The Big Long Wait…and Time for a Celebration-Part 1

retirement on a bench

While she has spent a few years learning to be under the benches and chairs as part of her training, as a retired girl she just may be spending some time ON the benches now! 

Monday, July 2nd, 2018 is a fabulous day for me!  Yesterday is the day that I received the final paperwork and approval for the adoption of Sugar to our family!!!  We are absolutely thrilled that Sugar is ours and we can’t wait to enjoy her retirement with her!!!!  What is next in her future?  How will she spend her retirement?  I decided before I thought about her future that I would first reflect on her past that brought her to us in the first place.

On June 9th, 2015, I received word from Can Do Canines that they had received an email from Guiding Eyes and there was a possible breeding dog from their program available to them.  They asked if I was interested and up for the task of having a breeding program dog in my home, and to let them know once I thought about it.  It had been a tumultuous year; my father passing away from Alzheimer’s, a family member having serious medical issues that required 2 months of intensive care and hospital visits around the clock, and having to deal with the loss of a program dog that I was unbelievably attached to from unexpected complications of Lyme’s disease.  Honestly, I just wasn’t sure I had “enough” of what it would take to have another program dog in our home. The questions swirled around in my head like a blur – “Could I keep my emotions intact to have another dog that wasn’t mine and not get too attached?”, “Was my heart ready for another investment of time, energy and love?”, “What would happen to the dog if it wasn’t able to be a successful breeder and could I deal with the disappointment?”, “Would the worry outweigh the joy?”

Sugar in her Guiding Eyes harness

This is the very first picture I got of Sugar when she was at her first organization.  Here she is in her harness out in New York.

After talking with my husband about it (who knew there really was no decision to be made, that I just had to realize the answer was yes all along:) we said yes to a dog named Sugar! We had a little apprehension but knew that this was another opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others by providing a breeding home for a program dog.  We had whelped two personal litters and were even toying with the idea of being a whelping home, but figured that a breeding home foster was a good compromise! A breeding foster keeps the dog in the home including during the breeding, vet appts., ultrasound and x-rays until one week or so prior to the due date when they move into their official whelping home. So, some volunteers are breeding foster homes, some are whelping homes, and some are both!  I think everyone was well aware that it was only a matter of time before I realized what they already knew – that there was no way I was going to be a breeding home without jumping in with both feet and becoming a whelping home too!  There was just too much about puppies that I loved!

And the good news was that she was already bred while she was in New York the week prior, so all we had to do was to wait and see what the ultrasound would reveal during the week of July 4th!

Unfortunately there were some cases of kennel cough in the program and one of our temporary foster’s contracted it and passed it along to our daughter’s family dog who began showing symptoms on July 3rd-so while we were planning to get Sugar after the holiday, take her to her ultrasound and move her into our home, things didn’t go as planned.  It seemed like unusual, unexpected events were the norm for me that year, and disappointment continued with a delay that could be weeks or months in the making.  There was no way we could move a possibly pregnant dog into a home that had been exposed to kennel cough or it could be detrimental to the puppies that she could possibly be carrying.

And my life and plans weren’t the only one that had to change-this meant that Sugar had to remain somewhere else for an undetermined amount of time; would my house be ready in time for puppies if she was pregnant? Where would she go if it wasn’t?  Who would be available to whelp a litter of puppies at the last minute and change their life for 8 weeks??

So, I swallowed my disappointment and it was determined that the Director of Training would bring her to her ultrasound while she was being fostered with her during this time.  Then I got the call from her after the ultrasound saying she had a belly full of pups and her due date was in August!  I was over the top excited and I think it was right then and there that my whelping journey and desire began! The due date was estimated as August 9th, but Guiding Eyes had put August 2nd as her due date so we had a range to work with! With the first hurdle being cleared, we had to just figure out how to tackle the second hurdle of the kennel cough clearing.

We had 3 dogs that had been exposed in our family, so we had to wait until the set time after all coughing had stopped and then verify that none of the other dogs were showing any signs of coming down with it for a set amount of time to make sure that all opportunities were gone for Sugar and the pups to be exposed unnecessarily. That also meant sanitizing both our cabin and home on every surface imaginable to prevent anything from being a concern. For those who know me, they are well aware that for these things I don’t leave ANYTHING to chance!  Dog beds, bedding, floors, dog toys, leashes, crates……everything my mind could POSSIBLY think would be contaminated got disinfected, and that was basically everything.  I think that I was in hyperdrive as well because of the unusual circumstances of the other dog in our home that we lost to Lyme’s disease.  For almost every dog that contracts the disease, there is a treatment protocol that typically takes care of the issues and most dogs can live a full life after diagnosis. But since the unusual and extremely rare events unfolded then, my mind was sure that this was yet another case ready to rear its ugly head and I was going to do everything possible to prevent any opportunity for an illness in my home.

And so it went. Waiting. Hoping. Wating some more.

FINALLY, the kennel cough had cleared and it was time to start making arrangements to bring Sugar to our home!  It was determined that Wednesday, July 23, 2015 would be her move in day. I had approximately 10 days to get to know this new girl, clear my schedule for the next 8 weeks, get our house ready for a litter of puppies, and begin a journey of whelping assistance puppies!

Below is a  look into some of the communication that we had figuring out all of the moving pieces of Sugar’s beginning with the organization-some snippets for humor’s sake:

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Holly: 
Wait for it……YEP! I have questions!!!! 🙂

  1. Her weight when she arrived; her latest weight that’s been recorded
  2. Her Birthdate
  3. Any info on the number of siblings, etc.?
  4. I discussed with staff about any restrictions during pregnancy,  but if there is anything else you think I should know?
  5. Did you find anything while she was with you that she enjoyed playing with?  Balls, bones, ropes????

Okay, enough for now. 🙂

Holly

Training Director:
Holly,
I would have been worried about you if you didn’t have any questions 😉

Holly:

Also, I think I may have figured why she is whining/barking!  We have been watching her and trying to pinpoint when she is barking what it may mean-she is barking/whining when we are sitting down, but every time we bring her out she goes to the bathroom right away.  Is it possible that this is one of the trained behaviors of a seeing-eye dog-that since people may not be able to SEE her need to go outside that she has to alert them in another way?  After she comes in she’s fine, lays down and no more barking or whining. (Although she does try to sneak up on the couch in our laps!)  If you happen to talk to the organization, I would LOVE to find out if this is one of the trained methods!

Director of Training: 

Holly,

I can tell you for sure that the whining/barking isn’t a trained thing. The staff person that had her prior to shipping her to us warned me about it. She thought it was tied to wanting attention as well.

Sidenote: (What I found out once I got to know her is that her whining and barking was because she is ALWAYS hungry!  And that with only a few weeks to go, whining and barking was her way of telling me that she did NOT approve of the amount of food she was getting…. :))

our very first day with Sugar

Our very first day (and first hour) with Sugar!

 

 

 

 

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14 days and counting!

April 8th is Sugar’s due date, and that means just two more weeks until we get to discover how many puppies are waiting to join the ranks of life-changing “puppies in training”! She is 46 days along currently and the pups will start growing rapidly during this last stage of development!

Their organs have developed, claws have formed, hair has grown, and on Friday I was able to feel them kick for the very first time!  No one else could feel it, so I thought maybe I was mistaken, but Saturday I felt it again and today there was no doubt that what I was feeling was some tiny puppies making their presence known!!!! This may not sound surprising, but when you realize they are only about 5 inches long at this age of their development it might change your mind!

Sugar showing one of her former whelping moms who stopped by for a visit what she’s growing….

So, the journey begins over the next two weeks!  I will be picking up the whelping box, whelping kit, and some supplies to start preparing for a home with puppies; the room they will call “home” will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to make sure they have a great area to start life on the right track, and our schedule starts slowing down to make a calmer environment for Sugar to just rest and relax!

At this time, we have no idea how many puppies to expect other than the fact that during her ultrasound they were making an educated guess of somewhere between 2 and 6 puppies!  So, when delivery day comes-I will be just as surprised as to the number of puppies as everyone else!

And now the waiting begins….this is the two weeks that can feel like an eternity:)

Some interesting things about the puppies growing during the pregnancy;

The Rate of Growth of the Fetus:

  • At 10 days the ova is approximately 1/12 to 1/20 inch long.
  • At 3-4 weeks old they are approximately 1 inch in length.
  • At 6 weeks old they are approximately 3 1/2 inches long.
  • At 7-8 weeks old they are approximately 5 inches long.
  • At the 9th week, they are 6-8 inches long.

The stages of development are interesting as well:

  • At 10 days the fertilized ova have reached the uterus.
  • At 10-21 days traces of the fetus appear, and traces of head, body, and limbs can be discerned.
  • At 3-4 weeks the first indications of claws can be seen.
  • At the 5th week, the stomach is well defined. At 6 weeks large hairs appear on lips, eyelids, etc.
  • At 7-8 weeks the eyelashes have appeared, and hair is beginning to appear at the tip of the tail, head, and extremities.
  • By the 9th week, the puppy is getting fully covered with hair and ready for its birth.

The killer puppy dog eyes waiting to be fed….

 

July 19th, 2017 – Oh! The Places You’ll Go! Congratulations GRANDMA Sugar!!

Ivy with AU litter (002)

Ivy looks so content as a Mom-completely reminds me of Sugar with her smile!

You’ll be on your way up,
You’ll be seeing great sights,
You’ll join the high fliers,
Who soar to great heights!

Wherever you fly,
You’ll be best of the best,
Wherever you go,
You will top all the rest.

~Dr. Seuss

While Sugar only has a little over a week left until she has her 4th litter of puppies, I received the awesome news today from Can Do Canines that Nutmeg (now named Ivy) from Sugar’s very first litter has just become a momma to 5 beautiful puppies in Japan, and Sugar now is a Grandma!

This is special news on its own, but it is even more special when you consider that the journey of these dogs in training cross state lines, traverse countries across the globe, and touch the lives of countless numbers of people along the way. Sugar currently has puppies in Japan, California, Canada and Minnesota amongst 4 different organizations.

Sugar began her career at Guiding Eyes in New York.  When she was 1 1/2 years old. Guiding Eyes and Can Do Canines arranged to have her become a breeding dog for Can Do Canines, with the opportunity of some of her pups going back into the Guiding Eyes program or a program of their choice to continue to bring great bloodlines into programs across the world.  Sugar had her first litter in August of 2015 and had 6 beautiful little girls-2 yellow and 4 black pups which became the Spice Girls litter.  Cayenne, Poppy, Sage, Nutmeg, Clover and Saffron started their journey in the assistance dog world!

It was determined that Nutmeg and Sage would be in Great Start homes here in Minnesota until they were old enough to travel and then they would go back to Guiding Eyes. Then the puppies were sent to Japan in helping to further develop a program for guide dogs there.  After leaving Can Do Canines, their names were changed to Ivy and Isla. and their big journey began!

At some point during that time it was decided that Ivy (Nutmeg) would become a breeder dog and that Isla (Sage) would be in the guide dog training program. It’s really incredible all of the things that are taken into account in Assistance Dog programs that determine which path will be best for each dog, but I’ve learned over the years that it is not a decision taken lightly! Personality/Temperament, breeding qualities, size, and a huge variety of other factors play a role in the decisions of making awesome assistance dogs!

After this first litter, Sugar has had 2 more litters and has had a total of 16 puppies with more on the way! She’s definitely doing her part to make a difference in the world!

And, so the legacy continues for assistance dogs across the globe on a daily basis-with the help of many, programs flourish, lives are changed, and success is realized!

Congratulations to Momma Ivy, Grandma Sugar and EVERYONE who has a hand in making the dogs, the programs and the world better every single day!

Above are photos of Sugar (left) taken today at 8 weeks pregnant and on the right is Ivy/(Nutmeg) before she had her puppies.  Like Mother, Like Daughter!!!

Ivy Nutmeg and Isla Sage

Ivy and Isla are representing November for the calendar!