Tag: Autumn



4 Sep 17

By Randy Pierce

Dog having its teeth brushedWhat is this Wags to Whiskers World Record All About?

Save the Date!

Wags to Whiskers Festival
Saturday, September 30
11 am – 3pm

Budweiser Brewery
221 Daniel Webster Hwy
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054

We will be attending and hope you will consider joining us!Dog having its teeth brushed

We already brush Autumn’s teeth regularly to promote her best health and happiness. We also support our friends at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua who have invited Autumn to be Bib#1 in the charge for the world record attempt at their incredible festival this year. While there are many great reasons to attend the festival and we hope you will do so vor all of those reasons, we especially want you to bring your dogs along as we need your team to add up our number tally of most dogs simultaneously having their teeth brushed.

RSVP now! or get more information on the festival.

Dog having its teeth brushed“Whoa, Randy!? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?” I absolutely do and not just for this festival, though that’s the first focus to help us reach the goal. I think it would be great for you and your dog for a long time to come and I’m willing to show you how easy this can be for both of you.

First, understand that toothpaste for a dog can be found at your pet store. They have such delicious flavors as liver or chicken, though you may be tempted by the ever refreshing mint! The toothpaste is enzyme-laden so that even just licking the toothpaste, which most dogs will love, is a benefit to their dental hygiene. Still there are multiple types of brushes for the plaque which can otherwise build-up. My favorite is the finger brush. While admittedly Autumn does not love that I’m trying to brush where plaque builds up at the gum  line, she loves the flavor enough that it’s a special treat.

When we finish I let her lick a little extra toothpaste and if she’s been patient a Greenies toothbrush treat helps to work into those hard to reach places as well. All this sounds simple and I’ve even made a quick video to show you.

Dog having its teeth brushedSo please take this lesson to heart and consider the better health of your pet as well as the quality bonding time added to your time together. I also strongly urge you to join us for the Wags to Whiskers Festival where we’ll have a chance to finally get over the top and reach the world record with your help. Remember that the RSVP and registration will help us know we have the numbers to reach our goal. I’ll look forward to taking the time to let Autumn meet all of her friends when we are not actively working and we can team up to help the Humane Society of Nashua continue their great work!

Photos in this entry depict the toothbrushing Guinness World Record attempt at the 2016 Wags to Whiskers Festival and are courtesy of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.

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17 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

While we travel to Machu Picchu and into the Andes mountains, the elevation is sufficiently high to give us pause in bringing Autumn along as my guide. She is too valuable a companion and guide to put into unnecessary risk, so as we did on our trip to Kilimanjaro, we have found her alternative accommodations.

While I love the care, attention and bonus training provided by Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes for the Blind last time, we are staying closer to home with another friend with strong Guiding Eyes connections. Bill Leblanc is the Regional Coordinator for Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising here in NH, a fellow Hudson NH Lion, a friend, and for many who know him: the dog whisperer. Autumn adores him and she will get the attentive and knowledgeable care blended well with playful puppy play breaks throughout our time away. That’s the real fun and secure news which will allow us to travel with confidence Autumn will be well loved and well tended.

On the lighter side, you may recall the magic of Greg Neault releasing Autumn’s World Tour while we were away at Kilimanjaro. Every few days of our travel, a new photo appeared of Autumn traveling somewhere new in the world. They were so fun and popular that I crafted a blog afterwards to showcase the images.

Now I challenge all of you to give us some worthy suggestions of where Autumn might “visit” on her second tour while we are away in Peru! We just may put some of your suggestions to use with Greg’s creative photoshop magic once again.

If you need a little inspiration, let’s remind you of her first world tour.

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1 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

“But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be, whenever and wherever the hour strikes and calls to noble action.”
– Joshua Chamberlain

I am a student of history and found particularly powerful the tales which highlighted the nature of those brought together 154 years ago on the fields of Gettysburg. It is not the awful brutality of battle and war which captures my interest, but the notion of causes which are so intense, the dream of learning better methods of resolving differences and the many testaments of the human spirit which can emerge in times of tremendous challenge.

Joshua Chamberlain shared many thoughts I admire greatly and with a rich language that sings to me still. Many will have diverse opinions on what was contested on the battlefield; a likely reality is many agendas were being realized throughout the war.

I believe firmly in the right of all people to be free and equal, judged foremost by the merit of their choices and actions. I similarly believe this battle did much good to advance that notion ultimately, although to this day it is a work in progress we strive to better achieve. Still in celebration of those people who chose to make a stand often with the ultimate personal sacrifice on the line, I will be traveling to Gettysburg with Tracy, Autumn, Gene, and Coach to delve deeply into the history while walking the pathways of such vital historic significance.

I’ll stand on Little Round Top and consider the many charges faced by so few. I’ll walk Pickett’s Charge and wonder how the human spirit could have done so with the thunder of cannons and the nearly certain death. I will know that my life is different because of those people who took a stand for ideas which though costly were also worthy. Mostly I will think myself fortunate to live in this country where I too may lend myself to ideas and causes in which I believe fervently and yet do so without significant risk of my life.

I will celebrate the birth of our country for all those ideals which are often challenged and challenging but always rewarding for the ultimate freedom to pursue with a plan the means to make it a better country and better world. I am glad that our fireworks are for celebration more than the aspects of battle they simulate. I will remember the cost though… and be grateful.

Fireworks

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18 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

An early picture of Autumn, Randy's Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

An early picture of Autumn, Randy’s Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

Autumn’s joyous exuberance was evident as she bounded into me on our first meeting on March 16, 2014. Her affectionate, loving approach won my heart immediately but she had some legendary paws to fill in the working world.

I was determined to keep an open mind and remove expectations to let our working relationship develop based upon the skills and qualities each of us brought to the team under the supervision of Guiding Eyes Trainer Chrissie Vetrano. I had some success in this approach as I had transitioned from Ostend to Quinn and understood the benefits of being open minded to the strengths and challenges which each of us bring to any partnership.

I was not without a little baggage of my own I needed to address for the journey. It wasn’t entirely seamless out in the working world and that’s why we have trainers and the guide school support system to help us manage the many possible challenges and ensure we have the skills and tools to work through the difficult days in a steadily improving fashion. Autumn wanted to please me and I wanted my special little girl to succeed with me as well.

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn on a mountainside, one big happy family!

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn on a mountainside, one big happy family!

Three years later I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. I’ve learned to understand her body language to tell when her exuberance is driving her more than her thinking and she’s learned to realize when I’m allowing myself to be a little distracted and need a little correction to her warnings for me. Yes, we both still make some mistakes on our journey but we’ve built an understanding of when we are smooth together, when we are challenged and how to address it so we can do the necessary work even amidst challenge.

Better still, the challenging days are the rarity and the smooth days are so very common. I step out of my home with confidence each day and harness her expecting and receiving the freedom and independence which is such a part of a dog guide team. She gives me hours back each day in the efficiency with which we can do our tasks. Using my cane I find walking to the bus stop is 15 minutes normally, 30 minutes on trash day and “just stay home” on trash and recycle day.

Autumn looking bashful

“Stop, dad, you’re embarrassing me!”

Working with Autumn it is a five minute relaxed and mentally free stroll. She strides eagerly ahead of me and slightly to my left watching for the obstacles and trying to determine which destination is next for us. I try to keep her guessing a little and reflect that it is not just the hours she gives me back each day but the quality of the hours improved by spending my time with her.

So as I celebrate my third year with my wonderful Black and Tan Labrador Retriever, I realize we are in the sweet spot. Our bond is complete and deep, our skills have come to a great understanding, and our eagerness to adventure together is buoyed by our mutual (ahem) youthful approach to the world. I love her work, I love the impact of her work on my life, I love her impact upon my life and so it is not surprisingly how completely and proudly I love my Autumn. Thank you for three wonderful years and I look forward hopefully and eagerly to many more ahead!

Autumn lies on top of Randy, pinning him to the floor.

Autumn’s love and exuberance bowls us over!

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11 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn amidst the heavy snow banks pose with the traditional "we want your help" pointing gesture.

“We want YOU to help us with our goal!”

I am attempting to give you all a little notice as I ask you to consider helping me reach for a daunting goal.

On Monday, April 10, I’ll release a blog with some exciting news about the  event sponsor for our signature event, Peak Potential Dinner & Auction held every November. In celebration of that announcement and my week of preparation leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 17 (Patriots Day of course!), we will be kicking off the ticket sales for our November 18 event on that day as well.

It is the earliest we’ve begun sales for our event and the timing is key to my stretch goal. While we sell tickets individually, in pairs, and by tables of 8, the most common purchase and best value is the table sale.

What is my goal? To sell 1 table for each mile of the historic 26.2-mile course of the Boston Marathon which I’ll be running during that week. Tracy and I always immediately purchase a table of our own so I’ve got the first mile covered and several family and friends have suggested a few more miles along the route are likely secured as well. Whether I know in advance of the race or catch the mile by update tributes and acknowledgements we’ll send out in appreciation, I will get some significant motivation from all the support which arrives from the various table and ticket purchases.

People having fun at tables at the Peak Potential 2016For that one week (April 10-17), we will offer the lowest table price, $500 for the table of 8 guests. As of April 18, the price will increase to $600/table until June 18. After June 18, the price will increase to $700/table.

Your choice to attend our event would benefit our worthy mission a great deal. Our venue holds 30 tables very comfortably and thus 26 tables at this point will effectively assure us a sell-out at the very start of our outreach. It would allow us to work on obtaining sponsorships and donations to help make the event the most successful yet.

Already in our 8th annual event our success has continued to strengthen and grow fantastically thanks to all of your support. This is why I feel so certain it is worth asking you all to consider joining into the stretch goal now and be preparing for that April 10 opportunity.

Jose and Randy with their hands up running the Marathon.Now, we’re calling this a stretch goal because I do absolutely understand how high I’m setting this goal. When I run a marathon, I take the lesson of my friend Greg Hallerman to set three goals for myself each time: the stretch goal which is hard to reach but incredibly rewarding, the secondary goal, and the comfort goal.

You already know my stretch goal; my secondary goal would be to have 26 distinct purchases even if they were not all tables because it’s still an overwhelming support at this early juncture. My comfort goal is that when April 10 arrives and we make the announcement officially launching this year’s Peak Potential website, many of you will help us share it and inform us you are coming even if you are unable to purchase tickets at that time.

So as I run Boston this year, I have a few goals in mind. I hope to run it under 4 hours once again and I hope to learn that our Peak Potential Celebration on November 18 is matching my efforts stride for stride and mile by mile – perhaps one table at a time as we close in on our goals together.

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26 Nov 16

By Randy Pierce

The ever affectionate Autumn interrupted my attempts at typing a blog so I provide a short video on the heart of our mission and how we get there… after a overcoming the Autumn distraction factor!

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17 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Autumn and Randy walking, but with LEGO robots!Stepping in front of the energized auditorium for the kick-off event of the FIRST LEGO League Animal Allies season, Autumn and I were excited for all the possibilities ahead. We were also lost, as our route to the podium had been a little blocked by standing room only and she had taken a rather creative route to get me to the front of the room. We did a little problem solving and made our way there with her managing the obstacles safely if not necessarily the way I might have chosen. There was a lesson right in our very approach to the podium and in our brief 15 minutes we needed to build on the excitement, highlight and connect to the core values of FIRST LEGO League, explain our connection to the project and robot challenge with just a hint of our own core messaging worked into the mix.

This might be a tall order if our core values didn’t align so well already, which speaks volumes to the successful aspects we experience. This is part of the reason sponsor BAE systems first coordinated to invite us to the event as well as having us included as a fundamental part of this year’s international experience. I must admit there was an extra bit of amusement in learning they had created a LEGO version of Autumn for their introductory video which can be found along with the full description of their organization’s approach which has become so successful around the world here. 

This year the emphasis is upon how humans and animals can improve the way we interact to make things better for each of us. The teamwork Autumn and I employ is exceedingly demonstrative of this and that is why we represent a project challenge as well as a robot table challenge component possibility.

FIRST LEGO League uses three approaches to the season of competition:

  • Core Values
  • The Project
  • The Robot Challenge

The project requires the team of students to research a problem, identify a solution, share their solution and present this process and result to a panel of judges. One suggestion made in their video involved the present Dog Guide harness and there are so many other avenues around service dogs or our 2020 Vision Quest which might qualify for such a project. I’ll be interested to see how creative the thousands of teams prove as they progress forward.

Meanwhile, I want to leave you as I left them with this notion of the seven core values. If they learn those core values they will likely perform better in the competition, but if they embrace them as a part of their approach to life, they will not only perform better in the competition, they will also likely find more success in life. The difference is in the investment to truly understand the reasons why each of those values is a benefit to us, our teams and the world around us.

This should be no surprise because most things in life which we deem worthwhile likely deserve more than paying minimal attention to perception rather than full investment. Perception matters, sometimes more than I wish, but the reality behind our approach will always carry a more lasting meaning for us and those with whom we ally. This is the true secret strength behind the bond I share with Autumn and all my Dog Guides and why we reach our “peak potential” so well together! It is why I was glad to partner a bit with first, BAE and FIRST LEGO League because we hope these messages will help guide students to take tomorrow to better and better places.

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14 Aug 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn walk on the sidewalk during her training.Students are often amused when I describe how Autumn has been trained in “intelligent disobedience.” It is the dog guide judgment to determine something is a threat and to disobey a command in order to alert me of a threat or obstacle. If I were to tell her to go forward and there was a flight of stairs or a curb in front of me she would refuse because my striding out could very easily lead to a tumble. Instead she halts directly in front of the obstacle and refuses to proceed with the command until I show her I understand the problem by acknowledging with a tap of it either with my foot (for the curb) or my hand (for a high branch). She may also wait until a threat has passed such as a silent electric car. The key point is her refusal and my part in the process to identify that I understand before we proceed.

For those of you who read last week’s blog on distracted driving, I was asked how I can tell the difference between Autumn doing her job with intelligent disobedience and Autumn being distracted. While some might be shocked to consider that my sweet princess might ever pause to sniff the grass or face off with the rabbit eating the tender grasses of a lawn, the truth is these distractions can happen sometimes. Depending on how attentive *I* am being usually impacts how quickly and efficiently I realize the difference between her distraction and her quality work. The feel of the harness handle tells me when she tips her head down for a sniff and so that is a good reminder for me to give her a verbal correction to keep going and not be distracted.

Despite my best and most consistent efforts, we are occasionally going to have our progress thwarted by her distraction. The very reasonably small number of times this occurs is a testament to the training work which goes into selecting and conditioning these dogs for their job. I’m proud to say that on her typical day Autumn rarely impacts our work together with distraction. While we all have our less than stellar days, I trust her warnings and that trust is rewarded by my safe, independent, and joyous ability to travel the world with my girl.

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16 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

July Weather has Autumn and me facing 90-degree temperatures for many consecutive days which would mean one hot dog if I wasn’t prepared to take some precautions. While a hot dog may be a fundamental part of America’s summer pursuits, it isn’t a good idea for the Dog Guides or any of our dogs… “frankly!”

Autumn in her harness with her collapsible bowl. In planning my schedule I try to ensure it involves as little time as possible on hot pavement during the prime time heat hours. If this means I have to make extra arrangements for cabs, Uber, Lyft or friends then so be it because my girl’s health is my responsibility. As a shocking example, when air temperatures are at 77, pavement in the sun has measured as high as 125! Rising into the 90 range and we are at risk of burning the paws even for short distances.

She still wants and needs her work and I still have my obligations to attend which means that I supplement the schedule adjustments with some other simple precautions. While dogs do not sweat for their cooling system in the same way our bodies respond, it’s imperative to ensure they have plenty of water. I keep her collapsible bowl on the harness and give her frequent water stops *with* accompanying extra opportunities to relieve herself. That same water that supplies her system can be used to soak her paws and help her keep cool and protected for any short distances on pavement although I still attempt to avoid it and particularly avoid the sunny portions.

Autumn drinking out of her collapsible bowl on a hot day.Ultimately I get her opportunities to work early in the morning before the heat of the day and late evening if it cools sufficiently. I evaluate whether it is unreasonable timing for her during the day and consider allowing her to stay home in the AC while I use my cane if I absolutely must travel outside at the worst times.

Being attentive and aware is the first step but it’s not enough. We all should make the choice to ensure our canine friends are kept safe from the dangers the hot summer sun can present!

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14 May 16

By Randy Pierce

A Walk in Autumn's Shoes?While Guiding Eyes trainers and puppy raisers deserve the vast majority of the credit for the quality training in my dog guides, the continued success is based on their helping guide me to methods of ongoing training work together. Their work in teaching me how to continually sustain and advance our training is why I believe I have generally very good success in my teamwork with these dogs. People often see the results and ask me for tips and tricks to help work with their dogs and I’m happy to share a few of my opinions with the above caveat that others have created an excellent foundation for me.

One of the first and most easy reminders is to be steady and consistent with our dogs. This consistency helps prevent any confusion on their part for what we want and expect. I use repetition and consistency to help strengthen the base skills regularly.

Unfortunately for Autumn (and me!), my recent medical challenges have caused a change in many of our routines presently. Understanding that this change has an impact on Autumn is an important part of my ability to manage the response. For all the humor of poor Autumn wearing my size 14 running shoes, the reality is the old adage has value in all of our training work. I want to take a walk in Autumn’s shoes to try and understand what a change may mean for her. Dogs are not humans and do not mirror our thought processes. We can, however, with a little investigation come to better understand their motivations and responses, effectively learning to think a little as they might be thinking.

My doctors have suggested I not walk anywhere outside my home without another person present. This means that my daily longer walks with Autumn have come to an abrupt halt. It’s easy for me to be caught up in my own frustrations with this and fail to realize the impact on Autumn. She is accustomed to getting a higher level of exercise for her body and her mind given how much she is asked to problem solve while we are working together. As such, I need to find positive outlets for her to replace those aspects or I may find her problem solving less ideal solutions of her own. Many dogs exhibit what we deem as destructive behavior when they do not get sufficient outlet for their energy. Understanding this as the underlying cause can lead us to the solution rather than getting caught up in the symptom of the undesired behavior. There are many ways to approach solutions and the real key begins with the awareness which is the core message of this blog. Learn to take a walk in your dog’s paws and you are on the path to building a better training foundation.

In my case I try to schedule people to visit for those walks as one step. I’ve increased her backyard high energy play sessions and I’ve increased our hide and seek games to help her use her problem solving and thinking approach which is lacking. While she loves all of these things, I’ve also noticed that she’s a little more attention-desiring (needy) of me. I understand the reasons for that outreach and am reassuring her with an appreciation for the reason behind her changes. So if you notice an undesired behavior or change in your dog, perhaps ask yourself what changes you may have caused for them, whether intended or inadvertent. Perhaps that may help you grow your own training skills.

Ever the opportunist, why not “take a walk in our shoes” by joining us at the NHAB Walk for Sight coming right up! We’d love to have you on our team.

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