October 31, 2010

Fun-Size Halloween Treat...Or Trick?

Hey, this puppy CAN see ghosts...and they're very soothing.

October 30, 2010

Dr. Frankenstein And His Assistant


SCALPEL! (It's ok, he has a Ph.D.)



October 29, 2010

Red Rocks, A Perfect Day

About a week left with Ruby, not a moment to waste! I've never seen a more beautiful autumn than the one we've been having in Colorado. It's an open invitation to get outdoors and just enjoy the sunshine with our two best girls.

As our NY friend, Dennis, says... "Bark Diem!"

Every day spent with Kiva and Ruby is perfect, but there was just something extra-special about this one. We took a ride to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Morrison, where there's a rambling, pretty trail that's easy on Kiva's old bones. Climbing a mountain with Ruby would be exciting, but right now it's challenging enough just to keep her snoot up and off the ground!

Mmmmm...dirt! And twigs! Bugs! Dust! Leaves!

As the trail winds along the rock formations and through meadows and valleys, we got in some good loose leash walking practice.

But really, we just wanted to savor the beauty of being together.

Of course, Mr. Raiser and I had to make sure the girls hit the stage – they're our rockstars! I had a great view from where I was sitting.

But the best seat in the house is right next to the ones you love.

October 27, 2010

Photos In The Shoebox

Ruby's time with us now is so fleeting, I feel as though each moment with her is instantly dated from years past. Like those old snapshots of people you've loved.

We've gotten the date for her turn-in, November 8th. It's funny; until just now, I didn't know you could – very literally – experience every emotion at once.

October 25, 2010

Goodbye, And Best Wishes, To Brother Raven

Many of you have come to know and love Raven (Ruby's brother) through the wonderful guest posts written by his raiser, Barb, for this blog. Earlier today, Barb let us know that Raven is ready to move on to the next level. He'll be leaving tomorrow to enter Advanced Training.

Baby Raven cultivating that famous patience for shopping

Raven holds a special place in my heart, side-by-side with our Ruby, and Mr. Raiser and I wish him and his Advanced Trainer the very best.

Carving an award-winning jack-o-lantern last fall

Barb and her husband, Tom, have given Raven the most wonderful foundation possible. A service puppy could not have had a better start, and could not have been more loved, than Raven has been.

New Year's Day Hike with Mom and Dad

Many thanks, Barb. For keeping us up-to-date on Raven's progress with your funny posts and great photos, for the invaluable advice you've given to me and the other puppy raisers at Canine Partners of the Rockies, and for all of the laughs we've shared, as well as the tears. I know that no matter what Raven's future holds, he'll be an extremely happy, well-adjusted, and phenomenal dog thanks to your very special love and care.

October 23, 2010

Cheap Date

Ruby: Let's go to the movies!
Raiser: Good idea! But training you at the movies can get expensive...

The solution? Elvis! (But then again, isn't he always?)

Raiser: $2.50, now that's a deal even you can't shake a stick at!
Mmm, sticks!

Ruby: One Jujubees please, and a two-pack of sticks. Pine flavor!

She wanted to see one of the animated flicks, but we were on time for "The Other Guys" so that's what I chose.

Ruby: "The Oth...WHAT?"

Sigh. I have to say she was right. "The Other Guys" was not the best movie I've ever chosen. Although she was pretty delighted to get 8 out of 10 on the trivia before the show, which I honestly thought was too good for a dog. They make those waaaay too easy.

We were early and the theater was pretty empty, so we did some training in a large space in front of the screen. We worked on long stays as well as some of the basics – sit, down, stand, etc.

Contextual learning is very interesting. Because she had never practiced in this space before, it felt unfamiliar and she had trouble with simple commands, like "down." She did pretty well on sit/stays, although if I traveled too far away and waited too long to return to her, she'd get antsy, break her "sit," and start tentatively walking toward me. To help her gain confidence, I decreased the distance between us and she'd hold her "sit" till I returned or gave her the "here" command.

Since the theater was so empty, I chose a seat in the companion seating section where the rows are set in from the main aisle. I wanted her to practice sitting quietly next to me as the movie played. But those seats were only about three rows from the front, and when the movie started, it was so loud, I was afraid it could harm her ears. So we moved to the last row in the back of the theater where the sound was much easier on both of us.

And there we sat...for about 40 minutes. It was all we could take. Ruby was right, we should have waited around for "Dogs and Cats: The Revenge of Kitty Galore!" Unfortunately, we had to give "The Other Guys" two dewclaws down. Great cast, I had high hopes, just...not that funny. However, it did have guns, explosions and yelling, and none of that fazed Ruby in the least. She never flinched, no fear at all. So, half a star for that, and 'cause we still like Will Ferrell, regardless.

October 15, 2010

We Love Nordies

If you're a future Service Puppy Raiser, here's a tip. When you train your puppy in the mall, if that mall has a Nordstrom, do yourself a favor and begin there. It's just so...pleasant.

Under the undies.

Cute pup...but really just an excuse to take a picture of THOSE BOOTS.

Going to stores with Ruby is one of the things I'll miss most. She's great company – calm, interested, patient, and fun. It's like shopping with a good friend.

I decided to celebrate my pal's retail success by taking her to lunch. Just us girls. Well, she really needs the practice. And Nordstrom's turkey & cranberry on multi-grain happens to be very delicious.

Going up!

Staying put under tables in restaurants for entire meals is not yet Ruby's strong suit – she's very nosy! I've seen a big change over the past few weeks, though, where I can tell she's really trying. She gets squirmy, but works hard to control herself and remain under...

...or at least close to...or at least in the vicinity of...the table.

Thanks to our friend, Lea, from Embrace Pet Community (who witnessed this squirrelly Roo behavior at the Petties Awards luncheon), I crack up every time Ruby assumes this position. Lea has christened it "Ruby's 'Tocks" – an instant classic!

October 12, 2010

Hide-A-Squirrel Winner

Congrats to SweetSue and thanks to all who entered and celebrated our 200th post with us! I had a great time reading about all of your pets!

October 6, 2010

What She Brings

Ruby is 17 months old and now that we're in the homestretch, I've been thinking a lot about our time together over the past year. I hold so much in my heart, but one thing above the rest.

I think any of us would say that when we're out alone or with friends – at restaurants, movies, or particularly when we're shopping – we don't interact much with the people around us. Why would we? Everyone is busy, preoccupied with their own errands and agenda. Not much eye contact or connecting with random strangers. All of these little worlds doing their best not to collide.

The scene is altered when you're out with a service puppy. I'd take Ruby out at 12 weeks old and I knew we'd have lots of attention because she was just so adorable. As she got older, I expected the public's curiosity. But without fail, wherever we are, people see us and smile. They invite eye contact. They start conversations, ask questions, or just say something kind.

I took her to the mall the other day for some training.

A few minutes after I took this shot, an older couple sat down in that seat and watched us work. Ruby and I were really concentrating, totally in the zone, practicing some difficult things with lots of distractions, and she was really nailing it. I knew the couple was watching, but I didn't make eye contact with them until we finished. Then I sat in the chair across from them, smiled, and saw them just beaming.

We started to chat about Ruby and her training. They told me about a person in their church who had also raised a service puppy. I told them about my Kiva. I learned about their precious dogs who had each lived to the exact same age and each passed away on the very same day, fifteen years apart. We talked about movies! We just...talked.

We got to know each other, even if only for a few minutes. I met these wonderful people, no longer strangers, over a smile.

That is what has struck me so deeply. People see us together, they respect us, recognize what we are doing, and they are happy. And that makes me indescribably happy in return.

We tend to think of service dogs for their physical assistance, but they bring just as much, or more, to their partners on an emotional level. One of the reasons I decided to raise a service puppy is because I am so aware of, and so grateful for, the joy that Kiva has brought to my life. Because of her, I wanted to give back, to help bring a unique joy and presence to someone else's life.

Yet raising this service puppy has brought so much to my life as well. To truly enjoy the company of strangers. To meet and know people I otherwise never would have. To have the opportunity to talk with so many people about her training.

To see smiles everywhere I look.

I reflect on the number of people we pass in a day and wonder how many hearts and minds my little service puppy has burrowed into. When someone who has encountered us sees a person with a disability, perhaps they'll think of Ruby. Maybe they'll remember what she was learning, and better understand the challenges that person faces. And rather than look away or stare, they'll smile.

Update: Let's share the message! Please cast your vote for Raising Ruby for "Best Blog Post" at the 2011 Petties Awards and help us spread the word that smiles, rather than stares, can make a world of difference for individuals with disabilities. 

Just click here to vote: http://dogtime.com/petties

October 3, 2010

Guest Post: Raven Gets Ready For Homecoming

Dear Sister Ruby –

I have been following your blog and you are right, we are big dogs now!

Last weekend was very exciting, while you went to a great brunch and learned lots of interesting stuff, I got to help my friend Laura get ready for her homecoming…

Here she is last year (notice that I am not ON the sofa)
They are so cute when they are little aren’t they?

Flash forward – Here I am Friday night shopping at Forever 21 with her. I was very interested in the first 100 dresses but after my mom went charging out after dress #101 (and it wasn’t even in spots) I decided that I would just practice my down with an implied stay and hope she didn’t forget me. Oh, the life of a highly trained Service Dog (in training) is tough but I am sooooo ready in case my potential partner is a teenage girl….

After all that excitement, Laura found a great dress, got ready in time with lots of help from Reina and me and had a fabulous time at the dance. I gave her some extra attention on her way out, just so she remembers that I am the dude who loves her best.

I can’t wait to hear what your next adventure is…


(Hey Bro, a boy with such patience in the fitting room? That's gotta be worth at least two Frosty Paws AND some elk jerky! Laura looks absolutely beautiful, and her blue dress with your black coat is stunning – you make a great pair! Love, Sis Roo)