January 10, 2014
FLD Bear had to park. Again. His handler slipped the blue "working" bandana off over his head before taking him out.
The bandana, and later the jacket, serve two purposes. One, it indicates that the puppy is a future Leader Dog "in-training" while out in public. Two, it simulates the guide dog harness that the puppy will eventually wear - removing the bandana or jacket to "park" teaches the puppy that it cannot relieve itself while "working."
When they returned, a squirmy Bear made it difficult to slide the bandana back over the pup's head.
"Remember how Deb showed us how to train Bear to put his head into it?" I asked. The raiser held the bandana up so there was a loop for Bear to put his head into, but Bear did not cooperate. "Say 'YES' and give Bear a treat through the loop when he looks at it," I suggested. Bear stretched his neck forward and the bandana was on.
Later, when Bear had to park yet again, the raiser slipped the bandana over Bear's head quite easily. He didn't know I was watching. "Good job, " I said. He grinned.
|FLD Bear, wearing his bandana, takes a snooze.|
Another raiser asked me how to tie the bandana for such a small puppy because the long ends made a tempting chew toy. You would think that after five puppies I would have this down, but I've struggled with it too - until I saw how the Chippewa raisers tied the ends so they weren't a temptation. I took Bear's bandana and showed them the Chippewa technique.
"Can you do Axel's too?" someone asked. I said, "You try it." No one ventured. The raiser who had previously learned to slip the bandana over Bear's head snatched the bandana and tied it. Just like I did.
|A now-tired FLD Axel take a nap too. Here you can see the long ends of the bandana.|
GOD BLESS THE INSTRUCTIONAL ARTISTS
Deb talked to the men about how puppies develop. "Their world expands daily," she said. "They use their mouths to experience the world. They can become vocal and hyper." FLD Axel's raiser piped up, "It sounds like you are talking about Axel!"
Suddenly, Axel started to retch. His raisers watched, horrified, when the pup barfed up a soggy pile of puppy chow onto his mat and proceeded to gobble it back up. The men jumped up, scooping Axel away from the mess. Others ran for clean-up supplies. RUM Steve, in anticipation of outrage from the non-raiser prison population, designated net sacks just for puppy laundry.
Deb calmed them all down. "It's probably just nerves, and maybe a bit too much food from yesterday," she said. "If they turn and re-eat it, it's not a big deal, but if they walk away from it they are probably sick." (The previous day had been a get-to-know-your-puppy party. Deb never said a word about the copious amount of kibble the guys were giving Axel and Bear.)
Today she talked to them about making decisions, about how they normally don't learn to make decisions in the regulated prison environment. "But you need to figure stuff out," she said. "Just like the puppies need to make the decisions, we are here to help them make the right decisions."
We could not have better planned the way our time at the Baraga Correctional Facility worked out. How FLD Bear taught the men the advantages of being able to "read" your puppy. How trying to quiet FLD Axel helped them get creative in solving a problem. How Axel's loss of breakfast demonstrated the need to be cognizant of their use of treats.
Back in the Leader Dogs for the Blind van during the long drive home Deb said, "The puppies could not have been better instructional artists. God bless them!"
|FLD Axel and his raisers.|
|FLD Bear and his raisers. The men knew that I cared for Bear for 10 days and wanted to make sure I understood that they would take good care of him. "We've got his back," they said.|
|FLD Bear and his raisers. I need not worry.|
|FLD Jedi and the team who cared for him overnight.|
|FLD Harper and the men who cared for him overnight.|