Archives for April 2011

Two Weeks Old!

The puppies are now sixteen days old!!

Cheyenne’s Girls

Cheyenne’s Boys

Karen also posted a short video of the puppies in the Red Labrador Retriever Facebook group, but I wasn’t sure how to upload and transcribe it. If you’d like to see the video, please visit the group’s page.

Please stay tuned for further updates and pictures!!

Could You Imagine?

For the past few months I’ve been reading “Best Friends Forever” by Jennifer Wiener and today came upon an “OMG!” moment.

Adelaide Downs is lying in bed thinking about the moment which caused her to realize her weight is not only unhealthy, but is creating barriers to life. In her mind’s eye, she is walking along a street and notices a sign advertising the dessert of the day and decides to go into the restaurant for a treat. The diner is small and has only booths so she knows from the moment she enters that the trip will not go well. After squeezing herself into the tight space between the booth and table, she looks at the menu and overhears a little boy ask his mom why the woman next to them is so large. The mom tells the little boy that it’s because she eats too much and makes bad food choices. Hearing this makes Addie uncomfortable, so she decides to quickly order a bowl of soup and leave. When she’s done though, she tries to stand up and is horrified to learn that she’s stuck! Then to make matters worse, she notices the little boy watching her struggle.

Reading this made me feel terrible. I thought about how awful it must have been for Addie to be in this situation and began thinking about my own weight and wondering if this could some day happen to me. I’m not a huge person, but I’m also not a healthy weight either. I’ve tried cutting this and that out of my diet and have tried convincing myself to go on our treadmill at least once a day, but right now I just don’t have the desire to stick with it. I also understand the risks surrounding my weight, but so far have just not found the spark I require to light my will power to become healthier. I know it will come some day, but I’m just hoping it won’t be too late.

It’s funny to think of all the obsessing I do over keeping my dogs slim and healthy, when to do this for myself seems to be so difficult.

Did You correct Him?

“When you like someone, you like them in spite of their faults. When you love someone, you love them with their faults.” – Hermann Hesse

Today, a friend and I were talking on MSN about how long we have had our dog guides and about our feelings leading up to the “big” day. We talked about some of the emotions we experienced and then began discussing the moment we put down our white canes. For me, it’s almost been fourteen years since I picked one up, but for him the white cane still comes out from time to time. I thought this was interesting and told him about Phoenix’s reaction to people who use a white cane.

It was at this point, he asked the question which inspired today’s post.
Friend – “Did you correct him?”
Me – “the first few times, but it did nothing so I just asked friends to fold up their canes and take my arm.”
Friend – “Well, my school teaches us…”

Are there others out there like me, who choose to just manage a “quirk”? or is it strange that I choose to accept these imperfections rather than punish my dogs?

As I mentioned in an earlier post
and then again in this post,
my dogs are not good for everyone, but they are perfect for me.

Ever since I received Phoenix in July of 1998, he has had an obsession with grabbing or bumping the white canes of people who walk past. The first few times I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but after I understood, I tried correcting him for it. He was not deterred by my corrections though, so after a couple months or maybe a year of trying to get him to stop, I just started managing the behaviour. I know this probably isn’t what other programs would want me to do, but this is how I’ve chosen to react and it seems to work for us. In most cases people usually just laugh when I explain why their cane just fell out of their hands or did a funky jolt. It can be a little embarrassing at times, but usually if I know someone is coming towards us with a cane, I’ll just stop and ask Phoenix to sit or try and stay between him and the person walking by. Phoenix isn’t trying to hurt anyone, he just seems to get a kick out of people’s reactions I guess!

I think Cessna’s most notable “flaw” is her never ending desire to chase small animals. No matter how much I corrected her or tried to discourage the behaviour, she still continues to jump around like a kangaroo in harness when a squirrel, bird or chipmunk scurries by. I remember the first few walks with her in training. We’d be walking along at jet speed and then all of a sudden my left arm would quickly shoot further to the left or right with an almost bouncing motion. I’d stop, tell her that was enough (while pulling back hard on the leash) and ask the trainer what the heck had just happened. He’d tell me that a squirrel had just run by and explain that she was excited because in Quebec (but, she was raised in Ontario) they don’t really have many – yeah, right! Well, after six years of working, Cessna’s still just as excited by those elusive little critters. Instead of yanking her back and getting upset by her reactions though, I’ve learned to just go with the flow. When I feel her getting excited, I’ll stop, ask for a sit and continue walking when she’s calmer. If we’re walking through a park though, I know she’ll be on high alert so I often just resort to putting on her newtrix and avoid the possibility of having my shoulder dislocated – she may be small, but she’s pure muscle!

These little eccentricities are part of what makes me love my dogs.

How many people can say their guide dog dislikes white canes?

Or that they have a guide kangaroo?

What are some of the “unprofessional” behaviours your service dog exhibits, that you’ve decided to celebrate instead of punish?

Guest Blogging

Jana Rade from
Dawg Business, asked me to write an entry for her blog about Phoenix and his life-long struggles with ear infections. She asked me to discuss the long process we had to undertake in order to discover what was causing his issues, what worked, what didn’t and how recently changing him to the raw diet and Dr B’s homeopathic regiment, has made a huge difference in his ear problems and overall health.

Here’s a direct quote from the blog to let you all know what Dawg Business is all about – “Owner-to-owner things I’ve learned about dogs and dog care. Sharing what I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. At the end, your dog’s health is in your hands.”. I hope you will visit her blog and see the wealth of information she has put together for all of us to enjoy.

When my post is up, I’ll let you all know.

Am I Weird?

Today, Phoenix is officially fourteen and a half!

Am I weird to celebrate such a milestone???

A friend of mine thinks I am, but then he always seems to think I do strange things with my dogs. He thinks it’s strange that I host birthday parties for them and that I even fill their stockings at Christmas.

What do you think??

In my opinion…

I think having Phoenix reach fourteen and a half is a real milestone to celebrate!

He had such a rough time at Christmas, but rose “from the ashes”, a really fun way of describing it – seeing as his name is Phoenix, right?

I feel that every day he’s still with us is a day worth celebrating, but that would get a little expensive so why not just celebrate every six months, right??

Well, Huib doesn’t think I’m crazy (I sure do love that guy!), so we’re going to order Phoenix a new collar from Silverfoot and make him some gluten free cupcakes again to share with his canine buddies. Since he’s working all weekend though, I think we’ll do it on Monday, so maybe Dawsen can come join in on the fun as well.

Happy fourteen And A Half Birthday Phoenix!!

You’ve changed my life in ways you’ll never know and I will cherish every day you choose to stay and walk along beside me.

Lesson Six

Canyon and I had our sixth lesson with the Border Collie lady. It’s sad to think that next week will be our second last indoor obedience lesson before we start outdoor agility, but she has had to change her classes to Thursday nights and already has someone booked for 9:00pm privates, so I guess we’ll just have to go with the changes. Last night, Canyon wasn’t as into practicing some of the behaviours, but I think his lack of enthusiasm was because we had started the session off with a high energy “game” and then moved onto less exciting things. I think that next week we’ll just have to do the new “game” at the end of the session, so the more practical task work won’t be as boring to him.

This week she decided to teach me a new way of ramping up canyon’s excitement level in order to get him to do quicker retrieves and recalls. This new “game” is supposed to help him want to quickly run out for a toy and immediately rush back and give it to me, so I’ll toss it again. She feels this skill is necessary for him to be successful at both Flyball and Agility – she’s still showing a little bit of iffiness regarding me and agility, but I’m determined to win her over lol! So, for this “game”, she had me toss a ball and then when he reached it, I started waving around another ball and calling him back all excited and cheery. Canyon has a high ball drive so he thought this game was the best thing I’d ever asked him to play lol! He began to get faster and faster at returning to drop the toy and play a quick tug game, before I asked him to “give it” (release the ball we were playing tug with) and then tossed it for him to retrieve and start the cycle over. around the fifth toss though, Canyon decided he liked one toy over the other and would start ignoring my efforts to play tug and just paraded the other toy he’d just retrieved in front of me lol! We tried to convince him to give it up, but ended up having to just take his collar and throw the other toy, so he’d gladly bring it back for a quick tug game and then retrieve. She asked me to keep playing this game with him and to maybe look at getting two of the same toys so he won’t end up favouring one over the other.

We then tried to do some “heel” work, but Canyon was too riled up to concentrate. He kept running between me and the box where we had put the toys because I only had a treat and he wanted to play the other game again. After a couple unsuccessful attempts at getting his attention, I decided to do some more basic stuff like “sits”, “downs”, “stands” and some “stays” so he would relax a bit. He didn’t really completely settle, but I was able to keep his attention a little easier after a few minutes, so we decided to do some “fronts” instead of heeling. His fronts are coming along. He seems to come in really straight every time I throw a treat to the right or ahead of me now, but still doesn’t seem to come in as straight if I throw it to the left and ask him to come. The border Collie lady tried doing some fronts with him to see if she could figure out what I’m doing wrong when I throw a treat to the left, but he seemed to do it with her as well, so we’re a little perplexed. After he had been doing really straight ones for a while, we decided to test him and see if he was ready to practice while I leaned against a table in a sort of squat/stand position. He came into a pretty straight front about two times, but then started coming in crooked more often than not, so we moved back to sitting on the edge of a chair. I’m sort of feeling as though we’re moving too slowly on learning the fronts, but I’m sort of stuck on how to help Canyon move a little quicker in his learning. It’s sort of like he just doesn’t care or he doesn’t really understand why we’re doing this in the first place. I’ve found it easy to teach him some behaviours like “sit”, “down”, “stand”, “give five”, “leave it”, “give it” and “wait”, but I’ve pretty much failed in teaching him to “touch”, “stay for longer than a minute, to “heel”, to not turn his head when I’m reaching for a toy and now the “front” seems to be another place we’re stuck.

Since getting Canyon over a year ago, I’ve really had to learn to think outside the box because he’s highly sensitive (can’t even handle the sound of a martin gale collar) and isn’t overly food motivated. As mentioned in earlier posts, Canyon didn’t know much of anything when we first got him, so we had to first work on getting rid of some of his undesirable habits he had (mouthing, jumping up & pacing) and teaching him his name, before we could move on to the skills he would need for being a well-behaved family pet. He learned his basic obedience commands quickly, but once I started to try and teach him some more complicated behaviours such as heeling and stay, I noticed his eagerness to learn disappeared. I’m not sure if it is something I’m doing wrong. Or if he’s just going to take more time to learn these behaviours, but I sort of feel as though I might be asking too much of him. When Aspen was young, we tried to teach her as much as we could before she turned six months because her breeder warned us that she may choose not to be as compliant after that and to be honest, she was right. Aspen knows how to “sit”, go “down”, “to heel”, “give five”, “wait” and “come”, but those are all skills she learned before six months. Since then we’ve tried to teach her new skills like “speak”, but she just doesn’t seem to have the desire to learn. I guess we’ll wait and see how our lessons progress this summer because I really don’t want to give up and just accept that Canyon wants to be a regular pet, but I often wonder if this is what he’s trying to tell me.

His number one love in life are toys, so I think I need to figure out a way of always incorporating them into our training. The problem with toys though, is that he becomes so excited and obsessed with the toy that I’m finding it hard to get his attention and “working” for what he wants. But, when I just use treats he doesn’t seem to have the drive and enthusiasm for learning new things that a toy ignites.

Puppy News!!

On Saturday, I got an e-mail from RLR
letting us know that Cheyenne had delivered a little earlier than planned. She was supposed to have them yesterday, but they actually came during the night Wednesday (April 13th). Karen (breeder) told us the night was pretty long and stressful because one of the puppies tried to come out the wrong way, so after pushing a while Cheyenne’s contractions slowed and she ended up having to deliver the rest via c-section. All of the puppies survived though and Cheyenne is doing well, but sadly this will most likely be her final litter.

Now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

Cheyenne delivered three boys and four girls!

The Girls

The boys

As long as all goes well, and one of the girls scores high enough on the puppy aptitude test that’s done around five or six weeks of age, then we’ll be able to pick up our little bundle of fur June 11th or 12th.

I’ll continue posting updates and pictures as they come.

Everyone’s got An Opinion

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

The above quote, was taken from a Twitter feed I follow, that sends out random quotes about life. I know I’ve been blogging a lot about things I’ve read, that were inspiring, but I’m hoping everyone enjoys the break from hearing solely about the fur babies.

When I read the above quote a few days ago, I began thinking about my aunts and how they seem to find it necessary to criticize other family member’s life choices, but seem to overlook the fact that their decisions haven’t been much better.

I know constantly being told what to do or what you’re doing wrong, is just part of being the “younger” generation of a family, but my sister and I seem to be even more of a target now that we’re older and Mom’s not around to defend us. I try and keep my distance. Try not to have to be in a situation where I’ll be alone with an “interrogator”, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Maybe it’s partly because I can’t see well enough to know when others are leaving the room. Or maybe it’s because I’m just too nice, but it always seems to happen at a family gathering and it’s gotten to the point where I dread having to attend.

My family thinks Huib is the greatest guy ever. They have no complaints when it comes to him and my decision to get married, but they still find ways of sticking their two cents into our relationship. They find it necessary to give me advice on having a successful marriage – which they haven’t succeeded in doing themselves, so I’m not sure how their advice is going to help me. They like criticizing the way I interact with Huib and ask why he doesn’t want to go outside with the “boys” rather than just sitting with me – because that’s what all guys do right? And then when I’m thoroughly annoyed, one of the aunts begin asking if we want kids and when I explain that things just haven’t worked out the way we’d like, they proceed to ask if we’ve actually been trying….well, isn’t that self-explanatory? AND is it really your business? I guess it just seems strange to them that their own children could be popping out babies without any real effort, but Huib and I are having trouble.

Then, after all that is over, we come to the weight questions… So you’ve gained some weight since the last time I saw you… – you don’t think I’ve noticed? Have you looked at your own belt size? Oh, the things I would love to say if I weren’t a caring and patient person lol! When I just sit there with a look of shock on my face, someone will proceed to begin advising me on how to lose the extra weight, which would be fine if they, themselves weren’t also fighting a weight issue. It seems as though our family’s genes just aren’t conducive to being thin.

It’s funny to observe them though when the tables have turned. When people begin criticizing them or asking them questions and giving “advice”. They just sit there and go red, not out of embarrassment, but anger because they see the questions as a personal attack. This is when one usually ends up crying or leaving because someone hurt their feelings or offended them.

Do you have any people in your life that you wish could take a moment, and just look in the mirror?

True Equality

“Until the disabled community gets behind the concept of access for all we will never have true equality. Access for most doesn’t count.”

The above statement, was written by our friends over at The Dog House about a week ago – hope she doesn’t mind me posting it here.

Over the years, disability advocates have fought to have the rights of “their” group recognized. Their members bring forth inequalities and the “leaders” begin lobbying the various levels of government for change. Small changes happen each year because of their efforts, but it always seems to be one group working to change policies and practices for their specific “issue” rather than trying to lobby for shifts in policies and practices which will benefit all disabled Canadians. It seems as though the various disability groups are afraid that if they were to ask for changes that will help everyone, then maybe “their” particular fight wouldn’t seem as important.

I did a quick Google search and found these two references that sort of illustrate my above thoughts.

This link, will take you to the Canadian Human rights Commission, where there is a publication that describes different changes that have occurred in the areas of ATM accessibility, equal rights in the tax courts and accommodations for disabled government workers. With further digging, I learned that that in all cases, the changes were brought about because one disability group complained about an inadequacy and not because the “disability community” as a whole saw it as a problem.

This link, will take you to a blog (I think) where the writer discusses changes that have come about over the past 50 years and shows how disability groups campaign against one another in an effort to bring forth “their” plights as being more important and often refuse to celebrate the successes of others.

I’m not sure if you’ll see these links as true illustrations of what I am describing, but they will at least give you a glimpse in the right direction.

Canadians with disabilities are far better off now than they were even thirty years ago, but I think we could have come much further if it were not for the ongoing attempts to outshine one another. In my opinion, no disability group is better or worse off than the other. We all face barriers in our everyday lives, so maybe instead of trying to work against one another, we should try and work together because until then I don’t see there ever being “true equality.”

Seminar & Other Stuff

This weekend, Huib, Cessna and I attended a breeding seminar with Amy from Me And My Pups. the seminar was being hosted by The Labrador Owners Club so of course their were several lab breeders in attendance, as well as, a table of West Highland White Terrier breeders, a Duck Toller breeder, a couple Wheaten breeders, a man who breeds Old English Sheepdogs, a woman who breeds golden retrievers and some others that I can’t remember.

Dr. Carmen Battaglia, a breeder, lecturer, researcher and author of “Breeding Dogs To Win”, was the presenter for the two day seminar. He taught us an easier way of understanding the pedigree of dogs through the introduction of “stick dog” figures, and a “symbols” pedigree. By using these two methods, breeders are better able to visualize the strengths and weaknesses of their females in order to find a stud that will help alleviate some of their weak traits or compliment their strengths. I found the seminar to be a bit on the more visual side, but also found it educational. Huib and I are not looking at getting a breeding female until Phoenix crosses the rainbow bridge, so have tons of time to collect pedigrees and learn all we can about the “missing” pieces of a traditional pedigree – such as the health concerns and structural traits of the ancestors.

On Sunday we began our journey home and experienced some problems with the truck around Oshawa. Luckily Amy was still with us, so we called CAA and had the truck towed to a dealership near her parent’s place. We stayed the night and had the truck examined the following morning. I was pretty frustrated by the lack of attention the dealership gave us, but was happy when they finally called to say we could pick it up around 5:30pm and head north. Phoenix, Aspen and Canyon had stayed with my step-dad and sister while we were away so I was eager to get home and pick them up. My Dad and sister are great with the dogs, but for some reason Aspen was stressed and having issues with her incontinence so I was pretty worried about her and annoyed that we would be delayed in returning. Aspen has had issues with incontinence since she was young, but for the most part it doesn’t happen often – just when she’s had too much water or when she is feeling stressed. While with my sister, she had about two or three incidents a day, which is unusual, so I really wanted to get back to her. Since we picked them up Monday night, she has not had an issue…

On Sunday I also sent an e-mail to the breeder who owns Canyon’s sire and brother to see how Phoenix’s (brother) clearances had gone. Judi was taking Phoenix to have his clearances done that morning, so I was eager to learn about his eyes. Well, it turns out that Phoenix also has scarring on the retina of his right eye in addition to folds. As far as I know, retinal folds are an issue common in the collie breeds (not so much in golden retrievers), but in Phoenix’s case, Huib is wondering if it might not be related to whatever caused the scarring in the two brothers. He is thinking that maybe Phoenix had the infection or whatever slightly worse in his right eye, causing inflammation that left the folds. I think it would be interesting to find out if their sisters also have the scarring, but since they are most likely just pet dogs, I don’t think we’ll ever know. With this news, Judi has begun the process of finding Phoenix a new home because it is not possible for her to keep a dog who cannot be in her program. I really wish we had known this a few months ago because I know Brandi would have adopted him for sure, but she now has Dawsen and doesn’t think she could handle another dog at this point.

Here’s a picture of Dawsen from one of our many walks in the winter.

Yesterday Canyon and I had our fifth training session with the Border Collie lady and again it went well. Brandi came along to watch so she could see what we were learning and if she would like to do something similar with Dawsen. We did some “lefts” and “rights”, practiced the “heel” position a bit more and worked on his “fronts”. Then, we started teaching him to “go around” so that in the summer he will be ready for Flyball lessons. I thought he would be too big for Flyball, but the Border Collie lady thinks that his obsession with balls will work well in this sport.

As an aside, I’m sort of getting the impression that she isn’t sure I will be able to be successful in agility with my dogs since I won’t be able to run the course with them. I’ve tried to explain that I could stand in the middle and direct them, but I’m not sure she sees how it is possible to be successful…so I guess I’ll just have to show her how it’s done. Does anyone else know of a blind or visually impaired person who has done agility with their dogs?

After the session was over, we talked a bit about the seminar I had attended on the weekend and she really thinks that we should show Canyon even once for the experience. So, Huib has said that if the Temiskaming Kennel Club has their show in new Liskeard this summer, that he would be willing to show Canyon for me – could I be rubbing off on him? Then, just before we were leaving the Border Collie lady asked my sister if she had a dog and Brandi told her about Dawsen. After listening to the concerns Brandi had, she asked if she would be interested in attending some obedience classes and Brandi said she’d love to. So, Dawsen will be starting his classes next Thursday!! Brandi wants me to come along, but Huib and I both told her that we think it would be better for her to do this on her own with Dawsen because part of the issue is that she worries about what others think and relies on us to help her, so it’s time they did some real work together and develop a more respectful relationship. I’ll keep you all posted on how their classes go…

Before I end this post, I thought I’d let you all know that our potential puppy is due on Monday (April 18th). Cheyenne is the dam of this litter and her breeder feels that one of her girls might be a good fit for us. They tend to be a little more independent minded and she finds them a little harder to place in homes because they need more experienced handlers and more stimulation. Our ideal puppy is exactly what she has described, so we’re quite eager to hear about the litter and to find out how well they score on the aptitude test. We’re still waiting for the pedigrees and clearances the breeder was supposed to send us, but are hoping that this delay isn’t a sign that we should be looking elsewhere. I think I’ll e-mail her again and give her my sister’s address in addition to the hospital’s fax number and my e-mail address in the hopes that it’s just our mail service that is the issue.