Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beginning to Look More Dog than Pup

Vinson continues to grow at a steady pace and has recently begun noticeably filling out. As much as he looks more like a dog than a puppy, when it comes to energy and attitude, he's still all puppy.

Here's a photo of Vinson laying in the morning sun on the path at The Seeing Eye this morning.
Enjoying the early morning sun, resting like a big boy

Sunday, November 27, 2011

9-Month Birthday Weigh-In

Birthday weigh-in at 9 months of age: 52 pounds.

Happy 9 Months, Vinson!

Today Vinson is nine months old! He's had a great Thanksgiving weekend including an overnight guest, a female boxweiler (boxer-rotweiler mix). Vinson and Watson both loved the gentle nine-year-old, fawn-colored dog; but being the Vinson isn't fixed yet, he was a little over-excited about having a female in the house. Shortly after their greetings, all the pups happily cuddled together for a nap.

Happy birthday, buddy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another Positive Vet Visit

Vinson made a stop in at the Highlands Veterinary Clinic in Sparta tonight for his bordetella shot. Thanks to his broken leg at the young age of 8 weeks, Vinson is very schooled in veterinary visits, and immediately tried to hop up on the exam table when we went into the exam room.

Erin, the tech who is a long-time puppy raiser and sibling of a Seeing Eye instructor, was happy to see him and is currently raising a black Lab that has the same father as Vinson!

The office allowed us to also bring Watson with us so he could meet the staff and check out the office. Both were very well behaved and attracted a lot of attention.

And just as with all other inoculations, Vinson didn't squirm or even react. What a cool pup?!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Big Boy Collar

Many have asked why we haven't replaced Vinson's puppy collar. It's not that we didn't intend to (in fact, we bought a new one months ago). It had more to do with Vinson's tendency to treat his collar and leash as chew toys.

Tonight, we officially retired his Seeing Eye-issued puppy collar and reserved a spot for it in Vinson's "hall of shame", as we jokingly refer to the items that he's, ahemm, "produced", stretched, chewed or knotted along the way. Other items for the hall include:
  • Stomach X-rays from his underwear-eating incident
  • Countless leg splint and "cone-of-shame" photos from his big break
  • Tiny Nyalbone chew toys that are now way too small for him
  • His knotted and twisted Seeing Eye-issued puppy leash
His new attire? A Ruff Wear DoubleBack collar in green. Handsome indeed - and we love the flat buckles and quiet, rubber tag attachment.

Vinson sporting his new collar, exhausted after another day's long walk


Vinson has officially crossed the 50 pound mark! Official weight: 50.5 pounds. Next Sunday, he'll be 9 months old.

Puppy Club Fun

Friday night we had another puppy club meeting with Vinson. The meetings get all the current puppy raisers from a particular county or region together to work on specific training exercises, share information and get help with particular issues when required.

Despite his obvious high energy, Vinson did very well and the club leaders and members commented that he seems like he surely will make it through to training. Time will tell, but we're proud of the little guy!

Special thanks to the club member who snapped these photos for us!

Vinson sitting and resting at Sarah's side during a circle exercise

Stepping out on the circle walk as the club leader watches each pup's performance

Vinson's turn to perform the figure eight routine while the others watch

Affectionate reward from Sarah for a job well done

Happy smile

Friday, November 18, 2011

Puppy Club Meeting

Sarah and Vinson just got back from puppy club - Watson and I stayed home and tended the fireplace. Vinson did well at the meeting - will post photos tomorrow.

And then there were Three

Today Vinson had another special time in the field at The Seeing Eye - this time it was Vinson, Garcia and Watson together in the sunshine.

Vinson liked to try and keep the others from getting the ball, and Watson showed some of his hearding instincts as he tried to move Vinson into smaller and smaller portions of the field. Eventually they all rested together and enjoyed the crisp afternoon.

Three happy dogs.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nick the Mailman

There are plenty of cliches about dogs and mailmen, but I can assure you that the only reason Vinson would attempt to chase one is to get some affection!

Vinson had the pleasure of meeting Nick, the mailman who delivers to The Seeing Eye, and they had a wonderful meeting. Vinson sat nicely and loved all the petting, while Nick and I chatted about the organization, puppy raising, etc.

I think the little guy will be keeping an eye out for that mail truck from now on!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Meeting a Student

Vinson's looking forward to a special meeting later this afternoon. A student in the current class here at The Seeing Eye has been following the blog and would like to meet Vinson in person.

You might think that the students must meet Vinson all the time. While we pass each other frequently, because the students are learning to work with their new dogs, a meeting with Vinson is a no-no. Too much distraction during valuable training time. Of course, with planning, Vinson will happily meet any student - or any person or canine for that matter!

Seeing Eye dog team etiquette tip: If you happen upon a working guide dog team during an outing with your own pet, take special care that your pal doesn't interfere with the working dog or person in any way. They need to remain focused.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Block Head

As Labrador retrievers mature they typically develop a block-like head - some larger than others. Vinson's head is filling out, making his 18" training collar too difficult to remove easily; so today, another milestone: Vinson moves up to the 20" training collar.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Dynamic Duo

Vinson and Watson are quite the odd couple - a small, high-energy Lab pup and his buddy, a giant, stoic shepherd pal. They continued to bond on a hike this morning on the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail; and they love riding in the car together.

Backseat drivers

Great car riders

After a nice hike

On the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Good Long Walk and Tired Pups

Vinson and Watson had a nice long walk with Sarah and I this morning. They did great at walking together and are now happily sleeping on their beds, side by side.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bed Buds

The relationship is progressing fast - Vinson and Watson are already comfortable sharing a dog bed.

Sharing the bed: new pals

Watson as a Pup

Here are a couple of photos of Watson as a 10-week-old puppy from the first time when Sarah and I babysat for a Seeing Eye puppy.
Watson was known for his one floppy ear (now his ears are 6 inches tall)

Watson's first favorite toy - the white tiger

And the "Very Big" Surprise Is...

Watson! That's right, Vinson's very large surprise is that Sarah and I have adopted a Seeing Eye career-change dog - and he happens to be the puppy that we first babysat for and is pictured in Sarah's arms on the "About the Puppy Raisers" page!

Watson is an 83 pound male black and tan German shepherd dog that we've known since he arrived with his puppy raiser - because she too works at The Seeing Eye.

Watson has always been a very calm dog, and he's being very patient with Vinson's puppy energy. Both are making friends already, sharing toys; and when I first crated Vinson to allow Watson a chance to settle in to his surroundings, Watson laid outside the room where Vinson was and rested.

Seems like they're off to a great start as good pals! More to come...

Watson shares his favorite toy with Vinson

Vinson checks out Watson's water, While Watson shows off his big wet nose

Watson tries out Vinson's bed (his own is much bigger)

A Very Big Surprise

Vinson doesn't know it yet, but he's in for a very big surprise this evening. Check back for the story and photos.

Perfect Autumn Field

Vinson in mid stride
Here's Vinson enjoying some exercise on a crisp Autumn day at The Seeing Eye, ears flapping high as always.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Something About a Leaf Pile

There's just something about a big pile of leaves on a sunny, Autumn day. Vinson had a blast playing in a giant pile of leaves on The Seeing Eye campus.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Vinson is starting to fill out - especially in the chest - and his strength is every increasing, yet we're still sure he'll be a medium sized guy when fully grown. Last night's weigh-in: 47 pounds.

Question Number One

Without a doubt, the number one question my wife and I hear as puppy raisers is "how can you give him up?" My quick response is usually "with tears and a smile". Of course there's more to it than that.

Yes, we will be very sad (and so will lots of others due to Vinson's "stardom" at work and in our neighborhood) for our own loss when Vinson no longer shares our home, my office and our daily lives in general.

I like to envision the process as similar to raising a child and seeing them graduate high school and move forward with their life. While the moving on was the intended goal all along, when the moment arrives it is concurrently sad and happy for a proud parent; things will change but success has been achieved.

We are raising Vinson with the hope that he will change a life as the more than 15,500 Seeing Eye dogs have over the past 83 years. Working at The Seeing Eye has given my wife and I a court-side seat to witness the difference these dogs make. That is the answer, the reason, the why and how. It is why we've chosen to be a part of the process, even knowing that will include some moments of sadness.

Puppy raising isn't for everyone, but for us, there is nothing we'd rather be doing.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Power Back.

The power is back on after 8 days in the dark! The animals seem as happy as we are!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Still in the Dark, but Vinson Doesn't Mind

A house just down the street clearly shows why Sparta power has been out for so long
Sarah and I are part of the unlucky 5% of New Jerseyans that are still without electricity following last weekend's freak storm. And while we huddle around the fireplace, cook on a camp stove and read by headlamp, Vinson is taking it all in stride, just as he seems to do with every new situation.

We've taken extra care to ensure Vinson and our cats have extra blankets and cuddle spots in the house. All of them enjoy sitting near (but not too close to) the fireplace; and Vinson now has plenty of exposure to flashlights and various lanterns. Just another week for him, but I can tell you that Sarah and I are more than ready to have heat, hot water, lights and a fridge with food in it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Snow: Vinson Loved It!

Vinson got his first taste of snow (literally) Saturday morning, before the storm got serious. He loved the experience, and started high-prancing around, digging, shoveling with his snout and eating bits that must have reminded him of ice cubes. Here are two photos of his very first snow experience.

Yet another way leaves can once again be interesting - bury them in snow!

Unfazed by the wet snow on his back, Vinson pranced around and sniffed everything. The snow on the road just a few minutes into the storm foreshadowed what was to come.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Incredible Storm, But Vinson Loves the Snow

This is my first chance to post since we lost power Saturday. As you know, Saturday's storm caused incredible damage and power outages. After 4.5 hours of white-knuckle driving in our faithful Subaru, we made it to Vinson's puppy-sitter's and then on to the family wedding (the drive would normally take about 90 minutes).

Even major highways were block by trees and debris, and it seemed that few towns were ready as most of the salt trucks we saw didn't even have plows on them. Regardless, everyone made it where they had to go and back safely.

A quick shot of trees falling across Route 287, blocking multiple lanes
Here are some photos of Vinson inspecting the downed limbs at The Seeing Eye this morning. Thankfully, the only campus damage was to a railing and small patio area that a branch fell on. The grounds crew not only dealt with the early snow but quickly cleared all paths of sticks and branches.

Vinson seems to be asking me why all the branches are in the lawn

Posing to show the remaining snow despite sunshine and daily temperatures in the 50's
Now if we can just get our power, heat and hot water back at home, we'll be back to normal!