Andy’s Album #7: Snapshots of an Aspiring Guide Dog

Lisa Mayers
By Lisa Mayers April 4, 2016 14:02

Friends and Neighbors Magazine is following Andy, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy, on his journey through the Guide Dogs for the Blind training program.  Jean Jones, one of three leaders of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties’ Guide Dogs for the Blind volunteer network, has been raising Andy since he was 10 weeks old.  He is the 16th puppy she has raised for the nonprofit program. Check back for updates on Andy’s progress. Read about his earlier training adventures in Readers’ Journal.


Andy stops to smell the flowers at Ironstone

Andy’s Album

Date: March 29, 2016

Age: 13.5 months

Weight: 65-70 pounds

At Mark Twain Medical Center’s Spring Health Fair: “Andy was pretty excited by all the people when we first got there, but he was good when I got a blood draw. When we were walking around [at Ironstone Vineyards], we saw one of the kitties that lives there: The cat just looked at Andy and arched up his back. Andy was trying to figure out what was going on but he didn’t do anything, so he was good.

He loved the flowers there and ran around sniffing them. His nose has come alive. Probably within the last three weeks or month he’s started sniffing the air. I’ve never had another dog do that. He’s not sniffing the ground or where other dogs have marked. It’s interesting to see how he’s become more aware.

IMG_4328 andy with bunny ADJ

After the health fair, time to rest with a friendly bunny

Andy also notices things that are different or out of place. He notices different sounds. If the cat’s coughing, he’ll go check on it. If he hears the neighbor’s car door close, he’ll go to the window and check it out. He’s very observant about noticing changes and different sounds, as well as something that’s in the air.”

Andy’s progress so far: “He’s made good progress with a loose leash and with kitty distractions. He’s still exuberant with lots of energy. He wants to be around people; he’s my little shadow. He even stands between me and the stove while I’m cooking! He’ll make a great partner for somebody.”

The grieving process: “Andy’s finally gotten past Doug’s death [see Andy’s Album #6], but he’s still unsettled at times. He’s good about being around other dogs when we’re out and about, but comes unglued at guide-dog meetings because he’s so excited to see his dog friends. He’s having problems at places where I used to take both him and Doug, like a certain restaurant and the guide-dog meetings. He started chewing his feet and dew claws after Doug died, but he’s stopped now. He’s had some rough spots but now he’s finally getting past that. I think it’s all tied together with the grieving process.”

Highlight of the month: “I had taken Andy to a movie for the first time, about a month or six weeks ago. He was so excited about the popcorn on the floor! He was very intrigued by it. He would’ve liked a looser leash so that he could do the clean-up. He did really well. It was a new experience for him and he just laid down the whole time.”


It’s a double-wagger day as Jean gets a haircut at Salon Duo in Sonora

Focus on Andy’s training: “We’ll just keep working on him making good choices. I work a lot with him on collar pressure, working with a flat collar and not pulling. He loves little kitty friends, but like most dogs, if a cat runs, dogs will chase it.

There’s a neighbor kitty that comes to our house for attention and to be fed; it gets food and attention at its house, but knows it can also get them at my house. In the beginning, Andy would see it and do a big lunge at it. At first the cat would freak out and run. Over time, working with collar pressure and rewards, Andy now can have a loose leash, and the cat just hangs out. The cat waits in an empty flower pot by the front door every morning for food and love, and now they have a little meet-and-greet because Andy’s doing well with that.

Andy’s very food motivated. I can’t leave food out because he’d be the 10,000-pound dog. He hasn’t found a kibble he doesn’t like. He gets very excited when we do exercises involving food. I get out one towel that I use for the ‘go to bed’ exercise. I work on telling him to go to bed, and he lays down on his little mat and gets a treat. Then I give him the command to come so he learns to be responsive, and gets a treat. Then he goes to bed again, and I go hide in the house and tell him to come. We do that many times. He’s so excited when he sees the towel because he knows it’s time to play.”


About Guide Dogs for the Blind

Headquartered in San Rafael, Guide Dogs for the Blind is a national nonprofit that relies on a network of volunteer “puppy raisers” and trainers to prepare dogs for service to people with visual impairments.  To volunteer locally, contact Jean Jones, (209) 533-3620.  “We provide tons of support to volunteers,” says Jones.  “If you have an interest in dogs or just helping somebody, this is a win-win.”
To learn more, click here:  Guide Dogs for the Blind
Lisa Mayers
By Lisa Mayers April 4, 2016 14:02
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