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Old Lyme - As the puppies reach 4.5 weeks of age and are completely weaned off their mother Nessie, Janet Cody is learning that they aren't really food-motivated (well, except for Brandy, the heavyweight champion of the litter who would like not just one kibble but the whole bucket of food, please).
Where previous litters she's raised for Guiding Eyes for the Blind have, as Labrador retrievers would, dived into their food and rolled around in it, Cody has noticed the five German shepherd puppies are more polite.
There's no pushing and shoving at eating time, no usual mess she sees with Labs in their eagerness to inhale as much food as possible, as quickly as possible.
Though hungry, these shepherd puppies munch their food calmly. And when Cody uses bits of kibble softened in water to entice a puppy to climb four steps as part of Guiding Eyes' early training, puppy Berta just won't have it, choosing instead to sit on a stair. Cody also uses a squeaky toy to get the puppies' attention.
"Sometimes they forget they have hind legs," Cody says as Berta stands, front paws on the next step, with no plans to hoist the rest of her body up.
"You just flunked," Cody tells her as Berta falls backwards, gives up and lies down.
Nessie, her job as a mother done, will return to her foster home. The puppies, meanwhile, have some more growing and learning to do with Cody before they go back to the Guiding Eyes whelping kennel on June 3.
They're just starting to wag their tails and are now more playful and curious. In addition to introducing them to harnesses - they'll wear them as part of their job if they do in fact grow up to be guide dogs - Cody is teaching them to sit, down, and stand.
Raising German shepherds instead of Labs has posed new and interesting challenges for Cody, who amid all the puppy chaos is this week also preparing to attend her daughter's graduation from college.
Litter care and puppy raising for Guiding Eyes can get exhausting; Cody is doing both simultaneously. But Iowa, a black Lab who has been with Cody since puppyhood, is almost ready to be returned to Guiding Eyes, and Cody is thinking about keeping one of the shepherd pups.
One of the girls, maybe?
NEXT WEEK: THE PUPPIES GO OUTSIDE (IF THE WEATHER IS NICE)!