Looking Back

The topic for this round of the assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “regrets.” I chose this topic because in exactly one month it will be 17 years since I was partnered with Phoenix. For new blog readers, Phoenix was officially my second dog guide from Dog Guides Canada, but to me he was my first, and the dog who started it all.

On July 23rd, 1998, I was matched with Phoenix, a 21 month old male yellow lab. He wanted nothing to do with me at first, he just wanted to be with his trainer. Around the two week mark of class, a switch turned and he was mine forever. From that moment in time, Phoenix and I ruled the world together. Even when he retired 7 years later, he was still my constant shadow. No matter how much Huib tried to win his affection, Phoenix would have none of it. When I was home, Phoenix was stuck to me like glue.

We finished my final year of high school together. We completed five years at the University of Guelph and walked across the graduation stage side by side. Along the way Phoenix taught me about unconditional love and the value of true friendship.

It’s true, I’ve had several dogs since getting Phoenix (not all guides of course), but no matter who has passed through my life since July 23rd, Phoenix had and will always have a big piece of my heart.

You’re probably wondering how this all relates to the topic of “regrets.” Well, looking back I have many regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about clicker training and that I had not used the choke chain and the harsh corrections that went along with it. It’s true that I stopped using all of this a year or so after getting Cessna, but I still have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about feeding a raw diet sooner. Yes, Phoenix ate raw his final eight months with me, but it took me over 12 years to finally figure out how to end his constant fight with ear infections. It’s true that I figured out his allergies by the time he was seven, but he still got painful ear infections off and on, so I have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known the end was near. It’s true he was just two months shy of his 15th birthday when he passed. It’s true that I was not in school or working, so I spent every hour of the day at home with the dogs. It’s true that I fed him all of his favourite human foods, such as pizza, french fries, Kraft Dinner and beef jerky, when he’d eat for me. It’s true that he progressively ate less and less, while sleeping more and more the last month of his life, so I should have known the end was near. But, I have regrets.

I wonder if he would have stayed longer if I had not gotten Rogue. I wonder if he wouldn’t have started to give up if I hadn’t left him with friends for a few days while I took Canyon, Cessna and Rogue to Rogue’s breeder’s reunion. I will probably never know the answer for certain, and he probably would have still passed away, but I have regrets.

According to dictionary.com, regret means to: “feel sorrow or remorse for an act, fault, or disappointment.”

This definition seems fitting. I feel sorrow for the training methods I chose, which caused me to act poorly towards Phoenix. I feel remorse for not acting sooner to stop his ear infections. And, I feel sorrow for possibly causing him to pass away sooner than he might have if I had not chosen to get a puppy.

It’s true that I shouldn’t feel bad for these things, but I still have regrets.

Happy Anniversary!!

Can you believe it?

Rogue and I have now been working together full-time for a year!!

We did it! We made it! We are truly a working team Little Monster.

I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we did the Public Access Test with Sherman and Soleil.

I am so proud of the progress you have made over the past year. Now when we go out, I never worry about getting injured because I know I have my little red girl with me.

Thank you for teaching me so much over the past four years. I never could have done any of this without you Rogie.

Happy Anniversary to Us!!

ENGAGE 2015

On the 14th, I was invited to present at a student conference at the University of Guelph.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Making the Familiar Strange in the Social World.” The keynote speaker was Dr. Thomas McIlwrath.

The various presentations were broken down into sessions of four or five presenters. The morning and afternoon had two sessions of three choices.

I was the fourth presenter in my session and had another student follow me. When it was my turn, Huib set up my computer for the powerpoint and Rogue came with me to the podium.

I was SO freaking nervous!!! I was honestly on the verge of tears, so thankfully no one told me to speak louder or I would have probably started blubbering. I’ve never been so nervous and I didn’t even know you could be nervous enough to cry.

the talk went well. I spoke clearly and didn’t miss anything. Huib said he could hear the quiver in my voice, but that he felt I did really well. I had to keep repositioning Rogue throughout, so Huib suggested I stop next time and fix her so that I’m not having to do it over and over. In Rogue’s defence, I think she sensed my nervousness and wanted to take me back to where Huib was sitting. The only other thing that went wrong was that I got disoriented in where I was supposed to look and even though my body faced the group, I was looking towards the wall, lol!!

My powerpoint consisted of pictures of my dogs as puppies and in their working gear. I had pictures of Cessna, Aiden, Reece, Rogue and Arizona. I also had various screen shots of recent media coverage of service dog issues.

I memorized my entire presentation – it was just over 12 minutes long. I introduced myself and explained why I was interested in the topic. I gave a brief introduction of animal-assisted intervention and eased people into the world of service dogs. Then discussed my research questions and methods.

Once the presentation was over, I was asked questions from two different people. One person asked me about the methods I have chosen and how I planned to get participants for my interviews and focus groups. The other person asked me about the theory I planned to use as a guide for my research. I answered the first question pretty easily, but the second was tougher. I am planning to use critical disability theory. I understand the theory itself, but I didn’t know how to expand that knowledge to answer the person’s question regarding why I chose that theory.

Even though I was really stressed out about this conference and about presenting, I’m glad I did it.

For anyone who is interested, here is a copy of the long program for the conference. It gives you the abstracts of the various presentations. Mine is in the session titled Grab Bag.

Engage Program 2015_Long

the Case of the Mysterious Tapping

Ready for a story?

Last night I was exhausted, so fell asleep the instant my head hit the pillow. I woke up at 2:30am for some unknown reason..

As I laid there trying to fall back asleep, I heard a tap, tap, tap coming from somewhere in the house. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from, so I listened intently. Once I had figured out that it wasn’t coming from my bedroom, I decided to try and ignore it.

Tap, tap, tap…

Short pause.

Tap, tap, tap…

It wasn’t going to stop, so I got out of bed and walked to the top of our stairs down to the kitchen. I was wondering if maybe one of the dogs or cats were doing something. I didn’t want to go downstairs though because I really didn’t know where the noise was coming from.

At the stairs, I stood for several minutes listening intently.

Tap, tap, tap…

Short pause.

Tap, tap, tap…

It was coming from one of the cupboards in the kitchen. I quickly went back to bed.

Tap, tap, tap…

Short pause.

tap, tap, tap…

The noise was not letting me sleep. I didn’t want to wake Huib up though, he was snoring away, so I thought he was having a good sleep. The dogs were also fast asleep.

So, I got out my earbuds and decided to listen to a book on my iPhone.

After about an hour or so, I was getting sleepy, so turned everything off.

Tap, tap, tap…

A bit longer pause.

Tap, tap, tap…

I went back to the stairs to listen some more. I wanted to know what was making the noise.

I knew we had put a couple of mouse traps in one of the upper cupboards, but this was a really loud tapping noise. No mouse should be able to make that much noise.

I was totally convinced a mouse had got their tail caught in the trap and was running around the cupboard. I wondered if it could push it’s way out. I wondered if it would jump out at Dad or Huib the second they opened the cupboard door. I knew for sure I wasn’t going to be the one to open that cupboard and find out what was making the noise.

Tap, tap, tap…

A bit longer pause.

tap, tap, tap…

As I turned to go back to bed, I heard one of the cat’s jump up onto the table where their food is kept. I stopped to listen and see if they would notice the tapping noise. Nope, Logan just munched away, oblivious to the commotion in the cupboard above.

I went back to bed – it was now 4:00am, and I was very sleepy.

I thankfully fell asleep.

At just before 7:00am, I woke up again. I felt Huib moving around beside me, so asked him if he heard the noise.

Tap, tap…

Long pause.

Tap, tap…

I told him about my night and about my thoughts regarding what was making the noise and what might happen if he opened the cupboard. He laughed and laughed.

After a bit, he sat up and decided to go see what was making the tapping noise. As he stood up, there was a loud SQUEAK!!! We both roared with laughter. One of the dogs had stepped on a squeaky ball.

First Huib let the dogs outside.

Then he put his shoes on and went over to the cupboard.

Inside, he found one tiny dead mouse in a trap and in the other trap, there was a partially living, medium sized mouse.

He said the trap had caught it like normal, but that for some reason the mouse was still living.

He said the partially living mouse had moved the trap close to the metal vent cover, so that is where the noise was coming from and why it was so loud.

Mystery solved and case closed.

Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

Now that I am done school for a few weeks, it was time to turn the house into a holiday oasis.

Kira hugs a big, tall spruce tree.

Huib cuts down the tree.

Kira, Huib and I went to a tree farm just outside of Guelph to pick out our Christmas tree.

I am standing in front of our Christmas tree with my sister

Me with my sister and step-dad in front of the tree. We also have /Canyon, Rogue, Cessna, Arizona and their cousin Dexter sitting with us.

After we did some decorating, Brandi I headed to Walmart to pick up some last minute decorations.

I also did some modelling…

This is a light brown dog hat. The ears move along to some Christmas music.

This one is a red and white elf hat with bells that sings & moves.

Her's a red Santa hat with zebra print on the brim and the pom-pom.

This is a camouflage hat with moose antlers that move along to Christmas music.

We had a busy and fun weekend. I can’t wait for Christmas to come.

Time for a Break

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a break from blogging. I’m talking about a break from school.

As everyone has probably noticed, I’ve been adding some long-awaited updates on a variety of things we’ve been up to. Sorry for the back dating, I just want the blog to sort of be chronological.

I handed in my final assignment for the semester yesterday afternoon and finished marking all of the papers for my two tutorials, so it’s time to start my Christmas break!

It has been a VERY busy semester. Part of it was me trying to figure out how things work as a graduate student, but most of it was the marking and assignments. I’m not complaining though, I loved it all!

I think I did pretty well this semester.

last week I had to hand in a proposal to request permission to do the 2 year thesis option. I’m still waiting for a response. I hope they like my idea.

Hmmm, what else can I tell you.

Next semester I am signed up to take a policy course and another class that will explore the world of animal therapy, so I’m pretty excited about those.

Well, that’s it for school updates. I’m off until January 5th, so I hope to do some work on the blog and post a little more often.

I hope everyone is doing well and I look forward to sharing more of our adventures.

What? 6 Months Already?

As you can see from the title of this post, Arizona is 6 months old!

Where has the time gone?

It seems like just yesterday we were picking her up. But, that is not the case, she is WAY to big to be carrying around now.

I had Huib measure her and she is now just over 21 inches tall and 18 inches long. We didn’t weigh her, but I’m thinking she’s probably somewhere in the 50 pound range. Since she is already the same height and length as Rogue and Cessna, I definitely think she’s going to be at least the same height as Canyon, who is 22 inches.

Now we begin watching for her to go into heat. It’s going to be a really wild few weeks when that happens. I had thought about letting friends take Canyon for the 10 days she’ll be fertile, but I think it’ll be better for him if we just take precautions and let him stay home.

Growing Up

It’s hard to believe we have already had our Wild Child for 3 months, but it’s true!

Arizona hanging over the edge of the big jet tub, playing in the bubbles. She has bubbles around her nose and under her chin.

Arizona is maturing and growing quickly, but she’s still just as crazy as ever.

Hmmm….what’s been happening with her since the last time I wrote…

Ari is now 19 inches tall, 18 inches long, has a 22 inch girth and weighs 38.5lbs.

She is also teething, so we really have to watch what she puts in her mouth. She seems to think everything is chewable. So far she has redesigned our front door mat, added some artistic touches to a few baseboards and created handfuls of wood chips, doing her beaver impression on fallen tree branches in the backyard.

On the training front –

We have started field lessons, so our homework right now is to work on having her sit in one spot until we give her a release word, to not just come when we whistle and to walk on our left side.

We are working with Susie Bell of Pinebank Labrador Retrievers. Susie is a Labrador Retriever breeder who teaches both obedience and field work. With our schedule and my visual limitations, we have decided to do private lessons, so we meet with Susie every 2-3 weeks.

Our work with Arizona is slow going, but she’s getting there. we really want to avoid luring and forcing her into position as much as possible, so it’s taking longer to teach her to sit and heel then it could.

Ari is a bundle of energy, but she is extremely curious and confident, so it’s been a learning experience for us and a lot of fun at the same time. I had hoped to be further in her basic training by now, but with her energy and independent-mindedness, I needed to take a step back and let her mature and let me enjoy her without the frustration. I did this with Rogue and even though her training took longer, I think that in the end she became a better companion for us, so I hope the same can be said for Ari when she’s Rogue’s age.

we finally got Arizona’s CKC paperwork in the mail this past week. She is now officially registered as: Taygold’s Kindred Spirit.

She will make her conformation debut next weekend at the Elgin County Kennel Club show, which also happens to be the Purina National. Arizona is still considered a Baby Puppy, so she will only show on Sunday. Canyon is also entered, but he shows on both Saturday and Sunday with Huib and then again on Saturday with our friend Kira, who will make her debut as a Junior Handler.

I am not so sure Ari will do well in the CKC conformation shows, because she’s from a working line, so I talked to my friend Amy who has Dalmatians and I think we’re going to try and show our dogs together in the US starting in February. I just need to ask Arizona’s breeder for full breeding rights, so that I can register her with the AKC – wish me luck!

That’s probably about all I have to update everyone on for now with Arizona. I have some entertaining antics to share, but I will try and put them together in a separate post.

Our First Day

I am now a graduate student!

On Monday, Rogue and I started our new adventure at McMaster University.

Rogue and I walk up concrete stairs. You can just see our backs and you can tell that Rogue is happy because her tail is sticking straight out.

I am doing my masters in the Department of Health, Aging and Society. This semester I am taking two classes and leading two tutorials. I am pretty nervous about all of the upcoming changes, but as long as I have my Roga-Monster by my side, I think I’ll be okay.

We got lost a few times our first couple days, but no matter what happened, Rogue did her job well and kept us safe. It will probably take me a few weeks to become comfortable with the various routes around campus, but as long as Rogue does her job, then I will work hard at doing mine.

If nothing else, this week has been amazing for Rogue and I. Having to learn to navigate a large, extremely busy campus has forced us to trust one another and Rogue has risen to the challenge. This week, she has shown me how ready she is to finally take over fully from Cessna – now we just need to convince Cessna that she is ready to hand over the reins.

rogue & Cessna take On Marineland

Guess what everyone!!

Mommy took me and Cessna to Marineland!!

It was SO much fun!!

We had to get up a bit earlier than normal, but it was okay with Cessna and I because our friends Sam, Mikayla and Kira came, so we knew it was going to be something exciting we were doing.

When we arrived at the park, Mommy made me and Cessna wear our respective head halters because she said she didn’t want her arm pulled off. I personally think I didn’t need it, but Cessna was CRAZY!!

Once we were all suited up and the humans had their backpacks on, we walked to the front gates and met up with 9 puppies in training from Cessna’s school with their human companions.

I didn’t catch many of their names, but I did get to talk to a flat coat named Martha and 2 labs named Okra and Posy – Mommy says she is glad she isn’t going back to Cessna’s school right now because the names they are coming up with for the dogs are WAY too weird!!

Once we all got through the gates, we walked to a big stadium like place where there were tons of benches and a big pool where I saw dolphins swimming around. I had never seen a dolphin before, but Mommy says they are one of her favourite animals (with dogs and horses being the other two).

Mommy held on to Sam’s arm while we walked to our seats because there were tons of people and she wanted to make sure I didn’t take her on a detour.

At our seats Cessna and I had a perfect view of the pool. Cessna was making some crazy screeching and high pitch whining noises, while I watched intently and quivered with excitement.

When the show started, Cessna got even louder and Kira had trouble calming her down. Mommy tried to help Kira, but Cessna wanted so badly to go swim with the sea lions, dolphins, beluga whales and walruses.

We watched the sea lions catch big rings, collect stuff from the bottom of the pool and swim around. The dolphins jumped, swam and also did some ring catching, while the belugas carried their trainers and did some neat performing. the walruses, in my opinion, were boring, they really didn’t do anything.

after the show we got to meet a dolphin trainer and Mommy and the other humans got to go touch a dolphin. Mommy wasn’t too sure she wanted to do it, but Mikayla asked her to go with her and together they got to feel the dolphin’s tail. the dolphin’s name was Tsunami and Mommy said she felt like a thick, rubbery sort of foam material.

when everyone had gotten their pictures taken, the group began to disperse. We went to the car to get some food for the humans and Mommy asked Kira to come help her let me and Cessna go to the washroom.

After the humans stuffed their faces, we head back into the park and walked to Friendship cove. Cessna absolutely loves the orcas, so Mommy wanted to take us there first.

the first mammals we came to were the beluga whales. there were about 6 or more in the tank and we got to watch them from above and below. After that we went over to the orca and watched Niska swim from below before going up and watching her swim and splash everyone from above. Niska is the only orca at Marineland right now. Mommy isn’t sure if orcas like to live alone or if Marineland has just not had a chance to get another one since the passing of the previous one. She thinks she remembers there being more than one orca when she visited a few years ago, but she isn’t totally sure.

After the orcas, we went to the deer park and waited outside while Kira went in with our friend Elizabeth to feed and pet the deer.

Then we walked over to the ride area and Kira went on a couple with her sister while we watched. Cessna jumped around and whined as if she wanted to rescue Kira, but Mommy held on tight and asked Cessna to sit calmly. I found the rides interesting to watch, but I knew I wasn’t going anywhere near it, so Kira was on her own there 😉

On our way to the bigger roller coaster we stopped and saw the black bears. It was sad to see the older ones in the small pool, but it was cool to watch one of them tell off a youngster. Mommy said it sort of sounded like how Cessna tells off Arizona when she tries to steal something she has. the younger bear wanted to sit on a rock that the older one was on so started making noises at him. the older bear refused to move and made even louder noises back.

When we got to the bigger roller coaster, Kira was too scared to go on it, so Mommy offered to go with Mikayla. Mommy gave my leash to Sam and Kira held on to Cessna. I was SO worried about Mommy leaving us, so I whined a lot and tried to follow her. Sam wouldn’t let me, so after a bit I gave up and waited. Mommy got back 20 minutes later – I was SO excited to see her!!

Mikayla needed to get to work for 6pm, so we left Marineland at 4:30pm.

Oh yeah! Before we left, as we were getting ready to get into the car, Sam dropped a can of Coke and it exploded all over her, also spraying me, Cessna, Mommy and Kira. So when we got home, Mommy put my gear into the washer, wiped Cessna’s down with cleaner and then made us both have baths. Neither of us like baths, but we also didn’t like feeling all sticky, so tolerated it.

I had a lot of fun at Marineland and I hope to go again some day. I think Cessna had the best time though and I am glad she got to go before she retires fully.