Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Back to Baraga

May 15, 2014

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!