Friday, February 16, 2007

News From the Doodle

Today I heard terrific news about IkeyDoodle.

After going in for formal training at GDA last November, Ike decided he didn't want to be a guide dog. After a week at home with his puppy raisers, he went to Canine Support Teams, where he has since been showing everybody what he's made of.

Kari tells me that he is retrieving, turning lights on and off, opening and closing doors, and being used for stability...and that he is scheduled to be matched with the team training class that begins next week and finishes on March 3.

Sometimes a little career change is all it takes to find your place in life. Go Ikey go!!!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Guide Dog Lomax

What a weekend, you guys. I am wiped.

Then Blogger decided to poop out on me today by making me switch to the new version, but not letting me access either version. I am somehow logged into the old version as I post this -- after writing a strongly worded "you guys SUCK, this is WHY I was afraid to switch" e-mail -- so let's hope it works, eh?

Anyway. Graduation.

I didn't sleep the night before -- not one minute of sleep. I tried, but the excitement was too overwhelming. I had been up late anyway, finishing a scrapbook of Lomax pictures and stories for Lomax's partner and her family, and wondering what the day would hold for all of us. Sleep just would not come. And if you know me at all, you know sleep is one of my superpowers, so that's saying something.

Sunday morning, my roomie Amy and I met Matt & Amy for breakfast at the Denny's near GDA. I was surprisingly hungry. We shared scrapbooks and anticipation, and they gave me a lovely Lomax slideshow-set-to-music on DVD (that I could not bear to watch until today and which, by the way, had me bawling like Tammy Faye this afternoon, THANKS guys).

We got to GDA and sat in the room for, what, eternity plus a month or so? Finally, the trainers escorted Roomie-Amy and me to Lomax's partner's room.

I like her.

I hesitate to say too much about her here, because I didn't get her permission to post about her in such a public forum, but I will tell you a few things.

Lomax is her first guide dog. She loves him, and she loves that he is a happy, wiggly, funny, enthusiastic dog. Her energetic boys are going to love him, too. She told me he has already had an impact on her life, and she told me a few other things that made me think he will have an impact on so much more than just her independence and ability to get around town. She loves to groom him, she says he's great in traffic and makes her feel safe on stairs, and that he's incredibly smart. She said she had a reputation in this class for always being the "I'll go first! Pick me, pick me!" type...which is perfect for a certain yellow dog I know.

She indicated that she'd like to stay in touch, which was a huge gift to me. In the ensuing emotional and logistical chaos of the day, I did not get her contact information, but she has mine, and I am praying that after she and Lomax have settled into their routine in a few months, she'll give me a call. Praying...funny. Seems like all my other prayers about this were answered: she's young, leading a busy life, has kids, she even wants to go back to college! AND...I prayed last week that she would really hit it off with Liam's new partner.

AND SHE DID. When I asked her how she liked the class, she said that she and Liam's partner connected right away, before they even got their dogs, and that they would be keeping in touch. My heart nearly stopped.

Lomax, meanwhile, was on a tie-down when I entered the room, but the second he saw me, he went nutso. She unhooked him and let him wiggle his way over to me, and it was heavenly. He snorted and "fffFFFF!"ed and wiggled and tap danced and "MOOF"ed and kissed me and generally made a Lomax of himself all over the room. He was exactly the same! He looked gorgeous, healthy and strong and happy as ever. She said he weighs an even sixty pounds, and I could see that it is all muscle. His tail was the only thing on him that looked bigger to me, and I thought I was crazy for thinking so until Joanna said the same thing later. Amy and I had what seemed like not nearly enough time to visit with her and love on The Lomax, before they called the grads to harness their dogs and line up to head out to the ceremony.

She harnessed him, and it was amazing to behold. He was a whole different dog.

Not that he was missing any of his wonderful personality! He still looked around at the kinds of things that distracted him before, but he was a professional now. Such a good boy. They looked wonderful together.

I walked out behind Guide Dog Lomax and his new handler, past many of my friends and fellow puppy raisers, and took my seat next to them at the front.

Lomax sat quietly for the most part, doing his best to, shall we say, clear his immediate area of the leaves and apparently delicious tree-parts that were raining down on us from above due to the wind. He looked around at me several times, and the first couple of times I looked away so as not to tempt him to move or do something naughty, but when I saw that he could exercise some serious restraint, I gave in and looked him in the eye. Of course, we were the last ones to get to speak, so we had to sit through the whole thing before they got to us. I'm so proud of them.

After the ceremony, I gave her about 20 minutes to get back to her room and relax a bit, then I brought Joanna in to meet her. We spent more time kind of chatting with her and playing with Lomax, who had discovered the toy octopus I'd brought for him and was joyously honking and squeaking the life out of it, turning in circles and having a wonderful time. A few people came and went, and it seemed like a lot of activity, and in the overwhelming emotional rollercoaster of it all, I feel like I didn't really get to talk to her as much as I would have liked to...but I have a feeling it's okay. I'm sure I don't remember everything that was said, and she probably feels the same. I am hoping there will be time and opportunity to get to know each other more.

Saying goodbye was really hard, but as I walked away from them I could see her and Lomax outside talking to Liam and his new handler, and it made me feel better.

It was hard to wash my hands when I got home, because I could still smell him on them. I miss him, and will continue to miss him, but I know he's in good hands with her. And she is in good paws with him. And above all, I am proud of them and excited for their future, and I am grateful to God for so many beautifully answered prayers. We are all in His good hands.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Lomax's Sister Kandy

Lomax's sister, little miss Kandy, is now a breeder for GDA -- so the wiggliness of his line will live on! She's beautiful and smart and lovable, just like the rest of her brothers and sisters, and she will no doubt produce many successful guides for GDA. I'm very proud of her.

I had the opportunity to spend a little time with her recently, which was a joy. She is as full of life and love and happiness as Lomax is, that's for sure. Look at that smile!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Snuggles and Snorts: The World According to Paige

My friends and fellow raisers Amy and Matt, in addition to rejoicing about their soon-to-graduate Guide Dog Liam AND preparing for their soon-to-arrive Puppy In Training Tai, are also fostering Paige.

Paige was re-homed after a year, and has made tremendous progress in her few short months with her new handlers. I watched her for just a few days a couple of weeks ago, so I could give Matt and Amy my perspective. She's a very good girl, and did well in both my office and home environments.

What can I tell you about Paige? For one thing, she's beautiful, and quite skilled at giving the "puppydog eyes" in an effort to gain sympathy despite her fairly charmed life. Her coat is thick and lustrous, her features wide and solid like an English Lab. She graciously received compliments wherever we went.

Secondly, she rivals Wrio in terms of pure noise pollution. I wanted to get the two of them together for a snort-off. She is also a snorer. And then there's the belching. This is one of the many reasons M & A refer to her as their "delicate flower."

But my favorite thing about Miss Paige is that she is the cuddliest dog ever. She's laid back, she's snuggly, she wants to be near you. I took her to my friend's house for a "girls' night in" evening of board games and food and shrieking with laughter, and Paige hardly budged all night. And she was more than willing to cuddle with the hostess: