April 10, 2014
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.
|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 two-week old not-yet-named-Baker is held by her mom's host, Phyllis.|
|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 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.
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.