They know the sound.
Different to them than any other they might hear.
Suddenly now awake.
Noses to the front door.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Maybe it isn’t him?
Foot steps up the walk.
They do love him so. Super cute.
They know the sound.
Different to them than any other they might hear.
Suddenly now awake.
Noses to the front door.
Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Maybe it isn’t him?
Foot steps up the walk.
They do love him so. Super cute.
My husband can be a very witty person. He some how manages to consistently think quickly on his feet and still be funny. I sometimes can do that but as he jokes, “yes and sometimes you even mean to.” HaHa, very funny dear. Sure sometimes he tries too hard, but more often than not his wit works for him.
It became quickly clear back when we were dating that I didn’t understand many of the jokes he was making. I had a rather sheltered life and many of the things that somehow others picked up as common knowledge didn’t make it into my sphere until much later in life. I’d never watched the Simpsons or many other TV programs many of my generation grew up with (heck as an adult when he and I met I didn’t even have a working TV), I had never seen an R rated movie, I had never really dated until him, and even in high school most of my friends or people I was close with were adults.
I don’t remember which comment but years ago there was some witty comment he made that I didn’t understand. And I said something that “the only reference I know for that is border collies.” When what he was meaning was definitely NOT related to border collies. At all. To which he laughed very very hard. And from thence forth when my naivety shows for one of his remarks, we joke that he needs to explain as I’m operating on Border Collie Level.
A few of my ducks recently molted. Feathers everywhere. Everywhere! Bald looking wings. The kids had fun making quill feather pens to practice writing with out of the discarded feathers. Ok honesty, less writing more smearing glitter glue with them. Fun none the less.
Their new feathers are apparently in now though.
How do I know?
Sticky and Chompers both launched themselves at my head this morning.
Ok, they weren’t intentionally going for my head. I don’t think…maybe I haven’t been generous enough with the peas lately, hmm I should be careful…
In their excitement and anticipation of my opening the door this morning to let them out, flap flap launch!
At my head.
Being domestic ducks, they don’t get very far, height or distance wise. I mean really it’s a rather comical attempt at flight. The way when I was a kid my sisters and I made cardboard wings out of the new dishwasher box and then leapt from the top of an old stump flapping as hard as we could all the way. Which I guess my parents thought was better than the stories we all heard from when my grandma was a kid she leapt from the top of the porch using an umbrella. At least our attempts at flight did not result in any broken bones. But that’s a pretty accurate description of my duck’s flights. A fight with gravity. Gravity gets them every time.
The other day I found an interesting, well interesting to me, training hole. One of those, huh, that’s interesting. No idea the hole was there until yesterday. I’m still playing around with the best way to remedy it.
Overall, before yesterday, I’d have said Zora has a rather reliable stay. In agility, in the field, in the house.
But over our time trialing, I’ve realized that if I do a lead out where I’m ahead of her then release the stay, she drives straight ahead. But if I’m parallel to her or behind her, she does anywhere from a quarter step toward me before straightening to go through the first obstacle to pulling off the first obstacle completely when I release her.
When I leave her in a stay she looks at me not at the first obstacle. And when released she doesn’t immediately look for the obstacle I’ve set her up in front of. This costs us time and potentially off courses. Plus it limits our success when I do different lead outs.
So yesterday I decided it was high time I trained this. To work on not releasing Zora until she was looking at the obstacle I set her up in front of. And work on teaching her to look forward at the obstacle, not at me, then move forward fast directly through the obstacle upon release.
And I found the hole.
My dog who I thought had a solid understanding of wait until released, doesn’t when she’s looking ahead and I’m visible.
By that I mean, if I ask her to stay and I then go out of sight, she’s solid.
If I ask her to stay and I’m visible, apparently her understanding of stay is then dependent on her being able to look at me.
When I set her up in front of an obstacle, ask her to wait, then I stand there body indicating first obstacle but waiting for her to look at it. She sits or stands or lies there staring at me, then tentatively looks away from me to the obstacle. The moment she looks at it, she self releases taking off like a shot. I like the speed, direction and commitment of the move off stay to the first obstacle, I don’t like the lack of actual release from me.
It happens too when she’s not set up in front of an obstacle. After I realized what was happening at the obstacle, I removed it and just set her up to stay with me standing beside her, nothing in front of us. I wanted to find out if it was just related to the obstacle being there or was this a more complete training hole. Then I waited. The moment she looked forward, taking her eyes off of me, she self released. Same take off like a shot, fast forward. Again I liked the speed, direction, forward commitment, not so keen on the lack of verbal or other release cue from me.
I’m currently percolating on how to train this without loosing that fast, committed, intense, direct move off the stay. And without confusing her further.
I’ve already realized I can’t simply time my release cue to the second she looks at the obstacle to start with. I’m not fast enough with my release cue, there is a mental delay for me to get the word out and by then she’s already self released. At this stage her self release happens really fast after she’s looked forward, split second fast.
And I’m concerned that if I do a treat or toy drop on her head the moment she looks at it, I will degrade the fast move off that I’m really really really liking. Same if I remind her to wait, she will stop the moment I ask her to but she then is once more looking at me. I wait for her to look away, she self releases once more. I don’t want to get a herky jerky ‘am I supposed to go or not go?’ type of response from her. I want her to feel clear and confident.
When I think about how I’ve successfully trained my retriever puppies in past how to do this during baby puppy marking drills. I knelt down behind them, my hands gently on their shoulders. In this position I could feel when they were staying solid, and I could feel when they were looking straight ahead. Then release them when those things were happening together. From there progressed to no hands actually touching their shoulders, to then standing behind them, to then standing beside them and so on.
I’m not sure how Zora would respond to this at this stage in her life. Hmm, fun things to think about.
With the dogs I try really hard to take the long range view. The ‘what is the goal I’m really working today?’ the ‘what behavior do I really want to live with for the next 15 years?’ the ‘how will today impact all of our future tomorrows?’ and then make training plans and actions accordingly.
This can be a hard thing. A really hard thing. Especially when in the moment something goes not according to plan. Or there is outside pressure, like a time deadline, or a score, or feeling like someone might judge, or sometimes I just want the dog to do what I’d like right now without all of the mess of working through it.
It’s sometimes hard to work through the process it will take to make it to the long range goal. To stay focused on that path.
My response to Zora eating duck food is such a problem. She’s developed a habit (really annoying habit if you ask me, a delicious habit if you ask her) of going into the duck pen when I have the door open so the pen can dry out after I clean it, and snacking on the bits of duck kibble she can find.
It drives me nuts.
I then act like a moron and sternly yell at her to “Get out of there! Stop it!”
She usually grabs one last mouthful and comes out.
If we’re in the yard and I’m not thinking, she sneaks in there to snack.
I know there are a long list of things I could do to actually solve this problem.
So why haven’t I done any of those things?
Because I lost focus. Because I haven’t made Zora’s behavior in that setting a priority. Because when it occurs I’m usually focused on a few other things, not on Zora at that moment. Part of it too is because I just don’t want to have to change myself. I want to be able to wave my magic wand and her to not do it. Because doing all of those things takes planning and forethought and sometimes I go, “God damn it! I’m tired. I have so many things on my plate. Why do I have to? Can’t you just stop eating duck food?!”
I think sometimes part of it too is despite that it annoys me, I also can’t really fault her for it. I mean she clearly thinks the duck food tastes good. And she’s such a good dog overall and she tolerates a lot. And she helps me a lot with the ducks. And there are so many settings around food where she shows immense control and doesn’t touch it (like when the kids drop food). I feel a bit guilty telling her she can’t have a mouthful or so of duck food.
In the end, I have to decide what’s my long game here? Do I want to yell and feel annoyed? No, definite no. Do I want to change that? Yes, definite yes. Do I want Zora to feel she has to sneak around to get what she wants? No, definite no. Am I ok with Zora eating duck food? A lot, no, but a mouthful sure. Those are my goals: set up a management or training plan to enable Zora to enjoy up to a mouthful of duck food without fear and me to not get annoyed or yell. When I write that out it now feels totally doable. I can accomplish that. Sure. Now, to remain focused on those goals.
I’m having a bit of a sensory moment. Ok more than a moment. A sensory few days.
Beau, stop breathing on me.
But, Miss Katrin how will I know you love me if I’m not Right Here?!
Beau, get out of my face. Stop. Breathing. On. Me!
I get up and move away.
Whining now. Getting even closer.
But, Miss Katrin. How will I know you love me if I’m not RIGHT HERE?!
Beau, stop whining and stop breathing on me. I’m having a day.
But, Miss Katrin. How will I know you love me if I’m not Right Here?!
Beau, how about right now I don’t love you in my face?
What?! You don’t LOVE ME?!
Ok, ok, I’m sorry. I do love you. (I pet him and remind him I really do love him.) Just can I love you from 2 feet away?
Harrumph. Fine. I will lie right here at your feet. 2 feet you said. Here are your 2 feet. See, I’m not touching you. Shoes don’t count.
It’s gonna be a day. I can feel it already. Gonna be A Day. Sigh.
A few years back my husband introduced me to Macoun apples. And I’ve not looked back. I’ve heard they can only be found in New England and New York, but don’t quote me on that. What I do know is when they do appear here, they are here for a scant short amount of time. And they are the most amazing delicious applies I have ever tasted. Seriously. If you’ve never had a Macoun, try to get some. Fresh from a local farm if you can. They are fantastic.
This morning we met up with my family at a pick your own orchard. The last time the family picked here, they didn’t have Macouns available. They had the traditional New England pick your own Macintosh apples. We didn’t even know they grew Macouns as there is no mention of them on their website or other place we could find. So imagine our delight and surprise to find not only do they have them but today was the first day they allowed their Macouns to be picked!!!
We picked an entire half bushel of delicious Macoun apples. Talk about happy day!
Once home, I decided we deserved some pampering so made an apple pie. Well it isn’t really an apple pie as there is no shell, and the filling isn’t quite apple pie. I have no idea what to actually call this so I’m calling it Faux Apple Pie. My sister has made this for many years, it’s delicious and she has shared the recipe with me. So I shall now share it with you so you too can enjoy it’s amazing deliciousness. And it’s so easy to make! Or at least much easier than a traditional apple pie I think.
Faux Apple Pie (Gluten free)
peel and slice apples, put in 13×9″pan, sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. In a bowl mix egg and butter, add dry ingredients. Cover apples with batter, sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar. bake 375° for about an hour
Indulge and enjoy!
This morning we packed up the dogs bright and early to head out to an agility trial. Due to life being busy and the weather (meaning wet grass) we haven’t had a chance to train much this month. I entered today mostly to give Zora and I one last chance to practice in a trial setting before NADAC Championships next month.
It was a great morning, we entered 6 out of the 8 runs which was perfect. I’m glad we didn’t enter the last 2 runs of the day, ending at 1:30p was just right for today. We came home with 2 regular Qs, a chances Q and a weavers Q. Which I’m pleased with as they were nice runs where we had good team work and they were the qualifiers I was hoping we’d get as our point accumulate toward some awards.
Our first run though, Elite Touch N Go, was oh a lot of miscommunications. Our lack of practice this month showed. Running Zora was like trying unsuccessfully steer a freight train that run. Oi. She made me work! As if my cues were irrelevant. She kept locking on to certain obstacles. Go? What’s that. Switch? What’s that. It was fun and comical. Her 2nd a-frame was rather scary, I don’t think even she was expecting the way she did it. But she’s a good little dog even when she’s being a bit naughty. I can’t help but love her.
From there our teamwork improved and we got back into our usual groove. Regulars were fun. Chances we were one of the few Elite dogs to get it. And weavers I was very pleased with, she was moving and working very well the entire run.
Now it’s a matter of checking off my lists, packing the car, making sure the person watching our house and the ducks is set, trying to get enough sleep this next week and then we’re off on our trek to Ohio! NADAC Champs here we come!
Fall is really one of my favorite seasons. Depending on the year it can be a toss up between fall and spring for me. I find the season change mentally refreshing (physically, ugh, my body hates season change, but mentally I need them). I can’t imagine living somewhere without seasons. The cold snow of winter, the humidity of summer, the growth of spring, the leaves of fall.
Seasons remind me that everything is cyclical and everything is finite. Wait long enough and things will change. Be aware of patterns. Be prepared for things to change and for them to come around again. Value what is here today. Tomorrow will be different. I find seasons comforting, and reminders to be mindful of now.
Experiencing the seasons at ground level is one of the many reasons I love our woods walks. Feeling the temperatures change. The smell of fall rolling in. Hearing the species of birds shift. The leaves falling to the ground. The crunch of acorns under my boots. Being outside in the elements, feeling it all as it occurs.
The cooling temperatures, the falling leaves, the shifts in daylight also signal it’s time to grab the orange vests off their hooks when we walk. Safety first. It’s hunting season. Zora with her little bunny rabbit hop and white tip of the tail. Tom large and black. We all gear up before our walks. Vests for the dogs. Hat and vest for me. The hunter orange signaling we aren’t prey!
The dogs associate their visibility vests with walks in the woods. They eagerly shove their heads into them when I hold the vest up. They stand patiently waiting as I clip the buckles under their legs and belly, ensuring the vests stay on. Bug spray is then applied, and we’re off.
As we walked today, things still damp after the rain we’ve had this week, the sun hidden behind the clouds, the temperature just low enough one wants a light jacket, my friend mentioned it is supposed to be 80 on Sunday. I groaned. They said they were groaning about today, it is so dreary.
I laughed, but today is such a lovely day! It’s a comfortable day. Today is cool enough to wear nice comfy layers, a soft sweat shirt, a well worn pair of jeans, to take a walk where you don’t get too hot or too cold. Where the dogs are gleeful and happy. Where once you get home you can wrap up in a blanket, pour a nice hot cup of tea, grab a cookie and curl up with a good book or a TV program or the laptop. Not warm enough for air conditioning, not cold enough for heat, just right for a blanket. Where it’s not too grey out, nor is it bright and glarey. Where the humidity is low, where you end a walk with dry boots. It’s the perfect type of day.
Soon they were laughing too and agreed curled up on the couch with warm cup of coffee, a cookie and a tired dog sounded delightful.
A perfect kind of day.
About a year after Tom and I were matched, his puppy walker (what the Guide Dog Foundation calls their puppy raisers) sent me a package. A lovely hard cover book filled with photos of Tom growing up in their family. Such a lovely and thoughtful gift. Both Tom and the book.
Yesterday I had the kids (my gaggle of nieces and nephews) as usual and read them the book for the first time. They loved it. Couldn’t believe Tommy was in a book! It was fun sharing with them Tom puppy photos, his first year of life and about Tom’s first family.
Being a Guide Dog Puppy Walker is a mighty task but one with such rewards. I am thankful daily that Tom had such a loving, fantastic home. Tom was the first puppy they raised, and they did an amazing job with him. Such amazing people. They loved Tom, and they did so knowing he was destined to be more than their dog.
For those unfamiliar with the process. Guide dog programs carefully breed and whelp litters of future guide dog puppies. GDF (Guide Dog Foundation) does this I believe mostly at their breeding facility on Long Island in NY, but I think they might also have people and families trained to whelp and raise litters in their homes. The breeding dogs live in homes with volunteer Breeder Caretakers just like a regular pet dog and return to the Foundation for health testing and breedings.
Once the puppies have been raised with their dam and litter mates, they are placed in volunteer Puppy Walker homes from the age of around 8 weeks until they are called back for formal training around 14-18 months of age. GDF has puppy walkers all over the east coast from New England to Florida. Puppy Walkers are regular people, all volunteers, they can be individuals, they can be families, they can be students, they can be retired, they can have full or part time jobs. You don’t need to have had a dog before or know much about dogs at all to be a Puppy Walker. All that is needed is to have a stable home, and the willingness to love, care, and raise the puppy within the training guidelines.
Puppy Walkers are responsible for teaching the puppy house manners including to toilet outside, basic obedience, proper manners around other people, dogs and distractions and to begin the dog’s public access training by taking them into varying environments. Puppy Walkers attend regular training classes offered by the Foundation where they train with other puppy walkers and their pups and are instructed by trained staff or volunteers. The Foundation provides all manner of training and educational support to their Puppy Walkers. Because GDF has Puppy Walker Groups all over the east coast, there are puppy walker classes all over the east coast. The Foundation also has a number of prison pup programs, where inmates train and raise the puppies Monday through Friday and volunteer Puppy Walkers take the pup into their home on the weekends to ensure the pup gets exposure, training and experiences outside of the prison environment. People can even co-raise a puppy, where the puppy’s early life experiences are shared between 2 families.
Throughout the time the dog is growing up with the Puppy Walker there are various evaluations and reports submitted on how the dog is doing to GDF. This helps them assess when the dog is ready to begin formal training or if the dog is showing signs that they would struggle as a guide or service dog.
When the dog is called back to the Foundation for formal training, there are various health evaluations done and then the dog is matched with a guide dog instructor to begin their formal guide dog education. The hope is the dog will pass all the various evaluations health, temperament and training to graduate and be matched with a disabled client.
The Puppy Walkers are all volunteers and they donate their time, love and care to the mighty task of raising these puppies all while knowing the goal is for the pup to grow up to be a working guide or service dog. The dedication and selflessness is incredible.
I will always be grateful for Tom’s Puppy Walker Family. He would not be the dog he is today without them. He is a very precious gift.
The Guide Dog Foundation is always seeking new Puppy Walkers. If you would like to learn more about their volunteer opportunities please visit: www.guidedog.org
An educational video from The Guide Dog Foundation on Puppy Raising: