First Day And Night

As arranged, Hilda did come on Friday morning. Sharon dropped her by around 11 in the morning. Instant love! Followed, of course, by the inevitable, “What have I done?!” Of course, I know what I’ve done, it’s likely total insanity, but it will be OK.

This is a huge adjustment for her. None of the other critters around here are too upset. Even Jasper came down to say hello. She barked at one or another of them a couple times, but no one seems to mind. Which is kind of amazing really, seeing how intimidated Jasper is by Fiona. I think maybe Hilda and Fiona will be buds. So long as Hilda leaves Fiona’s favorite ball alone maybe. Leno, of course, takes everything in stride.

We had a couple accidents already, though mostly, she’s parked outside. She did, however, pee right after I took her out late in the evening. I mean right after. I can’t exactly blame her for not wanting to go on all this cold snow and ice (it’s pretty much all there is around here at the moment). But i know this too shall pass. Both the ice and snow and the illegal parking.

She has had very little trouble with adjusting to having a collar and leash attached. She has scratched a bit at the collar, but nothing major. Only some attempted leash chewing, but again, nothing that she hasn’t been willing to give up on pretty quickly.

Our biggest problem is the crate. Unfortunately, the only crates we have that don’t belong to Fiona are huge, at least huge as far as she’s concerned. The problem appears to be that she just doesn’t like closed doors. She’ll bark and whine and raise a ruckus if the door closes for any length of time. I’m sure this is something we’ll have to build up to. The trouble is, I have to put her somewhere when, for example, I have to take Leno out or feed him or deal with our own meal preparations. And has she got a set of lungs on her! They probably heard her the next block over.

She is getting adjusted though. She likes to fall asleep in my lap. Right now she’s stretched out next to my chair, with her head just sort of barely under.

For sleeping, we had a bit of a compromise, but I really don’t think I can do that for awfully long. She was fine in the crate so long as the door was open. Close the door, howling, whining, and barking commences. So to preserve a bit of domestic tranquility, I left the crate door open and slept on the floor in front of the crate. That way, if she decided to go on walkabout, she’d have to walk over me, thus waking me up. That worked out OK, and she only left the crate twice. Once to go outside in the middle of the night when I took her, and once to snuggle up next to me. Then she got put back in after a while and quieted down. Because, you know, the door was open.

I’m sure she’ll be fine once things settle down and she figures out that she lives here now. Once that happens and she can focus on something other than whatever it is she’s thinking about now, I think we’ll be OK.

Tomorrow, She Comes

The original plan was for Hilda to come on the 28th, but Sharon’s schedule changed a bit, and she says she can bring Hilda by tomorrow sometime instead. I’m terribly excited about this. None of the collars and leashes and what not i’ve ordered for her has showed up. OK, the name tag showed up, but that’s it so far. Really, it’s all right, I should be able to get something together in the way of a collar and leash until hers get here. I’m interested to see how much she’s grown in the past four weeks. I knew that at four weeks, they’d be tiny, and they were, but to see that in real life is a lot different from knowing intellectually that they’re going to be tiny. To think that a critter about the size of a small cat, seriously, 5 pounds or so, is going to grow up to be around 60-65 pounds, just amazes me.

So far, of the eight pups, two have gone on to their new homes. We’ve got a pretty good idea that all of those changes are at first confusing to them. New people, new smells, new sounds, no brothers and sisters, nothing familiar to them. But what about the pups that are left behind? you really have to wonder what they’re thinking as they see their brothers and sisters disappearing one by one. I’m sure they maybe don’t think about it like we would, but still, do they wonder? Where’d that brother of mine go? He hasn’t come back. How strange. What’s at the top of those stairs that go on forever and ever? (Well…if they go on forever and ever, is there a top? Those people who come to visit have to come from somewhere…?)

OK…there was no actual point to any of this, sorry.

Introducing Hilda

Welcome to this new chapter in our lives.

For the past while, certainly since the end of Chet’s working career in 2009, I have been thinking about owner training some future guide. Seriously, I’ve given it a lot of thought. I’ve talked to owner trainers informally about it, and I’ve read a lot of accounts of owner training. And then, I decided that I’d go back to The Seeing Eye, which Idid, and i got Leno. Well, strictly speaking, I didn’t “go back”, as Leno was a home placement, but he was trained at the Eye, and he is a real, honest to goshness Seeing Eye┬« dog. But I really wanted to try my hand at dog training. I thought, well, maybe I could do something about a service dog for Melanie, but she didn’t want one.

And then, I finally decided, what the hell? I’m going to do this thing. Not, you understand, that Leno is in any danger of wanting to retire. He isn’t. Four years in and he’s still happy to get into harness and go. But I know these guys don’t run forever, and Chet and Karl before him both worked something like six and a half years each. If Leno holds to pattern, he’ll be thinking about it sometime late next year. Even if he isn’t, nothing says he can’t ease into a retirement, or go sometimes while another dog goes other times. Anyway, I didn’t want to start a new dog too close to current dog’s retirement, because I hope that Leno will help in the new pup’s training, even if only by providing a great example to follow in how to behave in public and around the house.

And so, in Summer 2014, the search began. I decided, perhaps arbitrarily, that I wanted a German Shepherd Dog. I’ve always admired them, or anyway, I have, as long as I’ve known enough to admire them. The funny thing is, Karl was a Golden, and I loved Goldens and had fond memories of at least one. I was overjoyed to be partnered with a Golden. I’ve loved both of my Labradors, too. But there was something about the GSD. My aunt had a GSD, and we had a GSD/collie mix for a little while, and both were fantastic. Every GSD guide I’d interacted with at any length, I really enjoyed (of course, most dogs I rather like anyway). While in class with Chet, we got to interact with several dogs, and I really fell in love with the quiet, no nonsense way the GSD I got to work with did what was asked of her. Anyway, arbitrary or not, I decided I wanted a GSD. I looked at breeder web sites. A friend of mine told me that another friend of mine got her dog from a local breeder, she was a very nice dog, and I should get in touch. So, Heidi introduced me to Sharon, and I went to meet her and her three dogs back in July or August. Well, late July or early August, I forget, but it was definitely a Saturday.

To make an already long story interesting, I loved her dogs, especially Grischa. Granit, the male, kept bringing his outside ball in to play, and CC, the other female, was in and out a lot. But Grischa came over and laid down right next to me and stayed there for the better part of my visit. I definitely felt a connection with her, and I enjoyed her calm presence. Sharon also felt that one of Grischa’s pups would match well with me, and we tentatively planned for me to obtain one of Grischa’s next litter, which was planned, as it turned out, to be ready about when it turned out to be ready. I wasn’t in a hurry, as you might imagine, since Leno wasn’t ready to retire. I had a lot of time to work with. A January pup, that is, born in January, would mean that she’d turn two right about when Leno might be thinking about retirement, if, as I said, he holds to pattern. All things being equal, and of course things are never equal, I reckoned if this training thing worked out, we’d be ready to go about then.

In the months between August and the birth of Grischa’s January litter, I probably sent Sharon more stuff to look over than she wanted to see, but she saved it all and gave some thought to what I was looking for in a pup. With the personality characteristics I had in mind and she had in mind, she looked at the pups in the litter, and picked out a little girl pup. We met her when she was four weeks old, and she’ll be coming to stay just a day after eight weeks. In these past few months, I’ve been reading a lot. An awful lot. Reading, and trying to separate agenda from useful stuff, and find what aligned with my beliefs and experiences with training and handling. Believe me, none of this is very straightforward.

I’m sure some people wonder why I’m doing this when I could get a perfectly good dog from a school. I sure could. I have, three times. I think that the guide dog schools do a fantastic job, and none do a better job, certainly in traffic training, than the Seeing Eye does. I don’t believe I will approach their traffic work by a long shot, but I don’t think any of the other schools approach traffic as thoroughly as the seeing Eye does. I believe I will have a dog that works safely around traffic, as all the schools do, and I believe that, if I manage to do this thing, I’ll have a safe and effective guide dog at the end of it, assuming she’s willing and able to do the work. Really, for me, this is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. That is to say, I want the experience of raising and training my own guide dog. If it works out, that’s great! If it doesn’t and I end up being a lousy trainer, or she just would rather do something else, that’s fine too. I will have had the experience at least once, and really, that’s why I’m doing it–to have the experience. If I do this thing once and never again, I will call it a success. If I do this once and it doesn’t work out as planned, it’s still a success, because it really is about the journey for me. The end, having a trained guide dog that I managed to convince to guide me, is icing on the cake. I know, that probably sounds strange. Maybe it is, but if it is, I’m OK with that.