Remembering Hope

September 15 marked the one year anniversary of Hope’s crossing of the Rainbow Bridge.

For the past week I have been fighting to find the words necessary for this post. It’s just been so hard to write. Instead of agonizing over this anymore, I am just going to leave it at this:

Hope left a mark on my life and many others she came in contact with. She was a species in herself–one of a kind. She LIVED with her all and embraced life every moment of her existence. She taught me how to LIVE. Even now she’s left a marker on my life. I feel the Essence of Hope around me and it pushes me forward…because I know she would want me to continue to LIVE with my all.


Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all. ~Emily Dickinson

I love you and miss you my dear, crazy girl!


Puppy Meet Stairs


…has its challenges.

To start, the world looks different every day. One day a shoe is a big monster larger than you and the next it is an enticing chew toy to drag around. One day human legs appear as very tall trees. The next they are tunnels to run through. Some day those legs will hopefully attach to a human requiring unobstructed motion to walk without tripping.

The second is body awareness. Puppies direct themselves with their nose. As newborns they propel themselves nose first to their mother’s nipple to nurse. They are driven by the intuition of scent and mouth. Their eyes and ears are closed, so that is what guides them as they learn to creep, walk, and run. The body just follows along. At 15 weeks ears and eyes are opened, but its all still directed by their nose. Only now their extremely long nose is followed by a much larger body very capable of tripping up those silly, unsuspecting humans. They have very little idea of how to actually control that body. Where the nose goes, somehow the rest follows.

Add the two together and bring in the newest challenge…


Why, we ask, are stairs such a challenge for a pup seemingly fearless and game to try anything? For starters, the stairs to my apartment aren’t normal stairs. They are the metal, slatted, uneven, rickety and four stories of echos and shadows in a cramped external stair-well. From the parking lot it’s 3.5 stories of stairs. Fortunately from the street entrance, there is only half a flight.


If you’ve only been on this earth for all of 15 weeks is this something you would feel excited and confident to attempt? From this perspective it doesn’t even look like there is solid ground to step on!

Further, stair climbing takes coordination, something a gangly, growing pup lacks. Domino understood to move his front feet to the first landing, but he had no idea how to step up with his hind legs.

During our Monday visit, the stairs didn’t work. He was adjusting to me and the city, so instead of making it a focus I carried him up and down. He is a big boy and that wasn’t going to work during the weekend visit. Stairs became a priority training activity. Before he arrived I transformed my staircase to appear sturdier and more inviting to a pup.With these less intimidating stairs along with the work Brigadoon did with him in the past week he was able go down just fine and much more comfortable with up. He still just didn’t know how to move his hind to push himself up.

Adjacent to my apartment there is a conference center with terraced gardens. There are all types of stairs from tiny 3 inch steps to full sized concrete open staircases with steep decreases and everything in between. So starting with the 3 inch, we then moved to sets of 5-inch single steps. We worked those for quite a while and then moved to a 2 stepper. During the weekend he grew more and more confident. 5 steps, 7 steps, 15 steps! His confidence grew and his understanding of body movement. By the end of the weekend he was breezing up my own staircase with ease!

Domino is an ACE! I am so proud of him. He still isn’t quite sure of his hind legs or body but I saw a lot of progress just over the weekend–both with the stairs and walking in a straight line. For that I used the T-Touch Balanced Walking technique connecting my leash to both his collar and harness giving him body awareness and input. Loose leash walking right by my side, but without running into me became a breeze in a very short time!

Domino, you are a VERY GOOD puppy!

Weekend Visit

After the successful Monday visit, Denise asked if I would like to take Domino for the weekend while she was doing team training. Sooo… I had the puppy once again! This time overnight from Thursday until Sunday. I knew quite a bit more about him and was a whole lot more confident. The plan was to have an easy, relaxing weekend just to get to know each other. No major trips to shopping centers!

Having a puppy is a lot of work, but he really is a sweet pup. He lounged in the dog bed at my feet, followed me around, and chewed on his chewy. He is completely house trained which is amazing, but his bladder will only hold for 2 hours so we had a lot of trips out side to ‘Hurry’. He is great at going immediately on command which is very nice.The stairs to get out to ‘Hurry’ were an issue, but that is another story.

We went out for walks and short training excursions at the conference center behind my house. We practiced stairs, and loose leash walking without running into me, and different body awareness exercises. He was introduced to more sounds and experiences of Seattle life including a venture to a 5 way intersection. He did great. He is highly distract-able, but has some very solid nerves. The distract-ability will fade with age and experience.

At home we worked on retrieves for fun. He could retrieve a pen for me until his ‘must chew’ impulse kicked in. I set up some interesting obstacles/experiences for him to explore–like a baby gate on the ground. He is willing to try pretty much anything! It was loads of fun.

Mostly we just got to know one another. Even as a puppy, it is shocking how different his temperament is from Hope’s. Hope was a extremist, go getter, drama queen. He is a laid back thinker. He is MUCH slower to follow through with commands but he is much more likely to offer the actual behavior I asked for instead of offering whatever is the quickest/easiest. His learning is a very different process. He is curious by observation and then action. Hope had to work hard to harness her impulsiveness. It will be interesting to see how he develops. He is yet to hit the teenage stage and that is where my memories of Hope begin.

After both of us are rested up, I will be looking forward to another visit. Right now I am still worn out from this one. Exhausted, but with hopes for a good future.

Meet Domino

Meeting Domino for the first time at Brigadoon

Meet Domino: a Smooth Coat Collie donated by Lana Group of Demiur Collies to Brigadoon Service Dogs.

Because of my needs and his disposition, he is tentatively matched as my prospective service dog partner. He is a cute little guy,but still such a baby.

Born May 8, he is not quite 4 months old. Brigadoon usually does not match pups at such a young age, but he shows great potential. A tentative match now will allow the two of us to spend time with one another and allow him to adapt to my lifestyle, apartment living in crazy Seattle, while undergoing his two years of training.

On Monday Domino came for his first day visit. It was somewhat last minute, and I became extremely nervous about having a puppy in the house. I went on a manic ‘puppy proof my house’ and threw everything in the bedroom that might remotely be chew worthy. Its been a long time since I have been around a puppy and I was expecting a ‘bull in a china shop’ puppy springing off the walls.

My preparation was a bit extreme. He is a pretty mellow, quiet, gentle, sweet, engaging, little shadow of a puppy. I knew he was teething, but this was last moment and I didn’t have a chewy for him. I probably over-worried about the teething that after realizing the kong was too large for his little mouth. He taste-tested my table, floor, clothes, and wicker toy basket (very alluring with all sorts of wood fibers sticking out) but quickly redirected as soon as verbally reminded him, well before he started gnawing. He really did want to please!

I decided it was necessary to get him a chew toy immediately. The pet store is about 3/4 mi away, 1.5 miles round trip, a very simple walk on a walking trail. RIGHT! Walking with a 14 week old puppy who has never been to Seattle before is vastly different than making a quick trip to the store with a well-seasoned Assistance Partner! Everything is new to puppy. He wasn’t fearful, but man was he ever distracted.He wasn’t straining against his leash, or pulling me in different directions, he just wasn’t walking in a straight line and was over-consumed by all the new sights, sounds, people, bikes, trucks, store windows, poles, dogs…

8 Weeks Old!

Once we made it to the University Village (a very large outdoor shopping mall) I figured we could sit at the water fountain and relax. Fountains and all the kids running in/out/around the fountain were another ‘new.’ So was the toddler that dashed up to him. It took him about a minute of distracted watching to lay down. Once he was planted at my feet, he wasn’t moving.

After our rest, he was introduced to the elevator. He hopped right on and OMG… The. Floor. Moves. Still no tail tucked or frozen in position. The pet store was amazing for him. I was drained so I sat on the floor with Domino in my lap to take a rest and for him to take it all in. He was fairly controlled and reliable and ‘down’ after about 30 seconds of acclimating.

It was an exhausting walk home for both of us. I was over-done and this was his first trip to Seattle and probably the longest walk in his entire little life. He was a great sport. Of course after the quest for the chewy he was far too exhausted to actually chew it. Both of us passed out on my bed, cuddled together and took a nap.

Domino really showed his potential on Monday. He is extremely resilient and adaptable. Exactly what is needed for a service dog. We have high hopes for this boy. I hope he does make it in the program. I could see a future together…