Tuesday, November 29, 2016


It was November 3, 2016 and Puffin and I had just completed our
last trip--our last flight together. She was much more calm in
her customary place, under the seat in front of me, than she had
been on her first flight west. Since then, we have flown
together many times, but this would be our final journey

I was flying to SeaTac to attend the Washington Council of the
Blind annual convention. Puffin, though she did not know it, was
flying to her new home. She is now enjoying her retirement with
my nephew and his wife and their Jack Russell mix. Puffin now has
a half-acre of fenced yard where she loves spending much time
weather permitting. My nephew's wife does not work outside their
home and does not drive, so she is there to be door-person for
all the dogs. During the week, my nephew's son stays with them
to be closer to his work. With him come his two dogs; a Border Collie and a Pomeranian puppy about 3-4 months old. There is a
fifth Puffin-size dog, a mix who also has access to the property.
All get along well.

After two convention days, I spent one night and the following day
with my nephew and his wife teaching them about Puffin. I had
them do the obedience routine with her. I worked with them on
the "come" command using treats to enforce the likelihood that
she will obey this when needed. I showed them how I have been
caring for her nails--using a grinder to keep nails short and
Musher's Secret to keep pads healthy. I brought copies of all
her vet records for her new vet. She also had a familiar bed
waiting for her that they had taken home after their visit with
us in September. In short, I did all I knew to make this a
smooth transition for all concerned and to tell Puffin she was
now to see this change as her new home.

They visited us over Thanksgiving and Puffin, though happy to
greet us, was clearly their dog now. She has always loved my
nephew and the feelings have been mutual.

Some may ask "Why do dogs retire?" In her case, at 6 years and 9
months, it is earlier than one might hope. Honestly, she has had
some work-related issues throughout her career and some potential
medical issues. She does have fears and this was obvious, even
in class, when she showed extreme fear of vacuums. We worked
with treats to overcome or lessen this. At home it was fear of
the sounds at the hairdresser. We worked there with food daily
for a few weeks to help her overcome this fear. She was jumped
by a dog (no blood) early in our time together and eventually she
started lunging at other dogs--especially loose dogs. We worked
with positive training methods to overcome this. We discovered
that she also has kidney insufficiency although her blood work is
within normal range for kidney function at this time. Most
recently, she has started slowing down in her work and
hesitating. Sometimes we were only sauntering along. Early on,
she was very eager to walk fast.

Her house behavior has been excellent throughout our time
together. Her puppy-raising family certainly did very well with
this. She has remained a wonderful dog and a joy to be around.
Now my nephew is reaping the benefit of her early training. It
made the difficult job of giving her to a new home a bit less
difficult to know that she was already somewhat familiar there
because of previous visits. It has been clear that she favors my
nephew. All this, plus the fact that I still can keep track of
her makes the grieving process much less difficult for me. It
was my option to choose the date of her retirement to give me a
chance to prepare mentally and emotionally for my new partner.

In just a few short days, I will be flying to Portland to train
with my seventh dog. I have chosen to stay closer to home this
time. I received my first two dogs from Guide Dogs for the Blind
(GDB) California campus and will now be training for two weeks at
their Boring, Oregon facility. The clicker training experience I
received at Seeing Eye and on my own has made me want to learn
more about this. I decided to see how the GDB greater emphasis
on positive training methods using clicker and food rewards is
working. Let me say that Seeing Eye puppy raisers and trainers
have provided excellent dogs. Both schools are high quality
schools and the decision to change was not an easy one.

My hope is to blog my training experience again as time permits.
Check here on December 5 or later to learn about my new partner.
I hope to upload pictures as well. Training is a rigorous
experience and with two students to one trainer rather than 3-4
students, word is that we are much more actively involved
throughout the day with less down time while we wait for team
members to work with the trainer. I am not sure how well
blogging will work without having benefit of a computer--only my

Thursday, January 26, 2012


We are on our way now. Today, the ice had melted and the temperature was moderate with a sunny sky. Puffin and I did our first real solo. Our walk is one that I have done as a first venture with most if not all of my previous dogs. We walked the perimeter of two blocks amounting to about .5 miles. It is all residential with two street crossings that have actual curbs. We faced the on-coming traffic all the way. Two sides were very quiet streets. There were two work errors, but she did well over all. I think we both were glad to be out walking.

Thanks to all of you for following me on this journey. The fact that you were reading has given me support and encouragement. Now, I hope it is several years before I am in a position to write about my new dog again.

For years to come, I hope we will still be Huffin' and Puffin

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


A huge thanks goes to my previous dog, Trinity. Without knowing it, she has helped my transition to home withPuffin. WithTrinity, my friends and relatives learned to ignore her when working and to avoid making contact with her. Thanks also goes to all of you from my community who are remembering these rules for Puffin’s smooth transition to her working life with me.

I thought people would see the similarities between Trinity and Puffin. They are both yellow labs and both light in color. However, people see them as different in their body type and facial expression. This is interesting to me.

I have had some questions that I will answer here in case others may be wondering the same thing.

I have been asked how my new dog knows where I want to go. The fact is that I am the one who needs to give directional information to my dog such as Forward, Left, or Right, and it is Puffin’s job to follow these commands and negotiate crowded areas without bumping me into things. Now, she knows the basic commands. As she learns my routines, she will show me places we often go, by slowing or turning her head toward a door. It will be my command to continue on our way or turn in that will determine our course. These become very subtle and possibly seen only to those trained to observe our movements. We can travel anywhere now with the basic training she has learned if I know what directions to give her, but it will take us six months to a year to be a smoothly working team. We will learn more and more to read each other’s body language. The harness handle is a two-way communication device between us in addition to the words and gestures that she knows.

A dog’s field of vision is about 250 degrees where as humans have about 180 degrees. This means that Puffin sees farther behind her on either side and is aware of my hand movements even though I am walking farther back near her back legs.

Huffin' and Puffin

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


With all the focus on getting home, I neglected to share what happened when we arrived. Things went pretty much as expected. First I parked Puffin and then went inside to greet our basset while my husband held Puffin’s leash. Next, I took Puffin's leash and my husband went inside to bring our basset, EZ out on leash to meet Puffin on more neutral ground. Puffin’s hair went up initially, but within minutes they both seemed to be doing well with each other. EZ has access only to our family room and the back yard, so it was easy to let Puffin explore the rest of the house on leash. She was very excited and wired. Next we put EZ outside and took Puffin into the family room where we also have two cats. They are as different as their color. Scooter, mostly white wasted no time in getting acquainted. He went right up to puffin and began rubbing himself against her legs. She on the other hand seemed a bit frightened of him and her hair went up again. Our black cat, Cinders kept her distance. Neither cat ran from her.

Puffin remains very curious about the cats and Scooter continues to make himself completely available to her. This morning I put Puffin on tie down at her place in our bedroom. I stepped out briefly and heard a strange noise. Our white cat had gotten out of the family room and gone there and was lying in another dog bed that was inside a garbage bag. It made a nice nest for scooter. Puffing was at the end of her tether, nosing him as he lay calmly purring his contentment. He seems to have no fears. Puffin did mouth him a bit and my concern is that she may want to nibble at him to see what he is like.

It is still much to icy to venture out for a walk. Puffin and I did visit a friend at the hospital this afternoon. I was able to work her from the entrance, up some stairs, and through the treatment area where my friend was.

Puffin is very affectionate. She is very curious about everything and is really cute. When she lies down, she often crosses her front legs. This makes her look sophisticated. She is a sensitive and responsive girl.

Huffin' and Puffin

Monday, January 23, 2012


The short of it is that we did get home safely yesterday afternoon. There is much to tell about our journey, and I will give details below.

Thursday, January 19
Morning came even earlier than usual with my personal wake-up at 4:00. I put my own morning routine ahead of Puffin and was ready to feed and take her out about 4:30. Then there was time for a quick muffin, last minute packing details and many Good-bys. We left for the airport at 5:30. We students, soon to be graduates, were divided among the five instructors according to flight times and departure gates. Even so, it was a quick trip through security for Puffin and me. My flight was already boarding when we reached the departure gait. The 6-hour flight was rather smooth, but Puffin was not at all impressed. By the time we were ready to take off, I had almost dozed off. Puffin, though, decided to follow suit and tried a take-off of her own. Her leash was fastened to my seat belt and this helped to keep her from escaping into the aisle past the two empty seats in our row. I did manage to entice her back into position under the seat in front of me when something new triggered her and she was up and out again. This time, she almost slipped her collar because she was moving in reverse. I managed to call for help and the flight attendant retrieved my purse where some treats were stashed. With these, I managed to break off small pieces and “bribe” puffin back to me and to shape the appropriate position of “down “. I chose my battles and did not insist on perfect form under the seat in front of me. First she was stretched out full length across in front of the three seats. Gradually, she folded up and pressed against my legs until she was in rather good position by the end of that leg of our journey.

Then it was my turn for anxiety. We heard that our descent would be rough and the runway was being kept open. The airport was closed to through traffic. Some how, though, the pilot managed to make a very smooth landing on the ice and slush of the tarmac.

Once at our flight destination, I learned that the second leg of our journey was cancelled due to the weather. We had an escort who was afraid of dogs, but he was a good sport. He had visions of spending the rest of the day with me because of my long list of needs. Our itinerary was changed to a flight that was to leave for our final destination that same evening. I then went to relieve Puffin. The relief area was in a room and was a litter box arrangement. I have no idea of its size, but Puffin was not impressed and ignored it completely. I asked my escort to find me a place to sit near a restaurant while I considered my options. With that he was on his way.

After making a few phone calls, I learned that the president of Horizon was on TV stating that all flights to my area were cancelled for the rest of the day. A relative helped me by calling to make a hotel reservation for the night. My task then was to find a more suitable area to park Puffin, change my ticket for the following day, and find ground transportation to my hotel. I had only taken a few steps when a restaurant person offered to obtain another escort for me. It took about 15 minutes for that person to arrive and we set off. The outside dog relief area was a very icy patch indeed. Puffin considered it a wonderful place to play while I was in no mood to practice my ice skating maneuvers. The ticket counter was crowded, but I managed to change my flight to the following afternoon. The hotel shuttle took quite some time to arrive in the snowy weather, but my escort insisted on staying with me until it came.

Thankfully I had packed the 8-lb bag of dog food in my carry on and could feed and relieve Puffin once we had reached our room. . A plastic bag does work for giving water and I could feed Puffin from my hand. The door to take Puffin outside was next to my room making it an easy though icy trip each time.

Once settled in our room, I chose to have dinner there instead of venturing out to find the restaurant. It worked so well that I also chose to eat breakfast in my room. Luckily Puffin did not chew her leash turned tie down for the night. There was a small rug in the bathroom that I put beside the bed, It served as her “Place”. When she wakened me at 2:00, I decided that I should respond by 2:30. She demonstrated that she had good reason by producing both a #1 and #2 when we got outside. That room was difficult to heat and they brought in a space heater to bring the room temperature above 59 degrees.

Friday, January 20, 2012
Still wearing the same clothes as the day before, I set out for the lobby to meet my nephew who would take me to my gate at the airport. Puffin did the security routine very well. She sat and waited for me to go first on this and every occasion as if she had been doing it for years. We did board the plane for my final destination and we did arrive above the airport. At the critical moment, the pilot said he could not see the runway and had to abort the landing. He was still unable to see it in two additional tries and said we must go back to are starting point while we had fuel enough to do so.

We arrived at about 3:30 and the process began again. I had to reschedule my flight, relieve Puffin, and make a new hotel reservation. This time it would be for two additional nights as there was not a place on the mid-day flight on Saturday. I decided not to chance any evening flights to avoid the possibility of cancellation or return to find no available lodging. This time, I remembered to request my checked luggage. Puffin would have a toy, her Mutmat from the school, and I would have some clean clothes. Thankfully I had washed them before packing.

I felt a bit less exhausted and decided to strike out for the restaurant. I managed to be helped by a couple who invited me to sit with them. They insisted on paying for my dinner. WE had a very nice visit while Puffin snoozed at my feet. They had returned to the airport an hour and a half into their trip to Hawaii and were waiting for their next opportunity to fly. They were delayed due to mechanical problems.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This was a quiet day for us as we did not have the possibility of a flight. The flight of the evening before had managed to land and I could have been home, but I chose what I chose. This day, the mid-day flight was full before I had a chance to make a reservation. I could have chosen the Saturday evening option, but chose against it for the reason mentioned earlier. I learned later that the Saturday evening flight was cancelled. Puffin and I had some bonding time together in the room. I spent much of the day sitting by her on the floor.

That Morning and evening, I found the restaurant for breakfast and dinner and enjoyed two delicious meals. Following dinner, I was invited to sit and visit with two flight attendants. It was a nice way to spend some time.

The hotel had 850 beds and two towers. It was sprawling and most difficult to negotiate. I tied two plastic bags to my hotel door as is my custom. Puffin knew immediately that this was a target, but I didn’t have treats or a clicker. She found it wonderfully on the first return and we had a party. However, she missed the treats and seemed less inclined to locate our room on subsequent occasions. I was forever getting turned around and needing help. This was not the way a team should begin life together. Ideally a team should go straight home and begin work together on short, well known routs. We had none of this.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

We had a leisurely morning with breakfast and packing. Then we headed for the airport on the hotel shuttle. The airport security people were much more informed and more pleasant than they had been on Friday making my day a better one. On Friday, Puffin clearly was the one setting off the alarm, but the person said they could not tell because I was holding the leash.

Our plane was late because they had hit a bird at a different airport and had to deal with the paper work and other details related to it. There was no damage done to the plane.

It was a rough ascent and descent. Puffin tried several times to crawl into the seat and get behind me. On the Friday flight, she had been very restless and I let her look out the window with her feet in my lap (her choice). I thought that looking outside might help her. My seat mate was very understanding of Puffin’s issues. On Sunday, she was still restless and shivering at times. She did want to get into the seat, but she didn’t head for the aisle.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What a day for a dental appointment. Knowing that Puffin has had some issues with sounds, I asked that my husband attend my dental appointment and take care of Puffin as needed. He did stay and she needed no special attention. She did well.

It is still very icy here. Our relieving spot is like glass and she wants to work off pent up energy there. The sidewalks are not cleared and we have not been able to walk except to get out of the car and go into places. Friends have estimated that it may be a week before the ice will melt enough to walk outside. Bad news for us.

Still Huffin’ and Puffin

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


There is certainly a flurry of activity today. I began by doing a load of clothes in preparation for packing. During our morning trip, we walked on some very narrow sidewalks with clearance issues along our path. We also stopped at a department store for some shopping. We arrived back at the dorm in time for park and then a lecture on pet insurance options.

During the afternoon trip, our entire class worked from various routs to a creamery and had some ice cream as a sort of party.

Once back at the dorm again, I had an exit interview and met with another person to settle up for purchases that I made. I said good-by to friends and began packing for a long trip home tomorrow. Surprisingly, my suitcase is well under the 50-pound limit this time although there are still some items to be tucked into my bags.

The weather may be a factor in my going home plans. We’ll see what happens. It looks as if we will be flying into arctic-type weather conditions for sure.

It will be good to get home, but leaving here is something like leaving camp. We have been thrown together with a common goal and have had many laughs mixed with some sadness. No matter what, this particular group will never be here together again. I am sure that each class has its personality, but this has been a good one. As many of us are leaving, there are six who will be staying for one additional week. They are folks who have come to complete training with their first dogs. I’m sure that the dorm will be a quieter place.

As far as I know, Trinity is still here waiting for a match with placement to a wonderful home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


There was an ice storm during park last evening and the grounds crew had done its work at park before our 5:30 trip outside this morning.

All four of us in our class went together to Starbucks this morning and waited for each of us to do a shorter walk with clearance work on the rout. There was some ice, the dogs were wearing their winter boots and were going slower and more carefully.

We had a chance to purchase items from the school store during the lunch hour today. Then we all went again to Starbucks this afternoon. We then went to a department store and worked through the narrow aisles. This time, the dogs were wearing their gentle leaders.

We visited the statue of Morris Franck at the Green. Our hope was to find some squirrels out, but they were much smarter than we were. They were staying in out of the rain. We did get a picture of Morris and me with both of our dogs. Morris Franck is the first blind person to travel with a guide dog in this country. He helped to start the Seeing Eye. Check out http://www.seeingeye.org/news/default.aspx?M_ID=197

I had my vet visit with Puffin when we returned to campus. She is healthy and has had her teeth cleaned recently. Her only medical issue has been a left ear infection last summer. That is a non-problem now.

After dinner, we had a lecture on dog attacks and how to deal with them and eliminate them if possible.

I am told that Puffin has her tail between her legs in the picture. Her puppy raiser commented that she puts it there and wags it from there when she sits.

I groomed her after the last park today and then we took some time to play together in the room. She is very cute when she plays. I like how she rolls the ball to me and then I roll it back to her. It is very cute.

Tomorrow is the day we will be packing in preparation to strike out on our own the following day. I hope to have time to write a quick update before my computer gets packed.

Huffin' and Puffin