Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Marshall's new training lesson

In recent days, I've been working on training Marshall to "touch" Bo. Having no children of my own, Bo (my other dog) is the only other moving target I could think of. But initially I had to keep Bo on a leash to keep him in range.

It still takes a little while for Marshall to remember what I'm asking, but once he gets it, he has the "touch Bo" down. (He'll tap Bo on his side with his nose). Now I'm trying to increase the distance and add then hope to add "search" . It's only been just two days, so I'm early in the process.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


On Saturday, I met the most amazing young man. Ethan. An austic teenager, with a passion and gift for drawing pictures of dogs. I met Ethan when his mentor tapped me on the shoulder to ask if Ethan could draw a picture of my dog. I agreed.

Ethan presented me with a notebook of pictures of dogs of all breeds drawn with precision in comic-book fashion. Many of the pictures were takes off of movies. My favorite drawing was entitled PAWS. A picture of a dog, I can't remember the breed, maybe a doberman or a rotweiler with large jaws ready to grasp the poodle swimming above the water -- i.e. a play on "Jaws."

Ethan did his best to draw a dog who wouldn't sit still. He told me Bo should take an obedience pill. He did an amazing job. When he was done, he signed his work and presented it to me.

Later when I spoke with his mentor about Dogs for Autism, I learned that Ethan has found a place for his gift. He works at the local animal shelter and draws pictures of all the dogs being adopted and gives them to the adopting family. Ethan is working with a bloodhound on search and rescue training.

I was truly humbled to meet such an inspiring young man, which helped me see a glimpse of the potential of what Dogs for Autism just might give to a family and an autistic child-A hope for independence and finding a special place in the world.

Ethan has so much to give the world and I was priviledged to be a recipient of what he has to give. This inspiration motivates me all the more to invest in the puppy I've been priviledge to raise.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Marshall sounds the alert

Last night I was awoken by a strange three-toned beeping sound. It wasn't the alarm clock...it wasn't the C02 detector...it wasn't the smoke alarm. At first I thought I was dreaming. As the sound was only periodic. After a few times when the noise would make its presence known, Marshall would do three non-obnoxious barks in response. I lay their listening trying to figure it out. It went again, Marshall barked again. I got up in the dark trying to figure out where it was coming from. I guess I had turned on my cell phone several days ago. The noise was the cell phone giving off a battery spent warning. I got up, put it on a charger and everyone went back to sleep without hesitation. (Except the golden retriever who never woke up in the first place.)

It was interesting to note how Marshall alerted to something very strange going on. But his barks weren't his "pay attention to me" barks, but a calm sound noting that something different was happening that needed attention.

Daddy's Boy

Bear isn't the only one with a big stick. Problem is...I didn't know my yard contained a big stick! Marshall....who's your daddy?!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Marshall and Mower Mania

Marshall has some serious issues with the lawn mower. I wish I could get in his little mind to understand what he thinks it is. I haven't mowed much this year so haven't had a strong chance to get Marshall desensitized, but as a young pup, he could have cared less. So something in his perception changed some where along the way.

The only solution I have found to excessive barking and trying to attack the mower is to put him on a leash and let him walk beside me. It is interesting that he walks calmly at my side back and forth while I mow. But if I have to stop for some reason, when I restart the mower he starts barking and getting all crazy. As soon as I tell him heel and start forward he stops.

Is it the restraint or does he have some other perspective? It is a herding thing? that by walking behind it he feels like he is controlling its direction? I don't have an answer but it is an interesting study in behavior.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quiet evenings

With the cooler weather upon us, Marshall has had the opportunity for some very long walks. But the daylight is working against us.

This past week and weekend, we've enjoyed walks of one hour or more. It sure does make a difference in his wiggles from being confined during the work day.

He continues to work on his obedience tasks for the show ring coming up this weekend. And, on his halloween "trick".

I have extended him a little more trust in the mornings, allowing him to enjoy being out of the crate while I get ready for work and before going outside one more time. Most of the time he spends this "freedom" beside me.

But he is still young...I bought some new shoes and he discovered the box and shred the tissue paper...So the training continues!

But it brings me joy to see a dog spent at the end of the day. The fresh air makes him happy too.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Take us Home"

Marshall took his "brother" Bo and I hiking today at the Brick House trail. We hiked about 45 minutes each way. I could have gone further, but we reached a creek and I wasn't willing to get my only pair of tennis shoes wet.

In my poor memory, I do believe this was Marshall's first hiking in the wilderness trip. He was a trooper. I had both dogs on short leashes - much to my shoulder's dismay - but Marshall wasn't the one pulling.

I observed something interesting about Marshall today.
As we reached the creek and I told the boys "This is as far as we go. It's time to head home." I turned to walk back and Marshall's nose hit the ground. I'm not sure when he stopped his tracking. But it did seem to be quite a way. I wonder why if he didn't enjoy the smells of nature on the venture out, did his nose hit the ground when we turned to head back?
I have no doubt he was re-tracing our steps. Quite something to see.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marshall solves another problem

Yesterday Marshall tried to get me to play by putting his toy in the bathtub. Well, I was busy getting ready for work and I told him he would just have to figure out how to get it himself.

He mustered up the courage and got his toy. Of course he got lots of praise.

Now I can't get him out of the bathtub!

Another fun search thing...Yesterday I was mowing the yard. When I went around front he went in and out the doggie door to watch me out the front window. When I finished and returned to the back yard to sit and rest. You could tell he was looking for his toy for me to play. Again, I told him he would just have to find it. He searched the back yard circling several times. Went inside...back outside to search the yard again. I kept telling him "search".

By now it was getting rather dark.

One more time he went inside, long enough for me to wonder just what he might be up to.

Here he comes out the doggie door with his toy! He found it in the dark and didn't give up until he found it.

His reward? Playtime...and of course some directed jumping and go outs.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Marshall makes friends

I was walking Marshall in the neighborhood last night. We met a dog that usually leads or sometimes follows us. Although he barked, he quickly sat and I do believe he was actually wanting to be friendly!

When we met again on the back side of the walking loop, Marshall just looked at the dog and kept on walking!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Teacher or student?

Oh, Marshall...He makes me laugh. He is so competitive for attention between my other dog.

Tonight I was working with my dog on scent articles (pick the one I touched out of a pile) and Marshall thought it would be a good idea to put his toy in the middle of the pile. He did just like I did...put something in the pile and walk back to where I was standing.

When my dog picked out the proper article and wasn't the least bit distracted by the toy (that used to be his, by the way) and returned it to me Marshall went and got his toy and brought it to me. The problem is, he doesn't let go too easily just yet.

Little does he know that he helped to train my other dog to ignoring distractions and showed me that with focused training, I'll just bet he'll be able to retrieve anything you ask...He can already get his bone from another room if you tell him to "search for his bone."

So much instinct yet to be honed for a purpose. What a joy to watch him develop.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

School is in session

Marshall still has school despite the holiday. Here he is learning to jump according to a direction. Although you can't see another jump on the right hand side, Marshall was seated between two jumps and directed to take the jump on the left.
While this is a fun game now, it builds the foundation for searching for a child. If a child gets lost, a parent can direct the dog which direction to search by pointing.
Marshall still needs to learn "go out" which is another element of a search assignment...go out and search for (child).
Lots of small building blocks for a hopefull future.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lake Learning

Left: Nikki tries to save me from drowning. Okay maybe she just needed a rest from swimming but either way she is a sweetie.

Left: Don't ask. We were in the sun for a while and poor Calhoun had to deal with our shenanigans. Bless his heart.

Left: Calhoun and Nikki in a battle for the coveted stick of the day.

Left: Nikki- the beach bum

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Marshall - Man about Town

Marshall had an extended "public" day today. He was stretched and passed several "tests."

We started off the day in downtown Greenville to attend an event behind the Peace Center. We parked up the road on Main Street and passed through the Farmer's Market and past several dogs, to which he gave hardly a glance--his first test of the day.

We mingled among the crowd like a star. We saw our friend Otto, but he didn't see us. He was busy learning his job, too.

After downtown, we went to the Women's show. A very heavy crowd. Marshall held his sits or chose to plotz while I visited with varous vendors at their booths and traversed the crowd with ease. DFA did not have a booth at the show, but lots of people learned about DFA today.

And perhaps he was tired from charming the crowd, but as we left, Marshall walked right over the remnants of a trail of cheerios without breaking his stride.

Monday, August 24, 2009


We took the dogs swimming yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, after a decent hike, I realized my camera didn't have the memory card in it so there are no pictures to share. However, Nikki is like a fish in the water. She LOVES to swim. Our Lucy- not so much. In fact, I was wondering exactly what it was that she was doing. She looked as if she was killing the water or something. Anyway, the girls ran off leash for about 4 hours chasing, jumping, swimming, digging. Lucy likes to wander a bit more than Nikki so we introduced Nikki to the "Find Lucy" command. Lucy is her charge so it came quite naturally. She really helped us keep tabs on Lucy. Calhoun had to be confined to his VERY long leash though. He really likes to... explore. He was still able to play in the water though. What a great day we had! Everyone including Ashley and me were exhausted. We plan to do it again soon so I will post pictures then!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This week Bear is visiting us, and is teaching Tucker lots of manners that can only be imparted by an older male! Rule #1: All sticks belong to Bear, although he shares if it is big enough for two.

Having one of these shepherds around this week reminds me why these are such perfect dogs for the DFA program. Bear is not just smart, he is intuitive in ways I can only imagine. It's something you can't teach -- it's just there.

I had one very interesting experience with him. I was on the couch trying to nap, Bear was sleeping near me, and Tucker was on place. As I was drifting off, Tucker started chewing on a bone -- and you all know how loud and grating that can be! I think I told him "leave it" a couple times -- I was kind of in and out of sleep -- but anyways, the sound was irritating me. Then I heard Bear get up and watched as he walked over to Tucker, took the bone from him, went back to his spot, dropped the bone on the floor, threw himself back onto his spot, and went back to sleep! So either the bone crunching was bothering Bear (unlikely), or he knew it was bothering me and was just taking care of the problem! Either way, these shepherds are amazing dogs!!!

Tucker is really going to miss Bear when he leaves, and so am I!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Learning to Share My Space

Is Marshall:

1) learning to share?

2) wearing his "roomate" down?

3) taking his guardianship job very seriously?

As a much younger puppy Marshall was intent on "taming" the black furry thing with no legs that moved just to tease him. It could have been a scene from "Untamed and Uncut." Now, I wonder who/what has tamed who?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Baby Steps

As I posted previously, several weeks ago, Marshall started getting "grouchy" with other dogs. He has received some specialized training to address this issue. I have been striving to continue that training with short evening sessions. First in my back yard, then slowly in the neighborhood and into the world.

Marshall has made progress with the neighborhood dogs, so tonight we ventured out into the world. We went to a little music event in downtown Simpsonville. I hoped that we would see some dogs, but not too many. As luck would have it, the event provided lots of bouncing children and only one dog. Although we passed behind the dog on the way in, Marshall didn't see him thannks to all the distractions of the crowd, bmx bikes and skateboard demonstrations.

Marshall worked the crowd as only a proud DFA puppy can do. He plotzed well for about 30 minutes of music, showed no interest in my ice cream, and layed down while I visited with acquaintences.

On the way out, with the crowd thinning, Marshall spotted him....perked up his ears, started to look, moved toward the dog with a perky posture....and....responded to my "let's go" without a hitch. There was one big smile on my face! But you can never stop reinforcing and working through an issue, espcecially one as critical as doggie manners.

Training continues....

This weekend he'll have a chance to mind his manners with more exposure to his cousins ans siblings, as we lend a hand at the PupStart Center.

It will be a tough environment, but a great opportunity to work and proof our most challenging issues.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What time is it?

Marshall made me laugh today.

He really does seem to be adaptable. During the past several months he's been out of my home for several reasons. He always seems to be back "on schedule" within just a few days.

During my post surgery days, I've been accustomed to taking a nap around 1 or 2p every day. Marshall has been back in my home just since Monday.

Today, I took Marshall with me on a clothing hunt--Target, Walmart and Haywood mall. We were out about 2 hours.

When we returned home, we spent some transition time in the back yard. Suddenly Marshall gets up and heads for the house. I open the door and he immediately goes to his daytime crate and lays down. I guess he was telling me it was time for our nap. The time was 2:30p!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Marshall's Back

Another thing new for Marshall his week...real cookin' in the kitchen for breakfast! (He's supervising a creation of pecan pancakes.)

Marshall was away getting some extra training while I am recouping from surgery. THANKS does not say enough for this extra work that went into him. It truly takes many people to make one service dog.

It's interesting to see the different dog that is resulting from that extra attention AND having enough stimulation during the day. Over the past few days, we've played search games, continued on our collar conditioning and actually got wore out. His retriever 'brother' can get him in trouble, though. I just had to call both dogs off a baby bird that my retriever was trying to share. The good thing is, is that Marshall actually came away from that new tempting 'toy!" His training continues...

Did you know this little guy actually lays down on your feet in the evening after a busy day?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fun in the Yard

Nikki (middle) is a Dogs for Autism dog. She is sandwiched by her best buds, Lucy and Calhoun who are wild and crazy boxers and do their best to teach Nikki lots of bad stuff.

Nikki smells mischief in the air. Oh no wait a second... ugh LUCY!

Calhoun takes a break from the girls.

Lucy is under the watchful eye of Nikki.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Tucker and Carole try desperately to control Tucker's loving spirit during class and well... all the time. Tucker is a typical golden retriever. He is beautiful, smart, loving and VERY excited about life.

Jason and Hazel look on as Krista and Lucy give directed jumping a try. Hazel belongs to Jason and Krista. She felt left out when Lucy went to class so she comes along for the fun. AND she is super smart too!

Backseat Driver

Nikki is on her way to class. People often take a second look at a red light when they see this pretty lady looking back at them!

Like a good passenger, she always wears her seatbelt.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Next litter coming up

DFA is happy to announce the impending arrival of our "P" litter puppies. This is picture shows "Gryffyn" the momma-to-be. The sire is "Bear," which will make this gang half-siblings to the "M" litter, including Marshall! :-) They are due approximately August 29th.

For those of you watching the fundraising on our website, you already know that we're more or less overloaded with trainees....so why (logical question) you ask are we planning more pups? Easy answer! More places than DFA are in need of these dogs. Part of our mission is to increase the use of service dogs for autism in as many places and as many ways as possible. It took DFA around 10 years to establish a breeding colony of dogs that are appropriate for the specialized function of assistance dogs for autism. Though there is a limit to how many service dogs DFA can "handle" in these early years of program focus, there are many, many more parents, trainers, and even programs looking for appropriate dogs. That's a need to which DFA can contribute--so it makes sense to use these very special parent dogs to produce candidates for the jobs. It's one way that we are able to help people beyond the immediate area of Greenville.

We'll keep you posted.

Looking for my brother

Interesting observation about Marshall last night...

For various reasons I am currently walking my own dog and Marshall, separately.

Last night "brother" got to go first. I walked around the block in one direction.

Marshall was second. Because I had agreed to meet up with the neighbor with her puppy on my next turn around, I decided it would be best to walk the other direction to burn off some of Marshall's energy before meeting up with the puppy.

On our way, around the block, I thought I would see what Marshall would do if I asked Marshall to search for Bo. I remembered, mostly where we had walked and what bushes, my other dog had "visited." So I kind of helped direct Marshall on the path.

But at one point, Marshall's nose was clearly on the ground and he was definitely searching for something. You could tell he was on a mission. I don't think it was a rabbit, because his line did seem to closely follow where we had walked not just 30 minutes before. Unfortunately we came up the path to meet the neighbor for our visit.

So, certainly something we'll have to play with in the future. It was very interesting to watch. I can't wait to develop a real test in the near future.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Camping is for the dogs

Marshall and his foster family just got back from camping. What another camper called "city camping", in a cabin with A/C and TV! The campground is designed for people to camp with their dogs, so Marshall had some work to do on his social skills. But I wouldn't risk taking him to the dog park unless we were the only ones there. He still has some growing up to do.

We walked about a million miles around the roads and through the woods, worked our skills in the Rally-O (a type of obedience) yard, ran in the agility playground (Marshall didn't have a clue what all those obstacles were). One day Marshall watched his retriever "brother" catching sticks in the pond. Marshall likes to retrieve so the pull of wanting the stick got him in the water...but only just a little bit, I think he thought the ground went out from under him. He lifted his legs high, trying to "walk on water." I would have worked with him more, but some other campers came, and I didn't want to test Marshall's "social" skills with strange dogs, so we packed up and left. And, it was difficult to stop laughing!

When it was his time to be left alone in the cabin (crated) he didn't carry on nearly as poorly as his "brother." And I didn't hear either one of them howl when I stepped up to the karaoke mic!

While we pretty much stuck to our daily schedule time-wise, it was a nice break to test Marshall in a new environment, and wear his little heart out! And, although I wish he would have been the perfect angel and not have been so verbal with passersby with their dogs (we had to work really hard on his attention skills-he sat still for this picture!), he wasn't offended by the golf-carts driving past him, and he was quiet at night and in the morning.

Even if he wasn't the star of the campground as I wanted him to be--I think he earned a camping badge!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dog Tired!

I had quite the little scare last night. I put Marshall in his crate, spent a few minutes tidying up the house before bed. When I looked in the crate, he wasn't moving. Poking his ribs didn't move him. Tickling his toes didn't move him. Even the flash of the camera didn't phase him.

I guess he must have had a busy day.

(It's kind of hard to see a black dog on a black crate tray, but he is belly up, shoulders turning the corner and back feet tucked against the wires! Kind of like how you and I sleep and wake up complaining about back problems!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lazy Summer Evenings

What is a creative way to spend a hot summer evening?

Training your DFA puppy (Marshall) to catch a cookie (kibble or puppy size dog bisquit) off his nose!

Certainly not very practical for future "work" but it helps him learn to sit still, focus, and wait for a command. He's not always successful, but more and more, he has the reflexes to move his head and catch the cookie before it reaches the ground.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Settling Back In

After Marshall's "water vacation" he has been back in my home about a week. He was at Camp Julies for about two weeks, where he got to experience running in fields, and lots of exciting things; that both good and bad got him out of his routine, which meant some adjusting when he returned back into my home.

He is now staying in a very large wire crate, versus being gated in a bathroom. Truthfully the size is probably about the same, but the crate affords more restriction from adventure--unless he learns to pick the lock--you never know!

Although it wasn't fun to come home to, he had to get reacquanted with his restroom habits to match my work day. Thankfully by Wednesday (only two days being crated) I came home to a clean crate.

One funny thing to report. Marshall has two separate crates, in two separate rooms. One for night and one for day. Whether it be day or night, when we come in from outside for the last time, I can say (while still in the kitchen) "Get In" and most of the time he picks the right room and the right crate where he is schedule to stay.

One other adjustment we need to work through is his "proudful" attitude when walking and meeting other dogs. Before camp he wasn't as vocal when approaching other dogs. But I'm told that he's turned into somewhat of a teenager while he was away and is trying to make himself bigger than he is. For me, this means backing off walking Marshall and my own dog at the same time for my own convenience, and stepping up focusing on Marshall's attitude on training walks with only him.

As I stood visiting with neighbors last night while several dogs passed by and the visiting neighbors also had their dogs on a leash visiting with me, I think I can say Marshall showed some progress on calming down when asked (well...TOLD to do so), so there is hope that this "rebellious teenager" will become a well mannered "adult" ready to work.

This evening, he layed by my feet in the kitchen while I cooked...something he hasn't seen in months!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Puppy classes go on!

DFA trainee, Nelson, 7 months old, takes a break at puppy class. He's observing his co-worker canines who are studying directed jumping and go-outs.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Standing Still

I've recently been working with Marshall on a "stand stay." He has to stand still while I walk away. Today, I wanted to test him while he worked the booth at the farmers market.

I instituted the help of another puppy raiser and the children of another. I got Marshall to stand while the "helper" touched or nudged Marshall with their knees, kind of pushing on him to get him to move. He is not allowed to move until I return to him and release him.

He's still a work in progress, but he did pretty well.

I even think this training spilled over to his "pr work". I would have him standing and a person from the passing crowd would be asking about him, and it seemed Marshall would look over to me as if to ask, "can I stop standing now?" I would tell him 'ok' and he would sit to be petted, as commanded.

It's times like thesethat offer great opportunities to work in a little training for more real-life environments to which he might be exposed--lots of things to look at, but learn to focus on the job.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Stretching the mind

I sure missed Marshall while he spent time with another foster to work the BMW Charity event. He came back and I saw he was SO big! I guess you don't see them growing in front of your eyes.

I've been told we need to work on Marshall's over exhuberance with a tennis ball. I had been thinking about how I could stretch his little mind even before he spent time away. So, for a few days now, I've been introducing holding a dumbbell in his mouth...the first step to learning to retrieve. (If I can get Marshall to retrieve my shoes like my first own dog, I will be VERY happy, but he has to learn the concept first). I started with just helping him hold in while I held his mouth closed around it. Last night we tried the next baby step, actually reaching for it. It is getting it!

Julie also suggested we "search for our dinner." That has been quite a fun game. When I feed my own dog, Marshall already knows his bowl isn't going to be handed to him. He lets my other dog start eating, while I tell Marshall, "Search." His bowl has been hidden behind doors, and under things. Last night it was outside. Tonight, we just might have a larger search as we find a place, perhaps down the street?

All this is to help Marshall understand that his world is bigger than a tennis ball. Hopefully he will conquer all there is in this big wide world and that process of learning fun!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Marshall rang the bell

When I first brought Marshall home, I had hung an ornament made of multiple bells on the back door. I had quickly trained my older dog to "ring the bell" by hitting it with his nose to signify "outside." I never really had a chance to purposefully train Marshall on the bell.

My dog, still being a bit bigger than Marshall is always the first to reach the bell. I say "outside" and he hits the bell.

I thought Marshall had hit the bell the other night, but it was hard to tell, with two rambunctious dogs at the door.
Just now, as I was doing dishes, Marshall was standing by the door, looking at me, and hit the bell with his nose. I asked Marshall, "did you just tell me something?" and he hit the bell again. I reaffirmed his action by saying "outside" and he hit it again. Followed by a party of lots of praise, and of course a little trip outside.

He seems to have learned just by watching all these months--how cool is that!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sable pups get mobile!

Fundraiser at Ace Hardware!

Marshall at the Movies

Well....more of a drive in.

On Friday night, a local church was offering a movie on their grounds. Young families, kids running, dancing, loud music, balls and frisbees flying. Kids running through the crowd past Marshall's face...snacks and popcorn treats on the blanket beside him, just within reach, which resulted in only a few of those puppy stretches that is really pushing the boundaries of a true plotz, but a little "ah ah" redirected his attention to treats of his own for a good response.

Marshall was alert and watched the balls flying, started to get up a few times to chase them, but was quickly redirected to sit or plotz. Just a few corrections to sit to allow some kids to pet him, I explained that he needed to learn how to sit still for his job.

With all those wonderful distractions, Marshall pretty much layed at my feet through all the comotion. Having gotten there a little too early, we took a few little walks around to let him stretch his legs.

And I actually got to watch the entire movie!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marshall plays Little League

Tonight Marshall charmed the crowds at the Heritage Park little leage diamonds. The only seats left were right behind home plate. An interesting place to be with a little dog who loves to chase balls!

He was all eyes and ears, but held his plotz with just a few corrections and even just sniffed at the peanut shell debri on the ground.

We walked around to different fields with various levels of play. He wasn't too sure as we passed some of the batting cages, but quickly regained his confidence.

He walked calmly by my side...better on the left than on the right.

He even held a plotz as some kids were practicing beside the sidewalk and three balls rolled right beside us.

O Pups Go Visiting

The new Pupstart Center is nearing completion! Today as our wonderful contractors were packing up and preparing to leave, we brought the "O" puppies in for a brief visit. The terms sharp teeth & fast feet sum up this experience pretty well. These little terrors are now 6 1/2 weeks old, and definitely getting harder to herd....I mean 'manage!' But they're still seriously cute, and we are enjoying their babyhood immensely. Decisions are almost finalized about which pups will be going to which jobs, but there's still about a week left to make final evaluations. All of us at DFA are tremendously grateful that Leadership Greenville Class 35 has provided this wonderful facility for puppies and classes. We appreciate their efforts so very much--the Pupstart Center is already making a world of difference to the entire DFA program! (Hey you there...you puppy by my foot....Thou shalt not bite the videographer!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Marshall Update

This weekend was a little difficult because of a chemo treatment for me, but I wanted to report on some interesting behaviors from Marshall.

We were able to meet another puppy raiser at the park early Saturday morning to get some training in. But after that, Marshall hung in there with me for lots of naps on both Saturday and Sunday. I had him on a leash with place nearby the couch and he was very content.

But the interesting thing was this morning. He did something that has been described by some of the other puppy raisers...He wouldn't let up until I got out of bed to go to work!

As I've reported before, Marshall is very attuned to his schedule. Our typical work day is to get up at 6a, eat and play then back in the crate while I get ready for work. Today, we got up at 6a, but I needed more time in bed. I gave him a chew. Usually he goes back in his crate to enjoy it, but this morning, he went in the same room as my other dog, all was well.

When it came time for me to get up, he was done with his chew, but he kept pulling on my hands and barking until I got up. I know it's not good for the "teeth" restriction, but he was persistent. I got up, put him in his crate and he settled right down....job well done, little guy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Azaela Festival

Here is Mills (left) with Warren and Marshall (right) with Patrice...and Sherry also manning the booth.

Azalea Festival

Here are some pictures from Saturday's Azalea Festival. Thanks to Lucy, Naomi, Mills and Marshall for taking time out of their busy schedules to entertain the city of Pickens with their brother and pal, McIver.

Check out the new puppy vests. McIver is beginning to feel more like a service dog.

Sharon tempts Naomi with a treat.

McIver patiently waiting for visitors.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lucy Enjoys the Ocean

Lucy really enjoyed the ocean once she figured out she couldn't drink the water.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Learning to Stand

In addition to working on "back" as we were taught in class, this week I introduced Marshall to "stand." He stays pretty well on sits and plotz so I am asking him to stay while standing. He broke a few times, but I was able to walk slow circles around him. If he moved, I put him back and started over.

Tonight, I was also amazed at something. Marshall got his new vest/cape. Typically when we take a walk after work, I have Marshall and my other dog walking at the same time. Our goal on these walks is more for exercise than for training...although a loose leash is required.

Tonight, I wanted to see how Marshall would adapt to his new uniform. So he wore it during our after work walk. Usually the dogs walk side by side, not pulling, but out in front of me. Tonight, with his vest on, Marshall responded greatly to my "easy" and walked very much at my side...even with my own dog out front leading the way.

We walked through what I call the gauntlet--a narrow path between two fenced yards with barking dogs. Marshall showed an interest with perky ears and tilted head, but was easily brought back to my side. Then we practiced plotz/stay in the cul-de-sac with the other dogs still barking. After not very long, Marshall rested his head on his paw as if he expected to stay down for a while.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Puppies on Napping

The O puppies are showing more and more of their personalities. Basically, this one's view on life is, "Don't do anything halfway...even a nap!."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Marshall update

Marshall's "drive" was observed this weekend through some search games. We placed objects in the back yard...well, little plastic eggs with treats inside...while he was in the house. I know it would be better to search for people, but this is what I had....

I walked him around the back yard saying "search." But he didn't really have a clue what that was or why. When he noticed the first egg, it was like his head turned quickly to see something he had never noticed before. I had a party, rewarded the find and we continued our walk around the yard and continued little parties with each find.

Today we worked on directed jumping/running followed by a game of find the ball. I showed Marshall a tennis ball (one of his prized possessions) and hid it under a traffic cone. I told him to find the ball, and did help him a little. After enough of that, I added a second traffic cone and wanted to see if he could figure out which cone it was under. He would sniff around each cone, but then would start digging at the cone with the reward.

I then took him out of the room and someone else put the ball under one of the cones. I brought Marshall back in...and he found it! Now, if I could just borrow a person and play hide and seek. I think this guy just might win!

Another amazing thing...for the past few days, Marshall has been putting himself on place while I eat dinner. I have eaten many cold dinners putting Marshall back on place over the past few weeks really trying to get this message across.

He really is determined when he puts his mind to something good or bad...which makes enforcing his manners all that more challenging. When he gets it he gets it!

More non-shepherd!

Bess is one very cool little reformed rescue!!!

Speaking of Tucker

We have so many shepherd photos that it's even more important to post the really cute ones of the non-shepherds!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The last report I posted on Tucker at the mall was not good! But since then he's been soooo good at the mall and out in other public places. Must have been hormones that day . . .

But today at the mall he did extremely well in spite of an incident. Two teenage girls allowed a toddler (18mo?) to do a belly flop onto Tucker's back!!! I was sitting on a bench and Tucker was down. He was startled but did not get up, yelp, or wet himself!! I think it startled me more than him. They approached from behind so I didn't even see them coming, and was unable to prevent it before it was too late. To the baby, Tucker was just a big stuffed toy. And the girls thought it was cute.

Most folks ask if their children can pet the dog, and understand when I explain why the answer is no. But I'm sure you've all run into folks that think our dogs mean playtime for their kids! I think these girls felt kind of bad when I explained the situation. I would have really liked to give them a piece of my mind (they should know better), but PR was more important at the moment! They learned something about service dogs and autism today, so the experience was was worth it -- both for them and for Tucker!

The mall sure is the best place for distractions of all kinds (second only to puppy class)! Tucker was already kind of antsy today, so I wondered if this incident would get him riled up and hyper. But he seemed to shake it off and get right back to work. I was proud of Tucker today -- at times like this I can see how far he's come.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"O" litter - cherry collar MALE

This little boy could hardly be persuaded to wake up and pose for his photo. Time will tell if that's a real glimpse of the temperament (we hope so) or if he just needed a nap really badly! Stay tuned for updates. :-)

"O" litter - pink-paws collar GIRL

This little darling is the lightest colored puppy in the litter. As an adult her coat will likely be a very smooth gray with not much black on the tips of the guard hairs. At this point it also appears that she will be a long-stock-hair like her Uncle Leo, who is currently in service dog training with DFA.

"O" litter - smile-face collar GIRL

Here's another very relaxed and placid little girl who will probably be staying on to join the DFA staff. She has lots of red in her coat and should have a very striking appearance as an adult. Hope to find a sponsor for her, also!

"O" litter - blue-crown collar BOY

This little guy is the the only one, so far, who has definitely identified himself as a "keeper." (He wrote us a memo about his career goals....really and truly.....) He will be staying with DFA and pursuing a career as a service dog for autism. Now he needs a sponsor to choose his name!

"O" litter - pink-seashell collar GIRL

The look in her eyes goes back at least 3 generations. (Translation of The Look: experienced puppy raiser needed!) This exact expression is worn by Aunty Handy (mother of our recent "N" litter) and Great-Grandma Avanti, who was a one of the foundation dogs of our breeding colony. Watching genetics and personalities carry through the generations is fascinating!

"O" litter - blue-paws collar BOY

"Hey, Lady! Watch where yer pointin' that camera, will ya? I'm down here....Hellooooo????"

"O" litter - black collar BOY

We put a collar on this boy that is black with white lettering that says "Bad to the Bone." 'Nuff said! He is going to be quite the little character.

"O" litter - paisley collar BOY

Remember how the "Peanuts" characters used to call Snoopy 'fuzzy face?' This little guy is almost too cute to stand.

"O" litter - pink-camo collar GIRL

If you wonder why we put a "camo" collar on this one...just think it through! She's not sure yet where she's going or who she's going into combat against...but she's traveling fast!

"O" litter - Orange Collar BOY

I'm so dark I look black...but I'm not! I'm going to be a beautiful black sable with a brown mask. I'm also very VERY sweet!!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Learning to work at a distance

Watch lead trainer Darlene Houlihan showing the advanced puppy raisers how to introduce their dogs to directional signals and commands involving multiple choices. For instance, when a dog has to decide not only whether or not to "come" when called, but HOW to come--which direction to choose--how can a trainer require a correct response without discouraging the dog from trying? This is important foundation work for DFA's dogs for their future work safeguarding children with autism. A parent must be able to easily send a dog in one direction or another in order to correctly assist a child.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Puppy Raiser photos & comments!

More of our volunteer raisers have shared their photos and their comments about DFA puppies at this link: http://www.dogsforautism.org/puppyraisers.html. Be sure to stop by!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New games in the rain

I finally had a chance to get Marshall out to the park to play some new games. It was misting and getting dark, but we pulled out every last bit of sunlight before we came home. Today, Marshall learned about coming to me through a tunnel.

We also played directed jumping; which is an advanced exercise in competitive obedience. Marshall has to sit on his place while I walk to the other side of the jumps (at this point there is a barrier between the jumps). I point in the direction of the jump I want him to take. He did rather well. Sometimes he would guess so we would go back to place and start over. After a few tries, I think he actually figured out he had to watch which way. So...just something new to stretch his little brain. This was also a chance to work on "stay on place" and "sit stay". (Not to worry. The jumps are very low 8". So really it's directed running/stepping. But the idea is to understand the request for heading in the right direction.)

During this outing, he was also distracted by his foster brother barking with jealousy either tied to the fence nearby or in the car. So, another opportunity to work on keeping his attention on me no matter what I'm asking.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Marshall Update

It's been a little while since you've heard from Marshall, so time for a little update.

I've been hearing a lot from this little guy! We're working through what seems to be a barking phase. Through the tips of the trainers, I hope I can say we're making progress. But I must say that in the past few days, I've actually been "listening" to him, and asking myself WHY is he barking? I've noticed that he is barking sometimes to sass me, so I know how to deal with that. Othertimes, I've learned that he's trying to tell me something. Then I remembered that part of his job will be to Alert. So, I am learning to process WHAT he is trying to communicate. As a novice puppy raiser, I wish I would learn as quickly as Marshall.

One example: The other night when it was time for bed, he wouldn't settle in his crate and he was barking. I got up to see what was up. There was a toy beside the bed. I put it in his crate. He didn't play with the toy, but immediately went to sleep. Do you suppose he was telling me the toy was out of place? Interesting to think about, so I continue to watch and learn to listen and respond with encouragement or correction, as the situation deems appropriate.

Also, this little guy can find things I never knew were lost. Just this morning, a ball that made it's way beside the dryer, behind a closed door. Marshall was scratching at the floor by the door. So I thought to investigate. There was the ball beside the dryer. (I did laundry two days ago and I always keep the doors closed!)

I can't wait for the rain to stop so I can utilize the tips on the searching game that Julie gave me. Not only will it stretch his little brain, but I will be able to mold his potential....and burn off some energy!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lots of Progress on the Pupstart Center, too!

Thanks to Leadership Greenville Class 35--and several fabulous sponsors--renovation is moving right along in Easley. This short video clip shows a volunteer crew working on the whelping rooms that will house DFA's future litters of puppies. Next week we'll pose these guys with some DFA dogs! :-)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Making Lots of Progress!

I'm not fast enough (or good enough) with the digital video cam to get usable shots of all our puppies, but here are about half of them. I gotta tell you, this is not too shabby for five-month-old puppies!!! These guys look fabulous....we have a great crew of volunteer raisers!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Momma Demi takes a break

Sable family

Sable sisters

Closer look....

The O's are here!

Here is the first photo of the O puppies: six boys, four girls. Mommy Demi is proud and resting comfortably. :-) For those who might not be familiar with what a sable pup looks like at birth, these kids will all be colored pretty much like Logan and Lucy, just a little variation in shades.