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.

Another Lesson On Caring For Horses

Around 7:30am, Sam, Kira and their dog Molly arrived. Huib, Canyon and I were ready, so we all got into our car and set off for Herb’s farm in Milton.

I had wanted to bring both goldens, but since Arizona had not yet seen Bianca, I thought it was better to leave her home. I worried about her contracting fleas or some sort of parasite.

when we arrived at the farm, we let the dogs out of the vehicle and walked towards the barn.

Canyon lived on a Mennonite farm for the first 6 months of his life, so I was pretty sure he’d be okay around the horses – and he was!!!

Canyon was amazingly well behaved. he stayed in the barn the entire time we were there. He was off leash, but stayed close and got out of the way without even being asked when people walked near him with horses. If a horse seemed to be uneasy, Canyon backed up more or walked away completely.

we got several compliments on canyon’s looks and temperament.

Huib and I took care of four horses while we were at the farm. We brushed Lovie (Love Detective) and Wine (Wine Photo), then got them both ready to jog. then we brushed Jerry (Jet black Cadillac(. Jerry was a gentle guy, but he was a bit uneasy having Canyon around, so Canyon wandered off and spent some time with Kira, who was caring for a sick horse and then brushed some of the young foals in the pasture.

After Lovie and Wine were bathed from jogging, Huib and I combed and brushed them. then Sam came over and began teaching me how to care for the heels and hooves of the horses. She had me feel for scabs on the heels and then showed me how to put the heel cream on and then she showed me how to oil the hooves. After we finished with Lovie and Wine, herb had Huib and I go groom gem (Magical Gem).

Gem is my absolute favourite horse at Herb’s farm right now. I love how she feels and I love how affectionate she is when we spend time with her. Huib says she has a really nice coloured coat and said he really likes the dappling on her back end. I was so glad Huib got a chance to meet Gem. gem had been in the pasture until near the end of our time at the farm, so I wasn’t sure he would get a chance to meet her. I guess Gem was in a bit of a bad mood, so it took the farm helper a bit of time to coax her inside.

Once everyone was groomed and had their halters removed, we put their lunch into their stalls and got ready to go home.

Canyon was walking around the farm with Kira, so while we waited for them to return, Huib and I talked a bit with Herb. he asked me about myself and asked how my phone works. I showed him how Voice Over works and sent Sam a text message while herb watched.

When Huib saw Kira coming back, he saw that Canyon had gotten into some mud, so walked towards them and took Canyon over to the bathing stall to be hosed off before going back into the car.

I think it was a great day at the farm and I will definitely be bringing Canyon with me again. I just hope he stays out of the mud next time because I worry about him getting hot spots.

Since Returning

Rogue and I have now been home for two weeks. It has been a busy two weeks, but most of the time it’s been stress-free.

Rogue had a bit of a lapse in her work the week after we returned. she seemed to think Huib should be guiding me and also it got really warm quickly, so she was a bit iffy on her curb-work and her pace was slower than I feel comfortable with. I took robin’s advice and ignored Rogue’s protests. I began to speak firmer and also made her redo any curb she even slightly messed up. It seemed to work because her work got better the following day and then even better the next.

Now her work is back to what it had been in Wyoming.

I think it was hard for Huib not to step in and help us out, but he did a really good job at restraining himself.

I try to get rogue out working every day, even just for a short trip around the neighbourhood. I ask her to take me directly to the curbs, even if we are planning on not crossing. I think Rogue is beginning to understand the whole “barrier to barrier” activity. I think it will help us both with orientation in the end, I just need to remind myself not to begin relaxing things as we get further into our partnership.

This past Friday I had Rogue’s eyes tested. Our friend Sam had to take her French Bulldog to the eye vet for an appointment, so I joined her. I planned to set up an appointment for Rogue and Cessna to have their eyes tested at a later date, but someone had cancelled and Dr Whalen said he could check without dilating her eyes, so we did it. her eyes are perfect! I assumed they were fine, but I wanted to make sure things were good before I completely retired Cessna. Labs tend to begin having eye issues around 2-3 years of age, so it’s always good to check things out.

other than working, rogue and I have attended a couple of soccer games with our friend Sam. her daughter, Kira, plays soccer every Thursday, so we’ve been going to watch. Rogue is really interested in watching, but she gets cold and bored after a while, so we’ve started bringing a blanket for her to lie on or under, depending on what she wants. there always seems to be other dogs at the games, but Rogue really doesn’t seem phased by them. One of the dogs who attends is a puppy in training from Dog Guides, so it was cool to meet her and her foster family. Norma is about 5 months old.

Wyoming Trip: Time To Go Home

As Robin liked to say: “Bootcamp is over and your release papers are in”.

Around 8am, all of us woke up, had our coffee, fed the dogs and then got ready for our final breakfast together.

Once breakfast was over, I went to finish packing the rest of my clothes and then Bill came into the room to make sure I didn’t miss anything obvious. I was shocked, but all of our stuff fit back into the suitcase without the need of the expansion portion either. Huib told me the suitcase is stronger without the expansion part being used, so I tried to make sure I could close it without the need of more room.

Around noon we piled the dogs, my suitcase and backpack into the vehicle and set off for Denver.

Other than a quick stop for lunch in Longmont, we didn’t make any other stops and arrived at Denver International Airport around 2pm, two and a half hours before my flight – which is a good thing because I didn’t make it to the gate until 3:40.

When we finally found the check-in counter, the clerk told me that she would order a wheelchair. When I explained that I did not require one, I just needed someone’s arm, she said that my request was not possible, that they only had people with wheelchairs available. I asked to see her supervisor. I don’t like being difficult, but the clerk was being rude and stupid. There is no reason why an airport shouldn’t have people to escort me to the gate without me needing to sit in a wheelchair to get there. After about 10 minutes of waiting, I moved back to the counter and asked her again to speak to her supervisor. She said her supervisor was busy, but that she would check me in and take my suitcase while I waited. She also said that she could give Bill a boarding pass and he could escort me to the gate. I asked that both Bill and Robin be able to do it if that was needed, but Robin didn’t have her ID, so I told the woman that an escort was going to be needed – I didn’t want Robin to have to sit and wait for Bill to return. the supervisor finally came out after 20 minutes and apologized for being so long. She said they had some trouble with an Ice Air flight and she also apologized about her employee. She said the woman was newer and had not assisted a person with a disability before. She said that it was her who had told the clerk to order a wheelchair, but that once the clerk learned I was visually impaired, that she should have found me an escort to walk down with, not expected me to sit in a wheelchair – I had decided that if I was going to have to have someone take me down with a wheelchair, that I was going to put Rogue into it and hold the back handle, lol! The supervisor said that it was going to take about 30 minutes for an escort to come help me, which I was okay with, but Robin told bill to take rogue and I to the gate.

After getting his boarding pass, Bill, Rogue and I set off for our gate. After going down a couple of escalators we finally made it to security where Bill’s boarding pass refused to work. After about 5 minutes of waiting, the guy gave bill another one. At security, I took off my shoes and belt and took my laptop out of my backpack, then proceeded through the metal detectors and, of course, I beeped. The guard asked if Rogue’s harness had any metal on it and I said yes, but offered to take everything off and have Bill call her back through. I did this. I stripped rogue completely down and wearing nothing, she ran through the detectors back to Bill – I was SO proud of her! I then walked back through the detector and beeped, so they asked for a female screener to come do a pat-down. the screener was really nervous, she worried about hurting me and also worried that Rogue would mind her touching me. Once I reassured her, she did her thing. while we were with the screener, another woman with a service dog was in a couple slots down. Rogue alerted me to the other dog, but when I asked her to stay, she stopped paying attention to the dog and just stayed standing where I asked with her leash loosely between us. Bill said he saw all of this and was very impressed. Once the pat-down was done, Bill came over with my stuff and I got everything back in its place.

At the gate, Rogue and I said goodbye to bill and then settled between two guys that were really friendly. One guy was travelling with another man and the other guy was travelling with a woman and a man. After a bit of waiting, the one guy asked me if I was going to be pre-boarded and when I said yes, he said that someone would probably come soon because they were taking some people in wheelchairs over to the ramp onto the plane. When I said that I hoped they didn’t forget I was there, both men said that I didn’t need to worry because they wouldn’t allow the plane to forget us – Canadians are SO friendly!!

Once on the plane, Rogue settled at my feet and since no one was in the seat beside me, I put my backpack under the seat in front and waited for takeoff.

The flight was relatively smooth. A flight attendant offered everyone beverages, so I had a Coca-cola while I read. When we got closer to Toronto, a flight attendant came over and gave me a customs form. I explained that I was visually impaired and would need assistance filling it out. She said that no one had told the attendants I was blind, so she felt bad that I had not been shown the safety features personally. I told her I was okay.

When we landed, I immediately sent Huib a message to say we had touched down. He said they were waiting just past baggage. The plane had to taxi for a bit so a spot would clear for the pilot to park, so I didn’t end up getting to Huib, Dad and Cessna until about 20 minutes or more after I had initially messaged him. Rogue was SO happy to see Huib and Cessna was SO happy to see me. I gave Rogue’s leash to Huib and he gave me Cessna’s.

It was an awesome trip and experience for both Rogue and I. Hopefully someday we’ll get a chance to return and show Robin how much we’ve grown as a team.

Wyoming Trip: Final Day

It’s hard to believe we go home tomorrow. It’s been an awesome trip and a really good experience for Rogue and I. We still have some work to do when we get home, but seeing how well she worked for me here has shown me that we will be okay in the end.

This morning we went to a local college campus to work on some orientation and stairs.

When we arrived at the college, Bill explained the route and I was supposed to meet up with Robin and Sherman in the first building. Rogue and I got out of the vehicle, I asked her to go forward and over left. She walked forward and moved slightly left, but I couldn’t find a curb, no matter how much I moved my left foot. Bill finally came over and explained that I was not quite at the curb, that Rogue had stopped 4 feet from a puddle that was in front of the curb I had directed her to. I turned around, walked back to the vehicle and then tried again – we did it.

Once we got into the building, Robin began talking to me about the importance of working Rogue through such issues, saying that if I had been somewhere alone that I did not know, I would have been screwed. I got a bit defensive and Robin got annoyed, so she turned around and walked back to the vehicle. I walked back towards the vehicle a few minutes later, but stopped at the curb and did some obedience with Rogue because I needed to figure out what to do to fix the situation with Robin. After about 5 minutes, bill came over and asked if I wanted a ride. I told him I wanted to apologize to Robin, but that I was also frustrated because i was telling the truth when I said that I would not go somewhere without knowing the exact route. Robin came over to us as we were chatting and I apologized and we set off again.

Sometimes stress just gets the best of me…thankfully robin is patient.

Once we got back to the building, Robin explained the first part of the route. She explained that she wanted me to work on teaching Rogue to go from barrier to barrier – door, wall, stairs, curb, etc. She told me that by going from barrier to barrier, i will find it easier to keep my bearings.

We walked to a door, then we turned left and walked down a hallway to a wall, then we turned around and walked back a few feet before turning to the stairway on the right. Rogue found the bottom of the stairs perfectly. We then walked down a zzig-zagging hallway to a door where we walked through a breezeway that included a few stairs down – Rogue stopped at the top and we proceeded down towards the door at the other end of the breezeway. We then walked down another hallway to an elevator where we went up. After we got out of the elevator, Robin said that we were looking for the third door on the right, so asked me to have Rogue take me to each door until we found the correct one. She said that by going to each door, I would be able to ensure that I found the correct door because I would have checked each one. I remember seeing a friend do this and wondered why he was wasting so much time, now I get it.

When we entered the third door, we were greeted by a woman who called over a guy who knew both Robin and bill. We chatted with the gentleman and were joined by two other women who began asking me questions about Rogue. It turns out the office was where robin’s son, Andrew, had his office, but he was off doing something, so we didn’t get a chance to say hello.

After we finished talking, we headed out of the office and did some more hallway work and walking from barrier to barrier, with a few stairways thrown into the mix. Rogue did really well, except that at one spot, there were two ramps and then two steps. Rogue walked me down the ramps and then forgot to stop at the top of the stairs, so I danced my way down them, trying to keep my balance. After my heart returned to it’s normal rate, we redid the section, starting at the top of the ramps, Rogue did it perfectly. Robin says that now that Rogue witnessed me almost falling down the steps, she won’t do it again – i really hope she’s right. Even though Rogue scared me to death by not stopping at the top of the stairs, I kept thinking about how dangerous it could have been for her if there had been more steps because I was wearing my over the shoulder leash, so if I had fallen, she would have had no choice but to go with me.

Once we finished working in the building, we walked towards the vehicle, but stopped at the curb where the puddle was, so that I could work with rogue on walking, rather than jumping over or refusing to walk near it. It took some luring, but we got her walking over and even standing in the puddle.

In the evening, we talked a lot about what I had learned and I finished off the tug I was working on. Robin said that I had taught her a valuable lesson about the importance of walking from barrier to barrier. She said that she had been trying to figure out what was going on for days and just came to the realization that I had never been taught this orientation skill. We also talked about some of the issues guide dog programs are currently having and the reasons for some of the problems.

I really hope I can remember everything Robin taught me and I hope to be able to come visit again in a year or two and show her how much improvement rogue and I have made. Robin really feels we are an awesome team and she believes that I could put Rogue beside any program trained dog and she’d shine brighter. I’m not totally sure she’s right, but I do know that I put a lot more work and heart into Rogue’s training compared to what gets put into program trained dogs, so I guess she’s got it there.

Tomorrow we catch our flight from Denver around 4:30pm (their time) and then arrive in Toronto at 9:41pm (our time). I am excited to see Huib again, but I am really looking forward to seeing Cessna and Canyon because it’s been a long 10 days without them.

I hope to post some pictures from our trip this weekend, I just need Huib to let me know if they are oriented correctly.