“I’m taking over the posting”, Maggie

This is ridiculous!  I know you all have been out there wondering, “what has happened to poor Maggie?”, and Phil has not kept you up to date.  When I finally figured out how to log onto his account, I was shocked to see that he had not posted anything about me (not even a picture) since June 6th!  So, let me catch you up on how I am doing.  First, if I must say so myself, I am a beautiful 2 year old (that would be a 14 year old teen in human  terms…but I digress)…Phil does keep me prim and proper…has me bathed, nails trimmed and polished, ears and eyes cleaned every month.  I get plenty of exercise (I have him trained to throw the ball, and each time I bring it back to him, and he thanks me to boot!). He got me the most comfortable bed in the world…I literally disappear into it since is black like me…I get plenty of beauty rest time.  Sometimes I think Phil gets a little annoyed with me when I get him up at 4 A.M. ’cause I gotta pee, but he gets up anyway.  I think he is trying to get me to hold it a little longer until, maybe 7 A.M.  Sometime I accommodate him, especially if he tells me to go back to bed in a grumpy voice…I feel sorry for him.  But, I do insist that he gets up to feed me anytime between 5 A.M. and 7 A.M. (at the latest)…I am STARVING by then, so a left paw on the head while he is sleeping usually does the trick.  Overall, I think I am treated pretty well.  This Service Dog thing would have been OK, but I just didn’t think I was cut out for it..so I let them know ever so subtly.  Now, I had some good friends that I met a SSD who just loved it, and I am sure they are happy helping others.  Me, I just wanted to be a pet, and Phil and Sue are the perfect owners for me.  After all, they raised me before I even knew I was supposed to go outside to “get busy”.  That’s all behind me now, and I think I turned out to be a model pet most of the time.  One last thing, before Phil catches me on his computer…Phil’s daughter’s family got a little white fluffy dog (Jingle Belle) and we get along fabulously.  I let her chase me…it helps her self esteem…she’s so tiny…but my selfless efforts sure do wear me out…I can sleep for hours after that.  I don’t see her often, but when I do…it is game on!  Well, me next step is to learn how to use Phil’s camera so I can snap a few pictures of myself in action (maybe I can train Phil to do that, too).  Then I just have to learn how to upload them into his computer so YOU can actually SEE how beautiful I am.  Well, gotta’ go…modestly yours, Maggie.

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Maggie settles in as a pet

Maggie’s first week and a half as a pet have been great!  She is such a good dog!  She loves to run, play ball (with anything she can pick up), splash in the kiddie pool and play ball again!   She loves it in the country, and when she has a chance, she will try to get horses to chase her (generally they just watch her as she runs crazily around them, I am sure wondering what she is trying to do).  She usually gets tired of this about the tenth circle around their legs, then just “grazes” along side of them!  Fascinating to watch…and they are all so tolerant of her.

We took her to a local lake, and walked her down a boat launch ramp, and before I knew it she was totally in the water ready to swim across to the other side!  Fortunately I had her lease on and kept control of her…but she definitely loves the water.  At the same time, she was very good about ignoring the ducks and ducklings, though she was a bit curious about how they floated on the water…:-).  I am proud of her for not wanting to chase them!

Speaking of ignoring small animals (which used to love to chase), she has exhibited lots of self-control off lease when she encountered a very surprised baby bunny!  Maggie began pursuit to play with the little fuzzball, but at my command to ‘leave it”…she did just that…stopped in her tracks and returned to me…while a very relieved bunny made its escape to hide in a woodpile.  She also encountered a full grown rabbit one early morning when I let her out to potty.   She looked at it, as it made its escape, but made no attempt to chase it as I yelled “leave it”.  Birds evoke no interest in Maggie (again, something she loved to chase in her “youth”).

Maggie has learned a lot in her 21 months, but she was just not cut out to be a service dog.  Since she is such a “people dog”, and energetic, we are going to pursue training her as a “Therapy Dog” and/or expose her to Agility Training either for competition or just to keep her sharp and thinking.

We are happy to have her as a pet, and she seems happy to be a pet.  Two of her siblings have gone onto “service”…her “Big” brother Buster is off to be a Courthouse Dog, and Lucy is off to be a Facility Dog…both jobs fit their personalities perfectly.  Two other siblings, Carol and Kate, took the same path as Maggie, and became pets with their raisers.  As mentioned early on, the failure rate for these dogs is about 50%, so this litter is about on the average.

Last I heard about Marcia, she is doing just fine enjoying her life as pet as well.  She is quite the swimmer, too.  She has lots of opportunity to do just that in her puppy raiser’s pool.

Keep posted as we consider another puppy to raise (probably around September).  In the meantime, I will keep you posted on Maggie’s adventures and pictures (sorry no pictures this time).

Thanks for following!

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Maggie and Marcia find their destinies!

Finally, these faithful little pups can settle-in…they both have found their destinies.  First, Marcia  made the trip back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB) safely, and it was determined that she should be discharged.  Having been discharged, she was returned to the permanent care of her puppy raiser, Colleen.  Maybe Marcia hasn’t realized it yet, but she has made her last move, so she will spend the rest of her days with Colleen’s family, Lani (another Lab whom I believe may be related to Marcia) and the family cat!  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Marcia suffered from kennel stress at SSD.  But no more kennel stress for Marcia, she has her “forever” home now.  I know Marcia is in loving hands with Colleen and her family.

Now for little Maggie.  I got a call from Amanda (SSD’s training supervisor) yesterday (Friday).  That’s when she updated me on Marcia (and I subsequently got an email from Colleen).  After the update on Marcia, she proceeded to tell me that the ATF did not need a dog at this time, so SSD was going to discharge Maggie.  She then ask if we wanted to keep Maggie….it took about a nano-second for me to say YES!  So now Maggie has her “forever” home as well.  She is a very smart and well trained puppy, and I plan to keep her on her toes with lots of “clicking” and treating; she just was not cut out for service dog duties.  We plan to give Maggie some “puppy” company down the road by taking on another SSD puppy to train.  Right now they have about 20 puppies to place by the end of June (anyone local interested? Let me know, and I’ll get you on the path to puppy raising).  There is a possibility of another litter coming in September…we are looking at our options (and schedules).  The nice thing about these pups, they do what we do and go where we go because of their public access, so they can fit into most schedules…they are just like having friend go with you everywhere.

So our first 18 months of puppy raising has come to a close…and the discharge news is bittersweet.  You want them to succeed…there is a lot of time and effort that goes towards that end; but, you know,too, that 50% of them will not be placed for various reasons including physical.  If they do not make it, they will have a home with someone who loves them and will care for them.  It is a win-win for the dogs…like I said in an earlier blog entry, it is we humans that have all the emotions with which to deal.  We have learned so much through this experience and have met some wonderful people (and dogs) along the way.

Stay tuned for the next chapter…it will start before you know it.  In the meantime, I can give you updates on the life of a “discharged” service dog, our Maggie.  Thanks for your faithful following.  I would love to hear if you have enjoyed taking this journey with us…leave a comment if you have, and of course any suggestions for making this blog better.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

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Marcia goes home

Well, sweet little Marcia went back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB) today.  She “told us” that she just didn’t want to be a Service Dog.  It was a bittersweet happening, but I think it will better for Marcia.  This is one of the many things I love about our organization, SSD.  SSD is very sensitive to what is best for the dog.  We can’t always meet our goals to put them into “service”, either because the dog is not suited for the type of service needed, or there is not a demand for the service the dog can perform.  Examples would be when a dog is not suited for helping a disabled person, but might be suitable to work with the CIA or ATF as a bomb or substance sniffer.  The CIA/ATF jobs are hit and miss…they may or may not need a dog when we have one available.  In both Marcia’s and Maggie’s cases, they were not suited for Guide Dog or Service Dog work.  What’s next for Marcia?  We do know she had some “kennel stress”, and I am sure that will be taken into consideration for her next steps, which have not been disclosed by GEB.  I will have to update you when I know.

Maggie is still with us, awaiting a call from the CIA or ATF.  We are thoroughly enjoying her while we have her.  What we do know, so far, is that if we do not hear from the CIA/ATF by Monday, next steps for Maggie’s destiny will be determined, and presumably the CIA/ATF option will be off the table.

Is this an emotional roller coaster?  You bet, but in this business, I am learning patience is a virtue!  As long as we don’t project what we are feeling onto what the dog might be  feeling, we are OK…the dogs can handle it, we humans have a more difficult time with it.

Having said that, I think Maggie misses Marcia, we sure do!  LOL

(Click on pictures to enlarge)

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Highmark walk with Maggie and Marcia

Today we walked a mile to raise money for SSD (SSD raised over $10,000, a new record).   The “girls” did very well considering all of the other dogs, people and various other distractions (food, balls, balloons).  I want to thank all of those who “walked” with us through your encouragement and kind words, and for those who were able to contribute to our cause (Linda Macdonald, Patrick Buggy, Marianne Griswold, Marcia Scattergood, Joy Macdonald, and Stephanie Bender)….THANK YOU! THANK YOU!  We’ll do this again next year, Lord willing, and you will again have the opportunity to participate with us.  By that time we will be well underway with raising and training a brand new puppy!  Since two dogs kept our hands very busy with leashes, clicking and treating, I was only able to get a few pictures of the event.  One of the picture is of Maggie and BIG brother, Buster! Buster is being assigned to the Cumberland County Courthouse in a pilot program where he will help nervous testifiers calm down enough to testify in a court of law (mostly children).  Buster is like a big Teddy Bear, and he starts his new venture the first week in June.  Buster gets to go home with his handler every night (with two young children)…what a life!  We’ll miss you Buster, but you will be doing a great work.   http://courthousedogs.com.

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Maggie meets Marcia…and what a meeting it has been!!

Yesterday was quite the day!  Because of an accident on the interstate, my 30 minute trip to the training kennels took me 2 hours, but it was worth it to pick up little Marcia who was patiently awaiting my arrival!  She was so excited to see me (and vice-verse).  She was “housed” with two other black labs.  To the disappointment of the other two, I could only take Marcia.  They would be picked up later when their raisers arrived.  Marcia had a busy and successful first week!  I could tell she worked hard because she slept the whole two hours back to our home.

Then there was the ARRIVAL!!!  What a surprise to walk into HER house and find another dog.  Neither Maggie, nor Marcia knew exactly how to react…so they reacted as any dog would, but checking out each others name, date of birth and social security number…if you know what I mean!  When it was determined they were friendlies, it was party time!  They jumped, kissed, mouthed, and looked for a play toy.  Once it was determined that the “yellow ducky” was the toy of choice, we made our way out to the yard for some stress relief!  I never saw two dogs so joyful…running, playfully nipping at each other, chasing the yellow ducky seemingly in tandem, and running back to me so they could start all over again!  This could have gone on for an hour, but I decided 20 minutes of this was enough for them and ME.  The tired puppies came in and drank all of the available water.  I thought they would collapse and sleep through the night…NOT!  They still wanted time to get to know each other a little better, so the playtime continued indoors.  I think some of it was to determine who was going to be the Alpha female…and I think Maggie (the smaller of the two) won that contest.  I looked down and there was Marcia on her back and Maggie standing triumphantly over her.

The next step was to see who could get the best of Sue’s and my affections.  I think that ended in a draw (see the picture below).  These are two very special dogs!  They have played with each other, kissed each other, and finally did sleep next to each other.  They are friends now, and have made a memory for us that we will never forget.  Two service dogs who seemingly felt a camaraderie that only they and we could understand.  It is a wonderful experience to see these two beautiful dogs love each other and their human handlers with such ease, devotion and affection.

When evening arrived and it was bedtime, they found comfort in each other.  As all good, selfless service dogs should do, they SHARED their bed and crate voluntarily. It was amazing to see them curled up together…sleeping!  In the morning they got me up together, ran outside together, pottied together and ran back together, then, ate together.  It is almost like they are each other’s shadow…inseparable!

We tried to capture some “moments” with our camera that will illustrate with pictures, what I tried to express in my narrative.  Enjoy them…

Next weekend, I walk in the Highmark Walk to do my part in supporting SSD and the wonderful work they do.  If you would like to help in the great work, please click on this link to contribute:


Thanks to those who have already contributed, and in advance to you who will be giving.

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Maggie comes back to SSD

We got word this past weekend that Maggie was returning to SSD from the Guide Dog Foundation. The comments were that “she tested to be too self motivated and had some toy possessiveness”…I am not sure how all of that is defined or what that means, but I DO know, that whatever the behaviors demonstrated, she was not suitable for a Guide Dog.

Well, Monday was a real roller coaster of emotions all over again.  I dropped off dear Marcia…she is soooo gentle, and picked up a very excited Maggie.  I was glad to see Marcia warm so quickly to Kelsey (her trainer) and be so relaxed in a new environment.  As a bonus, Kelsey said she would be taking Marcia to her home each night “to get to know her better”.  That means Marcia will have it pretty cushy, at least for this week.  Marcia will probably adapt pretty well to kennel life based on her weekend with a “sitter”.    Her sitter had another service dog in training and they played together really well!  I will report next weekend on how Marcia did in her first week of “big dog” Advanced Training.

Maggie just about turned inside out with excitement when she saw me.  She has been reunited with us for two days now, and honestly, I can hardly stand the thought of another separation with her.  However, that may happen if the CIA or ATF want to try her out in their program.  We are awaiting a response from them.  We (and she) will live through this…we want her to do what makes her happiest…and ultimately, she will tell us this through her actions and behaviors.  No one said this was going to easy, but to be honest, they didn’t tell us how hard it would be either.

It helps to blog about these steps and adventures…it makes me feel YOU (the readers) are with us, and share in our feeling and struggles.  Thanks for your interest in following us!  You should know that I am regularly in touch with Marcia’s former raiser at Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB), and, yes, she is on the emotions roller coaster, too.  In fact, my guess is  all puppy raisers go through this to some degree, no matter the face they put on!

Maggie rests close to Phil

Maggie rests close to Phil

In summary, let us not forget why we do this; it is to help others…whether the disabled, the blind or law enforcement…through helping these puppies learn skills that only they can perform!  When we keep our focus on that, we are re-energized, and the sting of separation is eased.  Hang in there with us…these are real lives these puppies have the potential to change (or protect in the case of law enforcement) forever!

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