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.

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