Archives for August 2011

New Liskeard

Yesterday Huib and I took Cessna and Rogue into New Liskeard to get some groceries. New Liskeard is about thirty minutes away, and provides many opportunities for getting almost anything you might want. Over the past week, Huib has been working a lot. And the week before, we didn’t really have a lot of desire to go very far from home.

So, we thought it was time to do some more extensive public training with Rogue, practicing her sits, downs, waits and starting to teach her some “loose leash walking”.

Cessna was guiding wonderfully. She was a little distracted by all the seagulls in the parking lot outside New Liskeard’s tiny mall, but she never once made any mistakes. I don’t think she really enjoys the trips where we do less continuous walking, and more practicing/teaching, but she was surprisingly patient.

Rogue was really excited to be out and about. She was eager to get started and investigate the world. Huib first got her to pee before putting on her “Service Dog In Training” jacket, and then proceeded to walk towards the mall doors. He stopped each time Rogue was pulling, and waited for her to return to his side while in the parking lot. This made the short walk, quite long. Once at the doors, Huib had Rogue sit and wait, while he opened it and only calling her through if she was still in the sitting position. Rogue seemed to transfer what we’d been doing with her at home to this situation, so it did not take much time for her to give Huib what he wanted. Once in the mall, she was pretty distracted at first. After having to stop several times, just trying to walk a few feet, I suggested we try using the clicker – clicking and treating when she was in the correct LLW position. It did not take Rogue long to figure out where she needed to be to get a treat, but of course, this being her first real LLW lesson, she will need further instruction. We tend to only use the clicker at home when we’re teaching new behaviours because Huib finds it tough paying attention to Rogue, where Cessna is guiding me, and clicking to be too much work. Now that he has seen how much the clicker is helping with teaching Rogue the correct walking position though, I think he will be more open to using it outside the house. In addition to asking Rogue for LLW, and a sit/wait at all doors, we would only allow her to greet other people if she was sitting nicely. It’s amazing to see how educated people are in the north, about not bothering service dogs, we actually went over to people we heard telling their children not to bother the dogs to ask if we could use them in teaching Rogue manners. When living in Southern Ontario, it wasn’t this difficult to find people, willing to just come up, and ask to pet the dogs lol!

I think the main two successes of this trip were that:
• Rogue did not have one accident

AND

• Rogue didn’t once pull like a sled dog

National Dog Day

Today is National Dog Day. It is an annual event, to bring attention to the dogs in need of homes, and to recognize the pet and working dogs who selflessly provide companionship and safety everyday.

You can learn more about this wonderful event by checking out this link.

Since this blog is mainly dedicated to my life with dogs, I thought, why not write yet another post which honours my canine companions.

First, I’d like to dedicate Bryan Adams’ song You’ve Been A Friend To Me, to them all.

The words of this song, ring so true. My dogs have been with me through thick or thin. They don’t judge me for how I look or for the way I dress. They forgive me for being irrational at times. And they don’t leave my side when I’m ill or in tears.

Each of them has provided me with some level of companionship. And each one has helped me feel safe, both emotionally and physically.

Being married to a nurse means you are alone a lot of the week because they are working anywhere from two to five days, depending on whether they’re doing eight or twelve hours at a time. My dogs are the only reason I can stay home alone in the middle of nowhere and still feel safe. If Cessna hears something, she’ll begin to bark, which alerts the others to either start barking or in Rogue’s case, look out the window behind the couch. Most times it is nothing, or at least I don’t notice anything, but I often wonder if maybe the dogs and their presence is part of what keeps it being nothing.

Cessna has been my dog guide for six years now and not once has she ever put me in harms way. She seems to always know when my attention is somewhere else and will actually shoreline )walk along) a set of stairs she is trying to tell me about with it on her side, until I notice and give her a sign that it is okay to listen to my “forward” command. I have corrected her and/or spoken firmly, trying to get her to obey, but she will continue to use “intelligent disobedience” until she knows I am actually aware of what she is showing me. This has also happened on the sidewalk when there was a barrier to show construction. We were walking to a place I knew well and when Cessna started to move onto the grass, I corrected her and firmly asked for a “forward” because I did not realize the barrier was in our way, and thought she was being silly. She proceeded to try walking onto the grass again, but I still did not realize something was in our way, so corrected her more firmly and ask for a “forward”. At this point, Cessna knew I still did not understand, so sat and just looked up in a questioning manner. It was then, that I realized she had been trying to tell me something and felt out in front of her, finding the construction barrier. I felt like such a jerk! So, I told her how good she was and then asked for a “forward”, she took me onto the grass, around the barrier, and once we were back onto the sidewalk, we had a party! If it weren’t for Cessna’s trust and willingness to “disobey”, I know there could have been times when I would have fallen.

These are just small snippets into my life with the dogs, and how their presence effects me each and every day. If they were not around, I can definitely tell you that I would not feel the same level of companionship and safety, that I do right now.

Thank you Cessna, for putting up with my mistakes and for looking out for my safety.

Thank you Aspen, for the constant smiles and surprising moments of safety you provide.

Thank you Canyon, for making me laugh with your toy obsession, and with watching over the girls (Cessna, Aspen & Rogue) as they play outside.

And, thank you Rogue, for being my snuggle buddy, and for doing your little part in keeping the house free of “invaders”.

Without all of you, life just wouldn’t be the same.

Please try to do a little something special for your canine companions today.

Grieving

These entries are probably getting annoying, but I honestly don’t care because this is my blog, and the loss of Phoenix has left a gaping hole in my heart.

It has been two weeks since Phoenix left us, to walk across the Rainbow Bridge.

This means for…

14 days, I’ve woken up several times a night hoping to hear his shuffling feet or quiet snores.

336 hours, I’ve wondered who met him on his journey.

20,160 minutes, I’ve thought about the incredible memories we’ve shared.

And for 1,209,600 seconds, I’ve wished for just one more moment with him to make sure he’s okay.

I know time will heal these wounds, but right now it seems as though I will never be able to move on without Phoenix by my side.

In respect to the other canine members of the family, Rogue really seems to have matured overnight. It’s like Phoenix has left an ever lasting impression upon her. She still has her moments of silly puppiness, but her attentiveness and ability to learn what is expected of her, seems to have sky rocketed beyond her developmental age.

Cessna and Canyon don’t really seem phased by Phoenix’s absence, but I have noticed a bit more protectiveness over me from Canyon and that they just seem to be a little a little less energetic.

Here’s a picture my sister took of Phoenix and Cessna while she was attending Georgian College and we had brought them to visit her in residence.

Aspen is a little more noticeably bothered by the absence of her best friend. She lies by the door or the kitchen sink all day, where she can watch for Phoenix to return to his favourite sleeping spot. Her stomach seems to have improved since our return from London (where she had horrible bouts of diarrhea for days after Phoenix left), but she really doesn’t seem to have much energy to play. And, she doesn’t really want to pay much attention to us or even sleep in our room at night.

This picture was taken in the fall of probably 2007, on a side street near our Guelph condominium.

This picture was taken before I was placed with Cessna, so most likely in the summer of 2004 or spring of 2005.

Rest in peace our friend, we’re all feeling your absence, but know you’ll continue to watch over us for as long as you can.

Back To School

In June, I talked about wanting to return to school. I had decided to register as a non-degree student, and am hoping to take a course or two each semester between now and the fall of 2013. I’m tired of doing nothing, other than training with my dogs, reading books and cleaning the house. I know Huib does not hold my inability to get a job against me, but I still feel as though I’m wasting my life, sitting around.

Yesterday was the start of course selection, so Huib logged into my student profile, and registered me for this course.

When I was a student at the University of Guelph from 1999 to 2004, I majored in Criminal Justice & Public Policy, which primarily meant I took courses from the sociology and political sciences departments. I really enjoyed the political sciences, so focused mainly in this area when I had a choice, so there are actually very few courses left for me to take now that I am re-entering student life.

I was attracted by this new course, Governing Criminal Justice, because not only will it focus on areas that interest me, but it is also primarily writing based, and there is no final examination. I haven’t done a final exam in over four years, so I thought it would be best to start off taking a course that was writing based, since this is something I’m quite good at. I am not a creative writer, but give me a topic to research and I have no issues producing a paper that might just knock your socks off.

I’m not sure what the future holds in terms of my ability to find employment, but in the meantime I think I’ll try and better my educational background, so that I might be able to complete a masters when we move back to Southwestern Ontario.

Just Canyon & Rogue

Here are some random pictures from the past few weeks that we found on the camera.

It’s tough being a puppy…

Rogue, you’re supposed to be doing something…other than playing!

Isn’t he a handsome boy?

Rogue Randomness

I thought I’d post an entry about some random Rogue news.

I got a message from Rogue’s breeder the other day and was informed that our first choice for her registered name has gone through!

Now, without further a due, let me present to you…

RLR’s Babe In Total Control

Doesn’t this formal name seem so fitting?

I wanted it to actually be Babe In Total Control Of Herself (see what the first letters of each word put together gives you?), but the Canadian Kennel Club only allows for thirty characters, including the breeder’s name, punctuation and spaces.

You’re probably all wondering where this name came from. Well, I was reading some of the entries Jess, of At A Glacial Pace,
wrote before I knew her and was inspired by this particular one.

In other news. Huib helped me measure Rogue the other day, and she’s huge! At just over 4 months of age, she is already 17 inches tall, 15 inches long, and about 30lbs!!

To give you all a comparison, we also measured Canyon, who is a 2 year old intact male golden retriever. He is 22 inches tall, 22 inches long and 77lbs! To be honest though, I actually thought Canyon was taller than that, since Cessna and Aspen are actually around the same height lol!

The changes in Rogue that we’ve noticed over the past week seem to be staying. It’s almost like we’ve mixed up our puppy with someone else’s. She was never a bad puppy, but she just seems so much further in her training and maturity than before our trip to London/Guelph last week. I’m not sure if it’s going to be short lived, or if witnessing Phoenix’s departure caused the changes, but it’s honestly mind boggling. She’s still testing us when it comes to her recall, but it’s like all of a sudden, she’s able to chill for long periods of the day, she’s extremely attentive and people oriented, and her obedience commands seem to be clicking. She’s also down to having about an accident every 2-4 days, so I think she’s well on her way to being house trained.

Yesterday Huib and I thought we’d take all the dogs into town to do some training in a park. Aspen will never be a competition dog, she’s just to timid and set in her ways, but we thought she could use the practice and might like being more involved. Cessna on the other hand could always use the practice and we knew she would be a great role model for the others, so of course she came along.

There is a sheltered area in the park where they’ve set up several benches around the edges, so we attached everyone’s leash to a spot where they couldn’t bother one another. Then, we had everyone go into a down and started to walk from dog to dog, only giving out treats if they were in the same position we left them in. this is an exercise I learned during my classes with Dogs In the Park.

Cessna was an absolute star, not budging once from her down-stay. She had some trouble with her sit-stays though, always going back into a down after I walked away or within a few seconds of getting her treat, so we’ll need to work on those.

Aspen was actually surprisingly good at remaining in her down and for part of the lesson, in her sits.

Canyon was pretty good at his down-stays, but I think he got bored after a bit so would try seeing if I noticed him get up lol! I’d just wait and then walk over quickly with a reward if he went back down. His sit-stays were non-existent though, so we’ll definitely have to practice.

With Rogue I am using the word “wait” because I don’t want to teach the “stay” until she is ready for her guiding commands. The “stay” command is really important in guiding so I don’t want to teach it wrong. She did pretty well with her down-waits, holding some for as long as 3-5 minutes before getting up again. I haven’t really done something like this with her, so I was quite impressed with how well she caught on. Like the others, her sit-waits were pretty terrible, but I’d have to say they were definitely better than Cessna and Canyon’s lol!

I think Huib and I are going to try and do these group lessons at least once a week, since they seemed to give Aspen some confidence and Rogue and Canyon will benefit from the distractions – especially if I want to trial with them.

I’ll try and get Huib to take some pictures next time we’re at the park, we had forgotten the camera on the coffee table.

Time Moves On

1 week ago…

I lost my friend.

7 days ago…

I lost a loyal companion.

168 hours ago…

I lost a teacher.

10080 minutes ago…

I said good bye to my free-spirited boy.

604800 seconds ago…

I had to leave behind the one, who taught me the true value of unconditional love.

Rest in peace my beautiful, old boy…

Who Stole My “Get Up And Go”

I have no motivation to do anything.

I have no real desire to play fetch with Canyon.

I have no energy to train with Rogue.

I have no will to get up from the couch and do anything more than surf the internet or read a book.

I’m so blessed to have the dogs I do.

While I write this blog entry…

Rogue is using my hip as a pillow.

Canyon is napping by my feet.

Cessna is sprawled out on the love seat.

And aspen is snoozing by the side door.

I guess we’re all lacking in the motivation department.

Four Months Old

Today Rogue is four months old.

Here are 4 new commands she has learned this month:

1. Down
2. Off (used when she jumps up or to have her get off furniture)
3. Leave It
4. Up (used to have her jump up onto furniture or into the truck)

This past month has been a little stressful with Phoenix, so we really haven’t had a chance to do too much with our little girl.

Other than some training each day at home, we’ve taken Rogue and Cessna to see two movies at a local theatre (Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows and Pirates of The Caribbean), in addition to the usual shopping adventures, when Huib has had some time off.

Otherwise, Rogue has already gotten four of her very front adult teeth, and has almost grown out of her first collar and puppy coat.

Here are some pictures from our St. Jacob’s Market trip we took last month.

Phoenix Has Taken Flight

I know most of you probably already know, but Phoenix, left us on Thursday afternoon.

I’ve lost…

My beloved companion.

My loyal friend.

And, the one who taught me the value of unconditional love.

It was a tough decision, but I knew it was what he wanted. Dr B felt he was telling us he was tired and needed to rest. She checked him over thoroughly and found nothing obviously wrong, except that his heart was beating rapidly. Huib says his heart was probably filling up with toxins from not eating and using up his own energy reserves. Dr B told us she could do some tests, to check for cancer or give him pain killers to see if he improved, but she felt he had already made his decision.

Phoenix has always lived his life on his own terms, so it just seems fitting that he would be the one to decide when to leave.

It’s been a rough couple of days, but I know he’s enjoying his new home with friends and family of both the human and canine variety.

I know he’ll always be with me in spirit.

And I know it will take time for the wounds to heal.

It’s just lonely around here without hearing him shuffling around or snoring lightly in the night.

Rest in peace my sweet, old friend.

We’ll all miss you, but know you’re in a better place.

I’m still here

I stood beside your bed last night
I came to have a peek
I could see that you were crying
You found it hard to sleep
I whined to you softly
As you brushed away a tear
“It’s me, I haven’t left you,
I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast
I watched you pour the tea
You were thinking of the many times
Your hands reached down to me
I was with you at the shops today
Your arms were getting sore
I longed to take your parcels
I wish I could do more
I was with you at my grave today
You tend it with such care
I want to reassure you
That I’m not lying there
I walked with you toward the house
As you fumbled for your key
I gently put my paw on you
I smiled and said “It’s me.”
You looked so very tired
And sank into a chair
I tried so hard to let you know
That I was standing there
It’s possible for me to be
So near you everyday
To say to you with certainty
“I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly
Then you smiled, I think you knew
In the stillness of that evening
I was very close to you.
The day is over…
I smile and watch you yawning
And say “Good night, God bless,
I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right
For you to cross the brief divide
I’ll rush across to greet you
And we’ll stand side by side
I have so many things to show you
There is so much for you to see
Be patient, live your journey out
And then come home to be with me