Monday, September 30, 2013

The Cowboys

"Home, home on the range..."
This year was Charlie's turn for a daddy/son trip.  We wanted it to be totally different from his brothers' so it would be special, just for him and daddy.
I think we hit the jackpot!
Jamie and Char spent 5 days on a dude ranch in Bandera, Texas...the "cowboy capital of the world!"
Horses, longhorns, pigs, dogs, kittens, cowboy hats, boots, and a lot of good home cookin'.
Here they are...ready to turn from city-slickers to cowboys.

Fun sign...just watch your youngins!

Resident pig family

 Resident dog, Poncho

After a hearty breakfast, they took off on a trail ride...two per day.  Char wasn't too sure about riding his own horse, so he and Jamie saddled up trusty 'ole Ruthie (half horse, half mule) and off they rode into the hills.  Apparently Ruthie didn't care about keeping up with the trail guides.  She preferred to stop at her leisure and graze on the lush green grass.

But it wasn't long before Char took off on his own horse, Shadow.

Look at him!  He looks like a pro!

And he rode Shadow right by some longhorns.  Glad I didn't know that at the time.
They look a little dangerous!

Charlie on Shadow, and Jamie on Frito.
Have you ever seen two more handsome cowboys?
Not bad for never having done anything like this...ever!

This was the name of their cabin.  Rustic, but roomy and cozy.
There were also signs about keeping your boots off the floor, just in case a scorpion decided to hide in them.  Ack!

A few days into their trip, a few other families arrived.  Char and this boy, Zach, enjoyed their time together.
Off go Char and Zack right behind the trail guide.

Future cowboy?

LOVE this picture of my little cowboy...

and this one with his daddy.

Even a cowboy needs his rest...with his favorite stuffed monkey.

So thankful for the great time they had together.  They came home with huge smiles and great memories!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Big things/Small packages

Big things come in small packages.
Including soccer players.
This little guy may not have the advantage of height, 
but you'd be hard pressed to find a faster runner, or a kid with more energy on his field.
He played the whole game on Saturday...defense, offense, and sweeper.
He didn't stop!
We love watching him take the field!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Almost a Routine Again

Being gone two weeks can really throw a clinker in the schedule.
And I like schedules.  I like routine.
So today was a me-trying-to-regain-normalcy-with-another-living-being-in-the-house 
kind of a day.
Wasn't too bad.  Between a dozen loads of laundry, piano lessons, an ophthalmology appointment, reminders to the kids that Gus doesn't need his name called fourteen thousand times per day, a soccer game, and dog training, we actually did quite a bit of school work.  Gus also went with us to the dr. appointment and the soccer game.  He did great, though it took a lot of willpower for him not to chase those soccer balls.  He LOVES balls.

Gus walked Laura out to her school bus today.  She gave him a hot dog treat before she got on the bus.  The rest of the school day, Gus was quiet and mopey.  Even the kids noticed.  But when Laura's bus pulled up later, and he saw her on the stairs, his tail started wagging, he was wiggling, and he tried to climb in the bus.  He gave her lots of kisses, and Laura was all smiles.

Last night, Gus also went to church with us.  Sunday evenings are quieter, so I thought that may be a better time to introduce him to the church.  Again, he did great.  He slept through most of the choir practice and service.  But here's an interesting observation...
Usually during church, Laura chomps her teeth loudly and continuously.  But last night, with Gus at her feet, she would look down at him and then smile at me...over and over.  And she did not chomp her teeth once.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  Or maybe it's one of those unexpected blessings that her Gus can provide.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jenna & Gus

 Jenna was very excited to meet Gus.  She had no fear at all, but did comment on how big he is!  After less than 24 hours, she's already taking on her regular "mother hen" role.  She tells him when he should be working with Laura, and when he should be getting a drink.  She carefully monitors his every move and is CONSTANTLY talking to him. our trainer said...dogs obey single commands that they learn.  Our constant chatter sounds like nothing more than "Charlie Brown's teacher!"  That's OK. Jenna is happy enough talking to anyone or anything that will listen to her.

  Jenna also said, "Gus has almond eyes like me!"

Saturday, September 21, 2013

We're home

We made it home early this afternoon, laundry is almost done, house is in order, and it feels great to be back home.  Gus slept almost the whole way home.  I think he's still exhausted from working so hard over the past two weeks.

When we arrived, I took Gus on leash to explore the yard and the whole house.
He seemed to approve.

He's already testing his limits...kind of like bringing home a child.
He found out that he can not chew on Laura's bristle blocks or balls.
He tried cuddling with Jacob in Jamie's favorite chair (as if he's a lap dog!), and found out that's not allowed either.
He wanted to lie down beside the table while we ate dinner...kind of like at the restaurant.
But he had to stay on his mat instead.

But, he is following the whole family around the house, loving all the attention.
He is very attentive during bath time, too.
He drinks the water, and "helps wash Laura" by licking her while I'm trying to actually clean her. 
Bath time is going to take a little longer to reach my level of cleanliness.
His choice of resting places makes it a little hard to bathe Laura, but it is very cute.

 I had Gus move so I could get the towel ready for Laura, and he promptly returned and made it his bed.  He's such a goof ball!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Graduates!

 Whoever thinks dogs don't show emotions...well...they've never had a dog.
He does not prefer his gentle leader on his nose.
He's pouting.  
But I wanted him to wear it for our test.

 First test...walking by and not touching people food.
He looked, but did not touch. Good boy.
 The next part of the test...being sure the dogs would stay in a "down" while being distracted in a few different ways.
 Time to walk the mall in a nice "heel."
 Being able to leave the dog in a down, and walk a few steps away without him moving.

 Good boy, Gus.
 This is what Gus does in a restaurant...sleeps!
Another plus on our test!
 After the trainers saw us successfully move through the parking lot and into the van, we were given the thumbs up...we passed!!!!
Off to the training facility for a bath with one of Gus' favorite trainers, Shelby.

 One of Gus' foster moms, Beth, came to our graduation.  He was soooo happy to see her!
I could tell that she just loved him, and definitely spoiled him!  It was very sweet.

 Other fosters were there and knew Gus from college days.  He has quite the fan club.

 Jeremy, the lead trainer, led the graduation ceremony.
 Photos of the graduates, and we signed the banner.

 Graduation cake!
 The September 2013 4Paws family.  We rock!

It's time to head home.  We're ready to find our new normal, and to see how Gus transitions into our family and life.  We just know he will be a blessing to not only Laura, but the whole family, and who knows who else!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gus, Day 11

 Today wrapped up our training with Gus.  All fourteen families will test tomorrow in public in order to receive our full certification to have a working service dog.  No pressure.  But if we mess up, we don't get certified, and have to come back to do this again. pressure!  Dogs have to be fully under control, obey commands, and ignore distractions.

One thing Gus couldn't ignore today was a big mud puddle.  He and his brother, Boeing, were running around during their free time, and when Gus got tired, he plopped...right in the middle of the mud puddle.  Blond dog + mud = a big mess
He got a quick bath, and will be visiting the groomer ASAP!

We had a pizza party with our friends tonight.  More basketball and games outside, and Laura hung out with her newest friend, McKenna.  McKenna is also receiving a service dog.  We will miss our friends when we all head home.

Off to bed.  Need rest.  Because tomorrow is a "no pressure" day of testing!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gus, Day 10

 Today was another good day.  Well, it started out a little rough...Laura got stuck in the suitcase.  This might be her way of saying she's ready to go home to Daddy.

 Class went well, and our training in the mall was successful, too.  Laura tethered today, and she did awesome! She smiled and giggled the whole time.  Tethering gives her more independence.  But after all that training, she and Gus needed a rest.

 Then for the next four hours, we went out to play at the hotel.  We practiced more tethering  on the basketball court as well as the grass.  Grass is tricky since it's so uneven.  She only fell once, though, in the grass.
 Look, Mama!  I can flip the tether while we walk.  Maybe we could work in some jump rope!
 Love this group of families.  Most of us congregated outside for a few hours.  The adults chatted and monitored the dogs, and the kids ran around playing hide & seek, tag, and basketball.

 One more evening together and then we start heading home with our new pups.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gus, Day 9

 Well, good morning, Laura and Gus.
Gus gets too warm on the bed and usually seeks out a cooler place to sleep at night.  But in the morning, I have him snuggle up with Laura just for a few minutes.  She likes the cuddles, but perhaps we need to move Gus' big head to a different position.

 Laura unknowingly did some distraction training.  Gus LOVES her little pink shaker toy, but can't have it.  It's all he can do to not grab it.  But he was good, and just watched her play with it.

 Only two more training days. Two weeks seems like such a long time to be gone, but as the end approaches, it seems like the time has flown.  I'll miss the friendships that we are enjoying here.  There's something about being with a group of families, all dealing with special needs of one kind or another.  There's a bond, and a sense of security, knowing that judgement is absent and understanding abounds.  No one cares if your child goes screaming across the room.  No one stares when your child does something out of the ordinary.  No one judges or pities when a child has a meltdown...yet there is empathy.  We all cheer when child and dog make steps forward in their bonding.  We encourage one another after having a trying evening at the hotel or in a store.  Indeed a special bond.

 Hangin' out during training.

As for training today, Jacob enjoyed doing the "bark" command with Gus.  Laura...not so much.  She wasn't scared, but it was a little loud in her face.

 Jacob's favorite part of the day was working a new command with Gus...
"forcing" him in Star Wars.  
We could have chosen "bang," "go night-night," or "the force."  With our boys, it was really a no-brainer.  Now, this is not a command that will do anything for Laura, but it will be a fun way to demonstrate Gus' skills to kids so they aren't afraid of him.

 "Forcing" him down with the sweep of his hand and a "whoosh" noise.

 And a reward for being such a good participant over and over again!