Monday, June 30, 2014

The worst thing

April 11, 2014
Chippewa

No matter how early we wake up to park the puppies, feed the puppies, feed ourselves, haul crates and puppies and luggage back into the van, we always fall behind schedule. Today we end up 15 minutes late.

Upon arrival at the Chippewa Correctional Facility, we apologize to the staff members who meet us at the visitor entrance. They tell us they joke about it now. They never expect us when we say we're going to be there.

We must be infected with "yooper-time."

Our session starts with a bit of social time. The lunchroom tables are pushed to the perimeter of the room where the guys sit with puppies "under" their seats.

Four men sit on stools attached to a table on the left side of the picture. On man sits just out of view on the right side. The first man is an african american wearing the prison blue uniform. He has this hands clasped on his lap and below him a black lab is lying on the tile floor. The next man is leaning back with his arms folded, he is wearing blue pants and a white t-shirt. The next man is wearing a white t-shirt and light maroon pants. He is leaning over looking down at a golden retriever that is lying under him on the floor. He is petting the puppy with his left hand and his right elbow is on the table. The fourth man is just visible behind the third man, he is wearing a white t-shirt and looking away to the right. The man out of view is wearing the prison blue uniform and hs holding the leash of a black lab that is lying on the floor between his legs.
Teammates Ro and Aaron sit with FLD Sammy; Morrison tends to FLD Bravo with Cory at his back.

Tammy and I circle the room, an informal "meet and greet" with each team.

After a quick rundown of the skills we want to work on, Tammy takes John aside to sign the puppy-raising contract and review the paperwork for the newest arrival, FLD Ekco. I visit each team to ask the same two questions Tammy asked the inmates at Baraga.

1. Tell me something good about your puppy.
Many of the puppies are smart, intelligent, and attentive. Others are confident, loveable, and have a great recall. FLD Bravo's team says that the pup's "clingy-ness" is both good and bad. "We call him the old man."
 2. What are you struggling with and need to work harder on?
Some puppies are overly friendly, or "ambitious socially" as Abe describes FLD Zella. A few rush stairs. Cori says that FLD Baker has a great stay, but is jumpy with loud noises. "She spooked at the cleaning cart," he reports. Baker got away from him and bolted. She ran through Unit 8, up the stairs and almost to his room before someone caught her. "She is fast!" he says. The worst thing, according to Scott, is the thought of giving FLD Drummond away.

Saying good-bye is on everyone's mind today. When Tammy and I leave this afternoon, we will be taking FLDs Nell, Zella and Tara back to Leader Dogs for the Blind to begin their formal training.

But first, we have work to do...



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Furlough fun

April 10, 2014
en route to Chippewa

We have the rest of the day to get back east across the UP. Along the way we head straight onto E. Munising Ave in the town of Munising, instead of taking the sharp right turn that is a continuation of M-28. It is less than two miles to Munising Falls. Tammy thinks it is a good idea to take the golden boys, FLDs Drummond and Bravo, for a short hike. We are eager to stretch our legs, too.

The trail to the falls is snow covered, but packed down enough to walk on. Mostly.

A woman dressed all in blue wearing sunglasses appears to be kneeling on a snowcovered path with a golden retriever in front of her. There is a wooded fence along the path with trees in the background.
No, Tammy is NOT kneeling next to FLD Drummond. Her right leg sunk into the snow up to her knee!
The same woman is bracing her hands on the golden retriever as she struggles to pull her right leg out of the snow. She is blurry, but the dog is in good focus.
FLD Drummond holds still as Tammy extracts her leg.
A golden retriever is rolling in a snow bank, he has smashed his head into the snow. A brown leather leash is attached ot his collar.
FLD Bravo takes a snow bath.
Two golden retrievers stand in front of a wooden fence, their leashes are tied to the fend. They are facing each other but are looking at the camera. There is snow all around and in the background is a tall partly frozen waterfall, coming down from a limestone cliff. There are some small fir trees to the left and bare limbed hardwood trees to the right.
FLDs Bravo and Drummond strike a post at Munising Falls.
A cloer shot of the two goldens, who are now close together. One of them is sitting underneath the other one that is standing. The sitting golden has his eyes closed and looks like he is smiling. The dog that is standing is also smiling and is looking to the right. They are in front of the wooden fence, and all the rest is snow.
Silly Bravo can't get close enough to his buddy Drummond.


Tammy asks me to videotape FLD Drummond walking because she said the guys had some concerns about his gait. (We don't notice anything unusual.) The beauty-boy does a nice job of what we call "connected walking." He keeps a loose leash, yielding to gentle pressure, but is not expected to maintain a tight heel position at Tammy's left side. At one point a family carrying a small, yippy dog exits the trail onto the parking lot where we are shooting; Drummond is interested, but quickly refocuses. Good boy!

video

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WANTED: Stairs

April 10, 2014
Baraga

Unit 8 at the Baraga Correctional Facility is stair-less. RUM Steve assured us some time ago that the construction department at the prison would build a set of stairs for the puppies. "They just won't be next to the fence," he joked.

At last, on a mild and sunny April day, the puppies have stairs. And, as promised, they are not near the fence!

A group of 16 men and six dogs post on a newly built wooden staircase. The stairs are on either side of a platform with railings. It is a bright sunny day in the prison yard, there is still snow on the ground in the background.
The Future Leader Dog teams of Baraga and the new stairs.
A man dressed in the prison blue uniform is coming down a set of wooden steps that are outside on cement. He is bending over at the waist. He has a leather leash in his left hand and his right hand is hanging down at his side. He is wearing white tennis shoes. A small black lab puppy is at his left side and his coming down the steps with him, his nose is sniffing the step just below the one his is on.
Harvey helps FLD Copo negotiate the wooden steps.
A man dressed in the prison blue uniform with an orange stripe down the pantleg is mostly out of view of hte camera. You can see his right leg and arm, his arm has tatoos. The man is taking one step up a wooden staircase, you can see four steps. He is presenting his right hand to a small german shepherd puppy, who is sitting at the base of the stairs, looking up at the man's hand, which likely holds a bit of kibble. It is very sunny.
FLD Dax gets a little help on his first time up.
The man dressed in the prison uniform has made it across the platform and is about to descend the steps on the other side. He is standing on the first step but the german shepherd puppy is still on the platform. The man is looking down at the puppy, who is reaching toward a woman standing off to the side of the stairs. The woman, wearing a green t-shirt, purple zipped sweatshrit (which is open) and blue jeans and sunglasses, is reaching her left hand to the puppy, in a "touch" movement to help the puppy move forward. You can see snow in the background on the ground.
Tammy offers a "touch" to FLD Dax to help him make the decision to descend the stairs. Chad waits patiently and calmly.


Finally, our training session is over. Well, almost. Tammy has the men release their puppies into play. And practice calling them out of play. Fun!

Six men are standing near a brick wallked builidng. In front of them on the cement are six puppies playing. A black lab and golden retriever are on the left side in front, another black lab, a german shepherd, another golden, and a yellow lab are grouped together on the right.
Doggy play-time!
A yellow lab puppy is on its back on the cement with its legs in the air. A black lab puppy is jumping over the yellow lab, his right front paw is smashing the yellow lab's face. The black lab's ears are flying!
FLD Copo appears to have the upper paw on FLD Axel.
A man dressed in the prison blue uniform with an orange stripe down his should and short sleeve, is kneeling on sunny cement looking down at a black lab puppy. The man is bald and is wearing glasses and his arms are tatooed. He is looking down at the puppy and holding a baby blue Future Leader Dog jacket in his left hand. He is reaching toward the lab with his right hand. The lab is facing to the right. There are legs of other men visible in the background on both sides of the kneeling man and directly behind him. There are stark shadows of the men's legs across the cement. The lab is wearing a blue collar.
FLD Copo comes nicely out of play when called.
A man with glasses wearing a dark pea coat and khakis is walking to the left of the picture. A second man is squatting on the cement, he is wearing a black baseball cap and dark jacket and blue jeans. He is lookig down at a black lab puppy that is standing in front of him with its head low by his left leg. The man is touching the puppy's body with his hands. The puppy has a leash dragging behind him.
Even the COs get into the action by calling off FLD Bear.

The man with khakis and a dark jacekt is carrying two large bags of Purina dog food on each shoulder, walking away from the back of a white Leader Dogs for the Blind van. It is very sunny with a blue sky.
RUM Steve hauls dog food (and poop bags) from the Leader Dogs for the Blind before we take off.  "I like a full closet," he says about the poop bags. That's funny, I think, last month he said they had enough to last them 10 years! But I don't say anything...I don't want to mess with this guy, whose demeanor reminds me a bit of Gibbs from NCIS. I don't need a slap upside the back of my head!


Monday, June 9, 2014

Ignorance is no excuse?

April 10, 2014
Baraga

I confess. I am an accomplice. Last night I helped Tammy dream up and number 11 tasks for a training game.

During our session the next day, Tammy reaches into her magic bag of training tricks and pulls out a pair of six-inch cardboard dice. RUM Steve, standing in the background, arms folded, immediately states, "Those are contraband."

Tammy freezes, contraband burning her hands. "We didn't know!" doesn't cut it, does, it?

Tammy explains the premise of the game...that it is training for the puppies on many levels...the handler will have the puppy sit while he throws the dice, which then becomes a moving distraction for the puppy, something it will encounter in the working world...the number on the dice will determine what task the team will perform, things like wiping the puppy's feet, "giving" and "taking" a ball, loose leash walking around cones...doubles means the dice thrower will do the indicated task and throw again...

Tammy offers to get rid of the dice and move on to the next exercise on her never-ending list. 

RUM Steve grins his Cheshire grin and waves her off. "Go ahead," he says.

A woman dressed in a green t-shirt and blue jeans is standing on the left side in front of a grey cabinet. A man dressed in the prison blue uniform with glasses just threw a pair of six inch dice. He is holding the leash of a golden retriever in his left hand. The golden is sitting on his left isde, leaning and looking at the dice. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. Two other men dressed in the prison blue uniforms are standing behind and to the right. At the bottom right corner is the head and front paws of a black lab puppy, wearing the same blue bandana. The puppy is lying down on the painted cement floor and looking at the dice.
The dice are tossed. FLD Bravo watches keenly - as does FLD Bear from the sidelines.
The man that was holding the leash of the golden retriever has set the leash on the floor and is now doing jumping jacks. The golden is lying down and looking up at the man. There is an african american man dressed in the prison blue uniform standing in the background watching. Someone's knees are just visible to the right side of the photo.
The task? Do 10 jumping jacks with your puppy in a sit, down or stand.
A young black lab puppy wearing a blue bnadana is walking away from the camera toward a man that is squatting down in the background and to the left. The man is wearing a dark blue fleece jacket and blue pants. He is calling the puppy toward him, his left arm is resting on his left knee and his right hand is tapping the painted concrete floor. The puppy is dragging his leash past two large dice on the floor. There is also a small orange cone on the floor behind and to the left of the man.
FLD Bear's task is a recall across the room past distractions.
A man dressed in the prison blue and orange striped uniform is squatting on the left side of the picture, he is holding the leash of a young yellow lab in his left hand, whcih is resting on his left knee. The lab is lying on the concrete floor facing the man to the left. The man is holding a yellow tennis ball in his right hand in front of the puppy's nose. The puppy is looking at the man and not the ball.
FLD Axel must "take" and "give" the tennis ball.
An african american man is doing jumping jacks to the left of a a young black lab puppy. The puppy is wearing a blue bandana and his leather leash is draped to the floor. The puppy is facing away from the man and looking to the right. Two other men are standing in the background to the right. Another man is sitting on the far right side, half out of view.
FLD Bear thinks jumping jacks are boring.
A man dressed in the prison blue and orange uniform is squatting down on the left side, facing right. He is holding the leather leash in his left hand, which is attached to the collar of a small black lab puppy on the right. The puppy is standing facing the man, with his head down and mouth open, about to take or give a yellow tennis ball to the man's right hand.
FLD Copo readily takes and gives the ball.

A man is half-kneeling on the painted concrete floor on the left side of the photo. He is wearing the prison unform and is looking down at a small german shepherd puppy lying on the floor in front of him and to the right. The man's left hand is wiping the left rear paw of the puppy with an orange rag. The man's right hand is holding the lower jaw of the puppy, whose mouth is open. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There is a yellow lab puppy in the far background at the top right of the picture, lying on a mat next to a man's leg.
FLD Dax isn't too sure about having his paws wiped!


When we leave for the day, RUM Steve makes sure the contraband leaves with us. They do not remain in Unit 8.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Training, take 2

April 10, 2014
Baraga

We manage to do a few meet & greets before morphing into a "handler's exam," another IFT standard. Puppies must allow a stranger to check eyes, ears, teeth, inspect each paw, and run a slicker brush down the back. 

Puppy counselor Tammy checks each puppy. Some are more tolerant than others!
A woman dressed in a short sleeved green t-shirt and blue jeans wearing glasses and has short white hair is kneeling on the left. Her hands are checking the ears of a young black lab puppy, who is sitting on the cement floor facing away from the camera. A man is squatting to the right of the puppy. He is wearing a dark blue fleece jacket and the blue prison pants and white tennis shoes. He is holding the brown leather leash of the puppy with his left hand, which is leaning on his knee. He is looking at the woman and listening to her talk.
Tammy inspects FLD Bear's ears...
A small german shepherd puppy is lying on a tile floor. His body is facing the camera, but his head is turned to the left. The woman is opening his mouth to check his teeth. The woman is mostly out of sight except for her arms. The lower legs and feet of a man are on the right. A brown leather leash is attached to the puppy's collar and is going up to the man. The man is wearing blue pants and brown shoes. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
...FLD Dax's teeth...
The same woman is now checking a young yellow lab's front left paw. She is holding the puppy's head with her left hand and the front left paw with her right hand. She is on the left side and the puppy is standing facing her. He is also wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. A different man is squatting behind the puppy, he is supporting the puppy's belly with his left hand and holding his collar with his right hand. The man is looking down at the puppy.
...FLD Axel's paws...
Now the woman is kneeling on one knee on the right side of the photo. She is leaning forward trying to checkt he paws of a small black lab puppy who is lying on his back on the floor. The puppy's four paws are wiggling in the air. A man is kneeling to the left of the puppy and trying to hold him still with his right hand. The man is lookng down at the puppy and laughing. He is wearing the blue prison uniform.
...a wiggly FLD Copo's paws...
A man is standing on the left and he is wearing the blue prison uniform. He is bald and is wearing glasses, he is looking down and to the right at a golden retriever who is standing on his left facing the camera. The man is holding the dog's brown leather leash with his left hand. The golden is wearing the baby blue working jacket and he looks like he has a smile on his face, his tongue is hanging out. The woman is kneeling on the right side, holding the puppy's tail up with her left hand. She is facing the camera and talking.
...and under FLD Drummond's tail.


Tammy has lots of tricks in her magic training bag. She sets out a few enticing distractions and has the teams walk by.

A man is walking from left to right, he is dressed in the blue prison uniform. He is holding a brown leather leash in he left hand. The leash is tight, attached to a golden retriever that is wearing the baby blue training jecket. The dog is on the man's left side, but is pullig toward some kind of round dog toy that is lying on the floor to the right. The woman dressed in a grean t-shirt and blue jeans is standing against a metal wall on the right, she has her hands on her hips and is instructing the man with the dog. There is a stuffed bone shaped toy on the other side of the dog on the floor.
FLD Drummond wants that toy!
This time an african american man dressed in the blue prison uniform is walking toward the camera holding the leash of a small black lab puppy. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and is keeping a loose leash, looking up at the man, who is looking down at the puppy. The woman is still standing against the metal wall with her hands on her hips.
FLD Bear keeps a loose leash even with distractions.

A different man, wearing the same prison uniform but with a long sleeve white t-shirt under the blue shirt is walking toward the camera from the left. He has a brown leash wrapped around his left hand, attached to a golden retriever that is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The man is wearing glasses and is looking down at the dog, who is looing at the soft bone toy ahead of him on the right. The leash is taut.
FLD Bravo is interested in the soft bone toy, but does not appear motivated to pull towards it (yet). Notice how his handler is holding the leash. What do you suppose would happen if he dropped his hand a bit to release tension on the leash?
Another man is walking left to right, with a leash in his left hand attached to a small german sheperd puppy. The puppy is on his left side, but REALLY focused on the toys on the floor. The leash is tight. The woman in green and blue jeans is standing off to the right. She has her left hand on her left himp and her right hand is at her chin as though she is thinking. She is looking at the puppy, as is the man.
FLD Dax is VERY interested. Patrick is preventing Dax from getting the toys. A strategy he might be employing is name recognition to redirect Dax's attention. Then he could move further away from the toys so they were less distracting.


A large african american man is walking toward the camera with a young yellow lab at his left side. The man has the leash in his left hand and the leash is loose. The puppy has his head turned away from the toys ont he floor on the right side.
FLD Axel, out for a stroll. Good boy!

Up next...contraband?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Training, take 1

April 10, 2014
Baraga

As promised, pictures!

First Tammy leads the group through the relaxation protocol. She mixes things up by having the puppies do one third of the exercise in SIT, one third in DOWN, and the last third in STAND.

A small black lab puppy is lying on a cement floor facing away from the camera. A man dressed in prison blue uniform is standing on the right side and leaning over to hand the puppy a treat from his right hand. Another man is sitting on a round metal seat attached to a metal lunch table. This man has his elbows on his thighs and is facing to the left. In the background is another man (both of these men are dressed in the prison blue uniforms). The man in the background is holding the leash of a golden retriever puppy, who is sitting on the man's left side. A woman is also in the background, wearing a grey pantsuit and holding a paper. She is facing the third man. On a shelf behind the golden retriever is a big yellow ball.
FLD Copo gets rewarded for holding his DOWN.

With all the puppies standing nicely, Tammy and I lightly distract each one to test "name recognition." Looking back at the handler when he says the puppy's name is one of the In-For-Training (IFT) standards that Leader Dogs for the Blind wants us to work toward with our puppies.

A young black lab puppy is standing next to legs dressed in blue pants. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The puppy is looking at the camera.
FLD Bear has his eyes on me.





Now the same black lab puppy is looking up toward the person standing next to him. The person is out of view except for his left leg. The puppy has a brown leather leash attached to his collar.
"Bear!" his handler says. Good boy!

A young yellow lab puppy is lying on a cement floor, he is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana with his name Axel embroidered on it. The puppy had a brown leather leash attached to his collar and the leash is just lying on the floor next to him. The puppy is looking up to the left at a person who is standing next to him. Only the lower legs of the person is visibile. The person is wearing blue pants and white tennis shoes.
Good boy Axel!
Tammy then has the group practice sits, downs, and stands "around the world." This means that the pups must respond to each cue no matter what position the handler is in - on the left or the right, in front of the puppy or behind, while standing, sitting, kneeling, you name it. 
Sure, maybe your puppy knows how DOWN in heel position...

...but will your puppy respond correctly to the DOWN cue when you have your back turned to him?

A small german shepherd puppy is lying on a painted cement floor, he is facing to the left and his giving a huge yawn, his mouth is open wide and his tongue is curled up o the end. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana and has a brown leather leash lying on the floor to the left.
FLD Dax complains that things aren't as they usually are...and lies down anyway!

Time to get moving around. Well, "around" at a left-hinged door. We teach our puppies to move from the normal heel position on our left side around our back to our right side whenever we pass through a door that is hinged on the left side. This protects the dog from getting slammed by the door. We walk through the door as a "unit." After a few paces safely past the doorway we have the puppy move around behind us again to return to heel position.
This is two photos in one. On the left, a man wearing a blue and orange striped jacket and the blue prison pants is reaching down with his left hand to a yellow lab puppy. The puppy is sitting with his back to the camera. The man is holding the puppy's brown leather leash in his left hand. In the photo on the right, the same man is approaching a door that has the handle on the right side, the man is just turning the handle. He is holding the leash in his right hand and the yellow lab puppy is walking around the man's back to his right side. The puppy is peering around the man's leg toward the door.
Steve gives FLD Axel a pep-talk and heads for the door. Nice around!
This is also two picture in one. On the left side, an african american man is walking away from the camera toward the same door. He is wearing the blue prison uniform and holding a brown leash in his left hand. The man is looking down at the black lab puppy that is walking next to his left leg. The leash is hanging very nicely loose. In the photo on the right side the man is passing the leash from his left hand to his right hand behind his back while the puppy is moving around to his right side.
FLD Bear keeps a nice loose leash as P walks toward the door. There is some technique to cleanly passing the leash from left to right!

We're not finished yet....

Something good, something to work on

April 10, 2014
Baraga

Puppy counselor Tammy starts our session by asking, "Tell us something good about your puppy and then what you've struggled with and need to work harder on."

Many of the team members said their puppies were quick learners, but there wasn't much talk about "my puppy sits so fast or comes whenever I call him." No. Instead, the guys eagerly shared how the puppies have improved morale. "Everybody smiles and says 'hi' to the pup," one said.

The men reported positive changes in themselves.

Problems? "They were the usual ones," Tammy said.

FLD Bear's raisers said that meet & greets, especially with women, were difficult for the young lab. We reminded the guys that emotions travel down the leash. Last month by the end of our meet & greet exercise, Bear stayed calm even when I approached him like an over excited stranger. "Perhaps you are getting too excited when women are around," I suggested. The room erupted with laughter.

FLD Copo's raisers said that other dogs are a hard-to-resist distraction. "Last month that was Axel's problem, remember?" Tammy said. We talk about proper puppy play and limiting interaction.

A yellow lab puppy is sitting on a brown carpet mat between the knees of a man who is squatting down behind him. The man is wearing an orange long sleeved t-shirt and blue prison pants with an orange stripe. He is touching the puppy's head with his left hand and his right arm is resting across his right knee. He is looking at the puppy. A second man is sitting on a stool attached to an octogon shaped table. He is also wearing the prison blue uniform. He is african american and is wearing glasses. HIs right forearm is resting on the table and he is reaching behind his left leg with his left hand.
A thoughtful Beno and Mondo with FLD Axel.
A closeup shot of a man bending over a black lab puppy. The lab is lying on a brown carpet mat. The man is cradling the lab's head in his hands and pulling the pup's face toward his. The puppy's eyes are closed. The man is wearing a dar blue fleece jacket and the prison blue pants with an orange stripe and white tennis shoes. The man is looking intently at the puppy.
Ricky and FLD Bear - can you feel the love?




















The rest of our training session to come...in pictures.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hotel time with the Golden boys

April 9/10, 2014
Baraga

We arrived at the welcoming Baraga Lakeside Inn after 10 p.m. Both Drummond and Bravo were shy to "park." They were not interested in anything except each other, so Tammy took Drummond around one side of the building and I retreated with Bravo.

Success! (Only a puppy raiser can fully understand this achievement.)

The two boys played in the room for a bit. Without being told they settled. I was surprised they didn't curl up together. Drummond headed for the corner next to where Tammy was checking emails on her laptop and Bravo stretched out at my feet.

A close up shot at floor level of a golden retriever sleeping on the floor. The golden has his chin between his front paws and is facing the camera. The carpet is teal blue and to the right of hte dog's head is a multi-colored bedspread.
FLD Bravo calls it a night. (Check out his nice short nails!)

At 4 a.m. I was awakened by the sound of panting and whining. Unable to tell from which soft-sided crate the rustle came, I decided to "park" myself before heading outside. By the time I was done all was quiet so I crawled back into bed. I got to sleep for almost another two hours. We were due at the prison at 8:30, but it is always amazing how much time we need in the morning. Parking puppies, feeding them, parking them again, packing, and grabbing a bite to eat ourselves.

When it was time to load up, I took FLD Bravo out to the Leader Dogs for the Blind van to work with getting him into the airline crate staged in the back. The day before he had balked at the jump. I wanted to give him a chance to figure out that it was okay.

FLD Bravo placed his front paws on the bumper and leaned into the crate for a sniff. As he backed out his puppy tag caught on the wire door. He startled and jumped away. The crate followed. I made a quick body check to stop it and Bravo was unscathed.

There was no getting him into it now. FLD Bravo sat at my feet for the short drive to the Baraga Correctional Facility.

_______________________________________________

Disclaimer: Stuff happens. We managed the situation upon leaving Baraga by having Bravo get into the crate while it was sitting on the ground outside the van. Which he readily did. RUM Steve and inmate-raiser Steve lifted the crate into the van with Bravo in it. During our next day's session at Chippewa, we brought the crate inside and Bravo's raisers did some fine work helping him get comfortable.
A golden retriever is looking out from inside of a plastic airline dog crate as it is being lifted into the back of a white van by twon men. The man on the left is wearing glasses and a black pea coat and kahki pants. The man on the right is wearing a prison blue jacket and pants with orange stripes. A woman dressed in a blue hoodie, green t-shirt and blue jeans is standing to the left of the two men, holding the left van door open. It is a sunny day.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Backwards

April 10, 2014
UP

Each month our three-day UP itinerary to meet with the prison puppy-raisers takes us first to the Chippewa Correctional Facility, and then to the Baraga Correctional Facility. In April our trip runs backwards.

We'll be taking Chippewa's first puppies back to Leader Dogs for the Blind to begin formal guide dog training. FLDs Stella, Nell and Tara's raisers will appreciate the extra two days with the pups and the girls don't need to be cooped up in the van any longer than necessary.

Tammy's plan in reverse sounds easy, but that means she must leave her house at 7 a.m. to drive an hour south to Leader Dogs. Here she swaps her car for the van and loads up dog food for the prisons and crates to transport puppies. One crate holds FLD Ecko, a six-month old female yellow lab "finisher" we will drop off at Chippewa on our way to Baraga. It is only a few miles out of our way.

Tammy and I rendezvous along northbound I-75. I bring lunch and an addition for one of the crates. Sometimes being puppy-less is an advantage - FLD Baker, a five-month-old black lab/golden mix, was enjoying a two-week stint at "patti's halfway house" because her raiser was on vacation in Florida.

A young black lab/golden retriever mix puppy is sitting on a sidewalk in front of a stone wall looking at the camers. The puppy is wearing the baby-blue Future Leader Dog working jacket. A brown leash is attached to her coller. Leaning on the right side of the picture are three artificial legs. The first one, closest to the puppy, is from the knee down and it looks like a mannequin lower leg and foot. The middle one is futuristic and made of graphite, from the knee down, the one on the far right is a full leg. The foot and upper leg look like a mannegquin, but the lower leg looks like a metal piston.
FLD Baker is a sweetheart. (And she is house trained!) It is fun to have her along on my assignments writing for the Ogemaw County Voice. Here FLD Baker poses with a selection of artificial legs after my interview of the owner of Orthotec Orthopedics for a future story. (Puts a whole new meaning to the word "leg" doesn't it?)

A close up shot of a woman's face (she is wearing glasses) looking down and to the right at a very small black puppy that she is holding in her right hand. You can only see the puppy's head. The puppy is two weeks old and its eyes are closed still. The tip of its little pink tongue is just stickig out of its clsed mouth.
A two-week old not-yet-named-Baker is  held by her mom's host, Phyllis.

A chocolate lab "mom" is lying down with five black puppies trying to nurse on her. Two other black puppies are nearby. The dog and pups are in a white whelping box, there is a thermometer on the left side. The chocolate lab is looking at the camera with a tired expression! All of the puppies have colorful ribbons tied around their necks for identification.
Baker's mom, Amber, nurses Baker (in the orange and purple ribbon) and her siblings. I was fortunate to act as an assistant mid-wife to Amber during the birth of of this, her fourth and last litter.

A small black lab/golden mix puppy is walking toward the camera, the puppy is looking away to the right. The puppy is walking on a wooden deck that has some snow on it. Behind the puppy are rungs of a railing.
A five-week old not-yet-named-Baker checks out the snow on Phyllis' deck. Baker was named by her raisers, Karen and Ron. Do you know the term "baker's dozen?" This little pup is the 13th puppy being raised by the couple!

Miss Baker and Tammy's FLD Harper will spend the night at Chippewa. Tammy wants to take FLDs Drummond and Bravo on furlough with us to Baraga.

We get to Chippewa sometime after 1:30 p.m. The brilliant sunshine makes the mid-50's temperature feel practically balmy. There are still plenty of snow piles in the yard where the guys are waiting for us, but much has melted. ARUS Rob directs Tammy to pull the big white van right up to the Pike Unit gate for the swap.

Gate pass prisoners carry two large bags of Purina Pro Plan Sport All Life Stages Active 26/16 and two large bags of Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Chicken and Rice Formula into the unit from the van. A special delivery this month - poop bags! We hand off FLDs Ekco, Harper, and Baker in exchange for the two beautiful Goldens. Tammy is distressed when Mr. Harper, for the first time ever, doesn't seem happy to stay. He barks. He stretches his front paws through a space between the gate and the fence, reaching for her. He barks again and tries to squeeze his head through.

Maybe the image of Harper's escape attempt disorients Tammy. Maybe it's just because our schedule is topsy-turvy, that we usually head for Baraga from where we spend the night in the Soo, which is north of Chippewa. Maybe it's because the roads are dry and the sun is shining for the first time in months.

Whatever.

It takes us at least a half hour before we realize we took the wrong turn onto I-75. Our travel day just got longer.