October 31, 2009

Diablo Doggie

Tuckered out little angel after a long Halloween romp in the snow.

October 29, 2009

Toasty Outtake

Still snowing here in the Wild West! I was going through the archives and found this shot from a chilly night back in early October. It's one of my favorites, the moment Ruby discovered the fireplace. I think it's blurry because I was holding her and laughing and Mr. Leash grabbed the camera as he was laughing -- she caught a glimpse of the fire behind her and just kept staring and dropping her head back further and further till she was totally upside down!

October 28, 2009

Gleeful Thief!

Ah yes, October and Ruby's third first snow. Autumn, we barely knew ye, but that day you visited was simply lovely.

October 27, 2009

On The Fridge

Especially appropriate after tonight's variety show of puppy shenanigans. Three distinct scents still linger in the air, none of which is particularly pleasant.

October 26, 2009

Puppy Training Class: We See Eye To Eye

Eleven years ago, Mr. Leash and I visited a litter of 6-week-old puppies in Dumont, NJ. We were given the luxury of choosing the "pick of the litter" and I was drawn to a little female named "Sparkle." She wasn't the cutest of the eight puppies, and unlike the rest of the crew she couldn't find her way out of the ex-pen so I thought that maybe she was just a teeny bit...let's say, not as smart as the others. (Boy, was I really, REALLY wrong about that! She grew up to be super smart as well as beautiful.) But like all the other puppies, she frolicked around and hopped in my lap. What made her different from the others is that once she was in my lap, she raised her head up and looked in my eyes for much longer than I would have expected. That connection really struck me.

Of course, Sparkle was the puppy we renamed Kiva; we took her home two weeks after that first meeting, and it's not an exaggeration to say that nearly every moment since, if I am within her view, her eyes are locked on mine, no matter what I am doing. Whether I'm busy or perfectly still, if I glance away then look back, she's completely attuned, always gazing at me.

Having a dog whose eyes are so focused on mine has been a joy. We are two halves of a whole, reading each other silently. She knows what I want, what I'm thinking, and I know the same about her. She's developed an auto-immune condition over the past two years which has almost completely clouded her eyes, but her clarity and perception haven't changed one bit.

When I am out with Ruby, people constantly remark at how focused she is on me. And this is true, she has quite good focus for a young puppy. But while Kiva's acute concentration just came naturally, Ruby's eye contact is something we practice and work at, as the foundation of all of our training. The exercise is fun and something she really enjoys.

It's fun for Puppy Raisers too! Here are some members of our puppy training class working on the focus exercise. We take a treat in each hand, show the pup that we have the treats, then extend our arms outward. The pup will initially look at the treats.

We hold the position until the pup finally pulls his/her gaze away from the treat and makes eye contact with the trainer. At that point, we mark the behavior and say "Yessss!" (a substitute sound for the clicker) and reward the puppy with the treat.

The puppy learns to focus on the person rather than the treat, in order to get the treat. Eventually, most pups won't look at the treat at all (or just give it a quick glance) and stay focused on the trainer's eyes.

That is great focus!

Ruby is now 5 months old and I find this is also a good activity to use if she starts to become distracted while we're out in public, or in new situations, to reinforce her concentration.

October 22, 2009


I was so going to make a corny Fetch Armstrong joke, 'til I found there actually was one!

October 21, 2009

Ruby's Second First Snow

I posted a pic of Ruby's first first snow a while back, but it was just a dusting. Today we got some real accumulation!

Champion snowball catcher, Kiva, has her eye on the prize, while little squirt is getting the idea.

Canine Exclamation Point

Indomitable Snowdogs!

October 20, 2009

Farmers' Market

Mid-October and hi 70s in Denver -- a beautiful day for fresh veggies and curious puppies. I like taking Ruby to the Farmers' Market because there are so many distractions, it's a real challenge. And you know I love a challenge.

I always like to start off by letting her get a few good sniffs in.

Then away we go. My goal on these kinds of outings is to get as much loose leash walking practice in as possible.

I'd say we did about 70/30 on this outing; 70% calm and focused, 30% distracted and pulling. For the most part, she very easily just passes people as we walk up and down the aisles.

A service puppy needs to learn to avoid soliciting attention when she is in a public place, so we do not allow the public to pet her while she is training. I know how challenging it is for people not to engage with an adorable puppy and I always appreciate when people ask if they can pet her. As a puppy raiser, I need to be firm but I also think it's very important to be kind; after all, both the people and the puppies are just naturally curious about each other, and I believe Ruby is there to teach as much as she is to learn. When I let people know they cannot pet her, I thank them and give a brief explanation of why it's important not to pet her. Most people are really wonderful once they understand that by not petting her they have actually become an integral part of her training.

Ruby and I have been training in public since she was 10 weeks old and as a result she almost never solicits attention from adults. Kids are a little tougher because she absolutely loves them! But with the right amount of time, patience, and good judgment, I'm really proud of how reserved Ruby is around children when we are training, yet how happy and friendly she is when she's in "release" mode.

So, kids and adults were no issue for us on this outing. Other dogs and blowing leaves were the greatest challenge. And she occasionally pulled me toward certain boxes which must have smelled very, very intriguing!

I had good success putting her in a sit/stay at each booth while I chatted and purchased items. But of course, I love to shop, so she's had a lot of practice!

It was at this point that my camera decided to snap it old school and shoot only black and white. So just enjoy the next few shots as you pretend it's Ruby 'n me in 1957, checking out the roasted chiles.

By the way, the smell of fresh roasting chiles is beyond amazing. How beyond amazing? I bought enough roasted chiles to last me all winter!

Still steaming in the bags...irresistable.

We ended the outing practicing some core cues (sit, down, adding distance) and focus exercises in a quieter spot but still surrounded by the business of the market.

October 16, 2009

What You Want, Baby I Got It

"It" is a bully stick. And don't worry, Roo got one too. Have a great weekend!

October 14, 2009

Noodles & Puppies

What a fun night at the Noodles & Company event at Southlands Mall in Aurora! Noodles & Company donated 25% of purchases that evening to Canine Partners of the Rockies (CaPR) and we appreciate their generosity.

Cute poster!

Ruby greeting one of her many mommies, Joyce.

Discovering the fountain of youth. GOOD DOG!

Judi's kids: Current puppy, Peyton (L) and Bennett (R), now in Advanced Training. Go Bennett!

Ruby's brother, Roy.

Ruby 'n me with a future puppy raiser!

Many thanks to all who stopped by for a great meal and helped to support CaPR's mission.

Guest Post: Raven's Pumpkin


"I'm a highly-trained pumpkin dog."

"If I look cute, do I get to keep it?"

Thank you, Barb, for your photos and great captions. Ruby thinks Raven carved an awesome jack-o-lantern! She has such a handsome brother. Raven is gorgeous and very striking next to his perfect, moon-shaped pumpkin. (Barb said he picked it right off the fence!)

October 12, 2009

Bring Me My Cloud Juice...With Five Ice Cubes...
And A Straw

We think all the blog attention has gotten to her pretty head. And well it should. She and Kiva are our superstars.

October 11, 2009

What Do Ruby and Patrick Roy Have In Common?

"Aww, the name Ruby is so cute, did you name her?"

An often-asked question. Her name is adorable, I love it, it fits her perfectly, and the answer is nope. Canine Partners of the Rockies (CaPR), names each litter/donated puppy alphabetically in order of their arrival. So Ruby's crew is the "R" litter, the puppy donated right before them is named "Quinn," and the litter prior to that is the "P" litter, which includes our pretty girl, Peyton.

The "R" litter is something special and of course I'm totally biased. But who wouldn't be captivated watching these little squeakers grow, learn, and mature.

(Roo prior to snoot extension.)

Each name has relevance specific to Colorado:

Ruby - Ghost town (cool!)
Rinker - Mountain summit
Reese - Reese Roper, Denver entertainer
Roy - Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche Hall of Famer
Romeo - Town in Conejos County, Colorado
Raven - Colorado mine
Racine - Denver restaurant
Rosita - Former silver mining town
Rowena - Town in Boulder County

Nine total: six girls, three boys. And one more fun Ruby fact -- she was first born!

Photos courtesy of Joyce Theilen.

October 10, 2009

Daniels Park...A Few Days Later

Daniels Park was dressed for fall a few days ago. Today, it was sprinkled with sugar.

October 9, 2009

Daniels Park

Okay, so exposing a service puppy to beautiful fall vistas may not be on the training checklist, but no one ever said the outing can't be fun for everyone!

I got to walk along the scrub oak in the Colorado sunshine with my two favorite canines,

and they got to do some quality sniffing,

and stick chewing. Ruby looks like such a hayseed. Cute.

Kiva's an old pro hiking dog. She loves to look out over a precipice at the view, but this was as far as I was willing to let her go with Roo hopping about on the other leash.

Actually, the little squirt impressed me. Even with all the ground level entertainment, her focus was pretty good. There was plenty to investigate, so I'd let her roam for awhile out at the full length of the leash, then call her back and we'd practice some heeling and loose leash walking among the grasses and rocks. There was rustling in the scrub (maybe a bird or snake?), and she'd look in that direction, but she never made a break for it. Sits and downs are also always good to practice in unfamiliar territory.

I never bring both dogs on a training outing, but I couldn't leave Kiva home on such a beautiful day. As always, she amazes me with her patience. She kept herself busy but calm on one leash so I could get some nice work in with Ruby on the other.

Three girls together, a good day.

October 8, 2009

October 6, 2009

The Vacuum

Eh, she has no problem with it. She doesn't adore it, want to call it her boyfriend, and go to the prom with it, but nobody really likes this annoying vacuum and we are all hoping it bites the dust (D'OH!) soon.

October 2, 2009


The resemblance is spooky!