Monday, July 31, 2006

Water Dog

Lomax and I met a friend for ice cream at the mall last Thursday night (fortunately, there is a Ben & Jerry's scoop shop nearby...but even more fortunately, not TOO nearby).

I'd never paid much attention to the fountain before, but when you have a puppy in training, ordinary things take on new meaning. That new meaning usually takes the form of "good training experience," or "good photo op," or both. Lomax is accustomed to the huge fountain in front of my office building, but the water in that one flows evenly and continuously. The little geysers of this fountain shoot in patterns and cycles, which surprised him a little. So I let him watch it for a while until he was comfortable enough for the requisite pictures:

Snakes On A Canine: The Series

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Countdown Begins

It's official: we've entered The Final Week.

I'm feeling pretty good right now. Sure, I'm sad, but I have to keep things in perspective. It's actually kind of a win-win for me and Lomax -- either he'll graduate and go on to be an amazing guide dog for someone who needs him very much, or he'll "career change" and be adopted by a family I know that loves him very much. I have to stay focused on this while we go through all of our "lasts."

Today was Lomax's last day at my church, and it was our day to do the greeting and hand out the bulletins as people arrived. I had Lomax dress up for the occasion, of course. Here's my handsome little man with his favorite church friend, Kim:

We all had lunch after the service, in honor of my pastor's birthday. Lomax was wiped out from a busy Saturday visiting friends, so he slept soundly while the rest of us chowed. Here he is, looking a bit like Jerry Lewis after the Labor Day Telethon:

After all his buddies at church scratched Lomax's ears and offered words of encouragement for his future, we went with a couple of friends for a walk along the Venice canals.

"Ready? On the count of three: One...*CLICK*!"

We weren't ready!

Okay, that's better:

It's dinner time now, and after another short walk, the Moof-Dog and I are going to end our day with a quiet evening of snuggling in front of the TV.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Just a couple of shots from our walks around the neighborhood....

Monday, July 24, 2006

Little Bro Chandler

Today, Lomax and I finally got to meet Chandler! And though he's not a littermate by birth, Lomax has decided that since Joanna was his first puppy raiser -- and since Chandler is such a fun playmate -- he should officially be a member of our pack.

Lomax welcomed our guests with his typical enthusiasm, and Joanna and I spent a good hour or so letting the lads get acquainted before taking a leisurely lunch at Chipotle. Some of us were more leisurely than others:

But I suppose if I were allowed to stretch out on the cool stone floor under the table, I'd be napping too.

We of course made a stop for ice cream, where we encountered a...colorful...woman who, by the end of our reluctant conversation, had three strikes against her:
1.) she pulled up a chair and invited herself to join us, also inviting herself to pet the dogs without asking

2.) she thought I was Joanna's mother, which -- though flattering in that Joanna is smart and pretty and talented -- was either a horrifying commentary on how I looked today or simply a presumptuous take on the kind of person I was at age fifteen, and

3.) she gleefully stated that she has a fake service dog jacket for her own pet dog so she can take it out in public.

I know. It makes me mad, too. Such people and their ill-behaved, I-can-eat-french-fries-off-the-table-because-I'm-wearing-a-pretty-vest FOOFYmonsters are the reason legitimate service dogs in training get hassled all the time. The only reason I didn't ream her is that we are, especially with our dogs in jacket, representatives of GDA. Grrrrr.

Anyway, after that we headed back for more playtime in the air-conditioned apartment, where Chandler was bold and Lomax was tolerant. Tiny teeth met with face, and leg, and tail, but the boys played together well for the most part, until energy levels got out of hand and they both had to calm down.

Here, for your enjoyment, are the mighty snake killers at work:

It was a fun afternoon, and Lomax is fairly wiped out this evening from all the restraint he had to show! Thank you, Joanna, for bringing Chandler out today and hanging with me and the little man...I'm almost certain I noticed Lomax imparting some snorts of doggy wisdom in his ear when they were tussling.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Places to Go, People to See

I have a checklist of all the things Lomax and I need to do before he goes in for training. One thing we were able to check off is "lunch with John."

John has been a friend of mine for several years. I met him at church and have since come to know, through spending time with him at the nearby restaurant where he eats lunch twice a week (John's lunch plans should be added to the "death and taxes" list as the measure of a sure thing), what a blessing he is.

He can always cheer me up and put things in perspective when I'm having a hard day. The thing is, he doesn't know he's doing it. He'll start by making a joke -- usually a bad pun or a literal take on some phrase I just said, the kind of joke a small child might tell. I can usually see those coming, from the look that crosses his face just before. Or he might say, proudly, that his next-door neighbors have asked him to take care of their cats while they're on vacation. Then, if it's hot outside, he might relive far-off memories about going swimming once a week with the other kids from the "special school" he attended when he was growing up. Then he'll tell me about the detective story he's writing -- he's particularly inspired by re-runs of Matlock. An afternoon with John can make time stop, at least for me. Sometimes I'll sit there with him for three hours, and still be reluctant to leave.

When I told John I was going to be a puppy raiser for GDA (mind you, it was nearly three years between my decision and the actual "getting a puppy" part), his whole was indescribable. I don't think anyone else in my life was quite as excited. And every time I saw him during that nearly three years, he'd ask me when I was getting the puppy. And what kind of puppy I wanted. And what the puppy would look like. And what I was going to name the puppy. And what I'd feed the puppy. And what I'd teach the puppy. And if I'd bring the puppy to visit him, so he could hug the puppy.

Of course, we knew just where to find him on this "last visit with John before turn-in." He was even at his usual table.

No one is more confident than John that Lomax will go on to live a life of service. I explained that Lomax has to "go to college" first...John laughed, and looked at Lomax, and told him to study hard and not drink too much.

We may have to figure out a way to have one more "last visit" with John.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Lomax Meets Turbo

Ann, our friend and fellow puppy raiser, invited us over on Saturday for a meet-and-greet with Turbo, her new desert tortoise.

"Looks crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside. Can I eat it?"

Turbo, who appears to be fearless in the face of dogs, remained unphased by seven leaping Labradors (one of whom licked him square in the face). He chased Lomax around a little bit before retreating to a nice shady corner of Ann's yard.

"Is it coming to kill me?"

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Letter

Today we got "The Letter."

You know the one.

"Well, the time is here. The day you've been anticipating since you picked up your puppy all those months ago. It is time for Lomax to come in for training."

Though I immediately knew what it was, I didn't get upset at the sight of it, like I'd figured I would. After all, since the last turn-in in May, I've known this was coming -- he's 21 months old, and I think he's finally ready.

It won't make turn-in any less traumatic, but at least GDA does something nice for their puppy raisers:

"We know this is a hard time for you and we would like to try to make it a little easier by inviting you to a luncheon August 5, 2006 at 12:00 noon. You will get a chance to meet and talk to the trainers that will be working with Lomax."

(Oh, good. August 5 at noon, in Sylmar. I'll be crying AND sweating.)

"This is just a fun day for you and the other puppy raisers for moral support and to say good-bye to your puppy until Graduation Day. After we are done eating, talking and playing we will walk the dogs down to the kennel where you will be able to put them in their runs."

Well, I don't know about "fun" -- especially the part where I'll be walking away from the kennel with an empty leash and Tammy Faye-worthy mascara streaks -- but I do appreciate the fact that we are appreciated. The school has no obligation to throw us a goodbye party or let us meet the trainers or anything like that...I'm just grateful I don't have to answer the front door, put my dog in the back of a van and wave as he's driven away by someone I've never seen before.

It's comforting, actually, to know that I'll be in the company of some of my best friends from the puppy group. They've turned in dogs before, and this is my first time doing so...but I'm told that it's never any easier.

So I will show up on that day with my roommate, my friends, my friends' dogs, my Lomax, and a toy for him to share with his college roommates.

Or I will show up on that day with my Lomax and my passport, in a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. I hear Iceland is lovely this time of year.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Our Last Puppy Group Meeting

It's our final month together. The "lasts" have begun. Tonight was my final puppy raiser group meeting with Mr. Lomax.

The evening began, as always, with obedience; this time it was a nice training walk through the neighborhood to practice our "heel" position and some common suburban distractions (strange lawn decorations, little boys on bikes, wandering cats, barking beasties, etc.).

Once we had returned and gathered inside the meeting room, our group leaders called up everyone present who will be turning in their dogs on August 5: pictured are Laura and Katie (with Nevada), Amy and Matt (with Liam), and me (with Lomax). We all said a few words about what raising this puppy has meant to us...Nancy didn't spring this on us until that very moment, so I was unprepared.

What I should have said is that Lomax is my little man, I'm going to miss him terribly, I'm very proud of him, and that despite my more than 2-and-a-half years as a "future" puppy raiser waiting for a dog, I could not have timed things more perfectly. Lomax and I were meant to be together, even if we got a late start.

I did at least manage to work in the fact that I'm gonna need to do some puppysitting very soon after turn-in! And I've already had offers....

Then, according to tradition, each dog received a congratulatory rawhide bone, and each puppy raising family received a bottle of wine. In case you can't read it in the photo, here's what the custom printed label says:

"Turn-In Tonic: Just a little something to help you get through the inevitable! Good Luck and Best Wishes from The South Bay Puppy Raisers!"

And the quote at the top, from a GDA employee and her guide dog, says:

"Whatever happens, you have given the gift!"

Crap. I'm crying already.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lomax's Seafaring Weekend, Part II: Salty Dogs at the Movies

On Sunday, Lomax and I embarked on a high-seas (er, public transportation) adventure with five other scurvy sea dogs and the people whose lives they've shanghaied for the last year and a half.

Our tale begins at the Metro Blue Line station in Long Beach, where we gathered our crew for an hourlong trip on the train and subway into Hollywood. This is a rare photograph of our fierce captain, the Dread Pirate Nevada. That's First Mate Liam and Bonny Wee Mika in the background -- we promise, Captain Nevada, they're not laughing at you:

And here's Lomax the Cabin Boy, gleefully singing sea chanties from his deck-swabbing position on our vessel:

When we arrived at our destination, the humans needed nourishment for the remainder of the voyage, and the crew needed rest:

After a fine afternoon at our port of call -- the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where we saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, of course -- we boarded our vessel and set our compass for home. Liam and Lomax joined Captain Nevada at his place for a little backyard pillaging and chew-toy plundering, then I took my sleepy little pirate home, where he drifted off in the arms of his favorite wench:

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lomax's Seafaring Weekend, Part I: Marina Del Moof

The Judsons, area leaders of the GDA Westside puppy raisers group, generously hosted a potluck "dock party" on Saturday at their sailboat in Marina del Rey. In addition to delicious (human) food of all kinds, we enjoyed the sunny weather, a dog-toy door prize drawing (Lomax is enjoying his squeaky mouse even as I type), and the company of new friends!

Here's a photo of my boy with Clark, the black Lab being trained by the Judsons:

This lovely lady, Roxy, already knew about Lomax because she belongs to the group where he started out his training:

Lomax had a great time socializing, hanging out, walking in the nearby park, exploring the bow of the sailboat, and looking handsome in his jacket as always.

In addition to GDA pups young and, make that "of breeder status," we were also privileged to meet guide dog user Rebecca and Leslie, her guide dog (who is from a different school here in California, Guide Dogs for the Blind).

Many thanks once again to our gracious hosts Glyn and his wife Marilyn, who is shown here holding Chester (one of Chandler's littermates)!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Understatement of the Year

I took Lomax to our vet this evening for a look at what I thought was a hot spot on his tail. It's nothing serious, don't worry -- it just turned out to be a cut or scrape that got out of hand. I didn't see anything happen, he never yelped that I know of, and I didn't notice it because the hair on his tail is so thick.

Anyway, the point: as Lomax is at the vet, being poked and prodded and examined, he is wiggling furiously. With great joy. As always. He's got a nasty cut on his tail, but that doesn't stop said tail from whipping and wagging. With great joy. As always. And I am attempting to hold him still so the doc can get a look at the affected area.

As Mr. Exuberance is busy licking my face and folding himself in half in order to snort in Dr. Liebl's face, the doc says to me:

"Happy little guy, isn't he?"

Yes. Yes, he is.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July

Okay, fine. I'll admit I pulled this photo off the Web...but only because at the fireworks show I took Lomax to, I thought I should keep both hands on him in lieu of one hand on him and one hand on the camera.

We spent Independence Day at a dear friend's annual party. The small-town ambience of El Segundo serves the holiday well; there's always a street fair in front of Recreation Park, the launch pad for the impressive fireworks display. People turn out in droves, hours early, to put down their blankets and chairs in the street and surrounding areas for optimal viewing. Fortunately, my friend and her husband live on the opposite side of the park, where there are no crowds. Who cares if the show is "backwards?" Thanks to some very sweet neighbors, we had our own private section -- prime real estate in a fenced yard, and a gently sloping hill on which to lie back and enjoy the spectacle above.

Not knowing how Lomax would react, I chose a spot nearest the exit and made sure I had a key to my friend's apartment. The first couple of booms surprised him a bit, but he didn't bolt -- it was more of a head-swivel in the style of "What the *&$# was that?"

But when I directed his attention to the sky and he caught the flashes of light that accompanied the booms, he seemed to make the connection. I just made sure I had one hand on the leash and the other on him, gently scratching his back. When he wasn't stretch-inching toward my friend's extended hand for some extra affection, he was calmly watching the skies along with the rest of us (and, surely, agreeing with my softly spoken assessments that he was a very good boy indeed). I wish I could have captured for you the picture of his sweet little head, nose pointed heavenward in silhouette against the blooming night sky.

As it turns out, the dog who leaves the room when someone turns on the stove (or the grill, or the toaster oven) has no problem whatsoever with actual explosives. Who knew?

Sunday, July 02, 2006