoption online (I've sworn to never buy another dog). There's this one really sweet looking girl named Babbette who pretty much stole my heart. She's deaf but I don't really think that'd be much of a problem. It says she's currently learning hand signals and I don't think it'd be overly difficult to teach...dogs learn body language and signals better than verbals anyway. Oh god, I can't imagine what my parents would say if I brought home a Great Dane lol! I'll definitely have to have my own place before I get one.

So smart

Bare's hearing training has been coming along nicely. First I had to teach her "touch" which means she comes and touches me on the leg with her nose when I give the verbal cue. She enjoyed learning that and was offering the behavior even without cues, something we're still working on stopping. Then we added the next element: the alarm sound. I used the a tone on my cell phone to mimic an alarm clock type sound. Each time I set the alarm off I said "touch" right after so that she eventually learned that the sound is another signal for her to give me the touch behavior. She was doing well with that and I started making her sit or lie down first and then set off the alarm, which caused a bit of confusion initially (imagine someone always telling you to "sit and stay" or "down and stay" and then all of sudden telling you that its ok if you come out of the sit or down, but only for the alarm...confusing, right?), but she's gotten a hang of that too.

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

Thank you

I've been thinking a lot about the near future when I finally have to make that drive to the kennel to drop Barely off for the start of her advanced training. I can't believe how the past year has flown by. Wasn't she just a little puppy chewing my mouse cord? The first thing people always ask me when they find out I'm raising a service dog is, "How are going to be able to give her up?" At first, it was easy to reply that I knew she's wasn't really mine and that she would be going on to help someone. But as the days have gone by and we've grown nearly inseparable it's gotten harder and harder to think of ever giving her up....

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.