Changing of the Guard

or the pup, as the case may be. Yes, our dear Dogzilla, Electra, has gone off to college and a new pup has taken her place. It seemed to be a traumatic event for my Mom Person. She sometimes can be so emotional. But I don’t mind providing the needed comfort. We did have some good times with that crazy pup. I have to admit she was quite entertaining.

For the week before they all went off to Florida there were lots of tears flowing. For that crazy pup!!! But from what I hear, Ms Electra proved to be quite the champ on the trip. My friend, Sarah, at Dr Bruton’s office had a talk with her on our last visit there. I don’t know what exactly was said, but it must have made an impression on Electra. I’m glad she didn’t make a fool of herself.

So Electra is now off to the kennels with a new roommate to lay on. She’ll be getting some top notch schooling and I think that she will probably enjoy that. She always really liked school. Hooray for Electra! And Hooray for us!!

And now there’s a new pup in town. Her name is Marni. My Mom Person puts a lot of stock in names. Names are important. I don’t know what Marni means. It sounds kind of like a flower to me. I seem to remember that there is a movie called Marnie. That Marnie was a liar and a thief. Hmmmm. Maybe I should find a good place to hide my tennis balls. I’ll try to keep that vision of a flower in mind. I must say that Marnie’s Mom did a better job of teaching her some manners than did Ms Electra’s. Marni is pretty flighty like Electra, but much more polite about it. She’s more of a Sparky than an Electra.

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So now it starts all over again. Ah me. Well, maybe now we can get back to bookish things.

If you are at all interested in more of this tale of pups you can visit HERE.

Wishing you the JOY of new adventures!
Your friend
Rhythm
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Safe and Sound

Yesterday was National Seeing Eye Dog Day. We celebrated this day by visiting a third grade classroom and educating them a bit about guide dogs. Most of the kids in Glen Rose know something about working dogs from knowing me and Walker. They all know our tales of being guide dog pups in training. All the kids who knew me as a pup have moved on to college now. I’m into another bunch of young folks altogether! New ones to educate.

Copy of IMG_1536So we took Electra along in her official coat that says she’s a guide dog pup. We took her coat off while in the classroom so the kids could pet. No petting allowed when in coat! Just like a working dog in harness! NO PETTING! And we took a great little book about a working guide dog to help us tell our tale.

IMG_2353Safe and Sound
by Beth Finke
illustrated by Anthony Alex LeTourneau
published by Blue Marlin Publications in 2007

Theme – Guide dogs

This book is suitable for all ages, young and old. 3rd grade was perfect!

It begins –
Look at me! See the harness strapped to my back? I’m called a Seeing Eye dog. The harness is my uniform, and whenever I’m wearing it, I’m working. I guide my partner, Beth, where she needs to go.

This is Hanni’s story of her job keeping Beth safe in a world full of obstacles. Traffic, crowds of people, holes in the sidewalk, garbage cans, tree branches. Whew!!! It’s a crazy world out there and a guide dog must be ever vigilant!

IMG_2356This book presents a great picture of what it’s like to be a working dog. It’s about the job at hand, but the story is also about the relationship between Beth and Hanni. How they had to learn to trust each other because both their lives depended on that trust. How that trust was the foundation for a deep love. It’s a lovely tale.

At the end of the book there are some factual notes from Hanni about her life from pup to working guide dog. And some notes from Beth about how she became blind from juvenile diabetes and what life is like as a blind person.

There is also a list of references for further reading.
This book is also available in Braille. To learn more about Braille visit this website HERE. You might learn how to write your name in Braille!

The Learning to Give website has some good ideas for ways to use this book in a classroom. You can visit them HERE.

We had a great discussion in our classroom about how working dogs help their handlers. What senses the dogs use to do their job. You could let kids pretend they were blind and try to maneuver around the classroom. And then let someone else be their guide dog.

If there is a guide dog school near you, you might pay them a visit. Maybe even volunteer! Southeastern Guide Dogs has puppy hugging days. And volunteers come in to walk the dogs that are in training. You can find a list of guide dog schools HERE. This is the website for the National Federation for the Blind. You can find out more about blindness there as well.

For more about juvenile diabetes visit HERE.

This is PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY. For a list of more Perfect Picture Books visit Ms Susanna Hill’s blog – you’ll be glad you did!!

A guide dog faces all kinds of obstacles! —

Have a Safe and Sound weekend!!!
Your friend
Rhythm
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National Seeing Eye Dog Day

img431Today, January 29, is National Seeing Eye Dog Day. A day to recognize the JOY that is a working guide dog. A seeing eye dog becomes the eyes for someone who cannot see. They become an unbeatable team!

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Michael Jernigan and his guide dog Brittani

It all started with a serendipitous intertwining of a few forward thinking individuals. A lot of veterans came away from the terror that was World War I, blinded and in need of assistance. A school was set up in Germany to train German Shepherd Dogs to assist these veterans. An American lady, Ms Dorothy Eustis, happened to be in Switzerland and learned about this German school. She was so impressed that in 1927 she wrote an article for “The Saturday Evening Post” about these “seeing eye dogs.” And she began her own training school. In America, a blind man, Mr Morris Frank was read the article by his father and he decided that a seeing eye dog was just what he needed! He contacted Ms Eustis to see if he could come train with her and receive one of her dogs. He promised to come back to the United States and teach others.

morris-frank-and-buddy-2In 1928 Buddy, the German Shepherd, became the first seeing eye dog in the United States and Mr Frank was the first blind person in the US to use a seeing eye dog! And in 1929 The Seeing Eye Guide Dog School was established in Nashville, Tennesseee. In 1966 the school moved to its present location, Morristown, New Jersey. It is the oldest existing guide dog school in the US.

I came from a Guide Dog school, myself. Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Florida.

img338That ultimately was not my destiny, but we stay connnected to the school and continue to raise pups for them. Our little Dogzilla, Electra, is one such pup. And we also like to educate folks about guide dogs.

jolly last day 004This is our friend Mr Allen Preston and his guide dog Jolly doing a presentation at our school. Jolly was a pup that we raised for Southeastern Guide Dogs and ultimately for Mr Preston.

For more information about Guide Dogs visit The National Association of Guide Dog Users website HERE.

For more information about blindness visit the National Federation of the Blind website HERE.

To find out what day to day life is like for a working guide dog team visit Jo and Wiley at their blog Daily Life of a Guide Dog HERE.

Find out more about Michael Jernigan HERE and HERE.

And here is Mr Morris Frank in his own words —

I hope that you will do a little research today and learn what you can about Seeing Eye Dogs and the kind of difference they make in a blind person’s life.

Wishing you a day of thankful independence!
Your friend
Rhythm
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Serenity

The new year has begun. I see everyone making resolutions and talking about all the possiblities and hope that this new year has to offer. I don’t know about making resolutions, but I do have high hopes for my new year. This year that has just flown by like a jet plane has been a time of high energy thanks in part to our high-voltage Electra.

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Who ME?

In this coming year, I will be looking for some peace and quiet – some calm and SERENITY. Last year I was looking for SERENDIPITY, and I found it quite often. It’s a wondrous thing. But this year I’m taking that DIP out and looking for the calm in the storm. Electra will be leaving us at the end of February – going off to college at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida. She has been an amusing entertainment, but she makes me tired just watching her. There will be another pup coming home with the folks. I’m hoping with all my heart that it will come with the name SERENITY.

serenityThe dictionary defines SERENITY as the state of being calm, tranquil. What a lovely state to be in. That’s where I’m headed for the next year. However long that may be.

IMG_2802Mr James Taylor is the king of SERENITY. I often put his music on to calm Ms Electra –

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I hope you are able to enjoy some SERENITY in your new year!
Looking for the calm
Rhythm
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Rugby & Rosie

We are all about guide dogs here at the 7 Acre Wood. And goats. And grapes. And swimming. And tennis balls. But I digress. I want to talk about guide dogs today. My family here has raised guide dog pups off and on for a good number of years. The very first one was a black Lab named Gretta. During her long, illustrious life she actually achieved Sainthood. St Gretta came from a guide dog school in California called Guide Dogs For the Blind.

img502All the other pups that have passed through our gates have come from a guide dog school in Florida called Southeastern Guide Dogs. Including myself.

img338And my buddy Walker –

scarb fair 5-08 016And now Electra –

IMG_5312There have been others in between. Some have made the humans proud and become working guide dogs. Some have made the humans proud and been extraordinary therapy dogs.

The life of a guide dog puppy in training is an emotional ride – for the humans and for the pups. There is a real bond that develops and lots of love is invested and then the pup has to move on to other things. The humans have to let go. The pup has to let go. And both have to create new bonds and new attachments. Some dogs just can’t do it. I couldn’t and came back to live where I knew I belonged. Only about half of the pups that return to school actually go on to become working guide dogs. Statistics show that a higher percentage of Labs become working guide dogs than any other breed. I think that that may be because we Labs are basically happy with anyone who feeds us on a regular basis.

Anyway, I have a Perfect Picture Book for you that’s about a year with a guide dog pup.

IMG_5796Rugby & Rosie
by Nan Parson Rossiter
published by Dutton Children’s Books
in 1997

Theme – dog training, guide dog pups, friendship

It begins-
Rugby is my dog. He is a chocolate Labrador, and we have had him for as long as I can remember.
………..
We used to do everything together – just the two of us.
Then Rosie came.

The narrator of the story is a young boy who has a really close friendship with his dog, Rugby. One day his dad comes home with a little yellow pup named Rosie. Rosie was a guide dog pup and would only live with the family for one year. The boy knew all about this, but didn’t know how to tell Rugby. Rugby was not happy about the new pup. She tried to get him to play, but the wasn’t interested. It took him quite a while to decide that she wasn’t going anywhere and he might as well make friends. After that the two dogs were always together, romping and playing and napping. Rosie needed a lot of extra training out in public where Rugby didn’t get to go. But he was always waiting when they returned home.

Then the day came that Rosie had to return to the guide dog school. Everyone was sad. Even Rugby. Rosie became a guide dog and the family, along with Rugby, got to go to the graduation ceremony and see Rosie again and meet her new person. They saw that Rosie was happy and making a difference in the life of this new person. All because of their love and devotion. They were all very proud of her.

IMG_5793This book makes my Mom Person cry every time she reads it. It’s a well done story. You can see and feel all the emotions tugging at everyone. Even the dogs. When we read this book to kids, there is always a discussion about letting go. Life is full of letting go. Even if you’re a little person growing up.

There are 13 accredited guide dog schools in the United States. For information about all of them visit the Guide Dog Users, Inc. website.

If there is a school near you, you might want to go for a visit. I know that Southeastern has puppy hugging days when they let people come play with all the pups. You can visit their website and find out all about pups and being a volunteer puppy raiser.

HERE is a link to some thoughts on etiquette when encountering a guide dog team.

HERE is an article for kids about blindness.

You could have a discussion about being blind. Put on blindfolds and take a Listening Walk around the room. Think about how you would be using all your other senses if you couldn’t see.

Here is a little video to show you what it’s all about — enjoy —

And now you might want to venture over to Susanna Hill’s blog to see a whole big list of Perfect Picture Books and resources to go with! — Enjoy!!

Your friend indeed
Rhythm

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A New Job For Me!

Sometimes I feel like Barbie. You know, that doll that girls play with that has had like a hundred careers. I’ve been counselor and therapist, librarian, reading specialist, book reviewer, blogger, show dog, janitor, baby sitter, singer and dancer, drop dead comedienne, actor, farm dog, bed warmer. And now the Mom Person has decided that I’m not busy enough and need something else to do. I have now been given the title of Nanny/Teacher for this –IMG_5123Meet Electra. Guide Dog Puppy in Training from Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Florida. She is 10 weeks old and came to the 7 Acre Wood this past weekend. She is being sponsored by Classic BMW in Plano, Tx. and they have named her in honor of their all electric car. The name is fitting. She is a live wire! I know that you’re saying “Aahhhh! She’s so cute!” But I know that face. I perfected that face a long time ago –

IMG_5645I know that looks can be deceiving sometimes. Little Miss Electra is actually a tornado on four legs. A shark in motion. I have been presented with quite a challenge. You see that cute face. I see this –

IMG_5117Just a blur whizzing by, chomping as she goes. I was actually a teacher before. I taught Walker the ropes. But I thought that I was retired. I hear the Mom Person saying that a lot. I must admit that she has been talking about this Guide Dog Pup for some time. I guess I just didn’t think she was serious. But here it is. And here to stay for a year! A year! I don’t know much about time, but I think that that is forever.

IMG_5115I will have an assistant. Walker has been dragged in for back-up. He’s not totally sure what he’s getting into. I was a guide dog pup once upon a time. Just like little Electra is. I have to remember that. Remember how hard it was to be so little and have to act so big. I had a great teacher. Hank was the essence of patience. The Zen master. I will try to be like Hank and as always, will do my best to whip this youngster into shape.

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There may be hope for Electra. She is a smart little thing. I’ve already taught her to sit politely for a treat. And the good thing here is that with her training, she’s getting lots of treats – which means more treats for me, as well, for being a good teacher!!

No book today. Who has time for reading?! My goal, though, is to teach this young one the Zen Power of sitting quietly and listening to a good book.

If you would like to find out more about Southeastern Guide Dogs, you can check out my page at the top of this page. Or you can visit their website HERE.

And you can get a puppy fix by visiting their puppy cam HERE.

I wish you a good night’s sleep and sweet dreams!

IMG_5145Your worn out friend
Rhythm

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The Heart and the Bottle

img449I grew up as a guide dog in training. My 1st year of life was pure bliss living and loving with my family at the 7 Acre Wood. I went EVERYWHERE and did EVERYTHING with my Mom Person. She taught me about the world – the good and the bad. I was a curious pup and she encouraged my curiosity about the world and how best to relate to it. She opened my eyes and my heart to all the wonder and love that the world contained.

img450Then one day we got on a plane and flew far away to Florida. We took my best girl, Brenna, and stayed in a hotel with a whole bunch of other dogs. All my Guide Dog Puppy friends were there. We visited the beach and played in the park and went on a really long walk through town. Then we went off to visit the place where I was born. Southeastern Guide Dogs. My Mom Person had been telling me for some time that I was going off to college to learn how to be a Guide Dog, but I didn’t really get it until I saw the campus. And the next thing I knew, I was being led away by some stranger. I looked back at my Mom Person and she was crying. What was going on?

img338I didn’t see her again for a year. At least that’s what she says. For me it was infinity and beyond. I watched for her everyday. I tried to be a good college student. I did all I was supposed to do, but my heart was locked away.

We have a book by Oliver Jeffers called The Heart and the Bottle that seems to be all about what that year was like for me.

IMG_4094This book was published in 2010 by Philomel Books.

It is the tale of a girl whose life was filled with all the wonders of the world. She shared it all with a man who must be her Dad. They went EVERYWHERE and did EVERYTHING together. But one day he wasn’t there. And he wasn’t ever there again. She wasn’t sure what to do with her heart so she put it in a bottle to keep it safe and hung it around her neck. She was no longer filled with curiosity and the bottle was heavy around her neck. She went through infinity. Then one day she met a little girl who was still curious about the world, and she decided it was time to take her heart out of the bottle. But she didn’t know how. The little girl did know and showed her how. The big girl put her heart back where it belonged and all the wonders of the world came back to her.

You just can’t lock your heart away forever.

After my infinity time (a year) I was brought out of my kennel one day and there was a familiar scent in the air and then a familiar voice calling my name and then I saw her — My Mom Person had come back!  And this is what it was like for me —

Nobody thought to take a video of our reunion, but this is exactly how it was. JOY!!!

And now I spend my days with the Mom Person and we share the wonders of the world together again. Life is Bliss. And my heart is where it is meant to be.

I am truly blessed to have had the life that I have been given. I hope you have found your bliss this Thanksgiving weekend.

Open up your Heart

Rhythm

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National Guide Dog Month

Well, September has arrived and it seems that a lot goes on at this time of year! September marks a whole new year for school folks. Kids and teachers. There’s Labor Day, football, and birthdays at our house. This is the month to celebrate lots of good things. Like Chickens!!?? Did you know that September is National Chicken Month? Now you do! It’s also National Library Card Sign-Up Month. And best of all – it’s National Guide Dog Month.

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Guide Dogs, or Seeing Eye Dogs, are dogs specifically trained to assist a blind or visually impaired person in navigating through their world. They become that person’s “eyes”. The dog takes instructions from the human, but must watch out for obstacles and dangers in the path. They alert to steps and doors. They help find things – like doors and stairs and bathrooms and chairs. Guide dogs must be alert and vigilant in their job. Never reach out to pet a Guide Dog or interfere with their work.

National Guide Dog Month was established in 2008 as a fundraising event to help non-profit guide dog organizations that are accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation. There are a number of these organizations throughout the country. You can see a list of qualifying Guide Dog schools at the Guide Dog Users, Inc. website here.

img338I, myself, and my buddy Walker were born at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida. Most all working Guide Dogs are bred by and born at an accredited Guide Dog school. As puppies they are usually placed with volunteer puppy raisers who keep them for about a year to a year and a half. It is the puppy raiser’s job to socialize the pup and teach us good house manners. We wear some kind of jacket or cape to identify us as pups in training and this allows us to go lots of places. After our time with our families we go back to our place of birth for work training. Ideally, after 6-8 months we get placed with a blind person and become their companion for the rest of our lives. It’s a lot of transition! Some dogs don’t handle all that moving around very well. Only about 50% of pups actually become working guides. And it’s been said that by that time, a guide dog is worth about $45,000.00!  And the blind person doesn’t have to pay for his/her dog. It is a gift to them from the school.

So Guide Dog schools depend on donations. Southeastern Guide Dogs allows supporters to name puppies. I was sponsored by Petco and named after one of their employee’s  favorite German Shepherd. You can find out more about Petco and their involvement in National Guide Dog Month here.

I’d like to share with you some pictures of me and Walker from our lives as guide dog pups in training –

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And I’ll send you off with a little music video from Southeastern — enjoy!

and go learn more about how you can help!

I wish you JOY during this fine month of September!
Rhythm

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Paint Spatters

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I’m going off road a bit today and looking into the art world. My live in buddy and work partner, Walker, is quite the artist and recently spent some time with some 2nd graders splattering some paint around. So I thought I would tell you all about Walker and his world.

Walker is a 5 yr old black Lab who, like me, was career changed from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. in Palmetto, Fl.  He was career changed because he was evidently being a fool with some of his dog buddies and hurt his knee bad enough that the trainers and veterinarians at the school felt like it would limit his working life. So he came back to live with us.

Walker hurt his knee,( which is perfectly fine now ), but his tail works overtime. He is one happy boy! So one day the Mom Person decided to put his tail to work, and the artist was born.

dec 2012 walkerIt takes a lot of preparation to create his masterpieces, so he doesn’t paint often. He uses acrylics or water colors on paper.  He says he gets a little nervous painting in front of a bunch of kids. But laughter makes him happy and it’s hard to rein in that tail!

This class had read a story about an elephant who paints. Their teacher, who happens to be the Mom Person’s daughter, asked Walker to come do a painting demonstration for them. So, Walker painted for the kids. They will all get their very own Walker originals after he signs them all. Then the kids did some pictures for Walker! Now isn’t that cool!  So I’m sharing with you some of their artwork as well. It’s just an artsy day!

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We ended this artistic trail with a fabulous blog post from Kristin Nador. She has a great post about “getting your creative groove on” with a fun, fun video of the television painter Mr. Bob Ross. I think you should visit Ms Nador and check it out!

Now go get your groove on and do something creative today!

A Word about Rhythm

Guide Dog pups in training

The Mom Person is taking to the keyboard today. We went to visit an obedience class for the DFW Area Puppy Raiser group of Southeastern Guide Dogs. And since This was at one time a big part of Rhythm’s life and is a big part of who she is today, I thought I needed to write about it. Rhythm was bred by and born at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Fla.  SEGDI pups are placed with volunteer puppy raiser families when they are 8 – 10 weeks old. We were Rhythm’s puppy raiser family. It was our job to socialize her and teach her good house manners. With that goal in mind she went most everywhere that we went and became quite famous around our small town.

When she was about a year old she went back to SEGDI for her guide dog training. Sending your pup “off to college” is a very hard transition for the raisers and sometimes for the pups as well. Rhythm began having chronic ear infections and eventually the decision was made to “career change” her and she came back to Texas to live with us forever.

She needed another job. To keep her busy I got her registered with TDI, Inc. as a therapy dog and she now works in several facilities doing Animal Assisted Therapy. Rhythm holds a special place in our hearts and the hearts of our community. She’s a hardworking, caring, special girl.

To learn more about Southeastern Guide Dogs and their puppy raising program visit their website — http://guidedogs.org/

To see what the Dallas Area puppy raisers are all about visit — http://northtxpuppyraisers.blogspot.com/