Partnership Differences

I know the chances are extremely slim that it would have happened, but if Phoenix was still with us, he would have turned 17 this week.

Knowing this has gotten me thinking about the differences in the partnerships I have with Cessna and Rogue, and had with Phoenix.

Each dog has their own unique personality and working style.

Cessna is an amazing worker, but if there’s a squirrel nearby, she’s also a serious critter chaser. but, no matter how distracted she gets, her work is always spot on.

Phoenix was too serious about his work. If he thought something wasn’t safe, then he’d flat out refuse to move. One day it took me 15 minutes to convince him to climb over a snow bank that was blocking our path. Phoenix knew his job was to keep me safe, so he felt it was necessary to keep following the sidewalk until he found an opening he could get me through to cross the road. the only problem was, there were no openings, it had just snow ed and the snow removal people hadn’t gotten around to clearing pedestrian walkways.

Rogue is still in the training process, but already I am seeing similarities between the way she works and Phoenix’s work ethic. If Rogue isn’t sure something is safe, or certain that she is doing what I want, she’ll stop walking and sit down until I explain the request again.

Cessna is a solid worker, but Phoenix and Rogue seem much more serious about their job.

At home, Cessna rarely cuddles with me or follows me around the house. She’d much rather spread out on the couch for a nap or chase squirrels in the backyard.

Phoenix was my yellow shadow. Wherever I was, he was not far behind. If I was sitting on the couch, Phoenix was lying beside me with his head in my lap. if I was doing dishes, he was lying by my feet or a few feet behind.

Rogue is almost an extension of me. the second I move, she’s up and ready to follow. if I’m working on my laptop, Rogue is lying right against me. if it were possible, I think Rogue would climb inside my body.

Other then her bad habit of counter surfing while we’re gone, Cessna could care less about being left behind.

Phoenix went nuts when I left him. it didn’t matter who was with him, he did not like being away from me.

Rogue is not even close to as bad as Phoenix, but she still does not like being left behind. She’ll frequently look out the window to see if I’m coming back, and she’ll whine if she sees me and cannot get there.

Thinking about the differences between my partnerships with Cessna, Phoenix and rogue, I really wonder if maybe a good working dog needs a certain level of separation anxiety…

Back On Campus

yesterday, I had my first class on campus, after 9 years away.

Nine years ago, I graduated from the University of guelph, with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Policy. Since graduating, I completed a social work degree at McMaster University and have taken three courses online through the University of guelph, but I haven’t taken any courses on campus.

I hope to apply for masters, starting next fall, so I’ve decided to continue taking a class each semester, in order to improve my Grade Point Average.

this semester, I am taking a 4th year advanced topics course that looks at the area of human rights.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been thinking about doing a masters thesis relating to human rights, so I thought this course might be a good starting point.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with the labs on becoming familiar with the University campus. Since losing a bit more of my sight almost two years ago, I’ve had to relearn how to work with and trust Cessna, while also training Rogue. Even though I lived in guelph for almost 10 years, and attended the University for 5 of those years, I’ve had to relearn the city and campus, while also trying to regain some confidence.

When Cessna and I arrived at the University, we got off the bus and headed toward the University Centre. We found the first crossing with no problem, but then became disoriented. We were supposed to go over-left a bit and then continue walking forward, but Cessna continued walking to the left and I didn’t realize until I started hearing sounds that told me we were approaching an intersection. I turned around and asked her to go forward and then stopped to listen for sounds that might help me find the correct route. I knew we were close to the spot we needed to be, but couldn’t quite figure it out, so listened for someone to walk by. I heard someone and asked for help, a couple of people walked by, but then a woman stopped and said she was also going to the University Centre. I had Cessna follow her, and was quite amused by the woman. She kept telling Cessna to come along and when we got to some steps, Cessna paused to tell me, and the woman started saying “Up, up, come on, up…”. I almost laughed. Thankfully the woman’s calls fell on deaf ears and Cessna kept me safe. When we got to the University Centre, the woman went her way and I had Cessna find the spot where we were supposed to meet our guide. I ended up having to call my guide, we had missed each other, but we found each other in the end and I made it to class a few minutes before the professor arrived.

Cessna slept through the class and we got back to the bus and home without any further complications.

I’m going to take Cessna to campus a couple of times this week to work on our route to the University Centre, so that hopefully on Friday we won’t end up lost.

The Rogue roller Coaster

The past month has been full of ups and downs for rogue and I.

We are really getting into the tough part of training and it’s been quite the roller coaster.

We’ve had really good training sessions, and then we’ve had okay training sessions. I guess a positive part of all this is that we haven’t had any really bad training sessions.

Rogue is getting really comfortable with her new working gear and she is slowly settling into her guiding responsibilities.

I’ve been really focusing on her curb approaches, directions and confidence.

I’ve been trying to find friends willing to work with us, to give Rogue an opportunity to work without Huib.

I find my dogs get really comfortable with Huib and forget to focus on their jobs. they get into the habit of expecting Huib to take care of me, instead of just working along side him. It’s not just a problem rogue has, but one both Cessna and Phoenix have been guilty of.

Since Rogue and I did a lot of work in malls when we lived in the north, she is extremely confident and her work is almost always spot on. We had two really amazing training sessions that I wish i could have videoed. Her pace was amazing, her obstacle work was perfect, and her precision had me speechless.

Then, when we went to London to see my neuro ophthalmologist, she had me again speechless. She was guiding me around people and through the hospital hallways with such confidence, you’d think she had been there before. she was turning left and right when I asked and she only blew her up curbs by a couple of steps. Huib was with us and was so proud of the work we had done.

Last week I took Rogue and Cessna to the University of Guelph to learn the route from the bus stop to my class. I decided to start by working with Cessna, and then do it with Rogue. I thought Rogue would be able to learn from watching Cessna work – I was completely wrong. When it was Rogue’s turn, her pace was slow, we struggled with our curb approaches but her obstacle work and overall work was okay. I was frustrated because I didn’t understand where my confident little worker had gone.

On Saturday I returned to the campus with a friend to do some more work with Rogue. We still struggled with our curb approaches, she keeps stopping a few feet away from the down curb and then when we inch our way closer, she ends up blowing the curb by a couple of steps. her up curbs were a little better, but she was still taking a couple steps too much. her pace was better though and looking back, I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that her confidence level was higher, since we had been to the campus before. We worked on the route from the bus stop to my class and Rogue did well at finding the stairs, finding the doors, finding the ramps and even finding the elevator, but I think the biggest thing I realized was that I didn’t trust her. I was okay when I knew there wasn’t any stairs I could fall down, but as soon as I knew, or even thought, there were stairs coming up, I felt myself tensing and noticed Rogue’s attention drifting.

overall, I’d have to say rogue worked well, but I need work.

After talking to some friends about the work Rogue and I have done over the past month, I came to the conclusion that we aren’t going to get to the point where she can take over from Cessna if I don’t start getting her out daily. If I’m going to trust rogue, like I trust Cessna, then I am going to have to put in the time.

I’m going to get my cane out and use it to help rogue learn exactly where I want her to stop at curbs and stairs, while also using it to give me confidence that we’re safe.

I think the curb issues stem from something i unintentionally taught her.

To be honest, it seems that most of the issues I have with my dogs are because of something I unintentionally teach, lol!

I’m really going to try and make a conscious effort to get Rogue out daily, even if it means we need to work a bit in the rain.

Reading And More Reading

I’m not sure why the series has grabbed me, but I couldn’t stop reading the books and have now completed the most recent book in JD Robb’s In Death series.

In total, there are 39 books and a few other books that include some of Robb’s shorter stories that include Eve Dallas, roarke and friends.

since my last entry, I’ve read:

* Ceremony In Death
* Vengence In Death
* Holiday In Death
* Midnight In Death
* Conspiracy In Death
* Loyalty In Death
* Witness In Death
* Judgement In Death
* Betrayal In Death
* Interlude In Death
* Seduction In Death
* Reunion In Death
* Purity In Death
* Portrait In Death
* Imitation In Death
* Remember when
* Divided In Death
* Visions In Death
* Survivor In Death
* Origin In Death
* Memory In Death
* Born In Death
* Innocent In Death
* Creation In Death
* Strangers In Death
* Salvation In Death
* Promises In Death
* Kindred In Death
* Fantasy In Death
* Indulgence In Death
* Treachery In Death
* New York To Dallas
* Celebrity In death
* Delusion In Death
* Calculated In Death

Of her shorter stories, I’ve read:

* Ritual In Death, and
* Possession In Death

I have a few more of her shorter stories to read, but will eagerly await the release of her next book in the “In Death” series.

With these 35 books, I think my 2013 completed book list is up to 45. If I keep reading ebooks, instead of braille, I will probably complete over a hundred books by the end of the year.

Books That Make You Think

Have you ever read a book that left you thinking? A book that left you thinking, yes, that is exactly how I feel?

Well, I’m reading a series that is doing just that.

I’ve just begun reading the In Death series by JD Robb (Nora Roberts), from the beginning.

So far, I’ve read the first four books; “naked In Death”, “Glory In Death”, “Immortal In Death” and “Rapture In Death”, and have begun the fifth.

Before I go into what the books are about and my review of them, I’ll explain why the series has me thinking, “Yes! This is exactly how I feel” and “Maybe I should change the way I feel”.

Intertwined with the crime and mystery aspect of the books, is the relationship between Eve Dallas, the main character, and the former thief turned Irish billionaire who loves her, Roarke.

Now, you’re probably wondering, how does this apply to my life…here it is…

Throughout the progression of the relationship between Eve and roarke, she’s constantly asking herself why this man, who could have any woman he wanted, wants her and loves her so deeply. she sees herself as nothing more than a broken child who worked her way up to becoming a superstar homicide lieutenant. meanwhile, rorke is a handsome billionaire who could have any woman in the world.

It sounds so weird, but I find myself asking this same question about Huib. I know he loves me to death, but I keep wondering why. Why did he choose to be with me? Why does he feel content with supporting me and with being responsible for helping me, when he could have chosen to ignore my attempts at making him notice me (almost 13 years ago) and be with someone less demanding of his time and efforts?

I guess Eve and I both share the common feeling of not being worth the effort. Of not being anything special, but ourselves.

After months of trying to make Eve understand why he feels so deeply for her, and to show her that she is indeed worthwhile, Roarke finally gets angry and says it straight out. He tells her that he needs and wants her, and that she needs to learn to just accept that.

This is when I began thinking. thinking about my questions regarding why Huib has chosen me. thinking about what sorts of issues my questions might be causing without me knowing. Thinking about why I shouldn’t feel worthwhile and deserving of Huib’s love and devotion.

Huib has chosen to be with me. We have been together for almost thirteen years. We’ve been married for almost seven and a half years. Does it really matter why he chose me? Does it really matter why he cares so deeply? I do deserve to be with Huib, so I’m going to stop over thinking things and just accept the fact that I need him (not financially, but emotionally) and just maybe, he also needs me.

Instead of going into what each book is about, I’ll just say that I love the series so far. the outcome is a little predictable, but you’re always left wondering who the “bad guy” is up until the end. It’s a little hot and steamy when you get to the parts involving eve and roarke at home, but there’s enough crime and suspense mixed into the book, so you’re not left feeling as though you’re reading a cheesy romance novel.

So far, I have twenty-four books to read from the series, but there are another ten or more after that I need to find.

It’s always fun to have a series that pulls you in, especially one that goes on for so long.

Canada Day

Rogue and I standing together. Rogue is wearing her red and black guide harness, you only see the black straps that come over her shoulders and a bit of the red canvas lower on her chest. She's also wearing a red limited slip collar with Cessna's black leather braided leash and is pulling toward the camera. I'm standing to her right wearing blue denim jeans, tan running shoes, a red long sleeved shirt and a red baseball cap that says Canada in white stitching.

earlier this evening, Huib, Rogue and I went to Riverside Park here in Guelph to check out the Canada Day festivities. There were some carnival rides and games, as well as, some food and snack vendors. There was even a band playing, followed by some loud music over the radio. rogue was a little too excited, so needed to wear her silver Halti, but she had no issues with all of the people, noise and smells. Whenever we stopped, she focused on me, nose targeting my leg, and when she was distracted, she was easily redirected to us. I think with a little more time to mature, she won’t need the Halti at all.

Fireworks in the sky. there's a yellow one just above the red one.

Fireworks in the sky. There's a white one above the yellow one.

Later, Huib and I went to the fireworks display put on by the rotary Club. for safety reasons they had the park blocked off, so everyone was lined up along the sidewalks. It was really neat to watch the fireworks go up and then explode in the sky. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to see anything, since losing more of my sight about two and a half years ago I’m not able to see a lot of what I used to, but I was delighted to discover that I could see them. I wasn’t able to tell what colours they were, but Huib told me as they lit up the sky.

I hope everyone had a safe Canada Day.

More From Niagara Falls

Rogue giving me a kiss at the top of the falls. I'm standing with my body toward the falls, but I'm looking to my right. Rogue has her paws up on the rock portion of the railing, giving me a kiss. I'm wearing a black tank top, blue denim jeans, black sandals, a lime green treat pouch and light pink baseball cap with a horse embroidered on the side in white. Rogue is wearing her dark purple Har-Vest with a black guide handle attached and on the side is Guide Dog embroidered in yellow.

Rogue did an awesome job at guiding me in Niagara Falls. She followed her line perfectly well, not veering onto the grass at all and keeping us away from other people walking along the sidewalks. It was a really good opportunity for me to see how far Rogue has progressed in her learning. She had a bit of trouble staying in a straight line when crossing the road, but I was able to easily redirect her with the help of Huib, who was walking behind us. the only issue we ran into, was when Rogue forgot to stop at an up-curb. Thankfully, Huib was watching and grabbed my shoulder before I could trip.

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.

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.