Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Saturday July 23, 2011 Joe started a new chapter in his life. Joe headed off to college after being by my side for the past year. 
The day started bright and early at 5:30, which seemed even earlier since we didn’t get to bed till around 12:30 AM. Joe was so cute sleeping underneath the desk in the hotel room (I think he felt safe under there and it reminds him of his nice comfy room at home, also known as his crate). Joe followed me around while I got ready like he normally does. We then went outside to go busy where Joe met another one of his fellow freshmen, Smitty (who is a smooth coat collie). After he went busy, Joe came back up to eat his final meal as a PIT:( We finished getting ready and packed up while Joe watched out the window to make sure everything was okay. We then went downstairs where we met up with MAC and Frank and their raisers. MAC’s raiser just happens to be an amazing photographer and she was sweet enough to take some really good pictures of Joe! Later George came down and we got to meet him and his raiser.
“This place looks like fun!”
It was soon time to head over to the school for the beginning of a great adventure for some sweet, smart pups. As we drove in, there was a welcome sign for each puppy going in for training (which was a very nice extra touch!) After getting some pictures, we went and met Elvis who is a very handsome black lab and his raisers. Next up Joe met one of the amazing trainers that Southeastern has… the fabulous Karen. (I told Joe to be extra sweet to anyone in the blue shirts!). We also got to meet several other of the amazing staff that work at Southeastern!
“Hey Elvis! Are you ready for the party tonight?”
“I was told to give all the people in blue shirts lots of love, so here are some kisses!”
“You know just where my favorite spot is!”
“I really like all these people in blue shirts!”
There was a yellow lab that was built somewhat like Joe named Oko who turned out to be his brother! They seemed to remember each other! Oko looked a lot like their brother Charlie and I got Oko’s raisers e-mail address so I can send her baby pictures of them at the puppy kennel. Joe and Oko were among the smallest in the group of dogs going IFT Saturday. 
“Hey brother!”
We filled out a card about Joe of things that they needed to know about him and turned in his puppy coat, paperwork, food, special treats for the freshmen pups and the wonderful people who will be taking care of them. They should know who they came with since Joe’s name is all over them :-)
“Joe Joe wants some Joe-Joe’s!”

It was getting close to the time that most puppy raisers dread… saying good bye and watching that confident puppy walk away into a new chapter in their life. There was 4 trainers who took them back one at a time, Joe was the last puppy in the second group. As they had started calling them back, Joe did one of my favorite things that he does, he laid down right beside me and rested his head on my feet. He always was a good foot warmer and I guess he always wanted to know where I was.
“mom, not in front of all the other pups!”
“I’m going to miss you mom…”
I knew where Joe’s name was on the list and I knew he was after the collies; the collies got called, and then Joe’s name was called. Jonathan came over, put his collar and leash on Joe, I told Joe one last goodbye and he went happily with him to the receiving kennel. I was afraid Joe was going to look back because in the last few months he has always made sure nobody left me. Joe made me proud and pranced right off with his tail high and wagging and his happy ears on (of course it also helped that he was getting his favorite spot on his back scratched as he walked off:) ). Saying goodbyes sped up a little faster after Joe left when the trainers got a golf cart ride back to get more pups. There was another puppy after Oko went back that I had a feeling was Joe’s brother (he had gotten there a little late, so I didn’t get to meet him); turns out that he was one of the brothers, he is a handsome yellow boy named Mario. 
“I will make you proud mom!”
“Here I go!”
“I am already liking college!”
After all the puppies went happily to the kennel (none of them broke their puppy raisers hearts by looking back), the raisers were split into two groups. One group went to the puppy kennel and the other group stayed and did blindfold walks. I was in a group of wonderful puppy raisers who I am friends with on facebook. I've have seen and heard about their puppies since they were babies. As we were waiting, another smaller yellow lab showed up and it turns out it was Woody, another one of Joe’s brothers! 
The blindfold walk is truly an amazing experience. I got to do a walk with Ace, who was a gorgeous darker yellow lab. While watching him walk with someone else it looked like they were walking pretty slowly, however when you are wearing black out sunglasses and on the other end of the harness it seems like you are flying you are walking so fast! Ace did a wonderful job and got us back safely and then gave me some kisses, which was just what I needed. Another raiser pointed out how even in harness each of the dogs still had their unique personality. 
We then swapped and headed for the puppy kennel. As we were going in I saw a familiar face from pictures… it was Bentley who is the proud dad to a lot of puppies, including several in our group. He was also raised by the awesome AC in Georgia. We then headed into the puppy hugging area where we got to play with 2 white golden retrievers who looked like little polar bears! They were pretty mellow for the most part. The next group we played with was 3 goldens and 2 black labs. The goldens were true very puppyish goldens and the labs were very laid back, they reminded me a lot of Colt. I figured out the reason why my puppies have been completely housebroken within a week or so of coming home - I apparently send off messages to 'go busy here'. Only 2 puppies went busy in the puppy hugging area, one was on one side of me and the other was on the other side of me, at least it was not on me! 
Getting the President’s call to service award!
We then went back to the gazebo area where there was a very special surprise for the raisers, we were all awarded the President’s Call to Service Award, which is the highest level of the presidential volunteer awards. Then, one of the trainers, Karen, told us what our puppies would learn (which was pretty helpful for all of us sad puppy raisers). The first official thing Joe will learn will be down-curbs and then up-curbs. But first they learn the life and rules of the kennel. Next there was another trainer who talked about one of the new careers that our puppies can have if they don’t make it as a guide dog. They can be a veteran assistance dog, which is pretty cool with what all they learn to provide support to the amazing veterans suffering from PSD. I think everyones favorite command was “give me a hug” where the dog put their feet in their person’s lap and leans in to give them a hug and a kiss. Next up one of the graduates talked about his guide dog and all that they have been able to do together, like travel to Mexico and Italy.
The AWESOME shirts we got!
The “give me a hug” command
It is truly a lot easier and actually a little fun to turn in a puppy now. I know all the raisers I know who were there LOVED the new way that Southeastern is taking back puppies. There was a lot of extra work put into it and I for one want to thank Southeastern for going beyond the extra mile to make it easier on us puppy raisers. Even though you are still having to say good bye, you have a wonderful support system of fellow raisers who are going though the exact same things.
Frank and MAC ready to start college!
All the pups looked like they were great dogs and Joe seemed to want to be roomies with all of them!
Good luck to the freshmen class of July 2011 at Guide Dog U! Don’t party too hardy, study diligently and go make your raisers proud! Go Joe!!!!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 3

(this was written on my phone on Friday July 22nd, but I wanted all the pictures with it before I posted it)
Today was Joe's last full day as a puppy in training. We got up and my parents went to the beach while Joe and I got packed and ready to go. 
We then started the 4 1/2 hour drive to Sarasota to go to the Discovery Center. We stopped once and Joe slept though his last lunch out with me at Five Guys. He did get quite comfy in the car and slept on his back for a little while.
Joe asleep during his last lunch as a puppy in training
Joe listening during the tour of the Discovery Center
Sorry buddy, I didn’t get you anything
We got to the Discovery Center around 2:15, only to find that their hours had changed and they were closed. Thankfully, they have some very sweet ladies working there and we got a private tour and heard all about the Discovery center. Joe's favorite room was the room full of kennels where some of the trainers come Monday- Friday to work with the dogs. We also got to meet Lucy, a black lab ambassador dog, and the famous Miss. Fay who set the new record at the school by having a litter of 14 puppies. It was fun to talk to other puppy raisers and they also told me they would give Joe some love for me when they saw him. Lucy's mom volunteers in the puppy kennel and remembered Tina's litter and the black and tan pups. I know Joe is going to have fun learning some new things with his trainer!

Asleep under the desk at the hotel. I think it reminded him of his crate

We checked in at the hotel and one of the ladies who worked there said they had 8 puppies spending the night tonight.
We were on our way out to busy when we saw Frank checking in. Frank is Rocky's half brother and looks a lot like him. I think Joe would be happy if all the boys could be roomies!
For dinner we went over to the outlet mall behind the hotel, which also is one of the places Joe will be coming to train.
Giving me those puppy dog eyes again
Friday night we went over to another raisers house for Joe's last play date as a puppy in training. He got to play with Dave who is a very sweet BIG puppy. The boys played for a long time and Dave's raisers were sweet enough to get a cake with "way to go Joe" on it. Joe now wants Dave to come visit him at college so he can give him a pre-college tour.
Hi Dave!
The sweet cake that Dave’s raisers got in honor of Joe!
Dave and his raiser Meagan and Joe and I
 From all that playing Joe slept very well his last night as a puppy in training. I am sure going to miss my snuggle bug.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 2

Last night Joe slept on his bed in the room and stayed there all night. I think he was tired! This morning we went for a long walk on the beach. 

We then went to Castillo de San Marcos which is the oldest fort in North America. We were getting ready to go into the fort wen one of the rangers got on his radio and made an announcement that there was a service dog entering the fort. He did so well with all the people and the heat. Joe's favorite part on the fort was the gift shop since it was air conditioned! He did try to get in the prison, but I told him he was too good to go to jail. I think Joe and I both agree that we are both very thankful for air conditioning! As we were leaving, one of the rangers gave Joe some cold water in the shade.
After we were done at the fort, we walked through part of downtown St. Augustine. Joe got some good exposures and did really well working in the heat, even though he was very hot. We then came back to get cooled off and Joe took a nap. Of course, no trip is complete without a trip to the outlets. Joe, as usual, was a great shopper.
 Since we only had a couple of hours before the sun set, we took Joe to the beach and let him go out deeper in the water. Joe prefers to stay away from the breaking waves and where it is not over his head (I, of course, can’t blame him!) He then came back and got a bath to get him all clean since you have to look good your first day of college and also for a play date with his blogger friend, Dave
Next up was a late dinner where he passed out as soon as we sat down. Joe always does his job well- when you get up to leave and everyone around you says “I didn’t know there was a puppy under there!”
 He is now passed out asleep under the desk as I type. He is going to miss hanging out and taking some good naps under desks!
Tomorrow is his last full day as a puppy in training and it is going to be a busy day!