Archives for June 2008

A Chaotic Weekend

Our weekend began with a trip to Amber’s place for a puppy play date. Cessna and Aiden loved the time they got to run and play and chase the Frisbee around the field near Amber’s house. Amber had a good time romping around with Aiden and they tired each other out quite nicely. Gunner, our visitor for the weekend, didn’t have as much fun on the play date because he was stuck on a long leash because we weren’t sure about his recall. Gunner is a 105lbs (slightly overweight) male chocolate Labrador. He was donated to the Autism Dog Services program and is currently under assessment, but being already 14 months old and not overly obedient things are a little more challenging. I wish the director of training luck in the training process, if he decides to accept the challenge.

On Saturday we held a birthday party for our golden, Aspen, and our little 6 month old foster, Aiden. We had a total of 8 dogs in our 2-bedroom condo apartment, it was nuts! Aspen and Aiden had a wonderful party and Aspen was thoroughly spoiled by her friend Thor (10 year old 115lbs golden) and his mom Sharon. She got: a package of snausages, a package of dentasticks, and a bone that has minty flavoured stuff in it from them; fresh beef bones from her friend Harley (the balcony jumper) and his mom Darlene; a squeaky beaver from her friend Jetta and her mom Jess and then a knuckle bone from us in addition to her pink teddy and pool she already got. Aiden was also spoiled with a nylabone ring and a squeaky/crinkly stuffed turtle from us and a Frisbee from his friend Jetta and her mom Jess. In addition to having all of the dogs come over for the party we also made cake for them all to share (even though I am sure Aspen would have loved to have it all to herself). The cake was half rice and half coconut flour with peanut butter mixed into the batter and then some as icing as well. They all enjoyed it thoroughly!

Later on though Cessna began to develop hives and become quite itchy. We noticed the problem when she was running around like a mad dog and rubbing her paws on the carpet…not normal for her at all, even though she is quite an energetic girl! She was covered in red lumps and even her face, ears and legs were swollen. We gave her 2 Benedryl, an Aspirin and a fresh marrow bone to keep her mind off her discomfort. About an hour or so later the swelling and hives began to go down and happily this morning all the redness had disappeared as well. We are guessing she had an allergic reaction to the coconut flour or peanut butter, she has had peanut butter before but only in small doses since the first time she had too much and got the runs for a couple of days. I think we’ll avoid both because we aren’t sure if her sensitivity to the peanut butter has gotten worse or if it was just the coconut flour…better to be safe than sorry. I’m not sure why I keep getting blessed with these dogs with strange problems, but then I guess someone thinks I can handle it.

Today has been a little less eventful, but still tiring. Gunner has a great deal of energy, but being so large can’t be just left to his own desires. I never thought all four of our dogs could be nervous around one dog at the same time. Poor Aiden almost climbed our bedroom door trying to get in and get away from him. And Phoenix got slammed around the living room like a ball in one of those old arcade games. Only one and a half more days before his trainer returns…he really isn’t a bad dog, but he just doesn’t understand his size and isn’t used to being cooped up in a house all day. Our cat learned that he doesn’t understand his size when he had her pinned between his paws, not wanting to hurt her, but he’s 105lbs and she is only 13lbs maybe…luckily she’s a good sport about it all.

A Mix of Stuff

This week and a half has been a week of testing for Aiden, he seems to feel comfortable now in his environment and has begun testing us with a vengeance. I guess I should have known this would come sooner or later, but it was like it had all come about all of a sudden. He is such a good boy, but this week he has chewed the plug off Huib’s power saw, then once it was fixed he decided to chew the entire cord off. In addition to this he has chewed my flip flops and decided that obedience is not in his vocabulary right now. I guess now is truly when the fun begins. So he is close to being the same height and length as Cessna and even weighs almost as much as she does. I think he is going to be huge when he finishes all this growing!

Last Wednesday (June 18) was Aspen’s 5th birthday. I can’t believe it has been that long since we picked her up on August 8th, 2003, I guess time does fly. She was so cute when we got her, not that she isn’t cute now, but she was adorable back then. She looked like a yellow lab puppy and would run with Phoenix, but then all of a sudden decide to stop and sit…poor Phoenix couldn’t stop as quickly so would run right over top of her. Aspen would begin yelping and crying and run back to Huib and I…she was such a drama queen! I remember a couple of days after we had gotten her my aunt and Huib were dropping me off at a camp for the week and my aunt almost fell down their crazy steps. She was carrying Aspen so as she fell she made Aspen roll out of her arms and onto the ground so she didn’t get hurt. Well Aspen laid there on the ground for a full 5 minutes not moving even a hair, my poor aunt thought she had hurt my puppy. Well all of a sudden Aspen got to her feet and began running around like a crazy puppy! Well it has been almost 5 years since then and she is still as dramatic as she used to be and Phoenix is still her best buddy. She likes Cessna and Aiden, but she absolutely loves Phoenix and sometimes we think she wishes he’d go get his battery changed or get a new engine. She will run circles around him trying to get him to play with her, but he just doesn’t have the energy to do it these days, I’m not sure what she will do when her best buddy is no longer with us. For her birthday this year she got a stuffed pink teddy that squeaks and a pool to play in when it’s warm.

Last Tuesday (June 17) we took the dogs to the Rockwood Conservation Area to swim. They had such a great time, swam for over 45 minutes and then we went for a walk to the caves and back. It was pretty cool out though so we didn’t get to enjoy our trip overly much, hopefully the warmer weather will soon return. In In the evening though Cessna began to scream whenever she would sit or try and “swish” her tail (Cessna doesn’t wag, she swishes). I was so upset about her screaming because I knew immediately what had happened. She has rudder tail again, she had gotten it the first summer I had her and now again L Rudder tail is from swimming too fast, too hard and for too long…it is sort of like they sprain their tail. I had a feeling I shouldn’t have let her swim so much, but she was having such a great time I didn’t want to make her stop. Well we gave her an Aspirin and it seemed to help dramatically, within about half an hour she was able to sit comfortably. As of Saturday she was fine and her tail no longer looked like it was just pinned to her.

This week has been busy, but fun at the same time. Saturday we were supposed to go to the Multicultural Festival in Kitchener, but it was storming like crazy…the weather these past few weeks has been nothing we’ve ever seen before. On Monday Cessna, my sister and I all headed to Toronto to visit with my friend Lynette and her new guide dog DeeDee. DeeDee is so tiny and so cute. She wasn’t overly sure about Cessna with her energy, but I think after a few times of seeing her DeeDee will understand that Cessna is just playful. This coming weekend we will be having a birthday party for Aspen (5th) and Aiden (6 months). We invited about 15 different dogs and their moms, but only 12 will be attending including my gang. I will post pictures if we get some good ones, last time we had a party for Aspen the pictures didn’t turn out overly well. I know it sounds weird to have a birthday party for your dog and to invite so many other dogs, but I am who I am and well my dogs are not just dogs to me, they are my family. I am always being told that I have too many and that I should get rid of some, but I just tell those people not to come visit if it bothers them because my dogs are all well behaved and get tons of love and exercise so to me that is all that matters.

“Live the life you love , love the life you live.”

Updates & Stuff

I thought I’d first begin this entry by updating everyone on how Teal and Amber are doing at their new homes, then updating everyone on how Lynette is doing at GDB. Teal looks to be doing wonderfully with his foster mom. I have not yet had a chance to get together with her or see her on an outing, but I am sure that soon enough we will cross paths again. Amber has now been with her foster mom for almost 3 weeks and also looks to be improving nicely. We have run into them a couple of times and Amber still seems to have a huge attraction to Aiden, but at least now she is settling down quicker and not stressing when she can’t be near him. Amber seems to be learning things quickly, she rides on the bus every day without any issues and attends school with her foster mom, settling down for a nap once they get into the classroom. The only real concern right now is her fear of traffic. I think with time though she will get through this fear…I guess living in a small village she didn’t encounter much traffic in the first few months. I will post some new pictures of both Teal and Amber once I get some from their foster moms. We will be seeing Amber again on Monday and this will be the first real time her and Aiden will be working side by side…hopefully it will go well.

Lynette has now been at GDB for almost 2 weeks, just one more week to go and she will be on a plane back to Toronto. She was placed with a fairly energetic and challenging female yellow lab at first, but after just a few days the dog began to show a lack of confidence, so Lynette decided that a dog change was necessary. She now has a tiny female black lab who works extremely well, but is also playful and challenging at times. If you are interested in seeing more about how she is doing and learning a little about her former guide, you can visit her blog at http://lynessence.typepad.com/.

Last weekend was a pretty busy one. On Friday we went to a friend’s graduation barbecue and then on Saturday we attended a Labrador retriever breeder show. If that wasn’t enough then Sunday we spent the entire day in Toronto, in the morning we attended the Walk for Autism at Nathan Philips Square and then in the afternoon we walked around Woofstock. The barbecue was fun, we spent about 3 hours there chatting with my friend and listening to stories her friends told about random things. Aiden and Cessna both came with us, Aiden was pretty interested in Jess’s friend’s guide named Cotton. Cotton is a bernese lab cross so is quite large and well energetic to add to it all. Aiden tried to play with Cotton for a while, but Cotton began to be a little too rough with him so we stopped the games. Cotton is over 85lbs and Aiden was 49lbs (now 54lbs!) at that point so we worried about having an Aiden pancake if Cotton were to actually sit on him, which he was trying to do. The lab breeder show was also pretty interesting, we were helping out at the Autism Dog Services booth, but also got a chance to walk around and see the different kennel’s booths and food vendors. Purina was giving out the more interesting stuff, they gave us a bag and told us to take as many treats as we wanted, they weren’t packages, but out loose for people to let their dogs test.

Sunday was very tiring, but fun and a great experience for both Cessna and Aiden. At the walk I stayed with Cessna at the booth, I didn’t want her to get too overheated – it was over 30 degrees celsius out and she is a black lab. At the booth I was with another foster mom and we took turns answering questions about the organization. It is amazing how many people look at the name of the organization and assume we work with autistic dogs…well I really do hope not, but then again are there autistic dogs out there? Another interesting, but strange question we were asked was if the dogs bite…sir I really do hope not, but if they do of course they wouldn’t continue in the program. Since we didn’t have any ADS fosters at the booth during the walk, we decided to put a training coat onto Cessna, people really didn’t notice the difference and to be honest I think she was a pretty good mascot for the organization. People and kids came up asking to pet her and she just laid there sun bathing…Cessna you are a black lab, how can you find sun bathing fun? Some parents told me that Cessna was such a good girl because normally their kids were afraid of dogs, but for some reason were attracted to her. One child asked to give her a treat and well she is the one dog of mine that I completely trust to allow a child to give her something. After the walk was over we headed over to the Eatons Centre to cool down and grab some lunch. At Woofstock there were tons of people and tons of dogs…why do all small dogs seem to have an issue with dogs that are larger than them? While walking through the crowds poor Aiden was snarled at and even snapped at by all sorts of smaller dogs…another question, why do people insist on allowing their dogs to walk on flexi leashes in crowded areas? I would think common sense would tell people to use a shorter leash in such places, but then again not everyone seems to understand common sense. Once we finished walking through all of the exhibits we began our trip back to the car. Aiden was so exhausted, he wanted to stay on the subway train rather than get off and go home. I thought at one point we were going to have to carry him.

This week has been off and on busy as well. Huib has been working a lot and my sister and her cat moved in for the year on Monday. I attended a presentation on Tuesday night at the Legion with Cessna…it was a presentation on K-9 Helpers so it was useful information. On Wednesday I officially began my volunteering with the ABI program at our local long-term care home. It was nice getting to know all of the participants and staff. Cessna slept the entire 2 hours we were there, she is not a morning dog so waking up at 7:30am wasn’t her idea of fun. Today I did my second day of working with K-9 Helpers, I think I am going to really enjoy this job. I have been assigned many different tasks and all seem to have elements that will challenge me both skill wise and comfort wise. I will continue to write updates as time progresses. Right now my main task is to learn all I can about the organization, so not currently a real challenge, but I will make sure I put all my effort into this job because it’s not often that such a wonderful opportunity is set before someone.

“Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”

A Week of New Beginnings

This week has been a week of many doors opening for me. On Monday I met with a local dog trainer (www.dogsinthepark.ca) who I will be apprenticing with, while also helping her with her service dog organization, K9 Helpers. This organization works to train dogs for people with various psychiatric conditions.

As the client support staffer within K9 Helpers, I will be working toward taking over the administration aspects of the organization, while also working within their intake and follow-up programs. When the public calls the office to inquire about the program I will be the one to call people back with the information they request. Using my social work degree I will be able to help the organization re-work their application process, as well as by acting as a liaison between them and the individual client teams. I am really looking forward to the opportunity I have been given to not only use my social work degree, but to also learn things about an area I am passionate about, service dogs.

This week in my apprenticeship I have begun to learn clicker training. I am currently using Cessna as my trial dog, since I might as well work on problems with her before trying to help others with their dogs. She seems to be taking well to clicker training so far, she is beginning to learn what the click sound means and is beginning to re-learn the importance of focusing. On Monday we worked on teaching her that she will only get a treat when she pays attention to me and not to what is being thrown in front of her. Thursday we began to work on teaching her to “choose to heel”. She is a very smart girl, but quite impatient at the same time. She wants to please most of the time, but gets bored easily by training sessions and therefore begins to focus on the person with the treats rather than on the person (me) who she needs to focus on. I think after a while she will begin to learn the meaning of the clicker and the importance of focusing on me and her work, and not on the world around her. I think these training sessions will do wonders for us both; for my shoulder, for my frustrations, and for her overall desire to work hard and help me, help her to enjoy herself even when we aren’t out playing fetch.

Today was a crazy warm day, it got up to 40 degrees celsius with the humidex. Our dogs are not finding this weather too pleasurable, but they will learn to tolerate it after a while. Aiden is having the roughest time adjusting to the warm weather, he was born just before Christmas so this warmer weather is terribly tough to get used to. We went to the mall this afternoon to try and give him a bit of a break from the warmth, we have an air conditioner in our bedroom and a large fan at the end of the hall to help the air circulate, but it still seems a little warm in here. He did quite well at the mall, but I found it hard on my shoulder when he would continually pull down to sniff something. I decided to try a halti for a few seconds just to see if it might make a difference. He hated it, but it at least gave my shoulder some relief, but then we came upon his sister with her foster mom and she was so excited to see him that he also got excited. In that few seconds I pulled back on the leash to try and get him under control, but instead of restraining him the halti came off and the leash went flying over my back and almost hit a woman in the face. I was so shocked at what Huib told me had happened, that I didn’t get a chance to say sorry, but I am sure she understood that it was an accident…an embarrassing one on my part, but definitely an accident. No more haltis for our little guy, I think I’ll just have to find a better way of getting him over his need to pull down on the leash.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
– Albert Einstein

Endora Retires

Thursday (May 29) was the big day for Endora, she has now officially retired. Endora is 7 ½ so will hopefully have a long life of being a pampered pet. Over the almost 6 years that she was with Lynette she moved several times, had a period of being overweight, and then had periods of being on a regular routine and then being on no real routine. Now that Lynette has been hired by the Ontario Government and works 9-5pm everyday Endora has decided that this routine is too much for her and she’d rather retire than continue to work.

Endora will always be my American Princess, she is from GDB and has a lot of personality. If she is not your friend or if she is in a mood she will sit as far away from you as she can, for this I nicknamed her the American Snob. Endora was always a faithful dog and would go anywhere and do anything she could for Lynette. When Lynette was having a bad day, Endora always seemed to know and would be extremely snuggley and affectionate, trying to make Lynette feel better. Endora and I became great friends from day one, I met her about 2 weeks after her and Lynette came home. As soon as I sat down on the couch, she got up beside me and put her head on my lap for some love. Over the years her and I have become closer and I always enjoyed her visits…not sure my cats did, but she always had a way of making us all smile.

Lynette arrived at GDB, California campus, yesterday evening after a day of craziness. I talked with her last night and she seems to be settling in and getting excited about her new friend to come. She took Endora to Halifax where she will be living with her aunt and uncle. The first night there Lynette slept downstairs and since they do not have any carpet on them and they are steep Endora wouldn’t go down, but instead slept in her aunt and uncle’s room. In the morning her aunt leaned over to say hi to Endora and with no time to say a word, Endora was up on the bed and snuggling in between her and her husband. Lynette left her alone at her aunt and uncle’s place a few times while she was there over the weekend and Endora quickly made friends with her uncle, not leaving his side. I think Endora has found her forever home, the home she deserves and the home she will live in until she moves onto the next phase of her life. I will keep everyone posted on how Lynette is doing in class and how Endora is settling in to her new home.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss