Archives for November 2012

The Working Beauties

Cessna lies in front of limestone columns.  She is wearing her black leather CVC guide harness, a baby blue martingale collar with various coloured bugs and a black leather leash that is partially braided.

Rogue stands in front of limestone columns.  She is wearing her teal Active Dogs vest with her Silverfoot collar and leash that are different shades of blue.

Caledon Kennel Association

Yesterday was the final day to enter the Caledon Kennel Association’s conformation show. The show will take place in Orangeville, the weekend of November 23rd.

We have entered Canyon into all three days. Huib will be his handler Friday and Sunday, and our friend Amy is going to show him on the Saturday. Amy’s female dalmatian has already obtained her Championship so Amy asked if she could try showing Canyon for us. Showing golden retrievers and dalmatians is similar, but she would like to get some experience showing another dog that isn’t hers. Canyon knows her well, so as long as we can tire him out a bit, I think he’ll do okay with her, but Huib will be ready just in case lol!

I’m not holding my breath, but it would be really cool if he obtained a couple of points at this show and then finished off in December at the Elora Gorge Kennel Club show where Canyon made his debut.

But, we’ll see what happens 🙂

In the meantime, Canyon is wearing some of Huib’s old t-shirts to prevent him from scratching (he hasn’t been in weeks, but we don’t want him to start), and I’m not playing fetch with him in their play area, but in the side yard, so that he doesn’t end up injuring himself again, running into the end of the deck.

My friend told me “to be careful you don’t turn into one of those crazy show people who don’t allow their dogs to do anything”, and it got me a little worried, but I’m not really convinced I’m being like that – what do you all think?

Aspen’s Recovery Update

Aspen lying on the floor and looking over her shoulder at the camera with a pouty look on her face.

As you can see, Aspen wasn’t a very happy camper after her surgery.

it has now been six days since her canine extraction and she is recovering well. She eats soft foods each meal to prevent any irritation of the surgery site and gets Medicam each morning to help with pain. In addition, she is taking Clindamycin and Arnica for the infection.

Her lymph node is about half the size it was when Dr B saw it last week, so we think the antibiotics are working and that it should be back to its normal size soon. Knowing that the lymph node continues to shrink makes us quite happy because Dr B was beginning to worry that it might be signally something much more serious.

I will continue to give everyone updates on Aspen.

He Said It Was Time

As mentioned in an earlier post, the topic for the 9th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “Moments”. From the first moment I read the topic, I knew what I had to write about. Even though it isn’t a happy moment, it’s a moment that I feel needs to be written about.

The moment I am going to write about, is the moment I knew it was time to say goodbye to Phoenix, my second dog guide.

Since the first day we became a team, Phoenix has always lived his life the way he wanted. If Phoenix didn’t want to do something, then he made sure I knew exactly how he felt about me asking him to do it. if Phoenix wanted to do something, then he made it completely clear to me that it was going to happen or he’d try his darnedest to make sure it did.

Phoenix and I worked well together because we both had a stubborn streak and we both knew how to keep the other one guessing.

Seven years after we were matched, Phoenix began to make it clear to me that he wanted to retire. I tried to convince myself that he was just being a big baby about the winter and that he’d be back to normal in the spring/summer months, but when things didn’t improve by May, I knew he had made his decision.

Phoenix retired on May 13th, 2005, seven years after he had begun working.

Phoenix settled well into retirement from the start. If he saw me take Cessna’s harness from the leash rack, he immediately ran over to the couch for a nap. When we arrived home, he was always waiting with a toy or his metal bowl at the door, wagging his tail. He took well to having Cessna take over his role as my guide and he seemed to enjoy his new job of being the protector of the house and Aspen’s babysitter. When we fostered Aiden and Reece, Phoenix taught them about respecting their elders and as they grew, he began to play with them and to keep them in line when needed. When we moved to Northeastern Ontario and brought Canyon into our home, Phoenix seemed disinterested in interacting with him, but he also didn’t seem upset about his arrival.

I sometimes wonder if maybe Phoenix felt as though Canyon would be able to take over as my protector since he was a boy, or if maybe he was just too old to care.

About two months after Phoenix’s 14th birthday, I came home to find him in horrible shape. My step dad had been watching him for me, and said that he thought he had had a stroke. We rushed Phoenix down to the vet thinking the worst, but hoping for the best. During the entire seven hour drive, I held Phoenix’s paw and told him how much I loved him and that it was okay to go if he needed to. When Dr B finished examining him, she said he had an acute onset of Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, and that if I had the time and patience, that I could get him back to normal within a couple of weeks. This was the best news I’d ever heard and devoted the next month to helping Phoenix with his rehabilitation. He ended up keeping a bit of the head tilt associated with IVD, but he regained all other function.

From that experience, I began learning about the raw diet and how it could possibly give me more time with my old boy. Phoenix had dealt with ear infections our entire twelve years together, so Dr B felt that a more natural diet might be the answer we’d been looking for. I started Phoenix on his raw diet around the middle of January and within weeks noticed a drastic difference in his level of shedding and saw that he even had a bit more spunk and energy at times. We spent the next few months together without any health issues. He seemed to be aging well and I was starting to tell myself that I may have a year or more with my faithful companion.

In June we picked up a spunky little caramel lab, we named Rogue, and Phoenix did his usual shunning of the youngster. I knew it would take time for him to get used to her, and that she would need to learn to respect his space, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly she began to understand his boundaries.

About a month after picking up Rogue, Phoenix began to refuse his meals. He had never refused to eat, so this change really began to worry me after the second day of him doing this. We were unable to get him to Dr B for a couple of weeks, so I stayed in constant contact with her by phone and e-mail. She suggested different ways of getting him to eat, and sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t. Finally, after three weeks of Phoenix barely eating, she told me to give him anything he’d take and not to worry about his allergies or about if it was any good for him. Again, sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t.

On August 10th, 2011, we headed down to Guelph. We stayed with friends for the night and then took Phenix and Rogue to see Dr B.

As soon as Dr B saw Phoenix she knew it wasn’t good. She said that she’d run tests and give him pain medication if we wanted, but that she felt he had already made his decision. Dr B felt that Phoenix was tired and just wanted to go, but needed me to help him. Huib and I had both decided on our way to her clinic that we would do whatever she suggested, but from Dr B’s words, we knew it wasn’t what she suggested, but what Phoenix wanted.

On August 11th, 2011, at 1:20pm, Dr B gave Phoenix the medication that would help him leave us peacefully. Rogue, our 4 month old caramel puppy, laid against him while Dr B administered the injection and I held his paw and Huib stroked his head. Rogue stayed curled up against Phoenix for close to 5 minutes after Dr B had checked to make sure he no longer had a heart beat, and then got up, walked around him sniffing every part of him and then walked to the door and turned to look at us, as if to say “it’s okay, he’s gone now”.

It is this moment in time, that will remain with me forever.

The moment I said goodbye to my old friend.

The moment I realized that his spirit would live on, within my new friend.

The moment I knew he’d be with me forever in my heart and in my memories.

Three Days In Guelph

Now that we are back home I thought I’d do a longer entry about what we did on our three days in Guelph.

As I mentioned in the Halloween post, Aspen had her surgery to remove her broken canine tooth on Wednesday morning. Since Huib worked a twelve hour day shift on Tuesday, we had to wake up at midnight and leave the house by 1:30am in order to get Aspen to the vet clinic for 9:00am. The dogs thought we had lost our marbles when we woke them up a few hours after going to sleep, but they were good sports and slept the entire drive. When we arrived at the clinic, I had a bit of a discussion with a rude receptionist about not leaving Aspen until they were ready for her – she seemed to believe that because it was “their routine” and because “no other owners seemed to have an issue with it” that I was going to just hand Aspen’s leash over and let them put her into a kennel until they got around to her surgery – but I told her that it wasn’t going to happen. We waited with our golden girl in the waiting room until the vet came out to talk to us, and a nicer woman came and took Aspen back for sedation. The vet explained what would happen before, during and after the surgery and said that it would probably take longer than most tooth extractions because the canine tooth is one of the more difficult to remove. I found this link that gives a pretty good explanation of what the vet had told us.

after leaving the clinic, we met up with our friend, Kelly, to go to Pet Smart and do some training with her four and a half month old Australian Shepherd, Piper, and to let Cessna pick out a birthday present. Kelly also has our friend, Ace, but he stayed home so that Kelly could focus on exposing Piper to new things. At Pet Smart, we walked through the different aisles looking for the perfect Cessna toy. On the way, we picked up Canyon’s wolf hat, Rogue’s lion costume, a Halloween stuffy ball that squeaks, a plush purple monkey that holds a small sized water bottle, a cute tiger stuffy that squeaks for Aspen and then finally, found a toy for Cessna’s birthday – a plush dog with thick legs that hold long rubber squeakers. After paying for our items, we headed back to Kelly’s house and let the dogs play with one another before heading to a Chinese food buffet for lunch with Kelly and the labs.

Lunch was awesome. We had several items from the buffet itself, and then ordered a few plates with various pieces of sushi. The labs were quite well-behaved, quietly sleeping under the table while we ate. After lunch, I called Dr B’s office to see if she had received any updates on Aspen, and was told that she was out of surgery and slowly waking up. I was also told that they would be sending someone to pick her up and that we could come to Dr B’s office in a couple of hours. Kelly needed to get something replaced on her vehicle in the afternoon, so we put our gang back into the Orlando and drove over to the mall to do a bit of guide training with Rogue. Cessna stayed in the vehicle with Canyon, and we took Rogue into the mall. We practiced finding doors, turning left and right, staying on my left side and not curving in front of my feet, and then finding/stopping at curbs. Rogue is starting to find doors really well and her curb work is coming along, but she is still struggling with directions and needs more work on keeping her nose to herself.

Around four o’clock, I called Dr B’s office and was told that Aspen had still not arrived at the clinic, but the woman who had gone to pick her up had also not yet returned. I was a little annoyed with the lack of organization, but was reassured by the receptionist that Aspen had indeed been picked up and was doing well and that they should be back at the clinic within minutes. I asked when we could come pick up our golden girl, and was told to come at 5:45pm. It was a long wait, but we arrived at Dr B’s clinic right at 5:45pm and talked to Dr B about the surgery, about her concerns regarding the size of Aspen’s lymph node and then about what we would be doing about her Hypothyroidism. For the post surgery care, we were given Arnica and told to give her some Medicam (an anti-inflammatory) and to only feed her soft food for the next couple of weeks. As for her lymph node, we reassured Dr B that it is shrinking and she gave us another 10 days of antibiotics (a different one this time) and asked to keep her informed on its progress. For Aspen’s Hypothyroidism, we decided to go with a glandular made by a company called Standard Process (the same company that made Phoenix’s herbal anti-inflammatory). We will get her thyroid values reassessed in 4-6 months, but since she really isn’t symptomatic, we decided to go with the glandular over the medication. When Dr B brought Aspen out of the back area, she was very excited to see us and ready to go home. For the first 24 hours she was a bit growly with the other dogs, but sucky with us, so we knew she’d be okay.

On Thursday, I had an appointment with my family doctor to discuss how my migraine medications are working. We went over which of the medications she prescribed had worked, which worked a bit, which ones didn’t work at all, and then what dose of each I was taking. Dr Thomas was happy to hear that the current medications I am taking, Gabapentin and Candesartan, were working. She then told me about a new study she’d read about and suggested I start taking 150mg of Coenzyme Q10 and then try to decrease the amount of Candesartan to see if I need it. Coenzyme Q10 is a supplement like B12, so if I could eliminate Candesartan from my migraine regiment and only take Gabapentin on a daily basis, then I’d be really happy. My step dad is a bit of a pill popper, so I have this constant worry about taking too many medications and not really needing them. Dr Thomas increased my dose of Gabapentin from 300mg three times a day, to 400mg and said to continue taking Zomig or Codeine and Toradol when needed. I really don’t like the number of medications I am having to be prescribed for my migraines, but I am hoping that once we figure out what will work as a daily preventative, then we will be able to eliminate the “when needed” ones. While at the appointment, both Cessna and Rogue laid quietly under our chairs, and Dr Thomas was impressed by their calmness. I didn’t realize, but Dr Thomas is nervous of dogs, and has just given her children and husband the go-ahead to purchase a dog – they are picking up a golden retriever puppy in a week or so 🙂

After the appointment, we went to Quiznos for lunch and then took the labs to Second Cup to use the internet. Rogue has a tough time just sitting around in public places, so this will be one area of training where we’ll be focusing. Kelly met up with us at Second Cup after her class finished and we got some pictures of Rogue and Cessna on the University of Guelph campus.

In the evening, we met up with our friend, Karen, and had some more sushi. Kelly had to take Piper to a class at 8:30pm, so Huib, Karen and I took Rogue to Home Depot and Walmart for some curb and distraction training. I asked Karen to pretend she was a random customer and stop at different shelves in different positions so I could practice having Rogue pass by without sniffing. It always took Rogue a couple of passes before she’d keep her nose to herself, but I think with time, she’ll get the idea. At Walmart we practiced more “leave its” with Karen holding kibble at different levels while I walked past and told Rogue to “leave it”. She did well when the kibble was held six inches above her head, but had more trouble as it got closer to her level. We also practiced “leave it” by having Karen put kibble at different points along an aisle on the floor. We found that Rogue failed this test miserably if we started walking and the kibble was too close to our end of the aisle, but that if we had the kibble closer to the other end of the aisle, then she seemed to find it easier to control her nose. As we walked back to the vehicles, we had an opportunity to do tons of “find the curb” work. As Rogue became accustomed to when the click and treat would appear, she started to anticipate the reward and would turn her head towards us within a couple feet of the curb. I think that this reaction is a good sign of her brain making the right connections.

On Friday it was time to go home. We packed the Orlando and began our long drive north. On the way, we stopped to get some chicken hearts for Laya, my maine coon cross, and then at Costco to get supplements for the dogs and to do some more public exposure work with Rogue. When I don’t have Cessna with me, Rogue wears her maroon Active Dogs vest that says “Service Dog” on her back and has a black guide harness attached. Rogue is learning to accept the movement and feel of the guide handle, but she is not yet ready for me to pick it up. Nevertheless, at Costco, people continually commented on how eel-behaved my guide dog was and at how attentive she seemed to be.

I really think my little Hurricane is growing up!!

Overall, I think our trip to Guelph was a great experience for everyone. Aspen had her tooth removed and is on her way to a full recovery. I had some medication changes, but am on my way to being a little more migraine free. And, Rogue got a chance to meet an Australian Shepherd and to work on her guide skills. The only thing that has concerned me with my little caramel girl, is that if her collar is grabbed or she puts any pressure on her throat, she begins gagging and coughing. I have thought it before, but I think I am now convinced, that Rogue might have a soft trachea. I have a couple of friends whose dogs have similar issues, but if anyone has suggestions on how to deal with this issue, I’m all ears. In the meantime, I’ve decided to change her collar from a regular flat to a soft martingale one, since there will be times when someone will need to grab her collar and I am hoping that the martingale will help spread out the pressure instead of it being only focused on her throat area. For walks, she already wears the Premier Easy Walk Harness, so she’ll continue to wear that until I can get her walking with a perfectly loose leash.

***For those who are interested, Cessna’s birthday dog with the squeaker legs lost his head within minutes of being given to her. Rogue and Cessna had decided that tug was a good game to play with him lol! And, the purple monkey bottle toy lost his face, but Huib (the plastic surgeon for toys) has reassured me that he is fixable.***