Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tai's Evaluation

Around nine months or so, a GDA dog goes to spend some time up at the kennels for their evaluation. The trainers (or puppy department) takes the puppy out into public, goes through their commands, and makes a general report of where the puppy needs to improve, what they do well, etc. We dropped Tai off, and then picked him up on the way to the mountains this past weekend.

We got the wiggly black dog back, and then noticed the envelope stuck to the wall - "Tai". We took a deep breath, opened our eyes, and read his eval.

First off - "energy level - high!". Complete with exclamation point. "General behavior - excited". Gee, you think? Tai has a TON of energy, however his brother Truman usually has more. And 'Rooman only got a MODERATE energy rating. Evidently, Tai didn't get all of his "play" out with his roomie at the kennel or had been pounding Red Bull, so he was rarin' to go when they came to get him for his eval. His obedience commands were rated good. He did fine in public, was excited but able to contain himself around other dogs, did NOT stalk the kennel cat this time, and over all did a good job.

In the comments section, they did comment that Tai can be a tougher dog to handle just because of his sheer size, but he knows exactly what is expected of him with commands and takes correction well. He's just 74 pounds of hurry-up-let's-go. No further evaluation planned. And since we've had him back, we see that he's turned a corner. His recall is really very good, and he is much faster at executing his commands.

All said and done... I think we'll keep him. At least until next August, anyway!

Monday, November 19, 2007

And Then We Said Goodbye

We went to Lake Arrowhead in the local mountains this weekend. We met my parents, our brother, sister-in-law and our niece there at an uncle's cabin for the weekend. We took Paige and picked Tai up from GDA on our way, as he was up there for his nine month evaluation (see the next post).

We were up there to hang out with the family, but also to hand Paige off. She is going to live with my parents. My mom is very excited to have her, she's always loved Paige - they even share the same birthday.... and Paige is a sucker for anyone who rubs her belly. Mom and Paige have plans already - obedience (for mom and Paige to get used to each other), agility (I promise to get video of Paige the moose going through the weave-poles), and therapy dogs.

We've now been through three turn-ins, and IMO, this was harder. I know that my parents will be good to her (and from the looks of it, Paige already has them wrapped around her paws), and we will get regular updates. But still. It was still hard to drive away, with those huge brown eyes wondering where we were going with Tai.

I cried all the way down the mountain.

And I know she's fine. She went home with my mom and dad, and has an upstairs bed, a downstairs bed, a dog run, a big backyard, and oh yeah, a huge fleecy squeaky bone that she's convinced is straight from heaven.

We get to see Paiges on Saturday when we go down there - we're going with my parents to San Diego to see my alma mater (Go Frogs!) play at San Diego State. As soon as we find the camera, we will post some pics from this past weekend.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Return of the RamPaige and Tai-rade

This is what happened when Tai got his big sister back. Can you even tell who is who?

The Last Call

As some of you GDA people know, we got a call from GDA on Friday.

Paige has been released from the program.

When I spoke to the head of the puppy department, she said that Paige's dog distraction is too strong to continue. We knew this was a problem when we agreed to take her on just about a year ago. She made progress, but as many of you know, the stress of the harness and making decisions can bring out issues and difficulties in all dogs. She lamented that Paige is such a sweet girl and that her guide work was really excellent, but that this was one difficulty that she would not be able to overcome, and they did not want to break her spirit.

What followed next was a jumble of mixed emotions - and still kinda is, in a way. I called Matthew at work and explained what had happened, still feeling stunned - after all, we got Paige's second postcard not that long ago. He was able to leave work, especially since his supervisor had known Paige, with very little trouble. I, on the other hand, not being able to bring a dog to this job, had a harder time, complicated by the fact I couldn't find a single person higher than myself. I left my boss a phone message and email with a quick prayer for understanding, and left.

We called our wonderful area leaders, closest friends, and then dropped off Tai with his puppy friend Weeko. We had no idea what to expect - this is one part of the process we had not experienced, and did not want to have Tai the 72 pound teenager to distract from whatever might happen (more on him in a sec). The drive up there was odd, because while we were both sort of emotional, both of us were also feeling guilty for feeling happy. We were reminded that this truly is a win-win: it's a win if she's a guide, but it's also a win if she's not. We just didn't know what to do with this win, yet.

Paige had just had a bath and the head of the kennel department brought her to us still pretty damp, but it was a damp, wiggly, happy Paiges that barrelled towards us. She knocked off my sunglasses and me onto my butt much like her "big brother" Voight does when he sees us after a long absence. She immediately pushed her head into our chests as hard as she could - Paige's ultimate gesture of love and affection. We were told all the necessary paperwork would be mailed. We walked her to the truck, she jumped in like she'd never been gone, and sighed a very contented sigh.

Matthew picked up Tai, and I stayed with the Paiges. I got a text message before Matthew left to come home: he knows. Tai had glued his nose to Matthew as soon as he saw him - Tai was scenting his sister! When Tai came out into the backyard, they barrelled at each other, tails a-waggin'. Tai is now fully as big as Paige, weighs as much, with much bigger feet. We think that she's wondering what we fed him while she was gone.

Paige is not going to be staying with us. A part of why we do the whole GDA thing in the first place is that we don't have a dog door for a puppy and truly, we are pretty busy people (as our spotty blogging record attests). It would not be fair to take Tai everywhere and Paige hang out at home by herself. Paige is going to stay with my mom, whose last dog passed away the same day we turned in Liam, August 2006. Mom always wanted to do therapy dogs with her Watson, but he turned out to be ill of health and therefore cranky. Paige will be perfect.

So it turns out that from getting Paige to getting Paige BACK is almost a year precisely. We are still adjusting to the change. We are still pretty emotionally out of whack currently, but these past 36 hours have been amazing on so many levels. We will have Paige until next weekend, and then she will go on to her new home and next adventure.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Happy Birthday to our Paiges

Our big, sweet baby girl is two years old today. It has been almost a year since she came to us, a silly moose with a lot of love in her heart to give.

We miss her dearly, but after passing her first test, we know she is exactly where she's supposed to be.

Happy Birthday Paige!!