Sugar’s L Litter Update!

Mark, who has been filming all of the stages of Sugar’s journey as a breeder dog for Can Do Canines during the L litter and will continue filming the process of “puppy to assistance dog”, will be also adding some updates along the way of the puppies and what they are doing as they grow!

His assignments have taken him all over the world, and I consider it extremely fortunate that he has chosen to document the process of an assistance dog and that Sugar is part of the story!!!

He will be taking a variety of footage of the entire process which he did with Sugar during her pregnancy and after the puppies were born, and he sees it with the fresh eyes of someone who hasn’t witnessed this part of the assistance dog program! He will continue to film them along their journey and I can’t wait to see how they will change lives!

I think it’s fair to say that during his filming he also fell in love with these puppies! I’m thrilled, as this will add another fresh view of the process and gives followers the opportunity for first-hand reports of their progress!

Here is his update from yesterday: Enjoy!!!

Life of Sugar Update from Mark

January 13, 2017

We’ve known for some time that two puppies from Sugar’s L litter will be raised by the inmates at Stanley Correctional Institution in Stanley, Wisconsin.

As part of the filming project, I visited Stanley yesterday and met with the warden, Reed Richardson, his assistant, Lori Patrouille and Can Do Canine’s trainer, Dyan Larson.

I first have to say that in my many years as a cameraman for Dateline/NBC, I’ve filmed in a lot of correctional institutions. However, I’ve never been treated better anywhere than at Stanley. They have granted incredible access to tell the story of Sugar’s pups in prison and I know it’s going to be amazing! This is all thanks to Warden Richardson who was the driving force in getting Stanley to become a “dog prison”, one of only two in Wisconsin!

On my tour, I got to watch one of the weekly training sessions that Dyan leads. All 40 inmates of the Dog Unit are there, even if they don’t currently have a puppy of their own to train. As with all puppies trained at Stanley, the two yet to be chosen “L” pups will each be assigned to two inmates. I met both teams and they’re so excited to meet the “L”s and start the next phase of their journey. We don’t know the exact date when that will happen, but we’ll keep you posted.

The two inmates share a very small cell and the crate takes up easily 40% of the floor. However, as you can imagine, there are NO complaints! The pups in training will go to the inmate work areas, just like other puppy raisers take their dogs to work. At night, the cell doors are locked but if a puppy has to go to the bathroom, the inmate rings a buzzer and his door is unlocked remotely. The inmate and puppy then go to a secured area just outside the housing unit where the puppy does their business. I’ve always wondered how that works and now I know!

One of the sweetest things is the big bulletin board they have in the open area of the housing unit. Along with all the newsletters from Can Do and photos of the dogs they’re training, there was a big display of pictures that Holly took of Sugar and the pups when they were just days old. So, their excitement builds as the day gets closer to when they get to be introduced to their new additions at Stanley!



Sugar’s Transition-and my ATTEMPT to get back to normal……

It’s been 82 days since Sugar’s ultrasound that confirmed her pregnancy and put her in “quarantine” so that she didn’t unnecessarily expose the unborn pups to something.  Now was the day I had been waiting for-the time when Sugar and I could go on an outing again together to rediscover all of the fun things waiting for us!  I was thrilled, so I decided to take her to the car dealership while I got an oil change-not exciting, but I thought it was a good first outing for her after her long time off.  What I wasn’t counting on was the fact that I had also not been out of the house in a very long time for any long excursions and I was not ready for the days’ events! After spilling my coffee (twice) at the dealership, and forgetting where I was going, forgetting a grocery list and forgetting about a call I was supposed to make, I called it a day and I decided to go back home and get ready to start the day again tomorrow!

I had to switch from puppy brain to “Dog in Cape” brain and remember everything I haven’t worked on for over 3 months.  Navigating in tight spaces with a dog, telling people that they couldn’t pet her as she was working and everything else that goes along with that.  I’m happy to say that Sugar did an awesome job and helped me through the hard parts-leave it up to a dog to save the day…….. 🙂

So, what did I learn along the way with Sugar and her beautiful pups? What would I say to them if they could understand me?

  • Along this journey we become a different person.
  • Today is the most important person I will ever be.
  • I don’t have to really remember much as I go on with getting “back to normal”.  All I need to do is remember to LIVE-by the way I interact with others, by the choices I make, by those I take time to help;
  • I’m not navigating the milestones……they are. I simply get to be an active bystander along this journey for them.

That’s the real story here, and puppies are just a beautiful way of reminding me of the obvious and letting me get back to it.

“So long for now little ones; your first day to shine has arrived, and I can’t wait to see where your journey takes you!  I wish you knew the absolute beauty of the destiny that awaits you when you reach your pinnacle and you find your forever person.”

And the countdown begins for when I get to see them next! Hopefully January 24th!  Stay tuned for an update!


The Night Before Leaving, and All Through the House……


The night before leaving and all through the house,
The puppies were stirring, destroying the house,
The playing was loud, the play fighting intense,
Each of the pups worked to create their defense.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but torn up duct tape that neglected to adhere,
to the flooring they thought was their best new toy,
And they ripped, chewed and tore at it with a new sense of joy.

They are 7 weeks old,
with their  journey to begin,
and I take joy in their new path
which brings back my big grin.

For letting them go,
so very tough for the soul,
but helping them become
the very best is the goal.

Because some day I will see,
the effects of this time
and I am the one that will know
how steep was the climb

To start from a pup,
that didn’t walk, hear or see,
with a desire and a passion
to make them all they could be.

They gave me their best,
and I gave them mine,
so others could see,
how one day they would shine.

They will change someone’s life
although that person doesn’t know
the gifts that one pup
alone can bestow.

So watch these gifts of life,
to see what they achieve
and you too will take pride,
because they make you believe.

That life has surprises,
fresh, big and new
if you choose to make a difference,
the best comes back to you.

Good Luck to the beautiful, precocious, fun, sweet and loving L litter! I can’t wait to see the lives you change, the love you give, and the difference you make!!!! I’m going to miss you!!!






Days 45 & 46-What’s in a Name?

Happy New Year!

I often get asked how the puppies are named-although I don’t have all the answers because I don’t know the full scope of the program, I do know a couple of things that might answer some questions!

Puppies currently are being named by letters of the alphabet, which I am assuming is to keep track of the litters better and to understand the relationships of each puppy. Last year, there were some “themed” litters like the Grandparents litter, the Spice Girls (Sugar’s FIRST litter), the Disney litter etc. but I think overall the alphabet system is preferable for most organizations.  Sugar’s litter is the “L” litter which means that most if not all of her litter will have names beginning with L.  Why “most”?  Occasionally there is a “name a puppy” where someone has raised a certain amount of money in order to have the opportunity to name a puppy so it’s a possibility that in a litter there is a puppy that doesn’t have the same beginning letter:)  There are a variety of ways the puppies can be named and each organization picks what works best for them and their breeding program.


A friend came over to help socialize the pups on New Year’s Eve. Red wasn’t relaxed at all…….


Orange having fun in the tunnel

imgp6878 As a whelping home, we don’t name the puppies as there is a lot more to it than us just “picking a name” so the organization chooses the names.  I also think this policy is in place partially to help organizations keepa little bit of the “separation of attachment” in place.  It may seem like a simple task, but what I’ve learned over the last 5 years volunteering is that nothing is as simple as it seems!  As whelping homes, we do get the opportunity if we choose to send in a list of our favorites and if the stars align and it works, it’s possible we might see a name or two from our list make it to the top and a puppy may show up with that name! Not guaranteed, but it’s fun for us whelping homes to send in some of our choices and anticipate the day when the puppies get named~!

And why does it take so long to get named? Why am I still calling them by collar colors?  Well, the process is pretty intense-in this case, there is another organization involved that will be taking a couple of the puppies for their program and there are many other moving parts that need to be considered before the names are given-so hopefully all of the pieces will fall into place in the near future and when they come back after 2 weeks at the prison I will hopefully get the opportunity to meet my litter and greet them by name!  I feel like I am waiting for the birth of a child that I sort of know but need to see them with their name to make sure it fits!!!  It may seem like a simple thing, but it’s not easy for me to wait that long to discover who these puppies will be!  I have to have a conversation with myself frequently and recite “patience is a virtue” and “all in good time”……… but it WILL happen!!!!

So what are some of the names I’ve thrown around? Here are a few!

Lingo         Lego
Lyric          Legend
Lulu           Limerick (Ricky for a nickname)
Lena          Lucca
Ladybug    Levi
Lacy           Leif (we are the state of the vikings….)
Lira            Logic
Lady          Layton
Maybe you have a favorite “L” name?  If so I’d love to hear it!

Like Mother, Like Son

Day 44- Two by Two!

Today the puppies earned the opportunity to come out of their play area and explore the house free from fences!  I brought two out at a time to check out the bigger world with Sugar’s watchful eye and give them a chance to play with Sugar and test out a new environment.

They loved the freedom and I loved watching their pure joy in playing!  I made sure they had gone to the bathroom before I took them out but since they are small, so is their ability to hold their bladder so they only got to be out for 10 minutes at a time. I feel a little bad that they don’t get more of an area to play, so today was about redesigning space to give them room to run! imgp6829imgp6833


The stakes were high with a full canine audience-who would win the match??????

Then in the afternoon, their puppy dog faces convince me that they should get the run of the entry way and kitchen and that I should build a larger play area…..and I couldn’t stand to say no. So I hauled all of my x-pen inventory in the house and started to determine how to make it puppy friendly!  See the video on the facebook page;” target=”_blank”>Video of Sugar and puppies playing on Facebook Page

And that is how we finish our day of new things!  Tomorrow we get to see the initial start of teaching them the task “sit”………

Day 43-The Great Escape

I knew it would happen at some point.  In fact I was a little surprised that it hadn’t happened yet-

I was in the bathroom with our 8 month old grandson giving him a “steamroom” to help his congestion which I thought was PERFECT timing as my husband had the day off from work and he could keep an eye on other things, namely the puppies.  What I hadn’t anticipated was that he didn’t think they NEEDED to be watched so while I was tending to our grandson he was getting other things done……

And that’s when I came out to our living room to see an empty play area all but for 1 lone puppy who was trying to find the way out!  I frantically looked around and saw Sugar in all of her motherliness trying to round up the other 6 puppies in two different rooms looking like “What just happened and who is going to help me with this crisis???????”  The puppies were in high explore mode and I was so happy that our house is mostly childproofed  because of our grandson and definitely dog proofed due to the numbers of animals we have come through our doors, so I didn’t have to panic that they had gotten anything:)  It was at that moment I realized I didn’t have nearly enough hands to handle 1 baby and 6 puppies, so I had to try to dig out my business problem solving skills which have been on vacation since the birth of the puppies and tackle the most critical issue at hand-rounding those spunky puppies up!!!

Sugar brought me methodically around to each puppy like she was doing a headcount herself (and I totally think she’s capable of doing that!) and walked me over to the play pen area as if she was telling me where the puppies needed to go.Then she would go to the next rogue puppy and wait for me to gather him up ! After they were all safely tucked away, she insisted on going into the puppy area, walking around to each puppy, giving it a lick and a once-over and then was happy to come out and go back to her business of the day.  The whole scene was pretty incredible now that I have time to think about it-it was such a testament to her mothering skills that it gets me a little choked up:) She’s the epitome of what a mother should be!

The puppies decided that they had enough shenanigans for the morning and they were exhausted:)

It was a crazy filled morning, but it presented many lessons on life in the example of Sugar and her Sugar Babies:)


Day 42-The Great Outdoors!

It was another big day for the L litter as they had some more filming done, they had some visitors for socialization, and the big event was they had their first day outside in an x-pen, their first real leash walk in the yard and their first time exploring snow outside!  They were very tentative at first, but they started getting the hang of it and I brought Sugar out on a leash as an added reward for them to walk around and play with her.  I want to make sure that they have this experience this week while the weather is still warm enough so that they aren’t too overwhelmed next week when they leave.

When we came back inside they were pretty exhausted from all of the activity, so they all started to fall asleep.  This was our opportunity for some adorable puppy pictures and they were too tired to object!


They handled all of the new experiences well and they didn’t show any signs of prolonged stress, so the day was a great success!  They kept their confidence when they got back into their “own world” which is what I was checking for.  This litter seems to do a great job in the resilience category which if they continue in that manner will go a long ways in making them great assistance dogs!

Their level of activity during the day continues to increase and I sometimes finding myself wondering if I have enough spare time to disappear and take a nap:) Their teeth have also come in full force, and they have now earned the litter name “Puppy Piranhas”…My hands, toes and arms are getting a beating!!!!!

I’m in awe of their development and no matter how much time I spend with them I’m always amazed that their faces have changed so much in just the last few weeks which you can see with the head shots of them:


Mr. Yellow in all of his handsomeness!


Miss Purple waiting to stir up trouble:)


Quiet Mr. Green


Observant Mr. Blue


Mr. Red with his stunning, bold face-and his signature right pink paw pads….


Mr. Orange with his unique half & half nose!


Miss White

With only 5 days left to enjoy these bundles of playful, teething, friendly furballs I will spend every moment I can with them!

Day 38-All about Puppies!

Today the puppies got their first opportunity to take a short ride in the car! They were all kenneled in one large kennel and we went for a ride to get them used to the movement and the different surroundings.  Hopefully these brief road trips will help to prepare them for their first long trip in two weeks where they will have a two hour ride to their next journey where they will spend two weeks in Duluth at the prison for their first training series. They all did wonderfully and they came back without any real stress about their experience which is great!  When they got back from their jaunt, they got right back to the business of playing like nothing had happened!

Time to learn about car rides!

Sugar wanted to go along to supervise the transportation education….

Sometimes I have to stop and laugh because I have this huge area for the puppies and I think it’s hilarious that they all gather in one TINY spot!  In the pics below you see 6 of the pups squished into one area, and then you see Mr. Orange who figured out the REAL way to get a good nap…….Smart Boy Mr. Orange!

Today I was reading a book titled “The Monks of New Skete-The art of raising a puppy” and I was intrigued by the information I was reading about.  It dawned as me as it has many times over the years that for every “answer” to a training or puppy raising question, there are 100 more “answers” to that very question.  So, how does everyone figure out which answers are the “right” ones?  And which ones will make the puppy we bring into our house the best dog it can be?  That’s where it gets murky……

-This litter has an intense instinct to scratch the ground after going to the bathroom.  Some “experts” say that dogs scratch at the ground after going to the bathroom because they are trying to cover up their smell; others in the field say that they are scratching to “spread” the scent to diffuse the potency of it that might draw predators.  In the end, the big picture seems to indicate that the final result is to lessen the possibility of predators finding them due to a centralized scent, but the two theories of what they are doing are exactly opposite!

-I thought weighing the pups was purely for the purpose of keeping an eye on them and seeing which ones were gaining and to catch any issues if one of them began to lose weight. Some experts say that weighing the puppies is supposed to be an early opportunity to look for personality traits which I had NEVER even considered before!~ Do some squirm more than others, not like to be on their sides or in a confined container while being weighed-which ones are more reactive, more vocal and more sensitive to touch…..imbalance than their counterparts raised without such stimulation.” (from book above)

This gives just a small idea of how hard it is for anyone who brings a pet puppy into their family to try to figure out exactly what the right thing to do really is-and for a service dog puppy you can imagine how that becomes so much more complicated!  Luckily for us volunteers, we don’t have to think too much about it because it is our role to go to classes during the puppy raising time and we are trained by staff trainers who let us know what they want us to teach the dogs, how to go about teaching them the needed tasks, and what is important for them to know to get the desired results!

Sugar ran into the play area, stole one of their toys and came back out to taunt them from the outside……

Day 36-Just Outside Our World-Discovery Awaits……

Today the puppies got the opportunity to realize that there is a bigger world out there waiting for them!

First came t-shirt time to continue getting them desensitized to wearing things such as capes.  This exercise will hopefully help them from being cape shy and they won’t worry so much about what is on their back thinking it’s just a normal part of everyday life. They woke me up at 5 am this morning, so I had PLENTY of time to get them “dressed” before my REAL day began!  The consequences of waking me up should be weighed very carefully……. 🙂


I set up a totally new play area in our kitchen and they got to explore everything that they hadn’t seen yet.  It was really interesting because when they first got in there they didn’t know what to do and they started whining to get out.  Even though you think you are providing all of these incredible sensory, auditory and various other experiences, I realized quickly that moving around the house is equally as important to give them some experience in plain old “new space”.  Everything they were accustomed to changed, their potty location, the items in the play area, the lighting even-and once again I realized I would love to be a researcher that got to observe puppies and do experiments on sensory exploration.  I may have to interview a researcher or two just for kicks:) So,out came the other x-pens (because it is too hard to move the main room ones that are set up perfectly), the transfer of toys, potty pads and some comfy areas for them to sleep-and into the kitchen they went!  Interestingly, Sugar didn’t seem too fond of the change either as she kept a close eye on them for a good chunk of time.


And before I knew it the kitchen takeover happened……

Then, later in the evening they were going to have some more video taken of them for the documentary so they got to explore the living room as well!  It’s been a BIG day for these pups of purpose!  They were adorable as usual and the pictures and video seemed to be perfect for the holiday season!  Once again, a new “play area” had to be set up and this is exactly why I have SO MANY x-pens, because it’s really important for these puppies to get to see that there is a world outside of their play area and it’s nothing to be afraid of!

And this is how my day progresses-busy, fun, emotional, happy days!  But every now and then recently the realization that these puppies are only with me for another two weeks begins to sink in and I try to grab EVERY moment I can and store it in my memory, refusing to let the future reality steal my happiness of today. Puppies live entirely in the present, so why should I be any different??????  And happy is the only emotion that can exist around these 7 miracles of magic!



Dreaming of the greatness that awaits them!


Getting into the holiday spirit!



First Day in Capes!


Day 35-Tunnel Vision

Today the puppies got to explore a new feature in their puppy play palace-a tunnel!  I thought that they would be really leery about going into the tunnel and walking through the loud plastic  and tube-NOPE, not these playful puppies!  They immediately ran over to check it out and began to climb through it before I even had a chance to be a dog whisperer and teach them the ropes! 🙂 I had it all planned out; I was going to introduce the new object to them, then I would playfully throw some of their favorite toys into the tunnel for them to go get and I would run to the other side and call them through it with a big Yippee! when they did it successfully.  3.4 seconds after I set the tunnel down they were checking it out and running through it as I sat there realizing that all of my “puppy planning” was for nothing,  But my brief disappointment didn’t last because of my excitement that overtook me knowing they didn’t need my guidance after all and they were secure enough to check out the new toy.

They have gone to 2 meals a day, which in my terms only means twice as much “cleanup”, twice as many potty pads, and twice as many loads of laundry so you’ll forgive me for not being “thrilled” at this new stage:)  Then the breeding coordinator told me that 3 meals a day will start very soon…….FABULOUS…… 🙂 So I had to put my thinking cap on for what I could do to make sure my house didn’t start to smell like a barn or a pet store, and then the idea came to me!  I would use the diaper genie that we have for our grandson and that would become the property of the puppies room for the next few weeks while they are here!  I noticed a difference immediately when I began using it, and I was able to reclaim my house from the smells that aren’t nearly as cute as puppy breath…..

They have grown so much (from their mere 1 lb weights as newborns to over 6 lbs. now-which means they had to “upgrade” their collars.  I bought them new ones, but it’s difficult to find collars that match exactly the velcro strips you chose for them when they were born-so some of them have some “variations” now in their collar color which adds one more set of confusion in keeping them straight!  Blue is now blue and green stripes, purple is now pink, white is now black…….and that is why I’m going collar hunting tomorrow!