Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sheep, Wool & Puppy

For Mother's Day I got breakfast in bed from my dear children.  There is nothing like a breakfast made by your children to really appreciate the gift of love.  It doesn't matter what they make, but they give love with their food. I love that they all try so hard to show me that they love me.  It is so dear.  I am so grateful for my lovely children.  The hugs, kisses and cards & food are a blessing as are each one of them.
     After breakfast we traveled to Maryland to the Howard County Fairgrounds to the Sheep & Wool Festival.  I now love going to these craft festivals because my mother dragged me to them constantly as a child.  I of course HATED them when I was a child, but now I appreciate them for the variety of handcrafted items available.  My children seem to love these festivals, but it is probably due to the food!  With kettle corn, lamb-burgers, lamb sausage, lamb BBQ, Goat cheese, and funnel cakes,  what's not to love ??!!
     I took the opportunity to get maple syrup, soap and a fireplace broom.  Isn't it great what you can get at these things?
     To make the day extra special, we spent it with my in-laws.  It is so nice that the kids get the opportunity to spend time with their grandparents.    Dixie also came along.  She was SO GOOD!  She did a good job of maintaining attention with me and also avoiding distractions.  She got to practice LOTS of "People Greets".  This was our first venture into a BIG area with her and she was great!  She didn't mind the crowds or the animals.  We met raisers from 3 other areas and one even knew her sisters that are in Richmond being raised.
 I would have pictures to share from the day, but the 3; YES 3! people that I asked to take pictures, did not take any!!!!
Ummm, seriously?  Baby in front pack, dog leash in hands, alternating turns pushing stroller, must I also take the pictures?

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Family member

Today we met our puppy Dixie.  She will one day hopefully be a guide dog for the blind.  We will do our best to prepare her and love her.  She is 15 weeks old and a lot of fun.  She is so obedient.  A credit to the puppy raiser who was handling her before us.  She obeys the commands to sit, stay, heel, [lie] down, come, follow, [go to] kennel, and out [drop]. She is working on "close" which is a command to teach her to get close to the handler [me] and between my legs when I am sitting.  This will be a common position for a guiding dog when riding anywhere or sitting with her blind person.  There is so much to teach her, but mostly we just need to love her.  That is easy with 5 children around.
     Wow! I am a little tired from this rascal and so is she!! She is so friendly and fun.  I am looking forward to learning a lot with her.  The sweetest moment of my day came when all the rest of the family was away in bed.  Dixie desperately wanted to get next to me on the couch.  This is a HUGE no no for a guide dog, absolutely no getting on the furniture.  I  got down on the floor to be with her and the not so little bundle of sweetness got into my lap and fell asleep.  She snored as only a puppy can, and I was grateful to have a dog in my arms again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What to do

Several years ago at the Virginia Home Educators Conference I saw an information table from Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB).  (My high school friend raised a puppy, so I knew of the organization).   At that moment I knew that I wanted to be a puppy raiser.  But I didn't want to terrorize my sweet old puppy with a new young puppy, so I filed it away in my head to do in a few years when the time was right.
  As the years passed, I have gradually known that I was not going to be ready to get a "permanent" dog, very soon after loosing my beloved puppy.  I also knew that my children would want a puppy immediately. A happy medium would be to raise a puppy for the blind.  I could let my sadness go toward helping someone else and bring a dog back to the house quickly.   I also wouldn't have to do all the raising alone.  The nicest thing about the puppy raising is that you have weekly training classes.   I don't have to figure out what my puppy is capable at this age, they tell me and help me teach the dog.  I also get to share this experience with Elizabeth.  She is reading all the materials and attending all the training classes.   We get to work on this as a team and in return she earns 100's of hours of volunteering for her American Heritage Girls Presidential Award that she is trying to get.  I am looking forward to the time I will get to spend with my sweet daughter.
     One question that I get from everyone is "Won't you love the dog and miss her when she goes?"  To this, I answer, "Of course, but I know that she will be helping someone.  She will be loved and appreciated.  What more does a dog wish for?  What more could I wish for her?  Also, I hear that you get to know not only the blind person, but their families as well.  You end up with more friends.  That sounds like a wonderful experience to me.  But at the end of the day, I enjoy helping others and that is honestly enough for me.  I know I will be sad to see her go, but she will just be replaced with another puppy to raise. and since puppies are a lot of work, the distraction will be good.  I do intend to get another permanent dog, but we will have to do that when the time is right.
    The most amazing thing about this puppy raising process is that it is very quick, I thought it would take months to get trained and approved, but the process has been quick and tomorrow our first puppy comes to stay.  We are all so excited.  We have toys, food treats, and lots of love all ready for our sweet new puppy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Back Again.

It has taken me two months to write this post, but early in the morning on November 18th my 13 almost 14 year old puppy died.  Because today is her birthday, I will honor her by writing about how her.  I am grateful to have gotten to spend my part of my life with her.
              You never know how much an animal will mean to you when you first get them.  It is like any relationship.  You are so excited to meet each other and learn about each other that you forget that there will be a day when you have to say goodbye.  And goodbyes are never fun.  Goodbyes are filled with tears, regrets, memories, and uncertainty.  Will I ever see them again? will they have a safe journey? was I a good friend?  
      Two months have passed and the tears still fall for my constant uncomplaining companion.

In the case of my puppy it was a final goodbye to my childhood and youth.  Not that I am old, but so much of my life has transformed while she was a part of it.  During our friendship, I was a newlywed, went through 3 long deployments and many little ones, had 5 children, moved 3 times,  bought a house, renovated a house, and innumerable other things.  A lot has changed and I am a different person today than when I met her. What a joy and comfort you were dear puppy.

Ah, the day we met,...I remember  it so well.  I had spent the last two months reading dog books. I needed to figure out what type of dog would be a good match for me and learn how to train a dog.   I decided on a lab or a golden retriever because they are good "family dogs" and are easier to train- a bonus for a novice. I then spent a weekend looking at litters of puppies.  I did go to the Hawaiian Humane Society to find a dog, but the only retriever was not good with cats or children.  Instead, I walked away with a kitty who still sleeps on the edge of my bed today.  The next day I met my puppy.  She was 5 1/2 weeks old.  She was a great big ball of fluff and I loved her immediately. I remember rocking her in my arms that first night, It was a beautiful star filled night and I took her outside to "get busy", then held her and rocked her to sleep.  She was so tiny.
         A few weeks later she met her "boyfriend" and despite the fact that she got along well with others dogs, she had a special bond with him that lasted for their lifetime.  I could say his name and her ears would perk up. Here they are playing.
  I took her with me everywhere.  We drove honey to work and picked him up, went to the beach, and the pet store.  She was so good at riding in the car.  She would sit in the passenger seat with her head on the stick-shift while I drove, that way I could constantly pet her.  A win for both of us. When I didn't take her with me, she always met me at the door.  Often she would bring me my shoes.  I still expect to see her every time I open the door.

Of course with the additions of children in the house, her life changed.  But I think she just loved having more people to give her attention, and of course all the food they dropped on the floor was a bonus!
A special bond of love.
Probably the one who fed her the most "fallen" food.
Rolo takes a snooze on the most comfortable pillow in the house.
Puppy meeting the newest family member.

During Snowmagedon 2010
Despite the fact that she was a Hawaiian dog and loved the beach and the water.  She LOVED the snow even more.  She would roll in it and jump and frolic in the snow.  I am glad that her last winter included the record breaking snow last year.
I should seriously label some of these pictures because I have no idea where we are, except that we were driving cross country.

Goodbye sweet puppy, we miss you a lot.  Thank you for spending your life with us.