Monday, August 10, 2015

Looking Back: Moving On

When I first gave Thornwald to a different raiser, my heart was crushed. I put all my energy into raising him, but as time passed, it hurt less. I love him and I learned so much from him, but if being with a more experienced raiser will help him succeed, then letting go is exactly what I needed to do as part of raising him. Soon afterward, I started to experience weird symptoms and I was very thankful that I was not in charge of Thornwald at that moment. I could not drive and I was in no state of mind to give him the best lessons a hyper, seven month old puppy needed. I was so happy to see him when I got to visit him and I was proud. It was like visiting a child at college. It was shocking, but I was never angry. I did this for Thornwald and whomever would benefit from him. Anyone who thought it would be impossible to give him up weren't thinking in the same mindset that I was thinking. 

I am so glad that I was able to raise Thornwald and would never trade that time for anything. I love my current dog, Cash, and I was able to help him through his recovery (he was an underweight stray) because of what I learned with Thornwald. 

I now see service dogs and what they do in such an amazing new way. It's fantastic to see these dogs from the beginning. Susquehanna Service Dog does that. I love hearing success stories or seeing service dogs in public. I love knowing that these lovable animals can do so much and that such a fantastic organization can make this happen for so many people. And they are trying to expand. 

Now that I am moving back with my parents, I won't be able to volunteer for Susquehanna Service Dogs, but they won't be far from my mind. I hope to find a way to raise money or donate supplies they might need. They inspired me to see the potential in all dogs. They showed me the importance of consistency and positivity. I've been able to translate their teaching methods to other aspects of my life. And for the first time in my life, I was able to overcome my mental health issues because my life was not focused on me, but on a puppy, its potential, and the person he would eventually help.  

And as a bonus, they showed me how to train my own dog. 

If you are looking for a place to donate to, consider them! Just send them an email or look at their list on their website. You won't regret it.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Goodbye Thornwald: Onto Another Adventure

I'm trying to write this without crying, but I do need to update everyone about Thornwald. He was finally discharged from the Palmyra Animal Clinic, but he won't be returning home with me. This decision was made by Susquehanna Service Dogs based on how he has been doing in classes. As many of you might know, Thornwald gets confused and distracted quite easily. As much as I have tried, it is still difficult to get his attention and the people at Susquehanna Service Dogs want to try out another trainer to see if he will do better in another household or environment. This does happen quite often, and although it is quite painful for me, I know that he will be in good hands. They promised that I will be able to see him and if the trainer needs a sitter, that I might be able to sit him. They will be setting up a time that I will be able to see him in a week or two, but for now, it will be a difficult transition to not having him there.

My goal is to put my energy into better my health and finances. I hope to be able to raise another service dog when another litter is born, but for now, I will be contacting local animal shelters and possibly doing volunteer work with them. For now, I hope to use my free time to help other dogs and animals. I know that this is not the end for Thornwald, but hopefully, the beginning. I will miss him, but if this is what is best for him, and the new environment will be better for his training.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My First Time in Lancaster City: I'm Not a City Dog (Yet!)

Even though we live in the Lancaster area, we do not go into the city. There is nothing in the city that I cannot buy outside of the city with free parking. The only resource in the city that I use are the Lancaster General Health resources (doctors and emergency department).

Knowing Thornwald needed to visit a city, I decided that a day in Lancaster would be perfect! I had it all planned. I was going to take him to Central Market, the Lancaster Art Museum, the Library, City Hall, and a few stores. My plan was to get him used to walking around busy streets with new sounds and to visit places that he might visit with a handler. I had him walk over new textures and go to places with new smells.

Our first stop was Rite Aid, and even though he has visited numerous Rite Aids before, he was distraught over how crowded it was in this store. We then continued to visit Central Market. He did not do too badly at the market, but I did not want to keep him there too long because he was having a lot of difficulty keeping focused with all the food smells. I wanted him to leave successful! We practiced stopping at crosswalks and when there was a lot of traffic sounds, I made sure to give him treats to help calm him and associate the sounds with a positive vibe. I was even able to get him to sit and pose on a sewer grate! \

Unfortunately, for young Thornwald, the experience was overwhelming.  Most of our time was spent walking, but when we made it to the Library, he freaked out and started to jump on me and bite my legs. I took him out of the Library and he calmed down. I am not sure what element about the trip freaked him out, but for now, I will be slowly introducing him to the different smells and sounds of the city. Hopefully, we will be able to visit a city for more than an hour before he gets stressed.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dog Park Shenanigans!

Dog parks are great resources for any community. I love being able to watch Thornwald happily frolic around and get his needed lab exercise. 

A lot of dog parks only have places for the dogs to run, but Lancaster was lucky enough to receive a half-million dollar dog park when a local resident won a contest from Beneful. 

Every dog has their own personality and it is fun to watch the dogs interact and learn how to play with different dogs. 

I'm not a big fan of small puppies in the large section of dog parks, even if they are large breeds. Unless the dog has been heavily socialized, your cute puppy is going to be frightened and many dogs won't understand how to play with such a youngster. 

Luckily, our local dog park has enough fun stuff to do that it is hard for them to get bored. 

Visiting the Family: Sara is Home


Esther finally had a day off so we headed up north to visit my human family! They don't quite understand dogs and the cat doesn't like me, but Esther's Mom always makes me stuff! She made me this new bed that I can't destroy and is also comfortable! The first night was scary with thunder and lightening. I heard there was hail, but either way, it was scary! I was so glad that Esther was so close by, but I'd forget and start barking and she'd have to remind me. 

The next day, we spent most of the morning at home, but we did take time to go vote! I wanted to vote, but dogs can't vote so I opted for a pro-voting picture instead! 

Next, we were off to the grocery store! It was rather boring and I started getting fussy so Esther and I went outside to explore. We started by waiting for horses. None showed up. I was disappointed. I wanted to meet a horse. We even found a pay phone.

After shopping, I was ready for a nap, but everyone else insisted we needed to look at cars! How many cars does this family go through in a year? The first stop, I walked around and looked at cars, but I soon realized that I know nothing about cars! Esther and I snuggled in the back of her fiat instead. Finally, it was time for dinner... Not for me. :( I was quite bored, but I did try staying under the table. It's just so difficult! 

The waitress gave me some ice and a after the meal, Esther and I went outside to look around. 

And don't you wish you were this cool? 

That night was less scary. I didn't feel too scared in my crate. Esther was right there beside me. 

Fast forward two days:

I met Mikey! He's pretty awesome! I hope I get to see him again soon! 

Esther has today and tomorrow off so who knows what we will do! I know it will be fun! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The (Unwritten) Dog Park Rules We All Wish You Would Follow

As someone that enjoys going to the local dog park almost as much as my dog, there are quite a few written and unwritten rules that we wish other patrons would follow. We glare, whisper, and comment, but people do not seem to understand our frustrations. These rules are common sense--well we think so at least, but I guess to everyone else, they are not.

1. Do not bring human/dog food into the park.
I can understand forgetting and bringing a few dog treats into the park, but to the people that bring entire picnics into the park, they are asking for trouble. Most (if not all) dogs are motivated by food and are not below stealing food from an unsuspecting visitor. THIS IS A DOG PARK, not a family park where you can have a picnic.

2. Keep your children right next to you or at home
Most puppies and some older dogs do not understand how to interact with small children. They often see them as other puppies due to their size and will try to wrestle with them. This does not mean that the puppy is aggressive, it means the puppy is a puppy. Dogs will run and chase each other and if your young child is in the way, they will not necessarily notice and you kid might get run over. There is a reason that dogs must be leashed in a children's park--for safety reasons. This exact reasons is why there are dog parks. If your child is not tall enough to push a dog off of them or able to understand dog behavior, they are too young to be even six feet from their parents in a dog park. Remember, THIS IS A DOG PARK, not a children's park. Keep the kids off of the dog's play toys.

3. Do not bring anything with you that you would be afraid that would get destroyed
Dogs that are playing are not attentive. They run and play--often running into people or their items. THIS IS A DOG PARK, this is a place where they do not have to worry about ruining furniture.

4. Do not bring toys that you would not want to share with other dogs
Dogs steal and share toys. THIS IS A DOG PARK. There are a lot of dogs and they all want to play with the same toy. You can't expect the dogs not to be interested in the new looking toy.

5. Not all "Aggressive Breeds" are actually aggressive
Stop assuming "aggressive breeds" are actually aggressive, it depends on how they were raised.

6. Watch your dog!
You never know when your dog might get into trouble or decide to leave a large present in the middle of the field. Your dog is your responsibility. It might be a dog park, but the dog still needs to be supervised.

7. Pick up after your dog
This is self-explanatory.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dog Parks are For the Dogs (But People Can Enjoy Them, Too!)

Until I became Thornwald's puppy raiser, I had never visited a dog park, but I soon learned that a Labrador Retriever puppy needs much more exercise than a walk or two a day can provide. Whenever the weather was bearable, I would take an hour or two to drive him to the park so he could run around and play without being restrained by a leash or with me trying to keep up! I researched the nearby dog parks and there are two in my area, one requiring a yearly membership, so we ventured to Beau's Dream Dog Park to see if it was an appropriate outing location for Thornwald.

When I had first researched the park, I learned that this park had received a makeover in 2013 as the winning recipient in the 2012 Beneful Dream Dog Park. The park is an amazing facility and offers a variety of surfaces and activities for the dogs to participate in while they visit. Even though the park is small (something that they could not change), the way that the design is set up creates enough resistance and surfaces that dogs tire out and still have enough room to get their required exercise to remain healthy.

I take Thornwald to this park quite often and I have found that most of the dog parents are respectful of the property and watch their dogs. I have also found a strong community within the owners which I did not expect. On numerous occasions, other dog owners have helped me watch out for Thornwald and I have returned the favor. He has several dogs that he has become fast friends with and it is so sweet to see them interact. On several occasions, I have seen other dogs protect Thornwald when other dogs have become aggressive. This does not happen as often, but it is great to know that his dog friends look out for him.

The facility is absolutely stunning. There are water fountains for the dogs, a splash pad, turf "grass," a tree that throws tennis balls, bone shaped benches, and even a shaded area with chairs for the dog parents.

Going to the dog park is one of Thornwald and I's favorite activities and I am glad that not only the residents of Lancaster have kept the park nice, but the city also provides support and tennis balls. It is a great resource and it has solved my puppy energy problem.