Sunday, June 12, 2011

SCP Splits in Three

As of June 1, the puppy raiser group covering Pinellas County has been divided into three new groups covering North, Central, and South Pinellas County. We hope you will join us online as we continue our adventures in our new groups. You can get started now with the new South Pinellas Puppy Raisers blog!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bruce relaxing at work

Bruce is relaxing at work, Global Technical Systems. He has to be on his best behavior here.... as opposed to spending the day at the GTS hangar at St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport. He gets more freedom there!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

May Movies in the Park

Here's a fun exposure: every Thursday evening in May, you and your pup can enjoy a movie under the stars free! (Donations are accepted for Saint Petersburg Preservation.) Bring your own blanket and picnic, or rent a chair and purchase food from vendors.

Music starts at 7 pm, movies start at dark in North Straub Park in St. Petersburg. Here's the schedule of classic films:

May 5 - Roman Holiday
(Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in a Rome-antic comedy)
May 12 - City Slickers
(Jack Palance teaches New Yorker Billy Crystal how to be a cowboy)
May 19 - Some Like It Hot
(Marilyn Monroe watches Tony Curtis & Jack Lemmon explore their feminine sides)
May 26 - North by Northwest
(a Hitchcock thriller with Eva Marie Saint helping Cary Grant get out of trouble)

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

South Group March Meeting

Thanks to Trudy Howe for arranging our meeting site of the 4th St. Chipotle Mexican Grill! A grueling obedience session led by Caroline Tacker was followed by a puppy swap and then dinner! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a hundred thousand words!!685

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March Meeting in Tarpon Springs!

The weather could not have been better for our area meeting in Tarpon Springs. We started at the Sponge Exchange for news and drills. Then it was stroll the streets and visit the merchants and boat captains time followed by lunch at Hellas.

See for yourself!!538&authkey=YF*Qd9W5OfU%24

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dodger's Walkathon Weekend, Part II

For the next part of this story, Dodger has to take a backseat (literally) to Bagheera. As many of you know, Bagheera was a guide dog who had to be retired early due to medical issues. Bagheera was the first guide dog for his human teammate, Jason, who is back to get a new dog. I arranged with Jason to get together for lunch so we could catch up and he could see Bagheera again.

When I arrived to get Jason, Bagheera's trainers were out front. One of them told me where I could find Jason and asked, "Did you bring him?" Yes. "Can we see him?" Yes. So Bagheera had a fun reunion with his trainers first. Then I brought Bagheera to see Jason, and he had even more fun. I had Bagheera ride in the front seat with Jason "like old times" as we drove to lunch.

Fred and Cheryl led the way to a place they knew on the beach on Anna Maria Island. It only took us two days to get there. (Kidding!) We all had a great lunch, and the three puppy raisers learned a lot from Jason about what it's like to be sight-impaired and work with a guide dog. There was also some unpleasantness about somebody's wallet being eaten by somebody's puppy, but let's not go there.

I took Jason back and met his new guide, who's working out great even though Bagheera is a tough act to follow. We made plans to meet again at next year's Walkathon.

I had just enough time to drive home to St. Pete, feed the dogs, change, and drive back for the Walkathon banquet. The banquet is like the Walkathon in better clothes – a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. (For example, I got to meet and talk with Nick from Tampa, who hosted the mother of Chuck and Debbie's first guide dog puppy, Dylan. Now that's old school.) Oh, and there's food (pretty tasty, actually), and you tend to sit more than you walk.

But the highlight of the dinner was when one of our very own raisers was named Volunteer of the Year! (Go south side!)

The north group was also represented when Graduate of the Year Tim was accompanied onstage by his smooth-coat collie guide JC, who was raised in the north group (and sponsored by a Suncoast alum). Even the Philanthropist of the Year is from our area, so it was a good night for us! (Gotta wrest Puppy Raiser of the Year from those Texans, though.)

All in all, an exciting couple of days full of good times. My only regret is that I didn't have enough hands to bring Angel. Maybe next year.

Dodger's Walkathon Weekend

I know Suncoast Puppy Raisers were well represented at the 25th annual Walkathon this weekend – I saw you! I also know everyone's experience was different; I thought I'd share mine.

On Friday night, as a sort of prelude to the festivities, a few of us Suncoasters joined puppy raisers, trainers, and breeder hosts from Texas, North Carolina, Jacksonville, and Bradenton for dinner at The Crab Trap in Ellenton. With all the dogs under the table, it felt kind of like flying coach with a Great Dane, but the canines were on their best behavior – and so were the humans once the sweet potato chips arrived. (Which makes me wonder, if we were puppies, how many of us would make it as guide dogs and how many would get dropped for food obsession?)

Saturday morning the real fun began. Since I was bringing both Dodger and Bagheera, I had arranged to meet the McLeans so that Fred could walk one of my dogs. Walkathon is a chaotic event – like one of our puppy meetings times 100. There are tons of people you know and want to talk to, and tons more you don't know and want to meet – and a hyped-up puppy at the end of the leash demanding your full attention! So when I finally met up with Cheryl and Fred, I was glad to find them standing near a bunch of others from our group.

After a registration process that brought on DMV flashbacks (or perhaps it was just a demonstration of my uncanny knack for picking the slowest line), I threw on my Walkathon T-shirt, got the boys dressed in their new bandannas, and joined the group for chat and some group photos, like this one where, apparently, we are posing for one camera and the dogs for another:

There's an even nicer pic with the water in the background, but Dodger and I are not front and center in that one, so you'll have to find it on your own. (And thank you in advance to all who unwittingly lent these photos to my post. Please contact me before calling your lawyer.)

Then we walked. The new venue this year has a nice promenade along the water, and the circuit is one mile per lap. I heard the "route" is three laps, but I noticed a huge dropoff of walkers after lap one. But man, what a great lap one! I got to talk prednisone with Rick & Kerry Kriseman while Cheryl & Fred were... well, I don't know what they were doing. And then a train (a real, big one) rolled by, no doubt planned as a great exposure for the pups. And then the finish line! Woo-hoo!

We were all game to go lap two, then we ran smash into a canine version of six degrees of Kevin Bacon. (Funny, I don't think Dodger or Bagheera was related to anyone. Can you lose at that game?) We went about 10 feet in an hour. We were exhausted. Fortunately, a smaller train came by that we hopped on for a ride. We were looking to log another lap, but it went about 50 yards and came back where we started. Bummer. "But at least it was a good exposure." (Standard PR response to disappointment.)

Rick had to catch a bus back home (weird, huh?), so the McLean-Bauer entourage set out alone. It was a lonely trip the second time around, with a few brave volunteers manning oases of bottled water, scattered here and there among the tumbleweeds. The vigorous young pups, Dodger and Berkeley, did not look like they could go a third lap, so we called it a walk.

About that time, I caught sight of Judy Bordignon with Dodger's mother, Jamie. I flagged down Judy, who went to get Brenda Means and Promise, Jamie's mom, for a family photo. Here are Jamie (on the left), her son Dodger, and Dodger's grandma Promise in a canine Oreo:

Sprinkled between the many passers-by who wanted to pet the dogs, I got to meet and chat with Bobby Newman for a while and got some training tips from Rick Holden, and Bagheera got to reunite with his sister Cate and meet Cate's family from Indiana. Whew! By then it was well past time for lunch, and by now it's well past time to end this post.


Next puppy meeting in Tarpon here for meeting info and directions (March 2011 newsletter) See you there!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

South Group Feb Meeting

Thanks so much to Publix for letting the south group puppy pack roam their aisles at our monthly meeting! Hopefully Marcy will be able to get at least some of that dog fur out of her car after we all "loaded in"!

Take a look!!437

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feb Area Meeting

A great big thank you to the St. Pete Beach Lions Club for welcoming us to their fabulous beachfront clubhouse for our February area puppy meeting. It was a bit cool (for those of us spoiled by the Florida weather) but sunny and super!

Check it out!!105

Sarasota Polo Club

Sarasota Polo Club

Next Sunday - 20th! Think tailgating with horses. Bring your dogs, kids, food/snack/drink to share. Gates open at 11 - match starts at 1pm.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Obedience with Jennifer

We had our third obedience class meeting with Jennifer on Monday. Tomorrow will be our last class!

Dodger has been in the circle of acceptance from the beginning and usually gets to play one of the circle 8 dogs as he is one of the least dog distracted dogs in the group.

Here is a shot of Fred and HRH Berkeley practicing a down stay. She is in the circle of acceptance too. This is a new experience for us after having Bingo. She relishes being in the spotlight and Carolyn has even caught her crossing her paws for that extra special cuteness factor!

Thursday's North Pinellas Meeting with a Panel of Guide Dog Users

Last Thursday Chuck was able to secure a wonderful panel of guide dog users for us for our monthly meeting with Don and Donna. They spoke about their experiences with their dogs and some of the things that they thought we as puppy raisers should be aware of. Chief among them was that the stay and the come commands were VERY important for our pups to know. Kathy said she was out on a hike with a fellow guide dog user and they both had told their dogs to stay and the other woman went to feel for her dog and it wasn't there. Kathy immediately put a hand out and Angel was right where she was supposed to be.

Thanks to Don and Donna for setting up the meeting and making it all go smoothly!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bill Jackson's Jan 2011

Bill Jackson's Outdoor World was gracious to allow us to hold the January south group meeting in their facility. Full of smells, sights and sounds not usually encountered, the meeting was a success.

Announcements from Marcy were followed by greeting/distraction training. Experienced raisers shared their stories, tips and tricks making for a quite informative session.

Other distractions such as kayaks, all sorts of merchandise and even an indoor shooting range supplemented the normal meeting distraction...other puppies!

Take a look!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Who Let the Dogs Out? Woof Woof

It was a big IFT (in for training) week, lots of puppies returning for more intensive guide dog school. Duke and Trapper were part of a litter of nine, Princess is one of the puppies in this litter, as well as Pal from our group. Faith was in Tampa, and several others from different parts of the state and country. Duke and Trapper are best buds, having frequent play dates and work-outs together this past year.

As hard as it is to give the dogs up, I realize looking at some of the pictures, they were happy as clams heading back to school. Who wouldn't be? Lots of dogs to play with, plenty of time to run, big fenced areas for chasing each other, they will have a blast.

To ease the "trauma", we took the dogs back to school "in style." Melisa rented a stretch limo, warning them ahead of time that there will be a slight amount of vacuuming to do after the trip. No problem! Our poor Limo driver, Guy, showed up right on time and was grinning and quite possibly shaking his head. I asked him "You did know what the gig was today, right?" He admitted he had been told a little bit, but not the entire story. We assured him his cleaning crew would be able to handle it. "Uh, I'm the cleaning crew", he said.

So Melisa, Ed and Duke, Larry, Gabrielle and Trapper loaded up the car with dogs and champagne and a fun trip back to school. The boys were in coat, and on their best behavior. Not so much with the we made juvenile faces out the window of the limo, we were all reminded that sometimes the folks outside can see in. Oops...maybe we need to be going back to school.

A quick stop at the entrance for some photo ops with the "stars", and we were greeted by the trainers at the office. "My these dogs are so calm, much calmer than some of the others", said one of the trainers. Melisa and I were sure we misunderstood her, meaning these were NOT the calmest, but no, they were perfect. No barking, no yanking or pulling, sat when told, and quite mannerly. Ready for guide dog college!

So for all of those folks wondering how hard it is to give up your puppy, my heart was breaking. But both dogs walked off with their handlers without a problem, tails wagging and a spring in their step. The dogs love to work, and I am sure will be absolutely content learning a lot more than we can teach them. They are smart dogs and eager to please. Of course now they are referred to as "the limo dogs". Hey, why not? They deserve it! Give those boys some Evian!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Princess goes in for training

Tough to put into words all the emotions that this day causes... thanks for all the support. She can't wait to see her brothers and sisters!!

Sarasota Polo Outing

A group of Suncoast Puppy Raisers attended a polo match on Sunday. It is a great dog exposure - tons of other dogs, people, balls, birds, food and did I mention horses running past all day? They even got to see some clydesdales and a real working guide dog! We had Duke (Melisa & Ed), Elvis, aka LV (Krisemans), Bruce (Dave), Trapper (Harrisons) and photographer Cindy Weatherby, hubby Doug and their two pups. The matches are every Sunday down in Lakewood Ranch ($10 entry). If you have not even been - think tailgating with horses. Fun was had by all

In For Training Time...

For Billy, Pasco, Wallie, Tell, Mac, Pal, Duke, Trapper and Princess...and the raisers who love them...

I Send You Like a Prayer
by Emily Overcarsh

I send you like a prayer
To shine in a land without sun
Where scents and sounds bloom
Like thunder over the expanse
Of the impossible black horizon
Could you have known where you were headed?
That all along you were a hero?
You were never mine to keep
So I held you just long enough
For you to grow into a savior
For the lost
And now I let go

I send you like a prayer
Like a fulfilled promise
I hang on to your scent in your blanket
That you're too big for now
And as the tears every mother has wept fill my eyes
Know that you carry my heart with you
To the land without sun
So don't look back now
Instead, look ahead
To the impossible black horizon
And shine with the knowledge
That you were born for this moment
Where you set a blind man free

(taken from "Two Plus Four Equals One - Celebrating the Partnership of People with Disabilities and Their Assistance Dogs" by Kathy Nimmer ISBN: 978-160844-716-9)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Obedience with Jennifer

It was rather a dark and rainy night when the 11 of us started our class with Jennifer the trainer. You can see Carolyn in the distance and Dodger, our only yellow lab, sort of glowed in the night.

We started out the night with a basic circle of acceptance with most in and a few outside of it. The big thing to realize is that being outside the circle isn't a bad thing, it only means your dog needs more time to deal with his dog distraction before he/she can get closer to the circle or get into the circle. With time and patience, admittance to the circle is guaranteed. 8-) Go out from the circle until your dog obeys your command the first time. Then, periodically, come closer to the circle and see how your dog does. It may take 15 minutes, it may take two classes! It's all about the dog feeling good and getting praised for following commands.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Luncheon for the Visually Impaired

Hi puppy raisers,

Saturday, January 22, at 12:30 p.m. my church will be hosting a luncheon for the visually impaired. The pastor has extended an invitation for all the puppy raisers to bring the puppies out to this excellent exposure.

There will be food, door prizes, and special music -- all at absolutely no cost!

This particular group of people will be especially appreciative of our efforts, I am sure.

If you plan on attending, email me at so I may give the church a head-count.

Church's address:

Community Bible Baptist Church
3800 17th Ave N
St. Petersburg, FL 33713

Mitch and I hope to see you there!

Heather Gibbs


During puppy hugging the dogs were more interested in an antler than each other or the people petting them. Wallie is keeping the bone away from Isabella and Bernice.

Break time

Wallie & Isabella taking a break after the puppy meeting at the Discovery Center in Sarasota.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eddie goes to Court

John sponsored a pup named Eddie. Karen Hamilton is finishing Eddie and takes him to work with her at the court house. We are so proud of this handsome pup.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Discovery Center Meeting

On Saturday we had our first puppy meeting of the 2011 year in Sarasota at the new Discovery Center. The center is really nice. They have two great meeting rooms, a nice gift shop and a very cute puppy petting place.

Stephanie and Princess made the long trek from Clearwater for their last meeting as Princess goes in for training next week. She's a real sweetheart and has really grown from the rowdy gal that Stephanie got to finish!

After the meeting we all took a walk down to the farmer's market where it was crowded with people and dogs. Quite a challenge walking for everyone.

After braving the market, we decided to head over for some lunch. We had five dogs under a table, which is a new record.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wallie and Isabella

A day at the park for Wallie (Doreen Heller, raiser) and Isabella. One of their favorite games is tug followed by "chase me, I have the toy".