August 14, 2014
en route to Chippewa
With the click of the gate echoing behind us after our training session with the Baraga teams, Tammy and I start our long drive across the UP. We are to meet up with a group of furlough volunteers, with Chippewa puppies, for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings in the Soo. But first, a stop in Marquette, about one and a half hours east of Baraga.
Mary, one of Tammy's Independent puppy raisers, lives in Marquette and is raising a male yellow lab named Stellar. Mary asked Tammy if we could do FLD Stellar's In-For-Training (IFT) assessment on our way through.
Every Future Leader dog puppy must be assessed after reaching the age of 10 months and prior to its date of return to Leader Dogs for the Blind. The IFT "standards" give puppy raisers a goal to shoot for in training the puppies, most of which have to do with developing self-control. The IFT includes obedience skills such as sit, down, stay and come, loose-leash heeling through doors, up and down stairs, in a crowd and next to traffic, and dog, noise and motion distractions.
The ever-accommodating-Tammy squeezes Mary and FLD Stellar into our schedule. I have to wake a sleeping FLD Henry to use as the dog distraction.
Another interesting coincidence. Turns out that Mary was the raiser of a puppy named Glacier, who ended up becoming Jess's second Leader Dog! (Jess is my blind blogger friend who lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and had visited Chippewa with us.) Mary wanted to know why Jess had retired LD Glacier at a fairly young age. This is what Jess posted on her blog:
"Glacier retired himself at age five and a half. His sensitive, sweet and goofy nature was just not cut out for guiding a totally blind person. He is now happily living with a friend who takes him to work and spoils him rotten; which he deserves. I miss him terribly, but know that he is getting the best retirement any dog, or handler, could ask for."
After the IFT, we have about 170 miles to drive from Marquette to the Soo. Luckily there is no snow on the roads this time of year, but we still arrive a few minutes late. ARUS Rob and Joyce, Chippewa Correctional Facility staff, are waiting for us with FLD Ekco, Greg and his wife are handling FLD Chewy, Dave and Paula have FLDs Ashley and August, Julie handles FLD Sammy and Lion Tom has FLD Bandit.
The tall tables at Buffalo Wild Wings make dinner with seven puppies more of a challenge, but we make it through without too much commotion. I end up standing most of the time, my foot firmly planted on FLD Henry's leash, keeping him out of reach of the others.
After dinner, Tammy conducts a "furlough training" class outside the restaurant. While furlough volunteers aren't expected to "train" the puppies they take out (that's why the pups must be at least four months old, so they go out having some skills), we want to give them tools to help manage the puppies. Puppies might know things like "sit" and "down" when in the prison, yet not so much with a new handler in a different environment. Tammy wants to see how the puppies do with the volunteers and teach them redirection techniques like name recognition and touch. We also cover tips for loose leash walking and proper bandana/jacket removal and use.
|Nope, it's not a firing squad! It's just Tammy (right) having the furlough volunteers run through some obedience with the puppies.|
|FLD Sammy lies down and looks longingly up at his handler.|
|Tammy leads the group through the relaxation protocol. Here Lion Tom (left) and ARUS Rob (right) walk around FLD Bandit (chocolate lab) and FLD Henry.|
|Gentlemen, treat your puppies!|
|Tammy gets into action, providing a moving distraction for the puppies. Not one is perturbed!|
Before the pups return to Chippewa, Tammy and I do the "traffic" portion of the IFT with FLDs August, Sammy and Ekco. We will be taking these three back to Leader Dog with us tomorrow. Even though by now it is dark, all pups do fine.
Henry goes with Joyce; she's dropping him off to spend the night at Chippewa. Tammy and I are puppy-free!