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.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The last post, September 15, 2007.

A portrait

I started posting on September 10, 2005, so it's a nice two years almost to the day for me to finally post the last post. On Thursday, I got the phone call I've been dreading from Guide Dogs. They have decided to take Rockwell out of the program and they wanted to offer him to us as his puppy walkers first.

His quarterly updates were always positive and he did make good progress. However, they also talked about his high anxiety levels and how distracted he could be. In the end, it was his sensitive nature that decided them against continuing to train him. They would watch him progress and then watch him slide back. After months of this, they said, "why are we making this dog do something that he really is not suited for?"

When I got the phone call on Thursday, I knew right away that this was why they were calling. Peter and I had talked at length about whether we would take Rockwell if he flunked. We took Uma back, when she flunked due to "food aggression" back in 1991. But when we got Rockwell, it was just to puppy-walk him for the year and then we wanted to be dog-free for a while. And I had decided to puppy-walk because I was missing Uma so much after she died, the Summer that Rockwell was born. But I didn't want to replace her with a "forever dog".

Anyway, after they called, I said I wanted to talk to Peter about it and would call them back on Friday. When he got home from work, we talked and I cried and we felt guilty. We worried about abandoning Rockwell and whether he would be loved. We fretted over whether we might have caused him to flunk. I asked some close friends for advice and they suggested that we should let Guide Dogs find him a home because that had been the plan all along.

On Friday, I talked to the very nice woman at Guide Dogs, I asked her about whether Rockwell might do some other "work" because I think that dogs do like to work. She said that they had spent almost a year training him to be a guide dog and now, if he was sent for some other training, it would be the opposite of everything they try to teach at Guide Dogs - don't sniff, don't run, don't do this and that. A sniffer dog, for example, would be trained to run around and sniff everything! So they thought it wouldn't be fair, especially to a sensitive soul such as Rockwell, to send him for yet more training. And I agreed.

I asked about their selection process for sending failed guide dogs out to be pets. They have a long list of people who would like these wonderful dogs and so they peruse the list and select the right family and then invite them to come meet Rockwell. Once the adoptive family shows up, they grill them some more and watch the interaction and see if it meets their satisfaction. Only then, do they agree to part with the dog. Plus people do pay for this dog so it's better for them financially than giving him to us for free.

So that's it. Rockwell is going to have a new family and he will get to be someone's great pet and I wish him well. We may never know what happens with him unless we by chance see him in the future. So I'm sad and I feel bad that he didn't become a guide dog. But I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes. Thanks for reading and offering your support over the year - I have been introduced to a whole new world of dog people and even made some cyber friends because of this blog, for which I will be always grateful.
Oops, bad dog!
And here's one last photo, that I never dared post until now, because guide dogs are NOT allowed on the furniture!

All the best, Julia.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

I was going through my iPhoto library and finally marking photos with keywords. I did all the Rockwell shots and found that I had over 1800 of them! I "only" posted 480 to Flickr for the blog. Yikes.
tired puppy
Here's one I don't think I posted, taken the first day he got here. He would go into his crate voluntarily and pass out after playing. So sweet.

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I checked the mail yesterday and there was Rockwell's next quarterly update!
Still not ready for prime time but doing well. It sounds like his trainer really likes him and I am happy about that too.
(Don't forget that you can click on the image and see a larger one at Flickr.)
Rockwell's July 07 update

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Friday, June 29, 2007

June 29
Still no quarterly update but I expect it soon. A neighbour who watched Rockwell grow up and read the blog thinks she saw him working in harness out in Manotick the other day! She had gone out there to check out the new Giant Tiger store and saw a yellow Lab-ish looking dog being trained. He was in harness and she said he looked beautiful and very smart, although apparently, he was sniffing the shelves.

In the Ottawa Citizen a few days ago, there was a story about the 600th graduate of Canadian Guide Dogs in Manotick. It was accompanied by a lovely photo of Opus, the 600th grad. I couldn't find a link to the story with the photo in the Citizen but did find a link through Google News.

And if you are craving pix of puppies (especially yellow Labs) like I am, go here for a lovely slide show.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

At last! We have received this quarter's update on Rockwell. This time, I decided to scan the update so you could see how it is presented. I am so pleased that Rockwell is doing well. I hoped he would learn to settle down and mature and it seems he is working on that.
If you cannot read the update (you have to click on it to go to Flickr and then click on "all sizes" at the top), then let me know in a comment and I will write out the update in a blog entry.

Monday, January 08, 2007

After the last entry, I got a real thrill when the genuine Allen and Endal posted a comment on this old blog! I know I've said it before but apparently not to everybody (sorry Norah!) but "Dogs with Jobs" was one of my favourite shows on tv and this episode my absolute favourite. I don't know if they are making any new episodes and the schedule moves around so much (like network tv) that I never know when anything is going to be on, but every time I see an episode, I stop to watch it. That is how I have seen the episode with Allen and Endal so many times.

After Allen posted a comment, I replied and then went to his link on Blogger and thus to Endal's own website. You have to go - there are so many wonderful photos and stories. Make sure you click on "Puppies in the house", as Allen's wife Sandra does puppywalking, the page called "Just for fun" for the fun photos, and "Out and about + traffic lights" and scroll down to the golfing shot at the bottom.

I realize now after looking through Endal's site that he is a real celebrity over in the U.K. but I also think of both Allen and Endal as celebrities, not just because they were on tv but because of their exemplary partnership and the way they have overcome huge obstacles with humour and grace.

Friday, January 05, 2007

January 5, 2007
with the big Kong
I got Rockwell's quarterly update today! Of course, after I read it I felt both proud and anxious. I am worried about his lack of confidence. I wonder if it came from being bounced around a little in his early days (he was eleven weeks when we got him). I worry that I gave him a complex. Sometimes. :) I feel like a parent, in other words. Here it is:

"Rockwell has recently had a change of handler and is being allowed time to adapt. He is fairly well settled in kennels, though at times can be boisterous and vocal in seeking attention. He is eating well and is in good condition.

Rockwell is always keen and eager for his training walks, and travels well in the training van. He is adapting to his new handler fairly quickly, though his leash behaviour can, at times, be quite erratic, mainly due to him being easily distracted, particularly with dogs and noises and also because of his level of anxiety and low confidence.

A calm, consistent approach is being adopted, and encouraging him to relax and listen to the handler. We are slowly seeing improvements in his overall behaviour, but much more is needed.

Rockwell has been introduced to wearing the harness and is learning some of the basics of Guide work such as stopping at all down kerbs and avoiding obstacles. He is also learning directional and control commands.

We look forward to continuing with Rockwell and we are hopeful of more improvements. Thank you for all your hard work with him during the Puppy Walking phase of his life."

Well, as I said - both proud and anxious at the same time. I hope they will give him all the time he needs. I know he is smart enough. Maybe like Endal on Dogs with Jobs he just needs to find the right master and his confidence will appear.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year Everyone!

I have not received an update for Rockwell but a few people still stop by this old blog, to see what might be happening. I thought I'd reward them with a photo of Rockwell that we took on his first day with us. He's still thinking about us and this place, from the looks of it.
his first day here
But in fact, he settled in well enough and was very accepting of us and our routines, especially given that he had already lived with one family for a few weeks and then was uprooted to come live with us. And given his "issues" with regularizing his poop schedule. Poor little guy.
it's a big world
It's a big world out there, Rockwell. And we're waiting to hear how you're doing.