Posts Tagged ‘blogathon’

Fin. (49/49)

July 26, 2009

Holy crud. It’s 9 am. Blogathon 2009 is over.

I can’t thank you all enough.

It’s time to sleep a lot. Good night, everyone.

Here’s one last chance to pledge:

Post #: 49/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Sleep well, fellow bloggers.

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Many thanks (48/49)

July 26, 2009

I am thankful for so many people who have made this Blogathon possible.

First of all, the folks who started and run the Blogathon event have worked their butts off, and I appreciate that. My teammate Eustacia Vye has provided amazing support and good humor over the past 24 hours and in the planning of this day. Jason, Ricky, Cate, M-E, Patience, Miriam, Jack, Kristen, Sarah, Nyren, Boe, and Toby have been the best pit crew anyone could ask for. Ms. Pup has been incredibly patient about weird happenings she couldn’t possibly have understood. My Blogathon monitor Sohorhapsody has been encouraging and positive the whole time. Lots of wonderful people have commented and kept things going.

And thanks to all of you, we have raised $1321.34 for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. I can’t wait to let them know. They are so excited that we’ve been doing this, and you have all made it possible. And together, the sponsors of the 146 bloggers participating in Blogathon 2009 have raised a total of $41,281.93 (as of right now) for charity. I’m so proud to be a part of this, and I’m humbled by the support I’ve received.

Post #: 48/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Winding down (47/49)

July 26, 2009

I’ve been sitting in my living room with a bunch of people (and dogs) watching Babylon 5 and chatting. There’s an hour left. And I think we’re going to make it. It’s been an incredible experience. My chiropractor said he could probably fix me up when I see him in a few days. Which may be when I’ll wake up. So don’t call me today. 🙂

Post #: 47/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Light at the end of the tunnel (46/49)

July 26, 2009

I confess that I’m running out of steam and topics here. Well, I have a list of topics, and a few of them are still left, but they’re kind of involved, and I’m not sure I can do them at this point. I am pleased to say that a valued member of our pit crew headed out a while back and found a bakery around the corner with fresh croissants, so I guess I’ve had some breakfast. I’m also up-to-date on my meds and such. So aside from being exhausted, I’m actually doing reasonably decent self-care. A bit more hydration and maybe some Airborne, and I’m pretty set.

I should probably start cleaning up, because I’m sure not doing it at 9!

Only an hour and a half left to pledge before Blogathon 2009 ends! Have you gotten your pledge in yet?

Post #: 46/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

ESP = Extra-Sensory Puppy (43/49)

July 26, 2009

We have a question from Justin:

My followup question is how much of the communication between you and Ms. Pup is explicit direction, and how much is her reading you, and you reading her?

There’s a lot of both, and the more used to each other a team is, the more implicit the communication can be. I’ve actually been instructed to be more explicit in commanding her, so she knows that she’s not the one in charge and coming up with all the ideas. On a familiar route, we can go the whole way without me saying a word except for some praise, but to her, it’s almost like she’s choosing where to go. So even if she knows the route now, I’m supposed to go back to basics and outline most of the commands.

But yes, after six months or a year together, we became able to read a lot of each other’s movements and signals. We can communicate a great deal through the harness handle. Slight pressure or a pull in one direction can steer me around an obstacle or encourage her to speed up or slow down. It’s pretty amazing.

Dogs don’t talk much; they do everything via body language, so she makes a point of reading mine. She knows when I’m getting up from my seat, when I’m done with a phone conversation, and a lot of other things about me. Likewise, I can tell a lot by her facial expression and the position of her ears and tail.

Shortly after getting Ms. Pup, I started reading some dog behavior books, including one recommended by my trainer at school. I figure that Ms. Pup has been kind enough to learn to understand some human, so the least I can do is learn a little dog.

Post #: 43/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Mr. Sulu to the bridge, please. (41/49)

July 26, 2009

For some time, GDF had a really nifty program where graduates were trained to use a device called the Trekker in conjunction with their guide dogs. The Trekker is an accessible GPS system for blind people to help them with navigation. It’s a fairly complex device, but with training, it’s really useful. GDF provided the Trekker and four days of on-campus training for some graduates who had been with their dogs for six months or longer. Needless to say, the Trekker was not cheap, and the waiting list was quite long. I was lucky enough to receive a Trekker, which I named Mr. Sulu, after the navigator on Star Trek. I was trained to use the Trekker together with my dog for effective navigation. It’s an incredible device, really, and it was very helpful, when I remembered everything about how to use it. Unfortunately, mine is currently broken. The Trekker works with a PDA, and the battery hatch on my PDA for it is jammed. Also, the original PDA manufacturer no longer makes PDAs, so later Trekker users are supposed to get a different kind. But the new kind is so buggy when used with the Trekker, that GDF is holding off on training with it anymore until the bugs are worked out. Which may make it difficult for me to get mine working again.

The company that makes the Trekker is now making a simplified device with somewhat less functionality, called the Trekker Breeze. It’s apparently much easier to use, but not as useful a machine. GDF is now conducting a couple of pilot classes to see if the Breeze is a worthwhile device for resuming the training, and they’ll announce their findings in a few months.

Your contributions allow this training to continue, and help blind people navigate even more surely with both a dog and a Trekker.

Post #: 41/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Keep ’em coming! (40/49)

July 26, 2009

Briiana, a new reader, asks:

So you’ve mentioned distraction techniques a few times now. Would you tell us what they are/what you mean when you mention them?

Sure! A large part of the problem has been me, actually. I see a dog coming, and I tense up, because I’m afraid of Ms. Pup’s reaction to the dog. She notices me tensing up and figures there’s something to be tense about. I also have a bad habit of tightening up the leash, which is counterproductive; the more restricted she feels, the more she’ll fight against it. I have to learn to relax and acdt casual.

If she just notices another dog, that’s okay, but if she reacts to it, tries to interact with it, or otherwise loses focus, I’m to give her a leash correction with a harsh “no”. These don’t hurt (I’ve tried them on my own arm), but they do get the dog’s attention. Putting the dog in a sit-stay if necessary can also help, although if we can casually walk by another dog, that’s preferable. Taking my time and making sure she gets things right, and not progressing until she’s gone through her sit-stay or up-stay properly is really important, because if she thinks she can get away with something, she will. Interestingly, she seems to respond positively to the added discipline and structure.

We’re also restricting her play with other dogs, and having her wear a Gentle Leader every day. The former is supposed to cut down on her automatic association of other dogs = play, and the latter helps me feel and control where her head is moving. Where the head/nose goes, the body tends to follow.

Making sure that our obedience and responses are solid on other commands makes a lot of difference for dog distraction technique too. If she’s responding well to one type of obedience, she’ll respond well to others as well.

This is some of what we’re doing. I hope it explains a bit.

Post #: 40/49
Total so far: $1321.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Sponsoring Rob (39/49)

July 26, 2009

Ms. Pup had a really wonderful relationship with my father. He was very excited when I got her, and they got along famously. Even when Dad was too sick to play with her anymore, Ms. Pup would lie down by his bed whenever we visited him and watch over him. She knew what was up. When he was in the hospital, she was always able to find his room among many many similar rooms. He died with all of us by his side, including her.

Shortly before he died, I told him that because he and Ms. Pup had such a special relationship, I was going to sponsor a puppy in his name. I didn’t know how I would get $6000 together, but it was okay if it took a while. I asked him if he had a preference as to what breed, and he really didn’t mind. Dad liked dogs, and wasn’t picky about breed.

After his death, I set up a sponsorship account at GDF, and encouraged family and friends to donate in his memory. Within a few months, we had over $1000; enough, I thought, for an ear and maybe a paw or two. But there was no rush. We’d get there.

Dad died in April, and my birthday was in December. I asked that any money that would otherwise have been spent on presents for me be donated to the puppy sponsorship instead. A few days after my birthday, I was at a friend’s house for his own birthday celebration, and he handed me a card. I felt like a heel, because I hadn’t brought him a thing, but he said not to worry. I opened the card, and taped to the inside was a Sacajawea golden dollar coin. The card had tens of names in it. My friend had tracked down many, many people who knew me online, collected contributions from them, and matched them all dollar for dollar. The Sacajawea dollar was the last dollar needed for the entire $6000 sponsorship. I was speechless. Then I called my stepmother to tell her the news. Then I cried and thanked my friend, all my friends, for helping.

As it turns out, a friend of mine was a puppy walker for GDF for some time, and one of the puppies she raised became a breeder. It is my hope that when this dog has her first puppies, one of them will be a male black lab, and I will sponsor him and name him Rob. My friend and my stepmother and I will hopefully all go to GDF and pick the puppy out personally. I think Dad would have liked that.

Post #: 39/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Things Ms. Pup has eaten, part 1 (37/49)

July 26, 2009

This is the post about the things Ms. Pup likes to eat that are actually acceptable foods for her. She thinks her kibble is okay. She’s not all that excited about it one way or the other, although she’ll definitely let you know if it’s dinnertime and she doesn’t see any in her bowl. She doesn’t like to eat first thing in the morning, though, so I’ve taken to giving her 1/4 of her daily food in the morning and the other 3/4 at night. Feeding her once a day doesn’t work, because if she goes too long without food, she pukes up bile, and it’s really gross.

She does adore her daily fish oil pills, which help with her dry skin and chapped nose. She also loves her monthly anti-heartworm pills, which apparently taste like delicious treats. Many dogs like baby carrots or green beans as treats, but she isn’t a fan. What she really likes is canned pumpkin, which she gets frozen in a Kong on her birthday, and spooned over her food on other special occasions. Other special treats include water chestnuts (don’t ask; I have no idea), pineapple (especially canned), watermelon, and ice cubes. She used to get ice cubes made out of frozen chicken broth until she became allergic to them. For a while she got so used to those, she’d turn up her nose at regular ice cubes, but no longer. She’s also made short work of salmon skin, but she doesn’t get that anymore. I’ve also stopped giving her peanut butter, although she loves it. And for obedience drills, we use dried apples, although we don’t use food rewards often.

But her favorite thing in the world is a beef marrow bone. I freeze them so they’re less stinky and it takes her longer to eat them. She never gets more than once a week, and it takes her at least two hours to finish one, but it’s the quietest two hours she’ll ever spend. 🙂 I always put her through some obedience drills when I give her one, but it’s hard, because she gets so excited when she sees a marrow bone, her brain falls out. Seriously, she’s a smart dog, but I tell her to sit, and she stares at me, runs around in a circle, and then comes back and stares at the bone some more. It’s like she completely forgets how to do anything but beg for the marrow bone. Eventually she remembers, but it takes a while. In this case, she’s not being disobedient, she’s just completely ecstatic about the impending marrow bone.

Part two of this post will address her favorite forbidden foods.

Post #: 37/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

Question question question! (36/49)

July 26, 2009

My fabulous Blogathon monitor Sohorhapsody asks:

What was your most difficult moment of training with your dog?

Wow. Good question. I think my most difficult moment was a misunderstanding with my trainer involving dog distraction, some crazy lady who let her dogs run around loose and freak out our guide dogs, and my attempting to calm my dog down in the face of all this but actually reinforcing bad behavior. It would take a long time to explain, but the instructor blew up, the crazy lady acted like an idiot, and my dog was very confused, as were my fellow classmates. The instructor later apologized to me, and in fact voluntarily admitted to the lead instructor that he’d screwed up. But I remember feeling very overwhelmed and incompetent until it was all worked out, plus there were some very upset dogs.

Also, working in 90-degree heat with a black dog kinda sucks. 🙂

But basically, in a setting as intense as guide dog school, any miscommunication or mishap can snowball very quickly if not nipped in the bud immediately. Emotions run high, and people can be pretty anxious. Fortunately, in our case, things turned out fine.

Post #: 36/49
Total so far: $1272.34
Make that total higher! Donate to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.