Wednesday, December 24, 2008

You'd Better Not Pout

The look on his face? Oh, don't worry about Truman. He's already received his fancy new dog bed for Christmas, and he's getting a fun road trip (where there will be two other dogs to play with), a new chicken-flavored Nylabone, and apparently some fun toys from my mom & dad. I told him that if he's not paying his share of the rent around here, the least he could do is let me take a few shots of him in a ridiculous hat for my own amusement. Apparently, he feels this is beneath him.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and may you all be blessed this holiday season!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

GDA Puppy Evacuation: Film at 11!

Our local Fox affiliate did a news story on GDA's dog evacuation. Check out the video!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fire Near GDA -- Prayers Appreciated

Those of you who live here in California know the perils of fire season -- when it's hot and dry and windy, as it is every autumn, things can get scary.

There's a pretty big fire burning in Sylmar right now, which is where Guide Dogs of America is located. I woke up to several e-mails this morning from puppy raiser group area leaders and GDA employees. The current situation is that all the dogs and puppies were safely evacuated at 1:30 this morning, and that the campus is still standing, but without power or phone service.

Fires are unpredictable, and sometimes even when things are seemingly under control, the winds can change and bring about a whole new situation. Your prayers are appreciated: for the campus itself, the staff and volunteers, the dogs and puppies, and especially the first-responders who are taking care of business on the fire lines.

Many thanks.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm Truman, and I Approve This Message

Sure, at first he was a little jealous that nobody got HIM a fancy new ring, but then we gave him a cookie and he forgave us. At least he got to be there for the proposal, which was only fair, considering he WAS the chaperone for our first date. Also considering the fact that Truman actually prefers Wolf to me, I think the arrangement will be to his liking after all.

So now I have a full-time dog, the most excellent future husband in the history of man, and something sparkly for my leash hand:


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Guess Who's Four?

Today is Lomax's birthday...unbelievably, The Moof is FOUR YEARS OLD!!! Somewhere in Tennessee, there is a smiling blond dog in a black harness, guiding a smiling blond woman.

Happy fourth, little man. :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I'm Not Dead, Just on Vacation

Yes, I know I've been promising updates. And it was my fervent hope to be able to sit down for...what, four straight days, perhaps...and put up the 25 or so posts I know there are to write, but I've been a bit preoccupied. With many things! Life has been full of things to do and things to pray about. Dog adoptions, freelance projects, events and changes and work and church and puppy raising and surprise birthday parties and friendships and on and on and on....

But mostly, in the last couple of weeks, I've been busily preparing for gettin' the heck outta Dodge. Tomorrow afternoon, in fact, I'll be on a nonstop flight from Dodge to Germany! I'll be gone for a couple of weeks, so there will obviously still be nothing new from me (with the exception of one teeeeeensy little post scheduled to publish in a few days) until I get back.

Truman is spending the next two weeks in the capable hands (and possibly the comfy bed) of Matt and Amy...'cause if you can't have your own dog back, his brother's the next best thing. :)

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this photo of me, Wolf, and the Roo, taken just before he went IFT back in August. Auf wiedersehen!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Truman Has Landed

It was very quick -- drive up, sign papers, get Roo, take photos, go home.

He gained 4 pounds while he was IFT. He weighs 74 pounds, and looks HUGE to me!

We're settling in and figuring out logistics. Just thought you might want to see the boy as much as I did:

I think he's happy to be home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Too Hip for Guide Work

I got the phone call yesterday: Truman has been released from the GDA program, because he has hip dysplasia.

It's just on the left side, and fortunately, it's a mild case. So mild, in fact, that not only does he show no outward signs of it, they had to get the opinion of an orthopedist because the x-rays alone weren't strong enough evidence to make the determination. Missed it by that much....

Of course, I'm sad that he won't graduate and go on to a life of guide work. I'm sad that he can't even go to search and rescue -- which I know he would love -- because he's been released for medical reasons. And I have spent the last 36 hours or so in deep thought and fervent prayer and my fair share of tears, and discussion and e-mail exchanges with many people, in an attempt to make the difficult decision of whether to adopt him myself or to let the school adopt him out to someone else.

The logistics are difficult. I live in a third-floor apartment with no yard, and would no longer be allowed take him to the office where I spend two of my weekdays at work. I would be taking on his medical expenses, no longer receiving reimbursement for his veterinary care. I would be paying for his food, and no longer allowed to claim the things I buy for him as a tax deduction. I would be a little less free to do what I want and go where and when I want. I would no longer have the luxury of dropping him off for free room and board and a bath up at the school. A full-time dog is a human tie-down.

But he's my Roo. He's this little face:

Okay, the face eventually grew more mature. But even when Truman was being difficult and adolescent and full of attitude, barking at nothing and demanding attention from the nearest person, daring me to correct him, this was the little face that I saw in my heart. I love that little face, and the heart behind it, and the messed up hip behind that, and the wagging tail behind that. And if he were to come home to live with me, I would KNOW he'd be getting the care and love that he needs, because it would be given by the person who knows him best and the person who loves him most.

So he will come home.

We will have help from my wonderful boyfriend and some other very supportive and loving people, who understand that my taking him back forever will be a challenge. I will definitely be making a list of the folks -- puppy raisers, friends, family, co-workers -- who have offered to watch him for me occasionally, or who have offered playdates with their own dogs or swim time in their backyard pools (really good exercise for dysplasia).

Yes, I will still update the blog with the last two months or so of photos and adventures...but I wanted to share this news with you right away so that you can share in my joy on Friday, when Truman becomes my Forever Dog. I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Owe...I Know....

August 7 -- So, I realize I owe you all about two months' worth of posts...and believe me, there is much to post. I really wanted to have everything up to date by tomorrow so I could get a turn-in post up this weekend, but there is so much to do, so much to prepare for, and so much weeping and clinging to Truman I have yet to do before Saturday at noon...I promise I will get all of it up eventually, but it probably won't be anywhere near on time.

Rest assured, though, I will catch you up. And there may even be some interesting puppy news on the horizon....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rock and Roll

From an actual IM conversation I just had a few minutes ago with a co-worker (who is working from home today):

me: um...earthquake
gabe: yeah
me: holy crap
me: still moving
gabe: this is a long one
me: man!
gabe: whew... it's rare that i actually have time to remember to find cover
me: at least we have no windows here!
me: lol
gabe: lol
gabe: sad but true
gabe: there are ppl working on the street outside and they didn't even notice it
gabe: they're hardcore
me: lol ... it was a 5.8 centered 2mi SW of Chino Hills
gabe: that's a good size
me: yeah!
gabe: this is so LA of us... IMing while the earthquake is happening
gabe: lol
me: LOL!!!

Meanwhile, Truman was solid as a rock. He did look up from where he was sleeping under my desk, and he stood up at some point and walked over to me -- this was a LOOOOONG earthquake -- but he didn't take much notice otherwise.

A co-worker a few cubicles down from me is quoted as saying, "That is a BAD DOG. He didn't bark or warn us or anything."

I replied, "You mean you didn't get his e-mail?"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's Official

I've been dreading going to the mailbox for weeks now, knowing it was coming any day. Today, we got it.

The letter.

Turn-in day is August 9th.

Monday, June 30, 2008

What the Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over

June 8, 2008 -- Truman and I have pretty much been hanging around the apartment, having a lazy day. Some days, he just looks big and grown up in ways that I've not yet seen. Today, inexplicably, he looks suspicious.

Riding the Rails with Roo, Part 3 (My Dog Is Well Trained)

(Sorry about the title. Couldn't help myself.)

June 1, 2008 -- Just four months after our first train trip to San Diego, Truman and I were headed there again. And though we were riding in an Amtrak passenger car, this time was different in that the train was being pulled by the steam locomotivewe've come to know and love.

Unlike the trip to Fullerton, this was a full-blown steam excursion that was open to the public; it had been three years in the making, and the cars that followed the engine were filled with families, old-timers and steam enthusiasts who travel to distant locations for opportunities such as this one. As we pulled away from Union Station and rounded a curve of track, I was able to get a quick photo of Santa Fe 3751 in action -- forgive the "filter" of the dirty Amtrak window:

As usual, many people were surprised to see a dog on the train, but Truman makes friends quickly and soon one of our car hosts was snapping his photograph for inclusion in his train club's upcoming newsletter. We settled in and enjoyed the view all the way down the coast, having chosen seats on the side of the train that we knew would be closest to the ocean during the daylight trip southward.

She certainly draws a crowd! We pulled into the historic Santa Fe station in San Diego a few relaxing hours later, and were immediately met with throngs of curious onlookers and TV cameras. Here are some shots of her from the station and from across the street, with the station behind her, against the backdrop of the modern buildings of downtown San Diego:

We were free to explore for a few hours, so Truman and I had a nice lunch in front of the tall ships docked nearby, the most well-known of which, Star of India, had a bunch of people doing rigging or something high up just above the sail.

Before we got back onto the train for the journey home, I took a few shots of the inside of the lovely old Santa Fe station.

The only trouble with traveling is that I come home tired after a full day on the road...but Truman, who has by this time slept for most of the day and left the arrangements and coordination up to me, is ready to play. After having been so well-behaved and "in jacket" all day long, he got home to the apartment and hit the stairs at full shuffle, going up and down three flights twice in the time it took me to do it once, then doing donuts on my living room carpet until I made him go to bed. Is there a way to tap into puppy energy?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

CSI: My Apartment

May 27, 2008 -- The phone call from my roommate came at the end of the day.

Amy: When are you going to be home?

Me: I'm on the road even as we speak. Why?

Amy (laughing): I have to show you something....

When I got back to the apartment, she was sitting against the headboard of her bed, reading a book. She invited me to come in and sit where she was, to get her vantage point.

You may already know that dogs are not allowed in Amy's bedroom. You may also have read here that Truman has grown into a well-mannered dog, trustworthy around the house.

You may not know that my roommate often puts a bath towel on her floor on which she sets "lay flat to dry" clothing.

Click to enlarge the evidence.

I went over the events of the day in my head, and realized he would have had exactly one window of opportunity in which to perpetrate this act of sneakitude: while I was in the bathroom that evening, for approximately three minutes. Stealth Dog strikes again...but he is apparently not smart enough to cover his tracks.

Riding the Rails with Roo, Part 2

May 24, 2008 -- There's not always an opportunity for us (or most people) to hang out with a big steam locomotive, but there is a local train club here in Southern California where steam enthusiasts gather to build and run their own miniature trains, and to give rides and tours to the public as well.

Truman's favorite human is a member of the Los Angeles Live Steamers, so we were invited to attend their annual Spring meet. People from all over the country descend on the LALS portion of Griffith Park for a weekend of food, entertainment, camping, and riding the little rails through the forest!

We were fortunate to be in the company of one of the core members of the club, who gave us a special walking tour of the facility. Truman enjoyed his stroll through the woods and a photo session with several of the miniature set pieces that make the track circuit even more fun. We thought the bridge was especially cool:

There are full-sized pieces on the property as well. This caboose houses the club's library of historic books, documents, manuals and other train-related ephemera.

The atmosphere was festive, the BBQ was delicious, and the entertainment was provided by our favorite big band, The Fabulous Esquires...and yes, they played "Take the A Train."

If I hadn't had to keep both hands firmly on Truman, I would have taken a photo of us riding this little Santa Fe. Truman is typically an excellent traveler...when he's in an enclosed compartment, that is. When he is sitting on a bench in front of me, with my arms around him to keep him from leaping off, he is less enthusiastic about riding the train. We had a few power struggles in which he was certain that if he wiggled enough, or climbed over me, he could elude my grasp and disembark mid-trip, hobo style. Fortunately, however, my dog-enhanced biceps are well practiced in the art of puppy restraint, and no one caused a derailment....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

TrumanVision: Hot Day at GDA

May 17, 2008 -- GDA is located in Sylmar, which is also known as Blistering UV RayTown. Some days, like this particular Saturday, it's so hot that it's just cruel and unusual punishment to do any obedience work with the dogs up there. So in lieu of the usual monthly puppy classes, the trainers broke out the wading pools in the dog run and had us observe our pups' play behavior.

At first, Truman didn't think much of getting into the water, preferring instead to run around the pools with a toy in his mouth, trying to get the other dogs to take the bait and tug with him. But after a while, the siren song of happy canine splashing was too much to resist, and he joined Camry and Blitz and the rest of the dogs in their jolly water sports.

I'm not sure if he was thirsty here, or just trying to show the water who was boss by digging in it and biting the splashes.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Or Sit. Whatever.

May 13, 2008

We're With the Band

May 3, 2008 -- Truman and I are huge fans of The Fabulous Esquires Big Band, so when we heard they were playing the Armed Forces Dance at Atomic Ballroom, we knew there was a good time to be had!

Though I did get a little dancing in, we mostly just hung out in the corner with the musicians' gear, watching the swing dancers and enjoying the tunes with a couple of other friends of the band. Because Truman is so enamored of the saxophone section, he sat in next to the bari for a couple of numbers. He figured his primary job was to look cool and detached, like a real jazz musician.

He was eventually so cool and detached that he fell asleep.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

TrumanVision, Sort Of: If Only I Were Taller

May 2, 2008 -- If Truman had been tall enough to look out the window of the tool car, this is what he would have experienced. Fortunately, I shot this snippet of video to show him later. Just listen to that whistle!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Riding the Rails with Roo

May 2, 2008 -- Sometimes you do an outing because it's a valuable learning experience for the dog, and sometimes you do an outing because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Lots of future guide dogs have taken the train; Truman's first experience with this form of public transportation was an Amtrak trip down to San Diego. But how many dogs can claim an adventure as an unofficial crew member aboard a historic tool car pulled by an antique steam locomotive?

Thanks to our favorite steam locomotive fireman, Truman and I were invited to ride with the crew of Santa Fe 3751, owned and maintained by the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society, as they ran the mighty 1927 steamer on an excursion down to Fullerton's annual Railroad Days festival.

It was an amazing trip! The tool car, pictured below, has open windows in the doors so you can stick your head out and feel the breeze, take a look around, and take in the entire sensory experience as you roll down the track.

The funniest part was watching the faces of Joe and Jane Citizen as we chugged over freeways and past strip malls...even folks who live close to the tracks don't see THIS every day. Kids and adults alike waved enthusiastically as we passed, and I wish I could have counted the number of people who held up their camera phones (even from the windows of moving vehicles) to capture a little piece of this elegant time machine.

As I'd predicted, Truman was excited and wiggly as soon as we got on board, but settled in quickly and was content to ride on the old wooden floor of the car, getting up only to occasionally seek attention and ear rubs from his friendly crew mates.

Meanwhile, I had been warned that a ride in the tool car could be hazardous to decent clothing, so Truman's official puppy-in-training jacket didn't stay on him very long (and in the few minutes he did wear it, he managed to magically attract some grease that took three wash cycles, half a bottle of soap, a stiff-bristled brush and a near exorcism to remove). But any dog who's riding a steam train needs to wear a bandanna, right? So we went with the skull & crossbones theme, which turned out to be a good choice -- on one prior excursion, the crew apparently flew a Jolly Roger from the engine just for fun. Truman fit right in with the rest of the guys.

His jacket wasn't the only thing that needed a bath when we got home. By the end of the day, after lolling about and picking up some souvenir grime from the collection that has accumulated on the floor over the last 60 or so years, Truman was almost a black Lab.

Friday, June 06, 2008

It May Be Worse Than I Thought

So, the vet put him under, looked up both nostrils, and found nothing up the boy's nose. Nada. No foxtail, not even mucous membrane damage to indicate that a foxtail had been there. What could it be? According to the vet:

1.) Could be an allergy of some kind.
2.) Could be a foxtail that has somehow been snorted wayyyyyy up there, only detectable by the use of a pediatric endoscope through the mouth and up the back way into his nasal workings. That's apparently specialist domain; regular vets don't typically have to do this.
3.) Could be something else. (Thanks, that was helpful.)

At any rate, I was instructed to keep an eye on him for further sneezing episodes, which would apparently get worse; excessive discharge, in colors that would indicate the presence of infection; and/or blood, which is just never what you want to see in any case.

So today I went downstairs for a couple of minutes to get something out of the truck, and when I got back up to the apartment, my roommate and I had the following exchange:

Amy: "Um, Truman was making this awful gagging/choking noise, and then he spat something on the floor."

Me: "What was it?"

Amy (holding open a napkin): "This."

Me (freaking out, after a split-second look at what was once a spider): "EWW! You could have just said! You didn't have to SHOW me!"

It was a few minutes before it dawned on me that the spider could have been our option number three. Makes sense, in a way -- no mucous membrane damage, possibly bit him in the mouth or nose and caused irritation that might result in sneezing. Also makes sense that Truman would find a way to present me with some kind of horrible nightmare starring creatures that freak me out more than just about anything else.

He is still sneezing occasionally, but it's just once or twice instead of the crazy, minute-long violent sneezing jags he had on Wednesday and Thursday. No funny-colored dog snot, no blood.

My dog the spider-snorter. Figures.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Reason #517 Not to Be Sniffy

It's foxtail season.

Apparently, someone -- who shall remain nameless -- stuck his nose where it didn't belong, when no one was looking, and is now at the vet, having surgery.

He'll be fine, but it's derailed our plans for his big weekend visit with his sister Tori. Hopefully this will teach him not to go snorting up the vegetation.

Never seen a foxtail? This handy foxtail info page will show you what you should be looking out for, especially if you live here in Southern California....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Truman Gets Culture

April 25, 2008 -- No education is complete without a little art appreciation, so we spent an afternoon perusing the permanent collection at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.

While my favorite gallery was the 14th-16th century European art, Truman enjoyed the courtyard full of statuary, ducks, and potentially delicious plant life.

A day of pondering the meaning of art is enough to make one introspective.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Truman's New Friend

If you've been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you'll know that Truman's an exuberant sort, given to great bursts of energy and making friends wherever he goes. In his estimation, everyone is a potential playmate.

Eighteen-year-old Tigger is no exception.

When they first met, she was not pleased about this young punk Labrador thundering into her territory with all the grace and subtlety of a drunken rhinoceros in red sequined tap shoes. The Roo was, of course, fearless as always, but Aged Feline in Residence Tigger planted herself at the top of the stairs and made her displeasure known by standing her ground, emitting some unearthly growls and I'm-not-kidding hisses, and doing her Jurassic best to position her old bones into a semi-threatening arch of cranky catness.

As the months have passed, Truman's enthusiasm has not waned. While his spirited persistence -- sometimes in the form of a springy hop-dance and the generously hopeful offering of a squeaky toy -- hasn't resulted in the kind of camaraderie he would enjoy in a cat of his very own, there is now at least a level of tolerance that seems acceptable to all parties involved.

The growling is softer now, the hissing less frequent, and the proximity ever nearer. Truman followed Tigger around the living room once, getting close enough to sniff the very end of her tail, at which she merely turned and gave him a dirty look before continuing her long and creaky walk back to bed. I tried to explain to him that Tigger is a senior citizen, not particularly interested in rough-housing with puppies or anyone else.

But hope springs eternal, and so does Truman.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Truman Swings at the House of Mouse

April 19, 2008 -- Since Truman had been on a couple of Disneyland trips during the day, I thought it was time to introduce him to night life at the Magic Kingdom. Every Saturday night (Fridays too, during the summer), there's swing dancing to a live band at Carnation Plaza.

It was a very crowded evening, and though he'd managed crowds well during the day, Truman seemed a bit stressed while navigating them after dark. Typical of the little man, however, he did very well as soon as we were at our destination and he had a chance to settle in.

When Truman wasn't tapping his toenails to the sounds of Stompy Jones, he was hanging out with his auntie Cathryn so I could do a little dancing myself.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One Last Time, Truman Asks You to Vote for Laurie!

UPDATE: Truman's good friend Laurie has made the FINALS (it's just her and one other person!) in's "Beedle the Bard Ballad Writing Contest," where the grand prize is a trip for two to London to read J.K. Rowling's handwritten, unpublished book of fairy tales, mentioned in the 7th Harry Potter book. She asked me to thank all of you who voted for her in the semi-finals...and hopes you will vote one last time!

Will you take a moment to vote for "Laura H." here on the Amazon contest page?


Literacy Lab

April 14, 2008 -- This morning, Truman and I participated in a "Story Tails" reading program at a local elementary school. The program is designed to encourage children who have trouble reading to practice their skills by spending ten minutes reading a story to a service dog, after which they are rewarded by getting to pet the dog and ask questions about his or her special job.

Truman and I were joined that day by Gina and Halle, a couple of lovely black Labs who, upon career-changing from GDA, decided to become therapy dogs (hence their special bandannas in the photo below). Being the youngest and least experienced, Truman was the most excited dog in the school library that day. The minute he laid eyes on Gina and Halle, any semblance of calm he had walked in with went bye-bye.

The librarian who hosted us matched each child with the appropriate little boy in particular stole my heart. He seemed a bit fidgety at first, and unsure of what he was supposed to be doing, but he settled in after a few minutes and did a pretty good job with his book. The librarian asked me how it went, and told me that she'd matched us because this particular little boy "has a bit of trouble sitting still," and she thought he and Truman might be able to relate to each other.

Sheesh -- is it that obvious?

Anyway, it was good practice for everyone, and the kids seemed to love reading to the dogs and showing them the pictures on each page.

Let it not be said that Truman doesn't give to his community!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree...

...with anyone else but Roo:

It was a pleasure spending the afternoon at the apple farm with my two handsome and photogenic gentlemen....

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Farm

The best part of our trip to Camino? Wolf's family owns some land on which they used to operate an organic apple farm, and it was a special treat to be able to visit.

Truman sits at the boundary of the land, with a neighboring property in the background:

A few shots of the farm:

More to come....