Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dempsey's evaluation

I think we've mentioned that Dempsey is in love with Valarie, the "pet taxi' driver who took him to his evaluation. Here's proof:

Dempsey knows how to "snuggle" on cue, but with Valarie, he did it unprompted.

After a few days of going to evaluation, Dempsey figured out that a phone call early in the morning meant that Valarie was five minutes away. He would eagerly get dressed in his pack, and then do a perfect sit-stay by the door, wagging his tail the whole time. When Valarie finally arrived, he would hop up into the taxi and give her a snuggle.

I don't think he'll have any problem bonding with his new person.

We got the results of Dempsey's evaluation while we were grocery shopping in Phoenix. Because Doreen and I were dying of curiosity, we opened the evaluation on our brand-new smartphones, and read the report -- all eight, single-spaced pages -- on the tiny screen in the baking aisle.

We can report that Dempsey is doing.... ok. His skills were rated on a 5-point scale, and I did a quick calculation to see that his average was a 3.8. Corrected to a 4-point scale, he has a 3.04 GPA -- a solid B.

Being "tiger mothers," we told Dempsey that a 3.04 is "garbage" and will not get him into CalTech. Doreen is outside as we speak, burning Dempsey's stuffed Kong toys. We are cancelling all of Dempsey's puppy play dates, telling him he cannot audition for "Annie," and teaching him to play the violin, never mind that he has no thumbs. Tonight he will do 1,000 sits. Thanks for the helpful hints, Amy Chua.

All kidding aside, the evaluation was surprisingly accurate. It nailed both the skills Dempsey is struggling with ("brace," "across," long-duration drop-stays) and the ones he excels at ("switch," "get dressed," "light"). I think Helping Paws knows Dempsey very well, and I'm now totally confident that they'll match him with the perfect person.

The evaluation also included a "corrective action plan" for the skills Dempsey is deficient at, and we also had a one-hour parent-teacher conference to discuss how to improve his skills. We want Dempsey to be the best service dog he can be.

Ok... gotta go now. It will take some time to do 1,000 sits tonight, before the violin lessons.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why do boys like sticks?

Slate's question of the year for 2010 is, "Why do boys like sticks?"

Based on our experience with Dempsey, who absolutely loves sticks (along with food, people, puppies, and snow), none of the explanations offered really works.

Perhaps that's why it's the question that Slate's explainer was "unwilling or unable to answer."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Still away

Dempsey's Christmas trip to Phoenix and Los Angeles has been unexpectedly extended a week.

The Friday night before we were set to leave, we took Doreen's dad to the ER for a horrible hacking cough, despite protestations that "it's nothing, I'm going to be fine." As you would expect, we spent quite a few hours at the hospital, finally leaving at 3:30 in the morning with a diagnosis of bronchitis and pneumonia.

Doreen's mom had just been released from the same hospital the day before with the same symptoms. Dad ended up with the same nurse who recognized his hack from the day he picked mom up. 

Since the thought of getting up in 2 hours and driving 14 hours didn't seem particularly appealing, we decided to extend our vacation to make sure Doreen's parents didn't do themselves in and allow us to do the long drive the following weekend.

So here we are.

Not that we're complaining, mind you. I think we deserve a refund for the first two weeks of our stay. It was cold and rainy in Phoenix -- the desert, mind you -- and when we went to LA, it snowed for the first time at my parents' house since 1987.

Dempsey, naturally, was overjoyed with the snow -- next to food, people, and puppies, it's one of his favoritest things in the world -- but luckily for us, the snow didn't stick too long.

Here are a few pics from Dempsey's Christmas vacation this year.

Dempsey visiting the Grand Canyon:

Now we can tell everybody that Dempsey is so smart, he went to CalTech:

Dempsey visiting Little Tokyo in L.A.:

Dempsey discovering L.A. Central High School #9:

The new campus, opened in 2009, has really interesting archictecture, which you would expect since it cost $229 million. We didn't see the nearby Robert F. Kennedy High School, which opened in 2010 and cost $578 million to build, but I imagine it's like the Taj Mahal, complete with inlaid jewels.

Dempsey visiting Olvera Street in L.A.:

Dempsey posing by Lassie's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

Dempsey was a little afraid of the Michael Jackson impersonator, which I think is further evidence of Dempsey's intelligence and good sense:

We wanted Dempsey's picture by good dog Lassie's star, but bad dog Dempsey wanted his picture taken by someone else's footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood: 

Dempsey by the famous "Hollywoodland" sign:

Dempsey visiting the Grove in West L.A.:

We hadn't really noticed this before, but you can see people looking at Dempsey in a lot of the pictures we took. Nothing like visiting L.A. with a star!

Dempsey posing for Doreen outside LACMA:

Doreen and Dempsey relaxing by the La Brea Tar Pits:

Dempsey by an oasis in Papago Park, Phoenix:

Dempsey seemed miffed to find a pyramid in Arizona:

Dempsey by the famous "Hole in the Rock" in Papago Park:

The hike to the top was only about 1,000 feet, but Dempsey said he was tired. I think he just prefers the shade:

Posing for a picture near Sedona:

Dempsey on a circumambulation of Piestewa Peak. You can see the Phoenix skyline in the background:

On this trip, Dempsey got to see a helicopter rescue of an injured hiker! Apparently, inexperiened and unprepared hikers get stuck on the summit several times a week, but the rescue we happened to see made it onto the news. While the poor guy was being hoisted by the helicopter, several hundred feet above the ground, the gurney got caught in the helicopter's rotor wash, which sent the gurney spinning. Doreen and I watched all this, but Dempsey napped through it all in the back seat, completely unconcerned about the hiker's fate.

Dempsey visiting the "ghost town" of Jerome, Arizona:

I remember pretty clearly the last time I was in Jerome: August 20, 1991, listening to NPR and following the attempted coup in the Soviet Union. Since then, the ghost town has gentrified, if you can believe it. Where there used to be nothing but abandoned saloons, there are now art galleries and three -- count 'em, three! -- coffee shops selling espressos:

I guess it's never too late for a neighborhood to turn around.