Saturday, December 24, 2011

Walmart... EEEEEP!

Victor had to get a few last minute things for Christmas yesterday so Darby and I tagged along to our neighborhood Walmart. Usually I only bring the dogs in there in the morning when it isn't crowded but since I wasn't the one shopping I figured I could control Darby and fight off people running up and trying to pet him.  Darby was really excited at first and every time we would stop he didn't understand that he just had to settle and wait for me to move again.  I kept putting back in a sit and he kept getting back up so finally I told him to down and put my foot on the leash so that if he got back up he would have nowhere to go:

This did wonders for him.  He settled right down and chilled out.  He navigated  through the store very well with only a few attempts at getting stuff off the floor and trying to go say hi to people.  His biggest problem is focus in busy situations but for 8 months old I am very happy with him.  Also I can get his attention right back with a squeaky toy squeaker or a  treat so I have a feeling in no time he will start ignoring surrounding things.  

He got a little freaked out in the check out lane.  The little girl behind us was jumping up and down and screaming trying to get him to come to her and she got more and more neurotic when he didn't.  He tried to get up and leave the situation but wasn't very committed with running away.  He kind of just got up from his down and went to take off but then looked at me for guidance.  I let him do a front so I was between him and the girl and he liked that better.  When we left the Walmart and all took a deep breath he was so very proud of himself and pranced around the parking lot.  I, on the other hand, was absolutely exhausted from watching him at all times and making sure the experiences was a good one!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thankful for balls of sunshine fur

As I sit here with Serena and Darby happily chewing on their bones or toys or (hopefully not) my underwear, I am content.  They are like balls of sunshine fur.  I am amazed at how they are so adaptable and just go with the flow.  I can learn a lot from my dogs.  Here are 10 things in no particular order:

10. When life gives you rain, play in the puddles until you are a horrible muddy mess and are so very happy about it.
9. Sometimes a good day includes lying on the couch and daydreaming out the window
8.  Your best friend in the whole wide world can be a Chihuahua.  Sure you might be an awkward couple but damn you have fun together so who cares.
7. Always be happy to see the ones you love no matter if they just went to the store or have been gone for a week.
6. The simple things in life are really good
5. Forgive people
4. Everyday is a new adventure
3. You might be 55 pounds but you can plot to take over the world
2. The best way to wake someone up is to throw yourself on them and then lick them crazily
1. You might not speak the local language but if you have a good attitude about it you might actually learn something.  And maybe even get a treat in the process!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Darby's growth in 4 months

I was looking through old Darby pics today and found one from when he was 3 months old (the one on the left).  I then decided to recreate it today to see how big he has gotten.  The results surprised me!  HE IS HUGE.  Amazing how big he grew in only 4 months (he is 7 months now, the pic on the right.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Under the big top we go...

Or at least into the United Center we go.  On Sunday my friends Heather, Becky and I took Serena and Darby to the Barnum and Bailey Ringley Brothers Circus at the United Center.  I took Darby and my friend Becky handled Serena.  Serena was NOT happy about this.  She loves Becky but was super pissed off that I was paying attention to Darby and not her.  It was very good for her to have to listen to someone else while in a public setting with me around.  She is going to have to do a lot of this as a service dog ambassador especially when I have a puppy in training.

We got to the circus a little late which actually worked in our favor.  We were very nicely walked from will call to the ticket booth, shown where to go up the stairs then walked from the top of the stairs to our seats.  It wasn't very crowded in the hallways so I didn't have to worry about navigating Darby through crowds and crowds of people.  He didn't care about the twirly objects, shinny lights or the general excited atmosphere.  He definitely knew something was new and exciting but listened very very well!  The only thing he really wanted was the popcorn all over the floor but a stern "leave it" combined with a leash reminder combined with a treat at his nose kept him from trying to get the popcorn and he successfully walked through a pile of it without even trying to sneak a bite!

I had called the United Center beforehand and got us assessable seating tickets so the dogs would have room to sit.  They were great seats!  The United Center was very good about the dogs.  I was also able to do some education of their staff who had great questions.  Most people there thought that only guide dogs were allowed in public.  I had to explain to them that all service dogs are allowed and that guide dogs are not the only service dog out there.  It was great to teach a few more people about how great a dog can be for someone with mobility disabilities.

We got to our seats just in time for the horses to come out so we were all very excited since the three of us all ride horses.  Serena made herself comfortable to watch the show:

Darby didn't like how high up we were but enjoyed the show too: 

By the end of the circus both Serena and Darby were content just lying down.  Serena did throw a fit about not sitting by me.  She whined and moved around a lot.  Finally we put her between Heather and Becky so that she was closer to me.  This seemed to make her happier and then she settled down.  She is so jealous when I am not her handler.  Poor princess.  I don't think they really understood that the things below them were real live animals.  This is Darby either sleeping or watching the tigers:

They handled the fireworks, confetti and general loud noises amazingly.  Darby was super afraid of falling through the railing and tried to avoid walking next to it at all costs.  After sitting on the floor during intermission I was able to get him to walk sort of by it.  At the end of the show I was able to get him to do an "up" on it  by lifting his paws up onto it but he was still very unsure.   Serena, of course, started showing off and kept doing an up wondering why she wasn't getting the treat.   

After the show we answered some more questions to the United Center staff.  One woman wanted to pet them so we let her say hi to Serena.  She then asked if Serena would give her paw.  We told her to just say "shake" and hold out her hand.  This apparently was the cue Serena had been waiting for.  She shook with the lady then proceeded to do every trick she could while on leash.  She heeled, sat, went down, spoke, gave 5, gave 10, took and bow and some random combinations of things.  Everyone loved it and Serena was very happy to be the center of the universe.  Darby was very good about just sitting there and letting his sister show off.  I would definitely take the dogs to the circus again (and the United Center in general).  The crowds, the noise and the smells make for a great training day.  Both dogs got in the car and instantly went to sleep!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Each dog is an individual

After training 3 dogs (well really 2 and a half since Darby is halfway done) I have come to realize that each dog is an individual with their own very unique personality and way of learning.  I have kind of always knew this but Serena, Jack and Darby have proven it.  Let's start with the similarities:

-They are all labs

And that is where the similarities end.  For example Serena retrieves a ball when it is convenient for her, Jack retrieves a ball obsessively and Darby retrieves because he just wants to please his person but he doesn't care if you throw it again as long as you are happy.  

Serena: As we all know she is freaky smart.  Like take over the world smart.  She will either work for a firm but fair hand or for someone with a treat.  She likes to out do Jack and Darby.  If Jack or Darby are in the room and I ask them to do something Serena will do the same thing but with an extra flair.  I asked Jack to heel one day while we were shopping at Saddlers Row.  Serena heard this from across the store and came running to the nearest person and heeled next to them.  She also knows what the rules are and tries to bend them to fit her needs.  I say "out" while eating dinner and Darby will go away from the table.  Serena will crawl under the table and curl up under a chair hoping that we don't see her.  She knows she is supposed to be out of the way but wants to stay under the table so she tries to see what rules she can bend.  Out of the three of them she is the one I trust most in public to do what I need her to do.  This is partially because I have known her the longest and partially because she has this sixth sense of knowing when she is supposed to preform.  This is why she makes such a good service dog ambassador. 

Jack: This dog is smart in his own way.  Once he knows his job he will do that until the world blows up.  Jack thrives on boundaries and love.  I had the hardest time with this dog but probably learned the most from him.  He had the unfortunate task of being right after Serena.  I tried so hard to train him like I trained Serena and that just didn't work.  I got super frustrated for awhile because I didn't get why he wasn't learning or doing what I asked.  This was when it became very clear that I was very new to training dogs and had to learn how to train all dogs not just freaky geniuses.  I only had Jack for 6 months but am lucky enough to still see him at the barn or around town.  Jack was meant to be an animal assisted therapy dog.  Out of the three he is the one I would trust the most going to nursing homes or hanging out with children.  He just has this loving calm air about him that draws people to him.  Tom (Jack's person who owns Body Fixx where Jack works) put a bed for Jack by the door in Body Fixx.  That was "Jack's spot."  He knew to hang out there when he wasn't needed for therapy.  Tom then realized that it was a busy spot for Jack to hang and thought that Jack would prefer a more quiet nap spot in the office.  Tom put Jack's bed in the office and the next day Jack dragged it back out to the door and went to sleep on it.  Jack wants to be surrounded by people and loves knowing what his purpose in life is.  

Darby: This puppy is completely clueless to how good he has it.  He is so naive to how horrible the world can be.  I like to think that Serena and Jack tell him horror tales of how when they were puppies they had to walk to school uphill both ways.  Being that naive means I had a clean slate to work with.  Everything Darby does he has no preconceived notions to what is going to happen.  He lives to make me or Alice or whoever is working with him happy.  If his person is happy, he is happy.  Darby thinks he is the bomb, and in most regards he is pretty awesome.  Though this makes him very set in his ways sometimes.  For example if Serena is getting attention and he is not allowed to make a friend he used to whine and throw a huge fit.  It would take a good five minutes of "Darby settle, uh-uh, heel, oops" and any other correcting word for him to give up and just sit there like a good puppy.  Now that he is getting a little bit older, he is taking less time to listen and is starting to realize that not everyone wants to pet him or will pet him just because he is there.  He is the first of the three that I have been able to train using the commands "thats it" and "yes."  "Thats it" means keep trying you are getting closer and "yes" means they did the command I wanted.  "Yes" substitutes for a clicker since most disabled people can't have a clicker on them while using their wheel chair and holding a dog leash.  I didn't know these commands with Serena and I learned them right before I got Jack but was having such a hard time with him that didn't use them as much as I should.  With Darby I finally used them and OMG do they work.  His tail goes crazy when I say "yes."  He lives for it.  I cannot wait until Darby gets to pick his person and spend the rest of his life making someone as happy as he makes me.  We are only halfway there but the next 8 months are going to fly by!  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fun Friday

Not a whole lot to update with but these photos were so cute I wanted to post.  Today we played in the field across from the apartment.  I brought treats to reward them every time they came back to me.  This worked great with Darby, Serena not so much.  But they did sit nicely for this pic:

I brought them to let Ashley, a pug I am watching, out.  Serena was being bad and trying to chase the cats so she was on a leash.  Darby was being good and couldn't figure out what Ashley was.  He wanted to play with her.  She just watched him thinking he was crazy:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Darby goes to the airport and works with a scooter

Darby doo had a busy Thursday last week.  First we drove to the airport to pick up Cassie and Einstein.  Einstein is a 5 month old golden retriever that is going to be trained by Brian and his family to be Brian's service dog.  I parked my car and walked Darby into the airport to see what he would do.  He ignored everyone and was awesome! 

He did growl when he saw Einstein so I am going to have to expose him to more dogs.  We plan on hanging around PetSmart for awhile.  After we picked up Einstein, Cassie and Cassie's brother Mike, we all hoped in my car and headed south to see Brian.  We were a little early so we stopped at a Target and decided to work with a motorized scooter.  Darby has never worked with one before so he got too close at first and his paw got run over.  He was okay and quickly learned to give the scooter some space.  Luckily the scooter went about a mile per hour because I don't have a clue how to drive one.  Here is Darby doing a "my lap" in one of the aisles:  

Cassie and Einstein joined us for a picture.  Of course Darby looked everywhere but at Mike taking the photo.  These series of photos make me laugh:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Darby Push and other random things...

Darby is now 5 months old and still growing like a weed.  He is the same length as Serena (I think his tail might actually be longer) and is about an inch shorter than her at the shoulder.  I haven't weighed him recently but I think he is pushing 50 pounds.  He is a delight to work with.  Yesterday I decided to have a formal training session with him (normally we just work on things while he is with me).  He gets so excited when we do a formal training session.  This puppy is so food motivated!  I pull out kibble and he is bouncing off the walls trying to get it.  He has started doing what Serena does when I have food; he will go through all the commands he knows thinking that will get him food even though I didn't ask him to do anything!

I decided to work on "push" yesterday.  Both Alice and I had worked with him with the push board (a plastic board that has a hole in it, that if he pushes it with his nose our fingers with a treat come through the hole.)  He was doing super good with the push board.  Alice also had been working on him pushing doors to come get her (like she goes into the bathroom, closes the door part way and then says Darby "push" and in order to get to her he has to use his nose to push open the door.)  All this had been going super well so I decided to just go straight to cabinets and drawers.  My cabinet doors close super easily so we started with that because all he really had to do was touch it slightly with his nose and it would slam shut.  Here is a video of him closing the cabinet.  This was after about 10 min of practicing on it.

Notice how he knows what "thats it" means.  I never used this command with Serena because I didn't know how to use it or understand the importance and I tried to use it with Jack but never really got to the point where I saw it working.  I have been using it with Darby and oh boy does it work.  "Thats it" means you are getting close keep going.  I said it when he looked at the cabinet then he started pushing it.  So cool to actually see "thats it" work!

We also worked on pushing drawers closed.  These are a little hard to push closed so he wasn't so sure what he had to do.  I didn't get a video of it but he figured out he was supposed to touch the drawer with his nose and apply pressure.  Once we got there I moved back to the cabinet so that he could actually close something and succeed with push.  

On another note; Darby is fully registered with the AKC.  His registered name is MAWP Sturbridge's Can't Touch This.  MAWP is for My Angel With Paws, Sturbridge is the kennel that bred him and Can't Touch This is from the MC Hammer Song.  Alice and I decided on Can't Touch This because every time he gets a toy from Serena or Jack he moves around like MC Hammer and acts like he is awesome.  Plus it is super fun to break into dance after saying his name.  When I registered him I also bought a certified pedigree.  So fancy!  His momma and daddy both have OFA excellent hips.  Excellent is very hard to achieve on the OFA scale.  The scale is Excellent being the best, Good, Normal, Fair and Poor being the worse.  Serena's hips were falling under the fair and poor categories.  We are hoping that since Darby's parents have such good hips that he will too!  He is also fully registered so that if he is bred, his puppies can also be AKC registered.  Darby is a high class boy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dog Park Adventures

Last Monday we took Darby and Serena to the Lake County Dog Park off of Independence Grove.  It was a perfect day for the park!  Serena knows where we are the moment we turn into the driveway.  She gets all excited and won't sit still.  Darby has no clue what is going on but since Serena is excited he thinks he should be too.

First we walk through the woods.  The path borders a small lake so the dogs go into the lake while we walk around the edge.  It makes for super happy puppies.

We then cut off to the Des Plaines River and explore that area.  This time we hiked up a little stream that connects to the river and went exploring.  The dogs thought it was super cool that we were hiking up a path made of water.

Some parts we a little deep for Darby so he turned into a water monster and swam. 

Serena thought it was more fun to hop over logs in the stream than go under them:

While exploring the stream, Serena found a little path up the hill.  It opened up onto a random grassy trail.  It was so very pretty!!

After exploring up the stream, through the field and down the river, we continued our hike around the dog park.  We met a bunch of other dogs so Serena and Darby ran and ran and ran.

Darby was stalking Serena:

The dogs were super tired and super happy when we got back to the car.  What a great Monday!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Darby's First Trip Alone

Yesterday I went into Chicago to see my friends for dinner.  I took Darby with me as my date.  This was his first time going on the train by himself.  He was great waiting for the train and ignored the giant crowd waiting too.  He got very unsure of himself when the train pulled up and we started walking with the crowd to the stairs of the train.  He backed up and started panicking.  I didn't have time to try and get him to come on his own and the stairs up to the train are still too steep for him to really get up them well so I just picked him up and carried up onto the train.  He then settled down and walked calmly to a seat and then slept the whole way into Chicago.

I carried him off the train and then let him walk downstairs to the street.  He tried to freak out about going down the stairs with the crowd to the street but I just kept walking and he gave up and decided he was okay. We then walked wonderfully to my friend's house.  I love his loose leash walking!  So so wonderful.

Darby then joined us for dinner at this cute corner pizza cafe.  The head person of the restaurant was unsure of Darby at first and said that dogs had to sit outside the dining area.  I explained he was a service dog in training and he would go under the table and you wouldn't know he was there.  He was totally cool with that and let us in.  We sat outside and Darby did a great go-in under the table.  My friends have never been somewhere with me with a dog and were in awe of the number of looks and comments Darby received (both good and bad).  But once Darby went in and acted like a perfect gentleman I think people really liked him.

We took the train back home and Darby did wonderfully.  When we were waiting to get off the train the little room you wait in got really crowded.  Everyone loved Darby and were making cute puppy noises at him.  He stayed in a perfect sit and just wagged his tail but did not approach anyone.  I am so very proud!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Darby goes Riding

About a month ago we took the dogs over to play at Saddlers Row North (our lovely tack shop located on the Sunflower Property).  They have a Darby sized riding horse there so of course I popped him up there and he went for a ride.  The little pudge thought it was a blast!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Capturing the Moment

Last night I had a bunch of clothes on the floor and noticed that Darby was interested in them.  I thought it would be a good opportunity to try and get him to pick them up.  He just wiggled and wanted his belly rubbed.  I gave up and decided to train that at a later date when I had treats.  Next thing I know he picked up a bright red thong and was running around with it.  That was my opportunity.  I told him to bring it here.  Which he did all wiggly and cute. Then I asked him to give, which is getting a ton better.  I only have to sort of take it from him.  Then I would praise him and have a puppy party.  Then I would drop the thong and say "oops."  Pretty soon he figured out the game and we were playing "get it" with a thong.  I am so glad my dad had already gone to bed!  Maybe next time I will try it with a sock :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MAWP takes over Chicago

My Angel With Paws had an awesome weekend in Chicago.  Val, Deb, Cassie, Anthony and Danii came up from Florida to join us at the Disability Pride Parade.  On Friday we were tourists and took a train into the city for the day.  

The MAWP crew in Union Station:

We first went to the Shedd Aquarium because it was rainy and yucky out. It was super crowded (wow) but all the dogs handled it well and I really thought it was a great experience for all the dogs to handle.  Serena and Darby were wonderful.  Serena loved trying to catch the fish in the tank while Darby was scared of the big ones.  

Serena and Darby outside the Shedd and Darby next to the otter tank:

After the Shedd we made our way to Giordano's for a deep dish pizza dinner.  We had 8 dogs under the table and no one in the restaurant knew they were there.  So proud of our MAWP dogs.  It is really important that no one knows they are under the table as a lot of people don't like dogs in restaurants.  

Little Einstein wanted to check out the menu:

After dinner we made our way over to the Sears/Willis Tower.  Once again they graciously sponsored our group and took us up to the ledge with a private tour.  It is their busiest season right now so they took us up the back way so we didn't have to wait in line (AMAZING).  When we got up to the 103 floor we found that they had reserved an entire SkyBox for US!  It was freaking awesome.  The dogs all behaved so well and we think we broke a record with 8 dogs on the Ledge.  

 Serena looking down over the city:

Darby being brave:

Einstein, Eli and Darby; the future of MAWP:

Sofie, Eli, Darby, Einstein, Riley, Serena, Bianca and Bauer:

On Saturday we woke up nice and early and got to the city for the 8th annual Disability Pride Parade.  We had quite a MAWP crowd!  We marched all the dogs in the parade and made many people smile.  We then set up a booth after and answered questions and let people pet the puppies and dogs.  It was an amazing day and we can't wait until next year!

Darby manning the MAWP booth:

Kaylee and Einstein & Dario and Eli having fun talking to people about MAWP:

Darby was super tired after his long day being a celebrity: