There is no better way to spend an evening than with Leader Dog puppies in training and eating pancakes. And, that is exactly how last evening went.
Kim picked Nala and I up as she always does and we headed off to cross the Michigan/Ontario border. Kim is currently puppy watching one of the prison raised puppies named august who is a real sweetheart. He is a wee, little Yellow Lab boy who is full of spunk and energy. I love him. He excitedly greeted Nala when she got into the car, but we soon realised that a car riding switch would have to be made.
Spring has sprung and August, who is not fixed yet, thought Nala was beautiful. He relentlessly barked at her, but she was not interested. We told him to try dinner and some flowers first, but he wasn't taking the message. No amount of us attempting to distract him could get him to stop; not even me pitching a Kong into the back seat. We pulled over and August was put into what we call "the penalty box." August had to ride on the floor at my feet. Realistically this is not bad as it's a position most guide dogs have to get used to riding in anyway. So, it became a training opportunity. Training wasn't really necessary though as he settled nicely at my feet and went to sleep. Our ride thereafter was nice and quiet.
When we arrived at the prison, Kim and I walked both August and Nala to the gates where some of the guys were waiting for us. I handed over Nala's leash with a letter telling them about her and the leash of a four month oldish German Shepherd named Chewie was given to me. I was to take Chewie to the pancake dinner that the local Lion's club was putting on. The Lions are huge supporters of Leader Dogs and so it only made sense to take lots of puppies in training to the fundraising event.
Nala went willing which I knew she would. She knows the guys and knows that visiting means fun training. In my letter I had asked the guys to teach her "legs" which is basically a "finish left cue in obedience. I had a few other things, but we really didn't leave her for that long. So, "legs" was a good start.
Chewie tried to get to his raiser who was relieving Nala as I waited for other people to collect their puppies. He was very concerned that his raiser was on the other side of the fence and he was not. He tried to use his might Shepherdy strength to drag me to his raiser, but thankfully, he's only 40 plus pounds right now; which is actually enormous for a wee puppy. However, it meant that I wasn't going for a ride. He wasn't interested in listening to me. So, I used my happy puppy voice just to get him used to me.
Kim was taking Bravo to the dinner, the Golden Retriever that stayed at my house for few days a while back. Another woman who was interested in taking puppies out was taking August since he is a smaller fellow. Puppies exchanged, we headed out.
Kim and I had a conversation in the car before getting to the prison. I told her that I'd never done something like this before, that I was a horrible cane user and that if this didn't work that she should be completely honest. We were winging it. We would never do it again if it was awful. I had left my cane in the car and so I put my right hand on Kim's right shoulder and followed her back to the car. It actually worked in keeping Chewie from taking off on his leash. He is a very enthusiastic walker. We got into the car, Bravo in the back and Chewie in the "penalty box" even though he hadn't been a bad boy. I just wanted to smoosh him as much as possible while I could. I love German Shepherds.
We arrived at pancake dinner place with no incidents. We reassumed our makeshift guiding position and I tucked my cane under my arm, just in case. I wasn't entirely sure I'd use it. I could hear a lot of people talking as we approached the doors and white canes and large crowds really don't mix; especially if you are a terrible cane user like me. As we got closer to the door, an outside puppy raiser was standing talking to others and Chewie began barking at his dog; or maybe him, I'm not sure. I let go of Kim's shoulder and took a few steps back to where Chewie stopped barking. I treated him, had him sit and waited. Then, I tried a few steps closer again. As soon as he started barking I stopped and waited; treated for him being quiet. This took a few minutes, but eventually I could walk right up to the man and his Lab puppy and Chewie was no longer interested. I was happy to see that when we left the building later and happened across the same guy and his puppy Chewie didn't even look at her. Good job, my big eared, little dude.
I was interested how things would go once inside. There were tons of people, much noise and someone was playing the piano. Chewie was excited and a little heavy on the leash, but he was easy to get back to me. It took a lot of work and vigilance. It was a good glimpse into what puppy raisers go through when out with their puppies. I was sweating by the time we made our way through the crowd, Kim carrying two plates of pancakes and sausages and walking Bravo. Talented woman. The guy at the drinks table was kind enough to bring our drinks to the table for us. The food was so good that I asked Kim for seconds. She left Bravo since i told her that she could. It would be easier for her; especially since it seemed to have gotten busier.
Everyone was quite well behaved. Chewie blew my mind. He stayed under the table for the most part and was quick to hop back under if he decided to venture out. He learned very quickly that I was the lady with the kibble and relaxed nicely between my feet. It was impressive since it was so noisy and so busy. So many people walked by and he kept his nose ot himself. A child even stopped to pet Bravo and Chewie stayed quietly at my feet. again, good boy.
I only managed a few more sausages and another hash brown off of my second plate. I think I stuffed a feeww more mouthfuls of pancake in too, but there was no way I could finish another plate. Upon finishing our food, Kim and I walked the two boys the parameter of the gym to talk to people about them and where they were being raised. Chewie sat every time I stopped walking, sometimes needing a reminder, but always holding his sit. Then, at home time.
We had an accident in the front hall where August went number two. The puppy raiser walking him couldn't get him out fast enough. The funny thing is that I thought it was Chewie. once we hit the carpet in the hall, Chewie started walking strangely and then I smelled poop. I nearly died. How could i have not noticed that he had to go, but as I reached down to check his bum position I realised that it wasn't him. He was walking strangely because he loves to eat dirt and there was so much on the floor from people coming in and out that he thought he had a free buffet. A few "legs" and "sits" later with kibble and he didn't care about the dirt covered carpet anymore. Kim promptly set to work cleaning up August's accident since she is super prepared with her puppy clean up bag and we were off again. Chewie and I practiced "touch" in the car. He would hit my palm with his nose whenever I presented it to him and asked him to touch. At one point he thought I wasn't getting the kibble out fast enough because he touched and then whacked my arm with his paw to remind me he was there.
Our time came to an end too quickly. We drove back to the prison and I reluctantly relinquished his leash. However, I soon got Nala back and I was so happy to see her.
chewie's puppy raiser asked me how he did and I shouted "I want him!" over the fence. Someone reminded me that Nala could hear so I said that I could have both. I briefly filled Chewie's raisers in on how he did and another guy told Kim about how Nala did. they had even written me a note about her stay.
Kim and I said our good-byes and headed out again. We stopped at a coffee shop to read the note and talk about the evening. Nala and august both were exhausted and slept like rocks while we consumed buckets of coffee.
According to the note, Nala learned legs quite quickly. It wasn't perfected yet, but she was getting it. I was told to bring her back soon which was under scored for emphasis, so that they could polish her for me. They also informed me that Nala had shown her true colours and had humped the Giant and Gorgeous; Drumand a Golden Retriever I blogged about a while back. She seems to have a problem with this; humping most male dogs. Oh, Nala. that was rude.
The guys also said in their note that they had skipped dinner to train Nala. I feel like I owe them a pizza! I haven't tried Legs yet today, but I'm about to head out and will work on it with her. No point in wasting their hard work. I cant' thank them enough for working with Nala, and the note that they sent was so funny. I gave it to Kim to keep in her binder of letters that she keeps from them. I didn't want a certain Spaniel to shred it at our house.
The best news is that Kim didn't think it went badly. Our our "winging it" went well and we'll be taking puppies out again together.