Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Darby has been placed!

It has been a long 8 months since I dropped Darby off in Florida.  I thought he was going to be placed right away and that I would hear about how wonderful he was all the time and rainbows and butterflies would appear and everyone would do a happy dance.  Well I soon found out that Darby refused to work for anyone even on the simple things like sit and down.  This crushed my heart as I knew he knew almost everything possible but if he would only do it for me, he was not going to make it as a service dog.  I tried to stay positive knowing that Chris would do everything in her power to make it work and would tell me the truth if he wasn't going to make it.  

Darby "helping" me pack for our trip to drop him off

Chris started having Darby run around loose in the yard while she worked with the other dogs in the kennel one at a time on leash.  Darby soon got super jealous and kept trying to do what she was asking the other dogs to do.  Every so often she would reward him too but would basically ignore him until it got to the point he was begging to be put on leash and work.  She said that he didn't start engaging and wanting to work for her until 2 weeks after his second birthday.  Then he was a completely different dog.  We learned a very important thing from this; it is better to wait until the dog is 2 years old to come in for advanced training.  They are more mature and better able to handle going into the kennel life and working for someone else.  Yes Darby was 20 months old which seems super close to 2 years old but the 4 months were needed for him to just grow up.

So I was back doing my happy dance waiting for butterflies and rainbows thinking he would then be placed with someone.  Chris thought about placing him with a man who had a stroke and needed a brace dog to walk with.  I got excited!  Then we found out that Darby hated the brace harness and would refuse to do anything while it was on.  He also would randomly pull which if he was going to be placed with this man, could never ever happen.  So Darby wasn't placed and the waiting continued.

I was then able to see Darby in Florida for the first time in 6 months when I flew down there for the Cesar Millan Live show.  This is when I realized even if he wasn't with someone yet he was HAPPY.  He came out to play with me in the yard but happily and willingly went back into the kennel when it was time to go.  He also had two girlfriends Crysta and Cooper (Ice's aunts) who thought he was pretty darn awesome.  Chris and I discussed some people he might be placed with and it was pretty sure he would go into partner training starting the next month.

Darby playing in the pool wondering who was letting all the water out
My happy handsome boy
We ended up randomly deciding that I should come down and help Chris with partner training since there were going to be a ton of people in it and it would be a really good learning experience for me.  In between leaving Florida and going back, I found out that Darby's allergies were coming back and if they got really bad and needed to be treated all the time, someone with a disability probably couldn't afford that so if this happened he would have to be released.  It was around this time I resigned myself to the fact that what is meant to happen will happen.  There was nothing wrong with Darby being a well loved pet dog if he didn't make it to service dog status.    

 Right before I came down I found out that Darby's allergies had cleared up and the man Darby was supposed to be in partner training with was in the hospital getting treated for a skin condition so he wasn't going to be able to participate in this partner training but would do one with him in 2 weeks.  I was happy but didn't want to get too excited as it might not happen.  Darby could even start partner training with someone and then not finish it if the placement didn't work out.  As you can see at this point my super optimistic outlook on what was going to happen was turning more cynical.

I didn't hear anything for a couple weeks and was really afraid to ask if Darby was placed.  I knew that the partner training that was supposed to happen didn't but wasn't sure when the next one was.  One day I was emailing Chris my usual update on Ice and Serena and randomly thought about Darby.  I decided to ask how he was doing and braced myself for the worse.  Chris didn't respond back right away, which of course isn't unusual as we all have super busy schedules but me being slightly neurotic, assumed it was because something was wrong with Darby and she was debating how she would tell me.  

This is why I nearly fell out of my chair when she emailed me back saying the reason it took her so long to respond was because she was debating whether to make the decision to place Darby with a young man in a wheelchair and had just decided that it would work and DARBY HAD A DADDY!!  She also said that they would begin partner training the following Monday.  Oh man I was bouncing up and down and I am pretty sure I squealed with excitement a few times.  But the the neurotic cynical part of me told myself to remember that they had never met before, that there was a chance Darby would hate this man or that he would be afraid of his wheelchair or that he would refuse to work for him.  So I twiddled my thumbs attempting not to think about how awesome it would be if it worked.  Then I got a friend request from someone who had Darby as his profile picture.  I friended him back thinking this had to be Darby's new daddy and then got this message on my Facebook wall:

Hi Sarah,
You don't know me, but I'm friends with Katelyn Martin and I'm on the MAWPS waiting list and I'm going Monday to meet Darby! He looks like a cool dude and I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for Darby, because I know he wouldn't be my baby if he hasn't been yours first. Thank you so much.

I cried. Butterflies and rainbows appeared. I didn't care anymore that they hadn't met yet or that they still had two weeks of intense training to make it through, this was going to work. It had to work. I admit that on Monday I kept checking Ryan's Facebook page for a Darby update hoping it would be something positive and wonderful and how they were instantly in love and it was like a romantic movie where they ran in slow motion into each other's arms and fell instantly in love and lived happily ever after. Well there wasn't slow motion with dramatic rain and soft focus but this picture came up and that was good enough for me:

Over the past week I have been reveling in Darby and Ryan photos and updates.  I didn't really make it public that Darby had been placed as I really wanted them to make it through at least a week of training and didn't want to jinx it.  I then got an email on Friday from Chris saying that Darby LOVES Ryan and that they were doing fantastic together.  She wouldn't tell me that if it wasn't true. That was it, I was telling everyone! I was like a proud parent who asks people if they want to see a picture of their kid then pulls out a plastic foldout picture holder thing that ends up unfolding and reaching the floor but everyone feels obligated to look at all 100,000 photos and listen to you talk about how your child is the best child in the world while secretly they are wishing that had never agreed to this.  Yeah, I am that person.  Luckily, Darby has a fan club and everyone of my friends actually really did want to hear about Darby.  

After a really long hard day of training

Darby spent one night on the floor and now gets to do this

Working in a grocery store and being awesome

I know Ryan has been working his butt off learning how to work with a dog while in public keeping them both safe and not in anyone's way.  They are doing wonderful together. Apparently Darby has been retrieving things for Ryan and when Darby is loose playing at MAWP, will only come to Ryan and ignores everyone else.  Ryan's parents are also wonderful with Darby.  Ryan's dad plays frisbee with him and Ryan's mom gives him endless bellyrubs. They both call him their "grand-dog".  I also found out that at home Ryan has a swimming pool with a waterfall.  Darby is going to pass out; his very own person who lets him sleep in the bed AND endless access to water?  All of Darby's dreams have come true!  I am sure there will be more Ryan and Darby updates on this blog but for now I will leave you with this picture that Ryan posted this morning:

I am off to go dance through fields of flowers with a double rainbow overhead, butterflies floating around me and unicorns grazing next to me.  I am on cloud nice.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why Ice?

In the 4 months I have had Ice, I have had many a comment about his name.  Some people love it, some people politely try to not show they don't like it, and a very special few have outright been like "YOU NAMED YOUR PUPPY ICE? Like I-C-E, ICE?"  (yes no joke that has been asked more than once).  So let me try to explain why Ice has a not so normal dog name.

First, My Angel With Paws names every litter that we breed after a letter.  This was started after Serena and Jack were named.  Jack's litter was technically the first litter born at MAWP so they should have been the "A" litter but at that point we were still using themes (Jack Daniels, Boones Farm, Grand Marnier if that give a hint on the litter theme).  We then realized to quickly keep track of everyone and remember who is the same age and what not without having to open up the massive filing cabinet, naming everyone in the same litter with the same letter was very effective.  This began with the "B" litter.  But what to do with rescues and donated dogs?  Well, rescues were already being named with the letter "H" and we hadn't gotten to the "D" litter yet so donated dogs were to be named with "D" names (hence Darby). Ice's litter happened to be the "I" litter.

Now "I" is not a very easy letter.  I kept a list on my phone of potential "I" names.  Basically it was anything I could think of that started with an "I" and wasn't completely out there.  (My dad was voting for Ignoramus but he obviously didn't win that argument).  At first I really wanted Illini after University of Illinois, where I went to school.  But I quickly found that unless you went to Illinois or were an Illini fan, no one had a clue what I was saying when I said Illini.  So my hopes and dreams of letting my puppy wear all Illini gear all the time were put aside.

I finally settled on either Ice or Isaac but MAWP still had final say in what he would be called.  I mentioned that the reason I liked Ice was because my last name begins with "T" and so on all his paper work he would be Ice T for the first 2 years of his life.  Apparently, after being up birthing puppies all night, everyone in Florida thought this was just as funny as I did.  Also, my dad decided that if he couldn't call the puppy Ignoramus that Ice would be okay since he could make all sorts of bad jokes about the Titanic and the iceberg and iceberg lettuce and anything and everything to do with Ice.  The final thing that pushed me over (as silly as it sounds) is the song Ice Ice Baby.  For those of you who know me, know that I know the first half of the song by heart and enjoy "rapping" (that is in quotes for a reason) the lyrics randomly.  All right stop, collaborate and listen, Ice is back to with a brand new invention... I regress.

Ice water
Ice was then officially named, along with his siblings, by the person who so wonderfully donated money to specifically help with the birthing and whelping costs of the "I" litter.  So we have Ice, his brother Ike and his sisters Ikia, Irish, Izzy and Indie.  (He also has two sisters who were sold as pets who are named Montana and Bella.)
Ice watching hockey 

So yes, Ice is a slightly weird name.  Yes, it is also the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Intercontinental Exchange.  Yes, it isn't your typical dog name that has two syllables and is super easy to say.  But it fits him.  He is slightly sassy and slightly weird.

I also get a great kick out of find things that have the word 'ice' in them.  There is a new drink at Walmart called Sparkling Ice, there was a sign in the winter that said "Caution Ice."  During the NHL playoffs that Ice so loved to watch, they would say "icing" all the time.  This would cause Ice to turn his head to watch more.  Plus I get to say "nice Ice" and "easy on the Ice".  I hope that whoever gets placed with him finds his name as fun and entertaining as I do.   

He doesn't melt when the temperature gets over 32* F but that is probably best.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cast of characters

With all the new people liking Ice's Facebook page I figured I would give everyone a breakdown of the main characters you might see pictures of or hear me talking about.

The main character, as most of you hopefully already know is Ice.  In case you don't know this is Ice:

The biggest supporting roll is Serena.  She is my right hand man.  She is a 4 year old black lab.  She is a fully trained service dog, released from My Angel With Paw to me (her puppy trainer) due to failing her hip x-rays.  She was my first service dog in training and plays a HUGE roll in training Ice.  I couldn't do this without her.  If you want to read more about her training go back to the archives as she was the reason I started this blog.

Another supporting role is Reggie, my 11 year old off the track thoroughbred.  He is probably the sweetest most wonderful horse to introduce dogs to.  He is so sweet in fact that Jack (trainee #2) used to sit between Reggie's front legs and eat his food with him.  Reggie also allows each service dog I have to lead him up and down the aisle.  When the dog drops the rope, he stops and waits until they pick it up again.  I think sometimes Reggie wants to be a dog.

Serena leading Reggie
The next lovely helper is my guinea pig Gus.  He is almost 6 years old and has helped train every dog that has come through my house.  Gus's main purpose is to teach the dogs that even though he may smell like a wonderful rodent they have to leave it.  He is super good about patiently waiting while they sniff him.  I have also put the dogs in a "down stay" and put Gus on the ground.  He happily scampers around and the dogs can't move.  Eventually the dogs learn that little scampering rodents are boring.  This makes it super nice when they see squirrels outside.

Gus and Darby.  They turned out to be best friends

You will also hear about Jack and Darby.  Jack was service dog #2 and Darby was service dog #3.  Jack is currently an animal assisted therapy dog at Body Fixx in the town where I work so I see him around a lot. He also comes to visit when his dad goes out of town and can't take him.  Darby is currently at the MAWP facility completing advanced training.  He will be hopefully placed with someone soon.  These two goofy labs taught me so much about dog training and working through situations.
Darby (yellow) and Jack (black)
I guess I should also introduce myself (though you probably can just read the little about me section over there --------->).  My name is Sarah.  I am a volunteer dog trainer for My Angel With Paws, a Florida based not for profit.  I do not live in Florida; I live in Illinois and do this long distance.  This hopefully helps explain why I allow my dogs to run freely at the beach and go in the water.  It is Lake Michigan where there are no sharks or alligators.  I am a HUGE animal lover and training the dogs allows me to do something with animals while working at a job that has nothing to do with animals.  Hopefully you are enjoying watching Ice grow up and learning about all the adventures we go on!

Me and the Iceman

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ice's big day out

My dad and I had to run a couple errands today so Ice came along.  First stop was Home Depot to get stuff to update the kitchen.  We looked at drills then went to find new handles or knobs.  Ice thought I was taking too long to decide and got comfy by frogging out...

Frogging out in the hardware aisle
 Then we went and got some paint for the cabinets.

Patiently waiting for our paint

He then helped me pick out paint brushes and carried them to the checkout for me.

You can do it, Ice can help

Ice then helped carry a bag to the car.  He was such a good boy!

Next stop was PetSmart to get Ice and Serena food.  Ice was very interested in the birds. He really wanted to be this one's friend.  

He also did really good seeing other dogs who were barking and lunging all over the place.  His hair went up but and "leave it" and "watch me" was enough to get him to focus back on me.  After getting Ice food we went to get me a smoothie at Jamba Juice.  He was super happy to be there.

After being so good in all three stores Ice was wiped out and got comfy in the car on the way to the barn.  And by comfy I mean this: