Sunday, March 1, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, November 3, 2011, 10:50 PM

We went on a trip last Saturday morning to the Atlantic City International Airport with the Cumberland County (N.J.) puppy club. Despite the fierce winds and driving rain, we made it into the terminal without a hitch (luckily the parking lots are very close-in there) and met up with our group and our guide.

After a brief introduction in a lounge, we were ushered through all the standard TSA security measures. Betsy and I took off our shoes, we dumped everything in plastic tubs and walked through the scanner. Sparkle was right alongside Betsy the whole way, behaving calmly and enjoying all the company.

Then, after a short wait in a boarding lounge, we headed down a jetway and into a Boeing 737-200. We took seats near the front, and Sparkle glided easily into the cramped space in front of Betsy and settled onto the floor.  We were all ready to go! I joked that maybe the plane would just take off and we'd wind up with Sparkle and the other pups in Orlando. Now, that would have been quite the adventure!

POSTED: Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 10:48 PM

I thought I should follow up on my pre-Halloween post to say that we got through the evening unscathed, but my attempts to follow my own advice were not entirely successful.

At 4:30 Monday afternoon, I had my string weed trimmer disassembled on the kitchen table and I was puzzling over the broken bump knob  when the bell rang. I opened the door and found four older boys on the front step. Sparkle raced past me, dancing and leaping wildly in pure ecstasy. After I pulled her back inside, the boys told me they actually wanted water or soda. So I went into the garage and dug out four cans of diet soda. (This was a first in all my years of answering the trick-or-treat door bell.)  When I opened the door again, Sparkle made a leap, but I managed to hang onto her.  After the kids left, I pulled her collar off and crated her for the duration and the evening passed uneventfully.

Then today, I was taking Sparkle and Porter on their usual walk around the neighborhood when I heard a familiar licking and rattling noise. It sounded like a kid with a sucker in his/her mouth. I looked down at Sparkle, gave the "DROP" command, and sure enough, a hard pink candy  sucker plopped from her mouth onto the sidewalk. She was really enjoying it and kept licking her chops for some moments. She'd scooped that sucker so deftly off the sidewalk that I didn't even notice it. 

POSTED: Thursday, October 27, 2011, 10:43 PM
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She may be the life of the costume party, but Sparkle is going to sit out trick-or-treating securely in her crate.

After the jolly Halloween puppy party, it occurred to me that I should give a  word of advice about the holiday.  The Seeing Eye does not want us to dress the pups up and take them along for trick-or-treating. I know the idea sounds really cute, but all the costumes, general confusion and fluttering, vivid outdoor decorations could really scare or confuse any dog - not just a young pup.

In addition to possibly traumatizing a dog, all that commotion and the scary costumes could even lead to a person or another dog getting nipped. You never know what a usually placid dog is capable of when it is freaked out.

Not only do I keep our three dogs in the house, but I crate them or gate them off in the back of the house away from the front door. The last thing I want is them rushing the door every time they hear the bell ring and go piling out on the porch when we open the door to hand out treats.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 10:08 PM

Since I started Puppy Steps last spring, we've seen the action  from the puppy raiser's viewpoint. Last week, I introduced Mariea, who recently completed training with her fourth guide dog and has already returned home. Her blog My Fourth Guide Dog describes day by day what it's like to train with a Seeing Eye dog.  

Now, in an adorable video from the Seeing Eye's seeing4me YouTube channel, we can follow Garcia the guide dog with a "GoPro Hero camera custom-mounted on Garcia's harness," as the Seeing Eye describes it.  Garcia is the guide dog for an employee at the Seeing Eye's campus in Morristown, N.J., and frequently appears on the Seeing Eye's own puppy blog Raising a Seeing Eye Puppy that features the adventures of young Vinson.

If this doesn't make you smile ...  


POSTED: Friday, October 21, 2011, 10:56 PM

Sparkle had a blast at this week's puppy-raising Halloween party. Most of the pups came in costume. Sparkle was in a cat-suit a couple sizes too small.

After the obedience training circle and the regular business meeting, the pups engaged in some lively competition -- bobbing for tennis balls. Two pups squared off against each other at a time, and the first to retrieve the ball from a plastic bucket full of water was the winner and went on to the next round. Sparkle made it to the finals, where several pups competed side-by-side.

It was a fun evening, with plenty of laughs all around. The humans enjoyed cider, soft drinks and various sweet treats. No people treats for the pups, of course. That's a Seeing Eye rule we all live by (except when the pups pilfer what they can on the sly).  

POSTED: Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 11:01 PM
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This is Velma's graduation picture at the Seeing Eye. Sparkle, the pup we are currently raising, is from her first litter. We received Velma as a small pup to raise in the summer of 2008. Velma is the littermate of Venita, who was Mariea's previous guide dog.

Just about every time we go out in public with a Seeing Eye pup, someone asks (and often in an accusatory tone), "But how can you give her up?" The implication is that if we really loved our pup, we would not be able to part with her as she returns to the Seeing Eye for training.

Yes, it is extremely hard to give up a pup even though we know from the start that she is not our own dog, but one we are raising for the Seeing Eye. Here's an explanation, far better than any I could give on this blog. 

Let me introduce you to Mariea, a woman who lives and works in North Carolina. Right now, she is training with her fourth guide dog at the Seeing Eye. She is keeping a detailed running journal on her  blog My Fourth Guide Dog.  I can claim a "family" tie of sorts: Her previous dog, Venita, who developed a fear of riding on mass transit, is Sparkle's aunt. She was a littermate to Sparkle's mom, Velma, whom we raised. Velma and Venita subsequently attended some of the puppy meetings together, where they greatly enjoyed each other's company. I wish Mariea the greatest success with her new dog, Valiant! (He has already saved her from a reckless driver who blew a stoplight while they were trying to cross the street.)

POSTED: Thursday, October 13, 2011, 9:23 PM

Nothing says autumn like a fresh, crisp apple so we headed to Hill Creek Farms, a beautiful orchard in Mullica Hill, for an afternoon of picking. It also turned out to be the orchard's Family Fun Day, so the crowd was bigger than we expected and Sparkle got plenty of unexpected new exposures. There was a busy Moon Bounce, as well as pony rides and other child-friendly attractions.

It was a little too hot for October, and Sparkle was distracted by the crowd at first, trying to go to people who called to her or otherwise caught her eye. This time, though, she was wearing the green vest, so I heard some people say "service dog" as they passed, meaning they knew not to approach her.  It's OK to greet a Seeing Eye puppy in public, but best to ask permission first. A guide dog in harness, of course, should be left completely alone.

We all got worn out after a while, and Sparkle was obviously in need of water, so I took her back to the minivan and filled her bowl from a bottle I'd brought along, while Cathy paid for the apples we'd picked.    

POSTED: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 10:13 PM

I've been having fun with my new Philly Tablet  the last few weeks and was demonstrating it at the kitchen table the other evening to my oldest daughter, who is thinking of buying one.

While I was playing the most recent Puppy Steps video to show her what the Arnova Android tablet could do,  Sparkle was sacked out in the living room.  When the video reached the part where I threw the stick to Sparkle as she splashed in the pond, my voice came through crystal-clear: "Sparkle! tchk, tchk... "

Sparkle immediately jumped up from her slumber, thumping her tail, thinking we were headed out on a spur-of-the-moment adventure. I, of course, gave her an "as you were" signal. The tablet audio must be pretty good; it sure got Sparkle's attention from a bit of a distance. I haven't used a lot of the features yet, such as the camera or the word-processing program, but I'm pretty excited about  the tablet's convenience and ease of use.  It may be just the thing for following this fast-moving puppy as well as catching up on my newspaper reading.

About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at gcarter@phillynews.com.

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