Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cantaloupe Caper

Viva la orange,

It is difficult to sneak anything around here no matter how hard I try! I'm calling this the "Cantaloupe Caper" because I got real creative yesterday at breakfast. (Don't I look innocent?!)

Grandma, Mom and Dad were enjoying their breakfast on the veranda and I wandered off to check out a good smell coming from the kitchen. As I walked into the kitchen, there sitting on the counter - just screaming at me - was a quarter of a cantaloupe.

Now, any dog in his right mind would be licking their chops. I not only licked my chops, I grabbed that nice chunk of loveliness and consumed it. No more evidence! I'm free! I got away with the BIG one!

Then Mom comes into the kitchen a few minutes later and says, "Grandma, did you grab the cantaloupe that I had for you?" She said, "No!" Claudia looked all over the place, in the refrigerator, everywhere, wondering what happened to it.

Grandma came in the kitchen in her bare feet and felt a wet rug. "Uh Oh!" she said, "I think I know what happened to the cantaloupe!"

This she said as I was licking my lips while standing sheepishly in the corner.

"Zane must have grabbed it and ate it,"

"Richard, Zane ate the cantaloupe. Do you think this will be as bad as the dog that ate the grapes?!" Mom said, VERY worried. A speedy trip to the Vet was on her mind to - YIKES! - to pump my stomach!

"I don't know, but I will call GDB and find out."

The Vet told him that it was not, but to give me more kibble to help digest it.

So, the moral to this story is: "When you eat a melon, you may start jell-in, and there ain't no tell-in, with even the good smell-in, you get an extra meal-in the middle of the day."

Woo! Hoo! I got extra food.

Now, the bad news! I threw up the rind in the middle of the night.

Yuck! So much for the cantaloupe caper.

Lots of Big Licks and Melon juice,


Monday, July 28, 2008

Sense - Abilities - # 3 - Transitions in the 70's

Good day friends,

In spite of getting the retinitis pigmentosa diagnosis in 1970, Dad still had fairly good vision. Correctable to 20/25, he was wearing contact lenses and seeing well. He had really taken his natural senses for granted. They were still so good that he continued to drive with no difficulty and became an amateur photographer.

Dad had bought a Minolta 35mm SLR with all the different lenses for telephoto and wide angle shots. He took pictures like a crazy man and had tons of shots of a trip to Hawaii, to Purgatory Ski area to Park City, Utah.

Richard really loved the beauty of the Rocky Mountains: the inspirational and majestic mountain peaks and the snow covered landscapes that gloriously filled the skies. He loved sharing these pictures with his friends as a memory that they would have for a lifetime.

He really loved snow skiing, mostly on the intermediate runs with a black run thrown in every now and then, just to bring him back to earth. He enjoyed jumping 3 to 6 foot jumps and feeling the freedom of flight. What a sense of exhilaration!

Richard loved the smell that was the Rockies. The tall Colorado blue spruce fragrance filled the air with a tart freshness that was invigorating and made him sing, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Oh What a beautiful day." He loved to deeply breathe in that fresh mountain air.

He worked for Continental Can Company after graduation as an industrial engineer, moving to Milwaukee in 1975 to work for Schlitz Brewing Company. He married in 1977 and was on top of the world, going to Lake Louise skiing - closer to the top of the world!

Richard then worked for Zenith Radio as a manager, where he and his group of ten industrial engineers helped Zenith reduce its labor cost and move toward automation. He was making his way through the huge picture tube manufacturing plant with ease - no real visual problems yet.

But then things changed as the RP started to get worse. It was now affecting his work life. In 1981 his eyesight had deteriorated to the point that it was not easy for him to do his job as Manager of Industrial Engineering for Zenith’s Picture Tube Division.

“My tunnel vision was worse. I felt uncomfortable negotiating high speed conveyor lines, equipment fork lift trucks and lots of materials stored on the floors. With my tunnel vision getting increasingly worse, I felt I needed to investigate a career change."

Hmmmm, a career change, I've heard that mentioned many times about my fellow guide dogs who do not make it to be a guide dog for a blind person - they got "career-changed." This meant they were placed with another family or given a less complicated job. I could really empathize with Dad.

Next: what did Dad find to do in his "career change?"

Lots of puppy love to all,


Friday, July 25, 2008

Sense - Abilities # 2: Bad News, Good News

Welcome back, friends!

"The moment of truth was approaching. I could feel the anticipation in the air. What was going to happen next? Little did I know that we were now going to hear the bad news as I went with my girl friend to my eye exam." said Richard.

I could see a tear in Dad’s eye as he shared what his eye doctor said next.

After taking a deep breath, he said, “Richard, you have retinitis pigmentosa, RP, for short.”

“What’s that?” Dad asked.

He then told him about RP and how the main sypmtoms are night blindness and tunnel vision. He told him that right now his field of vision was still about 20 degrees, with normal at 60 degrees or more, plus peripheral vision.

“Your peripheral vision is not great and it will get worse. We don't know how rapidly this condition will progress,” he said regrettably.

"Your Uncle Walter is blind, also from RP." Uncle Walter, who is now 88, went totally blind at age 25. Dad was 20. Would this mean he, too, would be blind in just five years?

The doctor asked Richard if he experienced problems seeing at night? Richard remembered that sometimes he had run into trees, low hanging branches and telephone poles.

Once, he had tried to jump across a ditch filled with water, not knowing that it was about a 10 foot jump. He did not clear it and landed in a ditch full of water. Though that sounds funny now, he was very embarrassed at the time. He was at a junior high party.

Now, at least he knew why those things had happened.

Now, some of things that happened while playing baseball and basketball in high school and college could be explained. He now understood why he had lost balls that were right at his feet while playing shortstop and why he missed so many bounce passes in basketball.

All of a sudden, he connected the dots of what had been happening to him.

I felt really sad for Dad during that moment. That’s why he always loses the Kong when I drop it at his feet and he asks me, “Find the Kong, Zane, and bring it to me.”

Now, I really understand the importance of my role in Dad's life! My job is to keep him safe and enable him to life a great life!

Oh yeah, the good news. The doctor gave Dad a letter to give to the draft board explaining that he had RP and was not suitable for military service. Dad went to his military physical in 1971 and gave them the letter. They looked into his eyes, agreeing that Dad was 4 F, and dismissed him from military service.

Dad said that he walked out of the doctor's office that day, stunned about this news.

What was going to happen to him? How long would he be able to see? He was not sure that there was much good news in this report, but this was the hand he was dealt, now it was time to play it.

Gosh, what's going to happen next? What will be Dad's next big challenge?

Stay tuned my loves,


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sense - Abilities #1 - Before RP

Greetings Fellow Doggies!

Here's what I heard Dad share about learning he had an eye disease.

“In the winter of 1970, I received my draft notice from the U.S. Army. I was one of those 18 year olds who watched on TV from my college dorm room as the federal government drew the birth dates, lottery style.

This was before there were so many lotteries about winning money and one time I did not want to WIN the lottery!"

Dad's "lucky" number came up: 39. His heart sank, he turned pale and fear crept into his mind at the thought of being shot at or even killed in Vietnam.

"But, I love my country and if this is what my country asks me to do, then I will do my duty."

“I knew that I would certainly be going to Vietnam when I graduated from Georgia Tech. I had a very heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach."

Dad has been a good athlete all of his life. He played baseball since he was eight years old, playing Little League, Pony League, Colt League, high school and also in college at Georgia Tech. He was a pitcher in both his freshman and sophomore years. He loved playing shortstop and pitching. He was an All-Star.

Dad also played football and basketball in junior high, and mainly played basketball and baseball in high school. He learned to play tennis and golf at age 18 with his brother, Roy, who is five years older than him.

Being very competitive, Dad said that the challenge to beat his older brother drove him to get better and better. He shot golf in the low 90s and got pretty good at tennis, winning several tournaments.

Dad loved learning to drive a car at age 17, enjoyed the freedom of being able to drive anywhere he wanted to, and especially liked taking girls out on dates!

“Then, late in 1970, I received my draft notice from the U.S. Army requesting my attendance for a physical examination and review for potential military service.”

Dad was not surprised because he was number 39 out of 365. Heck, he was like a football draft prospect - one of the top draft choices!

Dad had big dreams of being a pitcher or short stop in the major leagues and now he was a first round draft choice. But not for the Houston Astros . . . for the Army!

Dad's eye doctor told him at his last eye exam, “Richard, whenever you receive your draft notice, just come see me and I will write you a letter to give to the draft board when you take your physical. You will not have to serve in the military.”

“At that time, I did not ask why I would not be eligible to serve. I just figured that I had poor eyesight. My right eye was 20/800 and my left eye was 20/400, both correctable at that time to about 20/30. Just call me FOUR EYES!”

Wait until you hear what happened next!

I hope you are enjoying this series . . .

Big licks and belly rubs,


Monday, July 21, 2008

"Sense-Abilities" From White Cane to The Zane Train!

Good morning all,

This will be kinda fun and different. I have heard a lot of stories about Dad and his vision loss that I want to tell you about.

Dad was sharing about what it's been like going blind slowly and all the adjustments he has had to make in his life over the years.

It brought a tear to my eyes as I listened, but guess what? He would not need me if these things had not been happening to him. I get to brighten up his life and bring him independence and freedom. That makes me pretty special!

This series of stories are what I head him say about his changing "senses," what it's been like learning about vision loss . . . going from his old way of getting around with a white cane to what it's been like now that he has the Zane Train . . . about his ability to cope and experience these changes . . . about his "sense-abilities."

I’m starting to feel like I am really making a contribution to my partner. As chief engineer of the Zane Train, I am always watching out for bumps along the road including cars, trucks and buses.

Richard now gets to enjoy the scenery, what little of it he can still see. He gets to enjoy the sounds of the city, the smells of the roses and - is able to be more present to the world around him . . . not worrying about bumping into things or getting hurt.

Wow! I provide that! It gives me such a sense of pride to know that all of the extensive training I got at college was for this!

Dad says, “Walking has become an entirely new experience. While on board the Zane Train, I can just sit back and enjoy the ride.”

He also says that he now has much less stress than he had when walking with his white cane. (See the picture above of Dad walking to work before I arrived.)

He says that he has much less concern about what is going on around him. Though he still needs to stay alert, the ride is so much smoother.

The Zane Train pretty much put the white cane into moth balls. Dad says it's a whole new world using a guide dog versus using a white cane, which he did for 15 years.

What was a really big deal was for him to make the choice to give up the cane and get a guide dog. Boy, is he glad he did!

So hop on board the Zane Train as we learn more about Dad's loss of vision, all the challenges he faced and how he has coped with it.

If you have had similar experiences, please share them!

Revving up the engine and toot, toot - Zane Train is one the move!

Lots of Licks,


Friday, July 11, 2008

Zane Train Part 8: Departing Home Depot for College

As the sun sets on Brea . . .

My puppy raiser experience was one that I would never forget. The top picture is Gary & Vicki, the bottom Kim & Kate, not too long before I headed off to "college" in San Rafael, CA.

Overall, I recalled the Johnpeers would give me a high “B” at this point in my career. "B" ... that stands for Brainy, Brawny, Beautiful, and Bubbly!

Time was flying and as my 18-month birthday approached, Gary and Vicki knew that the day of my ultimate recall to San Rafael was approaching. That would indeed be a milestone in my life and in their lives, too.

They have seen other dogs recalled and knew that the likelihood of my failure as a guide dog was moderately high, as only about 40% of the dogs made it to become guide dogs.

Wait a minute, what's this about failure? Ain't no way that's going to happen to me! I plan to graduate "summa-good-doggie!"

The Johnpeers have seen several dogs given a “career change” which is a fancy way of saying that, for one reason or another, they were dropped from the guide dog program and would not end up as a working guide dog for a visually impaired person. But they have seen other dogs in our puppy group pass and that kept their hopes up.

I guarantee, I'm a "Diamond in the Ruff!" You will someday see me sparkle and shine!

They seemed fully prepared to say goodbye to me some day, and I sensed the sadness that losing me would cause them. They said that their reward for all the time they have invested in me would be the happiness and freedom I would some day bring to a person who was blind or in need of a service dog.

And that's Dad, Richard, and I love taking care of him. He loves me so. Dad has told me many times that Gary has said, "if you don't want Zane anymore, you can send him back and we will be glad to take him!" You know, it's great to be LOVED that much. I really feel special.

It’s almost time to leave my first home depot. It’s now early summer 2007 and the heat has made it toasty in southern California. Even with my black coat that is shedding a lot due to the heat, I hope I never have to be where it is cold.

Can you believe it? I ended up in Colorado and I LOVE it!

Gary brushed me a lot, my coat was so shiny and smooth after it had been brushed. A dog is no different than a human; both look good when they are in public. And sometimes, I even looked better groomed than Gary!

Well, as I have got older, I heard comments from Gary and Vicki that my remaining time with them was getting short and that big changes were in store for me. Their biggest wish was that I would do great when I was recalled for my professional training.

In July, I knew that eventually I would graduate to become a working guide dog for a blind person. I wondered who they would match me with once I was trained?

I was sure all the other puppy raisers felt the same. All have grown attached to their incredible dogs who would go on to provide so much freedom to those that were visually impaired, giving them a new kind of life than they may have ever known.

Yes, we have a higher calling than just being a pet.

I climbed into the Cadillac for the last time. Off to the kennels and the puppy truck for my return to San Rafael.

"Good-bye Gary, Vicki, Katie and Kim. College awaits me."

A little tear passed down my muzzle.

Lots of love, Zane

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Great Scott-ie! Fireworks Weekend Buddy

Light me up, Scottie!

This past weekend, Mom, Dad and I spent four days at the Bears Inn, a very special bed & breakfast in the mountains at 8,000 feet in Evergreen, Colorado. To my surprise, when we walked inside, there was this feisty little, very soft, wiry-haired Scottie dog.

Guess what his name was? Scottie!

So right away I was ready to draw on some re-runs that I have seen Dad watch of Star Trek, and I was ready to say, "Beam me up, Scottie!"

It was fun to joust with one another and run around the big dining area, outside on the patio and one time we were leashed together and I got to drag him around the back patio. What a feeling of power!

One time, Scottie found a live bird and, after a few moments, it was a dead bird. He brought it to me to show me his catch.

I immediately picked it up and took it to Dad to show him MY prize! Dad was disgusted, Mom grabbed it and disposed of it. They are just no fun.

Scottie really misses me since we left on Sunday. Vicki, the owner of the Inn, sent Mom an e-mail the day after we left.

"Scottie waited outside the Wildflower (our room) the other morning in hopes of seeing Zane. Please let him know Scottie misses his new friend."

Then again yesterday . . .

"This is the third morning in a row that Scottie has checked for Zane first thing in the morning!"

I had such fun with Scottie and can't wait to go back and play with him again.

The vacation was great: watching the fireworks in Idaho Springs . . . well, I slept through that. . . but it was fun being at the musical concert in the Evergreen Park . . . well, slept through most of that, too . . .

I just LOVE being around people, even strangers. Why? Because of all the people that came by to love me up. That's what I love! Mom says I'm a real people magnet.

Scottie, until we meet again, lots of big licks and tail sniffs!


Here's the web address for the Bears Inn, which I HIGHLY recommend:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Zane Train Part 7: One Year Under My Fur

Happy Birthday!

On February 23, 2007, I became one year old. I was getting very used to my routine. I had grown a lot and now, as a 60-pound dog, I had outgrown a couple of Gary’s old cars. I weigh 65 1/2 pounds today, at 2-1/2 years old, so I'm still a lean and mean loving machine!

I could no longer fit into Gary's 1928 Model A Ford. Dad even got to drive that old car around the neighborhood. Amazing!

Even the front floor of the old Jeep that Gary uses so much was getting hard for me to get into but with some wiggling and adjusting, I still could. Today Mom's Subaru, she put a nice pillow on the floor that really gives me a comfy ride for long trips.

On weekends, I usually road around in the old Cadillac. In early Spring, I got to go to a “Fun Day” at Disney Adventure in Anaheim. There were about 75 other guide dog puppies there and it was a time for me to be compared to them. Can you believe people get so nutzo over a Mouse?! I know a cat that would love that mouse.

Overall, I did well, but I did eat some scraps off the floor at a restaurant where we were being observed by a dog trainer. There were a number of other exercises that day and I did well at most. Gary’s greatest wish was that I succeed in my training after I am recalled sometime in the summer of 2007.

I'm one year old now and really getting my wheels under me. It won't be long before I will be going to "college." I now know that all the training and exercises that Gary put me through was well worth it.

I really want to thank the Johnpeers for their dedication and support. Everyone who does puppy raising knows how important it is. But do you understand HOW important?

Maintaining the tough discipline that really kept me, a wild Black Lab, under control and well-behaved, was extremely important. Some people may have thought they were being TOO TOUGH, but that's not true.

I need to listen to my partner when he barks out a command and respond appropriately. I may even have to "disobey" them to keep my partner safe. I can do that because I am SO well trained by my puppy raisers.

Thanks again Gary and Vicki for providing insights from the days I spent with you. Thanks for making me such a well-disciplined and effective guide dog.

Now back to the birthday cake. Yum, banana cake, don't tell anyone!


Chief Engineer of the Zane Train

Zane Train Part 6: Career Change in the Air

Good morning canines,

It is summer in Colorado right now and the cool nights are just great. Back in the Fall of 2006, I was adjusting to a time of change.

The leaves were starting to change colors and by then I was in a regular pattern of socialization and began to realize I was somehow different than the other “pet” dogs at the house.

That's when I found out that Marcel, my black lab buddy, was a “career change” dog. Does this mean that there is a “career” for me?

I began to sense that there was something else being planned for me. My puppy raiser family, even though clearly in love with me, seems to be preparing me for something other than living with them for the rest of my life.

In late autumn, while leaving a department store with Vicki and Gary, we met a man and lady in the parking lot. The man had a large black Lab dog with him and he could not see at all. His name was Alex. His dog's was named Rocca, and he was a working guide dog for the blind.

Alex was very friendly to me and a half-hour-long conversation followed. During that conversation, I observed that Rocca was more interested in Alex than in playing with me.

I couldn’t understand that at first. How could another dog prefer a person to a fellow puppy?! Rocca’s interest was totally focused on the needs of Alex. Was this the plan for me?

Gary later told Gwenn, the puppy raiser group leader, about his meeting with Alex and Rocca. Gwenn knew Alex from her work with the Guide Dogs for the Blind school many years before and asked Gary to see if Alex would attend one of our bi-weekly puppy club meetings.

Alex agreed and one day, we picked up Alex and Rocca at their house in Berea. Gary took the old Cadillac convertible that day. (I LOVE that car! Lots of puppy room on the floor and such a pretty shade of blue.)

Alex enjoyed looking at it, but I noticed that his way of looking was different than mine. He ran his hand all along the side of the car, along the front where he saw the headlights and large bumper.

He than felt the interior fabric and finally got inside with his dog. I let Alex and Rocca sit in the front that day, where I usually ride. Alex reminded Gary of his mother, Nanny, who is also blind. I could tell right away that he liked and respected Alex a lot.

We had a great meeting that day at a park, where the sun was warm, and Alex gave stories about his life with his guide dog, Rocca.

That day, I learned more about my new career of being a guide dog like Rocca. Gosh, that looks like a lot of work!

It is a lot of work, but that's what I do - provide vision for Dad and show him the way. And hey, I do get time off and Dad plays with me a LOT!

It's great to know that my eyes can make such a difference.

Big licks and belly rubs,


Monday, July 7, 2008

Zane Train Part 5: Flying & Sundaze Adventures

Happy work week to all,

I hear Mom & Dad call Sunday a day of rest. That sounds good to me! The airport and church are two of my other favorite places to go. Let me tell you a bit about both.

Gary's oldest daughter, Katie, is a pilot and likes to fly her small airplane around southern California. I was given permission to go on some of her flights.

Wah Hoo! Flying! They strapped me into the back seat (no room on the floor of an airplane especially since by now I’m about 40 pounds.) See my picture above with Gary?

I can vividly remember the roar of the engine and the vibration of the airframe which seems to make me a little anxious, but . . . soon I go to sleep . . . zzzzzzzzzzz

Don’t ask me how many times I’ve flown or where I’ve been. I guess I just slept through it all. Now, at 2+ years old, I have flown about 14 times with Dad to LA, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Houston and some more than once.

When I fly with Dad, we get to sit on the first row of the airplane's cabin and are usually the first ones to board. There is lots of room to lay on the floor for me and I usually get lots of belly rubs from the other passengers.

I really don't like the take-offs and landings. When we're going up and coming back down, there are usually lots of bumps, especially landing in Denver so close to the Rocky Mountains! When I get anxious, I just put my head in Dad's lap and he comforts me.

What great fun! I have asked to set up my own “frequent flyer account,” because I hear this commercial on TV, “now you are free to move about the country.” That’s what I want - freedom to explore the world!

Sundays are rest days. Church was introduced to me when I was about 6-months old. I squeaked a lot in a high pitch voice and needed several “corrections” to keep me quiet. (A correction for a puppy in training was a quick yank on my leash, followed by a stern look from Gary or Vicki.)

My fussing didn’t seem to really make much difference with either of them, and I usually fell to sleep after about 20 minutes . . . zzzzzzzzzzzz (I think you get the picture by now - I just LOVE to take naps, and I can do it almost anywhere!)

Later, after the sermon, the Pastor and some of the congregation members admitted that they could hear my squeaking, but it didn’t really bother them that much. Seems my noises were especially noticed during times of quiet prayer and meditation.

The Pastor later joked that I probably wasn’t the only one that slept through his sermons! (I think you get the picture by now - I just LOVE to take naps, and I can do it almost anywhere!)

This church is in Fullerton where there are many hundreds of people in attendance each Sunday. Church is really just a good time to sleep for me. Sometimes, I even see Gary dozing off. I enjoy Church a lot and it seems the whole family does too.

Enjoy your week!

I'm back to work, too.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Zane Train Part 4: Field Trips & College Classes

Happy 4th of July weekend,

I know I'm a little late with this wish, but Mom & Dad took me out of town to the mountains and with no internet, I could not share any more of my puppy raising experiences.

But I'm back now, so Happy 4th of July weekend! I even attended a fireworks extravaganza in Idaho Springs and it was awesome! I slept through most of it, but everyone else was yelling and screaming, ooohing and ahhhhing, so it must have been good.

Mom says the MOST exciting part was when they set the woods on fire - we never heard any more about that on the news, so we think that the Idaho Springs Fire Company was able to put it out before the forest went up in smoke.

When I was about 5 months old, Gary took me to his work for the first time. His work is a strange mix of what he calls “geologic investigation” mixed with a bunch of office work that he does right at home. He also takes me to classes that he teaches at several nearby colleges. But I really enjoyed the field work the best.

It was fun to ride in his Jeep (one of his five cars) on the freeways and back roads. I feel pretty special because none of the other dogs get to go with us. The equipment operators in the field liked me a lot and took time now and then to pet me. Gary won’t let them give me any treats, but he did let them love me up.(See the picture above - Gary & I are on site and on the job! "Macho, Macho Men!")

At the college classes, I must lie quietly while he lectures. I'm not saying he was boring, but I did get plenty of sleep. . . . zzzzzzzzzz.

Fortunately, Gary brought me a throw-rug to sleep on since most of the campus floors are hard and cold and his classes last about three hours.

I liked being with Gary while he taught, but I must admit this geologic stuff is boring to a dog! He gave me short walks during breaks in the class so I could go outside, check some p-mail, and do my business. He was so proud that I never had an “accident” in class.

Oops, I just remembered a story. One time, I threw up a bunch of food under a student’s chair, the night Gary showed a video, shot from an airplane, about the Grand Canyon. Well, can you blame me? That’s a mighty big rut in the road and that plane ride made me sick!

I soon settled into a routine of getting fed and walked each morning and getting a ride either to a college or to a field location where Gary would study lots of dirt and rocks. I thought only dogs liked checking p-mail?

Days are sometimes long with plenty of visits to drive through restaurants, car parts stores (got to keep his old cars running), grocery stores and more. I go everywhere with him.

I got to go to Cal Poly Pomona one day with the youngest daughter, Kim. Her professor had a guide dog that experienced a career change. That means they will lead a different path than being a guide dog. The professor still brings the dog to his class and he looked forward to meeting me. It was a fun day for me and Kim.

As you can see, I have had many adventures as I grew up in Berea, CA. This taught me a lot about being around noisy equipment, large crowds of people and being still for long periods of time. I really enjoyed these adventures and thank Gary so much for sharing them with me.

Here's wishing firewords in all your lives!

Big licks,

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Zane Train Part 3: "Diamonds in the Ruff"

Celebrate dependence my friends,

I really celebrate my dependence on my raisers and my partner. They take such good care of me. Where would I be without them?

The first couple of months, I was not allowed to do much outside except go to the back yard and “do my business.” Everybody seemed concerned that I’d pick up some kind of disease if I mingled with other dogs in the neighborhood so I was pretty much kept inside.

One weekend, I was taken to the backyard of the house of the leader of my puppy club (called "Diamonds in the Ruff"). While there, I met another new puppy and we walked around and demonstrated what we knew. The main expectations were that I would sit, stay and go down when told, which I did . . . of course!

I learned a lot from Marcel who could do the same things that I was told to do, but even better. I watched him and learned fast. Seemed like not much to ask for. After all, life seemed pretty much easy at home and I was getting plenty of good food.

Then I had to go to the doctor - ugh! This guy always wants to poke me with a needle. Somebody tell him - I don’t like needles!

I heard Gary call him a Vet, short for veterinarian - a dog doctor. They should call him Torch, short for "torture - inarian!"

After my last shots, I was finally allowed to go to bi-weekly "Diamonds in the Ruff" meetings. Some were at a park - my favorite spot - and some near a busy intersection. These meetings are fun for me. I get to see all the other dogs in the puppy club.

I found out that my buddy, Marcel, was once part of this puppy club. I wonder why he still does not belong? It must be just for young pups. Some are much older than me but so far, I am the youngest.

I’m a lot more handsome than these other dudes. I get lots of attention. The leader of our club, Gwenn, expects good behavior from all of us and Gary always reminds me of that before we go to the meeting.

After I graduated college, Richard, Mom and I got to visit the puppy club in mid January. (See the picture.) It was great to see a lot of my friends and several puppies that had really grown up by then.

I was a working dog now and all this basic training had really paid off. Dad did a clicker demonstration for the crowd and I made him look REALLY good. I found the chair when he asked me to. Boy, was everyone impressed!

I truly feel like a STUD, a real Diamond . . . no longer "in the Ruff."

Lots of big licks and belly rubs,

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Zane Train Part 2: Cage - Home Depot

Good morning puppy lovers,

As you recall from my story yesterday, I was trying to get my little feet up some stairs. The Johnpeer home has two levels, which means it has a set of stairs that lead to the upper level, where Step Dad and Mom and I sleep.

With my short little eight-week-old legs, I couldn’t even get up to the first stair. Gary tried to get me to walk upstairs on my own, but I kept falling down.

I made one stair only because that’s as far as I could climb. It made Gary happy that, after the second day, I actually made it up one stair on my own. Gary would carry me the rest of the way. After about 10 days, I found I could get all the way to the first landing, but he took sympathy on me and carried me the rest of the way up.

It was about two weeks before I made it all the way up and it seemed to make everybody in the house happy and they all took note of my achievement. Dad (Richard) said that must have been what Erik Weihenmeyer must have felt when he reached the top of Mt. Everest. I sure was proud of myself.

Dad tells me that Erik lives in Boulder and has a guide dog. Dad met both of them a couple of years ago at a Swing for Sight event when Erik spoke about his Everest climb. I can't wait to meet both of them and take a hike up a mountain. Heh, I made it to the second level, why not the top of Mt. Evans?!

Back at my first depot, when not working with me, they kept me in a cage which was both good and bad. I really wanted to get my teeth on some of the good stuff I could see through the bars. You know the feeling, right? You are in your yard and you see others playing next door and you long to be able to get over there!

That dirty, smelly sock that they didn’t know was under the couch that I could see . . . yum!

I was shocked to see that they had not one, but two cages. One for me and one for Marcel, my new buddy. Ane they had one upstairs, too.

Seems like they really want to control me. Am I in jail? Am I a criminal?

Well, yes I guess I am a little bit of a sock criminal. I LOVE SOCKS! I steal them from Mom's laundry basket all the time. I even took a pair off her bathroom sink counter the other day.

I learned from watching the pet dogs that, at meal time, scraps would sometimes drop to the floor and the other dogs would eat them.

To me, it seemed it would just be a matter of time until I, too, could sit by their table and eat table scraps. To my surprise, I have never been allowed to eat those scraps, although I have chewed my fair share of dirty socks when they weren’t looking.

Seems that the other dogs have a whole different set of rules than I have. Even my buddy, Marcel, seems to get special treatment.

Is there a doggie lawyer in the house? I need to check out my canine rights!

My cage has become my friend in a lot of ways. I can go there whenever I want and I feel very secure in there. Sometimes Harvey likes to sleep in my cage and, because he is getting old, I just let him. But I kick Marcel out when he gets near it. He has his own cage!

At night, the cage is mine alone and everybody knows it, even the other dogs, except Marcel. He seems to get special treatment and had a piece of carpet in his cage. I kept picking it up and dragging it to my cage.

Gary and Vicki got an old piece of scrap carpet to put inside my cage. It was soft and warm on my bald pink belly. I just love my cage, my little "home depot."

Lots of puppy love to all,

PS Mom posted a new photo album of pictures of (mostly!) me. Click the link, "My complete profile," then click the link marked "My Web Page." Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Zane Train Part 1: My First Depot

Howdy Guide Dog Puppies,

Good morning, fellow pups.

So you want to be a guide dog? Have you really thought this through? I bet you are having some fun and probably lots of work at your first depot - your puppy raiser home.

This is your cuzzin, Zane, and I want to share a series of thoughts over the next few weeks on what it takes to be a guide dog, which I consider to be the highest calling for Labrador Retrievers.

I was born in February, 2006, I can tell you that once you leave your real Mom when you are about 5-6 weeks old, it's time for basic training with your puppy raiser family.

That's me in the picture with my new puppy rasier Dad, Gary - ain't I cute?! I was only two months old - still a baby!

I think I had the best family, but I have heard from several of your Moms and Dads that they are raising my cousins and this is an important part of your training. Let me share my story.

When I arrived at the Topanga kennels in mid-April, 2006, I was fed and given a room for the night with a few other lab pups. They barked a lot and I didn’t sleep well that night. The next day, my puppy raiser family, the Johnpeers, arrived to pick me up.

I met Gary, the Dad, Vicki, the Mom, and Katie and Kimberly, their daughters. Such a warm friendly and loving group of people - they just kept hugging me and really making me feel special.

Well, if I have to leave my Lab Mom, Kauai, these people sure seem like a great new family and the life of ease and relaxation, playing all day, eating all day, ah-h-h, this will be the life!

Boy, was I wrong!

They kept me on the floor of the car all the way home, although I really wanted to be on the seat where I could see better. They spoke softly to me and petted me a lot and kept saying “you are a handsome boy, Zane.”

They thought I might be scared, but it was not as bad as leaving my mother in San Rafael or the ride to Topanga inside a cage in a van or the night I spent at the Topanga kennels with all the other barking puppies and dogs.

What a surprise when we got home about an hour later to find that they have five other old cars! Maybe some of these other cars don’t smell so bad or make as much noise.

I felt like a movie star - pictures were taken upon my arrival and I soon pooped on their floor, which didn’t seem to make them too happy.

In fact, they wouldn’t let me pee inside the house either. Heh, what’s up? I usually just go potty when I need to. This is not fair!

They took turns taking me to the back yard to try to get me to go potty outside. They kept repeating “do your business” over and over.

"Do your business?"

I don’t even work yet . . . I’m too young . . . I don’t have a business!

I finally went potty just to shut them up. Then I heard them say “Good Boy!”

I heard someone else say they wanted to house break me. Sounds bad, but then after “doing my business” and getting that “Good Boy” response, I figured out going potty outside was a "good thing."

I especially like checking p-mail. Lots of good messages have been sent in their neighborhood. Oh, I sure would like to meet her! I could not believe that so many different dogs were on our street!

I learned quickly that I was not the only dog in this household. The expectation that I would always be the center of their attention quickly passed when I found out that the Johnpeers had other animals in the house.

Their pets, as they referred to them, include a big large eared Basset Hound and a fuzzy bob-tailed Cocker Spaniel. Harvey and Homer ware their names and they didn’t seem at all like the animals I had seen at San Rafael and Topanga.

But then I met my new buddy, Marcel. This guy looks just like my Dad, Baker. And he is so much fun! I get to run around and play hard with him, bite his ear, try to steal his toys. Wow, I’m really going to enjoy this new home!

My Step Dad, Gary, seems to treat them differently than me, something about them being pets while I’m supposed to be a “service dog”- whatever that means.

Oh yea, they also have something they call James, a yellow cat. Looks just like a fur ball to me. And this strange fuzzy thing doesn’t seem to like me much (or anyone else in the house for that matter), except maybe for Katie, the oldest daughter that feeds him.

Their house is an interesting place. It has two stories which means it has a set of stairways that lead to the upper level, where I sleep. With my short little eight-week-old legs, I couldn’t even get up to the first stair. Let me share more about this in Part II.

If those of you reading this would like to share your stories about being a puppy and going to a new home for training, as I am sharing, please do. I would love to hear from you!

Becoming a guide dog is a special calling. It took a community of LOVE to make me who I am today.

Big Licks & Belly Rubs,