Cassie and Sully

Cassie and Sully
Aw! Aren't they cute together?


Sully enjoying the snow

Big Boy!

Big Boy!
Sully in his vest and Gentle Leader

Sully and the vacuum

Sully and the vacuum
Okay, so he's not so good with chores.

Getting Bigger!

Getting Bigger!
Such a handsome boy!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blog FAIL!

I've decided I'm a terrible blogger. I looked at the date of my last post - Sully has practically quadrupled in size since then! So much happens in such a short period of time! I can't keep up. But, here I am. I'll try to get better!

As I said, Sully has grown. A LOT. He's now just under 30 lbs. His puppy fuzz is gone. His baby teeth are falling out. He's dating. (Just kidding. Wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

He still has one of his behaviors from when he was tiny. He "sneaks". He goes out of my sight, then when I go to find him, I duck behind something so he can't see me. Then, he goes into stealth dog mode. Very slowly, head down, he creeeeeps up to me, and POUNCES! He's very gentle - the pounces are quite tiny and barely clear the ground - so I'm not discouraging it. We also play a form of hide and seek, which he loves. I toss a treat into another room, then scurry in the opposite direction, hiding quickly. He nabs the treat, then comes looking for me - he knows I have another treat! This game is part of his "homework". It teaches him that being with me and coming to me is a positive thing.

He's got a pack. A blue one, with the Helping Paws logo. He puts it on, with the cue "get dressed!" He's starting to develop the "get undressed" behavior, by backing out of it when I lift it up. He sits and waits on command. We're working on "drop". (Laying down). He retrieves and "gives" the object.

When he wags, he uses his whole body.

His feet are still enormous.

He has an electric toothbrush. (The disposable kind. Not the expensive, recharging kind..) Loves it.

He leans. On walls, the sides of his kennel, the interior of the car, your leg. He's a leaner.

Well, I'll try to update again soon. Really.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gotta love antibiotics!

Whew! I think we're finally done with puppy diarrhea.( I know. Not the most pleasant of topics.) But from what I understand, something a lot of folks go through with little ones. We were going crazy trying to wean Sully off of the bland (rice and eggs, or rice and chicken, or rice and ground beef) diet he was on. Every time we would try to get him back on normal puppy chow, the poor little guy was dashing outside to create another pile of goo. Turns out, it wasn't the food that was the issue. It was a UTI! His little system was so inflamed and irritated from the urinary tract infection, it was affecting his stools. The diagnosis of UTI certainly explained the constant trips outside, and the numerous accidents - and finally, piddling in the kennel. Now he's on a bland, prescription diet, (doesn't THAT sound appealing!) probiotics and antibiotics. UTI's are kind of hard to detect in puppies - I mean, they piddle all the time anyway! And, if they're "going" on grass, you can't see if it's bloody or odd looking. He wasn't licking himself (more than normal) and it didn't seem painful. Live and learn. (We had stool samples checked several time for parasites, another common cause of diarrhea.) It is such a relief to figure out the cause!

The neighbors, who already have me pegged as some kind of loony, think I've gone off the deep end. ("Uh oh. She's cheering and clapping - about puppy poop. Should we call someone?") ("And did you see what she's wearing? In public? What's up with her HAIR?!") Okay, I've pretty much lost all dignity. I appear in the front yard in my "jammies". Not designer, classy jammies. Purple plaid flannel pants and a tee shirt from some event. Whatever shoes I could get on as I raced out the front door, puppy in tow. My hair just gets that way when I sleep, okay?? I just hope and pray someone isn't out and about at that moment. But they always are. The guy that delivers the paper has given up talking to me. He greets me with a cheery "Good morning!" and I just mumble something unintelligible. Some woman walking her dog came over to meet Sully this morning. I told myself she wasn't dressed in her Sunday best, either. But at least her hair was all going in one direction. I think Sully will be learning to use the run in the back yard this weekend. He's not crazy about it. (See photo) But it's much more private, which will go far in repairing what's left of my pride.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Now summer can start!

Planning a grad party kind of takes over your life. Planning, shopping, baking, cleaning, setting up, taking down...yikes. But that's done now! My youngest has now registered for his college classes. A bunch of his friends came over last night, and I listened to them laughing and talking downstairs - I'll miss that!

Sully is our "empty nest filler". And he's filling it out more and more! When we got him, he weighed 8.5 pounds. Wednesday, he tipped the scales at 17.2! Oof! No wonder he's getting harder to lift! We're still struggling with puppy diarrhea - he has been through a prescription of Metronidazole and is on probiotics. I cheer when he has a normal stool! (He thinks he's doing an extra great job of going outside, so it works!) He's now at 1/2 rice and eggs and 1/2 kibble. Hopefully, his little system will get back to normal soon. Rice cakes as training treats are a pain.

We have fallen into more of a routine. Up at 5:30. Outside. (As a former coffee shop manager, it's do-able.) Then we eat breakfast.( Sully in his kennel, me at the table.) Then I finish my breakfast and read the paper while Sully licks every last atom of food out of his bowl. Then a trip outside. Hopefully, cheering will ensue. Back inside for playtime. I read part of a paragraph, notice he's not in the same room, hunt him down. Show him a toy. Read some more of the paper. Hunt Sully down. Peel his teeth off my pant leg. Give him a toy. Try to...SULLY! Off the leather chair!! Peel his teeth off my slippers. Throw a toy. Fetching ensues. Then my arms become more interesting than ANY toy - time for the kennel! He gets a few ice cubes, which he munches happily. Then, if all goes well, he falls asleep. This gives me time to: Empty and reload the dishwasher, make the bed, start a load of laundry, wipe down the bathroom, work out, shower...Pant, pant! Then, off to the studio, after another trip outside. We greet friends at the studio, then do a bit of training. That's usually enough to wear him out, and he sacks out in the kennel at the studio. He's usually just waking up at lunch time. We head outside, then home for lunch. After lunch, more training - then a walk. Hopefully, more cheering. Back to the studio. Some playing, chewing - maybe some more training. Nap. Hopefully until about 4 when I'm ready to head home to make dinner. Outside. Head home. More training, playing. Supper. Playing. Walk. Playing. Outside. Playing, chewing. Outside. Bedtime is around 9:30 - for both of us.

He' picking up on all the skills really well! We're working on eye contact, name recognition, grooming, walking on a loose leash, fetching, recall, greeting people with our paws on the ground, taking a treat gently, "getting dressed" (putting his own slip-collar on), etc. And he's been doing everything for stale, salt-free rice cakes! What a trooper!

Tonight, an evening with his pal Cassie while we go to a wedding. Much puppy wrasslin', I'm sure! He can hardly wait.

Now that things have settled down in the entertainment segment of my life, I'm hoping to update more! Of course, now I'm about to plunge into the summer art fair season. I'm trying to create work for that and the galleries that have my work - so I'm glad for the fact that Sully is a good napper!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Happy Father's Day to you dads!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Go Sully!

Sully's class is going to be the first in Helping Paws history to wear a slip collar instead of a gentle leader. At least, that's the hope. The gentle leader (as I'm told) is a great tool, but there are some drawbacks. It can be difficult for a graduate to buckle on the dog. And sometimes, the nose band can cause skin issues. Some dogs balk at it, and that can be a reason to disqualify them as a service dog.

So, this week we're working on introducing the dogs to the slip collar. It's a nylon (blue, of course!) strap that looks like a regular dog collar, but it can tighten when you pull on it, like the old-fashioned "choke chain", only less severe. (We'll work with the Gentle Leader later as well, just in case. )

First, if the puppy shows interest in it, we click and treat. (By the way, when I say "treat", we're actually using a portion of their daily food - keeping these dogs nice and lean and healthy is important! (Not to mention the consequences of giving other foods...ahem, like diarrhea.) Then, we click and treat (C/T) if the dog touches the collar. Then, putting their nose through the collar. Guess who stuck his head right in? Captain Fearless. Guess he likes the color blue.

We're still working on name recognition. Say the puppy's name, wait for them to look at you , C/T. Eye contact. Wait for the puppy to make eye contact, C/T. This week, we're extending the eye contact - working up to all of 10 seconds! Hard to do with a puppy distracted by things like... dust. (Not that we have any.)

We're working on lots of other stuff, too. I personally am working on remembering the fact that I got a new, tiny camera that fits in my purse. But you have to actually take it out of your purse and push the little button in order for it to work. It's my homework for the week. And I, unlike Sully, do NOT use part of my meal for treating. I only work for chocolate.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hard to keep up!

I'm finding it hard to keep up with all that Sully does! He's learning so fast - and growing even faster.

He's now making it all night without a potty break - HUGE!

We've been working on retrieving items, loose leash walking, grooming, coming when called, name recognition, eating/spending time in the kennel, meeting new people with our paws on the floor, NOT chewing human flesh, and the ever popular - eliminating outside. It is amazing to see the little light bulb go on in his head when he recognizes that his behavior gets a reward, so he repeats it. It started with simply clicking the clicker, then giving him a treat. It didn't take long before he'd hear the click, then look expectantly toward me for the treat. Then, I'd wait until he gave me eye contact. Click. Treat. Then, I say his name. Click. Treat. Step toward me on leash? Click. Treat. Follow me walking backward? Click. Treat.

I have to say, I was leery of this "all positive reinforcement" style of training. I truly thought there should be a big contrast between the positive (vocal praise) and negative (vocal reprimand, correction) Now, I'm seeing that just the positive is incredibly effective!

And there is no doubt Sully is a bird dog. I had him out in the yard and decided to let him crawl around on some rocks in our side yard. He started sniffing and digging between two of the rocks like crazy. I thought he must have caught a whiff of one of the billion chipmunks I've seen hiding in there. He was determined to get at whatever it was! Well - a bird had fallen down amongst the rocks. Barry grabbed it before Sully could - it was a little chipping sparrow. Sully went nuts! Barry tossed it into a nearby garbage can, and Sully had to be picked up and taken away - he was pretty sure he could chew it out of the garbage can, or at least dig under it. His little heart was hammering! So, if this service dog thing doesn't work out, I think we have a prize Chipping Sparrow Retriever on our hands.

Or circus dog. See photo.

Peanut butter doesn't agree with him. Loves it. Tummy doesn't love it. It will be saved for later - I think Sully would jump through flaming hoops for it. Or be shot out of a canon. Or ride an elephant. Or wear a tu-tu. Okay, maybe not a tu-tu. A guy's got to draw the line somewhere. Even in the circus.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sully the prom accessory

Saturday was prom for St. Louis Park. Our son Joseph asked that Sully come along for pictures. Turns out, Joseph's group wasn't the only one that went to the Peace Gardens for pictures. I'm fairly certain every high school in the metro area had prom Saturday, and they all had pictures taken at the Peace Gardens.

One of our homework assignments this week was to meet 15 new people. Not only did Sully meet 15 new people, they were all in formal attire! Hey, when we do homework, we don't mess around.

Sully posed with the kids, socialized with every other dog in attendance and ate plenty of grass, wood chips and sticks. We took him for a nice, long walk and he passed out early.

Sunday was the Wag, Walk and Run fundraiser for Helping Paws. I woke up a little after 3 am when Joseph got home from prom. I stayed awake until my alarm went off at 4:30, and was helping set up in Eden Prairie by 6. (Well, just a tad after 6. Got lost - once again - in Eden Prairie. I could create another blog about my dislike for driving in Eden Prairie. Just sayin'.) The event was so well organized, there were more people helping than we actually needed! A good problem to have. I was able to head out a bit earlier than expected, so I dashed home and got Sully. Since we had already completed this week's "meet 15 people" homework, I figure we'd rack up major extra credit points.

Today, we had another play date with Cassie. It was a bit more low-key today, what with the temp hovering around 95ยบ and humidity at 70%. They both discovered that dirt, when you dig it, is nice and cool. Cassie digs in a cute, petite little motions. Barely gets her paws dirty. Sully was spraying dirt out behind him and coating himself liberally within seconds. My attempts to re-direct the attention of two determined puppies was probably very entertaining for the neighbors.

After supper, Sully played in the front yard with some ice cubes and his first tennis ball. Now he's passed out by an air-conditioning vent. I'd say a pretty successful day, for a puppy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sully and Cassie's Play Date

Thursday's play date was a total success. When we arrived, Sully could see Cassie through the glass door. He whined, and did his best to open the door by digging at it, squeaking his paws on the glass. When we went in, he was excited to see her, but was more excited about one of the stuffed animals in her kennel.

It was kind of like herding squirrels getting the two of them outside at the same time. Once outside, they quickly checked out the yard, and did some pretty serious wrasslin'. Once again, Cassie took it to Sully, big time. He did, finally, get some licks in - but I think Cassie let him.

They took turns knocking the water bowl over.

After they had thoroughly searched every inch of the yard, they flopped down in the grass, tongues flapping. I figured they would both sleep well all afternoon. I was right.

That evening, Sully had charged his batteries enough during his 3 hour nap to take a long walk (3 blocks) to Grandpa Wally's house. We visited for about an hour, during which time Sully took another nap. I carried him about a block, and then he decided he wanted to walk the rest of the way home.

He slept from midnight until 6 am. Needless to say, he has more long walks and play dates in his future!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day Seven

Well, after deciding on Sully, we found out there was a slight problem. There was going to be a Sally in his class. That would get confusing! So, we called him Henry. Then, we found out that the family that was going to use the name Sally got a boy puppy! The name Sully was still available! At this point, the puppy really doesn't seem to mind. So, unless something drastic happens, he'll be Sully from now on!

He has been meeting all kinds of people, going different places - even a trip to Wolfe park for the ice cream social and a concert! He found a shady spot during the concert and zonked out. Not a jazz fan, apparently.

He has met all of the neighbors. The mailman is now his buddy.

Our first puppy class was last night. We learned about clicker training, grooming, the beginnings of retrieving and recall, among other things. Sounds like everyone is dealing with puppy needle teeth and early morning potty trips, just like we are. At the end of class, the puppies got to be released and play together. I hate to say it, but one of Sully's sisters pounded lumps into him. And she was little! Don't bring it up with him. He's a bit sensitive about it...

Sully also went to the vet yesterday. Got to stand on the scale, be on an exam table, play with the vet, and fall asleep on the floor.

Today, we have a play date with Cassie, one of his class mates. She's a puppy from Faith's litter and is just a little peanut! She, too pounds lumps into Sully. Again, don't bring it up. I mean, really - she's got to be the smallest one. Totally has Sully's number.

Another great day outside! We will definitely be taking a nice long walk today! (Relatively speaking. 3 blocks is HUGE when your legs are 3" long!) And maybe we'll sleep all night!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The name game

Well, we've been struggling a bit with a name for the puppy. At first, his litter name, Finnegan, seemed like a good one. Then, I thought of a perfect name - Sully! Short for Sullivan. But, alas - there is a Sally in his class, and it would be too confusing. Today, he's Henry. It works for him, and he's been responding to it pretty well. Hopefully, this is it! The poor dog's name changes on an hourly basis!

We had another good night last night. He went to sleep with not a lot of fussing. He woke at 4:30 or so, and went right away when we went outside. The best part was that he fell back to sleep with just a couple of whimpers. He whined at 5:30 - I took him out and then thought I'd see what would happen if he went back in his kennel. He whined and cried briefly, and then fell back to sleep! Hooray! Of course, I was awake at that point. I decided to be proactive and wake HIM up at 6, before he started to fuss.

He scarfed his kibble and then pooped in the RUN!! Whoo-hoo! He has been reluctant to go anywhere but on grass. Since he needs to be able to relieve himself on multiple surfaces, on and off leash, this was a big step!

Today, I'll be purchasing some gates. Henry is becoming very curious about his surroundings and finds chair legs tasty. So far, I've been able to keep him away from the piano, but it is very tempting to him. If he were to chomp on that, I think his name would be changed something much less appropriate.

Well, I have a few moments while he power naps. Better shower and get dressed while I have the time!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Finally, Puppy Day arrived! We went to the Helping Paws center and waited patiently (not!) outside. When we went in, there were 2 large pens, one for Cheer's litter and one for Faith's. We all gathered around the pens, and watched the puppies cavort. When everyone had assembled, Eileen started pairing puppies with families. First from Faith's litter, then Cheer's - back and forth.
Finally, she said "male, left hip - goes to the Novaks!" (each puppy had an identifying mark) We were told his "litter name" was Finnegan. He is the 2nd largest of the litter, and is unbelievably handsome!

After group photos, we loaded into the car to bring him home. You'll notice there aren't any photos of his car ride and very first moments home...I'm afraid we made a tactical error and decided to make the short drive without a potty break first. Ahem. Let's just say he had a quick bath when we got home - THEN a photo session!

The first night went really well. He got to meet LOTS of new friends, and then he pretty much passed out. He woke at 11:30 when Barry came to bed, and cried for less than 10 minutes. He conked back out until 4 am. I took him out in the yard, thinking it would be a quick tinkle and back to bed. Oh! But dewy grass is so fun to roll in! He didn't Think it was at ALL funny that he had to go back into the kennel. After hollering for another 10 minutes, he wore himself out and slept until 5:45. Not bad for a first night!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting closer!

Time is flying by - we're planning a grad party and senior recital at our house, and I'm getting geared up for the summer art fair season, so it has been busy.

I've been seeing photos on facebook of some of the puppies - I've stolen some of them (photos, not puppies!) to share here. They've grown so much! Can't wait to meet them.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I did the elementary school mom volunteer thing - Picture Person for seven years, holiday parties, that kind of thing. Chaperoned field trips. I've stuffed plastic bags of food for children in Africa. It was time for something new in the volunteer area. Something I could really pour myself into. But what to do?

Then, while sitting in my booth at an art fair, two women walked by with dogs wearing blue vests. Hmm, I thought....maybe... our dogs, Tillie the golden retriever and Moxie the springer spaniel cross were gone - and I was happy not to be vacuuming dog hair on a constant basis. But to train a dog for a disabled person - the ability to give someone a helper and best friend, all wrapped into one. I loved the puppy stage with our dogs - especially the training part. So, I filled out the paper work. We met with a representative - Molly. She talked to us about the commitment, the joy, the hard work. And then we got a letter saying we had been approved. The wait for puppies began.

We first heard that Faith the dog was pregnant. Then we heard Cheers was. Happy day! It was looking more and more promising that we would be training a dog - SOON! But I didn't want to get my hopes up too much.

Then, the puppies were born. Faith had an astonishing 11 puppies! Cheers followed quickly with 10 of her own. The prospects were looking REALLY good now!

I was thrilled when I got the confirming email - it was a go! May 1st, I'll be attending an orientation. Then, Class on the 5th. May 14th, if all goes as planned, we will be picking up a bundle of fluff that will someday be a disabled person's right "paw"!

And so, the journey begins!