Sunday, November 30, 2014

Okay to cry

August 15, 2014
Chippewa

Our session was drawing to an end, in more ways than one. FLDs August, Sammy and Ekco would be leaving with us this day. Tammy would take them back to Leader Dogs for the Blind so they could begin their formal guide dog training.

Emotions ruled. Abe, who suffered through this last April when FLD Zella left, gave sage advice to the teams. "You know it's alright to cry, right?"

Tammy announced each puppy's new "dog" tag number and presented its raisers with thank-you certificates from Leader Dog. Lots of us had blurry vision. Pick (an inmate who volunteers to help in the program in any way he can) was so distraught he left the yard and retreated into Pike Unit. Eric never took off his sunglasses.

A bald man wearing the blue prison uniform is sitting in the bright sun on the seat of a picnic table. Between his legs sits a young yellow lab, whose leash is hanging on the ground. The man is smiling at the camera, his right hand is touching the dog's neck from behind, and his left hand is holding a certificate on his left thigh.
John and FLD Ekco with the certificate.


A man wearing sunglasses, blue prison pants and a white t-shirt is sitting in the sun on a picnic bench, facing the camera. Between his legs is a young yellow lab. The man is holding the dog's leash with his left hand on his knee, and a certificale in front of his body with his right hand. There is a brick building behind him. The man has a somber look on his face.
Eric and FLD August.
A man wearing glasses and the blue prison uniform with a blue ball cap is sitting in the sun on a picnic bench. He is holding a certificate in his right hand by his knee. A young yellow lab is sitting between his legs facing the camera. The dog's eyes are closed. There is a brick building behind them.
Dave and FLD August.

A close head and shoulders shot of the man dressed in a prison blue shirt and blue ball cap and glasses, with his left arm wrapped around the neck of the young yellow lab. The dog is pressed against the man's cheek.
Dave gives FLD August a big hug.


An african american man dressed in the blue prison uniform is sitting on a picnic bench leaning over a black lab. The man's arms and hands are cradling the dog's chest and snout, he is holding a leash in his right hand at the dog's chest, his left hand is under the dog's snout. The man is looking up to the right with a pained expression on his face. It is a bright sunny day with a bright blue sky behind him. The dog's eyes are closed.
Ro and FLD Sammy.

A close head and shoulders shot of the african american man from above. The man has cornrows in his hair. His arms are wrapped around the head of a young black lab that is in front of him. The man is pulling the dog's snout to his face and giving the dog a big kiss on his nose.
Ro plants a big one on Sammy.







The men shared stories.

FLD SAMMY

Ro said that FLD Sammy LOVES apples. He told us that Sammy once stole five apples off the top of his crate over the course of a week. Ro had admonished his  roommate for giving the apples to the pup. The roommate insisted he did no such thing. "On Saturday I stopped by my room after lunch to drop off my apple," Ro said. "Sammy was snoring on his back outside the crate, so I quietly put the apple up there and went to work out." His roommate called him back. "There was Sammy in his crate eating the apple!" Ro said.

The picture is taken on an angle. An african american man dressed in the blue prison uniform is standing on the left with an apple in his right hand at his chest. His left hand is at his side. The man is looking down at two black labs sitting in front of him. The closest lab to the camera is a very small pup, her leash is draped on the ground. The young male lab is sitting beyond her with his tail in a curl and his legs poised like he his about to spring up. He is totally focused on the apple in the man's hand. There is a brick building behind them with four windows.
Ro shows FLD Sammy an apple he had hidden in his pocket. (Ro's new puppy, FLD GeeGee wants in on the action too.) We had never seen this normally laid back lab so animated. After a quick series of "puppy push-ups" (sit/down/stand/down/sit, etc.) Ro gives Sammy (and GeeGee) some treats. He puts the apple back into his pocket. "You are planning to give that to him in the van, aren't you?" I ask. Ro smiles.
An african american man (left), wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants, and a shorter man (right) wearing the blue prison uniform, stand in front of a brick wall. The african american man is cradling a small black lab puppy in his arms and the man beside him is resting his right hand on the puppy. This man's left hand is at his waist. Both men are peering at the camera with a "tough guy" gaze.
Hello FLD Sammy. 2013.



Ro and Abe wanted to re-enact their first photo with FLD Sammy from last September. 


What a change in all three of them!

A head and shoulder shot of the african american man (left) and the shorter man (right) in front of the brick building. Now they are holding up a large black lab between them. The man on the left has his arms cradling the dog's body, while the man on the right is hugging the dog's head to his, with his hands holding the dog's head. Both men have big smiles on their faces, in starck contrast to the previous photo.
Good-bye FLD Sammy. Almost a year later, Ro (left) and Abe (right) hoist up a much bigger puppy.



FLD EKCO

John shared how FLD Ekco would come to wake him up in the morning. "He'd put his front paws on my bed and nudge me with his nose," he said. "Get up!" John also told us how Ekco always stretched before getting out of his crate, so he started saying, "bow," whenever the pup stretched. "Now Ekco bows on command," he said. A brilliant example of putting a behavior on "cue."

Scott said, "We don't believe you. Show us."

A man dressed in the blue prison uniform is standing on the left side, slightly bending over. His head is not in the picture. The man's right hand is curled at his chest and his left hand is holding the leash of a yellow lab that is "bowing" on the right. The dog has his nose and chest toward the dirt and grass, with his rear end in the air.
FLD Ekco "bows" on John's command.


FLD AUGUST

FLD August's raisers were quiet and no one else ventured a story about him. So I did. I talked about the first time the little guy went on furlough with Tammy and me in the Soo and we took a walk on the bike path next to business loop I-75. August responded quickly to positive reinforcement for loose leash walking. "He just pranced right along," I said. I thought he was a puppy who was eager to learn.

Two men stand in front of a brick building with some plants behind them. The man on the left is wearing a long sleeve white t-shirt and blue prison pants and a blue ball cap, the man on the right is wearing a green sweatshirt and blue prison pants. The man on the left is holding the leash of a small yellow lab puppy, whick is lying on the grass at the feet of the man on the right. The men have somber expressions on their faces.
Dave (left) and Eric (right) with FLD August last October. These three have changed also!


TIME TO GO

For some reason, the photos I took of the guys putting their puppies into the Leader Dog van were all a little bit blurry. My camera has auto-focus, but perhaps I was shaking. Just a little. This never gets any easier. I'll let my "photo-shopped" pictures tell the story of good-bye...


A man dressed in a blue prison shirt is reaching into an airline crate that is sitting in the back of a van. There is a yellow lab inside the crate looking out at the camera. The man is looking at the dog. There is a blue ball in the van on the right side.
John says good-bye to FLD Ekco.

Two men wearing blue prison shirts (the man on the right is also wearing a blue ball cap) are facing the camera with a yellow lab dog to the left. The dog is coming out of the airline crate that is in the back of a van. The man in the middle has his right arm wrapped around the dog's back and is smiling at the camera. The man on the right with the ball cap is reaching his right arm over the other man along the top of the crate and his reaching his left arm in front of the other man to pet the dog under his chin. The man with the ball cap is wearing sunglasses and has a serious look on his face.
Harlan (right) can't contain himself and has to come out to the van to say good-bye.

A man dressed in the blue prison shirt and a blue ball cap with glasses is standing at the rear of a van that has the doors open. The man is facing the camera with a sad look on his face. His left hand is closing the door of an airline crate. You can just see the tail of a yellow lab in the crate.
Dave puts FLD August into the Leader Dog van. Eric could not bring himself to come out to the van.

An african american man with corn rows in his hair and wearing the blue and orange prison shirt is backing a black lab into an airline crate. Both his hands are grabbing the dog's chest and the dog is looking down trying to come out. The man is looking at the dog.
Ro puts FLD Sammy into his crate in the Leader Dog van. He tossed the apple in with Sammy, who waited until Ro left before he ate it.

The african american man is turning toward the camera, walking away from the open side doors of the white Leader Dogs for the Blind van. He is holding a leash and collar in his hands at his waist. He has a sad look on his face.
Ro turns from the van. Nope. It is never easy.


DOGSPEED puppies! And great job raisers!

Two airline crates in the back of a van hold two yellow labs. The lab on the left is sitting down, the lab on the right is standing. Both are looking at the camera.
FLDs Ekco and August, in their crates for the long drive south.
A black lab is sitting in an airline crate, looking at the camera with his tongue hanging out.
FLD Sammy, apple eaten.


4 comments:

  1. Nice pictures!! Great jog men and puppies!!!

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  2. This is a wonderful program for the puppies and the men. I'm typing through blurry vision - the tears are winning. Thank you so much for sharing these stories! Keep up the wonderful work.

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    1. Aw, sorry your vision is blurred. But yes, this is a wonderful program. I will keep sharing as long as I can!

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