|Baby JJ and Callie|
|Ottie with Ember and company.|
After JJ died, it was comforting to spend time with the little creatures she was so fond of. I noticed JJ’s sister Ottie wanting to spend much more time with them as well. She was their grandmother and often would let them pretend nurse, as she expertly flipped them and cleaned them when needed. Her daughter Shylah was doing very well at mothering and didn’t really need help, but graciously allowed Ottie to have as much puppy time as she needed. It seemed to help keep us all distracted for the several weeks when JJ’s absence was felt so keenly at home. Videos and live streaming of the puppy antics also were good for so many of JJ’s followers during this time.
|Courtesy Albany Democrat-Herald|
I am fortunate to be a part of our therapy dog organization, Project Canine. I am honored to carry their Puppy Partner credential, allowing me to visit with puppies under my care until they are five months old. Before I made the announcement of who would be staying, Ember and her litter mates visited the Hospice House a couple of times before going to their new homes. This is one of the highlights for our hospice staff and is planned well in advance, so anyone interested can schedule some puppy time into their work day. These visits are great for puppy socialization as well as wonderful for people who enjoy being around puppies.
Since JJ and I also did Animal Assisted Crisis Response, my goal is tohave another canine partner for this volunteer work. Crisis response dogs need to be steady, brave, and compassionate to their core while visiting with strangers in very unfamiliar places. We do our best to raise our puppies to be bold, confident, and engaging before they move on to their new homes. Ember loved to explore, and would eagerly engage with me, displaying a sassy spunk in almost everything she did. She also clearly loved meeting new people, especially children. Not only were our puppy visits making people happy, we were able to get early exposure to things like elevators, hospitals, and fire trucks. As she ages, we'll continue to find new things to explore and see, including JJ's great nemesis, the skateboard. Ember's siblings are all nice puppies, and we like to think JJ spread some of her magic to them all before she died.
Once Ember turned five months old, we needed to test for her individual puppy evaluation with Project Canine. Since I am one of the two instructor and examiners in Oregon, one of our board members traveled down to help test her. While I helped teach our four-hour class prior to evaluations, Ember handled the class like a rock star, relaxing either under my feet or in her crate. Some of the dogs had reactive barking to seeing people walk by the windows, while Ember would just raise her head as if saying “Why are you waking me?” She did have a couple of short episodes of whining when I left the room, but overall was a rock star. She handled her puppy evaluation well. In addition to having to do most of the elements of our adult therapy dog evaluation, we include several things specific to young puppies, such as mouthing, play drive, and how they respond to being held on their backs for a short time. Due to the timing, Ember took the older puppy exam and easily passed, something very few puppies under the age of one can do.
After this, we made the trek to the Samaritan Human Resources office where she had her photo taken for her work badge. It is always a highlight for staff to have one of the therapy dogs come in to get their photo taken. At five months, she started coming to work with me for half days, getting used to the environment and routine of the Hospice House. It felt good to have a dog back in the building, at least part time. One of the routines we all missed greatly was JJ's presence at our walkouts after someone had died. While she had taught herself to do this, we all thought it was a great idea that should carry on. It was on one of Ember's first work days when she was able to first participate. While she remained on leash, it was as if she knew exactly what she was doing.
By seven months, Ember had reached the size JJ was as an adult. As puppies approach their adult size, it's easy to forget they are still puppies. However, this is the time they start what we call the teenage months. They develop selective hearing, want to make their own decisions, and rebel against the rules. It became clear when it was time to change Ember's routine. It doesn't work to have a bored, energetic puppy when I am busy with work without enough time to spend with her. It's never a good idea to rush a young dog who already is loving the job. To do so can develop bad habits that are difficult to undo. Now, it's on to the next step. Volunteer visits, maintaining structure and impulse control, working on obedience and continued learning, and a lot of play. Let the teenage antics commence.