Life has been very busy for me the last few months now that I’m a college dog! Radar and Maverick have been giving Gracie and I the ‘in’s and ‘out’s on how things run here! College has been pretty great so far. I get to play with my best friend Gracie all the time now! Also, you would not believe all the nice people that come to play and care for us! I am so happy to see everyone when they come that I can hardly sit still! Now that I am at college, I work on my Hero Dogs training every day. I do all kinds of things during my training. Sometimes I go to class with the other Hero Dogs, and sometimes I go out to stores, while on other days I stay here and learn things in the training room.
Apparently I was a little overly enthusiastic about this whole college thing, as I am told that I pulled a muscle somewhere. All I know is that is rather “ouchy” when I try to sit or lie down. I am told that I need to take it easy for a while so that I can recover. I have been staying away from the kennel for the past few weeks so that I am not tempted to play with all of my college friends. I sure do hope I get better soon so that I can come back to play with my friends at Hero Dogs!
I understand that January is all about new beginnings. It’s the beginning of a new year, and it’s the time many humans make a fresh start. When 2013 began, I was not aware that I too would have a new beginning. For me, January started just like any other month. I did the usual: run errands, sleep through meetings, settle at restaurants, play at Hero Dogs, run with Sancho, attend puppy class, occasionally go to stores and the mall, and, of course, practice all my skills.
Two special occasions, however, come to mind. One is the day, Libby, Maverick, Radar, Mae, and I went to a school together. We walked through the playground; went into the main office, classrooms, and the very noisy gym; practiced “leave it” in the cafeteria; and got lots of attention from all the students! “Please come back,” they shouted as we left.
The other special occasion was on an early Sunday morning when Jack and I, with our humans, went to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was right before the inauguration of the president, so there was a lot of construction of stands and platforms…lots of hammering and banging. That didn’t bother me, and Jack was more interested in the pigeons. We took a long walk and strolled through the sculpture garden at the Hirsshorn Museum. It was beautiful. We also walked into the Air and Space Museum where the security guards really liked us! I have never seen such a high ceiling with so many airplanes hanging from it!
Then on January 14th, I went to the Hero Dogs’ puppy raisers quarterly meeting. I love those because ALL of us Hero Dogs get to play together. After the meeting, eight humans and five dogs went to have lunch (well, the humans had lunch). We all behaved perfectly! On the way back to the Hero Dogs house, I began to sense something was different, but I couldn’t quite put my paw on it. Maria had talked to me about going to college and about moving on to the next stage of training to become a service dog and how proud she is of me and all that stuff that mothers say… When I saw her put on her coat and get ready to go home, I picked up my leash and gave it to her. She hugged me and kissed me and handed the leash to Dr. Jennifer. This, you see, was my new beginning. I suddenly realized that I was moving in with the big guys. I was no longer a little puppy. I had become a serious service dog in training!
P.S. Scotty did move in to the Hero Dogs kennel with his friends Libby, Radar, and Maverick. He adjusted well and quickly and is enjoying his “college days.”
(As I did with Libby, I have written a note to Scotty.)
A note to Scotty from Maria:
You came to Hero Dogs as an eight week old puppy - You and your brother Audie, two little balls of white fur. I offered to raise you – not knowing how much I would love you. How many times I was asked “How will you give him up?” “He is not mine to give up.” I would say. You were just on loan to me. Your destiny was to change lives. For 16 months we were inseparable. We learned from each other. I taught you how to be a good Hero Dog – with an extensive vocabulary. You taught me to embrace the moment and run with joy in my heart. I taught you to share and be persistent. You taught me not to worry about making mistakes. We both learned about loyalty and unconditional love. You are the best at forgiveness and snuggling! Although you never learned to think of yourself as large, I didn’t mind. Having you on my lap was always happiness. We traveled far and saw many places. We worried about your elbows and were elated when they were shown to be fine. We went on long walks; you sniffed the air. We went to long meetings; I marveled at your patience. Then the day came when you had to leave. As I walked away, you followed me with your gaze. I know you understood. Now, you continue your journey and will soon have a partner. Together you will be stronger than either one of you alone. Together you will learn new things and form a solid loving bond. You, Scotty, will always be joyous, courageous, caring, and strong. You will touch your person’s heart as you have touched mine. You will change his world as you have changed mine. You will always be a love that never stops, a gift that has no price. Forever you will be in my heart.
Just like last year, December was wonderful. My puppy class alternated between staying at Hero Dogs and going on training outings. Usually, Franklin and a couple of the older dogs went with me on these outings. One night, we went to the Rockville library. And, Gracie came, too! (I love Gracie!)
We walked all around downtown Rockville, looking serious and well-behaved; practiced LEAVE IT, as tasty morsels were dropped along the way and all around a water fountain; rode the elevator; walked up and down a huge staircase; practiced going in and out of doors; said “hello” to many people; and had our picture taken in from a huge Christmas tree. Our next outing was to TJ Maxx and to Cheeburger Cheeburger. At TJ Maxx we practiced GO THROUGH and FOLLOW. We also picked up our leashes when our clumsy humans dropped them and waited patiently when told to WAIT.
Cheeburger Cheeburger was another story all together. Four of us canines went in with our humans. Ms. Jennifer ordered two kinds of fries (French fries and sweet potato fries)! And, to make matters worse, she kept dropping them in front of us!! Well, to tell you the truth, I think she was testing us. I did not touch one single fry of any variety. One of the other dogs may have accidently snatched one or two. Not me. As I have told you before, I do well in restaurants – have been going to them since I was a baby. But this was tough!
One day, we met Ms. Lynn at Ft. Belvoir. This was part of the CFC campaign. I think everyone was very proud of me. I showed off my many skills and then walked around with the coordinator of the campaign to encourage people to sign up. I believe a lot of people did sign up when they saw how helpful I could be to a warrior.
In addition to my usual errands, meetings, and visits to stores and Hero Dogs, there were four other big events. I went to a Christmas tree farm where I picked out the tree. It was so much fun. Every time I thought I had the perfect tree, I spotted another one further away. Pretty soon, we couldn’t even see our car. Finally, someone said Jack (little Jack came to pick his tree, too) and I would have to drag the trees back if we went any further. Ooops! Okay, we compromised. We settled on two trees that were not so distant – although, I know that the perfect one was just over that last ridge…
On another day (that’s event #2), Jack, Dolley, Annie, and I met at Reagan National Airport. We went into the USO lounge, said hello to everyone, and then walked the corridors as people rushed around with their suitcases and worried looks.
Number 3 was a visit to Friends Meeting School for the Holiday Program. All the kids were on stage presenting plays and singing happy songs. I settled and enjoyed the show.
And, finally, a few days before Christmas (and the snow) we went to pick up Libby at Hero Dogs. She came home for the holidays! Yay! We played a lot and ran with Sancho and Jack. And, just like last year, on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the whole family came over. We all got presents and played and sang songs to a log called Tió de Nadal that gave us more presents (tradition from Spain)… I love it when everyone is together!
Although I have not yet graduated to the next level of training, I am beginning to feel like one of the big dogs. Every week I am in class with some of them, and we practice the same skills together. Although they are more advanced than I am, I feel like I am doing a pretty good job of keeping up. Sometimes we meet at Hero Dogs and sometimes we go to different places, like restaurants and malls. For instance, we met at a restaurant and practiced under, leave it, stay, and go through. It was not always easy to leave the morsels that fell off the table, but we practiced and got rewarded for it. At the mall we practiced opening automatic doors, getting in and out of the elevator, riding the elevator, going up and down stairs, going through doors, and walking nicely. We got lots of attention and praise from shoppers who walked past us!
In addition to these organized outings, I have visited lots of stores, gone to two doctor’s appointments, and slept through several meetings. Then, there were special events like grandparents’ day and homecoming at school, Thanksgiving, and a return visit to the Oakdale Methodist Church for their Veterans Day Dinner. I went to this event last year when I was a really little guy. People were amazed at how big I have gotten. Jan and Dr. Marcie went with me, and I showed off some of the things I can do. Several times, I was given ovations (that means they clapped a lot for me!) It was a fun evening and we raised a big amount of money for Hero Dogs. Thank you to all the people that attended and to those who organized it!
Speaking of thank-yous, Thanksgiving was glorious. The whole family met at Roxi and Lucy’s house. It was warm and sunny so the humans ate outside on the deck. Roxi, Lucy, Jack, and I played and sniffed the air. Everything smelled good! Then we said what we were thankful for. I will tell you, I am SO thankful for the opportunity to be a Hero Dog-in-training. I am thankful for Chris of Kerrybrook Labradors for donating me to Hero Dogs; I am thankful for my wonderful sponsors who support me and cheer me on; I am thankful for my puppy raiser and her family (humans, puppies, and kitties) for all the time and love they give me; I am thankful for all the wonderful people at Hero Dogs who encourage me, hug me, and teach me new things; I am thankful for all my friends at Brookeville Animal Hospital for keeping me healthy; I am grateful for all my Hero Dog puppy friends; I am grateful for Ms. Jennifer for having the vision and drive to start Hero Dogs; and I am thankful for all the brave warriors who have given so much so we can live in freedom in this wonderful country.
It is hard to believe how busy I was this month. I get tired just thinking about it! It all started with a visit to Ft. Meade for a CFC training program. I demonstrated many of the things I can do, such as picking up objects, pulling a basket, carrying a bag, placing things in a basket, settling and staying, going backwards, etc. I also went to Andrews Air Force Base for another CFC event. This time, I was not on stage, but near a barbecue pit. Oh my, it smelled good, but I stayed focused and was a good Hero Dogs ambassador. I want you to know that I am very well behaved at doctors’ offices. When I went back to the dentist’s office that I visited six months ago, the comment I most often heard was, “Is that Scotty? He has gotten so big.” These people knew me when I was a little puppy, and I wanted them to see what a fine fellow I have become. I did not disappoint. I also went to the Eye Center, twice. Several people assumed that I was already a service dog. That’s how well I behaved.
Sancho, Jack, and Libby stayed with me at different times during the month. It was so much fun to have my friends spend the night at my house and play with me all day. Libby stayed with me during hurricane Sandy. It was really windy, rainy, and kinda dark. We didn’t go for long walks because things were flying around outside, and the rain was cold and felt like little pellets as it hit our faces. So, we played inside and snuggled around the fireplace since we had no electricity. I love Libby! Jack is one of the new little guys, and he is living with Sancho, so I get to play with him often. He’s a good boy.
One of my other duties as a service-dog-in-training has been to go on home visits for potential puppy sitters. I went on four visits this month and met some very nice people that I wouldn’t mind staying with if I needed a puppy sitter. Some families had dogs that I greeted nicely and then tried to ignore so I could focus on my official duty as a home visitor.
Have I made you tired, yet? Well, let me tell you more things I did. I went to the Takoma Park Crafts Fair where, although it was cold and rainy, I was able to practice “look” and “watch” with the many dogs that walked past me. Then, I went to the Pumpkin Festival at Butler’s Orchard. And, guess what I did? I went on a hay ride, helped pick pumpkins, and walked through a corn maze. The smells were amazing, and I led the way out of the maze! I also visited several restaurants where I practiced “under” and “leave it.” Twice, I went with Hope, and we both settled under the table. Nobody knew we were there.
One of the most fun events was at Seneca Valley High School. The senior class sponsored a walk-a-thon as a fundraiser for Hero Dogs. First, little Jack and I were on stage showing off our skills. I felt like a rock star! Students were clapping and cheering every time I did something. Camera flashes went off all over the auditorium – just like having paparazzi following us. Well, once that was over, we made our way out to the track. It took a while because so many students wanted to get close to us! On the track we walked several laps with these awesome and super friendly students. They are so nice, and they believe in us. How great is that!
Of course, as I do every month, I attended long meetings and ran errands where I practiced skills in real life situations. At the fabric store, for instance, you might be surprised to know that I picked up a bolt of fabric that had fallen off a table. The women who saw me do it were astounded. As for meetings, the best one I attended was the Hero Dogs’ quarterly meeting. I love these meetings because I see all my Hero Dog friends, we get to play together, and we practiced skills – each at our own level. But wait, I’m not done, yet! The week before Halloween, Jake and I went to the Artillery Ridge Campground in Gettysburg, in the RV. We walked around the campground, saw horses, people in costumes, a headless horseman (yes, for real!), and I played with a 12-week old German shepherd puppy girl. In the distance, we heard the boom of cannons. Although it was loud, it did not scare me in the least.
Finally, Halloween! Jake and I went to Sancho’s. The three of us along with Jack formed the welcoming committee for kids trick or treating. Four Labrador retrievers sitting in a row – sitting nicely every time the doorbell rang! Happy Halloween!
Before my teenage-Labrador-boy brain wanders off to something else, I want to thank all the really nice people I met when I went to the Combined Federal Campaign fairs at the DOD-IG, the CIA, and the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Thank you! At the DOD-IG, I was given a bag of goodies that I shared with Libby. At the CIA, I was given VIP parking. I felt VERY important. And, at Aberdeen, I practiced “say hello,” with anyone and everyone who walked by the Hero Dogs table.
Speaking of wandering, I went to Lakeforest Mall and wandered all over the place. I practiced “heel” and “side;” rode the glass-walled elevator; went up and down the stairs; went in and out of lots of stores; and practiced “leave it,” “go,” “turn,” and “under.” These are all things I have been perfecting in my puppy class. People who watched me seem particularly intrigued by the way I go up and down stairs. They say, “He does that in a funny way.” Well, actually, I am learning to take one step at a time. I certainly don’t want to go flying three steps at a time as I did when I was a baby and didn’t know any better. I want to be steady so when I have my person he or she won’t have to worry about me pulling up and down the stairs!
Oh, yeah, before I forget, two new puppies, Annie and Jack, arrived at Hero Dogs. The great thing is that they each spent a couple of days at my house. Boy, it was fun to play with little puppies! But, they do nap a lot, and they do have to go out often!
Little Annie went with me to the Damascus Freedom Run. Neither one of us ran, but we did put on a demonstration, with Libby and Maverick, showing what Hero Dogs can do. Baby Annie did a splendid “sit”! I walked around with a bag and picked up things. Lots of applauses for us!
There are three other significant things I did this month. I went to the Sugarloaf Winery for a fundraiser/volunteer appreciation event, took a puppy class field trip to the Shady Grove Metro Station, and attended a puppy raiser orientation. The winery was fun because all my friends were there. The bits of cheese that fell off the tables were tempting, but I had only one momentary lapse of judgment when I lunged for a piece of cheese. At the Shady Grove Metro, we practiced getting on and off buses, walking to the Metro, going through the turnstile, riding the Metro elevator, getting on and off the metro, and turning and settling under the seat in the Metro. I think I did a good job. Then, there was the orientation. JoAnn and Maria presented very well, but baby Jack and I went to sleep. I’m not saying they put us to sleep; we were just plain tired from all the playing we did beforehand. Once, it was over, we got to play again!
Of course, I still played a lot, every day, with my best buddies Jake and Sancho!
Have you heard of the Dog Days of Summer? Well that’s how the month of August started for me. I met up with some other Hero Dogs (Libby, Franklin, Dolley, and Rosie) in Frederick where we all celebrated the Dog Days. The whole downtown area was full of dogs, and people, and music. People stopped by our Hero Dogs table to find out about us and tell us how well behaved we are. When it got really hot, the very nice people at the Trail House let us come into the store to cool off and show off our skills.
Two days later, we were together again at the Hero Dogs Golf Tournament. That was fun! I walked all around the course and rode on a cart (twice)! I saw my brother Audie, and we had some time to play. All the Hero Dogs that were at the Tournament, participated in a demonstration showing how we progress in skills – starting with the littlest baby Indie all the way to the most skilled Ms. Libby! I would say we wowed the crowd. I carried a purse around. I am really good at that. But, can you believe that last year Audie and I were the babies?! Hard to believe looking at us now!
Hey, that’s what everyone said at Brookeville Animal Hospital when I went in for my first year check up. “I can’t believe he is one year old! He was just a baby!” Well, this baby has been busy growing and learning. Some of the commands I have been working on this month are UNDER, SAY HELLO, PAWS UP, TAKE +PAWS UP, PAWS UP + DROP, GO, GO+SIT, LAP, LIGHT, turning a corner while going backwards. I’m doing well, but, I’ll tell you, two commands together still make my head hurt! Oh, by the way, my checkup was perfect, and Dr. Marcie gave me treats and hugs and kisses.
I also went to several restaurants and practiced my very good manners. At one place, the waitress came over as we were getting ready to leave and said, “Oh my goodness, he is so good I didn’t realize he was here.” Pretty good, huh!
Then I did something, I have never done. I went swimming – well sorta. Sancho, Jake, and I were invited to our friend Tammy’s house to go swimming in the pool. Jake is an “Olympic swimmer” and Sancho an “Olympic diver.” I on the other hand have no idea. So, I followed the other dogs’ lead and jumped in, but I didn’t know enough to bring my head out of the water. Audie who is a really good swimmer never told me!
At the end of the month, I went on a little camping trip to Gettysburg with Jake and Sancho. We took some nice walks and sat by the fire. Then, when we came home, I went to the movies. This is also overrated! I took a nap. So much for the dog days of summer!
What can I tell you about July? Well, it was a month of changes. The biggest change is that I turned one. In my mind, when you turn one, you are no longer a puppy. You are a DOG! That’s a big change. You can’t get by just being cute. You actually have to work hard and demonstrate that you can do some pretty exceptional things in preparation to becoming a service dog. My birthday was on July 17th. I was staying with my puppy sitter, Carole. She is very nice; and she made sure we celebrated. She made me scrambled eggs (delicious!) and made me wear a pointy hat (not so delicious!). I stayed with her for two weeks while my family was away. But, I get ahead of myself.
Let me go back to the beginning of the month. It began in the RV – the final leg of our trip to Disney World. We stayed in an RV camp in Fancy Gap, Virginia for five days. It was fun because I went on really long walks, and Sancho came to stay there, too – which means I played a lot. Everyone had told me to get ready for the 4th of July because it’s an exciting day with fireworks and loud celebrations. That was not the case – something about drought conditions… whatever that is… nothing happened. But, we did go to Mt. Airy, NC, otherwise known as Mayberry. It was hot and we walked around a lot and people were curious about me. I behaved very well and was happy when we went to an air-conditioned restaurant for lunch!
When we got home, I went on two home visits to meet people who are interested in becoming puppy sitters. I was well behaved and met some very nice people. Then, I was taken to see Dr. Marcie. She said I had hot spots on my face and needed some medicine. “Okay,” I thought, “I am good at taking meds.” But, that wasn’t the end nor the worst of it. I was taken to the back and shaved! Yes, you heard right. My face was shaved! I felt like a sheep after shearing…Then, several people asked Maria if I was a Pit Bull. WHAT?! Do I look like a Pit Bull? I think not! I am a beautiful yellow Labrador retriever! Well, all right, I’m over it, and I have grown back my silky yellow face hair.
So, after that trauma, I was able to play with Sancho a lot. He’s a good friend, and now I am bigger than he is, although he is older. Then, one day, I heard my family talking about a party and Scotty. Party + Scotty = birthday party!! Yes, they had an early birthday party for me. Sancho, Jake, and I played and had birthday hamburgers. Oh, yum! And, I got some new toys.
The day after my party, Maria took me to Carole’s house. They talked for a while, and they brought all my stuff into the house. “Oh, oh,” I though. “What’s going on?” Then, Maria left. I tried to open the door and follow her, but Carole told me to stay. Well, before long, I was enjoying this change. Carole played with me in the back yard, took me to class, to the puppy raisers’ quarterly meeting, and to the Hero Dogs kennel to play with my friends. Every time we went to the kennel, she had to barricade the doors because I was able to open them and let all the guys out to play in the fenced yard. Even with all that, twice she took me to get frozen yogurt! Finally, because I have all my big boy teeth, Carole accompanied me to my first dental exam. My teeth are perfect! And, all that is good.
You won’t believe all the things I did. Of course, there were the usual errands, attending classes, going on walks, and playing with friends. But, just as I was beginning to think that things couldn’t get any better, I took an RV trip to Alabama. I went with the three girls and Jake, and although I had to spend a lot of time sleeping on my place, it was really fun. We went to DeSoto State Park where I went on some great hikes and walks, in the rain. And, I mean RAIN! It was like getting in the shower at home; and I was a soggy dog. Anyway, the naturalist told us they have black bears in the park, but I didn’t see any. I just saw squirrels.
Back at home, I went to the Hero Dogs Open House. Awesome! Lots of people came, and of course, most of us Hero Dogs in training were there, too. We walked around greeting and thanking everyone for supporting us. We even had a demonstration showing off our skills. The littlest Hero Dog, Dolley, demonstrated how she sits, someone else picked up keys, Libby pulled an ice cooler, and I fetched a crutch. There were raffles and an auction and lots of good food. Thank you wonderful volunteers!
But wait, that’s not the end of it! After being home for a few days, we loaded up the RV again, and off we went. We drove to Disney World! Let me tell you, I have never seen so many people walking around in one place. And, it was raining! Okay, what is it with me, trips, and rain? Well, never mind. I digress… So, I did lots of new things. I took buses and practiced turning sitting and tucking my behind under the seat; I went on boats and did not get seasick; I went on a raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island; I climbed all the way up to the top of the Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house; I rode on a train all around the Magic Kingdom; I went to different restaurants – all big and noisy; and I stayed away from all the rides. I met some very nice people from all over the world who wanted to know all about me, and some actually wanted to have their picture taken with me. Which reminds me – I had my picture taken with Daisy Duck and with Stich. I didn’t know who they were, but that’s okay. They were cute and friendly.
After all that, you would think I would be tired and ready for a long rest. But, no, we kept going. We went to Kissimmee to visit some friends. And, guess what she had – a club car! It’s like a golf cart but bigger. And, I got to ride in it and look for alligators. Didn’t see any of them, either.