Thursday, March 13, 2014

There are reasons

January 30, 2014

Tammy sits in a corner with the lead raisers of the new pups; even inmate raisers have contracts to sign and paperwork to initial.

Meanwhile, everyone else visits and fawns over FLDs Ashely and Chewy and the other puppies.

Three men dressed in white t-shirts fawn over a small german shepherd puppy. The puppy is being held by the man on the right, who is just barely in the frame, you can only see his left shoulder and arm and his chin. The man in the middle is behind the puppy and looking down at it. The man on the left ihas his two hands near the puppy's snout like he is holding a treat in his fingers. He is bending toward the puppy.
Fawning over FLD Chewy.

An almost adult black lab wearing a  baby blue leader dogs for the blind working jacket is standing and facing to the right, nosing a small  black lab puppy that is being held by a young man who is squatting down. The man is wearing the pirson blue shirt and pants with the orange stripes on the shoulders and legs. The man is looking at the puppies. Another man is sitting on a table stool behind the larger puppy. He is wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants. He is bald with a short beard. His elbow are on his knees and he is looking at the littler pup. A lunch table is in the background with a bag on it.
FLD Nell meets FLD Ashely.

One of the men questions me about a scene in the Mutual of America video, "Inside to Outside Initiative - Prison Puppy Raising Program." ARUS Rob had shown them the video that premiered at a special luncheon in Rochester Hills earlier in January.
Leader Dogs for the Blind received Mutual of America's national 2013 Community Partnership Award. Part of the prize was a professionally produced video about the program. You can view the video HERE.
The scene in question shows an Iowa inmate tossing a ball for one of the puppies in the prison yard. We often tell our raisers that fetch is not the best game to play with our retriever breeds, as the game can get a puppy too "ball obsessed" and interfere with working.

"But in the puppy manual it states that fetch is okay if it is 'low key.' Just what is 'low key?'" the inmate asks.

We chat about how low key means no over-hand throwing, that if you play fetch it is important to use a variety of toys and not just a ball (in fact, we discourage balls altogether), how the puppy should not get so excited that it cannot be redirected to do something else.

"Teaching your puppy that bringing things to you is a game could be a good thing, especially if your puppy has something it shouldn't," I say. "But if your puppy gets too focused, I would stop playing fetch." A ball-obsessed dog who forgets it is working and lunges after a rolling ball dragging its handler will not be a safe guide dog.

I suggest other games, like putting the puppy on a sit/stay and hiding a favorite toy for it to find. "Use a word such as 'search' instead of 'find,'" I warn. "Find" is a cue the pup will learn later when it becomes a working guide dog. (Find the chair, find the door, find the counter...) Leader Dogs asks that puppy raisers avoid words that are used when the dog is actually working.

It seems like too many rules sometimes, but keeping in mind how things might later impact a blind or visually impaired handler makes it easier to comply.

And now, just because FLDs Ashely and Chewy are so darn cute, here they are again!

A young inmate wearing the prison uniform is sitting down with the small black lab on his lap. His right hand is petting the head of the puppy while his left hand is supporting her body. Her brown leash is drapped over the knee of another inmate who is sitting on the right side in the photo - this man is african american and is wearing a white t-shirt and blue pants. His head is just out of the frame, his right elbow is resting on his thigh.
FLD Ashly with her new raisers.

A man is standing, facing hte camera and holding a small german shepherd puppy. The upper part of his face is out of the frame, but he is smiling, he has a light beard. He is holding the puppy with his arms and they are filled with tattoos. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana with a white triangle patch with red words that say Future Leader Dog and a black paw print. Embroidered on one side of the bandana is the word "Chewy" in white letters. Opposite is a picture embroidered of Chewbaca, from the movie Star Wars. There is another man in the background on the left against the far wall looking toward the right. Also in the background on the right side at the bottom of the photo is a golden retriever lying on the floor looking at the camera like it is bored.
FLD Chewy and his happy raiser.


  1. They are cute...and they grow so fast too. :)

    1. They grow crazy fast! Thanks for stopping by...I hope you are feeling better!