Friday, January 18, 2019

Retirement for Boomer soon....

Boomer and I have been a team for just over 5 years now.   It's been an amazing ride and my heart hurts to say that Boomer will be retiring at the end of this month.

We have had an awesome journey as a team, and he had joined me to many things with the kids- basketball games and track meets with KT, Boy Scout Court of Honors, Black Belt promotions, Orchestra concerts, and track meets for AC, Orchesta concerts, Girl Scouts,  Art classes and guitar lessons with MD. 

Boomer has been with me to volunteer in the schools and give talks about people with disabilities.  He's been to church with us nearly every weekend as well.   A large group of people know him well and love him too.

Boomer is 7 1/2 so he is a little bit young for retirement, but thanks to a wonderful organization called AVCO/Stokes RX- they provide free yearly eye exams for guide dogs   You register for your exam through this website in April and call and schedule the exam with a Veterinary Ophthalmologist during the month of May.


We have taken Boomer for the last several years for his eye exam and in May of 2017 there were cysts noticed in his left eye.  It was noted and since dogs sometimes get these and people don't even know they have them we weren't terribly concerned, however if these are accompanied with pigmentation dispersion, especially in the Golden retriever breed, then there is concern of a hereditary condition called GOLDEN RETRIEVER PIGMENTARY UVEITIS or also called GRPU for short.

So we continued on our merry way and a year later, with a different Veterinary Ophthalmologist, his exam in 2018 showed progression in the left eye with the second symptom and the formation of very small cysts in the right eye- leading to a confirmed diagnosis of GRPU.   We were still in what is considered early stages of this journey and his work was still safe and we were to begin eye drops to prevent the secondary complication-glaucoma and have a follow up appointment in October 2018 to monitor progression. 

The summer brought several trips for college visits to various states for KT, who is a senior this year in HS and was being recruited for throwing discus and shot put for Track and Field at various colleges.  We began to notice that Boomer was missing some minor things that he hadn't been missing before.  After contacting GDF and a follow up with the VO- she reported that there was progression but that his vision was still considered to be safe for working, however that it was advisable to have an exit plan in mind since it is obviously progressing and and that a realistic progression to no longer being safe to guide would occur within the next year give or take. 

Thus the decision was made to go ahead and start the application for guide dog #5 with GDF.   I knew that with the TODAY Show puppy- Sunny and his siblings and late President Bush's service dog Sully, who all are from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind/America's Vet Dogs program, that there has been a large influx of inquiries and applications to GDF/AVD. 

GDF Field Rep Bryan came and also evaluated Boomer to see if he felt his work was still solid and did my home interview for the the application process as well- which is where we discussed my current needs in a guide dog- speed, what I desired in a dog regarding it's work and to some degree it's personality.  We discussed my past dogs and what things have worked for me and what hasn't and we talked about the changes that have been made in the training program since I'd been there last.  I voiced what concerns I had and we talked through these and I am excited to try the new training format of two weeks instead of 4 weeks as Boomer and I had done. 

I told him I wanted a dog that would make a decision and go with it or have lots of intuition and needs little instruction to accomplish the task once asked to perform that task.  I need a dog that is able to handle stressful situations with large crowds on a regular basis as our church has continued to grow by leaps and bounds and is exceeding 4000 members across 4 services in a weekend.  A dog that doesn't have to be around little kids nearly as much as in the past but one that can handle going to basketball games, Karate graduations/competitions, Boys Scouts, Orchestra concerts and Track and Field meets and unfamiliar routes that we haven't been to before because of these.   I said that while I don't necessarily have to have what some long time handlers call "hard" dogs, but that from my experience and from what I've heard from other handlers, the traits of a "hard" dog seems to thrive better with my lifestyle.   They tend to be a more solid and strong willed dogs that when the work is put in, the bond is immense and we become a solid team over time.

The approval of my application took a little longer than it has in the past with all the publicity with Sunny and Sully, but I received an email the week of Thanksgiving that my app was approved.  I was actually quite surprised when the ladies in the Consumer Services Office called me on December 26th to invite me m to the Jan/February class that begins January 28th through February 10th.  It's become even more real as I received the envelope in the mail with my luggage tags/flash drive with the class lectures to read/listen to before my arrival at GDF.  Then I received my plane ticket confirmation in an email yesterday and it's becoming almost nerve wracking with the impending change.   I keep saying a prayer for God to keep me calm and take the changes as he sends them, as I have done just fine through each of the first 4 training and will be fine for this one too. 

Boomer has been handling things OK as we moved his bed into the girls room and he is sleeping in their room.  He was struggling a lot at first with being asked to leave me and go to bed at 9:30 with the kids and was not happy with being left at home as we have begun his transition to retired guide life.  After a week of sleeping in the girls room, he isn't flat out running the other direction when MD comes to get him, but he is responding to her calling him to follow her, but still with a look back at me like "Mom- why do I have to do this? It's not where I'm supposed to be..."   MD will get up in the morning and feed him and let him out and he immediately comes running to wherever I am and lands at my feet to stay for the rest of the day.  So we will see how he continues over the next few weeks and after I get home too. 

So with the new training format, I have some homework to do before I head to NY in order to be prepared for our training.  I'll share more on this in a later post.

Night all!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Dec 7th 2013

I always love all the decorations at church at Christmas time, so had to get a picture of Boomer tonight!

Nov 30th

Lesson of the weekend.... DON"T lick the train tracks of the electric train running around the bottom of the Christmas tree.... Poor Boomer- took some work last night to get him comfortable with being in the playroom last night after doing so.

Would never have thought the dog would lick the tracks. Upon doing so, he jumped upward and knocked a handful of ornaments off and shot down the hallway and wasn't coming back. With some treats and lots of praise he's willing to be in here now with me, but only if someone is with him and he keeps one eye on the train at all times.

He is OK to come in the room now, but he still eyes it warily. he's laying here with me now. I have heard from GDF Consumer services and a trainer called and gave me some tips to work with him.  He still eyes the train whenever it comes out but will not get close to it. LOL.

Nov 23rd

I have the BEST group of boys in my Wolf den, as they made Boomer and I Welcome Home signs! 
So sweet!!!

Had a pretty good and fairly low key day today. Woke up about 9 am, went with Alex to his ball practice and we walked about the school where we could to let Boomer check out the layout of things.

Then in to the gym and on the bleachers to watch. He was pretty excitable for a while with all the kids moving around and running. We just worked it and he obeyed as I'd ask him to go back to a down.

From there, we went home to grab the shopping list for the scout store and did drive through for some lunch. He rode very well in the car and did fairly well at the scout shop. He whined a bit as he got bored with standing still so long as Mike and the kids worked on getting all the stuff needed for the pack.

From there we went to Frys to pick up an adapter Mike needed for the computers and looked at surround systems and at laptops for me since mine is starting to have some issues. We took our time working through there, focusing on foot work and slowly directing him where I wanted him to go. He picked up following the family very quickly so was a little irked at me when I made him slow down, or take different directions, as I want him to do the work.

From here we headed towards home but went to CPCC- our church first to walk through the building and rooms when people weren't there, to kind of get a feel for things before we go tomorrow morning.

He was really wound up here as it was a whole new place and smells. Really had to work on steadying him down.

We went into the worship center during rehearsal and he was more concerned about the family sitting in the back than the music.

So came on home for the evening and just been taking it easy.  :)

Day 26- Nov 22nd

Waiting my turn to go check in. Nearly the last person to leave but that's OK. This way I won't be rushed to get where I need to be.

On the plane and waiting ing for take off 

OK off that plane and off to another gate. Now waiting for windshield to be fixed on this plane. Waiting attendant took my ticket to counter ahead of the masses in line and re-booked. 

New gate and new plane. Third time is the charm right?

At 3rd gate/plane and took Boomer out to break too, which meant security all over again. At least it looks like I'm in first class this time.  Had to laugh though. Two diff TSA agents didn't want to pat him down. Finally super. Comes over and was like fine. He has his face buried in my thighs and my hands on both sides. She touches then harness handle, bends down and looks under him and says ok. *SMH*

This guy is not enthused with spending the day here in the airport, but he's being a champ about it :)

Sheesh, and now we are delayed again.... Praying to leave at 4:15

We are finally home!  :D  
We'd left GDF at 8am and walked in the door at 8:30pm. Left the airport about 7:30, but stopped to grab me some food and pick up a kid from practice. 

Day 25- Nov 21st

Wow. In less than 24 hours, Boomer and I will be home and embarking on the next part of this journey together.

Today was airport training, in which I had my first experience of a full pat down and hands being swabbed. Then we went and I did our last walk together as a group at the Horseshoe.

Came back for lunch and had our going home lecture and video.

Have our graduation packets and now have our official owner tags on the dogs too.

We'll be up at 5:30 to be gone out of here by 8 am for the group of us leaving in the morning hours at La Guardia. Should be home late afternoon.

Will miss the new friends I've made here though

Day 24- Nov 20th

Beautiful crisp day at the Bay off of the Long Island Sound. LOVE the area and feel of the town.  I went and sat on a bench while the trainers worked with other teams.   We spent the day here and worked through the different areas and while on my walk I decided I would treat the whole group with a yummy turnover from the local bakery too as a dessert to go with lunch.  :)