Tuesday, April 11, 2017

New Logo

There it is folks, our new logo.  Thanks to the great work of the students in the Rochester Institute of Technology's Design department.

No, I don't have it in a larger format (yet).
The little rectangle at the bottom says A 501c3 Charity

Still to come:
Hats, patches, shirts, mugs, stickers, etc.

--Chuck


Monday, April 3, 2017

Ways to help

Our gofundme is still going on...

But also consider:

--Setting up a recurring donation
--Honoring or memorializing someone
--Matching your employee's donation
--Pledging for a three-year period
--Conducting a fundraiser
--smile.amazon.com

Emergency Vet trip

Update:  
Polar Bear is home.  Happy and healthy, and no worse for the wear.  Seems he got into a discarded bag of Ortho bug-b-gone and licked the dregs.

Luckily, it was 98% empty. 

$137 for an exam, overnight stay with IV, and catheter  (that'll teach him.)

Polar Bear is weak and shaky.  Unsteady when standing and walking.
No idea what happened/what he got into/what got at him.
No vomiting or diarrhea or fever.  Vet says it fits with a toxin given the sudden onset.  Could be something he ate, (noxious plant) or got into (but just like babies, we keep dangerous stuff up and away.)
They're putting him on IV fluids and keeping him overnight.
Hopefully this doesn't wipe out our bank account.
I'll update when I kniw more.
--Chuck

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Shop till you run out of money!

Till midnight PST, Shop at amazon smile and 10% of your purchase goes to Hero Labradors!
HTTP://smile.amazon.com/ch/81-4705687

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dogs breakfast

Four AM.  The sound nobody with a dog wants to hear.  The sound of vomit hitting the rug by the bed.

Ugh.  Wake up.  Slide out of bed. Take two steps.  Find puke with toes.  Gag.  Hobble into bathroom. Wash foot in tub.

Coffee. Stat.
Stumble upstairs. See little footprints everywhere on wood and tile floors.

Pantry.  Somebody decided a bottle of cooking oil would make a good late night snack.

Start cleaning.  Protip:  baking soda.  Sprinkle liberally.  Wait.  Sweep.  Repeat.  (Normally, I'd vacuum, but it's 4:30, and you DON'T wake up the Mrs. at 4:30.)

Mop.  (A LITTLE dawn goes a LONG way.)

Empty mop bucket, spray out mop.

Mop again.

5 AM.  Wrangle dogs.  (Halia sleeps with me, uncrated.  Nani is crated in son's room.  Tonto in daughter's.  Polar Bear is in his crate in the dining room.  Uncrate and lead outside. 

Dogs do what we all do in the morning, that is, stare stupidly at me until I tell them to go potty.

Back to the kitchen.  Floor is dry (mostly) but pantry needs another dusting of soda.  Grout soaked up a bunch of oil.

Get food ready for dogs, who are intently staring at me through the patio door.  Place bowls on my side of door.  Walk away. Get coffee. 

Feed dogs.  Everybody sits first, bowls placed in front of them, they wait, drooling.  They wait.  I hold them a minute, then tell them "recover."  They dig in. 

Back to pantry.  Eh... I'll wait and vacuum/mop later.  Need more coffee.

--Chuck

Monday, February 20, 2017

We need your help!

We seriously need your help to do this.

I have set up a gofundme to try to raise funds to get this program rolling.  As it stand now, we have a little over $200 in operating capital.  I'm trying to raise capital to fund the program for at least three years.

There are multiple "levels" of sponsorship on the gofundme, and their minimum donation amount is $5--The cost of a Starbucks latte.  Since I would NEVER ask you to forgo coffee, maybe consider a few days of drip coffee instead of the fancy coffee, and toss a few bucks this way?

OTHER ways to help (I know the economy is getting better, but it isn't there yet for may of us.)

--Go find us sponsors!  Grab this handy dandy .pdf and go knock on doors.  Go to a local business.  Go to churches, ask ask ask.  The only way we can get the word out and raise awareness of what we're doing and why is to, well, spread the word.

And if someone does want to contribute, either point them to www.gofundme.com/herolabradors, or if they have any questions or want to connect with us directly, contact@herolabradors.org (I answer that email too.)

Thanks everyone, and thanks for your consideration.

-Chuck, Halia, Nani, Polar Bear and Tonto


Monday, February 13, 2017

About Us

Hero Labradors: Genesis

I am a retired soldier.  On 21 June 2005, I was wounded by a roadside bomb while on a foot patrol in Baqubah, Iraq.  I lost part of my left hand, full use of both hands, my eardrums, and large patches of skin on my legs and arms.  The list of injuries is far longer, but to tell you how bad it was, I died twice on the way to Walter Reed.  I spent many months in the hospital trying to get well enough to return to duty, which I eventually did, and went on to serve an additional 10 years, retiring in January of 2015.

In 2006, my spouse bought me a Labrador retriever as a present when I was promoted to Major.  She had my Brother in Law pick him out.  David is an extremely gifted dog trainer who works in Jeffersonville, Indiana, at Duffy's Dog Training Center.  He selected my dog from a litter based on the dog;s aptitude for learning, and because he could see that the dog was going to be an absolute tank--strong and able to help me with anything I could imagine.  I let my two kids name the dog, and they chose "Major" honoring my recent promotion.

For the next year, Major and I bonded over daily walks (which we BOTH had to do, as I was still in physical therapy) and through learning both good house behaviors as well as good canine citizen behaviors.  Major also took up his own tasks, which I didn't realize he was doing for some time. Major would brace me going up and down stairs, always staying by my side and giving me an anchor (I get "wobbly" sometimes, because my ears/balance ain't what they used to be) in case I lost my balance.  He would force me to give him attention, when I was getting upset or angry., just by sitting in front of me and putting his head in my lap.  Major would find ways and means of taking care of me--by retrieving things I'd dropped; by guarding me at night and giving me a feeling of safety, by waking me up when I was having nightmares.  Some of this was trained behaviors, and some of it he just did.  We had a very, very special bond.

Major became, most accidentally, my first service dog.

Major and I were together through thick and thin, until the Army forced us apart--I received orders to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011.  While I was there, my wife sent me a message on day near Christmas--"Honey, Major is sick, I need you to call me."  My heart sank, Carren has been with me through thick and thin, and KNOWS what rates a "call me ASAP" message when I am deployed... and none of those reasons mean something good.

I called as soon as I could.  Major was in the hospital.  His liver was failing.  He would need a liver transplant to survive, and that was not a guarantee.  Even if he did survive, he'd always be very weak, and would likely on live a few years.  A transplant would cost us over $10k, and just wasn't in the cards for us... I had to let him go.

When I returned home from deployment, I puttered around for a bit, worked and spent time with my family, but there was a huge hole in my life.  I searched my feelings and realized that not only did I miss Major, but that I was ready to begin again, selecting and training another service dog.  I found a Labrador Breeder who happened to have a litter ready, and we went for a visit.

Greeting the pups for the first time was a joy--eight little balls of floof, all SO excited to see me!  I gave many pets and got many licks.  One pup, a tubby little butterball girl, kept attacking my sandaled feet and chewing on my toes.  I'd pick her up and hold her, she'd calm down, I'd set her down to go be with her litter, and she'd be right back on my toes.  She made it pretty clear, She'd chosen me, and that was that.

We named her Halia.  I was stationed in Hawaii, and she was born on the Big Island, so we thought a Hawaiian name was appropriate.  Halia means "in memory of a loved one."  It seemed fitting, as the wound from losing Major was still so fresh, and I was going to become as close to her as I was to him.

Halia took to training like a Lab takes to water.  She learned to be an anchor, she learned how to behave in public, at work, around other dogs, at the airport and on and off lead.  She learned commands and stays absolutely focused on me, despite what is going on around her.  She's been on planes, trains, and in automobiles (she prefers golf carts.)  She's been in hospitals and churches and every other public space you can think of without incident.  She wakes me from bad dreams, cuddles (not as easy as you'd think with a 70 pound dog) when I'm down, and keeps me steady when I walk. She brings me things--mostly to see if I'll throw them for her.  She even swims with me--including going down a waterslide that almost got us kicked out of the pool at a resort... but we had fun!

When the time came to retire from the Army, I had to consider what I was going to do with the rest of my life.  Between my 22 year retirement and VA disability, I could afford a mortgage and keep the kids fed and clothed, and if Carren doesn't work (she's a social worker) she kind of goes a little crazy... likely from too much exposure to me.  I thought about my post-Army life and I had an epiphany:  What I really, truly wanted to do was breed labradors.  I didn't want to breed them to become the world's next AKC Champion breeder, or to breed them to win Hunting and Field trials, but to breed them for a singular purpose:  to serve as service dogs.

You see, not every dog has the aptitude for service dog training.  Not every dog has the drive, the focus, or even the intelligence.  (Trust me, I have a black lab named "Tonto" who is, for all intents and purposes, dumb as paste.  Many service dog programs go to animal rescues and shelters looking for dogs that can become service dogs, but it's fairly rare they find the dogs they need.

That was the genesis for Hero Labradors.  I am breeding Labradors, and selecting for qualities and traits specifically for service.  While a show breeder is selecting for conformation--coat, head size, color, height, etc., and a field breeder is selecting for prey drive, athleticism, and long legs/narrower body, a service dog has different needs.

Service dogs need intelligence, they need focus and a desire to serve and learn.  You can't train them with harsh methods to do their service, they have to WANT to please.  They can't be alpha dogs, because they have to take cues from their handler.  They can't be Omegas either, because they need to assert themselves when it's required.  Service dogs need to be Betas: They submit to their handler, but no one else (when working) and are confident and assured in new surroundings.  They take things as they come, but are still vigilant and watchful over their handler.

So I looked.  I looked for service dog breeding programs and I found... nothing.  I found many breeders who would donate to training programs, and many training programs who would train dogs for Wounded/Disabled veterans and first responders, but I looked high and low and couldn't find any breeders who were selecting for the exact traits that a service dog needs to possess at a very early age.
So I decided if it wasn't happening, I was going to make it happen.  I've had to relearn how to walk, how hard can it be compared to that?

Well... If it was easy, everybody'd be doing it.  I am lucky.  Halia's breeder put me in touch with a breeder on the East coast who helped me select a male for breeding, based on his personality traits.  We tried and came up empty, the insemination didn't take.  Next heat came, and... success!  Halia gave birth to a girl and three boys.  Hopefully one of them would have "the right stuff" to be a service dog.

Well... good news and bad.  The girl didn't survive past 48 hours.  it happens sometimes.  Sad, but goes with the territory.  The boys, on the other hand...

At 8 weeks we had them evaluated for aptitude to become service dogs.  ALL THREE passed!  the rarity of a 100% success rate in a litter is staggering.  I should've bought a lottery ticked the day Halia was impregnated.  We decided to put two into training programs, and the third one, which we named Polar Bear, we kept.

We'd planned to keep a boy for some time, and we've also found him a mate--Nani Lelani (Beautiful Flower.) Nani is just a few months older than Polar Bear, and we're expecting very good things from the two of them in a few years.

We are producing QUALITY, genetically sound, AKC registered Labradors with AKC Champion bloodlines.  We select, raise, and breed our girls (and one boy) to produce very high quality pups. Even then, we realize that not all of these dogs are going to become service dogs, but even those dogs will make phenomenal pets for loving families.  Dogs of this caliber easily sell for $2500 (or more, if I got some champion letters behind Halia's name.)  So naturally, we select service dog training programs worthy of our dogs--and we give these dogs to them, free of charge, with only their guarantee that they train them and donate them to either a disabled veteran, wounded warrior, or first responder (or their family members) who need them.  It costs training programs NOTHING to receive one of our pups.  Hero labradors has zero paid employees, we're all volunteers.

Service Dogs for those who've served.

--Chuck

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why do quality dogs cost so much?

Lots of work ahead, that's for certain.

I'm working on a GoFundMe to raise starting and operating capital to actually make this venture go from a guy with a good idea to a fully fledged organization that will serve the disabled veteran/wounded warrior/military and first responder community.  (Well, we already started, and have donated two pups, but I bore the total costs for that, and folks, it ain't cheap.)

I'll provide a breakdown of everything that goes into breeding *good* dogs for you, just to give you an idea.

First, you need a bitch.  Not just any girl in heat will do, either.  What you need is a dog with a great lineage, so you know what kind of genes you're dealing with.

Then you need to make sure she's healthy.  That means more than a trip to the vet to ensure she's able to bear pups without killing her.
You need to ensure she has good hips and elbows, so that you aren't passing on dysplasia.
Then you need her annual eye exam, to ensure there's no signs of eye problems because you don't want to pass that along.

You're going to require these things of the sire, too.  (If you're using your own or from someone else's dog.)
So now you're in for about $1000.

But wait!  There's more!
You've set up the deal for fresh chilled semen to be shipped to you because the breeder is 1500 miles away, and an amorous rendezvous isn't in the cards for your dog.  Even if your stud is right next door, and you're trying natural, you're not saving much beyond shipping costs and insemination costs.

About selecting a breeder--you're looking for an AKC registered/certified Breeder of merit.  These are breeders who ENSURE they are not damaging the breed, not passing along bad DNA, and raise healthy dogs.  I'm not one--yet.  It takes a minimum of five years of breeding right before you can become one.

And naturally, you need his and her DNA test done, because you're going to make sure there's nothing hiding in the woodpile that'll get passed on (or that the likelihood is very small.)  Here's what labs should be tested for:
So now you're looking at being in for about $1500.  And your dog isn't even pregnant!

You got your tests all did.  You had your results checked, registered, and verified.  You've balanced the DNA profile of your sire and dam.  Now you just have to get her knocked up!

Hang on to your hats, folks, Chilled fresh semen costs about $1500.  (NOT including shipping--another $120)
Then it's get the dog in the right place, at the right time, for insemination.  So you can't just guess, you have to KNOW when she's ready.  This is done with progesterone tests, a blood draw that checks her hormone levels to make sure she's in the zone and actually ovulating.  These are $50 a pop, and you need (usually) three to get a baseline and best time narrowed down.  Add $200 for these.

We've arrived at the vet.  All tests are done, our Mom to be is ready to go, the FedEx guy just showed up, and the vet is ready.  Total costs to get us here:  $1800

But wait, there's more!

Now you have a choice to make:  regular "squirt it in and hope for the best" insemination, or TransCervical Insemination. (TCI) Since we're not much into spray and pray, we go for TCI.  it's only $150...

Now we wait.  It's going to take a month to see if your girl has buns in the oven, and that means an ultrasound, to the tune of $75  

To this point, you've spent over $2000.  And, if you're as lucky as I am, the first time you tried it, you came up snake eyes.  No dice, try again player 1.  Halia didn't have any puppies.

There's some good news though.  Breeders will usually allow you to rebreed at the next cycle if you have less than 2 viable pups in a litter.  So you aren't going to have to pay for the sample again, or the DNA profile again.  You will have to pay for an annual eye exam, and normal vet care, and another round of  progesterone tests, TCI, ultrasounds, and (if she does get pregnant, x-rays to ensure there is good orientation, size, and get a headcount.  That usually works out to about $700.

So... I figure just to get the litter we had in August, it cost about $3000.  This litter produced three viable pups, and of those pups, two are now in service dog programs.  

I now need to wait a year for Halia to be ready, and I need to get Nani and Pete's DNA tested to ensure they are healthy and simpatico to make puppies, and they'll be ready in 2018.

--Chuck

Sunday, January 1, 2017

501c3 status confirmed!

The good:
IRS confirmed we are a charity!
Set up PayPal to accept donations!
Filled out request through T-mobile for equipment and bandwidth grant to bring more and better content and raise awareness!

The bad:
Need to set up a checking account with an actual bank to receive funds.  Going to Wells Fargo tomorrow.
Tried to e-file taxes for 2016.  IRS is offline through the 8th.  (It's literally a postcard though, so I don't forecast any issues.)
Need to wrangle with the state to alleviate us from the franchise tax (since we're a nonprofit.)

Ugh... paperwork. I just want to raise dogs for wounded warriors!

Thanks to Mark and Ricky for guiding me through the paperwork, and to Patti for so much advice. (And for recording our first donation!)

The very, very good (I know, burying the lede)
On the 3rd I'm making a 1800-mile round trip to deliver Pete to Dogs Helping Heroes in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  That's 66% of the litter going to be serving our wounded warriors and disabled veterans, with NO COST to them or the training programs for the dogs.  (I'm keeping 1 pup to continue to breed.)