Puppy in training Raja pens his observations of the world around him.
I think I would rather like … – April 2021
It’s April. My siblings and are are ten months old and I weigh thirty kilos. The orange Guide Dog Puppy jacket, which once drowned me, is beginning to look like a bikini.
We continue to get out and about a lot and people are always telling me I’m a very handsome dog. It’s nice to hear.
The public often go on to ask Annie, “Is he going to make it as a Guide Dog?”
She always replies that this first year is all about ensuring we are happy, adaptable dogs, and that Puppy Raisers are not involved in such long term assessments.
That’s for the experts to figure out when I turn one and start my training in earnest.
What I do know is, in the future, I will almost certainly have a role where I’m of great benefit to someone with specific requirements.
I’ve had a few thoughts about my future. I’ve got that serious, trustworthy look that one requires from a Labrador Judge. Plus I’m well qualified. Monday evenings, Annie and I watch Judge John Deed. I’ve had a tour of the Supreme Court and I particularly suited their lovely red carpet. The Stirling Gardens are conveniently placed for me to pass my breaks in. And, I had a private chat with The Honourable Justice M. J. Buss, which was a real bonus. I feel I’m ready.
If there are no positions available in the legal system, it doesn’t matter because I’d also make an effective olive harvester. It’s that season, the trees are heavy with fruit and consequently the pavements are littered with little, ovoid shaped, oh-so-tempting morsels, which I’m good at collecting. Annie says I will not be employed as an olive picker, and I am to leave. Seems a shame to waste such talent.
Cat update – now the days are cooler we take siestas together. I suspect she likes my body warmth.
Toy update – Teddy is very well. I’ve taken up whittling. Sometimes I get my chew toys down to a nice sharp point, but then they’re taken away from me because she says, I could do myself some damage. Giraffe has lost a lot of weight and is in the sewing basket awaiting abdominal surgery.
Adjusting to Life in Lockdown – February 2021
Just when I think I’m getting a handle on humans and their habits, they spring something new on me. Lockdown is the thing this week.
I’m a big fan of watching my human’s face for cues. I study her earnestly, often. Particularly when we’re out I turn to look at her for reassurance and instructions. I’m very sensitive to her facial cues, her voice her tone. So what did she do Monday morning? She puts a mask on.
I have to say it took a few minutes and some serious sniffing before I realised that really nothing about our relationship has changed. She still loves me. I can still hear her, the words are the same, her eyes are still visible. The treats are still in her bag when we go walking. Okay then, I get it. When we go out she puts it on, when we’re home she’s normal.
And going out, that’s changed a bit.
Usually in a “normal week” we start our day by going out for over an hour. We walk, sit, watch people, visit a cafe, hop on and off a bus, weave between poles, practice going up stairs, slowly. We usually take our time and do a variety of things because life is luxurious and we can. During the day we may go out a few times to run errands, visit people, learn stuff.
This “lockdown week” we’re only going out for 45 minutes maximum in the morning. Interestingly every human out there is wearing a mask. And in the evening my humans Chris or Ellery take me on my shorter stroll, and they wear a mask too.
I won’t go shopping with Annie this week and I won’t go to work with her, no public transport, no cafes, no visitors will come to the house for me to ignore.
So what is happening with my training?
In-an-Out – This is a new dance I’ve learnt where I do figure-of-eights in between a humans legs which is very good for my flexibility. I think I’m a natural.
Ball-ignoring – This is an exercise in ‘puppy calm and human silly’. I am asked to sit, then down, then stay. I do of course and then I watch Annie and Ellery play with a ball. They make a lot of noise and roll it right past my nose, bounce it near my feet and I ignore it because you know why? They give me a treat and lots of fuss when I do.
Hide and seek – This is great. I sit and wait. Annie leaves the room. I wait. Then she shouts, Raja come, or Raja find it, and I run through the house to find her. It’s often quite easy because she giggles and I can hear her more often than not. When I do find her we roll around and she makes a great fuss of my hunting-dog instincts. Sometimes she hides one of my toys. One time Ted was under a bucket. Another time Piggy was under a cushion. But if I can’t find the thing she’s hidden, I just go and get another one out of the toy box.
Give – She says and I think I’m supposed to let her have it because she’s offering me another toy or treat if I do. At the moment I’m a little reluctant because for example, if I’ve got Ted, and she says, Give, and there’s the option of a treat or a nyla bone, I’m not sure they’re better than Ted. I’ll let you know how Give works out.
Obstacles and textures – I can see she’s filled up my paddling pool, has put a tarpaulin down, some buckets are now swinging very low from a branch, there’s an upturned chair and a ramp up in the garden. Either these are bizarre art installations, or I’m going to be allowed to work my way over and around them all very soon.
Chase recall – Annie and I just watched a video together which my lecturer Emily made and we’re going to try this later.
Annie has a list of ideas from The Guide Dog Puppy University Lecturer and there’s absolutely nothing boring about being locked down with your humans, and the cat. Actually the cat doesn’t ever seem to leave the yard so I can quite confidently say that her life hasn’t changed much at all.
Six Months Old – Another Milestone!
My siblings, Oden, Emma, Charles and I are six months old now. I weigh 22.7 kgs. I know this because last Friday was the biggest Friday I’ve ever had.
Firstly, I didn’t get up until 06:45, and when the cat got fed, I didn’t. This was both odd and horrendous frankly.
The normal routine here is: get up, show a great deal of enthusiasm for the day, pop outside for the necessary, show more enthusiasm for life, weave in and out of Annie’s legs, pick up a toy, show her. All this remained the same. Then the cat comes along, we kiss and she hops up onto her table for breakfast – that also happened.
Usually at this point Annie would go to my food bin and scoop out my breakfast allowance. Then she’d run water into my food bowl, I’d sit down, she’d grab the whistle, she’d put my bowl on the floor and after three peeps I’d eat.
But (the word which negates everything that went before it) this last bit didn’t happen. There was no breakfast for me. We played. I wondered when she would remember. We played some more, didn’t go for our usual walk, I was both hungry and suspicious. Then at eight we got in the car and the next thing I know is, I’m at the Vet’s. I hop on the scales – which is how I know I weigh 22.7 kgs – and then a lovely Nurse lead me away.
Annie returned about three and, well, let’s just say she explained that, ‘a delicate operation’ had been performed. That’s quite enough said on that matter.
The Vet also put a tattoo put in my ear and I had a Xray. Evidently I’m gorgeous inside and out.
I have been a little out of sorts since Friday, but at least we’re back to a normal wake up and breakfasts routine.
There is another major thing which happens when you’re six months old and this was a little confusing at first. I only get two meals a day now. Admittedly these are more substantial. Annie had, for the previous month, been reducing my lunch volumes – so I should have guessed she was up to something. Now nada, zilch, zip at lunchtime. She says it’s because I’m a big and clever, busy boy.
Treats – the frequency of these has changed a bit too. They haven’t stopped when we’re working – thank goodness, so I’m not complaining – but so many things I’ve learnt are ‘old hat’ now, so the pats-and-praise to treats ratio has gone up.
Toy update – Ted is booked to go for more facial reconstructive surgery this evening.
Cat update – she’s very demanding, I feel like her Butler. ‘Lick my back.’ ‘Let me weave in and out of your legs.’ ‘Lick that left ear a bit more
Yours Raja X
Watch Me In Action!
I’ve learned so much over the last few months, group walks and training sessions are an important part of my growth. It’s time to put my kibble where my mouth is and show you my progress, they say I’m a very good listener:
Happy New Year. My Public Transport Observations!
Like so many things in my life-to-be as a service dog, it is crucial that we puppies are comfortable, confident, and on our best behaviour on public transport. In fact, it is so important that we have a special lesson called – getting on a train.
Two lecturers came out to Fremantle station, met us on the platform, and talked Annie and I through the process. We need to remain both calm and vigilant. Annie has to make sure no one stands on my tail or tries to pat me. (We puppies in our coats are so cute, It is difficult for people to resist, but our Puppy Raisers thank the person for their interest, and explain that we’re working).
And because it is such an important role, I have been taking a lot of short train trips and slowly building up to longer journeys without too much pressure.
Two days after our first lesson we decided to go three stops for a trial. I wore my Puppy-in-training-coat, and Annie wore her bag of treats.
Self praise is no praise at all, but, I behaved like an angel. Even when, on one trip, the 54th Battalion swarmed into the carriage in what was potentially a move to hijack the train. I watched the thousands of sneakers and black runkled socks (very calmly) as they stomped towards seats all around me. I looked up at Annie because I thought perhaps we should do something. But she said they were school children, not armed forces, and that I was a very good boy for not trying to defend my country. Annie often told me how good I was being. She patted me and rewarded me for lying nice and quietly, watching the world go by.
Of note in our carriage, (apart from the kids), there was a man singing. Two women sat opposite trying to mimic the allure and glamour of television dramas. One bicycle, one pram, two guards checking tickets and an assortment of bags. It was all very interesting. I wondered what was in those bags, lifted my nose, just a little, in case I could smell something fascinating, but I didn’t budge.
When a woman in the train’s ceiling said we’d arrived at Fremantle, the train stopped. We got off and I trotted out beautifully feeling like a proper commuter.
It it’s not too hot we’ll do it all again this week. Maybe even 4 stops!
Guide Dog B&B – 5 star rating
Annie went down south for five days so I spent this time, on holiday, at a lovely Fremantle B&B for Guide Dogs, run by highly qualified Puppy Raisers and Boarders. The facility offers: a tastefully decorated interior, great garden, wonderful hosts, and it happens to be conveniently located.
The holiday was pre-booked and so they had time to import my own bed and blanket, plus they provided some other horizontal options for day time napping. There was a basket full of toys. Lots of new smells. A supply of frozen kongs. The perfect Zoomies lawn. And they had Christmas decorations everywhere – so pretty.
As a puppy in training it is actually important that we go on holiday, stay somewhere new, and get to work with new handlers from time to time.
Let me assure you the B&B staff were not strangers, rather they were very kind, loving, people who know all the same language and details that I get at home and need as a puppy in training. So while the trees and furniture, and many, many things were different, there was a fabulous consistency which means I was immediately relaxed.
I did have one teeny moment of concern. I was worried that Annie hadn’t told them anything about me – in fact for a while I wasn’t sure that they even knew my name. They kept calling me poppet, gorgeous, clever boy, angel but eventually they read the paperwork and got my name right.
We did most of the same things that I do at home, but not always at the same time, and I tried sleeping in lots of different places around the house and garden. They have a different car too, it’s huge by comparison, and I slept in that too. I’m very good at sleeping and everyone seems very happy about that so I keep doing it.
They took me to my appointment at Guide Dog school where I had a class with my sisters and brother. The lecture was to walk around going past each other while trying not to be distracted. Goodness that’s really difficult. Then Emma, Oden, Charles and I had recess and got to play in the training area. Fantastic. We’ve all grown so much, but they still smell the same.
We also went shopping at Bunnings – it’s a vast barn of a place. Not surprisingly my B&B hosts got lost and I know this because we walked past the tools and garden stuff at least three times. (Didn’t want to say anything because they’re very nice people). Did you know hoses come in several colours and lawn fertiliser smells divine?
There was also a very exciting outing to the river with lots of old and sporty cars. I’m guessing there were about 30 people and they all thought I was clever and lovely. I thought their cars were gorgeous, and the ducks and sea gulls intriguing. Also I’d never been on a picnic before. I must tell you about this extraordinary tradition. In a nutshell it’s where humans eat food, outside, at dog height. But none of it was for me (despite the fact they kept leaving their plates on the ground). So hard – I r e a l l y had to restrain myself.
Then it was Friday. When I got back home Annie and I were very pleased to see each other. We sat on the floor and I checked her thoroughly to see if she’d been cuddling other dogs. Strangely she smelt of kangaroo, emu, goanna and possum. She says she’ll take me to the country when I’m a bit older. I told her about my week and she says she might try and book herself into the same B&B for a break.
For me, staying with other people and being adaptable was great. What’s next Annie?
2 months – Future Proofing Myself – December update
70 plus days in WA, amazing, time just glides past in a mixture of; sleeping, learning, walking, playing, cuddling.
They tell me it’s nearly time to put the Christmas decorations up, obviously I’ve offered to help with that.
Annie and I have many discussions about the type of person I might go and work with one day. We take this very seriously and several times a week go investigate the places I might come across.
I think I’ll give you a sample of the anthropological studies I make in preparation for my future.
We’ve ‘done’ the yacht club in case my person likes to sit on water. I’m au fait with jetties, fish watching, mooring ropes, buoys and I’ve learnt some useful phrases – ‘shiver me timbers’ and ‘the sun is over the yard arm’. I feel I am something of an expert in this area.
I’m also familiar with a timber yard, and The Men’s Shed. So much equipment! The machines put out a lot of noise (and dust), but the planks are fascinating and lovely sitting platforms.
I observed an audiometric officer in her mobile hearing booth. Question – Why put earphones on a person when you want them to hear stuff? Obviously an issue there. Truth be told I helped a lot by looking cute and distracting the client.
We’ve also ‘done’ the Post Office, florist, mechanic’s workshop and daycare.
About once a week I check the local supermarket shelves are properly stacked and monitor the quality of customer service. They are always very nice to me.
Tuesdays I visit Fiona Stanley Hospital, where I wander through the foyer spreading joy. After this I chat with some surgeons, go up in a lift, check that everyone in the waiting room is comfortable and then I snooze next to Annie while she does her work. Busy busy – me not her.
Cat update – I do think we have turned a corner and the cat and I are best of friends now. I clean her head and tail. She does not reciprocate.
Toy update – Teddy got an ear injury (no idea how that happened) and is currently in retirement so I share my bed with Pink-Piggy.
Yours, Raja X
7 Weeks – Five Signs I am Growing Up
One – Walking.
I used to like sitting still, like a beautiful onyx statue – whenever I wanted to. In the past this has meant that I’d, occasionally, sit, and refuse to go for a walk.
Plus, (for the first few weeks), when we did go out I simply had to: study the verges, swerve right into driveways, gawp at butterflies, zigzag to examine a geranium, shoot off to see that wall in case it had a pee-mail.
I’d also lurch forward doing a gazelle impersonation, and stop dead in my tracks to scratch.
Now I’m grown-up(ish), I know what she means when she says ‘leave’, or distracts me with an array of noises.
I look at her. She says ‘Yes!”, then gives me a treat, or a
pat, and we walk on in a straight line. I love my walks and never refuse to go anymore.
Two – Sitting and Down
When I’m working/learning sitting is a refined part of my skills. Looking proud and noble I sit often: ordering in a cafe, the supermarket queues, and during lessons.
And ‘down’. This is the more relaxed version used during bus rides, when chilling, waiting for a conversation to end and so on.
Three – Getting Bigger
Three weeks ago I weighed 12.7kgs and now I weigh 15.3kgs.
Four – Guide Dog Jacket
The first time they taught us at university how to walk into our orange Guide Dog jackets, I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t sure if it was my colour and I also had concerns that the jacket might feel odd going over my head. Dubious, I backed away and declined the opportunity to try. My siblings, Charles, Emma and Oden put theirs on and off no problems.
Then that very afternoon, I had three revolutionizing thoughts.
A. When I’m a big boy this is exactly the principle of how I’ll put my harness on.
B. The orange matches my collar and it is rather stylish.
C. There’s a treat just the other side of the neck-hole and I simply can’t resist.
Jacket on, jacket off – no problem. I do like to wear it when we’re out.
Five – The Cat
I can sit and look at the cat without barking – 88.4% of the time. The thing is I love her, but the feeling is not mutual, yet. She is black, coquettish and taunts me. And I have to draw on my deepest reserves to keep calm.
The photo above is proof that I can be in a ‘down’ and be calm around the cat.
Yours sincerely, Raja X
Week 5 – Vocabulary Lessons
My vocabulary is extensive. Indeed my human and I have long chats about any amount of subjects. However … she insists we keep it to basics on a variety of matters. So today I’m going to tell you about a word I hear a lot “Leave”.
I’m an intelligent dog with an inquisitive mind and there’s much which fascinates me. For example the table leg (oak) is softer than the step in the kitchen (which is jarrah). Aluminum sliding windows need licking, someone’s drive way should be explored in case there’s insurgent activity and a dropped tissue should be moved. But, I apparently don’t need to focus on these things.
I’ll give you a couple of examples where the word leave is used.
Example One. I thought her bromeliad needed pruning. “Leave,” she said, calmly. So I looked at her thinking, ‘sweetie, you don’t know your plants.’ She said “Yes!” and gave me a treat, so I stopped gardening.
Example Two. The rubbish bin in her office was clearly in the wrong place so I was moving it around the room to find a spot with great feng shui properties. “Leave,” she said, calmly. I looked at her thinking ‘Really? I like it so much better on my bed.’ She said “Yes!” and gave me a treat. Once again I sighed and left the bin alone.
I hear “leave” a fair bit. But I can walk serenely not being the least bit distracted. Of course I don’t always get a treat when I do, but I always get a “yes” and a pat and she regularly distracts me with a variety of toys.
One day I may buy her a Thesaurus so she can mix it up a bit. You know she could try; “desist from sniffing the neighbour’s sprinkler system”; “decamp yourself from that bicycle wheel” or “say your farewell to that leaf”. Oh so many options.
This is a photo of my bear. I have a lot of toys, and interestingly am never told to “leave” them alone.
Puppy in training Raja X
Week 3 – 19 October 2020
Excellent start. I had a University class with my three siblings, Charles, Oden and Emma. We attended a lecture on how to get our humans to stand up straight, give us lots of food, relax, put snacks on the tip of our nose. I have to say, they did quite well.
I tell Annie again and again, “If I looks like I’m going to get up off the mat, give me another treat.” She’s doing just fine and I’m a big fan of that comfortable black mobile bed.
I visited the vet – I weigh 12.7kgs in my collar. I am the heaviest of the four – I think it’s my brains. Phillip was a nice man and said I was very handsome. He also mentioned something about my last injection, but I really can’t say that I noticed.
My sister Emma was (coincidentally) the consult before me. We didn’t chat but it was good to see her. Then I met “Peter” and he did an excellent demonstration of how big you’re going to get.
When we left the Vet’s a screeching snake-like monster rose from the depths of Hades and frightened the b-jeezuz out of me.
Annie and I hung around for a while and sat to watch the next one go by.
I see now that a train is not the work of the devil, but a harmless silvery thing, part of a complex public transport infrastructure and I quite fancy a go on it myself. I believe we’ll cover that at Uni too.
Yours most sincerely,
Puppy in training Raja X
My First Week – 12 October 2020
I left Queensland on 25 September. If I were a sailor I’d say that Friday was a bad day to set off on an adventure but I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised. There were a lot of people at the airport and they seemed inordinately pleased to see my siblings and I.
I’ve been allocated a human, Annie – an excellent cushion and provider of all the important things like kibble, belly rubs and more.
My first night I had dinner and then I did a poop on the astro turf. I’m telling you this because to my mind: eat = poop = normal. Annie however seemed to think this was some kind of miracle. I have to tell you the delight she shows every time I execute a simple bodily function is extraordinary.
My night time bed has been tastefully decorated with an assortment of soft furnishings. I often head off there for a siesta. I also have a bed in the living room which is very pleasant. I find I’m tired about 7pm. Sometimes I watch TV, but the programming is not always to my taste. Annie watches on the floor and I snooze on her lap. Sometimes I just go to bed.
In the morning I don’t bother to let anyone know I’m awake because, well I’m cosy. She comes in about 6:30am and then it’s time to go outside and I await breakfast!
I’m pretty busy after that. There’s the cat, scanning the garden for things I might want to eat, chewing things I’m allowed to and learning that table legs don’t come into this category.
Sometimes we watch the rubbish trucks, or go to a cafe and check out the world. I’ve seen bicycles, and motor bikes, prams, magpies, drains, trucks, dogs, buses. Sometimes we play on the floor and other times we do exercises. I absolutely never eat my meals until I’ve heard the whistle and everyone tells me that I’m some sort of genius.
Life is good.
Anyway, I’ve got to go and chew that thing which squeaks, so must be off.