Saturday, March 27, 2010

Search & Rescue in Chile

I spent some time last night chatting on Facebook with my friend Antonio. He is a Carabinero in Santiago, Chile. The Carabineros are Chile's national police force. You forget in other countries, they may not have individual states like we do, thus their police force is one group throughout the country.

Anthony is with the 7th Squadron, the canine squadron. They use their dogs for Search and Rescue in disasters and right now, they are very busy still searching for victims of the earthquakes.

He told me he and his dog, a Belgian Malinois, work each day 9 to 5. They feed the dog, they search all day and they come back have dinner, rest and do it again the next day. He says they haven't found anyone for a while.

I asked him when he'd be going home, how long he was going to be stationed there. He said he was happy there working for his people. I told him that is exactly what I expected him to say. I asked him what I could do to support him, the other Carabineros and the people of Chile. He asked me what I meant. I don't know if it was the translation into Spanish or the concept or what but I was having trouble explaining what I meant.

I told him I was sending them all good thoughts and that they remind me of Texans - brave, kind and generous. (Our flags are very similar, too.) I told him that I liked the people of Chile from when I first arrived there and that I still do. He really liked that.

So, as we go about our weekdays full of work and our weekends full of rest, fun and errands, send the good people of Chile a good thought. And go visit someday. The country is beautiful and the people are wonderful.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Juneau's Journal 12/4/09 - About Town

Wowee, zowee, I have been a busy busy dog this past week!

You won't believe the places I've gone.

First, Sheri and her co-worker Bobbi took me to an art exhibit in Johnson City. It was at the Carol Watson Studio Gallery. Ms. Watson was having an art auction to help Texas Hearing & Service Dogs, the place that Sheri and Bobbi work for.

We drove 45 minutes in Sheri's car. I'm totally used to it now, so I hopped right in. There was a lot of stuff in the back where I was because Sheri and Bobbi were setting up a booth. There was a fold up table, lots of boxes of toy Service Dogs, a big black zippered case and everyone's coats and purses. I just made myself cozy and enjoyed the ride!

We got there and Sheri and Bobbi set up the booth at the exhibit. It was lots of neat photographs that Carol Watson took all over the world. My job was to lay on a mat at the booth and look calm and pretty. Sheri and Bobbi and everyone I met that night said I did a great job. Carol's assistant Matt photographed me and promised to send Sheri the pictures. I can't wait. I've never been photographed by a real artist before! When I get them, I'll show you the best ones :)

Well, that night in Johnson City, they had the big Christmas parade. Sheri and Bobbi took me to see it. It was just down the block from the Watson art gallery. It started after dark and wow, was it an experience, especially for a shy dog like me! It was around the town square. There were cowboys riding real horses. They shot their guns into the air! That was very loud. I flinched when I heard the shots but Sheri was right by my side telling me it was alright, so I let the fear pass and focused on Sheri and looking at everything around me.

There were big wagons with lights all over them carrying elves and princesses. There were motorcycles going "vroom vroom"! Again, very loud. There were ambulances covered with lights. They sounded their big horns and sirens - that was loud, too. Probably the loudest things I've ever heard. I flinched a little like last time, but tried to stay calm. Sheri noticed I was a little uncomfortable with cowboys shooting guns, motorcycles vrooming and ambulances blaring - all right in front of me, so she and Bobbi took me back to the art gallery after that.

I hung out there and let people pet me. Sheri told everyone I was working to help children at Child Protection Centers and i was very proud.

And that brings me to our next trip, which took place three days later.

This time, Sheri and another co-worker, Debbie, and I drove almost four hours in Sheri's car. Sheri thought I'd go to sleep, but I wanted to see everything so I sat up in the back and looked out the windows for most of the time. A car goes so much faster than a little dog can. A little dog could never see as many things walking around as she could riding in a car. It was all so interesting.

We drove to a town called Cleburne. It is near Fort Worth. We visited a place called the Child Protection Center. It was a very nice, cheerful place with colorful carpet and chairs in purples, reds, yellows, blues and greens. I just layed right down in the lobby. It was so cozy, especially because it was cold, grey and raining outside.

Sheri introduced me to a man named Drew. He works at this place. His job is to talk to children about things that have happened to them. These things are really bad and talking about them is difficult for the children. They can feel sad or scared or angry just thinking about these things. A dog like me would help them feel better. They can pet me or hold onto my leash. A dog like me would let them know they are loved and safe and have someone in their corner.

Drew took all of us to the room where he talks to kids. It had two big chairs and a tiny table with two little chairs. Some children may be very young and like the little table and chairs because that fits their size. Other children may be older or bigger and like a grown up chair. I just settled right down on the carpet. Lots of Drew's co-workers came by to meet me and Sheri and Debbie. I liked them. They petted me and I just stayed down on the carpet. Sheri didn't even have to ask me to, I just figured that was the thing to do. It seemed natural.

At one point when some of the other people were talking, Drew whispered to Sheri, "How do you get her to do that?" and Sheri just smiled and said, "We pick good dogs!"

She did, didn't she!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Juneau's Journal 11/26/09

Today is Thanksgiving, whatever that is. Sheri has been next door most of the day and I can smell the most intoxicating aromas wafting from over there. I think they eat animals there - Sheri doesn't, so there are things to smell that are new to me. I'm very interested, but of course, I like being here the best.

I am feeling so much better these days. I hardly cough at all and I am finally getting to go on very short walks with Sheri and her border collie Pearl. It's a little weird because we are on a dirt jogging trail instead of what I am used to - going through our neighborhood. I get a little nervous when people run up behind me. I start breathing a little harder and you can see my cheeks fluff out a little. Sheri gives me treats when those people run by. She calls them joggers. It seems like they are being chased because they are running, but there is never anyone chasing them. Weird! But I am learning that when they come by, I get a treat, so I'm sort of kind of starting to be okay with them.

Every once in a while, someone with a dog walks towards us. Sometimes the dogs are large and sometimes they are little. I don't know any of them, so I am very aware of them. Sheri gives me a treat as they approach. If their owner is giving them too much leash and letting them get close to me and Pearl without asking Sheri, Sheri just moves us to the grass next to the trail, asks us to sit and gives us treats. These treats have a way of making things seem okay.

Oh wow, I forgot to tell you - almost - I had the biggest breakthrough two days ago!

You remember how I was always scared to get into the car? Sheri would climb in first - and then, of course, I wanted to be with her and I trusted her, so I'd get in after her and we'd just sit there for a while. Well, on Monday, I was so excited about driving out to the little jogging trail, that after Pearl hopped in, I just climbed in right after her! I forgot all about being scared of getting into the car. I mean, there were always treats in the car, and we always went somewhere fun in the car, plus, gosh, I'd ridden in the car a bunch of times now, so what was there to be scared of? The car is fun!

So I just hopped in and sure enough, we went to the jogging trail and took a walk. We did it again Tuesday and again today! I even climbed in through the back hatch when it was open. Sheri was so happy. She gave me treats each time. She was sort of teasing me, saying, "I thought you were scared of the car. You're not scared of the car! You're such a brave girl."

So all of that bravery, the yummy smells in the neighborhood, the people next door dropping by to heat rolls in the oven, the walks - oh yeah, and eating my meals in the bathtub (I'll save that for another story), I'm just exhausted. A really good kind of tired.

So, they tell me that today is about being thankful. Well, I was thankful from the very first day I got here 6 weeks ago. I still wag my tail when I drink fresh water out of a bowl. It's there any time I want it. I wag my tail when I see Sheri putting my food into my bowl. She likes me to sit still while she does it, but inside, I'm wagging my tail. I even wag my tail when I am sleeping and I hear her voice.

I know she loves me and I am thankful for that. I hope she knows it. I try to show her all the time. Wagging my tail, snuggling up for a pet, rolling on my back and smiling - that's how I say "Happy Thanksgiving".

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Juneau's Journal 11/7/09 - Brave Dog

I am a brave dog!

I'm almost over my cough and today Sheri took me in a ride in the car.

The car kinda scares me. I'm not used to it and it's weird. It moves and it's like the floor is moving under me and the room is tilting and I never know what it's going to do. This is only my 3rd car ride with Sheri. The first was when she brought me home from the shelter exactly 3 weeks ago. I already told you about that.

The second was with Pearl two weeks ago. Although we'd practiced just sitting in the car a couple of times, this was a full ride. Sheri got in first and then I felt good enough to get in after her. We were in the back seat when Pearl jumped in,too! Pearl loves being in the car and she's real happy in there. I sort of felt since she thought it was okay, maybe it was. Plus Sheri kept petting me and telling me what a brave dog I was and giving me and Pearl treats just for being in there.

She finally got out, but then got back in right away but in the front seat. That time we drove for about 10 minutes. When we parked, we got out and went on a hike. It was really neat. I didn't realize I was starting to get sick, so I couldn't run around as much as Pearl did - she's crazy out there having so much fun. She even jumps around in the water! She enjoyed it so much, I felt like it was a fun place and I started to enjoy it, too. We saw other dogs and people and men and even some small kids. At first, I was pretty shy, but after more and more of them went by, all of them nice, I realized they were okay and I relaxed.

Anyway, today, 2 weeks later, Sheri and I got in the car, just the two of us. First she got in the back seat and motioned for me to join her. I climbed in and she gave me a treat just for doing that. I wagged my tail and it was like I knew where I was and I was okay. We stayed back there a little and then Sheri climbed into the front seat, started the car and off we went.

Where were we going this time, I wondered. Should I worry?

I did a little on the left turns. Sheri tries to be smooth on those, but the floor still shifts around and the whole room tilts. I started getting a little nervous. Sheri could tell because my cheeks started puffing out a little. She kept reassuring me and I calmed down and breathed more slowly. I even sat down and lied down a few times, just looking out the window and watching things go by.

We finally pulled up in front of a store that sells tires. Sheri and I both went into the store after they told Sheri she could bring me in. I hate going through doors because at the shelter, I never knew what was going to happen. None of us did. They'd yank us through doors and then lock us up. It was frightening. Some of us got pulled through doors and never came back.

Anyway,Sheri never pulls me through a door. She just stands in the doorway, holding it open and waits for me to go through. So we finally went into the tire store. Tile floors, I can do that. Guys behind a high counter, not too interested in me - no problem. She had to get a tire replaced on her car. I waited with her at the counter very quietly and she kept telling me what I good girl I was.

We had to wait in another room while they replaced the tire. There was a football game on and newspapers to read. Another woman was in the room and a few men came and went. I just lied on the tile floor. It really wasn't a big deal. Sheri petted me and read the paper. It was very calm in there. I just relaxed and stretched out.

After a little bit, our car was ready. We went back to the front room and Sheri paid the guy at the counter. Then we left. We walked around in the grass a little. I think Sheri wanted to be sure I was "okay" before the ride home.

We both got into the back seat. It was a little different doing this in a new place instead of Sheri's garage where we always have been. But I did it. I got a treat, too! We drove home with no problems. I'm still getting used to the car but it's a little easier each time. I was really tired when we got home. I ate dinner and took a long nap.

The whole time, Sheri kept telling me what a brave dog I am. If that means trusting someone you love when you're scared, then I am!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Juneau's Journal 11/5/09

I am feeling so much better this week.

When Sheri first adopted me from San Marcos Animal Shelter a little over 2 weeks ago, I was really scared of everything. But I liked her. I trusted her the minute I met her and I wanted so bad for her to take me with her.

When she first took me out to the fenced yard at the shelter, I was so happy to get this chance that I stuck by her every second. She sat down on the grass with me - I couldn't believe it, she was down at my level. I was so relieved that someone was being kind to me that I just crawled up into her lap. I know I was smelly, I'd been out on the streets for so long, just looking for something to eat and a safe place where no one would hurt me. Anyway, I put my head in her lap and she just petted me.

She got up and walked around the yard. There were dozens of barking dogs all in their kennels yammering at us. I knew how they felt. They wanted out, just like I did. We are all desperate for it.

Well, she took me home that day. I was still so scared, because it'd been so bad for so long, I think. I didn't really understand what was happening and I kind of had an accident - a couple of pretty stinky ones, in the back of her car on the way home. I'm not used to cars. I was afraid to get in hers even though she tried to lure me with treats.

How did she finally get me in? She never forced me. She never forces me to do anything. She just climbed into the back seat herself and them motioned for me to join her. No problem - I just wanted to be with her anyway because she was nice to me. I hopped in and she told me I was a good dog.

She drove to Tractor Supply where she bought me a new crate with a soft white fleece pad, a leash, toys and three kinds of treats. It was a smelly ride home, and I slid all over the box holding the giant crate, but I never complained and neither did she.

We got to her house and I met the most curious assortment of animals. A border collie-type dog named Pearl and quite a few cats. Two black ones, a grey striped one, a little brown one and a black and white one. All of them were pretty curious about me. Me - I felt so shy. I just tried to make myself small so no one would get mad at me.

Sheri fed me some great dog food soaked in water and gave me a new bone to chew on. I loved the food. It was so good and it was all mine! No one to fight for it. No one to wait after before I gobbled it up. I really couldn't enjoy the bone. I just sort of ignored it. I was still way too wound up to relax enough to chew on it.

That night, I fell asleep on my soft white pad inside my crate. it'd been a long day and I was too tired to think or even to be scared.

As I drifted off to sleep, I heard Sheri telling me, "You're safe now. From now on you're going to be loved and safe. I promise."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nobody slept last night

Yesterday we had a meeting - me, the training staff and our facility manager. We were discussing a dog behavior issue - what happened, what to do about it - all pros and cons.

At times, most of us got pretty emotional. We kept reminding ourselves to focus on the issue and not let our passion for our view of what was right distract us from objectively examining the issue.

After 2 hours, we concluded the meeting. It was beyond quitting time for the day. We didn't make a decision. The purpose of the meeting was just to sort through all of the factors.

I didn't sleep much last night. I kept tossing and turning thinking about what we talked about and how to solve it. In my half conscious state, I did get emotional and my mind kept relentlessly factoring information and formulating solutions.

Today I spoke with our Facility Manager. She didn't sleep either.

Later, I spoke with our Training Director. She also had spent a restless night without any sleep.

I smiled.

Isn't that great!


Because each of us cares so darn much about this organization and about every person and animal that comes through it, that we were each disturbed to the point of sleeplessness. That shows true devotion. True caring. True selflessness.

We will continue to work out the solution to this particular issue. And the next one. And so forth.

And everyone can know - these people really care.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sgt. Paul Conner

We all got back from a memorial service yesterday in Killeen for Paul Conner. He is the Army Sergeant who was our first injured combat veteran to get a Hearing Dog.

We all had such a good time with him during the week when he was part of our February Team Training class. Despite his TBI, he had made enormous progress with the training and we got to see a new side of him – the generous fun side – when he brought cinnamon rolls from the local bakery to the staff every morning.

10 days after we moved Zest into his apartment, we got a notice he had died. They don’t know the cause, but I think it might have been heart failure. He always said they had him on a lot of meds b/c of his PTSD and he’d been hospitalized a few months earlier when as he put it, his heart stopped.

I happened to be in Killeen the day the news came in, so after the conference, I swung by his apartment and picked up Zest and all of the things Paul had bought for her care. A woman he’d met at the American Legion helped me load two crates, 60 lbs of dog food, bags of toys, treats and brushes and her food and water bowls. Both of us went to Dairy Queen on the way home. I haven’t had a dip cone in probably 10 years, but we both needed it.

I learned a lot more about Paul at his memorial service. Everyone spoke about his generosity. About how he was always the first to volunteer. About how he always brought back loads of candy and toys for the kids at their Christmas parties. How in Iraq, he always managed to get the men what they needed. One time, they wanted air conditioners. It took him a month, but he got them. Then a couple of weeks later, they couldn’t find their flash lights and asked Paul where they were. He said, “You got your AC, didn’t you?” Even his landlord spoke about how much he liked Paul. They were eating buddies. They favorite restaurant was Hunan and then after a big meal, Paul would get them to window shop for sales on electronic gadgets to walk off the meal. His friend, Helen – the woman who helped me at his apt., made a scrapbook for everyone to sign and it had the Hunan menu in it.

The American Legion building in Killeen was a modest little structure. A classic dimly lit smoky bar, illuminated by classic neon beer signs with a room in the back for meetings. That back room was where we had the memorial.

It was profound to learn about this man through the eyes of his family and friends. We met him only through one facet of his life – his injuries and his attempts to recover. We were just starting to see the other facets – fun, generosity, enthusiasm, productivity. I imagined him as isolated other than what we were going to bring him with his new Hearing Dog. I was so pleased to see what a full life he had. It was a real lesson for me to appreciate someone as a whole person and not just the vulnerable part of them that brings them to us for help.

I really dislike mortality. It’s not fair that this happened just when things were opening up for Paul. It’s not fair that the other guys in his vehicle were killed and that the female soldier was so tragically injured. It’s not fair that Paul had nightmares for 3 years about what he had to do, and it’s not fair that the medicine he took for it may have damaged him in other ways.

These people are very straightforward. They are proud to serve. They are dedicated to serving and to helping each other. They are very modest. They take care of each other. They are not fancy people, but they are the foundation that keeps all of us secure. I’m glad we could be a little part of a good thing for them. I wish we could have been more.

The sun has finally come out today after two weeks of rain and dark skies. This is a good day for the sun to be out.