August 30, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award

Everyone loves a surprise and I've received a really nice one from Deborah Flick at Boulder Dog – the Most Versatile Blogger Award! Deborah is a fellow Colorado blogger, but we've never met, although I hope to remedy that at BlogPaws West. If you haven't read Boulder Dog yet, definitely click on over. It's very entertaining and full of great insight regarding fearful dogs, gained through her experiences with her sweet girl, Sadie.

Many thanks to Deborah for this award, for her kind words about Raising Ruby, and for helping spread awareness about service dogs.

So let's see. The rules for this award are to share seven things about yourself and then paw the award forward to others. OK, instead of seven, I'm going to share ten Top Ten Favorite Muppets and Why I Love Them!

Cookie Monster – He lives for cookies and I do too!
Kermit – It just takes one small critter to begin something extraordinary.
Beaker – What can I say, I have a thing for scientists. :)
Count Von Count – Well, I hate math but I love bats!
Guy Smiley – He's America's Favorite Game Show Host!
Sam The Eagle – Looks exactly like a nice nun I had in grammar school.
Grover – Like all of us, he makes a lot of mistakes, and that's totally OK.
Oscar – Because sometimes it's just really fun to be really grumpy.
Rowlf – He's a Muppet Dog, so...of course!
The Yip Yips – Stars of my most favorite Muppet skit ever:

Deborah is also a 2010 Petties Award nominee, so to paw this award forward, here's a shout out to all of the blogs in the running this year. If you haven't visited some of them yet, you'll be in for a treat!

Boulder Dog
Fido Friendly
Champion Of My Heart
Fur By J Mikel
Thoughts Fur Paws
Life With Dogs
The Conscious Cat
My Cat Goma
Sparkle Cat
Conservation Club
Covered In Cat Hair
I Love Rescue Animals

Pawscoop also has some nice interviews with 2010 Petties Nominees (including yours truly) – check 'em out! Just click here.

August 28, 2010

Land Shark

A little refreshment for the doggie days of summer. Hey, remember puppy Ruby's first fun with the hose? Ahh, here.

August 24, 2010

Dropping The Leash

Part of working on a reliable stay with Ruby means I need to be able to drop her leash in public. It's possible that she could become accidentally separated from her partner when she is working, so I want to familiarize her with the feeling of being untethered in a public place without her breaking the implied stay of a "sit" or "down" command.

As far as how comfortable I am with dropping her leash in public, it feels like handing the car keys over to a teenager learning how to drive – you just have to let the trust outweigh the terror!

When I'm with her in a store and I want to practice, I just don't make it a big deal. Ruby's not really interested in adults or children passing by, so I feel pretty confident (I think...) that she's not going to take off. We're strolling along, I stop to see something and put her in a "sit" or "down," drop the leash, and walk ahead a few paces. Then I walk back, treat her for staying put, pick up the leash, and we move on for awhile and do it again.

If I feel she's in a good, relaxed state, I'll keep increasing the distance between us. She was doing very well at this shoe store, so I dropped the leash and walked past the aisle to the mirror. I think she was able to see me when I turned the corner, even though there were about three seconds when I couldn't see her. I'll admit, in those three seconds, I had visions of a gleeful Roo flying down the aisle with a boot dangling out of her mouth, losing her in this shoe maze, and eventually finding her devouring the heel of some $200 pump! But, of course, she hadn't moved an inch.

All in all, it was a pretty controlled environment, the store wasn't very crowded and had few distractions. So Mr. Raiser and I took her to Target and chose a noisy spot at checkout.

To start, I walked out about six feet while still holding the leash. She was mildly interested in a cart going by, but she didn't show any sign of getting up.

She was calm, so I tossed the leash and we practiced in different areas, just to change the context. She was great all around.

I've mentioned that service puppy raisers live and train by a philosophy of "Set Your Dog Up For Success." The dog's triumphs are even more striking when you realize that she has reached the point of also setting YOU up for success; what an amazing feeling it is when a nervous raiser can drop the leash and draw assurance from the confidence within her dog!

August 23, 2010

"Excuse Me, But Have You Swallowed The Dark-Haired Girl?"

I've been out-of-town for a few days, but I'll be back with updates soon!

August 16, 2010

Puppy Training Class: Progress

The sun is blazing out here in the Front Range, so we had Puppy Training Class inside the mall this past weekend. Nice and cool for the doggies, with plenty of added distraction. Makes for great training opportunities.

Upon arrival, my dog, The Mayor (first-born of the litter and official pot-stirrer), feels it's her duty to greet every pup. Nope, sorry Ruby, it's class time! I corralled my little bronco in our place at the end of the line, behind the cell phone sign.

We reviewed some of the basics, such as "Leave," and the dogs did fantastically well. Here's Ruby's sister, Reese, responding to "Leave" and completely ignoring the treat on the floor. (Doesn't she look just like our Roo?)

I've been asked why our cue is "Leave" rather than "Leave it." When we are with our dogs in public, some people take offense to the pronoun "it" when used in regard to interaction with humans. For this reason, we train our dogs to respond to the simple word, "leave" in order not to offend any person by the word, "it."

When Canine Partners of the Rockies' dogs have moved on from their puppy raisers and successfully complete Advanced Training, they will need to pass a Public Access Test prior to graduation. Passing this test grants the dog full public access in partnership with a mobility-limited individual. In class this week, we practiced some of the commands/behaviors expected of our dogs in order to pass the test. Our dogs need to be calm, cool, and collected in any situation while they are out in public, so part of the test is for the dog to lie still while a stranger steps over her/him. Ruby and her brother, Romeo, demonstrate:

We also need our dogs to have a very reliable recall in public. A busy mall is the perfect place to practice this important skill. In this exercise, we walk them to the middle of the aisle, drop the leash, we return to the wall alone, and call them. Can you pick out Roo? Hint: I'm the guy behind the sign!

Ruby did really well on this one, but not quite as well on a later exercise where I had to turn my back on her. But we're working on it!

The thing that made this class a benchmark for me was Ruby's progress with her greatest challenge: ignoring other dogs. After that initial excitement over her brothers and sisters, she gained her focus pretty quickly and ultimately behaved extremely well in an exercise that's very difficult for her, weaving among the other dogs on a loose leash walk. Her eye contact with me was excellent, she only gave away a few glances, and she didn't try to out-and-out mix it up with her pals as she always has in the past.

I know we have a way to go before this is a reliable behavior, a lot of practice ahead, but we've worked so diligently to get to this point, it was really encouraging. I witnessed a new confidence and maturity in her, a conscious effort to make the calm choice. She saw the temptation, but knew what she had to do.

As a puppy raiser, my progress with Ruby may be incremental, but each step is so gratifying.

August 10, 2010

King Tut

Our wonderful friends, D&M, invited us (and Ruby, of course!) to join them at the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Cameras weren't permitted in the rooms, so I don't have photos to show, but that's kind of fitting. Because this post really isn't about an outing.

The exhibit was crowded, it was dark, and it was in a smaller space than maybe it should have been, but I found it intimate and fascinating. I studied the intricacies of tiny painted figures, followed the paths of detailed carvings, and marveled at the fibers of the perfectly preserved bed. I read every placard, lingered over mysterious boxes, imagined the weight of impossibly heavy earrings.

And as I got lost in these treasures, I forgot Ruby was there.

She was beside me all the while, at the other end of the leash, right where she's been since she was ten weeks old. But for the first time in our year-long journey, I unwittingly concentrated more on my surroundings than I did on her. That, for me, is monumental.

When you're a service puppy raiser and have a bouncy pup tethered to you for most of your waking moments, you pretty much catch about 20% of what's going on around you. At lunch, you miss entire conversations; in stores, you ask questions, yet still buy the wrong item. You don't mean to ignore anyone, but your attention is focused on one thing, and one thing only: that little yellow (or black, or chocolate, or tan) ball of fur and where her inquisitive snoot is pointing next.

The King Tut exhibit was the very first time I started to understand the feeling of what it might be like to have an assistance dog by your side. I went at my pace and did what I wanted rather than gauge my time to her tolerance level. She was silent and still as I stopped to examine each artifact and when I was ready to move on, I'd look down and she'd look up – each of us reassuring the other – and together we'd navigate around the crowd to our next stop. Having her by my side as I enjoyed the show was one of the most comfortable feelings I've ever experienced.

Our fellow blogger and service puppy raiser, Beth, of Alfie's World, compared a service dog' s education to stitching a quilt; it struck me as a very lovely and apt comparison. There is such repetition in the process of raising a service puppy that it almost came as a surprise on this ordinary outing, no different, really, than so many outings before, when I realized that the thousands of stitches and scraps and bits and pieces had taken on form and shape. What Ruby and I are creating, the potential of what she may someday become, is so very beautiful.

August 6, 2010

You've Come A Long Way, Baby!

Here's a little gem unearthed from the far reaches of the vault. Baby Ruby at 12 weeks old dining al fresco with her stepsister, Service Puppy Peyton.

See that gaze? Ruby just adores her big sister. She's overcome with awe.

Until she decides she wants a piece of her. Straight for the throat!

And Peyton's right back at 'er with a solid rear paw to the gut!

It's like Extreme Cage Fighting...only better! With puppies!

Pinned! Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner.

August 4, 2010

Behind The Velvet Rope

Ooh, I always wondered what went on back there in the VIP section!

(Ruby and friends at the Denver Art Museum; photo by our pal, D.)

August 3, 2010

We're Finalists, It's Time To Vote!

With so many thanks to all of our amazing friends and followers, Raising Ruby is proud to announce we've been nominated for DogTime's Pet Blog Award, the 2010 Petties!

Now it's time to vote! Please click the button in this post (or on our sidebar), or click this link and vote for Service Puppy Ruby in the "Best Cause Related Blog" category.

First prize is a $500 donation to shelter/rescue to help our neediest furry friends, which makes us all winners!

Voting ends on August 20, 2010. We thank you all!

August 1, 2010

Bark And Bluegrass

If it's called "Bark and Bluegrass," you know the Roo Crew is going to be there!

We spent a fun couple of hours enjoying the fiddlin', with the proceeds of the festival supporting local animal welfare organizations. Since all dogs were welcome at this event, we knew it would be a great opportunity in our efforts to help Ruby learn to be calm and relaxed around other dogs.

I'm happy to report that she did very well! At first, she was kind of pull-y with all the dogs walking around, but really, she wasn't even all that nuts.

Seeing all of the dogs in one place was understandably a little overwhelming for her, but she got that excitement out of the way in the first 5-10 minutes. She was pretty well-behaved as we visited the vendor booths, maybe sniffing a dog as she passed by, but when I told her to "leave" (our command for "leave it"), she absolutely did.

Since it was a dog-friendly event, all of the booths had bowls of water and yummy treats – it was doggie heaven! One booth was promoting agility and my picture-perfect girl had her photo taken for a local newspaper.

We tried our luck at a bean-bag toss and won a neat little Otter Box, the perfect size to store our mini point-and-shoot camera!

Of course, there was tasty refreshment for humans as well as doggies. But notice that little path behind us? Dogs, kids, everyone, a steady stream of folks walking by and Roo did not get up to investigate once. She just watched and hung out, and for us, that is REAL progress! Here's to my two good girls...cheers!