Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween is a great time for exposing guide dog puppies to sights, sounds and smells. Mason was put to the test in all three of these areas recently when we went to the Pumpkin Patch in Garden Ridge. He saw pumpkins, scare crows and lots of children. He was quite attracted to the sounds of happy children. And he was distracted by the smells of pumpkins, hay and acorns.
Other opportunities for exposures are stores. He was frightened by a talking mummy in one store. We had to walk back and forth several times before he wouldn’t bolt to get away from it. In the end Mason could walk by it without running away but he still kept a wary eye on it. He wasn’t too sure about this skeleton biker or black cat either but they were much less threatening despite their attempt to be scary.

So what did Mason dress up as for Halloween? He impersonated Tim Allen's dog character in the movie The Shaggy Dog. Don't you think he does a good job at it?

Mason - the FIlm Star

Some weeks ago Mason was filmed by a group making a video on obedience to be shown in Sunsay School classes for children. The idea was to show that dogs trained to guide visually impaired people must learn to be obedient in order to be useful. If you read Mason's previous blog you know that he was struggling in this area. I'm happy to say he's doing much better.
Mason was fascinated and maybe a little intimidated by the camera, but he did a good job. He was obedient for part of the time and then was disobedient and needed a correction. Dogs are a lot like people in that aspect. No wonder they wanted to used guide dogs as an example.
Like any film star Mason enjoyed being the center of attention.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Mason is into his "teenage" testing time. He's getting into everything. It used to be mostly shoes and trash baskets.
Here’s what we tried when the shoe fetish continued despite correction and redirection to a chew toy. We made him lie quietly while surrounded by shoes. He was corrected whenever he fixated on a shoe. That worked for awhile. He still steals shoes, but it’s less frequent and less destructive when he does.
Since he has branched out from shoes to almost anything we learned a trick to get him to leave something alone. When he was little and wanted to put his paws up on the table that had his treats we put set mousetraps on the table back far enough that he couldn’t get hurt. Then we carefully put newspapers on top of the set mousetraps. When he put his paws up on the table/newspaper one or more mousetraps would be sprung. The sudden noise of the trap and newspaper quickly stopped that behavior. So, now we use unset mousetraps to keep him away from things he shouldn’t get into and we can’t or choose not to put up. Usually that works, but we’ve had to get several mousetraps. We quickly explain the mousetraps to visitors lest they think we have a major rodent problem.

We learned the followed from our pastor when he used it as an illustration in his sermon. I’m sure we got other things out of that sermon, but this one was the most immediately helpful. Mason always wanted to pull the dishtowel down from the oven door. For awhile we kept the towel on the counter but we thought he was old enough to learn to leave it alone – with a little help from Coca Cola. We put an empty soda can filled with pennies on top of the dishtowel and oven handle. The noise from the can falling to the floor is an immediate deterrent. As you can see from the picture the can has gotten dented from a couple of tries but it is now working well to prevent towel theft.

Most of this is just mischievous puppyhood and will subside. But he is sometimes openly defiant. That definitely needs to be curbed. He's trying to work his way up to Alpha dog position. We keep showing him that position has already been filled and we're not resigning from it any time soon. When he grabs something, runs away with it and won’t drop it when commanded to do so we get out the water squirt bottle. He does not like to be squirted with water and just the sight of us picking up the bottle dislodges anything from his mouth. Another win for Alpha dog!

Last Sunday Mason grabbed the front page of the newspaper and started to chew it. I got him to lie down so I could take the paper away from him. When I read the headline I started laughing.
I sent the following e-mail to Michelle, the Puppy Raising Program Manager. “Mason pulled this newspaper off the coffee table and I caught him. I made him stay until I got the camera and got a photo. Think we should send him to prison or let him dodge prison?”
She replied, “He’s such a naughty little boy, but I think he can dodge prison, but I will assign him community service hours, he must volunteer with his local guide dog school to make amends.”
So that’s where we are – testing, being tested and making amends. Some days we feel so mean. We really do try to prevent him from getting into trouble. He has several play toys that we rotate so they seem like new, interesting toys. We walk him regularly and run him around the yard and house for exercise. We have fun playing with him. And we have a gate at the entrance to the kitchen and den.

But we can’t keep him penned in all the time. He needs to learn self control. Until then we’ll keep using our bag of tricks and remember that patience and consistency will bring about the desired result of a happy, obedient dog.

Disclaimer - No animal was hurt in the making of this blog.

Friday, October 5, 2007

6th Annual Golf Tournament

Well, it’s been awhile since the last blog. I kept telling Mason that it was his blog so he should write it but he didn’t listen. That seems to be a pattern for him lately. He’s into his “teenage” testing the limits stage. We’ll save that subject for another blog.

This time let’s concentrate on the Guide Dogs of Texas 6th Annual Golf Tournament. It was held on Sept. 21 at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort. It was a big success with many more attendees than last year. Several people worked for months to make it such a good event. Our minor part was showing up on the day of the event after most of the work was done and helping out. Mason, of course, did his job of public relations.

Mason liked riding in the golf cart when we delivered cold water to the golfers on the warm afternoon. He also liked running alongside the golf cart to release some pent up energy from having to be on his best behavior.
Although Mason wanted to drive the cart we told him he wasn’t old enough to drive so he settled for having his picture taken on the cart.
This was the first time we’d seen the new “moving billboard.” Mason is striking his best pose in hopes that he may be on a future vehicle. He has some pretty big paw prints to fill but he is working on it.
Another puppy working in public relations that day was Zeke. Here he is with Ramiro, his puppy raiser. They are part of the “Pawsitive Approach” program at Dominguez State Jail. Check out the Guide Dogs of Texas website to learn more about the Pawsitive Approach program. It’s one of those win-win-win situations. Guide Dogs of Texas wins in getting more puppies trained. The state of Texas wins in having few disciplinary cases to process. The offenders win by taking responsibility for training the puppy and helping the community.
After a hard day of work Mason took a break on the Texas styled swing seat.

The food table was set and the food was almost ready. All we needed now was the golfers. They were ready for the good bar-b-que when they returned. Mason posed in front of the table but he didn’t get to eat any of it. The “no people food” rule is strictly enforced in our household. No visually impaired person wants their guide dog sniffing their food or that of others. Mason, being an optimist, still tries occasionally but is quickly corrected. Our rule is “You can’t eat our food and we won’t eat yours.”
After several hours of wearing his coat, symbolizing that he was working, Mason was glad to come home. He celebrated being off duty by running around the back yard at full speed. Oh the joy of running free. We hope you are having a “wind blowing through your hair” type of day.