Sunday, May 3, 2015

Relaxation with a twist

Chippewa
March 30, 2015

This is only our second time back to the prisons together since September. Tammy and I still have our routine down. On the drive up we brainstormed how we'll execute Tammy's lesson plan:
  • puppy presentation
  • paperwork (Tammy) / meet & greets, handler's exams, questions (me)
  • group discussion
  • relaxation protocol
  • exercises with treat delivery and impulse control using a ground tether
  • obedience practice for all and In-For-Training (IFT) assessments for FLDs Bandit, Andie, Adell and Teysen
  • rally course, ladder and distractions exercise (teams) / finish IFTs (Tammy and I)
  • "blind" touch
  • musical chairs
  • Bandit's good-bye

It always amazes me that we manage to get through the entire list.

After the puppy presentation Tammy takes care of the paperwork with Rial. I circle the room to practice meet and greets and handler's exams. I ask each team, "Tell me something good about your puppy and then tell me something you are struggling with." Their answers should drive the group discussion, but there are no big issues.

Everyone in the room is interested in hearing an update on FLD Ashley. The black lab returned to Leader Dogs for the Blind in December for formal training and now she's ready to move into an "advanced" level. At the next step she'll be matched with her new partner. (No one knows it yet, but Ashley is destined to be matched at the end of April.)

Tammy starts off with a twist on the standard relaxtaion protocol. Normally the puppies sit, down or stand in heel position with the handler standing during the exercise. Tammy instructs the handlers to stay seated. "Tell your puppy under," she says, "or have your puppy lie down at your side."

A light colored golden retriever and a yellow lab are lying on a tile floor in between the legs of two men. The first man with the golden is weraing green pants and the second man is wearing maroon pants. Both puppies are looking up at their handlers (who are mostly out of view).
FLDs Andie and Diesel look at their handlers like they are thinking, "What are you doing? We usually do this with you standing up!" The idea of trying this while sitting is to simulate situations where their handlers are sitting, like at restaurants or meetings.

Four men are seated on lunchroom stools. The man on the far left is sitting up and looking at the other three, who are bent over at the waist and touching their toes. There are three puppies lying on a tile floor beneath the men. The puppy on the far left is a yellow lab and is looking back at his handler, the next puppy is a german shepherd and his facing out, the third puppy is a light colored golden retriever and he is facing out too. Three of the men are wearing with t-shirts, the third man is wearing a maroon sweatshirt.
The seated relaxation protocol has the handlers do things like touch their toes, turn to the right or left, stamp their feet, or cross their legs. The puppies stay in position throughout the entire exercise.

With the relaxation protocol finished, Tammy puts me to work demonstrating the treat delivery and ground tether exercises, and helping her with the IFT assessments. I'm too busy to get any photos, but once the music starts for musical chairs I am free to shoot away. 

In this game, there are chairs for everyone. When the music stops, the men must sit with their puppies "under" the chairs...last puppy down is out!

A group of men and their puppies cirlce around two lines of light blue plastic chairs. A woman wearing a grey t-shirt and blue jeans is on the far left.
Tammy's CD has dog-themed songs, like "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and "How Much is that Puppy in the Window?"

A low shot of a golden retriever/lab mix puppy walking toward the camera with a loose leash and looking up toward his handler. The man handling the puppy is only visible from the waist down and he is wearing the blue prison uniform. There are a few men sitting down on the right side.
FLD Henry keeps a nice loose leash and a keen focus on his temporary handler.

Now the men are sitting on the chairs with their puppies "under" the chairs facing out. The woman is in the background on the left side.
The music stops...who is out?

A low, close up shot of a small stuffed weiner dog in the foreground and a larger black lab puppy walking by trying to sniff the stuffed dog. In the background on the right side is a german shepherd puppy also looking at the stuffed dog, being held back by a man wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants. The black lab is being held back by a man wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants. The lab is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
I set a distraction down for the puppies. FLD GeeGee is very interested in "Travel Deacon," as is FLD Chance in the background.

A group of men and their puppies are sitting in the background and right side on lunch room stools facing the room. Two men are sitting in the light blue plastic chairs, facing opposite directions. The man in the foreground is an african american man wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants, his black lab puppy is lying under the chair. The man behind him is almost out of view, his german sheperd puppy is on his way to lying down under the chair, but is not all the way down.
We have a winner! FLD GeeGee is under her handler Ro before FLD Chance hits the tile under his handler Eric.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

"R" is not for "18th"

Chippewa
March 30, 2015

Leader Dogs for the Blind's prison puppy-raising program at the Chippewa Correctional Facility has now been in operation for over a year and a half. The first puppies have returned to Leader dogs to meet their destiny. Like puppies that are raised on the outside, some of these inside puppies "graduated" and were placed with clients as working Leader Dogs, some found other jobs (one became a bed-bug detector!), others were "career-changed" for medical or other reasons (one was able to return to his raiser who is now on parole).

As we like to say, each dog ends up just where it needs to be.

The program has grown, and Tammy and I have not been visiting the prisons each month, so it is difficult for me to keep track of the teams. I remember when it was decided that the puppies raised in the Baraga Correctional Facility would be named "alphabetically." I wasn't sure what to think about that practice, as raisers in the Chippewa Correctional Facility were free to name their puppies however they chose.

Now I see that naming alphabetically can make it easier to remember exactly how many puppies have been raised.

Before we can do any training, Tammy presents FLD Rebel, the latest addition to Unit 8. If Chippewa had followed Baraga's method of naming, I could assume that Rebel is their 18th puppy. But they didn't so I don't know for sure - I think he might actually be their 23nd puppy!

At any number, the "hand off" is always fun...

Two men are facing the camera, a woman is approaching from behind them just over the shoulder of the man on the left. The man on the left is wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt and is bald with a gray beard. The man on the right is wearing an oranged jacket and glasses. Both men are smiling.
Rial (right), FLD Rebel's main raiser and his assistant, Pick (left) wait with their back turned toward the door as Tammy brings in FLD Rebel.

The woman who was approaching is handing a small black lab puppy over the right shoulder of the man wearing an orange jacket. The man is leaning his head to his right against the puppy's head. The puppy's front paws are resting on the man's shoulder.
Following the tradition started in the Ford Dodge Correctional Facility in Iowa, Tammy hands FLD Rebel over the shoulder of his raiser.

The man dressed in blue on the left is now looking at the black lab puppy, which is being held by the man on the right. The man on the left is petting the puppy under it's chin with his right hand. The man on the right is holding the puppy's left paw in his left hand and lookng down at it.
Assistant raiser Pick meets FLD Rebel. Rial looks like a father counting the number of toes on his newborn.

The man on the left has looked up to the camera with a surprised and excited look on his face while he continues to pet the lab puppy with his right hand. The man on the right is holding the puppy in his right arm and holding the puppy's front paw with his left hand. The puppy is snuggled into the man on the right's chest while looking at the man on the left, his eyes wide open.
Pick has come a long way. He joined the program as a self-proclaimed "helper." He wanted to be involved, but did not want to raise a puppy himself. He ran for poop bags, he cleaned up messes, he participated in all of our training sessions. I was glad to see that he was finally going to serves as FLD Rebel's assistant raiser.

The man dressed in orange is holding the lab puppy with his right arm. The man and the puppy are both wide-eyed, looking toward the camera.
The eyes have it! Rial and Rebel both look like they are not too sure of what they have gotten themselves into.

The man dressed in blue is now cradling the puppy in his left arm and holding the puppy's body with his right hand. The man and puppy are looking to the right. In the background are two men sitting on lunchroom stools with puppies lying on the floor at their feet. The woman and another man are standing behind them looking over paperwork. These people are slightly out of focus.
Pick shows off FLD Rebel to the others.

This is a close up shot of the man dressed in blue holding the puppy close to his face. The man is looking down at the puppy and the puppy is looking at the camear. Someone else's hand is petting the puppy behind his left ear from the right. The puppy's left paw is stretched out toward the camera.
FLD Rebel is in good hands. He came to Chippewa with a flaw, a small bump on his head that was treated by the veterinarians at Leader Dogs. The inmates showed concern, but overlooked the bare spot on the little guy's head and thought him adorable anyway.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

As of the end of March, 2015


Chippewa
March 30, 2015

A group shot of 25 men and one women, with 13 puppies. There are four overlapping rows, the first row are ment kneeling or sitting on the floor with 7 puppies, the second row is six men and one woman (she is second from the left) standing or sitting behind the first row holding three puppies, the third row is eight men, mostly standing behind the 2nd row to the right, with on man sitting on the far right holding one puppy, the last row are five men standing on chairs behind the rest with the man on the far right holding a puppy. There is a big flat screen television on the white brick wall behind the group.
Chippewa puppy raisers (and retiring MDOC employee Joyce) and their charges pose for a group shot.


Baraga
March 31, 2015

Nineteen men and 10 puppies pose in two rows. The first row of men are kneeling or squatting on the floor with seven puppies, the second row of 12 men are standing behind with three puppies. There is an edge of a lunch room table in the foreground and a metal door in the background.
Baraga puppy raisers pose with their pups.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back-chaining

Home
April 27, 2015

A behavior chain is an event in which units of behavior occur in sequences and are linked together by learned cues. Back-chaining, which means teaching those units in reverse order and reinforcing each unit with the cue for the next, is a training technique. We use this technique to take advantage of the intrinsic nature of the event.
Thanks to Karen Pryor, from her Clicker Training website: www.clickertraining.com.

This was my chain:
  1. I received an email from Tammy with the dates of our next monthly visit to the UP prisons. That was my initial "cue."
  2. I accompanied her on the long drive north.
  3. We worked with the inmate raisers and their puppies, and sometimes furloughed puppies.
  4. I took photographs and notes.
  5. I returned home to process the photographs and notes.
  6. I wrote and published blog posts.
Each event in my chain was cued and reinforced by the previous event. Getting Tammy's email meant that soon we'd be meeting on I-75; driving north meant we'd soon be working with the guys and puppies; taking photos and notes meant I was getting ready to return home and process them; getting that work done meant I could write and publish my posts.

MY CHAIN IS BROKEN.

Here are some breaks in my chain:
Step 1. Emails from Tammy stopped after September 2014, when Leader Dogs for the Blind stepped in to get a handle on what was happening in the growing-too-fast program. While it is true that I received emails from Leader Dogs (I was, after all, allowed to accompany Deb during her October and December 2014 visits, and later, Tammy and I were asked to cover the January and March 2015 visits), communications were not consistent. I have no clear definition of what to expect in the future.
Step 5. Too often when I returned home life got in the way and I was unable to get right at the photo and note processing.
Step 6. I was not consistent in publishing posts! The more "behind-er" I got the more overwhelmed I felt; the more overwhelmed I felt the less motivated I felt, even though I challenged myself a few times to catch up.

So, I'm going to try "back-chaining" to build myself a new chain. I'm going to start at where we are today, and work backwards until I bring things back to where I left off in 2014.

Here we go...wish me luck!
 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Raising thinkers

Chippewa
October 23, 2014

Before getting the teams up to work, Deb has lots to share. She reports on the kennel project that is under construction at Leader Dogs for the Blind; she talks about the breeding program and what happens to the puppies when they return to Rochester Hills; she describes guide work and what it means when the blind or visually impaired handler cannot support the decisions the dog has to make.

"We need forward-thinking, independent-thinking dogs," she said.

Many of the men express interest in continuing to raise puppies once they get out. Deb leads a discussion about what raising a puppy on the outside entails, how they will have to deal with veterinarian and food expenses, and transportation when picking up and returning a puppy.

The men nod their heads when she suggests they take time to get their lives in order first. These inmate raisers are thinking, too.

Three men sit on stools and are leaning forward and looking at the two black lab puppies and one chocolate lab puppy  lying on the floor between their legs. The man on the left is wearing a long sleeve white shirt and peach sweat pants, his hands are massaging the black lab's shoulders. The puppy is looking at the camera. The man in the middle is wearing the blue prison uniform and is reaching down to the black lab puppy at his feet with his left hand, which is holding an antler. His right arm is resting on his right knee. The african american man on the right is wearing the blue prison uniform and is bent over with his left forearm on his left knee. He is reaching down with his right hand and holding the left front paw of a small black lab at his feet. The labe is lying on her right side facing the camear.
Three puppies and their raisers share a moment. Ro, on the right, is handling FLD GeeGee's front paw. GeeGee is Ro's second puppy; he raised FLD Sammy, who, at the time of this post. is in training at Leader Dog. Ro says that even though he thinks Sammy was the best, GeeGee has stolen his heart.

Time to work. Deb has a fun exercise planned. She recreates an outside puppy outing she and FLD Jedi attended at Detroit Metro Airport. The puppies will practice sit or down/stays, recalls, handling, and settling.

We set two chairs at one end of the room to simulate a metal detector. One at a time, each inmate raiser puts his puppy in a sit or down stay in the middle of the room. Here he removes his shoes and the puppy's collar and leash. 

A man dressed in maroon sweats is standing in the middel of a room, he is taking his shoes off. In front of him is sitting a golden retriever puppy. The puppy is facing him and wearing the blue Future Leader Dog puppy. On the floor by the man's shoes is the puppy's leash. In the background three other men are sitting on stools and facing the man that is standing.
Abe removes his shoes while FLD Andie holds a sit/stay.

The raiser leaves the puppy to walk through the chair-metal-detector, then turns and calls his puppy to come. 

A yellow lab/golden retriever puppy wearing the blue Future Leader Dog jacket is walking away from the camera toward two light blue plastic chairs. Just beyond the chairs is a man wearing a white t-shirt and maroon pants. The man is facing the  puppy and looking down at him. In the background are three men and three women sitting or standing and watching the puppy.
FLD Henry comes readily to Matt, who is waiting on the other side of the "metal detector."

Another inmate, posing as a NSA agent, pats them both down. Once cleared, the inmate puts his shoes and the puppy's collar and leash back on and is shuffled into the corner to wait.

Two men in the foregrond are running their hands on a black lab puppy. The man on the left of the puppy is kneeling on the tile floor, he is wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants and a blue ball cap. the man on the right of the puppy is wearing a green sweatshirt and the blue prison pants, he is bent over at the waits over the puppy. There are two men and one woman along the wall on the far left side, standing with puppies, and three men and two women in the far background.
"NSA agent" Eric checks out FLD Dylan while Dave, the pup's handler, rehooks his leash.
A low shot of two men patting down a black lab puppy. The man on the left is standing and leaning over the puppy, he is wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants; you cannot see his head but his arm is covered with tatooes. The man on the right is kneeling on his right knee and his left hand is feeling the puppy's throat. He is wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants and a blue ball cap. There is a man in the background standing against the wall with a german shepherd on his left side.
FLD Ashley gets checked over.
A man is standing on the left with his arms stretched out, facing a group of men (and one woman) and their puppies. Several of the men are bending over to settle their puppies, they are in a tight corner of a room, with a glass wall and door on the left and a white brick wall on the right.
"NSA agent' Eric keeps the group sequestered in the corner.

News

Chippewa
October 23, 2014

Deb Donnelly's visit with the men in Pike Unit begins with an announcement by ARUS Rob. Abe, who is quick to introduce himself with the phrase, "I raise champions," has passed his GED!

Four men are seating on lunch table stools facing the room. The man on the left is wearing maroon sweats and has his hands on his thighs. Between his feet is a white colored golden retriever puppy, lying with his chin on the tile floor between his front paws facing the camera. The next man to the right is also wearing maroon sweats and he is leaning forward with his elbows on his thighs with his hands clasped between his legs. The next man is wearing a white t-shirt and peach sweatpans and is facing left. A black lab puppy is lying between his feet facing left, this puppy is wearing a blue working jacket. The african american man on the right is partly out of view, he is wearing a white t-shirt and blue prison pants. He is also leaning forward looking to the right with his elbows on his thighs with his hands clasped.
Abe (left) is currently raising FLD Andie, the golden retriever that is lying between his feet. His last puppy, FLD Zella, returned to Leader Dogs for the Blind in April. In September she was matched with her new person!   

Each prison facility sets its own requirements for inmates to participate in the Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy-raising program. One prerequisite here at Chippewa is that the inmate must have a high school diploma or GED. ARUS Rob made an exception for Abe. He saw potential in the young man, who had been working hard to get his GED.

Applause was freely given.

As usual, I hand FLD Henry's leash to an inmate so I can concentrate on taking photos. I am impressed by the patience of these men. Matt is eager to handle my barking puppy, even if Henry can be a handful.

A yellow lab/golden retriever mix puppy is lying on a tile floor between the feet of an inmate, whose legs and feet are only in view on the left. The man is wearing maroon sweat panst and white tennis shoes and his holding the leash to the puppy. The puppy is facing out to the right and is wearing the baby blue Future Leader Dog jacket. He is busy chewing on an antler that is between his front paws. In the background is a yellow lab that is lying on a blue mat. She is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and has her head up looking toward the other puppy.
FLD Henry is busy with the antler that Matt gave him to chew. FLD Adell is interested.

A man wearing a white long sleeved t-shirt and maroon sweat pants and white tennis shoes is leaning down and petting the yellow lab/golden retriever puppy that is lying between his feet. The puppy is on his left side facing to the right, with a grey mat and antler next to him. The yellow lab puppy behind him is also lying on her left side. There are two other puppies in the far background. One is a black lab standing up and facing away from the camera, the other is a german shepherd lying facing the camera.
Matt does a good job helping FLD Henry settle.

The yellow lab/golden mix puppy is now on his right side with his left paw on the face of the yellow lab beyond him. This lab is lying on her left side facing him. She is also wearing the blue working jacket. There is now streaks of sunshine across the floor.
FLDs Henry and Adell share a cuddle.

The yellow lab/golden mix puppy has his head up now and is leaning back away from the yellow lab on the right. The lab is still lying donw, but her head is up too and she has her mouth open almost over the snout of the puppy on the left.
Henry leans away from Adell's advances.
A floor level shot of the lab/golden puppy lying on the grey mat between the feet of his handler. The puppy has his head resting on the floor next to the man's right foot and has his eyes closed. The man is scratching the puppy's head with his left hand.
Matt regroups FLD Henry and helps him relax.

A man wearing a white t-shirt and green pants and a blue ball cap is sitting on the tile floor on the left with his legs crossed. He is facing right. His arms are stretched out resting on his knees. In front of him is the lab/golden puppy, who is lying on the floor facing the camera, but his head is turned to the left as he chews on the antler, which is being held in the man's left hand. In the background are the legs of the man with maroon pants and white tennis shoes, and the yellow lab. The lab is lying on her blue mat with her chin over her right leg looking toward the other puppy.
Harlan takes a seat on the floor with FLD Henry and coaxes him to chew the antler instead of causing trouble while Deb chats with the teams.

Deb shares a story about one of the men from the program who has been out on parole for a few months. Scott had raised Drummond, one of the first puppies to come to Chippewa. The big golden returned to Leader Dog shortly before Scot was paroled.

Unfortunately, Drummond was recently career-changed for anxiety-produced behaviors. Because Scott was now free, he was able to adopt Drummond. "I asked him what was the best thing about being out," Deb says, "and he answered, 'Food, food, food!'"

The guys laugh in agreement. 

We are all disappointed in Drummond's career-change, but these puppies will end up just where they need to be.

A floor level shot of a large german shepherd puppy lying on the floor. He is facing the camera and his tongue is just coming out. He is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The background is out of focus - there are three men sitting with puppies between their feet. They are wearing white t-shirts and the blue prison pants.
FLD Jedi seems bored with all the talk.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

UP presence revisted

October 22, 2014
en route to the eastern UP

We have the rest of the day to make the 200+ mile drive to where we'll stay in the Soo. Deb's training session at the Chippewa Correctional Facility starts in the morning.

The drop-dead gorgeous fall day begs for sight-seeing. You haven't seen "blue" until you've witnessed the sky above the pristine forests lining Lake Superior.

A shot looking straight up into the deep blue sky under a canopy of brilliant yellow leaves.


I lead the way to Munising Falls. We pose our puppies, looping their leashes through the fence in front of the falls.

A woman wearing blue jeans and a blue jacket is standing on the left with a smart phone in her hands. She is facing a german shepherd that is sitting in front of a wooden fence, beyond which is a tall waterfall over stratiated rocks. On the right is a small golden/lab mix puppy sitting and looking at the camera. Both puppies are wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandanas. The leaves on the trees on either side of the watefall are bright yellow. There are leaves on the wooden platform where the puppies are sitting.
Deb takes a photo of FLD Jedi while FLD Henry sits...


A close up shot of the golden/lab puppy sitting in front of the wooden fence. The puppy is looking at the camera, with his tongue just barely stickling out. He is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.






I don't think FLD Henry is happy about me taking so many photos. Here is an interesting series of shots - can you read his body language?
Another close shot of the same puppy, with more of the forest background visible behind him. Now his tongue is further out and his head and ears are drooping.
He's getting droopy...
The same close shot of the same puppy, but now the puppy is facing left and having a huge yawn with his eyes closed.
FLD Henry. Not amused.



























I suppose he thinks the stairs are more fun.

A shot from above, looking down at the golden/lab puppy sitting on a wood staircase, littered wtih yellow and brown leaves.


Later we find more photo ops on the Lake Superior shore.

A german shepherd is standing on the left, tied by his leash to a gigantic piece of driftwood. Behind him is Lake Superior. He is looking at the camera, and wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
A majestic FLD Jedi next to a majestic piece of driftwood.

A black and white photo of the same piece of driftwood, with a small yellow puppy sticking his head out from behind it.
WHERE'S HENRY?

A landscape shot of the sun setting behind a tall bluff on the left, down to a beach and water on the right, gentle waves kissing the shore.
And the sun sets on Lake Superior.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sit, down, around, exam

October 22, 2014
Baraga

It was time to work. Deb led the teams through SIT and DOWN exercises that become progressively more difficult. I handed FLD Henry off to Corey so I could concentrate on taking photos.

A man wearing the blue prison uniform and a blue jacekt and navy blue knit cap is sitting with his forearms on his knees. He is smiling and leaning slightly forward toward a yellow lab/golden retriever mix puppy that is sitting in front of him, facing him. The puppy is wearing the baby blue Future Leader Dog "working" jacket. There are other men just out of view on either side of the photo.
FLD Henry is focused on Corey, who seems pretty happy to work with the pup.


An african american man wearing the blue prison uniform with a long sleeved white shirt under the short sleeve blue shirt is standing in front of a metal wall. He is looking off to the right and holding the leash to a small chocolate lab in his left hand. The lab is sitting at the man's left side and is looking at the camera.
FLD Hershel holds a nice sit for Brown.
SIT
  1. With no distractions, holding for more than 30 seconds.
  2. With people walking around.
  3. With people greeting the teams.

A man wearing an orange kint cap, salmon colored sweatshirt and blue prison pants is on the left of the photo stretching with his right hand to reach something out of the shot to the left. His left hand is holding the leash to a yellow lab puppy sitting on the tile floor on his left side. The puppy is watching the man. Another man is standing in front of a metal wall on the right. He is wearing the blud prison uniform with his arms at his side. He is holding the leash of a small yellow lab in his left hand. The lab is sitting at the man's left side.
Beano (left) reaches for some extra kibble for FLD Axel when Deb asks the men without puppies to start walking around. FLD Farley (right) sits nicely next to Paul.
At least six men are either walking from left to right or are standing with their puppy sitting on their left side. Two men on the left closest to the camera walking by are wearing green sweatshirts and blue prison pants. An african american man is standing with his small chocolate lab, a man wearing a white shirt and blue prison pants is walking by him. A woman is standing behind him wearing an orange sweatshirt and black pants with a large german shepherd puppy sitting on her left side. Another man wearing the blue prison uniform is walking on the far right side, with an african american man dressed in a white shirt and blue pants standing behind him with a small golden retriever sitting at his left side.
Here come the distractions!
 
DOWN
  1. With no distractions, holding for more than 30 seconds.
  2. With people walking around.
  3. With people jogging by.

AROUND - without a door. Really? Yep, we can practice "around" even if we don't have a door. (For a description of how we work around, visit this post "Training take 1."

A young black lab is standing on the left, curved slightly behind the legs of an inmate wearing blue prison pants and black shoes. The puppy is looking up at his handler, and is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLD Eco moves into the "around" position while keeping an eye on his handler.


HANDLER'S EXAM - Each puppy's handler checked eyes, ears, teeth, felt each leg and paw, and ran a brush down its back. Then other team members did the same exam so the puppies get used to other people handling them.

An african american man who is standing is leaning over to a small chocolate lab puppy and his hands are on the puppy's head, checking his teeth. The man is wearing a prison blue uniform with a long sleeve white shirt under the blue shirt, and white shoes.
Brown checks FLD Hershel's teeth during the handler's exam.
A man is standing on the left with his arms at his side looking down. The man is wearing blue prison pants and a blue jacekt with orange stripes, with a white shirt underneath. Another man is standing on the right, leaning over to check the teeth of a yellow lab puppy who is standing between the two men. The man on the right is wearing the blue prison uniform with a long sleeve white shirt under the blue shirt. The man has his hands on the puppy's head and mouth.
FLD Farley leans into his raiser, Steve, while another inmate checks him over.

And just because...

A man wearing blue prison pants and a blue t-shirt is standing on the left with his hands clasped at his waist. He is holding the leash to a young black lab that is sitting on his left side. The man is looking down at the puppy. The puppy is looking toward the camera and is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. Another man is standing next to a metal wall facing right with his legs crossed. He is wearing blue prison pants and a blue jacket with orange stripes. At his feet in front of him is a yellow lab puppy lying on a green mat facing him.
FLD Copo holds a nice sit next to his handler, Black. In the background, FLD Farley lies on his mat in front of his handler, Steve.

A closer shot of the black lab puppy sitting next  to the man. The puppy is now looking straight up at the man.
FLD Copo looks up at Black.

Now the man is leaning down with his face close to the nose of the black lab. The lab is reaching to the man's face.
Black leans in for a puppy kiss.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ten years to tell a story

October 22, 2014
Baraga

When Deb Donnelly and I arrive, the teams in Unit 8 are ready and waiting for us. Puppies are settled on mats with Kongs and Nylabones at the ready. 

A low shot of a young black lab puppy lying on a green thick mat. To the left are the lower legs of the puppy's raiser, he is wearing blue prison pants and black shoes, his right hand is just visible between his knees. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and there is a red Kong on the mat by his right shoulder. The puppy's head is resting on the mat.
A relaxed FLD Eco seems to be listening intently.
Another low shot, this time of a small chocolate lab lying on the tile floor with his chin on the floor between his front paws. He is just behind the lower legs of his raiser, who is also wearing blue prison pants and black shoes. To the left in the background is a blue mat, but the puppy chose to lie on the floor instead. There is also a yellow, green and blue Nylabone puppy chew toy on the tile in front of the mat.
FLD Hershel, on the other hand, doesn't seem interested. What is it about the floor that is more comfortable than his mat?

Deb has lots to talk about. She's come from a circular road trip to prisons in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin before getting to Baraga and continuing on to Chippewa. She reports that Minnesota's Lino Lakes Correctional Facility, which started raising puppies in July of 2013, had their first puppy issued to a client the day before. Leader Dog "Lino" is now a working guide dog.

With the return of the first Baraga puppies looming in December, the men are interested about the process. Deb explains that Leader Dogs for the Blind takes in 44 puppies each month. Leader Dog veterinarians can only accommodate 11 dogs a week. (This places a demand on the breeding department on the other end.) When the puppies return they are subject to a series of medical exams and x-rays to assure excellent health. Some are pulled for breeding; those that aren't are spayed or neutered. About 14 percent are career-changed for medical issues. The rest go into formal guide work training.

"We always train more dogs than we need," Deb says. Up to 24 blind or visually impaired clients in a given "class" live in the Polk Residence at Leader Dogs for about three and a half weeks. Here they learn to care for and work with their new partner. Extra dogs are necessary so the trainers can make the perfect match with each team.

There are questions about what will happen in December when she comes to bring FLDs Axel, Bear and Copo back to Leader Dog. Deb suggests that the men develop a "good-bye" ceremony for themselves, something that can be consistently recreated for each puppy that leaves.

Saying good-bye to your puppy is hard, no matter whom the puppy raiser happens to be. After returning five of my own puppies I can attest that it never gets easier.

"The dogs do way better than the people do in this," Deb says. "They adapt very well, most of them, very quickly. It's like going to camp for them." A collective sigh and the looks on the men's faces make me believe they are not quite convinced.

A black lab is lying on a thick green mat between the legs of his raiser, who is sitting on a lunchroom table stool. The man is on the left side of the table and is wearing blue prison pants and a long sleeved white shirt. His elbows are resting on his knees and he is looking up toward the right. A second man is sitting on the stool opposite on the right. He is also wearing the blue prison pants and a long-sleeved white shirt. This man also has his elbows on his knees leaning forward with his hands clasped. He is looking at the camera. In the background are two other men sitting at another table. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and has a white Nylabone chew toy between his front paws, and a second one on the tile floor next to his mat. The puppy's chin is resting on his right leg and he is looking at the camera.
Ricky (left) and Doug (right) sit with their puppy. FLD Bear is one of the puppies slated to return to Leader Dogs for the Blind in December.
An african american man is sitting on a lunch table stool, bending over to pet a golden retriever puppy that is lying on the lile floor between the man's feet. The man is wearing the blue prison pants and a long sleeve white t-shirt and white shoes. The man's left forearm is resting on his left knee and he is petting the puppy's side with his right hand. The puppy is lying on its left side with its head toward the camera. He is wearing the blue bandana. A nylabone chew toy is on the floor by his head.
P reaches over to give a sleepy FLD Gage a pet. This little guy will be staying for a while, but P will be sad to see FLD Bear leave. P was promoted from FLD Bear's team to raise Gage.
A man wearing blue prison pants and a green jacket is sitting on a lunch table stool with his left forearm across his left knee and his right elbow on his right kneww with his chin in his right hand. The man is looking forward to the left. At his feet is a black lab that is lying facing right. There is a lunch table in front of the team, and another one in the back ground.
Black and FLD Copo, who is also slated to return in December.






Inmate raiser Black  will have it especially hard in December. He was promoted from FLD Bear's team to take over as Copo's raiser, so he'll be saying good-bye to two puppies.

Black feels so changed by this program that he recently made a generous donation to Leader Dogs for the Blind. (His job in the Baraga Correctional Facility pays him 74 cents per day.)





Deb feels their pain. FLD Jedi, the 20th puppy she's raised, is due to go back to Leader Dog within a couple of weeks.






A woman dressed in black pants and an orange fleece jacket is standing with her hands on her hips on the right of the picture. At her feet is sprawled a large german shepheard dog, he is practically lying on her feet with his chin resting on the tile floor. He is facing to the right. On the left of the picture is an african american man sitting on a lunch table stool facing the woman. He is wearing the blue prison uniform and white shoes. At his feet in front of him is a small chocolate lab that is sitting on a blue mat with a yellow, green, and lbue nylabone puppy chew toy in front of him. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandan and is facing the right.
Deb Donnelly speaks to the inmate raisers with FLD Jedi sprawled at her feet. Brown (left) sits with his charge, FLD Hershel.

"There's somebody out there who needs this dog more than I do," she says. She tells a story about one of the puppies she raised long ago. The puppy "graduated" and was matched with a young man, it was his first Leader dog. Deb got the chance to meet the painfully shy and reserved man. He had a difficult time speaking to her.

Some years later, when he received a second dog, Deb witnessed an amazing transformation. The man stood up in front of everyone. (Back then the graduating teams were introduced as a group to the raisers during "visitation" night at Leader dog. Now the puppy raiser has an individual visit with the new team.) Deb says he would never have done that the first time she met him. He announced that his goal was to meet one million people. He asked that each and every person should come up and shake his hand. 

With a catch in her voice, Deb says, "It took me 10 years before I could even tell this story."

A close head shot of the large german shepherd puppy lying across the woman's purple running shoes. The dog is facing the camera with his chin on the tile floor. His leash is lying on the floor by him and his left front leg and paw are across the woman's shoes. He is looking directly into the camera. He is also wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana.
FLD Jedi makes sure he stays close to Deb.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

UP presence

October 21, 2014
en route to Baraga

Road trip!

FLD Henry and I take the day driving to Baraga to catch up with Deb Donnelly. She has been on a longer road trip herself. After visits at correctional facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, she'll meet with the inmate raisers at Baraga in the morning and at Chippewa the next day. All part of her fact-finding tour to help Leader Dogs for the Blind build consistency into the prison puppy-raising program.

I have been invited to continue documenting things. On the way north with FLD Henry, I pause to drink in the natural beauty of the UP, which for me is always a welcome backdrop to our monthly trips.


CUT RIVER BRIDGE

First stop, the Cut River Bridge. Turns out to be a great place for Henry to practice stairs.

Looking down at a young yellow lab/golden retriever mix puppy that is standing on the wooden landing of a flight of open metal grated stairs going down. The puppy is looking up at the camera and is licking his nose.
FLD Henry is a bit taken aback by the open-grated stairs. "I think I can lick this!"

A long view looking down a long staircase with wooden railings. In the background is Lake Michigan behind a few bare fall trees and some with yellow leaves.
Even I am a bit disconcerted over the long staircase. But the view is beautiful!

Another photo from above of the lab/golden puppy, now walking down the metal grated stairs. He is looking at the camera again, but with a more relaxed look on his face, and his tail is wagging.
After a few flights, FLD Henry is more relaxed.

A view looking up at the underside of the Cut River Bridge from far below. The bridge has green girders. Underneath are fall trees with bright yellow leaves, way below the bridge.
The Cut River Bridge from below.

A landscape view of Lake Michigan, with fall trees in the foreground. Blue sky above with a cloud bank near the horizon.
A fairly calm Lake Michigan stretches out before us.

The young lab/golden mix puppy is leaning to take a drink from a stream. There are tall grasses all around
FLD Henry takes a drink from the Cut River. Stairs like that can make a pup thirsty!


LAKE SUPERIOR

We take another break along M-28 to walk along the Lake Superior shore.

A scenic view of a beach with whitecap waves breaking. There are several trees in the distance on the right, and puffy white clouds dot the blue sky above.
Looking east.

A low shot of the lab/retriever puppy. He is standing on the beach facing the camera, but his head is turned to the right toward the waves of the lake. There are trees stretching off into the distance on the left.
FLD Henry, intrigued by the waves.

A landscape view of the Lake Superior shoreline. There are tall grasses in the foreground and trees in the background, waves break on the beach.
Looking west.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sit, down, stay, play

September 25, 2014
Chippewa

RELAXATION PROTOCOL

In three positions...

A woman wearing blue jeans and a teal t-shirt is standing on the right side with an orange piece of paper in her hands. She is reading from the paper. Three men are standing on the left, each are wearing white t-shirts, the one on the far left and the one in the middle are wearing orange shorts, the third man is wearing blue prison pants and is standing with his arms folded at his chest. The middle man is looking down at a small yellow lab/golden retriever puppy that is lying on the tile floor looking up at him.
Tammy gets started on the relaxation protocol. She asks the teams to have their puppies in the "down" position to start.

A black lab (left) and a yellow lab (right) are lying on a  tile floor, both are wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandanas. The puppies are looking up to the left at their handlers, who are only visilbe from the waist down. The man on hte left is wearing maroon sweat pants and a white t-shirt, the other man is wearing orange shorts and a white t-shirt. Both puppies' leashes are lying on the floor.
FLDs Ashley and Adell keep an eye on their handlers.

A young chocolate lab is lying on a tile floor looking up at his handler that is standing on the left. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and his leash is lying on the floor in front of him. Only the handler's lower legs and feet are in the frame. He is wearing maroon sweatpants and white shoes. The legs of another man are on the right, he is wearing orange shorts and white shoes.
FLD Bandit. Focused.

Three men are handling three puppies. The man on the left is wearing orange shorts and a white sleeveless t-shirt and he is holding the leash of a yellow lab puppy that is sitting on his left side looking up at him. The man is looking down at the puppy and reaching toward him with his left hand. The man in the middle is wearing orange shorts and the blue prison shirt; he is looking down at a yellow lab/golden retriever mix puppy that is lying on the tile floor facing the man, his leash draped on the floor. The man on the right is wearing the blue prison pants and a white t-shirt with his hand folded at his waist and looking down at a small black lab. The lab is sitting on the floor facing the man with its back to the camera. There is a fourth man in the background sitting on a lunchroom stool.
Now Tammy asks the handlers to have their puppies "sit." FLDs Adell (left) and GeeGee (right) jump right up, but FLD Henry (middle) has to think about it.

The picture is taken from a weird angle so everyone could get into the shot. There are four men standing in the lunchroom (tables line the walls behind them) and each has a puppy sitting at his left side.
FLDs Teysen and Bandit show how "sit" is done.

A man dressed in the prison blue pants and a maroon sweatshirt is standing facing the camera. He is looking down to his left at the young golden retriever puppy that is standing on his left side. The puppy is wearing the blue bandana and the man is holding his leash with his right hand, held up at his chest.
Abe with FLD Andie in the last position: "stand." Now that is a loose leash!


TESTING

With everyone relaxed, Tammy announced that she would do AKC S.T.A.R Puppy and CGC testing on those puppies that were eligible. The other puppies could practice. FLD Coda was ready to take her In-For-Training (IFT) assessment and Tammy asked me to do it away from the others. I was happy to oblidge. FLD Coda happened to be in heat and was a bit distracted. Her raiser, Jeremy, was patient with her and she did just fine away from all the boys.


YARD WORK

We went into the yard to practice a modified version of the distraction training that we did at the last furlough. Instead of tape on the ground, Tammy had the handlers stand on their puppies' leashes on the grass, just long enough so the puppies could move onto the sidewalk. No pictures here because Tammy put me (and others) to work offering distractions. Someone bounced a ball, one guy crawled up and down the sidewalk, I dragged the stuffed squirrel on a rope, wiggling it to simulate a real squirrel. Not one puppy budged. Either the pupies were great at ignoring distractions, or they were super-well trained to stay off the sidewalk. (The men did say they had trained the puppies not to go past the sidewlak into the gardens on the other side.)


PLAYTIME

Before we leave, we let the puppies play. Brothers Henry and Harley are well-matched. They were moving too fast for me to get a clear focused shot. A little help from Photoshop and you can see the fun they had.

Two small yellow lab/golden retriever puppies run toward the camera, the one on the left, slightly behind the one on the right, has his mouth open and is going for the right ear of the other puppy.
FLD Harley (left) has FLD Henry on the run. Big ears are easy to grab.

Now the two puppies are facing each other. The pup on the left is wearing a red collar and is standing up with his left front paw in the air. The puppy on the right is lying on the cement. His tongue is sticking part way out of his closed mouth like he is taunting the other puppy.
Nah, nah, na nah, nah! FLD Henry might be down, but he's not out!