Category Archives: Littermates

Lucky Number Seven

Guide Dog Lomax, the “Number One Son” of my own personal Labrador story, turns seven years old today. SEVEN. That’s unthinkable to me. I’m assuming this is a taste of how parenthood feels (you know…parenting those *two*-legged beings, an experience I’ve yet to have). Does time really not accelerate? Because it sure does feel like it.

As far as I know, Lomax is still out there working with his partner, keeping her confident, independent and safe. And so is his equally SuperDog-like brother, Guide Dog Liam. Those are some handsome boys, and smart, too.

Happy birthday, fellas. We love you, miss you, think of you often, and are very proud of you.

Freaky, Freaky, FREAKY

Silly stuff happens to me all the time, but rarely is it something so well-timed as to be freaky.

I had just (JUST!) finished reading a Facebook status updated posted by Jeanie, one of Jethro’s littermates, that said, “All my molars fell out and new ones are already poking through, my human is trying to help but I am just too crabby to notice. I will try some tummy rubs and ice again tomorrow but today, it’s just not working.

I had literally (and I know how to use that word properly) just finished reading that, when I heard a click, like something very small had dropped onto the wood floor near the chair where I was sitting. I looked down, near where Jethro lay. He was also looking at what had made the sound.


I am not making this up.

It does help to explain why he was extra cranky and complainy last night.

SnuggleBears and Other Sweet Gifts

Puppies come home from GDA with an adorable little puppy kit — a nice GDA tote bag containing a bowl, a brush, a couple of collars, a nylon leash, a 5-pound bag of dog food, all the puppy paperwork, and my favorite thing: a soft toy for the puppy to snuggle with, which is meant to ease the transition from a snuggly puppy-pile full of littermates to a sometimes lonely first night in a strange place. Jethro LOVES his pink-and-blue hugging teddy bears, and always sleeps in the crate with is head resting on them. If this toy (which stays in his crate so he and Truman don’t tug it into a million formerly-adorable pieces of disembodied fluff) survives Jethro’s puppyhood, and if Jethro makes it to guide work, I’ll probably end up giving it to his new partner, along with the baby blanket I rubbed against all his littermates on puppy pickup day.

And speaking of littermates, we received the coolest thing in the mail from GDA today! GDA is very protective of information about their breeding lines and which puppies come from which dogs in the program, so even puppy raisers aren’t allowed to know that stuff. (They have good reasons; it prevents a lot of unnecessary freak-out on the part of people who might hear something about a dog who was dropped for a medical reason and fear that their related puppy-in-training or guide dog will also have the problem, blah blah blah etc.) But we got a DVD in the mail marked “From Grandma!” It’s full of still photos and video footage of Jethro’s litter in the puppy nursery, set to music like “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. It must have taken forever to put together, and it’s the sweetest thing….

We don’t know who you are, Grandma, but if you’re out there reading this, thank you! We love it. Your “grandson” Jethro is doing well, and we hope you’ll give his mama-dog a kiss from us.


Pick-Up Lines

“Hey, sweet little thing. You smell nice. And your hair’s soooo soft. How ’bout comin’ back to my place?”

Okay, that was bad. Borderline gross, even. Forgive me; I’m tired. And I’ve been out of the blogging habit for so long, it’s tough to get back into the swing of things, especially when little puppies grow so fast and there are so many photos to share! So, let’s talk about puppy pick-up day, shall we?

This was Wolf’s first puppy pick-up day, and he was all grins and excitement. We got to GDA, received our sponsor packet (Did I forget to mention that Jethro is a sponsored dog, like Truman was? Free dog food FOR THE WIN!) and sat in the little room where the puppy department manager torments the impatient raisers with her patented month-long spiel of do’s and don’ts and information and sign-your-paperwork and so on that has to happen before the distribution of the furballs. The puppy kits are really nice; GDA is now giving out branded tote bags with the standard bowl-brush-leash-collars-food-bone-snugglebuddy supplies inside. And one of the “grandmas” of the two litters going home that day made a fleece blanket for each puppy, which was very sweet.

Suddenly, it was time. We stowed our stuff in the car, and brought back just the leash, small collar and blanket (to rub on all Jethro’s littermates so he wouldn’t be so lonely that first night away from them), and followed Louise to the courtyard outside the breeding facility.

Two litters were scheduled to go home — the “H” dogs (lovely little Lab/Golden crosses), and our “J” dogs. All yellow, all the time! We approve.

Wolf's first puppyThe wait wasn’t long. Because I’d done this before, I wanted Wolf to have the experience of taking the puppy from the arms of the giver. I think he wasn’t really sure how to hold the little guy at first…somehow it never crossed my mind to show him the best way to do it, but he figured it out in short order. This pack leader’s a pretty smart guy.

Immediately, I noticed a difference between this experience and my last puppy pick-up day: I could actually pick up the puppy. Not to bash my beloved Truman, but he came out squirming and bitey from day one. It was one big “DO NOT WANT” on his part, I’m pretty sure. But Jethro — while he does admittedly look, in this photo, like he’s seeking an escape route — seemed almost…passive. I was so confused, I almost gave him back and asked where they were keeping MY puppy. “Did you finally give me an easy one?” I asked. The puppy department laughed at me. “Come on, you know us better than that. Just wait ’til the Benadryl wears off,” they said. “We gave this one TWO.”

(I’m sure they were kidding. Please don’t go around thinking — or especially saying — that GDA drugs their puppies, mmkay?)

We know that some of the dogs from both litters are headed to the Washington puppy raiser group, so we don’t know how many J’s there are in total, but we did manage to snap a littermate photo of 5 of the 6 J-dawgs who went home that day (sorry, Jesse, we don’t know where you went!). I was sad that we don’t have any littermates in my puppy raiser group — which is a first for me, as both of my previous boys have grown up with their brothers — but I’m hoping to see some of these folks and their little J-dawgs at upcoming GDA events and puppy classes. Meet (from left to right) Journey, Joey, Jethro, Julep and Jeannie:

They came in several shades of yellow. Bunch of good lookin’ dogs, eh?

The trip home was fairly uneventful, aside from being a bit warm (little did we know it was just the start of a nasty, record-setting SoCal heatwave…but we’ll get into that in another post). Jethro settled in after just a few minutes of whimpering, and slept all the way to Torrance. He had to rest up, of course. He was about to meet his predecessor, role model, shuffle buddy, and career-changed “big brother” Truman.

Truman is always supremely happy to see other dogs (I sometimes wonder if he would have eventually become too dog-distracted for guide work, even if he had passed his medical and continued in training, but since that point is more “what if” fodder than anything else, we’ll move on). We figured out a game plan to introduce them without overwhelming the little guy, who probably had to pee something fierce after the long trip down the 405, or overwhelming the big guy, who probably had to pee something fierce after waiting for us to come home. While Wolf took Truman out the front door to do his business, I’d sneak Jethro through the garage and upstairs onto the balcony, where he could do his.

"Who is this, and why is he piddling on my balcony?"

We’re using the balcony because our back yard isn’t really set up for dogs yet; there’s a lot of unfriendly plant life and crevices full of spiders and random gardening stuff lying around. So Truman does his business in the front of the house, on leash, which has worked just fine for us so far. Unfortunately, though, both front and back are plagued with a variety of wandering critters: squirrels, opossums, raccoons, the occasional feral cat, and (my favorite) skunks. This renders either yard option quite inappropriate for teeny puppies who haven’t yet received their full course of vaccines. Thus, balcony piddling it is. Good thing it’s a sealed surface, with a handy garden hose nearby, because we will be doing this for the next two months. (Eight weeks. That’s a long time….)

The introductory sniff went well. Tails both great and small were wagging, and we had to get a good grip on Truman to keep him from shuffling wildly in the middle of the living room and running the poor little fella down. Truman even shared his big-dog bed for a while…until Jethro attempted to…assert his tiny dominance. (And this is where I let out a sigh for poor Truman, who for all his early puppyhood bravado and attempts at destroying all humans, somehow manages to end up every dog’s girlfriend. Sorry, dude. Let’s just hope this is merely youthful exuberance on Jethro’s part.)

The boys got to know each other a bit, Jethro rolled around on the floor looking freakishly cute and cartoony, and there were many trips (dozens? thousands?) to the balcony. There are always accidents, of course, because as vigilant as I am, I am never quite as fast as the first few drops of piddle on the carpet. And Wolf is new at this; it takes a while to get used to the “puppy’s about to go RIGHT NOW OH NO IT’S TOO LATE” signs. Doesn’t help that Jethro is more of a “stand and deliver” guy than a “squat if ya gotta” guy.

Before bed, we played some “name game” with him to get him used to being called Jethro, and to wear him out. Looks like it worked. On everyone.

Did I mention we’re tired?

The first night went fairly well. He did get us up about three times to do some balcony business (cold hose water on your bare feet is decidedly non-awesome at three in the morning, by the way), but he didn’t have a problem being in the kennel as long as the rest of his pack was also in the room. And he had his snugglebears toy to cuddle with, and the blanket we’d rubbed on his littermates.

I wonder what he dreamed about that night. I dreamed happy dreams, of being able to sleep in again someday.

T-Litter Turn-in

Another post in my continuing “Days of Yore” series, catching up on long-overdue photos of Truman’s final days as a puppy-in-training….

August 9, 2008 — T-Litter Turn-in

Two years later — and having received him back for good only three weeks into formal training — I feel like I can’t really do justice now to a post about Truman’s turn-in. What can I say? Turn-in is the day you shoot for as a puppy raiser, because it marks the end of all you can do to get your dog to the goal of becoming a guide. It’s up to the dog from there. Turn-in can also be pretty heinous, emotionally speaking.

In short: Truman’s Amy and I, and Wolf, made the long journey to GDA together. My boy wore a bow tie, as was to be expected from my ever-classy canines. The lunch was delicious, yet torturous, as always. The photo time was bittersweet, because Truman and Tai were the only representatives present from their litter. The roommate roll call was a relief, because the brothers were together. The walking away with an empty leash was…not applicable to me this time.

But I’ll tell you more about that next time.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos:

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Truman’s Last Puppy Meeting

Another post in my continuing “Days of Yore” series, catching up on long-overdue photos of Truman’s final days as a puppy-in-training…

July 14, 2008 — Truman’s Last Puppy Meeting

The monthly puppy raiser group meeting is always fun…until it’s your dog’s last meeting. Then it’s just one more thing in a long line of “lasts” before turn-in. The second-worst moment is when you stand up in front of everyone to say a few words about what it’s been like raising this dog, and receive the goodbye gifts from your group leaders (a treat for the dog, and some “turn-in tonic” for the humans).

The worst moment is when the meeting ends and people come up to pet your dog one last time and wish him good luck. And then you leave. And it sucks. And you are one “last” closer to the day you both welcome and dread.

Holy crap, I’m tearing up now just thinking about it, and I don’t even have a dog in training right now!

Anyway, since I have the luxury of posting about this moment a whole two years after it happened, I’ll share a photo of something fun instead. In the few minutes between the obedience and announcements portions of Truman’s last meeting, I hurriedly attempted to get a few shots of Truman with his brother Tai and a few of the other dogs. The waning daylight and the limitations of my camera came together to produce the perfect “Dogs with Terminator Eyeballs” shot:

Disneyland with Da Brudder

Another post in my continuing “Days of Yore” series, catching up on long-overdue photos of Truman’s final days as a puppy-in-training….

June 27, 2008 — Disneyland with Da Brudder

Da Brudders and Da CastleTaking the dogs to Disneyland before turn-in day is a tradition. Twice now I’ve had the privilege of raising littermates with my friends Matt and Amy, so taking a dog and his brother is even more fun.

Tai and Truman did really well, considering it was pretty hot and crowded that day (I don’t even like going to the park under those conditions… being an annual passholder spoils a person). Amy was way pregnant at the time, so we took it easy, but we did go on plenty of rides — the Jungle Cruise is always a favorite. Everyone’s always impressed with how the dogs behave in the presence of “wild animals” and scary “gunshots.”

Dog? You decide.Before we even entered the park, Pluto found us. He was keenly interested in seeing Tai and Truman, who gave him a good sniff but weren’t particularly sure he was a dog. I think Truman was convinced once we got to Mickey’s house in Toon Town, though, because Pluto does have a pretty sweet dog bed, and he respects that.

Mickey was pretty cool, too.

Mickey and the boys

Open House 2008

Another post in my continuing “Days of Yore” series, catching up on long-overdue photos of Truman’s final days as a puppy-in-training….

June 14, 2008 — GDA Open House

2008 marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of Guide Dogs of America, so the Open House theme reflected that. Because he is classy and sophisticated, Truman decided to wear his fancy bow tie for the occasion.

Here he is, posing on the big diamond at the photo backdrop, with Wolf. It was Wolf’s first GDA Open House, and for someone who was not yet my husband at the time — we had only been dating about four months, actually — he was not just a good sport, but actually quite enthusiastic! Wore the t-shirt and everything. My puppy raiser friends were impressed. I already knew that he was a keeper.

Here’s Wolf with Truman at the puppy kissing booth. Ridiculously cute and lovable, both of them.

The annual puppy trials are always a big draw for spectators, and a little nerve wracking for me. I wasn’t expecting much, considering what a total freak of nature Truman had been during the entire 2007 Open House, but the little man surprised me and earned the 3rd place ribbon in his age group! We were very proud.

Less cool was the number one verbal response to our third place win: “And…how many dogs were in the category?” Yes, people, Truman is a force to be reckoned with, and I have done my fair share of reckoning. But let us have our moment, will ya?

Tai, who is now a working guide (the only one from our litter, as a matter of fact), took home the first place honors. Here are the handsome brothers and their proud people, with their ribbons:

T-Litter Rodeo

My little blog posting vacation apparently started about two months before Truman went in for formal training…two years ago. Holy cow! It’s time to play catch up with a few photos and remembrances from his puppyhood. This is just part of the “Days of Yore” series I’ll be posting from now until September 24th….

June 13, 2008 – the T-Litter Rodeo

Just before Truman and Tai went off to guide dog college, we got together for a little family playtime with their sister Tori. A good romp was had by all.

You can’t say the boy and his sister have no family resemblance:

Such happy dogs….

Air Labradors!

Welcome to the Family!

We’re very excited that Lomax has three littermates in the South Bay puppy raisers group. This photo, taken at the annual September picnic (before I even knew my little yellow dog was coming to live with me), shows brother Liam and sisters Kandy and Luca.