Sunday, October 18, 2009

Puppy Bling

I finally took the time to get some bling for Izzo. She now has a name tag hanging on her collar. It tingles when she moves and clinks against her bowl when she is getting a drink or eating. It accessorizes with her black gentle leader, black collar and her black leash.

Some of the other girls in class have pink and purple leashes and name tags. The guys tend to go for blue and dark green. Being a Spartan fan Izzo will probably save green for game days… but black complements her soft golden fur so nicely and matches her cute button nose and black eyes. Don’t you think it’s just the thing for her?

Aside from showing off her bling, Izzo has been busy growing. She is now over 55 pounds.

She is working on some new skills like “under” where she is to go under a table and drop. She is also learning “rest your head” where she puts her head down on your lap, a leg or a chair. Jake sometimes uses this command for Miles when Miles is lying down. Jake will have Miles put his head on the footrest of his wheelchair to keep Miles from sniffing around on the floor when he doesn't want him to. He also uses it to when he is undressing Miles from his uniform at night. Miles will rest his head in Jake’s lap and Jake will lean forward and use his teeth to release the latch on Miles gentle leader. So it's an important skill.

Til soon!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Apple Orchard Goats

Fall is in the air and what does that mean??? Of course, a trip to the apple orchard. An apple orchard is a perfect outdoor venue for a service dog in training. We stopped one afternoon and aside from the people and the tractors, Izzo was most intrigued with the goats.

Yes, goats.

They were just about the same size as she was… and as soon as she spotted them she was drawn to them like a magnet. She sure had to puzzle them out. They were equally curious about her. I think she could have sat and watched them all day. Maybe they are just trying to figure out who has the longer ears.

We’ve also been busy socializing in places like Lowes, Home Depot, and garden centers. She’s a pro at entering through sliding doors now and is able to ignore shopping carts. Izzo continues to work on her greetings – sitting nicely and offering a paw to shake when instructed to. She is working very hard at this skill and is getting to be very good at it!

We just had a big night out at Helping Paws annual fundraiser, the Tail Waggin’ Dinner. There were several hundred people there and probably about 50 or 60 dogs. It was an amazing event and very heartwarming to see so many supporters show up to assist the cause of training service dogs. Thanks to everyone who generously donated and especially to the Watertown Mayer Elementary School for sponsoring Izzo and I.

Til next time… Cheers!
PS - I embeded a video FOX 9 News did about Jake and Miles 2 years ago... it tells a very nice story about the start of their journey together!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Swimming Lessons

Izzo and her Helping Paws classmates took advantage of the fact that their instructor was off last week and no class was held. They decided to have a puppy party instead of schoolwork!!

And what a blast they had. Hosted by Rugby and Cathy, we headed over to Hudson, Wisconsin. A big fenced yard and eight eager Golden Retriever puppies set the tone for the night. They had a blast, running, playing, wrestling and tumbling. There was Rugby, Izzo, Benny, Dempsey, Angel, Becca, Boston and Sawyer.
That's Izzo on the left, taking advantage of the other dogs wrestling to get a turn with the tug of rope toy.

As if that weren’t enough fun, we then headed down to the St. Croix River. Most of the puppies had been in the water, but not really enough water to actually swim in. Izzo had been in a lake over the 4th of July but there were too many people and kids and noise that she didn’t really realize what a dog could actually DO in water….

The same thing happened at the river. She was a little uncertain at first and got a bit concerned when we walked out to the point where the water was getting up around her nose. But then we were joined by a couple other “big dogs” Belle and Cody. They went bounding past Izzo out to deeper water to retrieve a ball.

Izzo, not wanting to miss a chance to play with the big dogs, raced out after them. And without really realizing what she was doing, the natural instinct kicked in and she was swimming! It was so fun to watch her discover this new skill. Once she realized what she was capable of, there was no stopping her. She was happy to splash and swim and chase down the balls and toys.

Of course the aftermath of swimming in the river means a wet, sandy, dirty, smelly dog. I decided that the next day would be a good time to take Izzo out for her first professional dog bath. She did just fine at the groomer’s and is smelling much better these days!

Izzo really misses Miles – who has now moved back to college with Jake. We walk in the front door and the first thing she does is turn to the right to go into the family room where Jake and Miles were normally sitting watching TV. Now it is empty and quiet. She’s a bit sad, but also enjoying the fact that she is now the sole “kid” in the house and the beneficiary of more of my attention.

Sometimes a little peace and quiet is a good thing!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Passing the ADI Test

Izzo (on the left) would like to be the first to congratulate Miles (and Jake) on passing their ADI test today! Good job Miles! They took this test about 6 months after Miles and Jake got paired so they kind of knew what to expect, making it (a little) easier. Still nerve wracking ....

The ADI (Assistance Dogs International) test is a standard that service dogs in public places have to meet showing they are unobtrusive and under control. The dogs have to ignore other dogs, they have to allow children to approach and pet them without showing any kind of excitement or agitation, they have to ignore food on floor and even food that is dropped off the edge of the table right in front of their noses!

But Miles - who has to take the test at age 5 - passed with flying colors. Jake was absolutely joyous about them passing the test today. The thought of the possibility of losing Miles was a scary one! Miles won't have to take the test again until age 10.

Jake and Miles are in the other room as I write this and I just heard Jake give the commands, "stand" "get it" "bring" "step" "give". Izzo is working on all of them (except step) and it is a reminder of the important work that she has ahead of her and why we have to practice, practice, practice every day.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Six Months Old...

Oh my - it's been far too long since I posted on here...

Izzo is now six months old - effective August 1st - and has made it to her first graduation. Our Perfect Puppy class has now moved on to the ranks of Awesome Adolescence.
Problem is that means teenage years for the dogs.... kind of like teenage years for kids. Sometimes they do what their parents ask them to do .... and sometimes they don't.
So our tactic is to just use bigger and better treats. I'm always scouting for something morsel sized that smells good that Izzo can be inspired by when we are training, without it upsetting her tummy.
Izzo is learning how to tug gloves off my hands and socks off my feet. This is not a problem for her - she's goes after them enthusiastically. Good thing she knows the command to "wait" and can pause for the actual command "tug". She is also learning to "go to bed" where she goes to her blanket and lies down. Problem is dogs like to nest before they lie down so she has to learn to do it without pawing it all up.

Here's a couple pics of Izzo on her six month birthday and of Izzo and Miles celebrating Miles 5th birthday in the backyard doggie pool.

Miles is getting ready to head back to college soon. Izzo is really going to miss him when he's gone.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Get It - Bring - Give

While the rest of the family was off on a canoe/camping trip on the St. Croix River, Izzo took a break and went home to visit her mom for a long weekend. She got to be on vacation, just like the rest of us. She had a great time playing with Cheers and her family.

Meanwhile, we are working on some new skills. This week it is “kiss” and “push”. Kiss is easy for Izzo as she is a “licker”. She loves to give a kiss on the cheek. She has also managed to push every cupboard drawer and door in the kitchen closed.

We also had a minor breakthrough… ever since I brought Izzo home we have been working on the retrieve. This is one of the major ways a service dog can assist their master, by bringing dropped objects from the floor.

The first step was “object exchange” where the puppy just gets used to letting go of an object that she has picked up… we exchange it for a treat. We do this LOTS… every time she picks up a stick or stone or piece of grass, anything I don’t want her to have in her mouth… gets exchanged for a treat.

The next step has been “give” where the puppy picks up an object and releases it into our hand at the command and gets a treat. Again this has been lots of repetitions, just having my hand right by her mouth when she picks something up and before she starts to chew it.

Finally we have progressed to “get it” to encourage the dog to pick up an object on floor. Then we added “bring” where the puppy (in theory) brings the object to us.

We teach each step in the process as a separate command because the dogs may be asked to do something with an object other than bring it to their master. They may be asked to get it, carry it, then rise up and put it on a counter, for example. We haven’t gotten that far with our puppies yet, but will eventually.

For now, our string of commands has been simply to “get it”, “bring” and “give”. A couple of nights ago, Izzo successfully put all three of them together and brought me an object. I was ecstatic! It has been three months of working on the retrieve and to have her put them all together was amazingly satisfying. WOOHOO…. !!! She did it! I was very proud of her. She has done it again today and we’ll keep working on it. But it was just very, very gratifying to see the results of our work start to pay off.

Izzo had a play date at one of her littermate’s houses the other day. I think there were 8 of the 10 siblings there, plus one puppy from another litter. They had a great time romping around together in Boston’s big fenced in yard. Thanks Boston for having us over!

Izzo continues to grow. She was over 30 pounds when we went to class two weeks ago… I’ll be curious to see how much she weighs tomorrow night at class.

Izzo loves to play with Miles - in the yard and in the house and just about anywhere she has a chance! She still can't run as fast as Miles, but she is getting close to being able to match him for speed (for a short time anyway.... ) When he gets tired of her bothering him all the time, he just sits on her!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Growing Like a Weed - er.... Dog

I was gone for the past week for work… and returned to find that my puppy had turned into a young dog. I swear, Izzo grew an inch in a week!

I’m posting several new pics. Unfortunately most of them are now 2-4 weeks old, but I haven’t had time to download the most recent so these will have to do. Izzo and her littermates are now 4 ½ months old! They are all beautiful dogs.

Enjoy the pics – hopefully more recent ones will be available soon!


Izzo and Miles visited the WM Elementary School to thank them for their efforts raising money for Helping Paws. They raised over $5000! AWESOME! Thanks to all the kids who did chores to earn money and all the parents and staff at the school for such wonderful support.

Izzo with her mom, Cheers, at the Helping Paws Wag, Walk and Run event two weeks ago.

The next 2 pics are Izzo on June 1st - her 4 month birthday. One day I noticed she had WHISKERS! Where did they come from???? Izzo is also starting to lose her baby teeth, maybe because she is no longer a baby????

Izzo - being her cute service-dog self on May 25th at a Memorial Weekend picnic at Fort Snelling State Park.

We visited the SW Metro Transit station to get Izzo used to hearing buses and the noises they make. We also had the good fortune to meet a state policeman AND an Eden Prarie fireman.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

News Flash!

News Flash!

Izzo and I were invited to be ambassadors for Helping Paws by promoting their upcoming fundraiser (Saturday the 30th at Purgatory Creek in Eden Prairie from 9 am - 1 pm) on a local TV station (KARE 11) this morning. We were interviewed live by Tim McNiff, the morning news anchor.

We arrived at the studio about 20 minutes before we were to go on and Izzo waited very patiently with me outside the studio while I got the microphone attached and was given directions about where to sit and where to look during the interview.

When we walked into the studio, Izzo was very curious about the lights, the cameras, and everything going on around us. However, once we got seated she made herself at home and sat or lay calmly by my feet. (thank goodness she didn’t start gnawing the chair legs like she sometimes does at home!) I was very proud of her!

Her part of the interview was to look cute, which of course she did with ease. There’s a link on the KARE 11 website with the video footage (about 3 minutes long).

We’ll be at the fundraiser for a short time on Saturday at Purgatory Creek Park in Eden Prairie…. Then it is off to graduation parties! Should be a fun day.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Digs

Izzo has grown so much since the last update… at class last week she had doubled her weight since she came home with us – now at 22 pounds!

Our instructor suggested it might be time to get larger kennels for our puppies since they have grown so much. I hadn’t realized it but she was sure crowded in her puppy kennel… she could barely stand up.

No wonder the first thing she always did when she came out of her kennel was to lay flat on the floor and sss-tttt-rrrr-eee-tttt-cccc-hhhhh herself out on the floor.

The new kennel is a definite improvement! Izzo can now stretch out, sit up, and roll over to her heart’s content in the new one!

I’ll keep using the little one to transport her in the car until I figure out about a seat belt harness or something to hold her securely in the back seat.

The other highlight in Izzo’s life is having Jake and Miles moved home from college for the summer. I was kind of hoping that Miles knowledge and good manners would set the stage for Izzo to just start mimicking. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way… Izzo has to learn by repetition, repetition, repetition. It has given me new appreciation for Miles and how way smart he is and how good he is!

The other fun thing Izzo got to do last week was attend a “puppy party.” It was fundraiser for Helping Paws and 5 of Izzo’s litter mates were there, plus a bunch of the younger puppies from the Faith litter. There is nothing more fun to watch then a pen full of puppies frolicking around and having a good time. Very entertaining for the people and very fun for the dogs.

The puppies see each other in class every week but they normally get right to their homework and assignments… not usually time to play. So this was a treat.

Izzo’s litter mates are named:


At the party were Angel, Benny, Hudson, Boston and Nala. It is fun to see them outside of class where you could get to see their unique personalities. Some of Izzo’s littermates have blogs… I intend to post links to them soon!

(I've decided to end all my posts with sign-off Cheers (like the Brits do...) in honor of Izzo's mum named Cheers).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Getting Out AND Getting Outside

(Picture of Izzo after a wet morning outside)

One of the pleasantries of fostering a service dog is being assigned homework that requires us to “get out.” We are to socialize! Wooohooo – an excuse to go visiting and check places out. Having a cute puppy wearing a service dog vest is like having a magnet at the end of the leash…. People look. People stare. People approach us. Izzo attracts all kinds of attention from all ages of people.

I guess I knew it would be like this. I’ve seen Jake and Miles graciously deal with lots of attention these past couple of years. But it was always Jake and Miles who had to “deal” with it. Now it is Izzo and I.

I really do enjoy telling people how much a service dog can change someone’s life because I have seen it! I love educating questioners about what the dogs do for people with disabilities and explaining that I am getting trained on how to train Izzo at the same time as the dog is getting trained.

(I just don’t like being out in public for too long because you can really only explain, “It’s not a muzzle, it’s a gentle leader. We use it because it gives greater control of the direction of the dogs head versus the control a collar around her neck gives,” so many times before you start to go a little batty… )

Getting out – it really is fun. Izzo loves meeting people and I love showing off her newly learned social skills. Since we’ve brought Izzo home, I’ve also learned that, yes, there can be an upside to housebreaking a puppy if you just look for it.

As much as it has been a pain in the butt to take the dog out all hours of the day and night, (only to have her come inside and pee on the floor) there is a positive. I have been outside my house at more different times of the day and night than I have in a long time. I am hearing and seeing things that I never would have, but for housebreaking Izzo.

As a result of taking Izzo out to “go” I’ve been blessed to see brilliant stars and a thumbnail moon set in a pitch black sky in the middle of the night, while simultaneously being serenaded by the intermittent squeak of an old rusty windmill turning in the breeze at the neighbors house a half mile down the road.

As a result of taking Izzo out to “go” I’ve heard pheasant roosters cackling, turkeys gobbling, coyotes yipping, wood ducks flapping in our maple trees and Canadian geese honking. Sitting at the table waiting for my morning coffee to kick in, has been replaced by stepping out into the cool crisp fresh spring air and hearing a multitude of birds singing a joyous morning greeting.

As a result of taking Izzo out I’ve stood in the sloppy wet snow storms of late March and the drizzles of an April shower. I have a renewed appreciation for the warmth of the fireplace upon our return inside.

Thanks to Izzo – I’ve been getting out AND getting outside.

(video is our yard in the morning with wood ducks)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The First Month Together

I just looked at the calendar and realized that Izzo and I have survived together for FOUR WEEKS! It is hard to believe that it has already been a month since this amazing little girl has come into our lives.

Over the last month she has grown like a weed and has already learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot too!

I’m posting a couple of new pics that I think are cute. How long are dogs able to do the “frog legs” position? Looks like it would hurt but Izzo lays that way often and that amazes me. The other is from when we were working on the “watch” command. (still not giving the verbal command, just rewarding the behavior). I feel sorry for her when she looks up at me and is looking right at the sun so I try to position myself so she doesn’t have to, or at least can be in shadow.

Today was a busy day. Starting with me realizing that we need to do some more puppy proofing around the house. Izzo is getting bigger and is able to climb past some of the barriers we had put in place so new barriers are now being planned.

We spent the day out and about and accomplished LOTS of socialization. We went to the WM High School girls softball tournament in town and met two other dogs, lots of kids and people. Then we went to the river park and checked out the rapids at the dam and saw more kids and people fishing. Then it was on to the fire station where Fireman Ned was moving the trucks out of the garage and washing the floors. Lots of action and motion. We ended up at Petco where we met more dogs and kids and watched shopping carts moving around. Oh yes, and Izzo got to pick out a new toy… just what she needs!

I was very pleased with her behavior today. She did very well with her “4 on the floor” greetings and tried really hard not to jump. I also learned how to give instruction to the people we met who wanted to pet her on how to greet Izzo to help her not jump.

We heard a lot of “OOOOOHHHH what a cute puppy!” today. We also heard a lot of “she is really good” and “look at her watch you…” It is really encouraging for me to see how she has progressed over the last 4 weeks.

Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Learning New Things

Ms. Izzo is doing well.... in spite of my absence for a few days. I was gone for a long weekend to visit my parents out of state and my hubby stepped into the training shoes and did great! I got back to town just in time to catch the last half of class last night. He had Izzo's full attention and took her through her paces in good form.

She gained another pound last night + the 2.5 from last week... anyway she is over 17pounds now and growing fast.

Jake has been encouraging me to get a paw print for her puppy memory book. And I had not gotten it done. He said, "Mom the cuteness factor is 100% based on the size of the paw print. The longer you wait the less cute it will be." So... tonight some new scrapbooking supplies arrived via mail and I attempted to get a paw print. Let's just say there were more paw prints on my floor than there were on the paper! But we got some close facsimile of Izzo's cute little (sort of) paw.

We are supposed to be working with our puppies every night touching all parts of the body. So paw prints were good for the homework check list as well!

Last week we had to expose our puppies to 8 new sounds. The week before that it was 8 new textured surfaces to walk on. This week it is 8 new "moving" objects. We are also supposed to meet 15 new people every week and this week specifically we are to get to a fire or police station.

Izzo LOVES meeting people. And that brings us to the next thing we are working on which is "4 on the floor". That is learning to not jump up when greeting people. This still needs assistance, but she is getting much better. The nipping is also getting better. Partly because she is growing out of it and partly because we are learning how to ignore/deal with it.

Izzo is doing great with her "watch" behavior (no verbal command yet) and her "sit" behavior. She is also doing well going into her kennel. We are also teaching her to start to walk into her gentle leader and backpack.

Oh yes - and I am THRILLED to learn that the WM Elementary School has decided to hold a fundraiser to sponsor Izzo and I through Helping Paws. What an awesome community we have and what a wonderful thing for the school to do. Many of the teachers know Jake (and Miles). Another individual and his HP service dog volunteer at the school as well. So Izzo and I will be making a visit to the school some time in early May for them to kick off there fundraiser. It truly does melt my heart to have this support!!

Thanks for checking in and Izzo sends wet, sloppy, puppy kisses!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend

Izzo had a great party weekend! There were people and dogs galore at our house for the Easter weekend and everyone had a blast. The kids were home from college and the family showed up with food and refreshments. There were dogs for Izzo to play with… 4 of them all together. We were outside a lot and enjoyed the nice weather that we had. The dogs did lots of running around and wore themselves out.

Miles was not sure what to think of this little creature that had taken over his domain. He quickly established himself as the lead dog and didn’t take too much grief from Izzo. After the initial meeting he pretty much ignored her. Izzo pretended to be a big dog like Miles and drank from his bowls while he was home with them. I really thought she was looking like she had grown a lot, but then seeing her next to Miles he looked like a giant dog! I didn’t remember that he was so big!

Let’s see – our homework for the week was getting out and meeting lots of different people in different types of dress. Since we had a murder mystery dinner at our house on Saturday night, Izzo got to see lots of costumes and hats and such on everyone. It didn’t phase her.

We also went to a pet store, visited a groomer and walked down the sidewalk in our little town. Everywhere we went, Izzo got lots of attention. She got her service dog backpack in class last week so everyone seems to have to remark on how cute she looks in it! She is getting used to wearing it and her gentle leader and seems to not be bothered by them anymore.

Izzo is growing fast. She gained 3 pounds from the week before! I’ll be curious to see what she weighs tomorrow night when we go to class again. We’ll keep you posted!

PS - we had snow on April 6th and since it was wet and heavy, Izzo quickly figured out she could push it with her nose and make a little snow ball. Then she would eat it! Fun for a few minutes - thankfully it melted before the day was over.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Survived the First Week

Well we have officially survived our first week!

And Puppy has a name (picked by Jake), we are calling her IZZO. Yes – for those of you who know our family it is our love of MSU Basketball that prompted the naming. Plus, it is kind of a cool name for a dog, don’t you think? We debated many names, and I thought about it long and hard. But in the end, given that it was Jake who got me into this effort, I figured I should honor him and his request. So in the end, he won out and she is truly and sweetly our Izzo.

We go to class on Monday nights and one of our assignments this week was to get our puppies used to their names. She doesn’t know it yet… but will respond on occasion. We are also supposed to be working on getting our dogs to “watch.” This is a common command to get the dogs attention prior to giving them a command. So we are rewarding eye contact, without the word at this point.

Another assignment for the week is just to get her to familiar with the “click/treat” sequence that is used to mark a desirable behavior (we use a little clicker because it is a distinctive sound that is consistently reproduced) and then instantly give a treat. I didn’t think Izzo was making the connection, and then accidentally hit my clicker when I didn’t mean to. She stopped what she was doing and looked!!! I was ecstatic and gave her a treat and lots of praise.

Izzo is doing really well going in her kennel. She is sleeping through the night quietly and goes into it willingly (we use food and treats to make it a happy place for her). So that part is going well.

Probably our biggest frustration is the sharp puppy teeth. Sometimes she gets carried away and grabs pant legs, fingers, shoe laces, etc. We are not supposed to say “no” to our dogs so our strategy is to distract with a toy that Izzo likes to chew. It works… mostly.

Well it is half time – the Spartans are up by two points. I have to go watch the rest of the game! Go Green! Go White! Go Izzo!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

First Day

We have made it for nearly 24 hours. What a relief...

Puppy (yet to be named - suggestions welcome) and I go to class on Monday night. Until then our homework for the weekend was simple.
- get puppy used to wearing a collar
- get puppy used to going into kennel
- get puppy to recognize that a click means a treat (positive behavior shaping)
- get puppy familiar with the leash
- get puppy used to being groomed
- get puppy used to going potty outside and try to connect the phrase "better go now" with the results and a reward.

The little girl is so darn cute... I have been really enjoying getting to know her. She is the 8th of 10 puppies - all of whom went to foster homes to start their training for the life of a service dog on Friday, March 27th.

I have perspective on the difference that a service dog can make in someone's life, my son received a service dog nearly two years ago. During that time, I've seen an incredible bond form between them and the dog really is the reason he was able to go off to college and do well. An amazing dog, Miles is. He makes such a difference for Jake, and we are all very lucky to have him in our lives.

I've seen the end result. Now I'm going back to the beginning of the process and learning how to get to the end. I'm eager and excited to shape this little ball of fur into a service dog. As we were told last night when we were handed our puppies - you will have ups and downs, failures and successes - just keep your eyes on the end result - a well trained service dog for someone who really needs it.

So what was our first day like? It started at 5 am with puppy indicating she needed to "go." She made it from 11 pm to 5 am - which I thought was pretty good. We've been on the go most of the day - in and out about 10 times (didn't know a puppy could pee and poop so many times!) I snuck a nap in this afternoon while puppy was also napping.... felt good.

Puppy has totally alienated our cat. They met last night for a brief second when I brought the puppy home and then the cat disappeared upstairs. Not to emerge at all. Very unlike her. She was so quiet and tucked away in some back closet, that I was worried she had somehow gotten out of the house and run away. Thankfully I found her under a bed later and she has expressed her disgust and disdain toward me for bringing yet ANOTHER dog into our house.

Dodger and puppy met late morning and seemed to hit it off ok. Dodger is a very patient dog and he put up with the puppy's energy and nips with the tolerance we expected him to show. He even got a little playful at one point and seemed to enjoy it - for about 1 minute. But he will be fine.

Only a couple little accidents in the house today. We've done a lot of trips outside and puppy does appear to be "connecting the dots" that a treat follows a job done outside. So tonight will be more play - wear puppy out - and hope she sleeps as well as she did last night!