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!


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!


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 Springs...click here for meeting info and directions (March 2011 newsletter) See you there!