Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Thursday - Let's Build a Fence!

Thursday, March 24
Molly Hesnard

As far as hard work goes, Midwesterners are known around the nation for work ethic and ability to get what needs to be done in a timely and orderly manner. Hearing comments from the MAWP people about how amazed they were at how much we got done was a great feeling to have. Thursday, we built a fence. With the hard work of pounding posts done, one would think this procedure would go smoothly. Instead, it was exhausting both mentally and physically. The weather also decided to be hottest on this day, of course while we are outside really putting in a lot of physical labor. Not that I ever complain about mid 80s and high humidity, but it was hot for all of us. I am every so thankful that no tempers flared with the heat and our amazing group remained cool even when things did not go as the planned. The fence was not too bad. Once the come along had been made to function, it was a matter of pulling the fence tight and connecting the pieces. Gate building on the other hand, got frustrating. The stress relief of the pounding piece in making the gates exact to the inch and preventing them from twisting on each other was a chore. Once the frames were together, adding the actual fence to the gates required a lot of physical output and I cannot thank those who were pulling enough for their efforts. We made those fences tight. By the time we had finished, there was not a ton of time left for working the dogs. Instead, we got a play day. Spending a few minutes just being able to relax, play fetch, or have cuddles with our canine companions topped off an exhausting morning and afternoon. After chores were done we went back to camp and Rachel and Manda made some amazing pasta primavera. I was skeptical at first, but it was truly delicious. Then, due to the selfless generosity of Bonnie, we went shopping. New kennels, a bunch of treats, cleaning supplies, and of course tennis balls along with other various items made their way to MAWP Friday morning as an appreciation to letting us come work for the week. I think my big take home from this day was how hard work and accomplishing things can make such a difference in those lives who need it. The reactions of the ladies at MAWP to the things we had accomplished genuinely made my heart so happy. I loved how seeing a bit of effort on my part doing things can mean so much to people. I also learned that people who have the right mindset can work together through less desirable conditions and get along very well. Working with the amazing group of people on this trip made every bit of it a positive experience and I could not have asked for better people. We built an entire playpen and made some high quality gates to keep pups from going places pups shouldn’t go. I will always believe a little dirt is good for the soul, especially when the outcome cannot be appreciated in words. All good things come from those who are willing to put in the work to make them possible.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Friday - Donations and the Beach!

Friday, March 25
Madison Hoyt

Friday morning was the last day at My Angel with Paws. We started out by bringing them the gifts we bought on Thursday night. Some of these included a new kennel, dog treats, tennis balls, cleaning supplies, and a storage container. Then we went off to the beach! We got the dogs loaded into the cars and drove to a beach around half an hour away. Once there, we got them out and headed towards the water. My dog, Kiser, absolutely loved playing in the ocean and enjoyed it when we went running down the sand. It wasn’t long until he was soaking wet and had a bunch of sand all over him. We played for a while in the water, then it was time for lunch. We made our sandwiches like we had been during the rest of the week and hung around the beach with the dogs a little longer. At this point, it was time to get the dogs dried off as best we could and load them up in the cars again to go back to My Angel with Paws. They headed back to DeLand while our AWOL group stayed by the beach. It was really hard to say goodbye to Kiser, but I know he will do great in the rest of his training and be an awesome service dog! After the dogs and volunteers for the organization had left, we all got in our vans and drove the short way to Daytona Beach. There, we spent some time in the water and on the beach itself until it began raining. We decided to go look at shops and get some food at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. In the evening, we headed back to Camp Winona to shower and pack up all our things to go to the airport and wait until it was time to go through security and board our plane. The week went really fast for me, and I am going to miss the dogs and people we got to meet and work with while we were at My Angel with Paws. For my first AWOL trip, I would say it was an awesome experience!

Friday - Saying our Goodbyes

Friday, March 25
Kristina Campbell

This is my first and last entry I will be making. I survived. That is the important thing. But what did I endure during the trials I was faced? Well… let me explain.

The final day of this journey was on a Friday. Friday, March 25th to be exact. That day was filled with so much danger. Yet so much fun! Since it was our final stand, we thought to do something unique with it. And what better to do than go to the beach with our charges. We allowed their inner puppy to come out. And come out it did. Dante, my dog I was tasked with for the week, because a whirl wind during this particular outing. He could not contain his excitement. Every second was spent either running after another dog or pouncing on a wave. But regardless if he was knee deep or neck up in water, he was smiling the entire time.

This obviously brought in curious people. Come on, who wouldn’t want to know why there are 18 dogs on a beach in Florida? But these citizens were handled with care and respect; when one would ask a question, we would give an answer. For example: “What are you training these dogs for?” someone may have asked. Our response would be along the lines of “these dogs are being trained for service work. They will one day be given a charge to help in their own way, whether it be as a PTSD dog or a bracer dog.” Like I said, problem averted.

We did have to say goodbye though. Many did not like this part of the plan. After five days, we had all gotten a little attached to say the least. But, it is what it is, and it could not be changed. So we said our sad farewells and watched our new furry and human friends drive away…

Though slightly melancholy from the loss of our four-legged companions, our band of travelers still made the best of the day and explored the wonders that was Daytona Beach and the surrounding stores. What danger could be lurking in these neighborhoods, you ask? Bad drivers for one. [Long story...] But the main killer of the south? Sunshine. If you underestimated her for five seconds she will lash out and make you regret that decision for five days. Many of us were taught a lesson from the unforgiving Florida Sun, going home with battle scars that would last us a lifetime. [More like a few days if properly cared for.]
Sandy and exhausted at the end of the day, we finally headed home to begin again; for once we returned to the cabins, we would head to the airport, and eventually Iowa again. Our fantastic adventure was no more. It was time to say good day to our new bae. [Sorry, that was all I could think of to continue the rhyme…]
I sign off to you now. May we meet another day. Maybe… Who knows?

Kristina Campbell  and  Dante [aka: the Preppy Frat Boy]

Wednesday - Tom's Pizza

Wednesday, March 23
Rachel Kehrberg

In the morning we cleaned the dog’s indoor area and the facilities. We then took the dogs outside, and helped them get used to walking on different surfaces such as crossing a bridge. Some of the puppies were scared at first, but they gained confidence with coaxing and when they saw other dogs walk across the bridge. We also helped the dogs walk through a ladder and across a teeter totter. It was rewarding to see the dogs improve. For lunch we took the dogs to Tom's Pizza which gave the dogs good exposure to being out in public. In the afternoon we worked on building a chain link fence to serve as a containment area for dogs that are sick. Building the fence was hard work especially hitting the steel poles into the dirt with the post driver, but by building the fence, we helped the dogs by preventing a dog from spreading an infection to all of the other dogs. Through AWOL we were able to make a difference by helping work with the dogs and improve the facilities at My Angel with Paws. The dogs that we helped will then go on to help improve people who have disabilities’ lives.

Tuesday - Dog Commands and FroYo!

Tuesday, March 22nd
Sarah Mackey
                Today we took our dogs to the park. It was crazy to be trying out working with them in public. Some of the puppies had just started their training, but overall, the dogs were super well behaved. I think the craziest part was loading about 19 dogs into just a car and a minivan.
                While we were walking around, we practiced a few commands like “go in”, “wait”, and “up”. We stopped to eat lunch in a small park that had a few tables. At the tables we practiced everything that goes into sitting down and getting situated, having the dog wait, then telling the dog to go under the table. My dog, Jagger, is already through most of his training. He will be placed with a woman named Holly for balance/brace help. Since he’s already experienced most of the training, he didn’t struggle with picking up on any of the commands. The most problems we had were with the dynamic between the two of us and figuring each other out.
                After lunch, we walked our dogs over to an ice cream shop, and we actually fed them frozen yogurt! It was absolutely adorable, and the ice cream shop was really awesome about the fact that we were a huge group of canines and dogs taking up most of their tables.
                Overall, it was a hugely successful day. We had a great time with our dogs, and we got to see firsthand some of the things they are capable of. It was pretty amazing. Since it was the second day, we’re starting to get into the swing of chores and grooming. The dogs are a lot of work, and handling them is a lot more tiring than I anticipated. I have to be focused the entire time because if Jagger messes up, I need to make sure I correct him. I have to make sure that I don’t let him learn any bad habits.

                Here are some pictures from today’s festivities:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

First Day of a Whole New Kind Of Service

           I love volunteering.  I love everything about it.  There is something wonderful about giving to others with no expectation of reciprocity.  It’s almost freeing.  For an entire week during AWOL, there are no other concerns in my life besides “What more can I do to help?”  This was definitely not my first trip for service, but it was definitely a new experience.  First of all, I was working with dogs (I LOVE DOGS!!!!!!).  In previous trips, it had almost always been humans, and the end result had always been easy to see.  Here that was not the case, and I found myself battling with this idea of seeing my work pay off from day one.
            I always jump at the chance to do the “tough” jobs while volunteering.  This could be construction work, yard work, moving heavy objects, etc.  I think one of the reasons I chose these jobs is because I could see and feel the result.  I have experienced no greater feeling than working a long hard day then seeing the final result.  There is something so rewarding in that.  As you stand there, physically depleted, dirty and sore, you can stare at your completed project and the smile on someone’s face, and you know that you did a good job and made a positive impact.  I have also volunteered through English education in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.  Again, it was easy to see and hear the results.  You could see the children’s smiles, hear the praises of the teachers, and most importantly hear the material you were teaching the kids.  Also, the task of keeping young children’s attention was not easy, and it would also leave you feeling equally depleted and accomplished at the end of the day.
            This was not necessarily the case at the end of day one at My Angel with Paws.  At least at this point we were doing now physical labor (although we would later in the week), and what we were doing did not seem all that difficult.  In fact, it was extremely enjoyable!  We were working with dogs!  We got to play fetch, groom them, work on commands, and of course love them all we could.  At the end of the day, we could look back and smile at all we had done, knowing that it was thoroughly fun, but was it service?  I really struggled with this for a while.  We were working on commands the dogs already knew, so we weren’t teaching them a lot of new material.  With this, it was hard to see the impact we were having.  Also we were of course exhausted with the excitement of twelve dogs all basically under a year and a half years old running around, but it was more like being tired after a day of playing in the yard as a kid and much less like a day of service.  This was a whole new realm of service for a lot of us I think.  The dogs couldn’t tell us how much we were helping, and what we were doing didn’t really feel like work.  Thankfully, it was our gracious guests to the rescue.  They were able to educate us on how we were really making a huge impact on these dogs and on them.  There organization is so small, that it is nearly impossible for all the dogs to get constant attention.  Along the same lines, each dog had developed a partnership with basically a single individual.  This was great to a point, as the dogs were unimaginably obedient for that person, but they had no experience taking commands from strangers.  Another issue is simple logistics.  How can four women take twelve to fifteen dogs out into town for training?  It just isn’t possible.  That’s where we came in, and I will use my dog as an example.

            My dog was Dudley, and he was by far the smartest, happiest, and most eager to learn dog I had ever met.  He was not going to be someone’s pet.  He was going to be there partner, and I have no doubt he has the capabilities to fully grant a lucky individual the freedom and safety they deserve.  By day two, we were nearly inseparable.  Like I said, he was not my pet for a week; he was my partner.  I had full conversations with him, and hopefully I was able to be the second person in his life he had developed a bond with.  By the end of the week, he would answer to me just as readily as his original trainer (although I’m convinced he liked to mess with me much more than he did her).  Through this bond and our work together, I was lucky enough to help Dudley experience a lot of firsts, and as I learned later, without us there, there was no telling how long it would be before these dogs got to have these experiences.  I got to take Dudley into town for the first time.  We got to walk next to water fountains and see tons of new people.  I got to feed Dudley his first ever taste of frozen yogurt, and of course he is now hooked!  Finally, I got to end the trip by taking Dudley to the ocean for the first time.  During all of these new experiences, he was learning and adapting and doing everything a service dog should do.  So without knowing it at the time, we were actually making a huge impact on the trainers and the dogs themselves.  This truly was a wonderful new experience for myself, hopefully the rest of the team, and most importantly, the dogs themselves!