Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hi everyone, Michele here... It's time to update the adventures of the weekend, but first, if you have time, please go back and review the earlier blogs.  As this is our first attempt at a blog, we decided to go back and update some of the first posts, so there might be a little more information there for you to catch up on.  Also, if you subscribe to the blog, you will be notified anytime we update it.  Now, back to the latest happenings of the weekend...  (PS:  In case you haven't noticed, Roger is the official photographer, we'll try to get him in some of our upcoming photos)

Saturday morning (1/28/12) we woke up early and got all of the important things (busy, breakfast, busy) out of the way so we could head out for our first outing of the weekend.  By the way, for those of you that aren't in the SEGD program, "busy" is the command for a puppy to do their business...  Anyway, after we got done with all of that, we went to Tiffany's for breakfast, and had another successful under/down, but the big event of the day was yet to come.

SouthEastern Guide Dogs is getting ready to host their annual fundraiser, a walk-a-thon in March, so they setup a booth at an open air market in downtown St. Petersburg to try to generate interest in, and registrations for the event.  They needed some puppy raisers to volunteer to help so we decided to take Gail and head on down there.  We met Miranda and Helen (and her guide dog Troy) there and started talking to people as they stopped at the booth.  Although several other raisers and dogs also showed up, it should be no surprise that Gail was the star of the show as she was the youngest dog there.

Helen (left, petting her guide dog Troy - below), and Miranda (center) are employees at SEGD.  We had a great time with them and the puppy raisers and ambassador dogs and owners throughout the day.

For the first month or so, a young puppy gets a "free pass" on the rule about not being petted while in coat (or cape as the case may be if you've seen the it's not a coat, it's a cape billboards - very cute!) since socialization is an important part of their training.  As long as they are behaving and have four (paws that is) on the floor, they may be petted even if they have their coat on.  Although we were allowing people to pet Gail, we did explain to them (in a polite way)  that allowing that to occur is only temporary as she will need to associate wearing her coat with "working" as she matures and works her way through the program.  Needless to say, a number of people took advantage of that free pass to pet little Miss Gail, including the ones that you see in these pictures.  We think she made a great ambassador for the day, and hopefully that will be reflected in registrations and fundraising for the walk-a-thon.  If you'd like to know more about the event, please visit the events link at  In addition to participating in the walk-a-thon (it's dog friendly), you may also help Gail raise funds at

Gail got to meet Brooke and her mother at their booth, Molly's Suds (they sell environmentally safe laundry detergent).  Brooke and her siblings would really like to have a puppy, so she was fascinated with Gail and came over to the booth a couple of times to see her.  We stopped by their booth before leaving to say goodbye.  Maybe puppy raising would be an option for them???

These two nice young girls have a teacher that has been a puppy raiser so they are familiar with SEGD.  They've also been down to the campus.  Who knows, maybe they'll be future puppy raisers!

This adorable little girl wasn't much bigger than Gail, and was trying to figure out how to pet her.  She finally managed to do it, and giggled the whole time!

Before we left the market at the end of the day, Gail had an opportunity to meet her first horse, Henry (I think that was his name).  She did incredibly well meeting something that is enormous compared to her.  It took her a couple of minutes, but she gradually approached Henry and even smelled one of his hoofs!  As you can see, she doesn't appear to be too concerned about him.

Since it was a long day (8:30 - 2:00), and probably at least 100 people stopping to see Gail and pet her, we decided to head home and let the little princess get some beauty rest.

Sunday (1/29/12)  This morning started with another restaurant outing.  We decided to head to Bob Evans in New Port Richey, where we were greeted with smiles, apparently there is another puppy raiser in the area that visits that restaurant, so they weren't surprised to see Gail.  I think that maybe one of the things that people have a hard time understanding is that when they see such a small dog, they think that someone's trying to pull a fast one and sneak their dog into a restaurant or store.  We really haven't had any problems, but I'll bet that as Gail gets bigger, we won't get quite so many "are you sure that's a service dog" stares when we enter a public facility.  This time we sat at a table instead of a booth, so the under/down took a little bit longer for Gail to adjust to, but she managed to do it without too many crumbs making their way to her tummy.

When we were done there we made our weekly drive past an eagle's nest that we discovered last year to see how things are progressing for the 2012 nesting season.  We got lucky and were able to see both mama and papa eagle sitting in a tree very close to their nest.  I'm sure there are some minor renovations that need to be done to the nest to get it ready, but all in all, the nest looks pretty good.  We can't wait until there are babies in the spring.

After that, we stopped at the Best Buy store in Clearwater.  I needed to find a wireless mouse and keyboard for the office, so we thought it would be another great exposure for Gail.  As you can see, Gail isn't too interested in shopping for computer components.  After finding the keyboard & mouse, we decided to walk around the store for a little bit.  We've discovered at home that Gail occassionally likes to watch TV, and it was no different at the store.  We completed our shopping and decided to head down to Tropicana Field (home of the Tampa Bay Rays for those of you who are not local) where a home show was being held.

The home show (unfortunately we didn't get any pictures there) was another great opportunity to expose Gail to a number of people, as a matter of fact, it took us about 15 minutes to get past the front door and make it into the exhibition.  The floor of the exhibition hall was the actual astro-turf that is used during the baseball season.  It was an interesting experience for Gail.  When we would stop to look at something or talk to someone she would occassionally try to chew at it like it was grass!  Needless to say, there was more than one "no chew" command issued.  The day was going great until about an hour into our adventure, Gail decided that she needed to pee (sorry if that offends anyone).  I saw her and did an immediate no and made her stand back up, but a little bit of damage had already been done.  We got it cleaned up (thus the reason to always carry an emergency clean up bag) and found the nearest exit.  She had busied before we went in, but it may have been all of the excitement, or even the astro-turf that caused her little accident.  Oh well, I guess not every outing is going to be perfect...  We decided that Gail had probably had enough excitement for one day, and headed home to give her a break.

Tomorrow is another day, and an opportunity for a new adventure...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thursday started out as a reasonably normal day.  Gail and Michele got up and went to work as usual.  Michele had received an e-mail earlier from our area coordinator requesting that we have Gail be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist.  Along with that e-mail was the message that Gail was being considered as a breeder.  We learned that the examination was for a process called CERF certification.  We had never heard of this but through the Internet, we learned that this is a very normal procedure for dogs that may be considered as breeding dogs and particularly for higher end show dogs or service dogs.  So on Friday, it was off to meet Dr. Michele Stengard at BluePearl Veterinary Hospital in Clearwater for her examination.  There, we learned that the purpose of the test was to determine if Gail had a hereditary eye disease.  If so, she would not be considered to be a candidate for the breeding program.  Dr. Stengard declared that her eyes were normal in every respect.  Therefore, she had no disease of any kind, however, it's recommended that the test be re-certified annually.
Even though Gail may become a breeding dog, we still are expected to continue the prescribed training.  She may not make the grade as a breeding dog.  If not, she will continue on into training for a guide dog.
In the evening, we attended our very first semi monthly puppy raiser meeting.   The purpose of the meeting is to share ideas with the other puppy raisers, assess progress, and allow the area coordinator to provide feedback where necessary. This particular meeting was a joint meeting of both groups from Pinellas County and we were fortunate to have one of the senior dog trainers from Southeastern Guide Dogs.  She helped us understand puppy body language and leash reactions.  It was clear to us that we have a long way to go learning about the complex messages that are dogs are sending.
Altogether there were about 40 dogs gathered in one room with their raisers listening to the formal presentation .  At first, Michele and I did not know exactly how Gail would respond to being around all of those dogs, particularly because most of them were significantly larger than she. However, she handled it just like a trooper and far exceeded our expectations.  The picture below shows exactly what she thought of the whole process. 
All in all, it was a very successful outing and we look forward to the next one in a couple of weeks.   Sometimes, they are held in a public venue so the dog may get exposures to the environment that they wouldn't get otherwise. 
Usually, there lots of pictures from the semi monthly meetings.  However, the dogs all gathered outside and by the time we went in, it was already dark and it was difficult to take lots of pictures.  Even though this is not the greatest shot in the world. we wanted to share a picture with you of Carolyn, our area coordinator and Sunny. a five-month-old Golden Labrador.  Carolyn has a big job as a volunteer and we don't envy her with all the work she has on her plate.   Sunny is a super good dog and we think she is the 5th one that Carolyn has raised.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Before starting today's blog I wanted to upload a picture of Gail at her first Home Depot visit.  I forgot to do that yesterday so here it is today.  For those of you who live in other parts of the country, remember in Florida it is always growing season so that's why you see flowers on the rack next to Michele.
Today, Gail arose at 6 AM demanding breakfast and thankfully Michele granted her wish.  Otherwise, I'm certain that she would've raised a ruckus.  She is certainly a handful when she wakes up in the morning.  I suppose it's result of a full-night rest.  In any event, she is ready to go as soon as you open the door to that crate.
At 7:30 AM Gail and Michele left to go to work.   I asked if Michele wanted to leave Gail with me today but she said that Bonnie works only one day a week and would be extremely disappointed if she would not get to see her. In any event, I told Michele that she could call me for rescue if necessary and I would take the her off her hands if need be.   Midmorning, I received the picture below.  Michele's message was that she had been sleeping in her water bowl.   I suppose that happens quite often. 
One thing is certain, Gail always has a surprise in what she does and how she does it.

Several people have asked about the process for becoming a puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs.    There is a local group of about 15-20 puppy raisers that meet twice a month under the leadership of an area coordinator.  For anyone having an interest in becoming a puppy raiser, they are required to attend at least two of those meetings to make certain that they understand the commitment required and ask any questions that they may have.  Take a look at the Puppy Central blog which has a link on this page.  You will get a great idea of what happens at these meetings.

After attending two of the meetings, the area coordinator will provide whatever information is needed  to ensure that the potential raiser is fully informed about the program.  Southeastern Guide Dogs has an application form on their website ( that must be filled out and submitted to them.  Once the application is reviewed and tentatively approved, the area coordinator comes to your home and makes certain that the environment is one that a new puppy would find comfortable and safe.

Assuming the area coordinator is comfortable after the home visit, the next step that occurs is a background check to ensure that the puppy will be placed in an appropriate environment.  All of these puppies are extremely valuable (it costs about $60,000 to raise a guide dog, train and support it for life) so it's easy to understand why the check is necessary. 

The last step is to sit back and wait until a puppy is available. In some cases, the wait may be as much as six months.  However, we only waited one week.

One last cute and adorable picture ...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gail's Corner

November 4, 2011 Future Guide Dog in Training Gail is born!!!

Hello, our dog's name is Gail.  She is a beautiful Golden Retriever and is a Guide Dog in Training.  She is owned by Southeastern Guide Dogs located in Palmetto, Florida and is on loan to us for the next 12 – 20 months.  To learn more about Southeastern guide dogs go to  What they do is amazing and not one penny of taxpayer money is spent there.
Our job is to socialize and train Gail in basic obedience and manners.  Gail was born on November 4, 2011 and was approximately 10 weeks old when this picture was taken on January 13, 2012.  She is wearing her training cape which indicates that she is at work.  In fact, she was going to work with Michele on that day. 
We picked up Gail on January 12 at the Southeastern Guide Dogs headquarters at about 7:30 PM.  She had just finished a plane ride from Birmingham, Alabama where she was picked up from the kennels where she was born.  She and her litter mate, Tosca <sp> rode in the belly of a plane from Birmingham to Charlotte and then on to Tampa.   She endured a 1 1/2 hour car ride before finally reaching Southeastern Guide Dogs.   After having spent the entire day in a crate, she was obviously tired, hungry, filthy and scared.  We live about an hour north of Southeastern's headquarters so she had to endure another long car ride.    When we got home we fed her to her obvious delight.  She then bedded down for the evening and not a peep was heard from her for the entire night. 

On Friday morning, after having breakfast, Gail received her first bath and got ready for her big day at work with Michele.  As can be expected, she was a huge hit at the office.  Besides meeting all of Michele's co-workers, she also got to meet several clients, everyone at Tampa Bay Magazine, and Scott the UPS Driver.  The day went really well, between all of the attention and naps, the day went by pretty quickly.  Oops, I almost forgot to mention, Gail got to meet her new doctor on Friday.  Since Gail arrived at the campus and was immediately taken home, a veterinarian had not had a chance to exam her.  Dr. Woodman (Animal Hospital of Northwood) is also a Puppy Raiser, and currently has Shadow.  Gail passed her initial exam (10.12 lbs) with flying colors and even had "sweet dog" written on her record.

On Saturday morning we decided to give Gail her first exposure to the outside world. Our  first stop was Fresh Market where everybody ooh'd and ahh'd over such a cute little girl .  Both Michele and I were surprised at how well behaved she was in such a strange environment.    Remember, she had never been to or seen anything like this in her life.

Our next stop was Total Wines to pick up a couple bottles of wine for that evening's dinner with our friends Bonnie & Phil.  It was here that we received our first push back from store personnel about bringing a dog into the store.  We were told that our dog was required to ride in the cart.  After patiently explaining that she was a guide dog in training the clerk said okay, not necessarily totally believing us but she was not going to cause a scene.  We finished our shopping there and went home and got ready for Gail's first guests.  Bonnie's daugther, Raandi is also raising a SEGD puppy, Grady.  By the way, we have hardwood floors, and by Saturday evening, Gail was able to go up and down the stairs, slowly and cautiously, but still able to negotiate them - amazing at her age!

We all went to the park on Saturday afternoon and spent about an hour nosing around the leaves and pine needles.   We had previously been told by other veteran puppy raisers that there is no such thing as a quick trip anywhere.  We should expect to be stopped by almost everyone to talk about the dog and our experiences of helping to train a guide dog.  There's no question that that advice is totally right on.   Everyone from little children all the way up to senior citizens were fascinated by the Gail story.  That afternoon, Gail got to meet Michael, our 8 year old neighbor.  He's really excited about Gail, and asked if he could help train her.  We told him yes, he'd be able to help since we're going to have to expose Gail to things like bicycles, skateboards, bouncing balls, etc.

The next significant event was going to the park with the Clark family on Monday, January 19.    Sheldon is Michele's boss and he and Katie have three great kids , all of whom were really excited to meet Gail for the first time.  We decided to meet at a park to allow the kids and Gail to meet where there would be very few environmental distractions.  We had a good time and the kids were really happy about seeing Gail .  In fact, at the end of the outing, the kids were clamoring for dad and mom to buy them a new puppy.  After our outing at the park, we stopped at a Hallmark store and Michael's.  At Michael's we met a very nice lady who said that her employer was sponsoring a guide dog, Trooper, so she was familiar with the program.  That afternoon we headed down to SEGD to get Gail's picture taken for her ID card since it was too dark out the evening that we picked her up to do that.
While both Michele and I have been amazed about how well behaved Gail has been she still is obviously a work in progress.   There are a few skills that she has mastered with very little effort.  Sleeping, biting, barking and chasing Sneakers, our cat, are those in which she gets   an A+.  Gail thinks it's great fun to chase after Sneakers while Sneakers is hissing  and batting at Gail's nose with his clawless front paws.   

Honestly, Gail has done some very smart things in the first 10 days that she's been with us.  She has learned to go up and down uncarpeted slick stairs, spends virtually the entire night in her crate sleeping and making very little noise, sitting on command most of the time and being very well behaved around children and other dogs. 
Even though she is been a joy to have with us, she still has a long ways to go before she will be a calm well-adjusted dog.  She is challenged with leash control, food bowl excitement, biting and trying to bite pants, shorts or whatever else you may be wearing.  But, Gail told me only this morning that we need to give her a break.  After all she is only 11 weeks old and can't be expected to be perfect at that age.  However, we will consider it to be a minor miracle when she stops chasing the cat  (she says she can't help it, the cat keeps waving his bushy tan tail in front of her face) and becomes better behaved on a leash.  Can't wait.
The weekend of the 21st and 22nd was amazing.  Gail had her first restaurant experience on Saturday morning when we went out for breakfast at Rodie's, a local restaurant. She was very well behaved and here's a picture showing exactly what she did the entire time we were there.   She was calm and stayed under the table laying on the floor the entire time.  Later on Saturday, we went to a town nearby and took Gail out on the fishing pier.  We were very lucky to find two men fishing with a net and landing several Mullet as we walked up.  Imagine the puppy's face when she saw the flopping fish. She had a choice of barking, chasing or biting them but she only looked. 

We left there and stopped by the Trek store to introduce her to Morgan, Bart, Chris, and the rest of the gang.  She had her first experience with an air hose that they use to inflate the bike tires...  She was cautious, but curious about investigating it.
After that we left there to go to what we thought would be one of the most challenging experiences Gail had so far, an indoor flea market.  But, as with most of the other experiences, Gail surprised us both.  She was well behaved and despite meeting her first chicken and her first parrot, she survived it. nicely.  It was funny, Gail saw herself in a mirror that was on the floor for people trying on shoes, she stopped and kept walking up to the mirror to try to figure out where the other puppy was.  After all that excitement it was time to head home and take a break.  That evening Michele subjected Gail to getting her teeth brushed, it ended with Gail getting another bath because she had toothpaste all over her ears.
On Sunday, the 22nd, Gail had her second experience at a local restaurant while we had our breakfast.  We frequently visit Tiffany's, and everyone there was surprised when we arrived with Gail in tow.  We checked the floor for scraps of food (found a penny) and showed her how to do an "under/down".  As before, she was well behaved and paid no attention to the people around her, sleeping on the floor under a table doing exactly what she was supposed to do.
 After we finished breakfast we took what is probably an obligatory trip to Home Depot.  We cannot imagine a guide dog puppy that came from Southeastern  has ever avoided a trip to Home Depot.   That particular trip took a little longer than we expected since everyone wanted to stop and talk about our guide dog experience and how cute and cuddly Ms. Gail was.  She did really well, but was definitely surprised by the floor cleaning machine.  She didn't run away, but wasn't keen on getting to close to it either so we turned and went down another isle.

On the way home we drove through Tarpon Springs and stopped at a little farmers market.  Gail is like a magnet, everyone wants to stop and see the adorable little puppy wearing the coat.  I'm sure they'd want to see her with, or without the coat, but for some reason, it seems that the coat really captures people's attention and they want to know what she's in training for.  Time to head home and let little Miss Sunshine get some beauty rest.

It was off to Panera Bread for lunch on Monday the 23rd.  Gail didn't quite do as well there since the floor was full of crumbs and we could not imagine how good they smelled to her.   Yet, she managed not to embarrass herself or us and we finished lunch without a major incident. 

Gail is growing like a weed and she is as adorable as any other puppy.  She has put on more than 2 pounds since she came to live with us only 10 days ago.  Just prove how cute she is, here is a picture we took of her at an outdoor flea market on Sunday morning. 

More to come........