Puppy walking

An adventure in looking after a puppy until it is old enough to be properly trained as a guide dog for the blind.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I feel so irresponsible since Rockwell went to school. I don't have to look after anyone but myself (if you don't count Peter that is and really, he is able to look after himself, unlike a puppy). It reminds me of when I was going to school full time as a student. I rented a room and all I had to do was feed myself and do laundry. I didn't even have to vacuum my room, as someone else would do that once a week, not that there was any dog hair to vacuum. Which is another odd experience around here - to be able to walk down the hall with the hardwood floors and not see any dog hair, gently swirling against the baseboards, rolling into little tumbleweeds. With a few brief hiatuses, I have had 16 years of dog hair that reappears right after you vacuum it, no matter how frequently you vacuum. I still see dog hair and that will continue until I have done a few more vacuumings where I get more ambitious in my reach. But it is odd.

And boy, is it quiet. I really don't miss the barking that I stubbornly called "his invitation to play" but I do miss the little jingle of his tags as he pads around the house, the noises as he climbs the stairs so he can sit in companionable silence with me while I am sewing, even his wake-up scratching every morning. I hope he is enjoying his new experiences at kennels.
companionable silence
Instead of "holding hands" we're "holding paws".
mmm, chest scratch!
Those are some blissed-out ears!
on his way
Here's the second-last photo. He's too busy sniffing all the great other dog smells in the car to cooperate with Peter.
last look
One last look, and he was gone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We've already had an update from Guide Dogs. It turns out that Rockwell just had a weekend to enjoy himself with other dogs in a casual setting and now he is going into kennels for training! He went to a nice family with two other dogs on Friday and they really enjoyed having him. He got to play with other dogs and have people tell him how cute he is. And now there is a vacancy in kennels so he will be going there Tuesday to start his formal training.

Now, the first little while in kennels is a big adjustment so it is like a honeymoon period for the new dogs The trainers and others at kennels will be playing with Rockwell more than working and he will have a good chance to settle in and get comfortable. During this time, he will of course be assessed regularly to make sure he is happy. Those folks at the Guide Dogs really love their dogs and I am content that Rockwell will be there. In fact, over the weekend, I worried that he might feel anxious because he was in a new setting but my worry was for nothing. He is such an outgoing little fellow that he seems to fit in wherever he is. I am so pleased.

Now as promised, some photos. Peter set the camera up on a tripod and used the remote to trip the shutter.
final evening 1
I love this one - it looks like Peter is showing Rockwell something he should know about on the computer.
final evening 2
The television is on and I am in my usual pose - prone on the small couch.
final evening 3
I reach over and Rockwell licks my hand.
There are about 15 of these in a series and it makes for a nice slide show but I won't inflict that on the blog reader.
where's my house?
Peter has moved the kennel to the garage for the next morning and Rockwell is wondering where his house went. He really seemed to like this location for the kennel, better than the first place I put it, in the dining room.
in the corner one last time
When he was a wee small puppy, he would often squeeze between the couches and under the table in the corner. He hadn't done that in months but for some reason, he went into the corner on that last evening.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's been a week since I blogged and Rockwell has been gone three days. I already miss his little happy face greeting me when I come home, his utter joy at mealtimes, the ears back and snorgling in his corner at the front door, the affectionate way he would lie at our feet in the evening.

I've been wondering how to write why he went back a week early without me sounding like a whining weenie. But I think I'll just write the way it all transpired and leave you to judge. I think I have enough perspective now to do that, and it was perspective I lost for a while there.

Over a month ago, the pattern of our lives changed a bit. Peter was home on holidays and then bereavement leave, instead of going to work every day. We knew Rockwell would be returning to Guide Dogs fairly soon. It seemed pedantic to make him walk properly all the time when he'd be really working soon. So I started to slack off. I let him bounce around at the end of a long leash because he seemed to enjoy himself so much. We kept up the strict no-human-food rule and the other rules but we didn't impose discipline while we were out. And then it started to show.

It got incrementally more difficult, day by day, for me to insist that walks be done my way. And then Peter went away for over a week. He had a business trip he had to do. I also started teaching for the Fall session - only mornings but it was a change. And the week that Peter was away, Rockwell really stepped up the lie-in-the-road-and-won't-come-home behaviour. It got so that I dreaded going outside the house with him because I knew I wouldn't be able to get him home without a struggle. But I had to take him out, four or five times a day.

Soon, the constant anticipation of a confrontation four times a day was making me doubt my sanity. And then of course, I'd say to myself, "it's just a dog! You can do this!" But it's amazing what a little negative brain chemistry will do to transform one's thoughts from normal to despair. And then I'd say to myself, "Peter's coming home in 4 days (or 3 days), and I have an appointment to see Sheila on Monday (the day Peter got home)". And I soldiered on. On the weekend, I enlisted the help of my friend in need and neighbour to walk with me and Rockwell so he would be a distraction and I could get Rockwell home. It worked but even so, Rockwell would still tug at the leash and lie down at the end of the walk. But on my part, it was a huge amount of moral support just to have to company.
in the road
One morning, as I stood outside while Rockwell lay in the road and I waited for good behaviour (knowing that I could not make him do what I wanted), another neighbour snapped this photo of the two of us with his cell phone. It might look amusing at first glance but what I see is me, trying not to have a breakdown in public.
a sign of submission
And yet, when we finally did make it home, he showed me how submissive he is, so I know he was not doing any of this for any bad reason.
looking out the window again
And then, we'd spend the afternoon in companionable silence, with me sewing and him looking out the window and keeping me company.

When Sheila finally showed up Monday morning, I broke down and cried and said I couldn't do this any longer. Even though I knew Rockwell would be going into kennels while we were away during the last week of September, I asked her if she could find some place for him to stay in the meantime. I felt like a total loser for asking and I felt like a failure, having come this close to the end of his legitimate stay and then bailing. But I just couldn't take it any more, the constant dread and anticipation of confrontation. So I bailed.

Sheila bless her heart said she understood completely and she would make arrangements. We both agreed that Rockwell could really benefit from a more stimulating home, somewhere with other dogs and more people. And in fact, that is where he is now - somewhere where I hope he is whooping it up. We also agreed that I had been handicapped in my year with Rockwell because I didn't have a large secure yard and I didn't have a car. I had thought I would be able to cope without a yard and a car and I did for most of the time, but they would have made the difference at the end.

So there it is - the good, the bad and the ugly. Of course, I know that Rockwell thrived under my care and that I taught him a lot of good things, including not to be afraid of loud noises and not to be nervous about small things. I probably took my volunteer job a little too seriously but then, I do that with the rest of the things I do in life too. I probably compared him a little too much with his predecessor Uma and he was a totally different personality. But he was a little too rambunctious and boisterous for me and I guess it just wore me down. I am also not very good at asking for help when I should but I'm getting better at that.

In any event, I wanted Rockwell to succeed in his ultimate task, which is becoming a guide dog, so I think I did the right thing in asking him to be placed somewhere else until he goes in for formal training. He is a smart dog and very outgoing and personable. I am so anxious for him to end up being a proper working dog. I will get updates from Sheila from time to time, telling me of his progress through school. And they will let me know if he is going to graduate and when. I just won't be able to visit with him once he's in school, so I will have to rely on second hand reports.

And I don't think I will be taking another puppy for several reasons. One reason is that I discovered I was allergic to dogs, more than I thought I was. I had become accustomed to Uma's dander so that I didn't really notice it any more. But when Rockwell came to stay a year ago, my allergic reaction caused me to get sick with one virus after another, about every month or so. Two other reasons are the yard and the car issues. Anyway, I think that's enough explanation for now. Later, I'll post some more photos of our last evening together, after I get them out of Peter's computer where they are now.
chest scratch under the table
This was our last morning together, and Rockwell is under the table, getting his chest scratched one last time by Peter.
our last hug
And here I am, giving him the last hug goodbye. Even though I've asked for them to come get him, I'm already tearing up and starting to miss him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rockwell is going back to Guide Dogs this week - probably Thursday. I will blog about that later but for now, I have some nice photos.
good dog
He really enjoys the human contact and I was petting him when I realized I had the camera and so snapped this photo from a close angle.
a skritch under the chin
As I scratched him, he moved his head around so all areas might get some attention.
a face cracker yawn
Finally, he gave a mighty yawn of the variety we call "face-cracker".
We shall miss these quiet moments.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Something new, something (really) old.

I got home from work this morning and when I went upstairs to change, I saw something that looked like white plaster lying on the carpet. It was a smattering of tiny chunks of what looked like drywall. I picked up a few pieces and couldn't figure out what it was. I asked Rockwell but he looked as mystified as I was. He also looked completely innocent. I looked up, expecting to see a hole in the ceiling. Nothing. I looked into my sewing room and nothing looked amiss. Then I looked into the guest room and saw on the floor, the tiny pillow on which had sat a tiny, plaster figurine of a Labrador puppy. It was only the size of the palm of your hand but it was completely gone except for these tiny plaster crumbs, some of which were also on the floor in the guest room.

I turned to Rockwell and pointed and said, "j'accuse!" but he didn't even flinch. He had completely forgotten that he had eaten this thing. And so my precious puppy figurine is gone. So now I have to decide, do I close all the doors upstairs again whenever I go out? I think the answer must be yes. And what else should I do? I don't know.

The "old" thing was the refusal to come home after I decided the walk (outing) was over. I took him out for our usual second walk of the morning and this time, I spent an hour sitting on the bench by the commercial complex. Quite a few people stopped this time to pet him and talk to me and so he had a LOT of company and stimulation. He'd get up and find something the chew on, I'd haul him out from under the bench from time to time, people would pet him, and there was constant movement from people coming and going and cars driving by to cyclists. Finally I got up and he walked quietly and nicely with me until we got back into the neighbourhood. And then he lay down. So each time he lay down, I gave him the command to sit-stay and waited. And waited. Then I'd ask him to "come" and he did for a bit and then he'd lie down again. It took us 30 minutes to cover the distance I walk in about 3 minutes at a leisurely pace.

I don't even mind looking like an idiot, standing outside, waiting for my dog to exhibit good behaviour. What I mind is not being able to MAKE him do what I want him to do. I mind that he has not made the connexion between my saying "good dog" and him actually walking in the direction I want. And I am mostly annoyed with myself because I let this thing happen and then escalate to where I cannot walk him at all without it being a constant confrontation. So during the 30 minutes it took to walk home, I told myself that this was a remedial lesson for both of us. In the end, I still had to physically put his feet under him and rush him to the door before he could lie down for the third time in the driveway. Argh. I am hoping I can fix this over the weekend so I'll be outside a lot, if you want to get a hold of me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I was just thinking about having to get new shoes this morning, as I was sitting at my desk at school and looking down at the navy pumps I was wearing which had cracks across the soles. I walk to work wearing running shoes but change into "good shoes" once I get there. Therefore I hadn't noticed the cracks in the soles until I was sitting, looking right at them. And they are huge, structural cracks. So just now, I went to get the mail and there was a flyer from Naturalizer and what did I see on the cover but a woman walking a yellow Lab! Ack. Is this fate or what?

Yesterday was a mostly unpleasant day because I am feeling sorry for myself that Peter is away and I have no back-up for Rockwell's rambunctiousness. I had to endure several outings with him - I can't call them "walks" because very little actual walking is done. There's some galloping, and much pulling at the leash, and some sudden darts at right angles to go smell something interesting or have a poo. Very little sedate walking. And with all this feeling sorry for myself, I was starting to count the days when Rockwell might get recalled.

Then I got over myself. I went to work early this morning which always sets a good tone for the day for me. When I got home (I'm only gone 2 hours), Rockwell was nice and subdued. I don't know what exactly he thinks when he is left alone, but I have the impression he thinks he's been abandoned and is resigned to his fate. Then when I reappear, he is so relieved. So out we went.

This time, I let him go where he wanted but made it look (to him) like it was my idea (that's the theory anyway). My aim was to go over to the public bench by the commercial building not far from the house and sit there. For as long as Rockwell wanted to. I think he really enjoys just being outside and I am always trying to drag him home. So we went and sat and sat. And watched people and talked to some. And Rockwell lay under the bench and ate dirt or gum and sometimes he watched people. A big highlight for him was when a chocolate Lab was walked by with his people.

Finally, Rockwell got up and put a paw on my lap and I asked him if he was ready to go. And off we went. We made it as far as another bench in the park before he decided he wanted to hang out some more. So we sat there. And finally we went home. I think we sat on benches for over 45 minutes before he had his fill of outside.

I think I might be "spoiling" him by not imposing discipline but I really can't do it. I convinced myself earlier of his delicate spirit and I am not going to be the one to break it. I am sure he is tougher than I am allowing but I don't want to be the one to find out I'm right. So he is here for maybe another month and he's not going to get much work but I won't worry about it because I know he's going to get plenty of work when he goes to school. And because he is intrinsically a good dog, a little indulgence won't hurt him.
Rocky just cruisin

Monday, September 04, 2006

Here is Rockwell from September 16, 2005. If you go back to the archives of this blog and read about him then, it's all about poop!
as long as you say so

I couple of weeks ago, I was tagged and wrote about 5 odd habits Rockwell has. They weren't really that odd and other dogs I know have them. Since then however, I was reminded of one other odd thing he does. It is so odd that I don't even know what he's really doing and I sure don't know why he does it. I've seen him do this inside and outside so I can't narrow down guesses in that way.

What happens is that he suddenly stops dead in whatever he is doing and immediately he whips his head around to look at his bum. Sometimes he sits down so that he can maneuver his nose as close to his bum as possible. But mostly, he stands there, twisted around and it looks like he is listening, rather than looking at his bum! I thought for a while that the stopping and listening might have been triggered by an insect buzzing around his nether regions but I haven't been able to see one or hear one myself. I do know he is intensely interested in insects. I have also thought it might be a fart that startles him like that! However, I know I have heard him fart before and he didn't do this odd little thing.

Any guesses?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Since Rockwell got here a year ago (September 9 to be exact), I was motivated to go back and look at the first batch of photos from his first day here.
first step up the stairs (Sept. 9, 2005)
I saw this one and decided to post it because we have since done so many photos on the stairs. On his first day, the upstairs was a whole big unknown world and he was actually a little afraid to climb those stairs. Plus he was such a little guy!

The last couple of days, I have been wearing things with long sleeves and Rockwell has been taking every opportunity to grab the end of a sleeve and hold it in his mouth. He doesn't really chew on it (which is a good thing) but it certainly hampers my movement. I was thinking this morning, as he did it again, that he has missed the cuffs all summer long! When he first got here, it was in September. As a small puppy, he would grab my sleeves every chance he got. He would also go for the tabs attached to zippers and anything else that looked like he could suck on for a while. Since he stopped doing this in the summer, I just thought that because he turned a year old in June, he was growing up. I guess then that the only reason he hasn't been pulling on sleeves since May is that there weren't any!

Friday, September 01, 2006

I was sitting at the computer and heard some unusual breathing noises. I glanced left at Rockwell on the stairs and saw why. Then I couldn't believe that I actually sneaked the camera on and took a picture of him and captured the reason why!
the snore
If you click on the photo and make it large at Flickr, you'll see the real bend in his nose.
After the first flash, he turned over and I got this photo.
the flip
And then he flopped again and I got the final one of this series.
the flop