Monday, January 30, 2012

A Glimpse of the Future: Somebody is Maturing!

With the passing of Vinson's 11-month birthday and recent positive signs of maturity, the end or our role in his career is coming closer into view. It's hard to believe that he may return to The Seeing Eye for training in just two or three months!

Over the weekend my wife and I noticed a few negative behaviors have quietly disappeared, like trying to pick up sticks on walks. In addition, certain good behaviors have increased dramatically, including his recall and following commands from other handlers.

We are super proud of Vinson's progress. Just a few weeks ago I didn't feel confident that he would be able to settle and focus enough to be trained. That balance is quickly shifting as he matures. Of course there are no guarantees, but Sarah and I are proceeding with one bittersweet goal in mind; and we'll be sure to enjoy every remaining moment...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy 11 Months!

Today Vinson is 11 months old! Can't believe he's heading for the big "1" already!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brothers in Arms

While wild play is part of their friendship, Watson and Vinson have their touching, calm moments too. Here's a photo of them napping together nose-to-nose.

Nose to Nose!

What does Your Desk Look Like?

Any dog lover will tell you that dogs have a knack for creating comedy. This morning, Garcia took the stage.

As you all know, Vinson and Garcia are wonderful friends and share office space at The Seeing Eye. This morning Garcia quietly came in my office for the usual morning hello's, but this time I didn't hear or see him.

Coincidentally, Vinson had found one of Watson's tennis balls in the car this morning and managed to remove one half of the cover like a banana peel. Thankfully he didn't attempt to ingest it (something he would've tried without a second thought earlier in his puppy-hood)!

I placed the tennis ball on my desk when I arrived and  forgot about it. I was working away at my computer when I realized there was a big black and pink Garcia nose resting under my monitor, patiently awaiting some tennis ball play. The photo here shows the surprise I got!

Garcia's nose, a peeled tennis ball, and yes, that is Vinson and myself on the day we first met in the red frame.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday Snow Hike

Sunday was Sarah and my first chance to take both Watson and Vinson on a snow hike together. We packed up a backpack and headed out for a cold hike under sunny blue skies, choosing a trail network off of Sussex County's wooded Stanhope Road.

Both Vinson and Watson love the snow and they really enjoyed hiking through it. Here are some photos from our blue-sky afternoon.

Heading out on the sunny, snow-covered trail

Ryan with the boys on the trail. Yes, that is a little snow mound on Vinson's nose.

The snow nose.

Watson leading the pack, with Sarah's shadow catching her snapping the photo.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

And then it Snowed

After weeks without winter weather it finally snowed and Vinson and Watson love it. Vinson led me around the yard, using his snout like a snow plow, the once-familiar yard now completely new. I managed to snap these photos of his snow-covered snout.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Touching Moment

Working at The Seeing Eye, I feel very connected to the direct results of the work we do. Even so, touching moments sneak up on me and today was one of those days.

A student in the current Seeing Eye class had asked her instructor to let me know she'd like to meet me to chat about Vinson and this very blog. At lunch today (the entire staff and all current students eat lunch together every day) I introduced myself to a couple tables of students and shared stories with them.

When I met the student who'd been following Vinson's adventures, she shared an angle on puppy raising that I hadn't considered. She asked if she could shake my hand and said simply that, for graduates, it is a rare honor to shake the hand of a Seeing Eye puppy raiser. I was floored.

After wiping a tear from my eye we had a great conversation before she went off for afternoon training and I returned to my office and gave Vinson a proud hug.

It's a pretty special place to work, and a special honor to be raising Vinson.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Walking Buddies

Friends in the sun.
The walks were bitter cold this weekend but Vinson and Watson both enjoyed them regardless. Here's a shot of the two of them telling me to "come on" as I struggled with gloves and pockets to snap this photo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Cold Rain and Snow

This morning I discovered that Vinson's distracted attraction to blowing leaves works with blowing sleet and snow as well. As we rounded the path at The Seeing Eye on our morning walk the wind came whipping across the open field and it began to sleet and snow (Vinson has a knack for timing his outside time around wild weather, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by my smiling coworkers). Surrounded by swirling flakes, Vinson began attacking each one as it contacted the path, shifting his focus from one to the next in rapid succession.

While a bit of this is typical puppy behavior - especially given that Vinson has only experienced snow one other time so far - we do not want these simple distractions to continue; being overly distracted is a common reason for dogs not continuing through guide training.

Through consistent correction and praise we'll continue to work on distraction issues every time they arise.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adaptation is the Name of the Game

Vinson sitting proudly in the morning sun, his breath visible
Sometimes pieces of the puppy puzzle seem counter-intuitive. Vinson has been exhibiting challenging behavior more recently than every before.

Now a game of ball in the big Seeing Eye field is typically a reward for Vinson, a special treat with some recall and obedience work built in. But I got to thinking this morning as I looked over the sun-drenched rolling field and pondered how mild the weather is for mid January, that some of Vinson's behavior may also be signalling a need for additional challenge and exercise.

And so, to the field we went. Vinson performed very well, returning consistently and sitting proudly while awaiting the ball throw.

We'll see if this approach - combining additional fun and work along with our usual daily routines - will help during Vinson's latest puppy phase.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Latest Chews

Thanks bud.
It's (thankfully) been quite a while since I needed to post a "Latest Chews" article, but alas the time has come. Sarah's wonderfully-comfortable L.L. Bean lambswool slippers now bear a striking resemblance to small-town roadkill.

The Latest Chews:
  • Sarah's Slipper
  • Leash
  • My Slipper
  • Watson-hair tumbleweed
  • Leash
  • Watson's dog bed
I wonder if the bitter apple folks make shoes...


    Vinson's current weight: 55 pounds

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Pressure Mounting

    Vinson was pretty wild at the club meeting last night - barking, biting the leash - behavior that's become more prominent recently. The most embarrassing scene this week? Vinson attempting to mount a coworker's off-duty Seeing Eye® dog. Repeatedly.

    We spoke with our puppy raising Area Coordinator and filled her in on the recent changes in behavior. Since Vinson's particular Lab/golden mix eliminates him from consideration for breeding at The Seeing Eye, a sooner-than-later neutering is being considered...

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Off to Puppy Club

    We're on our way to puppy club. Hope Vinson is ready to be attentive!

    New Friends

    Vinson had the pleasure of meeting a new puppy friend at The Seeing Eye today - a 16-week-old golden retriever being raised by one of our front desk volunteers. The tiny, soft pup was gave Vinson gentle kisses on the face while he proceeded to try and steal her big tire toy.

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Pat's House, Day 5: Saturday, December 31

    Vinson loved the fenced back yard at the McKenna's
    Written by: Pat McKenna

    Today Vinson goes home. It's been lots of fun having him here and far less action packed than I had imagined. Nothing broken, lost, or chewed. Tighe and Mino will be sad to see him go.

    Sarah, Vinson, Watson and I would like to thank both Sarah's folks and Pat, Sital, Garcia, Tighe and Mino for opening their homes and daily lives to Vinson; and thanks to the Creveling family, including boxer Eddie and Seeing Eye puppy, Kimber, for watching Watson!

    Pat's House, Day 4: Friday, December 30

    Written by: Pat McKenna

    Having been given warning that Vinson liked Christmas trees, or more precisely, bird ornaments hung on Christmas trees, I took a precautionary measure. So far it's worked. Our tree and its adorning birds remain unmolested.

    Over Christmas I was given a small rug depicting a yellow dog. It's interesting how both Garcia and Vinson have gravitated to it.

    This landing has become the favorite hang out for the pack. From left to right: Mino, Garcia, Vinson and Tighe

    Pat's House, Day 3: Thursday, December 29

    Written by: Pat McKenna

    Very cold this morning when I took Garcia, Tighe, and Vinson for a short walk. Vinson is very good on a leash. He has a strong pull which I believe is encouraged as this will be an asset for future work as a guide.

    Grooming this morning went about as well as yesterday.

    Vinson really enjoys when I do my daily floor exercises. Push ups and sit ups have definitely become more challenging over the last several days. My normal and boring morning routine has transformed into a high action fully interactive event.

    Pat's House, Day 2: Wednesday, December 28

    Vinson sitting proudly on the landing while Garcia chews his Nylabone
    Written by: Pat McKenna

    Today started off with a bang. All the dogs, seperated for sleeping, were extremely happy to be reunited this morning. Vinson and Tighe the Boxer have a great game they invented. It's a high energy pass time that features running and playing. It's definately best when played outside in our fenced yard.

    So far Vinson's doing great. His games of keep away aside, he's been behaving, getting along wonderfully with our dogs, and is very willing to go into his crate when it's time.

    Every morning our three dogs go out together to relieve themselves, then come in for breakfast. They are to sit wait patiently until the "eat" signal is given. After they are done eating we do some obedience work, and finally grooming. Vinson did great with almost every stage of the morning plan. He did have a different idea about grooming. Brushing his teeth ultimately turned into a wrestling match that got more tooth paste on me than on his teeth. An impromptu game of keep away resulted when he stole the zoom groom and commenced zooming around my basement. A timely reminder from Tighe brought the game to a close and the brush was recovered. I'm hopeful tomorrow's grooming session will go more smoothly.

    I'm pleased to see the Christmas tree is not a point of interest for our little yellow guest. So far, he hasn't acknowledged it's presence. I'm hopeful this doesn't change.

    Pat's House, Day 1: Tuesday, December 27

    Written by: Pat McKenna

    The Puppy has landed. My wife and I have the great honor of watching and minding young Vinson for several days. I took possession around 10 am. He was great for me in the office and behaved brilliantly in the car ride home.

    The real action started when he was introduced to our pack. We have 3 dogs, Garcia, who already knows Vinson, as well as Mino the Terrier and Tighe the Boxer. Tighe and Vinson hit it off at once.

    We thought we had puppy proofed our house, we were mistaken. Vinson has a real gift for acquiring items of great interest to him. Sticks from the yard, shoes, and slippers even if they are being warn.
    They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one, with Vinson a blur of motion while Garcia sits calmly, says it all about our little friend!

    He grabbed one of my wife's slippers that resulted in a real nice game of keep away. I was highly entertained, my wife less so. She's started referring to him as the "devel dog" until I pointed out as he was yellow, not chocolate, Twinky might be more appropriate.

    A few of Sital's cousins stopped by today with their kids, ages three and four. Vinson was a big hit. One of the girls took off her shoes and socks, as she is want to do. The socks were on the ground for mere moments when Vinson sprung into action. One sock was rescued, the other fell prey to our little yellow guest (he's doing fine).

    Christmas Trees, Socks and Lots of Doggies - We're Back!

    Puppy-Proofing includes choosing decorations!
    After a pause in the Blog for holiday gatherings, we're all back in the same place and there are lots more stories to share! Vinson is now a bit over 10 months old!

    Sarah and I had a great trip to Oregon to visit family and do some skiing and snowboarding. In our absence, Watson stayed with his original puppy raiser, and Vinson split the time between Sarah's folk's house and Pat and Garcia's; and boy did he have fun!

    While staying with Sarah's folks, Vinson decided to do a little "redecorating" for the holidays. While they took lots of care to puppy-proof their house in advance, one of Vinson's habits eluded the plan (remember the stuffed moose from a while back?).

    Vinson continues to be enamored with small, stuffed critters - anything that looks reasonably real. Sarah's folks had one ornament on their tree that looked like a real bird; and while it was hanging high up, that was no deterrent to Vinson. Before they could stop him, he leaped up to grab the bird, getting his legs tangled in the holiday lights and ultimately pulling the whole tree down! I'm told they snapped photos of the repositioned tree after the incident. Luckily no birds were harmed and the tree was able to be reasonably redecorated.

    Then it was on to Pat's house...

    The following series of posts were graciously contributed by Pat, his wife Sital, Garcia and his pack.