Archives for August 2011

Feeling Helpless

It will soon be a month, since Phoenix started refusing food. It’s been a really tough month.

Especially the past few days.

I feel as though I should be doing something.

But, I’m at a loss for what to do.

We’ve tried feeding him anything he will take. This worked at first, but now he’s refusing everything.

We’ve tried forcing him to eat, but this only works to a point. We put homemade beef jerky or hot dogs onto his tongue near the back and wait until he swallows.

Today, we’ve decided to try creating a puree. Huib got some catheter syringes from work so we can squeeze the puree into his cheek and wait for him to swallow. We’ve been doing this with his glucosamine and anti-inflammatory for the past couple of days, and it really seems to be working out, so we’re hoping the pureed food idea will as well.

I know we’re grasping at straws here, but I can’t just sit back and watch him dwindle away because I didn’t try everything possible to save him.

Tomorrow at 1:00pm, we have an appointment with Dr B. I’m not sure what she will tell us, but I don’t foresee it being good. I think we’ll have some blood drawn, and have her look him over, but I’m not sure what else she will do.

Phoenix still gets up to drink water and go outside. But, he spends the rest of the day, sleeping. I try bringing him over to wherever we’re sitting, but often he’ll just get up and go to his favourite spots to sleep.

I really feel as though I’m about to lose my beloved companion.

This picture was taken around Christmas time, a few weeks after his recovery from his sudden onset of Idiopathic vestibular Disease.

I just hope it’s on his terms, and not through a decision I may be forced to make.

Fun In the Sun

Red Labrador Retrievers reunion.

Cessna is really hard to take pictures of, so we rarely get any good ones to post.

Canyon sure does like that toy!

Canyon, Cessna and Rogue joined Huib and I in Waterloo.

Even the old guy wanted in on the summer fun.

Still a Mommy’s Boy.

This was a really neat picture Huib got.

Canyon’s Obsession

Canyon ABSOLUTELY LOVES toys, especially balls.

He’ll do anything to get a toy.

If Canyon sees anything on a walk that resembles a toy, he’ll pull towards it and won’t give up until he gets the okay to go over and check it out – he actually found his red Planet Dog ball, this way.

If another dog or human is playing with a toy, Canyon has to get it. He can’t just ignore it, he must figure out a way of getting it for himself. This is part of why the girls (Cessna & Aspen) refuse to play with him, I think. And why, I cannot have any of my many stuffed animals laid out in plain sight.

When we come home, Canyon will always greet us at the door with some sort of toy in his mouth. If there are no toys available, he’ll grab a couch pillow or sock.

Canyon loves the game fetch.

He’ll continually bring a toy over to you, trying to entice you to play with him. He’ll touch you lightly on the hand with the toy, and if you move, he’ll move it away quickly, hoping you’ll come with him to the door. If you don’t pay attention, he’ll start to pace, until you either take it away and put it out of sight, or give in and play.

If Canyon leaves one of his toys outside, or one of the other dogs leaves one, he’ll stare out the window or pace by the door until someone lets him out to get it. We’ve tried ignoring him, but he won’t stop until the toy is safely back inside.

Canyon’s toy drive is so extreme, that we actually won’t allow the other dogs to play fetch at the same time. When someone throws the toy, Canyon just gets so focused on getting it first, that he doesn’t watch where he’s running, or who is running with him.

He’s sent Cessna flying, when he collided with her back end.

He’s injured Rogue, running over her when she stopped in front of him.

And, worse of all, he gave Aspen a concussion, when he collided with her head.

I know we should be trying to curb his toy drive, but it’s also something that makes Canyon who he is and therefore, we just accepted it as one of the many Canyonisms.

Swimming, Swimming

Here are some of the pictures I promised you all, from Rogue’s first swimming adventure.

Rogue isn’t so sure this is a good idea…

There she goes!

Guess she wasn’t a big fan…

Looks as though our little Rogue puppy is more of a land lover.

Guess she’s all ready to go…

A Companion By My Side

Fourteen years ago today, I met my first dog guide, Gryphon.

Gryphon was a very tall, slim, male black Labrador Retriever. His birthday was November 11th, 1995, and his litter had been donated to the LFC by a breeder in Blind River Ontario. Gryphon and his litter mates were sponsored by the Oakville Police Department, so were given “G” names associated with policing. I never got to meet any of his siblings, but heard that only Gryphon and Gentry made it into training. Gentry was renamed Gillis by his handler and became a Special Skills Dog. Their brothers, Gambler and Gunner, had been disqualified.

Since I was a new handler, the trainers decided to give me a “gentle giant”. Gryphon was playful and loving. He obeyed every command, and never really asked for anything. He was a great “learner” dog.

The other people in my class were matched with dogs that suited their needs as well. Jennifer from Toronto, received a spunky little female black lab named Jenna. Jenna was Jennifer’s second dog, so the trainers felt she could handle a more demanding companion. I stayed in touch with Jennifer for several years after we’d been in class together, so it was tough to learn of Jenna’s passing at the age of 11 from leukemia.

Dan, from Newmarket, was matched with a little, male black lab named Brock. Brock was also Dan’s second dog, so his spunkiness was no problem for him. I only kept in touch with Dan for a year after our class, but saw the two of them in newmarket, a year or so before Phoenix retired. Brock was about 10 at the time and had obtained a couple of obedience titles during their working relationship. I heard that Dan was matched with a new dog named Atlas, a year or so after I received Cessna, so I’m guessing Brock has since passed away.

The man from Kitchener, Carey, was matched with a stubborn, two year old male, yellow lab named Winston. Carey and Winston had a rocky relationship from the start, so it was no surprise to hear that Winston had been retired after just a year and Carey had received a new dog named Argus. Argus retired a year or so before Phoenix, so Carey ended up with a small female black lab named Shasta and as far as I know they are still working together.

The older man from Alberta, Earl, received a reissue named Murray. Murray was a big, 4 year old male black lab who had been returned after his former handler became too ill to care for him. It was neat to see how quickly the two of them bonded.

The 25 year old man, Lee, from Alberta received a spunky, little male black lab named Archer. Archer and Lee struggled all through class, so again, it was no surprise to hear that the trainers brought Archer back to the school as soon as they went to do the initial follow-up visit.

Gryphon and I worked well together. He was a great dog to have during my second last year of high school. He sat quietly beside my desk, sleeping through most of my classes. He taught me how to move with ease throughout my town. And showed me what I had been missing, while working with a cane.

Sadly though, Gryphon and I really never truly bonded. I was a beginner, so didn’t realize how detrimental family members could be to a new team. He would leave my room in the night to sleep with my sister – she would come in while I was sleeping and call him out. And if my Dad was in the kitchen, he would run to the fridge for a treat.

He continued to work well for me, but we really never became a true team.

On Good Friday of 1998, Gryphon and I went to Toronto to visit Jennifer and Jenna. We had been to visit them several times before, but this visit would spell the end of our working relationship.

We were walking along behind Jennifer and Jenna and as we were crossing one of the many side streets near her home, Gryphon and I were cut off by a car turning right. The car drove over the tip of my running shoe and bumped Gryphon in the nose. The driver did not stop, so I’m guessing they didn’t even realize their mistake. From that moment on, Gryphon was never the same. He would lie down in the middle of sidewalks when a loud truck or car went by. And would try to race across streets, forgetting to stop at the up-curbs. The trainers took him back for a two week retraining session, but this didn’t work. I even tried sitting on the grass beside busy roads with him to see if this might desensitize him, but nothing changed. After two months of trying to work through his fears, the trainers and I made the decision to retire him from guide work.

It’s tough to admit, but I really felt nothing when I handed his leash over to the person who picked him up.

I returned to the school a week later, and received my stubborn, independent-minded, yellow lab.

Ever since August 3rd, 1997, I have only ever gone a week without a canine companion by my side.

And, I don’t regret my decision one bit!

Rogue Pictures

here are a few pictures of Rogue to get you all started. Huib finally got a chance to upload pictures from the camera. I’ll try and share them this week.

hey Daddy! Can I drive?

Rogue really wishes her breeder could have chosen a cooler day for the reunion.

Wonder if Rogue knows we can see her…

It’s hard being a puppy…

I’ll post more pictures when I get a chance.

Cane-Free

Exactly 14 years ago, my Mom, Dad and sister dropped me off at the Lions Foundation of Canada training centre, in Oakville Ontario.

I remember being so excited about the upcoming adventure.

I had waited for this day.

When I lost most of my sight at the age of 13, I didn’t know what the future had in store for me.

I remember the day my vision services teacher gave me my first white cane. She gave me general instructions on how to use it, and then left me to get used to the feel of it for a couple of days – at this point, I was just instructed to hold it slightly out, across my body. She then explained on how to do the sweeping motion and then explained when it’s best to tap, versus slide it across the floor.

I remember hating the feel of this “thing”, that was supposed to keep me safe.

It was just so cold and unnatural.

I remember the day I learned about guide dogs.

I remember wanting to get one immediately.

I remember being told I would have to work on my orientation and mobility skills first.

I remember getting a chance to work with my vision services teacher’s German Shepperd in harness. She had briefly worked with Leader Dogs For The Blind while going to Michigan State University, and had taught her own pet dog how to guide so that her students would get a feel for what it would be like before applying.

I LOVED IT!!!

About an hour or so after I had arrived at the LFC, the other students began to arrive as well. There were six of us in total; two guys from Alberta (a 60 year old and a 25 year old), a 49 year old woman from Toronto, a 35 year old man from Kitchener, and a 35 year old man from Newmarket. At dinner, we were split into groups of three, I sat with the man from newmarket and woman from Toronto – we got along really well. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with what our trainers had to tell us. We were told what the schedule would be like for the first couple of days.

And, were told that as of tomorrow, we were no longer allowed to navigate the facility with our canes – they wanted us to get familiar with the place on our own, since we would not be allowed to use them once we got our dogs.

I remember the sense of relief I felt, the moment I put my cane on the shelf.

It felt like I was beginning a new chapter in my life.

This was the moment I had been working so hard for.

It’s hard to believe that this moment was fourteen years ago.

Ever since that day, my cane has remained on a shelf or in a box.

I have never once taken it out.

I have never once had the urge to use it.

It’s a chapter in my life I never want to revisit.

I know that working with a dog isn’t for everyone.

But, it’s definitely for me.