Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dogspeed Harper!

May 16, 2014
U.P.

A far-away shot of a woman wearing blue jeans, a grey t-shirt and a purlple zipped sweatshirt open over it, standing on the shore of Lake Superior holding a leash in her left hand. The leash is attached to a golden retriever puppy who is standing on the left toward her, but looking at the camera. In the long foreground is a sandy beach iwth small rocks strewn about. There are dirty small ice bergs floating in the blue water behind them. The sky is about the same blue as the water and the horizon can barely be discerned.
Tammy and FLD Harper enjoy a bit of solitude along the shores of Lake Superior.

We make a few stops on the long drive home from Baraga.  This will be FLD Harper's last trip to the U.P.

A golden retriever sits in front of a large metal sign. On the left of the sign is an antlered deer standing on its hind legs, on the right side of the sign is a black bear standing up on its hind legs. The two animals are holding the outline of a brown metal sign that has the word "Lakenenland" in yellow inside of it Behind the sign are trees. The dog is sitting in what looks like mulch. He is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLD Harper poses in front of the Lakenenland sign. The "junkyard art" exhibit is between Marquette and Munising along M-28. We've been driving past Lakenenland for months and finally stopped. Tammy had fun posing Harper next to many of the metal sculptures.

The golden retriever with the blue bandana is lying down inside a hollowed out section of a large tree trunk. He is looking out like he is ready to take on the world.
FLD Harper strikes a proud pose in a tree trunk!

The golden retriever sits on a section of brown metal facing the camera. On the left in front of the dog is a large blue metal dog food bowl with the name "Peaches" on it. There are large metal bolts in the bowl lke dog food. To the right behind the dog is a metal "cell" with red metal bars with a blue chain holding them together. Inside is some kind of creature with his mouth open and large white teeth.
FLD Harper sniffed Peaches' food but it was tooooo rusty!

The golden retriever stands in front of a metal sculpture of a dog sled team, mounted on a wood ramp. His leash is tied to the lead metal dog and his eyes are squinting. There is a metal man on the sled behind the metal dogs. A black metal sign above the sculpture says "Finnish" and on the side it says UP 200.
FLD Harper is amused to think that he could lead the UP 200 dogsled team. The UP 200 is a qualifying race for Alaska's Iditarod sled dog race.

The golden retriever, weraing a baby blue "working" jacket, is sitting on a wooden float in front of a white life ring that is hanging on a wood rail. In black letters on the ring are the words "Palms Book State Park." There is a wire grate between the top wood rail and the bottom rail.
FLD Harper sits on the observation raft on the "Big Spring" - Kitch-iti-kipi at the Palms Book State Park. The natural spring is 200 feet across and 40 feet deep. The raft has a glass bottom and the water is crystal clear to the bottom. (The raft is totally closed in, so there is no fear of losing Harper.)
It was a bitter-sweet trip.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Bear Bear's" furlough

May 15, 2014
Baraga

Future Leader Dog puppies being raised in prison are exposed to crowds, people of different races, loud noises, rolling carts, walking on different surfaces, waiting in food lines, settling in chow halls, basketball and volleyball games, men working out with weights, men in uniforms, commercial washing machines, offices, vacuums, mops, etc.

Life on the inside, at least from an outsider's perspective, seems at once chaotic and regimented. Announcements blare over the P.A. system randomly. Men mill about, but when "count" comes around the halls are empty. Perhaps it is this mix of pandemonium and regulations that help Future Leader Dog puppies roll with whatever comes their way.

The Baraga teams were disappointed that Tammy wasn't going to leave FLD Harper with them over night. We were taking FLD Bear up to Houghton on furlough, but Tammy wanted the time with Harper to herself. The happy golden was returning to Leader Dogs for the Blind on May 18. Harper made friends wherever he went. Everyone had to say good-bye.

When Bear first exited the Leader Dog van in downtown Houghton he was started by logging trucks and busy traffic zooming by, but he quickly decided all the ruckus was no big deal. After his initial "what's that!?" nothing bothered him. The pup had lots of work in stores, along a bike path, up and down stairs, in a hotel, dinner at a brewery and more. Bear was a very good boy! (And Tammy wore me out.)

A black lab puppy is sitting on the sidewalk in front of a store's clothing display window, next to a wooden statue of a black bear. The bear is sitting on a tree stump and is wearing a red plaid shirt. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLD Bear poses beside his namesake on the main drag of Houghton. Bear Bear was a nickname I used with him when he stayed with us before coming to Baraga. (And don't worry, his leash was being held by Tammy's friend who was standing behind the statue.)

A golden retriever puppy is sitting in front of a storefront window and a large wooden statue of a moose. The moose is sitting on a tree stump. The puppy is wearing the baby-blue wokring jacket - a Future Leader Dog.
FLD Harper hams it up by a moose! (Harper's leash was held too.)

A black lab puppy wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana is standing and facing the camera. His leash is attached to something out of view to the left. In the background is a metal bridge over some water.
FLD Bear does not seem impressed by the Houghton-Hancock Bridge (aka the Portage Lake Bridge) in Houghton.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Release the tension

May 15, 2014
Baraga

Lunchtime was coming, so we went out to the yard to practice stairs. Tammy challenged the guys to use "release the tension" TAG-teach to help the handler approach the steps with a loose leash. She said that often we unconsciously tighten the leash in anticipation of our puppy rushing. A tight leash only makes things worse.

Tammy gave a little demo with FLD Harper.

A woman wearing blue jeans and a dark blue jacket is standing on the right side, partially out of view. She is holding the leash of a golden retriever with her left hand at her waist. The leash is very tight. The golden is standing at her left side, his held pushing forward against his collar like he is choking. In the background are five men and one woman watching. To the left are a couple of wooden steps.
FLD Harper cannot help but demonstrate an opposition reflex when Tammy tightens his leash. See how he is leaning into his collar? Opposition reflex is "a natural resistance to pressure." When your puppy feels tension on the front of his collar from a tight leash, he will invariably pull harder against it. Before Tammy tightened the leash Harper was walking nicely beside her, the leash hanging in a "J" from his collar.

The same woman is more visible on the right side of the picture. Now her left hand is at her side holding the leash loose, and the golden retriever is sitting at her left side, looking up at her. There are more people in the background. On the left is the wooden stairs up to a platform and down the other side.
Now see the loose leash and FLD Harper's relaxed position? When Tammy released tension on his leash (TAG), he stopped pulling against it. She then asked him to sit while she explained what she wants the men to do in this exercise.

Check out all these loose leashes! (Say that three times in a hurry.)


Taken from an angle from below, a man dressed in the blue prison uniform with a blue stocking cap stands at the top of the wooden stairs. He is holding the leash of a black lab puppy with his left hand. The puppy is sitting on his left side looking at the camera. The man is looking down at the puppy. The puppy is wearing the blue Futurel Leader Dog bandana. There is another man far in the background on the right dressed in blue, in front of a white brick building.
Luke pauses at the top of the stairs and has FLD Copo sit before heading down them. Sometimes asking the puppy to sit first helps to refocus, but it is not a Leader Dog requirement.

An african american man dressed in the blue prison uniform with a blue stocking cap is just stepping onto the wooden stairs. He is holding the leash to a yellow lab puppy with his left hand at his side and looking at the stairs. The puppy is coming up the stairs with the man, looking at the camera with the leash loose. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There are four men in the background dressed in the prison blue agains a white brick building. The wooden railing and deck of the stairs is on either side and in the foreground of the picture.
Mondo walks up with FLD Axel. Nicely done!

A side shot of a yellow lab puppy and the ligs of a man coming down wooden stairs. The man is wearing prison blue pants, white tennis shoes, and a blue jacket, only visible from the waist down. The man is one step down from the puppy, whose front paws are on the step behind him and his rear paws are on the top landing. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and his leash is loose. A woman's head is visible behing the puppy, she has short white hair and sunglasses. To the left in the background are four or five men dressed in prison blues with a black lab puppy standing by them. The man on the far left is wearing an orange stocking cap.
Mondo and FLD Axel take one step at a time - just like a wedding march!

A small black lab puppy is sitting on the left side of a man dressed in the blue prison uniform. The man is visible only from the waist down. He is holding the puppy's leash lightly in his left hand at his side. The puppy is gazing upward toward the man, and is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The pair are right in front of a set of wooden stairs, a white brick wall is behind them.
FLD Copo gets ready for a second turn with another team member. Do you think he is focused and ready to go?

A man is standing at the top of a set of wooden stairs. His right hand is on the railing and he is looking down at a yellow lab puppy standing at his left side. The man is holding the dog's leash lightly in his left hand at his side. The puppy is looking toward the man and is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. In the background are seven men and one black lab standing along a white brick building.
Steve and FLD Axel pause before heading down the stairs.

Before our session closed, Black asked me if someone could take a photo of me with FLD Bear and his team. Ricky added, "We'd just like a picture of Bear's original raisers." (I was lucky to have raised Bear for a few weeks before bringing him to Baraga in January.) Although I prefer to be behind the camera, this time I obliged.

A group shot against a white brick wall. Two men are standing against the wall dressed in the blue prison uniforms, the man on the right is wearing a blue baseball cap, Squatting in front of them one the left is a woman with short brown hair wearing blue jeans and a purple zippered sweat shirt. Squatting in front of the standing men on the right is  a man dressked in the prison blue uniform with a blue stocking cap and a purple jacket. Sitting between the woman and man is a black lab puppy wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana, he is facing the camera. The man in back on the left is an african american and he is raising his first finger on his right hand up. The man stand on the right is holding his hands at his waist. The woman is resting her right arm on her knee and the man squatting on the right is resting his left forearm on his knee and holding the leash to the puppy.
P and Black stand behind me, FLD Bear and Ricky.

The same group in this picture, but now the man standing on the right in back has his right arm around the african american's neck. The black lab puppy is licking the face of the woman, who is turning her head to the left. The three men are looking at the camera wtih big smiles.
FLD Bear just couldn't resist giving me a lick! His team tells me that every time we come and Bear hears my voice he "goes crazy."


The men talked to me about the things they've learned from raising FLD Bear. Black said, "I have three kids and one grandkid and I've never changed a dirty diaper! Can you believe that?" It was like he couldn't believe he was once that person. "And now you're picking up dog poop," I said.

Ricky said that he'd been in prison since he was 18 years old and listed at least six different programs he's been through. "I've learned more from this guy than from all those programs put together!"

Good job, Bear! I always knew you were special. 



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Shopping spree

May 15, 2014
Baraga

Now for the surprise. Tammy had handlers and puppies make a line. "You are going shopping!" she said.

At one end of a long lunch table we staged sealed "pay" envelopes - bits of kibble were pennies, small milk bones were dimes, mallow bones were quarters and large milk bones were dollars. Each envelope contained a different amount. Shoppers would take a plastic bag in which to put a balloon, a dog treat and a marker. At the other end of the table was a "cashier" who would charge the shopper $1.72 and deposit the money into a stainless steel dog dish.

Handler's had to manage the pay envelope, the shopping bag and their puppy!

Five men dressed in the prison blue uniforms stand arond a steel lunch table. The man on the left, wearing a blue baseball cap, has his fingertips on the table with a silver stainless steel dog bowl in front of him on the table. The afrcan american man standing opposite him is looking down at a white envelope in his hands. A yellow lab puppy is sitting to his left looking up at him. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and his leash is hanging on the ground. Three men in the background are watching the dog. There are white plastic shopping bags on the table.
"Cashier" Black waits for Mondo to pay for his goods.  FLD Axel sits like he expects to be paid too. Mondo's teammates, Beno and Steve (on the right). watch in the background while next-in-line Harvey shops with FLD Copo.

Two men dressed in the prison blue uniform with blue baseball caps are standing on either side of the end of a steel lunch table. The man on the left is looking down at a stainless steel dog dish whcih he is holding in his hands. The man onthe right is holding a white envelope, reaching into it with his right hand and holding a plastic shopping bag and leash in his left hand. A black lab puppy is sitting on the tile floor next to the man and looking up at the bag. There are other men and puppies in the background.
Black holds the dog-bowl-till while Harvey counts out his dog-treat-cash. FLD Copo looks on. "That will be $1.72, sir," Black says.

The same man is standing to the left with the dog bowl. This time he is looking at a different man standing opposit from the table on the right side. The man on the right is reaching into the white envelope with his left hand. He is standing on the leash of the black lab puppy that is sitting on his left side looking up at him. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. More men are in line in the bacground, and one man on the far right is wallking by smiling at the men standing. There is a white plastic bag on the table.
Ricky is the first handler to figure out that stepping on the leash is an easy way to secure his puppy while counting out his dog-treat-cash. (I "tagged" him for that!) FLD Bear sits nicely at his side.

There are five men sitting on the lunch table stools to the far left. They all wear the prison blue uniforms. The first man has a german shepherd puppy lying at his feet. Two men are standing opposite each side of a long lunch table. The man on the far right is african american and he is holding the leash of a golden retriever puppy, who is standing and facing theman. There are three men in the far background. There are plastic bags on the table and a stainless steel dog dish. There is a wall-sized mural in the background on the left, a paining of a mountain lake scene.
Handler Nico does not have exact change. He gives Black two-dog-treat-dollars and asks for change back. A nervous Black used a marker on his hand to figure the math. FLD Harper wants to know if he can have the change.

The fun wasn't over. After paying for their goods, handlers returned to their seats with their puppies and the other members of their team. Tammy's instructions? Blow up the balloon and draw a face on it.

An african american man dressed in the blue prison uniform draws on an orange balloon with a green marker. He is on the left facing another man dressed in the prison uniform on the right. The man on the right is holding the orang e balloon.and looking down at it.
Mondo and Beno work together to draw a face on their balloon.

A group of five men dressed in the prison blue uniforms are sitting around lunch tables. The african american man in the middle agains the wall that has windows is tying a red ballown. He is looking down at it smiling. Three men around him are looking at him and the fifth man, an african american, is in the back to the far right and looking to the right. A golden retriever puppy is standing with the two men in front and looking eagerly at the red balloon. A large yellow balloon is resting on the table top in the foreground.
Nico has a hard time tying off his balloon. FLD Harper wants to help.

Four men dressed in the prison blue uniforms sit around a lunch table. The man on the right is holding a yellow balloon in his left hand on the table and looking at it. The man on the left has his left elbow on the table and is looking at the balloon. The two men in the background are looking at the camera and smiling.
FLD Dax's team hold up their yellow balloon, but the face is hard to see.

Two men in the prison blue uniforms sit on either side of a lunch table. There are three other men sitting at the table behind them. The man in the front on the right side is holding a green balloon with a face drawn on it and looking at the camera. He is wearing a blue baseball cap. The man on the left in front has his left elbow on the table and his eyes are closed. There are some cups and things on the table between them.
FLD Copo's team hold up their balloon face.

A close shot of three men sitting at a lunch table looking at a black lab puppy who is standing between two of the men. The man on the left is touching the puppy's back with his right hand and smiling down at the puppy. The man in the background in the middle is african american and is looking at the camera. The man on the right is leaning toward the puppy, holding a blue balloon with his left hand, his elbows resting on his knees. The lab has his nose to the balloon, he is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLD Bear checks out his team's balloon. This team won the face drawing contest. Oh, didn't I tell you it was a contest? FLD Bear got a new Nylabone!

FLD Axel's handler, Steve, remarked that the shopping spree gave him a new appreciation for what outside puppy raisers go through when they are out and about with their Future Leader Dogs. He said it was challenging to handle the bag and the money and everything while still handling the puppy!

Up next...more training in the yard.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to Baraga

May 15, 2014
Baraga

Seems like forever that I posted about the Baraga Correctional Facility, sort of like how long the drive feels from the eastern U.P. or how long the ice hung around in Lake Superior this spring. We took our time making our way west; our training session with the teams from Unit 8 wasn't until morning.
A grown Golden Retriever sits on a sandy beach looking to the right of the camera. A leash hangs from his collar to the left, the person holding the other end is not in the photo. Behind the dog is the ice flow strewn waters of Lake Superior. The bergs are covered in sand. The sky behind and above the dog is a brilliant blue.
FLD Harper strikes a post along the ice flow-strewn shore of Lake Superior. This was Tammy's last trip with her golden boy. Before our next visit, Harper would be back at Leader Dogs for the Blind to begin his formal training.


The three-man puppy-raiser teams sat patiently waiting for us in the East Wing chow hall. Even though we only had to come from a nearby hotel, we were still 10 minutes late. I guess it's hard to get up when you go to bed after 1 a.m. and you don't have a puppy to wake you. Tammy opened the session with questions.

"What about puppies eating poop?"
That's called coprophagia. There are many theories about why some dogs do this disgusting habit - lack of nutrients, boredom, they like the taste - no one really knows. The best thing to do is to clean up immediately so the puppy doesn't have a chance to get at it.
"Dax gets carsick when he goes out on furlough, afterwards he's good for nothing. What can we do?"
Carsickness can be more common with puppies and they often outgrow it. It is thought that the development of the inner ear is involved. Stress can also be a factor. Traveling on an empty stomach can help, as can giving the puppy a few ginger snaps prior to the trip. (Here is an interesting article from the website WebMD: "Dogs and Motion Sickness.")
One inmate had a question about guys tossing treats on the ground just because they like the dog. "Now the puppies are diving for stuff on the ground." In an around about way he answered his own question, but he wanted Tammy to set the rule (don't toss treats on the ground). I said, "You can tell them Tammy said so." Another raiser piped in that they've already used that line with other issues. "People don't know if it's Leader Dog Tammy or ARUS Tammy," he said.

Good stuff.

Our agenda with the guys was similar to what we worked on at Chippewa, with an added surprise (you'll find out soon enough). We didn't have a puppy to deliver, so Tammy got right at it. This time she started with TAG teach to be sure we had time to practice tagging.

Tammy explained that team members should "TAG" the handler whenever the handler does something correctly. The first two lessons were releasing tension on the leash and keeping the leash hand anchored at the waist. Being "tagged" for releasing the tension on the leash drives awareness of how it feels to have a loose leash; keeping the leash hand to "core" gives the handler a solid base so the puppy gets consistent feedback.

After a quick demonstration, the teams practiced together. Leonard, an inmate on a team waiting for a puppy, took the exercise to heart and did a great job tagging through the rest of the session. I dubbed him "Mr. Tag."

In pictures, some of our training...

A man wearing the prison blue uniform is sitting on the lunch table stool with his elbows on his knees. He is holding a leash in his left hand and his right hand is open palmed toward a small german shepherd puppy. The puppy is sitting on a tile floor facing hte man and is reaching his nose to the man's palm. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There are men half out of view in the background sitting around the lunch tables. Under the man's legs on the floor is a grey fabric mat.
Chad practices the cue "touch" with FLD Dax while waiting for our training session to get underway.

A man dressed in the blue prison uniform is standing on the far left side facing away from the camera; a woman dressed in blue jeans and a blue jacket is standing on the far right facing away from the camaer. In the distance between them are two men dressed in the blue prison uniforms, they are standing against the wall and facing the camera. The man on the left side has a small black lab puppy sitting at his left side looking up at him. The man on the right has a small german shepherd puppy sitting on the floor on his left side, but looking to the right. Both puppies are on leash and are wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
Patrick and P handle FLDs Copo and Dax during "meet & greets." Tammy had the teams swap puppies. Patrick is normally on FLD Dax's team and P is on FLD Bear's team. Some of the puppies were too distracted, so Tammy had the men spread out a bit. The teams-waiting-for-puppies seemed more engaged this month and participated with Tammy's puppy FLD Harper, instead of sitting it out on the sidelines.

A man dressed in the blue prison uniform is sitting on the lunch table stool and bending to the right toward a black lab puppy. The man has his hands on the puppy's snout and is lifting the puppy's jowls to check his teeth. The puppy is sitting down facing the man. There is another man sitting on a stool in the backgrond on the right side, but only his right side is visible.
Patrick (on FLD Dax's team) checks FLD Copo's teeth during the handler's exam.

An african american man dressed in the blue prison uniform is sitting on a lunch table stool leaning down toward a german shepherd puppy that is sitting on a tile floor. The man is reaching down and checking the puppy's front paws. The puppy is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. In the background to the left is another man sitting on a stool and looking at a yellow lab that is lying down on the floor.
P checks out FLD Dax's paws during the handler's exam.

A man wearing glasses and the blue prison uniform is sitting on a lunch table stool on the left side of the photo. He is looking down at a black lab puppy that is lying on a grey matt on the floor at his feet. He is holding the leash with his left hand and his right forearm is resting on his right knee. Another man is squatting down on the right side looking at the puppy and checking the puppy's teeth. He is wearing a blue baseball cap.
Lionel (on the left) holds FLD Bear's leash while Black (on the right) checks out his teeth.

A man wearing the blue prison uniform is standing on the right side. He is bending over toward the left with his hands feeling the back of a golden retriever puppy. The puppy is standing facing the man and is wearing a blue Future Leader Dog bandana. A woman with short grey hair and wearing blue jeans and a maroon t-shirt is kneeling behind the puppy. A group of inmates are standing in line in the background to the right side.
Tammy has everyone feel FLD Harper during a discussion about the importance of keeping our puppies at a lean weight. Leader Dogs for the Blind uses the Purina Body Condition Tool to evaluate them. Here Paul runs his hands down Harper's back feeling for his ribs. Harper is a svelte puppy!

A man wearing the blue prison uniform is kneeling on his right knee facing the camera. His left arm is wrapped around the shoulders of a beautiful golden retriever who is sitting on the man's left side and facing the camera. The man's right hand is holding the dog's leash.
James asks me to take a photograph of him with FLD Harper, as this will be the last time Harper visits the facility.

More fun coming up!