Friday, May 13, 2011

Graduation Day Photos, Take Two!

Our fearless leaders, the CCI instructors: from left Eric Fatka, Michael King, and Gwen Dudek.

The Barbers, Daniel and Jane, were Flash's puppy raisers. They live close to Chicago and were an absolute pleasure to meet today. We are so grateful for the gift of Flash!

Judy Myers, Executive Director of the North Central CCI center

Suzanne Sliclen, Puppy Raiser Program Manager, honors the puppy raisers turning in their puppies today.

Suzanne names each puppy and family individually, thanking them for their gift of time, talent and finances in raising the puppies for CCI.

Graduation Day: A New Beginning

Adrena Wilhelm, one of the intake coordinators at CCI, congratultes Jarod and Flash on their graduation from CCI's team training.

Jarod, Flash and I sit with one of Flash's puppy raisers, Jane Barber, of Libertyville, Illinois. Flash is the Barbers' 10th dog (and the 8th that made it to graduation). Dietzer, the blag dog pictured, is their current puppy in training.

At Tuttle Crossing Mall on Thursday for public access testing. Here Jarod poses with new friends John Paul (center)  from Illinois and Matthew (right) from Ohio.

After a long day of team training on Thursday, Jarod and Flash relax on the couch together.

Flash...the wonder dog. Now officially ours.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day Ten: What the heck happened to spring?

Practicing with distractions in our midst...

Everyone loves it when we have to command the dog with "Flash...Light!"

Flash opens the door with the Tug command.

Suzanne dons a goofy getup to check the dogs for fear and distraction.

Jarod, Flash and I check out the manatees....

Jarod and another CCI recipient, Matthew, at Columbus Zoo.

Jarod loved the zoo but, at this point, had enough of the heat! :)

Day Ten: Life is a Zoo

Jarod's Take: Today the staff was distracting the dogs. They had all kinds of noises to distract the dogs. They made funny noises like doorbells, people knocking on doors. They used hula hoops, umbrellas, a remote control jeep, a vaccum cleaner. One of the trainers dressed funny so she could see if the dogs were scared by her. Adrena held up big stuffed cheetah. Flash ignored all of it.

We had lunch today at a restaurant. Everyone went to different restaurants. We went to Panera Bread. I had roast beef. Flash laid down on the floor under the table while we ate. Lots of people were curious about my dog and were very nice.

We went to Highland Metro Park and I played on a playground with lots of little kids They were struggling to get on the playground equipment. I helped them. They all loved Flash, too. Lots of the little kids wanted to pet my dog. I told them that he is not a pet. He is a service dog. I let them pet him anyway.

We went on a field trip to Columbus Zoo. We saw the aquarium with fish and manatees. The manatees were really big. They were huge. Then we went to the reptile house. Mom didn't like it and we were the first ones out of the building. The trainers wanted to see how the dogs acted in public. They were very good.
My favorite part of the zoo was the aquarium because they had all sorts of amazing fish.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day Nine Photos

The task was to have all of the dogs on a simultaneous "Up!" command for 10 seconds. Such patient puppies!

Flash is helping to retrieve the can of green beans from the table.

Practicing the tug command with Flash and Jarod.

All of the dogs had to retrieve a "rain drop" from the line. The "tug" or the "pull" commands are best.

Flash helps to deliver the bags labeled with letters to the jump box. The letters spell out three different commands , and the team to complete this challenge first, wins!

The finished product--technically we won, though Gwen reminds us "we're all winners". Jarod didn't hesitate to remind everyone though, "Well, but we still finished first!" Competitive much? :)

Day Nine: Test Prep

Mom's Take: Today we began practicing outright for our public certification test. Our trip to Polaris Fashion Mall allowed the the trainers a chance to see us work the dogs out in public and begin preparing us for the kinds of tasks the dogs will undertake. I'm having a hard time imagining myself walking through Fox River Mall with a dog, but guess what--it's gonna happen. And if nothing else, Jarod and I have to keep Flash up to date on his skills, so I might just HAVE to go shopping, right?  (Uh huh--bringing no money with me, mind you!) :)

We enjoyed a more leisurely lunch today before our work began at the mall. I thoroughly enjoyed an opportunity to learn more about some of the other people training for dogs from CCI. Teal, a graduate of Purdue, is planning to begin pursuing her masters degree in marriage and family therapy with service dog Philbert at her side. Sarah, a television/broadcast professional, is enjoying spending time with her mom (who was with her for the first week) and getting back to work with her new dog, Hepburn. I doubt Jarod realizes it, but these two ladies (like many of the other individuals in trainng right now), set such a positive example for families affected by disabilities. They don't let things stand in their way, and they make each moment of their lives count--what a wonderful message for ANY child, let alone those with disabilities.

Blessed...always blessed. What an opportunity.

But before we headed off to the mall, we did spend time at the center this morning working on some tasks and listening to a lecture on the public relations aspect of CCI. Last year the CCI completed hundreds of demonstrations for more than 75,000 people across the 14 state region that this center covers. These opportunities are so valuable because, in addition to educating people about the value of service dogs for individuals with disabilities, it provides the organization opportunities to continue fundraising. Since CCI does not accept government funding, all money for raising the dogs comes from private donors who understand and believe in the importance of service animals. As the dogs are worth $45,000 (yeah, you read that correctly) by the time they are fully trained, each dog requires quite a financial commitment, hence the fundraising.

And Lord knows I'm happy to do my part. :)

This morning's practice session allowed for some friendly competition with our dogs completing various tasks that, frankly, you wonder how it could be possible. The dogs passed items from dog to dog, around in a circle, without allowing items to touch the ground. They simultaneously retrieved items from tables, delivered goods to other tables, and navigated all of the ensuing chaos with an eye on completing the job and the "Good dog!" that comes with a job well done. These dogs never cease to amaze me.

The end of the day we found ourselves navigating the Polaris Fashion Mall practicing for our publc access certification test. We have to be able to prove we have complete control over the animal while out in public, including handling various distractions, food items, etc. Flash did very well today, pushing buttons when asked, ignoring distractions, letting strangers pet him when requested. I have a Thursday's test will go well.

Now I just have to study for the final written exam, Oof!

The absolute final stop on today's extravaganza was Petsmart where we picked up a few items, including a Kong toy (highly recommended), a large container of poop bags (in funky colors--ooh la la!) and a blue dog bone shaped tag engraved with Flash's name and our family info. I'm not putting it on him until Friday, but when I do, I'm never taking it off! Flash is a Falk--he fits right in. We are so lucky to have him coming to live with our (incredibly insane) family! :)

Hugs to all,

Day Nine: Mission Possible

Jarod's Take: Today we got a yellow bag from CCI and inside it was some paper and a dvd about CCI. The staff told us we can do demonstrations, and this is the stuff we're supposed to take when we do that. They had some products today, too. They had shirts, yellow and black stuffed doggies, cups, water bottles, puzzles, and lots more. Oma bought me a black stuffed doggie and I named it Colt. Mom bought some things too, but they are surprises for dad.

We practiced doing a lot of different things today. The trainers made different jobs for us to do and it was like a contest. We worked in teams. Our dogs had to carry bags over to a table, and we used the bags to spell out words. We won squeaky toys for our dogs.

We had a field trip to a mall today. We were walking and practicing get, hold, give. We had to drop our keys on the ground and make our dogs get them. We ate lunch at the mall. We had pepperoni pizza. It was a giant piece of pizza. And I had a big breadstick. Then we practiced more for a test we have to take on Thursday.

After the mall we went to Petsmart. We bought poop bags and a Kong toy for Flash. We also bought a name tag for Flash. We made it out of a machine. The machine put Flash's name on it, and then our address and phone number on it. The name tag is blue and it is in the shape of a dog bone. We did not buy a kennel yet, but mom will have to get one.