Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dogs with Jobs - Guide Dogs WA Open Day

On Saturday we went to the Guide Dogs WA open day to check out the dog shows and talk to some people about their training. My curiosity about them had been reinvigorated by Mr W, who is a Labradoodle guide dog and works with one of my collegues. Mr W has just been matched with his human and he is two and a half, so still puppyish in some ways, but he has a very important job.

I had read a bit about the history of Guide Dogs in Western Australia, and it turns out the first Guide Dogs in the whole of Australia were trained right here in Perth. They were exported to the eastern states, and some even went to New Zealand, as well as being provided to the visually impaired in WA.

We saw the adult dogs ignore a kid kicking a ball right past their noses, heel almost perfectly on the leash even though there were some people in the audience trying to distract them, and do a restrained recall.

I think Barbie would have passed all those tests, but they were similar kinds of tests to the Canine Good Citizen Award which she earned in February of this year. I don't think Barbie would have the mental stamina to do what these dogs are required to do as part of their jobs though.

When they have their harnesses on they are trained to see themselves as 'bigger'. They have to judge obstacles so that their handler can walk unimpeded. They have to look out for narrow openings, potholes, signposts and overhead obstacles as well. They look for traffic (though the human makes the ultimate decision of when to cross the road), and they are trained to refuse the 'forward' command if there is an obstruction or danger. Imagine training a dog to use it's discretion like that!

Volunteer puppy raisers keep the dogs in their homes for the first 18 months to 2 years of their lives. During that time the dogs are taught basic house manners and obedience, and they spend time at the Guide Dogs WA headquarters and get lessons from their trainers. They always need people to do this job and it requires a fair bit of commitment. I know I would feel awful if the dog didn't make the grade in the end, even if it was something to do with the dog's personality or make up.

It would be a great 'job' for someone who loves having young dogs and the challenges that brings. It must be so rewarding to hand the dog over at the end to the human it will be helping!

It was not all serious, we got to pat some 7 month old pups. There was one in particular called Angus who seemed to lead all the other puppies astray! I also got to pat Mr W because he was out of harness for his 'quick quick' break. He has been working in my office for 3 weeks and I haven't even patted him yet.

I think I admire guide dogs so much because they represent a really sophisticated way of a human working with a dog. These dogs are responsible for the safety and mobility of their owners day after day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Barbie's Revenge - The stereo remote meets a gristly end

OK, so some of the commenters on my last post suggested that Barbie should get revenge on me for posting a picture of her with a stuffy on her head.

Well I am pretty sure she has been reading the blog and may have gotten some ideas, so I came home from work on Thursday to find that she had been working her evil.

Now I have to get off the couch to make any adjustments to the sound system which is connected to the TV, and I can't leave the remotes on the coffee table where they used to live either!

Who said that grown up greyhounds are not destructive?

To be fair to Barbie, N had been home for a couple of weeks, and then went away for work again. The dogs were used to her being around, but for the 5 days she was away I came home to some new destruction every evening. The remote was most concerning because of the batteries, which she definitely had a munch at, but also because of the replacement cost of the thing. I haven't even had the heart to see what a new one is going to cost.

I also came home to a ripped up mobile phone bill (eh...), ripped up magazine, and they stole a packet of baby spinach leaves I had left out on the kitchen bench and spread thoughout the house. They also destroyed a stuffie in about 5 minutes right in front of me on Thursday night.

Dogs, who would have 'em?

Good thing they are adorable.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, October 17, 2011

New greyhound bumper stickers & stuff

Ok so I have added some new stuff to my cafepress store (the link is now fixed), as Barbie has been busy providing me with inspiration. That and cafepress added laptop skins, which gave me an idea for a whole series of designs. Once you have a greyhound in your life, everything else seems incredibly slow. Laptops, cars and bikes all seem like they are moving at a glacial pace in comparison to your sprinting greyhound.

I also wanted to work a bit with the theme that greyhounds are not retired, they are redeployed to their new lives as companions and house pets. One of Barbie's many jobs around the house is 'resident snake catcher'.

I have noticed there are a fair few greyhound related designs on cafepress, but I think the ones with black greyhounds are the best!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Magic glowing collar

There are a few disadvantages to being a black dog - the sun is hotter, as your coat soaks up the rays, and you blend into the night so people could easily walk into you.

For safety's sake, I bought Barbie an LED collar off ebay so that she will be visible when we are biking together after dark. It cost $6.99 with free postage. The bike already has good quality lights as I use it as transport myself, and I got some little silicone lights to put on the Walkydog pole so that other cyclists and pedestrians can see it clearly.

The collar and the silicone lights use little 'coin' style batteries so I'm not sure how long they will last - so far I have only used the collar for our half hour walk, but hopefully we won't burn through them too quickly!

I made a little video on our walk tonight so you can see what it looks like when I'm walking about a metre behind her, letting her go to the end of her leash.

I wish they made these kinds of things back when I was into nightclubs and dance parties - they would be a hit!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Not Doris Day's next dog, but was a great experience!

Today was the day of the big PAWDITION for the Doris Day musical at the Regal Theatre. There was a variety of dogs there, a couple who seemed like theatre veterans and a lot of newbies.

We had to wait outside on the sidewalk, which was a little bit much for Barbie. There were a lot of people around and a lot of noisy trucks driving past. She was very interested in everything but I could tell she was getting tired by the time it was our turn to go in. The dogs were called in one by one and they had to go up on the stage with the star, sit on the lounge with the lights on them, and be totally at ease.

Three other greyhounds came to the auditions - these two were very sweet, but they didn't think much of being on the stage.

Barbie wore her new black & gold martingale and her 'canine good citizen' collar, but no doggie nail polish. The nail polish dries very quickly - which is good because the dog doesn't get a chance to ruin it, but being quick-drying, it stinks! As soon as I opened the bottle Barbie gave me a dirty look and went to hide in her crate.

Barbie didn't like the theatre at all when we first went in. We walked through the foyer, and then down the aisle. She was distracted by all the strange smells on the chairs, and then when we got to the stage, there were stairs. I was sure she would be OK on them but she decided she didn't want to walk up them. She turned into a statue from then on, so I took her out. We all went in as a group the second time and she was totally fine! Strange how she changed her mind so quickly, but too late to be in the running for the show.

The dogs that were chosen were both mixed breeds, one was a tiny Border Collie, and the other was the roundish black n tan dog in the first photo.

We got tickets for the show tomorrow night, which was a nice gift to say thankyou for trying out. It was good for Barbie and it fun to see how theatre auditions work.

Oh well, maybe next time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our very own Dewey Beach

While every greyhound that lives in the USA seems to be headed to Dewey beach for a big party this weekend, I decided that we really needed to get out to the beach too. Turned out it was sunny, beautiful, and pretty quiet as well.

It is getting warmer as Summer approaches, so the dogs spent a bit more time in the water. The surf was still a bit rough though, so they stuck to just wading through it.

There was the usual saunter along the sand, mixed with more highly paced games of chase.

"There is no way you are going to catch me, slow dog, especially if I curl my front legs up in the air like this!"

"Ah hah! You have made a tactical error brother, of mine. Heading in a straight line after the ball makes you a sitting duck. I am going to get you. KAPOW."

OK after all that running it is time to cool off a little bit! Barbie spent a lot of time wading, and she even chased the waves a bit.

I also made a video of the day for your enjoyment. Goes for just about two minutes, and in it Barbie makes a friend.

or click here to go to youtube if you are having problems viewing it here (sometimes embedded videos have a bad day and refuse to play)

Both the dogs are passed out on the floor now. They are look more satisfied than they have been for weeks. They haven't been out for a good offleash burn for a while. Last time Bender ripped off one of the nails on his back foot, right at the root, and we were waiting for some nail growth to cover the end of his toe. The little bit of nail that has grown back held up well.

The only problem is that all that extra winter fluff that Barbie is currently sporting is taking a bit longer than usual to dry. I think she is too tired to care.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bender had the time of his life this morning...

Just goes to show, you don't need to have a huge backyard in order to have fun. Our courtyard is more than enough. You can ignore the fact that it is just mud with patches of long grass. Dogs don't care about aesthetics!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Doris Day's next Dog?

Doris Day

We have exciting news. Barbie is going to be attending a PAWDITION to play a part in Doris Day - So Much More than the Girl Next Door next Tuesday at the Regal Theatre. It's a musical narrative tribute to Doris Day by a country singer, Melinda Schneider. It's a very short season, there's a daytime performance on Wednesday (that's right, the day after the Pawdition!), and then it runs for 5 nights.

Melinda is going to pick the dog she wants to be on stage with her. All the role requires is that the dog can walk across the stage and then sit on a chaise lounge and be sang to. Melinda has starred with her own dogs in previous shows, but they are quite elderly now so the trip to Perth from Sydney would be too much for them.

I have ordered Barbie a new martingale and some red doggie nail polish to get dressed up for the auditions. I just hope she doesn't get freaked out by the theatre, but if she can cope with the environment she would be great, and it would get a lot of attention for other Greyhounds who are waiting for their redeployment papers.

About to become a superstar?

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