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Princess Wrio

Aside from the snoring, Wrio’s the most feminine dog I’ve ever watched; even her little barks are girly.

Her puppy raiser recounted a swimming pool adventure in which Wrio, instead of splashing about and belly-flopping in like many a boy dog would do, daintily paddled from the shallow end to the deep end, pulled herself up onto an inflatable raft and floated around as if she owned the place.

So my roommate decided Wrio needed to wear the proper attire while I was acting as her servant.

“What is this ‘sit’ you keep demanding I perform, peasant? It displeases me.”

“The princess prefers lying down. Now fetch me a cookie.”

The Wrio Wreport

This is Wrio. For only five months old, she’s very good. Still in that precious (and useful) “I’ll just be sleeping here most of the day, thanks” phase, little Wrio spent much of her time with me doing exactly what you see here. And, of course, shaking the cubicle walls of my office with her magnitude-seven snoring.

I found myself unnecessarily tiptoeing around her when she was snoozing under the desk, because I’m so used to a dog who was perpetually ready to spring into action. Seriously, I would move my office chair two inches to the left to reach for the stapler, and Lomax would be on his feet, awaiting further instruction. Wrio, however, seemed unphased even by my leaving to make some copies or send a fax or hop on a plane to Africa. As long as she was comfy — and I think you can see by my choice of photos that she’s quite practiced in the art of comfy — she didn’t care what I was doing.

All week long, at work and at church, I heard, “She looks like a smaller version of Lomax!” I suppose it’s true from the perspective of someone who didn’t live with him; there are only so many variations on a yellow Lab theme, after all. But the differences are obvious to me, and not just physical differences. Wrio is calm with her greetings, tolerant of snuggling, unlikely to lick an ear off the side of your head. And boy can she chew…doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s within reach.

She may look bigger in these shots, but she’s a petite pup for sure. I can pick her up the way you’d pick up a lamb. It felt weird hugging someone so little, and having to bend down to pet her head when she was standing next to me.

Wrio isn’t just a pretty face, though she is certainly that as well. My area leader even “borrowed” her for a few hours to take her to a GDA fundraiser, because we all know it’s true: the smaller the puppy, the bigger the donation. How can you resist something so tiny, so adorable, so talented and well behaved? It’s like having Dakota Fanning on a leash.

She’s just so lovable. In her desire to remain right at my feet, Wrio would squeeze herself between my shins and the cabinets when I was standing at the kitchen counter or bathroom sink. It was less endearing, however, when she’d squeeze herself between my leg and the dashboard while we were on the freeway.

Lomax Update: One Month Down

I can hardly believe he’s been IFT for an entire month; somehow, it feels like forever and no time at all.

There’s been no word from the school, which is good. What I do know through the grapevine is that Lomax and Liam are still roommates (sometimes they move dogs around if the match isn’t quite right), and neither has yet been expelled for partying too hard.

The running joke I’ve enjoyed thanks to Liam’s puppy raisers is that our enthusiastic boys by this time have surely founded the Lambda Alpha Beta chapter of the Delta Omega Gamma fraternity up at school. A flyer tacked to each kennel states that all dogs are invited to rush on Saturday during playtime, and new members will be initiated by drinking from the Lixit for five minutes straight.

Liam’s majoring in harness science with a minor in jollyball mechanics. Lomax? A double major, in harness science and, of course, tap dance.

Ikey Doodle Dandy

I’ve been promising a post about Ike the Labradoodle for a few weeks now, but I’ve been enjoying my little blogging vacation. Since I’ve had a puppy-free week and am about to take on another puppysitting assignment, though, I thought I’d best get to it.

Ike is a sweetheart. It was such a comfort to have another dog in the apartment after Lomax’s turn-in, especially one so willing to cuddle (Lomax was always a little bit “places to go, people to see, stop trying to hold me still”). And what a 180-degree difference: a long, tall, black, power-chewing, crazy-haired, soft-correction, easy-leash dog!

I love to watch him run; he’s got quite the poodle-y spring to him with those long legs and tail, and he’s really light on his delightfully hairy feet. Soft to the touch, too, and lovely to groom, despite what I was expecting for a longer-haired pooch. My roommate dubbed him “Captain Yellowbeard” in honor of his piratesque appearance.

Unfortunately, IkeyDoodle wasn’t entirely comfortable with his surroundings the week he stayed with me. I walked him twice a day around my neighborhood, to which he never quite grew accustomed. He’d generally start out very strong and confident, walking in a *perfect* loose-lead heel position such that I felt like there was no dog there at all…then something would spook him, and he’d tail-tuck and lose his focus and throw his head back every few steps to look behind us, and have a tough time recovering. Sometimes it was the German shepherd who lives down the street, barking from behind his fence. Sometimes it was a human passerby, out for a walk. Once — and he nearly tore my arm off with an unexpected bolt behind me and to my other side — it was bees.

Poor little Ikey. I felt terrible.

He did very well, however, inside my apartment and at my office. It was as though these were places he felt safe; he would calm down and settle right in whenever we came back from our walks.

Sure, he was somewhat fearful, but Ike also has many excellent qualities that would make him a good guide! His obedience is great; in fact, he is lightning-fast with a “down” command and exhibits beautiful control walking up and down stairs, self-correcting with just a gently spoken “easy, Ike” if he gets too far ahead. And he is unbelievably cooperative with ear medication. I’ve never seen such a thing! All I had to do was pick up the ear drop bottle, sit on the floor and call his name, and he’d trot right over and lie down, turning one ear up toward me. Then he’d turn his head so I could medicate the other ear! That got some positive reinforcement, believe me.

Ike also seemed unphased by most non-dog animals we encountered, whether it was a flock of pigeons on the ground five feet away, or a long-extinct creature mired in a bubbling pit of smelly tar.

Even when it comes to that fearfulness, I’ll give him this: Ike is very aware of his surroundings. Due to his “constant vigilance (!),” my roommate also took to calling him “Mad Ike Moody” (you Harry Potter fans will get my meaning).

Ike’s fifteen months old and going in for training at the next turn-in, which is in November. Before then, a bunch of us will be swapping Ike around every once in a while so he can get in some extra practice with other handlers…I hope he can come back and visit again soon, because I already miss his lovable, springy self.

Lomax Update: Two Weeks Down

Today marks the two-week point since Lomax’s turn-in, and I haven’t heard anything. As always, no news is good news.

This means that my irrepressible little friend has gone through all his medical checks and, come Monday, will start working with the trainers assigned to his “string” (group of dogs). I’m very excited for him. I’ll probably give it another few weeks before I start stalking the puppy department staff, pestering them with phone calls and e-mails, asking how he’s doing.

Though come to think of it, maybe I’d be better off not knowing. Less to worry about.

Apparently, Lomax Is It (Our "Five Weird Things")

I’ve been “tagged” by Moonshadow!

Ahhh, the wonderful world of the Internet — the only place on Earth where you can play a game of tag without actually getting any exercise. How do you play? Let me explain:

List “five weird things or habits about you” on your blog. Then “tag” five blogger friends and list their names at the end of your post. Your victims– er, friends (hee hee) have to continue the game by writing their “five weird things” on their own blogs, stating this rule clearly, and tagging five more people (or, in this case, dogs). Don’t forget to let your friends know you’ve tagged them, by leaving a “you’ve been tagged” comment on their blog that instructs them to read your blog for details.

Confused yet? Here. Let me demonstrate by listing Lomax’s “five weird things:”

1. Lomax liked to tuck me in at night. If I turned off my light and got into bed while he was in another part of my bedroom, I would hear him get up and walk over, then I’d feel the pressure of his head pressing on the mattress, making sure I was there, then he’d curl up on the floor next to the bed.

2. When Lomax was REALLY hungry for breakfast or dinner, he’d do this crazy, hopping and spinning dance on his hind legs that made him look like a trained Lipizzaner stallion.

3. Lomax didn’t want anyone visiting my fish tank without his supervision. He’d feel the need to get between you and the tank, and wiggle and wag and snort until you paid him the proper attention that let him know he was cuter than the fish.

4. He wanted no part of the meat department at the grocery store.

5. When I (or my roommate) was sitting in the floor or lying on the couch, Lomax especially enjoyed being the perpetrator of a “drive-by licking.”

Now, who’s it? I tag Chandler, Rockwell, Petey, Zoom, and Jake!

The Blog Verdict is In…

…and I’ve decided to stay right here, rather than starting a new blog for every new dog. Thank you to everyone who commented with an opinion!

As much as I sympathize with those who have low bandwith and slow computers (that used to be me, too), I think it’s ultimately easiest for almost everyone if I just continue with this blog. That way, new readers can have easier access to Lomax’s story if they want, and everyone who’s been so gracious as to link to me won’t have to do any updating. And of course, I won’t have to sign in and out a billion times when I’m posting about different dogs (good point, Sam).

I’ve been dogless since last Friday, when I took Ike back to his regularly scheduled puppy raisers. I’ll be blogging about him soon, I promise…I’ve just been enjoying a little break from posting and walking and feeding and grooming and training, et cetera….

Time Flies

Lomax has been in formal training for a week now, which means he’s halfway through his thorough medical exams. No news is good news!

I was thinking just the other day that I had him for just over ten months. Didn’t seem like that long to me, and it makes me wonder how quickly sixteen or eighteen months will pass when I start all over again with a teeny puppy.

This photo was taken on September 21, 2005, on his first day with me:

This one was taken on August 3, 2006, at the company picnic just a couple of days before turn-in:

Also wanted to take a little poll…I’m trying to decide whether to start an entirely new blog for the next dog (and puppies I watch before he arrives), or to continue posting to this one. Fellow puppy raisers, what say you? I know some of you have a different blog for each dog. Advantages of that? Disadvantages? I’m leaning toward keeping things here, but would love to hear your opinions.

Mr. Lomax Goes to College

Ah, the arrival of the beautiful and terrible day!

Lomax and I had been to a “pre-turn-in party” the night before with several other puppy raisers, which was of great value; it always helps to be with other sympathetic souls when you’re in the throes of emotional distress. In addition to the blessings of food and drink and puppy-free-for-all playtime in the yard, I received many lovely cards with notes containing words of comfort, encouragement and wisdom. My area group is a community of people committed to an act of service, and committed to mutual support of others who are engaged in that service. What also stems from that is friendship.

I had been told many things about turn-in day, some good, some…well, quite frankly, horrifying. And I had reached the point where I was preparing myself for the absolute worst, but maybe that was a good place from which to start.

All things considered, I slept well on Friday night. The alarm was set for early so I’d have plenty of time to spend with my boy before Liam and his people came to pick us up. After breakfast, we took one last walk around the neighborhood, where I took his photo in front of a house with a lovely English garden. Afterward, we had a nice game of “Kong ball” in the parking garage — one of his favorite things — and came upstairs to play with his favorite toys. And as an extra-special treat, he was allowed to go into my roommate Amy’s bedroom, which had always been off-limits to him. It didn’t take much convincing — Lomax had always been fascinated with Amy’s room, and would sit patiently at her door while she was working at her computer, staring little holes in the back of her head in the vain hope that she would relent.

Liam and his people (I suppose we can just call them Matt & Amy) came up to the apartment, and we let the boys have one last brotherly frolic. Because it’s my tradition that all the puppies I puppysit get their photos taken with Woody — the mannequin in our living room, long story — we of course had to have a session with him before piling into the car for the (too long, and yet not nearly long enough) trip up to GDA.

I’d rarely been just a passenger in a vehicle with Lomax; I was usually the driver. So while we were on the freeway, with that feeling of our inevitable, imminent separation in the pit of my stomach, I spent as much time looking at him and petting him and holding his little face in my hands as I possibly could. He has always been adorable, beautiful to look at, but I could hardly bear it now. I wanted to burn the image and the feel of him into my memory, I could not touch him enough, and yet, doing so felt like the final acceptance of the idea that I would not be able to do so again.

We parked. We steeled ourselves for the moment. I put on his bow tie.

That’s right — Mr. Personality was NOT going to arrive at school on such an auspicious occasion without making the proper impression. I wanted everyone to know exactly with whom they were dealing…and it seemed to be a big hit. Everyone noticed and commented. Lomax, always the one to bring the party with him, no doubt relished the attention as he always does.

We turned in our jackets and our paperwork, received our certificates of appreciation for puppy raising, then took seats in the dining area and waited for lunch. I ate surprisingly well; I was actually hungry, and the food (many thanks to the generous folks at the North Woods Inn in Covina) was actually delicious. My roommate, who doesn’t give herself nearly enough credit for being funny, dubbed it “The World’s Saddest Barbecue.”

Staff members from the GDA puppy department expressed their appreciation and gave us the rundown of what our dogs would be doing for the next several months: two weeks of health examinations, followed by a gradually building schedule of walks and harness work. They went out of their way to reassure us that our puppies would receive the best and most loving kennel and vet staff care, have a great time living in community with the other dogs, and never be pushed beyond what they wanted to do. We also heard from GDA employee Lorri Bernson, who is herself a guide dog user. Lorri and her mom, who also spoke, provided everyone with packs of Kleenex and bags of chocolates, tied with a note: “Thank you for the difference that you’ve made.”

We had a break for photos. This is usually a time when you might find littermates you haven’t seen since the day you picked up your tiny puppy a year and a half beforehand. Unfortunately, since there have been career-changes and early turn-ins and (more happily!) breeder evaluations in our litter, Liam and Lomax were the only “L” representatives on the day. So we took our own family photo, then posed for some shots of all five of the South Bay Group dogs headed for their bright futures (left to right: Patton, Nevada, Liam, Lomax, Mahina). Then it was time for the walk down to the kennels.

Louise, head of the puppy department, grouped us together in the shade while she read aloud the names of the dogs who would be paired in each kennel. Our wait wasn’t long. Just a few names in, she called…Lomax and Liam.

I felt like I was on The Price is Right, so enthusiastic was the whooping of those who knew our boys. Liam and Lomax, come on dowwwwwwn!!!! This was the biggest gift of the day for me — the brothers would be roommates. Any concerns I had about my little man’s comfort and happiness were instantly alleviated. The Fabulous L Boys, The Brothers Tongue, The Little Bachelors…they’ve played together and spent time at “Camp GDA” together frequently over the last ten months. On our way into the lads’ new home, I dropped a “slightly used” (certified pre-owned?) Nylabone ring into the toy collection bucket for the enjoyment of all.

There it was: number 26, hung with nametags and what would soon be our boys’ new working collars. Lomax had absolutely no qualms about his new digs. The instant that Liam shot through the doggy door to the outside section of the kennel, Lomax was wiggling furiously and straining against my attempts at removing his training collar. I let him zoom on through. Surely he was thinking, “I finally have a YARD! And I can go there any time I WANT!”

Two other South Bay dogs, Nevada and Mahina, are neighbors on either side, and Patton is just down the row. So (with the exception of an…ahem, outspoken poodle a couple of kennels down) it looks like a pretty sweet neighborhood!

This, of course, is where the tears came. The GDA staff is very patient and understanding, and allows us to spend as much time as we need to with our pups before we say goodbye, but no one’s ever truly ready. Amy and I (and Matt & Amy, and Nevada’s raiser Katie) went in and out of the kennels, hugging and kissing and talking to the dogs, taking pictures and trying to make sense of it all. Lomax, of course, was far too busy running around with Liam and jumping up to greet his next-door neighbors to hold still for a proper hug (what else is new?), but Amy and I did our best. After most of the others had gone and things had settled down a bit, Amy and I went back into the kennel to say a prayer for “our boys” and the people whose lives they will touch. As a Christian, it’s my belief that nothing I “own” is truly mine — everything has been given to me by God, entrusted to my stewardship, but everything still belongs to Him. This, too, has made turn-in day easier: my giving Lomax back to his rightful owner, every single day.

The boys were still running around as we left, zooming in and out of the doggy door (Lomax squatting hilariously on the way through, because he’s not used to such things), but my little man jumped up to watch as I went. He smiled, and I blew him a kiss: “Be good, Moof! I love you!”

On the way out, I greeted Jessie, who was getting a ride home from GDA with the family who turned in Nevada. She wiggled and snorted and licked my ear, and “moofed” at me…which was surely a message Lomax asked her to pass along.

There was a traditional post-turn-in gathering at Chili’s for food and drink which, to my delight, was populated with several other South Bay raisers and their pups. Everyone asked how I was doing — despite my three-plus years of involvement, this was my first turn-in — and offered me the company of their dogs to help soften the blow of the empty kennel and ubiquitous yellow dog hair awaiting me at home.

I will be raising again, but am going to take a few months’ break just to puppysit while I re-prepare myself to take on the challenge of a seven-week-old Labrador. It will be nice, and probably necessary, to remind myself that every dog is different and special and uniquely wonderful, despite the fact that there will never be another Lomax. At the moment, I can’t imagine how that could be. But for now, Ike — a sweet 15-month-old Labradoodle with beautiful eyelashes, about whom you will be hearing more as he is a more frequent guest in weeks to come — is an excellent cuddler and slurper of salty tears.

On the whole, the day wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, and there were moments of great relief and gladness. The sadness comes and goes, but I find joy in knowing my little man is in good hands and beginning a very exciting journey that will end happily, whatever decision he makes.

Besides, the sadness is only on my part — I’m sure Lomax is having the time of his life. And I’d bet my life savings that he’s the last one tired at the end of each day.

Thank you all (blog readers, fellow puppy raisers, South Bay Group friends, family) for your support and encouragement! Your comments and notes have meant so much. I will keep you posted as to Lomax’s progress so you may celebrate each step with me, and I’m bound to keep blogging for sure. Stay tuned….


We enter the next phase of Lomax’s journey tomorrow; in one minute, it will be August 5, 2006. But even with our minds on the future, we can stop to enjoy the moment at hand.