Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy campers?

In a continuation of the happiest month of Dempsey's life, his brother Hudson is staying with us for a week while his parents are on vacation.

It's a lot of fun having two puppies in the house, and I had envisioned the two boys holding hands and cheerfully skipping through the daisies out back. Alas, yesterday it looked more like Michael Vick's training camp than a happy Helping Paws camp.

It all started after the boys were resting after playing for a while in the living room. Dempsey got bored. Like he sometimes does when he's bored, he stood up and put his front paws on the sofa to see if Doreen or I had accidentally left something there. Whenever he does this, I tell him "no," but that is what is known in training circles as a "no reward marker." My instructor suggested I instead offer him a positive alternative that I could treat him for, so I told Dempsey to "sit." Dempsey dutifully jumped up onto the sofa, and sat on it. I guess I didn't clarify that I meant "on the floor" and not "on the sofa."

Because Dempsey really misses training if we don't do enough of it in a day, I thought I'd end the play session and do some training. The puppies followed me into the kitchen, where I opened a drawer to get out a Ziploc bag for treats. Being in a new house, Hudson was curious to see what was in the drawer. Unfortunately, Dempsey was already in training mode, and he offered his new behavior, "push," slamming the drawer shut on Hudson's nose.

Hudson gave a little yelp, and then started chasing Dempsey around the kitchen. He tackled Dempsey in the dining room, and the two wrestled playfully for a while, before they started chasing each other again. I'd warned the boys about running in the house, and as you can imagine, it wasn't long before Dempsey crashed headfirst into the refrigerator.

As Dempsey got up to shake himself off, I saw blood on his fur. Oh no! I broke the dog!

The parenting instinct kicked in, and I dashed towards Dempsey, ignoring a piercing pain in my left foot. Dempsey was fine, smiling and wagging his tail like he usually does. I was so happy he was ok, I gave him a big hug and lots of kisses. Hudson became jealous, so he came, wagging his tail, to get his hugs and kisses too.

It was only after I saw blood on my arm that I noticed Hudson's mouth. He was drooling blood. I looked at my foot and saw that the piercing pain I'd felt was caused when I had stepped on one of Hudson's puppy teeth that had fallen out. Whew!

Just think, in only about five minutes, I had managed to get Hudson's nose pinched, Dempsey's head bonked, and my own foot stabbed with a tooth. As I was cleaning the blood from the kitchen floor, I thought of a new "career" for Dempsey, Hudson, and me, if the service dog thing doesn't work out. How about "The New Three Stooges"? I wonder what Hudson's parents would think.

P.S. After yesterday's incident, we decided to focus Dempsey's training on "stimulus control." This means he'll only push something closed when we tell him to. We're still watching our fingers and Hudson's nose, though.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dempsey's vacation

Dempsey loved his vacation on the farm. He still can't stop talking about it! I tried getting him to make a Top 10 list, but unfortunately Dempsey, like his sister Boston, can only count to 2. So here, in no particular order, are some of Dempsey's favorite things from his vacation.

The doghouse. Dempsey had his own doghouse on the farm -- specifically, the office in the barn where he slept. He loved having his own room, and he didn't mind sharing it with Bailey. It felt like a cozy home away from home. He didn't even mind the thunder when he was safe in his doghouse.

The bones. Dempsey's cousin Zoe has a habit of burying bones and food. Dempsey had an Easter egg hunt almost every day, trying to find Zoe's bones. Unfortunately, Zoe was not too fond of Dempsey's hunt, or even of Dempsey. She made it clear the farm was her territory, but Dempsey had fun being a guest anyway.

The lambs. Dempsey was dying to play with the lambs, especially the bottle lamb that seemed particularly playful. Alas, Dempsey did not get to play with the lambs, since his dad is a little afraid of the sheep due to an unfortunate incident involving a pitchfork and an angry ram.

Camping. Dempsey enjoyed exploring the tent that his cousin Shannon set up in the backyard for a sleepover. I couldn't get a good picture of Dempsey (he's still not that tall), but here's a picture of Zoe peeking out.

The trip to the groomer. Dempsey got his first professional grooming in Ohio, where they have a $10.99 special for puppies under 6 months. The groomer said he was a perfect angel! The best part, though, was the ride home, where he got to sit on a lap in the backseat. (Zoe was in the back.) Here he is, getting sleepy next to what appears to be a young Amish hitchhiker.

The trip to Niagara Falls. Dempsey and Bailey took a day trip to Niagara Falls, with a stop at Presque Isle in Erie, PA. Dempsey spent almost two hours at Niagara shaking hands and meeting people from all around the world!

The Basset Hound puppy. Dempsey met the cutest little Basset Hound puppy at Niagara Falls. Dempsey laughed when the young pup tripped over her own ears, so I had to remind Dempsey who kept crashing into the wall just a few weeks ago.

Chicago. I had wanted to see the new Renzo Piano wing of the Art Institute of Chicago and take a funhouse-mirror picture of Dempsey by Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate, but I was too cheap to pay $18 for parking. Dempsey was overjoyed he missed another boring art appreciation lecture and had more time to run around the parks by Lake Shore Drive.

"Dog is my co-pilot." Dempsey enjoyed seeing all the equipment Ken has for his commercial landscaping business: tractor, spreader, skid steer, wheel loader, telehandler, dump trucks. He also had fun sitting on the Gator and the ATV and pretending to drive them.

In fact, Dempsey had so much fun, he forgot about the Helping Paws dress code. For the dogs, we have 4 levels of dress:

Au naturel - Completely naked! No collar, no tag. Only when taking a bath!
Casual - Collar and tag only.
Business casual - Collar, tag, and Gentle Leader.
Business - Collar, tag, Gentle Leader, and Helping Paws vest.

On one training field trip, Dempsey refused to put on his Helping Paws vest, and insisted on "business casual." I had to dress him, for the first time in a long time.

Helping Paws trainers also have a dress code. Whenever we're in public, we need to look clean and well groomed, because we're representing Helping Paws and service dogs. On our Niagara trip, however, someone managed to plant a big, muddy paw print on my white shirt. I asked Dempsey for an explanation, but he swore it was the cat. I think from now on, I will only wear mud-colored shirts.

I didn't pack anything to clean my shirt, as Lu, one of the Helping Paws volunteers, had suggested. So I had to walk around Niagara Falls with a soiled shirt. With all the international visitors, I was representing Helping Paws, service dogs -- and Americans. What a country!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Interesting reading

Now that Dempsey is napping, I've been catching up on my reading. In a case of synchronicity, I found two articles (one in the Times, and the other in the New Yorker) about self-control and success. Basically, researchers have found that children who have more self-control are more successul later in life.

Here's a description of the "marshmallow experiment" from the New Yorker, and the difference between two kids, Craig and Carolyn:

A researcher made Carolyn an offer: she could either eat one marshmallow right away or, if she was willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, she could have two marshmallows when he returned. He said that if she rang a bell on the desk while he was away he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow but would forfeit the second. Then he left the room.

...Most of the children were like Craig. They struggled to resist the treat and held out for an average of less than three minutes. “A few kids ate the marshmallow right away,” Walter Mischel, the Stanford professor of psychology in charge of the experiment, remembers. “They didn’t even bother ringing the bell. Other kids would stare directly at the marshmallow and then ring the bell thirty seconds later.” About thirty per cent of the children, however, were like Carolyn. They successfully delayed gratification until the researcher returned, some fifteen minutes later.

...Once Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.

I think this is very interesting, because what we're teaching Dempsey with clicker training is self-control. There might be an interesting leaf blowing by, but Dempsey is learning that it's better to sit still and concentrate on me rather than chase after the leaf. We never push Dempsey's butt down to make him sit. He needs to sit on his own. Ditto for the leash: We never use it to tug Dempsey in the right direction. He needs to bring himself to the right position. In other words, we never force Dempsey to do anything; we just make it attractive to him (with treats) to control himself.

A successful service dog is one who has self-control, so by practicing skills in distracting environments, we're helping Dempsey become a successful service dog. But there's a more interesting point: Self-control seems to make you a better learner. The researchers don't know how self-control is related to success, but I have a hypothesis: Self-control gives you the ability to concentrate and work towards goals.

I suspect this is why Dempsey seems like a genius to us (see the "push" demonstration below). By practicing concentration, we're making it easier for him to learn new skills. It would be interesting to do an experiment: See how long a puppy at twelve weeks can "watch" without being distracted, and see if that predicts how many repetitions it takes for him or her to learn a new behavior at sixteen weeks.

In the meantime, though, Dempsey will be waking up soon, and science will have to take a back seat to using the potty.

Back in town

Dempsey came home late Monday night/Tuesday morning after a long drive from Ohio.
He really enjoyed his vacation! We'll have more details once we have everything unpacked, cleaned up, and settled.

In his absence, our neighbors Romi and Mike made a really nice "welcome home" sign for Dempsey, which we've put up on our refrigerator.

And, just to give everybody equal time, here's an older sign for Bailey made by her cat-sitter, Celeste:

Dempsey took the "vacation" thing a little too seriously, which resulted in some dress code violations (more on that later). Now that we're back home, we're back to training seriously.

Here's Dempsey demonstrating his new skill, "push." Hudson's parents taught this to Dempsey while we were in Baltimore, and Dempsey hadn't practiced at all in Ohio. When we came home, over a week later, Dempsey still remembered how to do it perfectly. We think the "genius" on Romi and Mike's sign is pretty accurate!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Meet the sheep

Dempsey is really enjoying his vacation on the farm. There's a big yard where he can run around, and he's met his cousin Zoe, a Great Pyrenees, and the sheep. Dempsey is a little afraid of the rams and ewes, but he's dying to play with the lambs.

Today he and Zoe went to get professionally groomed. (Dempsey's first!) They both look fabulous! Unfortunately, there's more rain the forecast for tomorrow, so the good looks won't last for long.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Art appreciation, Dempsey style

Dempsey, Bailey, Doreen, and I arrived in Ohio last night around midnight, after about 15 hours on the road. We made pretty good time, driving straight through and skipping most of the myriad tourist attractions of America's heartland: the Astronaut Deke Slayton and Bicycle Museum, the Ho Chunk Casino, the "largest Illinois State Park in Northern Illinois," and Michael Jackson's boyhood home.

We did make a couple of quick stops, though. For lunch, we stopped at one of our favorite fried chicken QSRs, Pollo Campero, where Dempsey did some training and posed for pictures.

We also stopped in Toledo to visit the beautiful Glass Pavillion at the Toledo Museum of Art. Dempsey tuned out Paul's architecture lesson, and he bolted after some leaves when we tried to make him watch the glassblowers at work.

Dempsey did have fun pretending he was in Paris, though.

Dempsey again tuned out my lecture on Guimard, but he said art nouveau curves make lovely headrests. Not exactly what I had in mind for "art appreciation," but I guess it's a start.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More pictures with Angel

I was hoping Dempsey and Angel would entertain each other while I prepared for our trip to Ohio, but alas they ended up entertaining me more than each other. I spent way too much time just watching them.

Dempsey got his rabies shot today, and as the vet predicted, he was a little tired. For once, he was not the most active puppy around. Here's Dempsey posing, while Angel walks all over him:

Here's a picture of Dempsey with what appears to be Godzilla's foot:

Here's a better picture of the two of them:

Here's Dempsey showing off. I was trying to get the puppies dressed for class, and I told Dempsey to wait while I got Angel ready. As you can see, Dempsey gets an "F" for "wait," but an "A" for cute.

Ok, back to packing....

Busy boy!

Dempsey has been a very busy boy these past few days. Yesterday, we picked him up from his brother Hudson's house, where had spent the last five days. Today, his sister Angel is visiting. And tomorrow, he will be heading on a road trip to Ohio with his sister Bailey. (Bailey says: "Step sister, thank you. I am not related to him.")

Though we were only away from Dempsey a few days, we really missed him. We visited a pet store, looked at doggie blogs, and thought about him pretty much constantly. We're also seeing the world differently now, thanks to Dempsey. We had never noticed how thoughtlessly many things are built for people with disabilities. The elevators at the Baltimore Convention Center, for example, are spaced far apart, and you need to take two different elevators to get from the bottom floor to the top. We also saw curbs that didn't have ramps for wheelchairs, as well as ramps that had angles more appropriate for a ski jump. We'd never noticed these barriers before, but now we see them everywhere.

While we were busy thinking of Dempsey, he was busy growing up! He went to two Little League games and visited a farmer's market -- both new experiences for him! And, in only 5 days, he has learned two new cues: "bell" (ringing a bell for attention), and "push" (pushing a drawer closed with his nose). Dempsey thanks Hudson's parents for doing such a great job taking care of him!

Hudson's parents said that one very cute thing Dempsey and Hudson did was respond to cues in unison. With Angel here today, I thought I'd try to get a video of a synchronized "sit." Here's what I got:

Ok, we're not quite ready yet for prime time. But look out, Corky St. Clair!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Frequently asked questions

Dempsey, we are proud to say, was recently featured as the "Puppy of the Day" on the "Daily Puppy" Website. As a result, we've received a number of new visitors (if you're one of them: Welcome!), as well as a bunch of questions in the Dempsey mailbag.

We've actually been getting questions all along, but I thought this might be a good time to share our answers. Now that we have some repeat questions, we can honestly say these are "frequently asked." We love feeling like know-it-all's, so please keep those questions coming!

You must work Dempsey so hard. He looks so tired!
If you think Dempsey looks tired, wait till you see his parents! :-)

I realized after I had put up the pictures on Daily Puppy that Dempsey is either sleeping or in training in virtually all of them. There's a simple reason for this: Those are the only times when he's not zooming around, and he sits still long enough for us to take pictures. Here's a more typical picture of Dempsey:

And this is one of the better ones! We have a million more where all you can see is a fuzzy streak, or sometimes, when he has run off before I can click the shutter, nothing at all.

Dempsey actually only trains for about an hour and a half every day (half an hour after each meal), plus a half-hour walk/field trip. This is about all he can handle at his age. For the other 22 hours of the day, he is napping, playing, or using the bathroom.

So if you think Dempsey always looks tired, please rest assured: most of the time, he just looks blurry.

Won't you be sad to give Dempsey away?

How can you give Dempsey away?
It's absolutely the right thing to do, and we would be dreadful selfish people if we didn't.

When we train Dempsey in public, we often have strangers come up to us and shake our hands. We hear stories about how service dogs have changed people's lives, and we're thanked for the work we do. We feel like saints, though really, we're not worthy, we're not worthy!

It's really incredible what a dog can do for a person. Here's a quote from a woman in England who got a service dog:
In the years since the accident that caused my disabilty I had become more and more socially isolated. It was physically difficult to go out, and as I went out less and less it became emotionally difficult too. Sometimes people would ask well intentioned questions, but I could not help feeling a bit of a spectacle. The pain of social isolation is more intense than one can imagine. Caesar has changed that! He has to go out everyday and naturally he has to have someone to take him! People don't stop me and ask about my disability as much now, they stop me and ask about Caesar and what he does...and that is fine by me. We have met some lovely canine friends as well as their humans of course!
With her service dog, Wendy went from feeling socially isolated to traveling extensively: to Paris, Scotland, Wimbledon, the U.S. How could we deny someone an opportunity like this?

We know service dogs are terrific for people, but we also think they're great for the dogs. Dempsey's most favoritest thing in the whole wide world -- more than food, more than toys, more than treats -- is to be with his "human." I can think of no better gift to Dempsey than the training that will allow him to go everywhere with his human.

Do you keep Dempsey hungry all the time so that he'll work for his treats?
Hmm. I wonder who leaked this photo?

Actually, Dempsey is very well fed. He gets three meals a day of "ultra premium" dog food, plus treats for training. In the evenings, we give him more treats when we catch him being a good little puppy (e.g., sitting quietly in the kitchen, lying by the sofa and not chewing the leg, etc.).

Dempsey gets the same amount of food every day, regardless of whether he did well in training or not. (Shhh! Don't tell him!) Our long-term goal is to train a service dog, but that's overridden by the short-term goal of taking good care of Dempsey. Not every dog has what it takes to be a service dog, and that's ok. If Dempsey is not "getting" something in training, he never goes hungry. Our goal at this point is to help Dempsey grow up to be the best dog he can be, whatever his ultimate "career" may be. (But, we're proud to say, he's doing a fantastic job in his training!)

Are you just raising Dempsey, or are you training him?
We're both raising Dempsey and training him. One of the great things about Helping Paws is that they don't have separate puppy-raisers and trainers. You get to do everything! We expect to have him for about 2 to 3 years, and we will be doing all the training, under the guidance of instructors at Helping Paws. We think it will be enormously rewarding to train Dempsey all the way through graduation.

How can I volunteer?
You can click here to find out more about volunteering with Helping Paws.

It it fun taking Dempsey everywhere?
It's a lot of fun to be with Dempsey, but Helping Paws wisely does not allow us to take him everywhere. He's still a puppy, liable to have accidents, chew things up, or jump onto people. As a "service dog-in-training," Dempsey is allowed by Minnesota law to go anyplace, but it's just not the right thing to do at his age.

An example is the nice manager at the Coach outlet, who invited Dempsey into the store. She knows the laws regarding public access for service animals, but we politely declined her invitation. A Coach store -- even an outlet -- can be one very expensive place to make a mistake! There's already enough misunderstanding about service animals that we don't want to add it to by bringing an unprepared puppy to a public location.

For now, Dempsey is only allowed to go places where "civilian" dogs can go: pet stores, vet clinics, parks, outside strip malls, etc. His field trips aren't that glamorous: truck stops, highway overpasses, transit centers, strip mall parking lots. But it's still a lot of fun looking at things through a puppy's eyes. Everything is so new and exciting!

Is Dempsey a registered service dog?
This one is a little tricky. By the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. However, the law does not stipulate that service dogs be "registered" or "certified."

There are a few outfits out there that will "register" or "certify" a dog as a service animal, but this is not required by law. In fact, businesses cannot require special identification for service animals.

These places that offer "registration" or "certification" strike me as "diploma mills": pay some money, and you get a piece of paper that's really meaningless. For example, there's a place in Texas that, for $50, will send you a laminated card if you can prove that 1) you have a disability and 2) your dog has been vaccinated. Now, compare those "standards" with the ADI Public Access Test that Dempsey will be taking. It's like the difference between a degree from Harvard and one from the Online University of Bora Bora.

Getting on my soapbox here (and reiterating these views are mine, and not necessarily those of Helping Paws), I'm a little offended by places like this that take money from well-meaning people without really giving them anything. Their "standards" are a mockery of all the hard work we put into training Dempsey.

The really sad part is that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about service animals. Some people are allergic to dogs, or afraid of dogs, or (hard as it is for me to believe) simply don't like dogs. For these people, the presence of a dog pushes their comfort zone. People with disabilities have a right to have service animals, but it's just common decency to make sure the animals are well behaved. Having an untrained (or poorly trained) dog doesn't help the person with a disability and contributes to the misunderstandings people have about service animals.

Aargh! Off my soapbox now. Sorry about the rant. I wasn't like this before, but once you see all the hard work Helping Paws puts into their dogs, it's very hard for me not to be offended. :-)

All I ever hear is "Dempsey, Dempsey, Dempsey." Why don't you have more stuff about Bailey the cat?

We adore Bailey, but her charms don't translate as well to the Web as Dempsey's. It's like the difference between a fine film by Satyajit Ray and a typical Bollywood flick. One is a subtle, contemplative psychological portrait where nothing much happens; the other is an action-packed, multi-hour song-and-dance extravaganza with a cast of thousands. Market research shows more people would prefer to see Amrita Rao -- meow! But for you Satyajit Ray fans, grab your molto grande doppio espresso macchiatos or whatever, and be prepared to be blown away by this video of Bailey playing with toys at the pet store:

Why is Dempsey wearing a muzzle?
He's not. He's wearing a Gentle Leader, which is a humane collar that helps prevent tugging and pulling. We thought it looked like a muzzle at first, too, but it's really more like a horse's bridle. It's not painful, and it doesn't restrain him. Dempsey never wears a choke collar or those remote-controlled doodads that give electric shocks. All his training is humane.

Did you really poke your eye with a chopstick?
Ah, I assume you're referring to the story where I sprayed myself with Dempsey's pee. Well, to answer your question: Yes, I have poked my eye with chopstick. It happened when I bonked my head with the vacuum cleaner. I was using a chopstick to dislodge a ball of lint from the dryer vent so I could vacuum it up. It was a weird angle, and when I tugged on the vacuum cleaner hose, the vacuum toppled over onto my head, knocking my glasses off and throwing my head forward into the the chopstick. I know it sounds ridiculous, but really, it could happen to anyone.

You sound like an incompetent buffoon in your blog. Are you sure you know what you're doing?
Yes! The great thing about Helping Paws is that they give you a smart dog and then tell you what to do. And it really works well! The other day, I was training Dempsey at a Petsmart, and he was so well behaved, two people came up to me and asked me if I was taking any new clients for doggie training! They were stunned when I told them that I was just a volunteer, and Dempsey is my first puppy.

As for the buffoonery, I will be the first to admit I'm a bit of an oaf. But we're trying to make this blog better than our previous, unloved and unpopular blog, "Road Trip: North Dakota." We're doing this by sharing only the funny/interesting stories, and not giving you a blow-by-blow account of everything that happens. Trust me, we could go on for weeks about what a cute, sweet, smart, cute, handsome, brave, cute, adorable, friendly, patient, cute puppy Dempsey is, but I can already see some of your eyes glazing over.

Um, you know "Ralph" isn't real, right?
Not real? You're crazy. I can plainly see him right here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Attention deficit disorder

For the past few days, Dempsey has been suffering from attention deficit disorder. We're not talking about the inability to focus on anything for more than 2 seconds -- that's normal in a puppy -- but the crazy disorder he gets when he's not the center of attention 24/7.

The reason for this is the cat. For the last week or so, Bailey has been constipated. Being the organic/natural people we are, we decided to try to help her naturally by giving her canned pumpkin. The high fiber is supposed to get their systems running again, and we'd been told that most cats like it. Notice we said "most." Bailey, of course, does not.

Our next step was to try tricking her, by mixing the pumpkin with her favorite canned food. Bailey took one good sniff of the stuff, and refused it. In fact, she became convinced we were trying to posion her food; she even stopped eating her untainted canned food. Because she hadn't eaten in a day, we thought it might be a good time to let her try some new kibble with higher fiber. We bought her a bag of Innova, an expensive, fancy-schmancy brand, but she refused to eat that, too.

By this point, all our "natural" solutions had failed, so we took her to the vet for an unnatural solution. Literally: six enemas with soapy water, adminstered over two days. As you can imagine, Bailey is not very happy about this. She has taken to dragging her butt along the floor, leaving streaks of watery poo.

This, of course, is very appealing to Dempsey, who can't tell the difference between cat poo and peanut butter and is dying to lick it up. Given what a mess the floor is, I was half tempted to emulate David Sedaris' redneck brother, who cleans up his dog's poop by training his neighbor's dog to eat it. Alas, this trick only works if it's someone else's dog eating the poop, so I was back to following Bailey around with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels. Dempsey was confined to his kennel.

This has all been too much for Dempsey. While he sits in his kennel, he's been watching me clean up Bailey's poo. And give Bailey medicine. And give Bailey laxative. And give Bailey a bath. And pet Bailey. And feed Bailey more canned food.

Dempsey is jealous jealous jealous. When we take him out of his kennel, he dances like an NFL player who just scored a touchdown, and then proceeds to run around like crazy. He tries stealing stuff from the trash can or counters -- anything to get attention. He was pretty bad at class on Monday night, refusing to even look at the keys he had expertly retrieved just the other night at the zoo. When Eileen, the head honcho of Helping Paws, walked around meeting the puppies in class, I was just praying Dempsey wouldn't jump up and try to mount her leg. (Fortunately, he didn't.)

Luckily for Dempsey, he's staying with his brother Hudson for the next few days as we travel. In addition to Hudson, there's Elsie, an adult Labrador Retriever; a huge yard; two kids; and, apparently, every kid on the block. We think he'll have lots of fun, and we hope it will cure his attention deficit disorder.

Bailey in the bathroom. Apparently she couldn't make it to either toilet.

Dempsey, meanwhile, retains his healthy glow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dream Night

Dempsey hasn't perfected his "service dog" skills yet, but he is an expert at his "puppy skills": wagging his tail, licking faces, and making people really happy. To help prepare Dempsey for his life of service, we took him yesterday to Dream Night at the Minnesota Zoo, where he volunteered to meet children with illnesses and special needs from Gillette Children's Specialty Heath Care, the Courage Center, and the Ronald McDonald House.

Dempsey loves kids, but he got really excited when we told him that lions and tigers are big cats. We decided he was not quite ready yet to see the animals, so we stuck around Central Plaza, greeting the kids as they came in. It was a good call, as he showed some fear when he first saw the caribou. Sculpture, that is.

Most of the time, Dempsey was a good little helper, calmly meeting all the kids and shaking hands. You really realize what a special little dog he is when you see some kids opt to skip the lions and tigers to spend more time petting Dempsey. One of the girls spent a good thirty minutes (of a two-hour event) sitting next to Dempsey, giving him hugs and kisses. Another little boy raised his hand and shouted, "I'll take him!" when we explained to his parents that we'll be giving Dempsey away after we finish training him.

Dempsey also enjoyed watching "big dog" Sky demonstrate her skills in removing gloves, picking up coins and credit cards, and flipping light switches. He wanted to be like a big dog, so we practiced his retrieving skills with keys. Thankfully, he is past the stage where he would trot over, pick up the keys, bring them to you, and then fling them in your face. Dempsey thinks that's very funny, but it's not something we wanted to demonstrate at the zoo.

Overall, it was a very fun night. Dempsey thanks the Minnesota Zoo and the event sponsors who helped make this a special night for the children and him!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bed head!

Dempsey hates Mondays. Especially when his dad takes pictures first thing in the morning.