Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A little Lab melts hearts

January 31, 2014

Upon arrival at the Baraga Correctional Facility Tammy and I are ushered into the administration building. A smaller, though no less eager group than when the first puppies arrived rush to greet FLD Copo. The young pup yawns his way from person to person.
RUM Steve hands a yawning FLD Copo to an admirer.

Some signals that a puppy is stressed is sleeping (Copo did a pretty good job of that the day before at Chippewa and later that evening at dinner) or whining (remember his cries during our drive across the U.P.?) or yawning or pulling away.

A closeup shot of the woman, who is now facing hte camera and holding the small black Lab. She has her eyes closed and is smiling sweetly. The lab is touching her cheek with his face; her hand is supporting his head.
FLD Copo tries to snuggle up...

The same shot of the woman and puppy just a second later. Now the puppy is giving an even huger ywan! The woman still has her eyes closed and is still smiling.
...but a yawn escapes him.

One can easily imagine that little FLD Copo might be a bit stressed after all he had been through during his short seven week life. After leaving his momma and the volunteer's home where he was born, Copo spent a few days with his siblings in Puppy Land at Leader Dogs for the Blind to undergo veterinarian checks. He and his sister Ashley were then taken away to spend the night at a stranger's house with two other puppies and four dogs. The next day Copo and Ashley cuddled together in a crate in a van for five and a half hours, only to be let out in a noisy room filled with more puppies and strangers. Afterwards Copo was separated from his sister and spent the night in a strange hotel room with a big puppy that hogged his toys. The next day he endured a six-hour-drive alone in a crate only to be handed from one stranger to another in yet another new place.

How was a Future Leader Dog puppy to cope?

Now the black lab puppy is being held by a different man. The man is facing to the right, he is wearing a black jacket and a black baseball cap with sunglasses resting on the brim. The puppy is in his arms and is looking right at the camera. In the background is the smiling face of a woman with white hair and sunglasses.
FLD Copo in the arms of another admirer.

The job of a guide dog, making hundreds of decisions every day, can be a very stressful job. Leader Dogs for the Blind breeds puppies to (hopefully) have a calm demeanor and an exceptional capacity for dealing with stress.

FLD Copo started being prepared to develop this capacity when he was just three days old. At this age, Copo could not see, hear, or regulate his own body temperature. What he could do is crawl about, smelling for his siblings to pile up with to keep him warm and for his mother so he could suckle.

From age three days to 16 days, Copo's host family performed a series of five stimulating exercises once a day with the puppies. These simple exercises, which only took three to five seconds each, were designed to place Copo under just a wee bit of stress. Research has shown that these exercises during this time of rapid neurological growth produce the following benefits.

Taken from the article "Early Neurological Stimulation (Revised)" on the website

  1. Improved cardiovascular health (heart rate).
  2. Stronger heartbeats.
  3. Stronger adrenal glands.
  4. More tolerance to stress.
  5. Greater resistance to disease.

In addition, puppies that are thus stimulated are "more active and exploratory" and are calmer with less signs of stress during learning tests than puppies that are not stimulated.

All good traits for a Future Leader Dog! It doesn't take long for FLD Copo to brush off the stress.

The samll black lab is now being held in the arms of another man. The shot is taken from his chest up. The man is wearing a black jacekt and grey sweatshirt. He has short dark hair and is smiling at the camera. The puppy looks relaxed and has his front paws on the man's lett hand. In the background is the man with glasses from the first photo. He is standing on the right side looking at the man with the puppy and is smiling. He is holding his hands together in front of him. At the top on either side of the man holding the puppy are the lights in the white tiled ceiling.
Warden Thomas Mackie welcomes a calm, cool and collected  FLD Copo to Baraga. RUM Steve looks on.