Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February Sponsor Letter

Good morning Sue!

I hope all is well there.  As you can tell from the attached photos, we have been keeping Beacon busy.  In addition to all the everyday training, Beacon has been out and about to some interesting places.

January 21st was our puppy meeting.  Beacon was the model dog and performed well despite the distraction of 3 new pups in our group. 

A group photograph of the Nashville Puppies in Training.
Beacon is third from the right.

Beacon was the model dog for down, stay.  Beacon is in a
down stay at the Area Coordinators feet.
Beacon still loves to travel by car, which is great considering we are always headed out somewhere with him.
Beacon on the floorboard of the car.
He is looking off to the right.

Beacon still has some difficulty with stairs, so while at the farm we practiced up and down the stairs A LOT.

Beacon standing on the middle of two steps.

On February 9th, Beacon visited the vet for an eye exam and also toured the Parthenon in Nashville.  We practiced more stairs and statue exposures.  It was a very long day but Beacon was a trooper!

Me giving the thumbs up as Beacon looks around the corner
while in a down at the Vets office.

Beacon is in a down on the examination table at the vets office.
A vet tech is scratching his head and the Vet is holding Beacons
muzzle while checking his eyes.  Beacon is being a very good boy!

Billy is straddling a sitting Beacon at a display at the Parthenon. 

Billy is standing at the foot of the Athena
statue at the Parthenon.  He is holding Beacons
leash as Beacon maintains a down stay.
FYI - the Athena statue is 41 feet 10 inches tall.  She is
the largest piece of indoor sculpture in the
Western World.
February also brought a crazy exposure for Beacon - a professional hockey game.  Our seats were maybe 15 rows from the ice and near the goal.  I knew there would be noise, but never expected it to be at the level it was.  It was a sellout crowd (I suspect this was most likely due to the free rally rag give away and not because the Predators are a great team!).  There was a lot of popcorn on the floor which made it the perfect practice for the 'leave it' command.  Beacon made an occasional lunge for the popcorn but  did very well after several 'leave it's and ignored the popcorn.  The ketchup covered pickle was another story!  Beacon nabbed that so quickly that we then practiced the 'drop it' command.  He did not want to give up the pickle.  Luckily, for us and Beacon, he suffered no ill effects from ingesting the pickle.  

Beacon was very interested in the woman in front of us.  Well, maybe not so much in her, as much as her hair! 

We practiced 'down, under' (Beacon must get into a down and then scoot under the seat) and 'under, down (Beacon must get under the seat and then down) and he did GREAT!  


After the first period, the buzzer noise did not make him flinch.  I must say, he was better behaved than many of the fans!  
At each period break, Beacon was able to get up and stretch a bit.   You can see from this picture how big he is getting!  

As usual, we practiced stairs but with a twist.  We had to handle cement stairs and metal stairs - both of which were not normal riser height.  Also, there were people coming up and going down in all directions.

We attended another puppy training meeting.  Billy was the photographer this time around so we have no actual pictures of Beacon in the indoor pool and hockey rink.  Billy did manage to take a picture of Beacon trying to smile

and of the outdoor obedience portion of the meeting.

Beacon was initially a little excited by the splashing in the pool but quickly realized he was not going to be allowed to jump in, and settled down and charmed all those around him.  He loves attention and sits very well to receive it.  Beacon is allowed to be pet by the public while in jacket for a few more months.  He is still a very easy, laid back puppy and a joy to raise!

Beacon is growing well and I believe he has lost most of his puppy teeth.  Hopefully March will bring an 'adult' size puppy in training jacket for Beacon and some additional great exposures!

Have a great month!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bad news for Beacon (and us!)

Since Beacon arrived, we have noticed his 'unusual' approach to stairs.  It started innocently as a little puppy being afraid of the stairs, so we carried him up and down the stairs for a few days.  As Beacon grew, he still was leery of taking the stairs and getting in and out of the van.  We notified our AC and noted it on Beacon's 3 month evaluation sheet.  As we were able to expose him to more places, we noticed he was handling stairs and other obstacles oddly. It appeared to us that Beacon lacked depth perception.  Southeastern asked us to take Beacon to Veterinary Ophthalmology Services in Nashville for an eye examination.  The facility was immaculate, the staff was terrific, the Vet was thoughtful, patient and kind, and they agreed to see Beacon free of charge since he is a puppy in training.  
The visit went something like this...
'Welcome to Veterinary Ophthalmology Services, this must be Beacon.  There is a fridge right here if you want something to drink and fresh coffee here' pointing us in the direction of a kitchen area.  The staff was outrageously kind and welcoming.
Reception Area
tile floors
After filling out some paperwork, we waited in a very nicely furnished waiting room.  I was kind of envious, wishing the interior of my home could look something like this - unscratched hardwood floors, dotted with beautiful oriental rugs, wood framed prints coordinated with a single theme, unsmudged  and untouched nicely painted walls done in that perfect shade of beige I have unsuccessfully tried to find for my front hall and tons of glossy decorative moulding.  
Me sitting on the leather sofa
giving a thumbs up to Billy
Beacon is in a down, stay
Interior of VOS
I love this wall color
and the trim
We met Belle, a boxer, who was being followed up for a scratched cornea, Ducky, the dachshund, waiting for a recheck on her cataract removal surgery, and Barney, the Basset Hound, waiting for an eye exam. I could not imagine a practice solely dedicated to animal eye care would be in such high demand, but judging from the 8 or 10 dogs we saw while waiting to be called back, I was proven wrong yet again.
A tech came out to the leather couch we were sitting on and reviewed Beacon's medical history and the purpose for our visit.  A different tech lead us to the scale to get Beacon's weight (45 pounds!) and then lead us across the tile floor to an exam room.  
Our tech was super nice and checked Beacon's tear production (pass) and the amount of pressure on his eyes (pass).  
Dr. Huskey came in to check Beacon's eyes further.  
Beacon on the exam table.
A technician is petting his head
while Dr. Huskey checks
Beacon's eyes.
We could not get any pictures for most of this time since the lights were off as Dr. Huskey kept shining different lights into Beacon's eyes.  There were no signs of cataracts or glaucoma or any other abnormalities.  Happy would be an understatement!
Dr. Huskey explained to me how this could just be an odd behavior Beacon has learned but there was one more test that needed to be done to ensure a clean eye bill of health.  The only problem was that they could not do the test at that time.  Dr. Huskey asked if we could bring Beacon back at 12:30 so they could perform this needed test during their lunch hour.  (I am serious - they were really kind!)  So Billy, Beacon and I headed off the the Parthenon for a quick Art Sculpture/Art History lesson.  It also tied in perfectly with Billy's Greek literature curriculum.  This was a great distraction to the nagging 'Everyone must think I am crazy, maybe it is just me that thinks Beacon cannot see properly' thoughts going through my head.

Beacon and I at the top of the
stairs of the Parthenon.
This is a full scale
replica of the original. 
Billy standing over a sitting Beacon
inside the Parthenon.
Billy standing with Beacon properly
seated on his left.  They
are standing in front of a scaled down
version of the Gods and
 Goddess' of the east piedmont of the
Billy standing while Beacon
is in a down, stay in front
of the 43' tall
statue of Athena
We arrived back at VOS by 12:30 and we happily greeted by the staff again and the wonderful smells of lunch time.  I do not know what they were cooking/warming, but it smelled delicious!
The tech said the testing would be done in the dark again so there was no need for us to accompany Beacon, and being the great puppy he is, Beacon went willingly with the technician.  Approximately 30 minutes later the technician returned a very happy Beacon to me and said Dr. Huskey would be out to talk to us.  
Then Dr. Huskey, very gently, broke the bad news I hoped I would not hear.  Beacon does have a problem with his eyes.  He has myopia or nearsighted (he cannot see at distances very well).  We discussed how odd that was since I was noticing that it appeared that he could not see near objects.  She gave some explanation for this (when we let him out, Beacon is looking through the door into the distance which is a blur to him, and then looks down toward the step which is clear, and then up to the blurry distance, and then the step.).  She explained that humans, and dogs alike, would need corrective lenses for a sight impairment of + (farsighted) or - (nearsighted) .25.  Beacon's eyes were measuring -3.5.  Yes, you read that correctly - Beacon eyes were measured at -3.5 (3 point 5) not .35 or .25 or point anything.  I tried so hard to keep the tears from flowing - even though I am certain Dr. Huskey would have been most understanding.  Of course, sweet Beacon was staying in the perfect down, stay and it made my heart ache all the more.  There may be a slight possibility Beacon could outgrow this condition - as he grows and matures, the globes in his eyes would grow and mature and maybe the condition would improve.  Dr. Huskey did not sound encouraging about this possibility but she offered to recheck Beacon's eyes (at no cost again!) in 3 months. She has only seen 2 other dogs with this condition, both Labs, (translation - it is not too common overall, but more common in Labs) but wanted to reach out to some other specialty vets to gather some additional information for us and Southeastern.  If there was any good news, it was that it is most likely not a genetically linked trait, it is more often a random rare occurance, and the other pups in the litter should be fine!
Dr. Huskey did offer some solutions - there are commercially available contact lenses for dogs (but Dr. Huskey said they are a challenge to keep in a dogs eye) and these...
A small dog wearing oversized pink doggles.
Doggles are goggles and eye glasses combined. 
A woeful looking dog wearing doggles.

A happy, smiling yellow lab,
sitting in a car wearing doggles.
Stlll struggling to hold back my tears, Dr. Huskey spoke the obvious. Beacon, with this vision problem, may not be the best candidate for a guide dog.  I thought that may be the case, but hearing Dr Huskey confirm it made it even more challenging to hold back the tears.  The once pleasing smell of office lunch was now making me nauseous and no matter how nice the office was furnished and decorated, I wanted to run screaming from there. I left without asking so many of the important questions that have come to mind since leaving the office... Are both eyes affected?  To the same degree?  Will it get worse over time as Beacon ages?  What does he actually see now?  
So, for now, we await the doctors official report, a reply from Southeastern Guide Dogs as to Beacons continued participation in the program and an answer to our prayers.