Archives for May 2013

Oh The Places We Will Go

sometimes you just need a glimpse to realize you’re on the right track.

As everyone knows, Rogue and I have been on a journey filled with ups and downs, left turns, right turns and U-turns. raising and training your own guide dog is not easy.

But, this week has given me the slightest glimpse of the possibilities.

Over the past year, I have been working hard to find gear that rogue will tolerate.

I’ve found martingales that open like regular collars, so she doesn’t have to put her head through the opening. she no longer ducks my efforts to put her collar on.

I’ve found working vests/backpacks that don’t require her to do more than stand still while I put it on. She’s getting better. to help her along, I’ve begun getting Cessna dressed in her harness, and then getting Rogue dressed. I then walk around the house getting myself dressed, and giving Cessna treats for being so awesome. rogue is taking less and less time to break free of the “roots” holding her in place when the vest goes on. the only thing I have to remember, is to get her to come to me before I reach for the vest – sneaky, I know 🙂

Our next challenge has been the guide handle. Huib made one for us to use and Rogue hates it. I’ve gotten some material to make her a soft guide handle, but I am also getting Rogue dressed shortly before we leave the house, so that she can work on breaking free of the “roots”. The past two days have been really good, but we’ve still got a long way to go in this area.

Yesterday we went to the mall to do a bit of work. I had Rogue walk from one end of Stone Road Mall to the other. She tried to go into a couple of stores, Huib said she must be a girl because they were all shoe stores, lol!

When she began veering into the stores, I had her stop and then we fixed our direction and continued to walk.

On our way back to where we had started, rogue did amazing! She only tried to go into one store, but I was able to tell her no and she fixed her own direction. She walked me around an older person using a walker and around a couple of teenagers. I was worried she’d brush me against the person with the walker, but Huib warned me we were approaching and said Rogue left a good amount of room between us.

We need to work on staying a little straighter, but I felt really good with Rogue’s progress.

Later, I did some curb and sidewalk work with Rogue. Huib followed behind, giving me an idea of when we were getting close to the curbs and when Rogue was beginning to veer. She has a bit of an issue with keeping too close to the left side of the sidewalk, and with wanting to check out things as we walk, but those are simple problems to fix.

When we came to the curb, she blew it twice before she figured out exactly what I wanted. Each time she stepped off the curb, I dropped the guide handle and dramatically said “Whoops! too bad, let’s try that again”. When we came to the next down curb, she only blew it the first time, and nailed it dead on the next two tries. the final curb was the same, she blew it the first time, but nailed it the second. I will do more work with her in this area, but I don’t foresee it taking her too long to figure out that all down curbs must be stopped at.

In order to give her a bit of variety and some work on just sidewalks, we walked for about 45 minutes. At one point, we came upon a truck that was parked completely across the sidewalk. Huib explained it all to me and then we set off, wanting to see what rogue would do. she walked me up to the truck, I felt out with my right hand, then said “Rogue, forward”. She immediately turned toward the road, stopped at the down curb, walked me along the back of the truck, and then walked me back up onto the sidewalk. We had a PARTY!!! I tripped on the up curb, but I didn’t care, she had just done a major obstacle perfectly!

I had a bit of trouble with her pull and sometimes with her pace, but I think a longer guide handle is needed, in addition to some working out on my part.

Whenever you get comfortable with a guide dog, you don’t always realize their pace slowing down, so wen you go to work with another dog, you end up with shin splints. when I got Cessna, I had the most painful shin splints, but after a couple of months, they went away and it was amazing to fly like the wind with her.

Cessna hasn’t really slowed down, but with three years of not really working, the shin splints are back with a vengeance!

The work rogue and I did today really showed me that we’ve progressed and that with some more time and patience, we might just actually make it as a team.

Rogue sits on top of a bale of hay. She's wearing her Silverfoot collar and leash that are a mixture of different blues.

Eight Years Together

today is our anniversary.

eight years ago today, we were matched.

A lot has changed since that day, but Cessna is still an amazing partner and friend.

Cessna lies in her black leather CVC harness. She's wearing a red martingale and a black leather leash. you can see the speed River behind her.

Happy Anniversary Cessnaroo!

We’ve had quite the journey together. This fall you will retire, but our adventure won’t end there.

Barn Hunt

Saturday, Huib, rogue and I went to a Barn Hunt workshop. Rogue’s breeder had mentioned the workshop on her Facebook page and asked if anyone wanted to join. Three families, including us, came out. In total, there were eight dogs from Red Labrador Retrievers present.

Karen and Chris (Rogue’s breeders) brought three females, including Rogue’s dam, cheyenne. It was so cool to see Rogue and Cheyenne together. they are quite similar in size, Cheyenne is just a bit heavier and has a little different face. their personalities are also quite similar, cheyenne was very excited to be around the other dogs, and barked at random times – just like her daughter. Huib tried to get a good picture of the two together, but neither one wanted to cooperate, lol!

Side views of Rogue with her dam, Cheyenne. To the left is Rogue and to the right and behind is Cheyenne.

Our day started with a short introduction to Barn Hunt, including a discussion of the rules and regulations. We were then split into groups of 5, and sent through the various stations.

at station one, the dogs were shown an aquarium with a couple of rats inside. We were told to tell our dogs to “find the rats” or whatever words we wanted to use. We were asked to encourage our dogs and show them where the rats were located.

Athena, a one year old female from Red Labrador Retrievers sees the rat in the aquarium. she's very interested in them.

Similar to her dam, rogue was interested in the aquarium, but more into the smells, than the actual rats.

Chris, Rogue's breeder, and Cheyenne, Rogue's dam, checking out a rat. Cheyenne isn't overly interested, so the woman has taken a rat out of the aquarium to get her attention.

At the next station, the dogs were introduced to a plastic tube containing a rat.

Chris, Rogue's breeder, with Sedona, a 6 month old puppy from Red Labrador Retrievers. Chris is pointing to the tube holding the rat, while Sedona looks at him curiously.

We were again instructed to tell our dogs to “find the rat”, and encourage them to get excited about the tube.

rogue was pretty excited about the tube, she nosed the tube and rolled it around.

at station three, the dogs were shown two tubes, one containing a rat and the other containing soiled litter from a rat’s cage.

rogue checked both tubes out very thoroughly, but seemed a bit more interested in the one containing the rat.

Rogue finding the tube containing the rat, and leaving the other one alone.

at station four, two tubes were hidden beside a bale of hay, one containing the rat and the other containing soiled litter. We were instructed to encourage our dogs to search and to let the “judge” know which we felt our dog was saying the rat was in.

rogue checked out both tubes thoroughly and seemed to indicate one over the other, but maybe Huib read her wrong, because he said it was the tube containing soiled litter. the “judge” then picked up the one containing the rat and had us show it to her, so she could check it out more.

Rogue is sniffing a tube containing a rat with her paw on top of the tube.

the final station gave us a chance to work on our own with having our dogs go through a tunnel made of hay and a tube containing a rat. we were instructed to have our dogs run through the tunnel and “find the rat”.

Rogue had a lot of fun running through the tunnel to the rat.

After lunch, we each had an opportunity to do the Barn Hunt instinct test.

each dog was asked to find the tube containing the rat in under a minute.

Chris and Sedona at the mock instinct test. Chris is about to release Sedona, so she can search for the tube containing the rat.

Of the eight dogs from Red Labrador Retrievers, only three passed the instinct test. Athena did the test in 32 seconds, Cheyenne did it in 59, and rogue did it in just 25!

The woman who ran the Barn Hunt workshop said she would be setting up a Barn Hunt trial in the summer, so I think we’ll watch for the date and see how rogue does.

Itchy Canyon

We’re at a loss…

We don’t know what is wrong…

But, for the past few days, Canyon has been panting, scratching, licking and biting himself.

This happened last summer, right around this time, but, like now, we had no clue how to help him.

We talked to the vet last year and she checked him all over. She couldn’t find anything wrong.

We tried allergy medication for a month, just to see if it was the pollen causing him to be uncomfortable. It didn’t help.

we tried spraying him with doggie insect repellent to prevent the black flies and mosquitoes from feasting on him, it didn’t seem to make a difference.

The only way we were able to stop the obsessive scratching, licking and biting, was by making him wear t-shirts and sometimes booties on his back feet.

so, guess what?

canyon is back to wearing t-shirts and booties on his back feet.

Since we’re taking a break from conformation, Canyon developed a cyst on the lower lid of his left eye in january that needs to be surgically removed, we decided to try leaving him alone and seeing what damage he’d do to his coat and skin before he stopped.

Well, within just a couple of days, he has a small scabbed area behind his left ear and on his chest.

so, leaving him to his own devices isn’t going to work.

Thankfully, he seems to like wearing the t-shirts, and tolerates the boots.

We gave Canyon and Cessna baths this morning, she was also scratching a bit more than we’d like, so we’ll see if maybe there was some dirt in their coats.

While combing Canyon this evening, Huib noticed that he has a bit of a heat rash, so we’ve sprayed his groin area with some stuff that is supposed to help with itchiness. we’ve also turned the central air on so the house is nice and cool.

He seems a bit more comfortable tonight, and really hasn’t been panting, so maybe it’s the heat, maybe it was a bug bite or maybe it was dirt.

But, since it’s Canyon, we’ll probably never know. he’s such an obsessive dog when it comes to some things.

Phoenix Loved Avril Lavigne

Last night after Huib left for work, I started listening to Hits 1, on Sirius/XM Radio.

Avril Lavigne has a new song out, called Here’s To Never Growing Up. It began playing as soon as the station tuned in, and I started thinking about Phoenix.

Don’t get me wrong, I think about Phoenix a lot, but hearing Avril made the memories come back stronger.

Phoenix loved Avril. He’d be sleeping on the couch (before he went deaf of course) and as soon as an Avril Lavigne song came on the radio, Huib said Phoenix’s tail would start wagging to the music. It was so strange!

It’s hard to believe he’s already been gone for a year and nine months.

Both Phoenix and Aspen were such a large part of our family. It’s hard to put into words how much their deaths have effected us.

Aspen has only been gone two months, so the pain and tears are still quite fresh, but we still miss Phoenix.

i hope they are running through fields, chasing leaves and enjoying crab apples together.

this is a picture of Phoenix and Aspen from 2007. Phoenix is standing with a very muddy Aspen in the wooded area behind our former condo building.

I hope they both know how much we love and miss them each day.

I also hope they know that they don’t have to worry about us, they did enough of that while they were still with us.

And to think this post all started from a song that came on the radio…

Two Weeks In guelph

I had meant to write an update on Wednesday, but time got away from me. We’ve now been in our new home for two and a half weeks.

The past week and a half have been busy. We’ve unpacked more boxes and moved some furniture around. We’ve taken the labs on training trips. We’ve gotten together with Kelly and her pack twice. And we’ve taken all three dogs for hikes and a swim.

Last Sunday, we drove to Aurora to plant some flowers at my Mom’s grave. Mother’s Day has always been a tough day for me since Mom’s passing, but this year seemed easier. dad came with us, and I think seeing how happy he was helping Huib plant the flowers at Mom’s grave, really helped. After we were done, we drove to Sutton to see if my Aunt Dawn was around. her house was unlocked, so Huib called her cell phone and found out she was visiting her friend nearby. We drove over there and had a great time visiting. Aunt Dawn’s friend has several foster children, as well as, two male golden retrievers, two love birds and a 9 month old male pot belly pig. she told us to bring the dogs in with us, so we brought them in slowly. Canyon was initially interested in the pig, but quickly lost interest and settled at my feet, but Ruben, one of the goldens (Jack was away with her daughter tree planting) was a little too interested in him. Ruben kept licking Canyon’s face and ears, so just before we left, Huib took him and Rogue back to the car, so he could have a rest. The labs had to stay on leash because they were really interested in the birds and wouldn’t stop trying to sniff Poomba it was a good experience for Rogue though, she had never met a pig, let alone one that lives in a house.

Rogue and I have started doing some sidewalk guiding. She’s still hating the guide handle, but once she has it on for a while, she stops moping. I’ve been getting Cessna dressed and then her dressed, then walking around the house with Cessna, talking to her and giving her treats for being such a good girl, in an effort to make rogue jealous. It actually seems to be working. Rogue is taking less and less time to break free of the “roots” holding her in place when she first gets her vest and guide handle on. We’ve done some forward walking on the sidewalk, and other than her pull being excessive and her wanting to stay close to the grass on her side, she’s doing well. she is keeping me well away from the sidewalk edge and is quite responsive to my cues. this week, I hope to start her curb work, but it all depends upon her mood and the weather.

On Wednesday, Kelly, her boyfriend Josh, and their two Australian Shepherds, Piper and Baron, came to visit. the four of us, along with rogue and the Aussies, went over to the park across the road to do some group obedience. Josh was having a bit of a rough day, so he worked on keeping Baron’s attention and keeping him under threshold, while Kelly and I worked on getting the girls (Rogue and Piper) to perform their various obedience cues. Rogue was a little distracted by the smells and scenery, but overall, I think she did pretty well. I had her wear her new teal Kong harness, since I felt it was a good opportunity to work on her “pet” manners.

I bought Rogue the Kong harness so that she can wear it on leisure walks. I don’t want her to pull on her collar, and the Easy Walk harness seems to have caused some unforeseen issues. the Kong harness has a ring on the back that the leash attaches to and padding on the chest area, so Rogue finds it a bit too comfortable to pull. I’m going to work on her Level 1 behaviours, and start teaching her loose leash walking with it. I wanted to get her another front attach harness, but the only one I can find is the Easy Walk and I think the way it fit and the way it worked, may have caused Rogue discomfort and long-lasting issues with it. We’ve worked hard on getting her to feel okay with putting pressure into the chest strap of her Har-Vest, so I don’t want to go back to the beginning there.

On Thursday, Huib and I took the three dogs over to the park across the road to play frisbee. Canyon really likes frisbee, so we thought he’d enjoy running for it on the soccer field. He ran for it a few times, and then got distracted by another dog and ran over to check it out, ignoring our calls. Huib ran after him and noticed that it wasn’t actually the dog he was running to, it was a swampy pond he had seen. Canyon saw Huib coming, but totally ignored him and laid down in the muddy water – bad boy! Rogue had followed him, but did not get into the water – both youngsters were put back on leash and had to watch Cessna play frisbee on her own. Cessna thought it was awesome to be playing frisbee while the others were stuck on leash. After Cessna had had enough, we put her back on leash and then started walking along the gravel path that leads around the swampy pond (the water from the rain gutters collects there). I think that once Cessna and I do the route a few more times with Huib, we’ll be able to walk it on our own.

On Friday, we met up with a friend for lunch at Eastside Mario’s. I met Evelyn during my time at the University of Guelph. I had been a volunteer and then Co-ordinator for their Safe Walk Program, and Evelyn was a dispatcher for the University of Guelph Police. I’m not sure how we got talking, but when I used to live in Guelph, evelyn and I would get together for lunch once a month, so now that I’m back, we’re going to try doing that again.

When we had arrived at Eastside’s Huib went to park and the orlando stalled on him twice. we have had this happen a couple of times before, but they were never this frequent, so Huib became concerned. When we were done lunch, I asked evelyn if she’d mind following us over to the GM dealership, and of course, she said no problem. When we got back into the car, Huib saw that the engine light had come on, so we knew something was up. At the dealership, the woman at the counter told us they had no appointments, but Huib asked if they could at least run a diagnostics to see if it was safe for him to continue driving (since it was Friday), she said it might just take a bit. We took the labs into the waiting room and I did some obedience with Rogue – I try to do this in all places, so she learns to follow my cues everywhere. About 30 minutes later, we heard our names over the intercom and were told that the orlando was ready. They had replaced a valve.

While we had been waiting, I received a text from kelly asking if we wanted to meet her and Ace (her 4 year old male black lab) for a hike and swim. We met them at an old quarry near our former condo building. the dogs ran ahead, while we chatted. At the end of the long path, there’s a river that used to have a bridge over it, but the city must have taken the bridge down, so we let the dogs play there. A woman and her young male italian Mastiff were there as well, so we were a bit more cautious with allowing Canyon to roam. the other dog was intact, and seemed to be paying a little too much attention to Canyon, so Huib called Canyon over for some treats and waited until the woman and her dog were gone, before releasing him again. After about half an hour of swimming, we started walking back towards the vehicles. Kelly and Ace had to get back home to let the Aussies out, but we stayed behind and let our three swim in the quarry. Canyon was hilarious. He kept running along the shore to find the shortest route to the toy, while Cessna swam out to retrieve it. Once she made her way back to the shore, Canyon would meet her and bring the toy back to us as though he had been the one to do all the work. Just before we left, a woman and her female golden retriever showed up. the golden was really interested in our toy, so Huib threw it a few times for her to retrieve – the other woman hadn’t brought any toys for her.

this weekend we haven’t done too much. the weather is warm and starting to get a hint of humidity, so I play short games of fetch with Canyon in the backyard, but try to stay cool indoors otherwise. My migraines seem to be better living here. Maybe it’s because I am able to stay cooler, dad doesn’t have access to a wood stove, or maybe the weather is just more stable right now – either way, it’s nice not having to take extra meds.

Update From Guelph

It’s time for an update.

We’ve been in our new home for one whole week!

The move from Englehart back to Guelph was relatively uneventful. The only problem we had was with the size of the moving truck. even though UHAUL claimed the truck was large enough to fit a 3-bedroom house, we ended up having to rent a trailer to go along with it.

Since arriving, we’ve set up most of the rooms and probably unpacked about a third of the boxes.

When we left Englehart, the weather had just begun to warm up and the snow was more slush than anything else. But, in Guelph, the trees and flowers are blooming and the temperatures have been in the low to mid twenties. Huib said it best the other day, when he said that he felt as though we were on vacation – the weather is just so drastically different here.

Almost immediately upon arriving at the house, the dogs seemed to settle in. It was almost as if they were also ready to leave the north.

Our friends Kelly and Josh have come over twice with their dogs for play dates, and their visits have made us really feel as though we are finally back home, where we are meant to be.

Moving north was a good experience for Huib, but for me it was the opposite.. I loved the sounds and smells of nature, but that’s about all I loved about the north. I hated the fact that I could never go anywhere independently and I hated the fact that I felt resentment toward Huib.

Now that we’re back in Guelph, I have already begun the process of relearning how to work with and trust Cessna. We had some opportunities to work together while living in the north, but we really never had a chance to work alone, most of the time we were following Huib through stores. It’s going to take a couple of months to really feel comfortable enough to go out on my own, both because of losing some of my sight since moving away and because we barely worked in the north.

On Monday, Huib, Cessna and I walked to the grocery store together. I worked with Cessna, while Huib walked a few feet behind. It was so awesome to feel the freedom of walking with my little black lab again. even though she will be 10 in October, her work is still amazing and the tension in her harness is perfect. I wasn’t sure for a while if she would want to work anymore, but those worries were soon erased when I felt the pride seeping out of her through the harness handle. She guided me with confidence and only made a couple of very minor mistakes. First, she stopped a few feet shy of the curb edge, then she didn’t quite get us to the correct spot on the curb to cross and finally, she got slightly distracted and started guiding me into the garden centre at the store. these are really minor issues and ones that can be easily remedied.

As a side note, there is a Canada goose who resides on the grass beside the sidewalk on the way to the grocery store. Thankfully, Huib had taken a walk over to the store a few days before, so knew about the goose and warned me to watch and directed me on where to walk in order to avoid any real confrontation. as we approached the goose, I felt Cessna become alert and the tension in her harness increased, I calmly told her “leave it” and directed her to continue walking straight. Huib said the goose was hissing and squawking at us, but that as we walked closer and by him/her, it moved away. I’m not sure I’ll feel comfortable enough to walk by it on my own, but with Huib’s guidance, I was able to keep Cessna focused enough to get by the bird. Cessna has a really high prey drive, so getting her to walk by birds and small animals without getting overly aroused can be difficult, but I did it!

I think that’s about it for now. Sorry for the disorganized ramble.