The 17th Round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

so here they are, the submissions for the 17th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

First, let’s go visit Briony and Rigby over at Briony Waffling and take a look at their post titled There’s No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk. In her post, Briony reflects upon her relationship with her former guide Lilo, and the things she wishes she could go back and change.

Over at Life Unscripted, Blindbeader writes about her initial expectations of her guide dog, Jenny, and how their relationship never truly worked out until she realized that aiming for perfection wasn’t the way to go. You’ll find all this in her post, I Expected Too Much and Was Let Down…

Now it’s time to check out What Happens if You’re Sick? In this entry, Canadianlynx talks about an issue she’s never really considered with previous guide dogs, how do we ensure our bond with our dog isn’t affected and how do we make sure their work stays intact when we’re ill?

Now it’s time to go visit Carin and Tansy over at vomit Comet. In her post, A Public Apology to Trixie, Carin apologizes to her former guide, Trixie, for not retiring her sooner and for ignoring all of the signs she now knows Trixie was giving her.

Over at The Average Blog By An Average Blogger, Tori and Ushi share their post titled Why Did I Let You Stop. In her post, Tori talks about Ushi’s habit of stopping for no reason and how she wishes she had done something to end the behaviour before it had become a habit.

Let’s go visit Flo over at A Mutt and His Pack. In a post titled I Hate Pink, Flo regrets buying Keeper a pink vest for working. Even though Flo sees the pink gear as a “pebble in the shoe,” Flo doesn’t want to buy another vest until necessary.

In her post, I Will Not Regret the Past Except for the Purpose of This Post, Ro reflects upon her choice to not go on a forest walk with Jayden while still in class.

Finally, we have my submission called Looking Back. In this post, I talk about my former dog guide, Phoenix, and the regrets I carry.

Boy, was this topic intense. Pouring our hearts out, talking about our regrets.

thank you everyone for your submissions, and for helping me promote the carnival itself. The next round will take place over at Gentle Wit in the fall.

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.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival – Call for Entries

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival buttonCan I have your attention PLEASE!!

I would like to present the 17th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

For those who do not know what the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is, you can find an explanation and links to former rounds HERE.

As always, you do not need to be partnered with an assistance dog, your entry just needs to be related to the topic of service dogs.

The topic for this round is REGRETS.

When most people think of service dogs they think of all of the things that they do. They also think of how awesome it must be to be able to take your dog everywhere with you. No one ever thinks of the other side of the story. No one ever talks about the challenges, problems or difficulties with relying on an assistance dog.

Here’s your chance. Let’s educate the world about the other side of the service dog tale. Let’s be honest with each other, the service dog relationship is not always chocolate, roses and butterflies.

Let’s talk about our frustrations, our concerns, our disappointments. Let’s confess our deepest REGRETS when it comes to assistance dogs.

So, what do you REGRET…

do you ever wish you had chosen to remain dogless?
Do you ever wish you had a different breed?
Did you teach your dog something you wish you hadn’t?
Did you find something you wish you had trained your dog to do?
do you ever look back and wish you had done things differently?

Let’s be honest with one another, we’ve all got REGRETS.

The deadline for submissions is June 30th at 7:47pm. If you would like to send in an entry, but you need a bit more time, just let me know.

You are probably wondering how you submit your entry – just leave a comment on this post with your name, your blog’s name, your entry title and the URLs that go along with each.

Please let your friends know about the ADBC. Please help me revive the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

I look forward to reading and sharing your entries.

The 16th Round is Here!!

I would like to announce the arrival of the 16th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

Which, by the way, has a fancy new page that can be found HERE. I am not sure how many people remember, but Cyndy and I have taken over organizing the carnival, so we hope you’ll all take a moment and check out the new page.

So, back to the announcement.

The host for this round, is Laura of Canines in Action.

the topic is ‘perceive’. You can submit anything, as long as it has something to do with the topic of ‘perceive’ and service dogs.

I hope you will take the time to participate and to also check out the new Assistance dog Blog Carnival page.

Rogue Is Freedom

This is my submission for the 15th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

According to the free online dictionary, freedom is:
“1. the state of being free, or
2. exemption from external control.”

Therefore, Rogue is FREEDOM.

Rogue joined our family on June 10th, 2011 but even before her arrival she had begun to set me free.

Five months before picking up Rogue I lost most of my usable vision, and in the process, lost myself. I had always been a confident person. Even after being with Huib for over a decade, I still found it difficult to ask for help…I never wanted him to see me as dependent. When my vision changed and I no longer saw the same way, my world fell apart. I was scared. I didn’t know how I would ever learn to get around on my own again. It was easier to just go places with Huib or other people.

When we learned that Cessna was developing cataracts I knew I was going to need to seriously think about a successor. I had tossed around the idea of owner-training, but it wasn’t until this diagnosis that I really thought about it. I had less vision now than when I got Cessna, so I thought it would be better to return to Dog Guides for a successor, but Huib said he was confident in my abilities, so he convinced me to take the plunge.

This decision marked the beginning of rogue’s journey with me towards freedom.

Huib and I had raised two puppies for Autism dog Services, so knew we needed to expose our new puppy to as many people and experiences as possible from the start. We knew some of the more basic commands we needed to teach, and had an idea of the guiding skills our trainee would need to learn. We had no clue how we were going to accomplish this though. We knew lots of people who were blind and had a guide dog, but we didn’t know anyone who had raised and trained their dog themselves. So I got on the computer and started to look for service dog blogs and service dog handlers who had owner-trained. I found several people in the United States and began asking them questions.

if it weren’t for Rogue, I’m not sure I would have ever had the desire or courage to reach out to so many strangers, many of whom have now become very good friends.

Through my research and discussions, I was able to develop a preliminary training plan. I say preliminary because over the past three years I have had to make changes in order to fit our needs.

Rogue and I have had our ups and our downs. owner-training is like an addiction, even when are hitting rock-bottom, you keep pressing on because you remember the high you got when things were at their best. Unlike an addiction though, owner-training often ends on a positive note.

Rogue turned three on the 13th and is working pretty much full-time with me. Cessna comes out when she wants, but I think she’ll retire fully really soon.

Rogue has not only enriched my life by being a friend, but she has also set me free. She forces me to go outside of my comfort zone and work hard at regaining my independence. In the process, I have found myself again. I am not completely comfortable with going everywhere on my own yet, but Rogue has shown me that it’s possible because she’s by my side.

The 15th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Has Arrived

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival button

Our friends Cyndy and Uschi of Gentle Wit, are hosting the 15th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

The topic for this round is “freedom”. If you take a look at Cyndy’s call for submissions you will find some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

I hope you will come join us. You don’t need to be a service dog user or have a service dog currently, as long as your entry has something to do with service dogs, you’re in.

The 13th Round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

Welcome to the 13th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

I really enjoyed reading your stories and hope you’ll take the time to read some of the other entries.

Our first submission comes from L-Squared of L-Squared.org. Her entry is called trust Your dog.

“Unfortunately, no matter how cute, smart, loyal and hard-working your guide dog is, sometimes trusting them completely can be a very difficult thing to do – regardless of whether you’re working with your first dog or your tenth.”

Isn’t that just so true??? I remember constantly being told those exact three words while training for Phoenix and Cessna, and I am having to remind myself of this now that Rogue is easing into being my full-time guide.

Now let’s go visit Briony’s blog, Briony Waffling. In her post, Lessons, Briony shares the lesson she learned while training with her second guide dog.

Our next entry comes from Shane and Yager over at House of Insanity and Opinions. shane writes about the lessons he learned while in training, in his post Lessons Learned In Training.

Next, we’ll move over to the blog, A Mutt and His Pack, where we’ll find Flo. In his post, Do What You Can, Flo writes about the obstacles he’s had to overcome this year, and about the lessons his dogs have taught him.

Karyn and Thane of Through A Guide’s Eyes, have shared a post called Lessons Through Healing. Karyn has written about a healing program she is taking part in that has led to not only improvements in her health, but has also taught her lessons about her relationship with Thane.

Now let’s visit Sharon Wachsler over on her blog, sharonwachsler.com. In her post, The Importance of Play, Sharon reminds us all about the importance of having fun with our dogs.

Ro from the blog, In the Center of the Roof, has submitted a post called Little Lesson, in which she talks about the lesson her guide dog, Jayden, has taught her about routines.

The next post comes from Frida writes. she writes about some of the trainers and service dog handlers she has learned from and has shared some useful links in her post, Lessons From Others.

Patti Brehler of the blog, Plays With Puppies, writes about using some of her puppy training techniques with her husband in her entry, Not Just For Puppies.

I’m totally going to try “training” Huib with positive reinforcement now…wish me luck!

Now let’s go visit Patty Aguirre’s blog, Shai Ezer-Helper Beside Me. In her entry, Lessons From Rani On Counter Surfing, Patty writes about how she has approached issues such as counter surfing.

Finally, in my post, the Rogue Lesson, I write about the lessons Rogue has taught me along our journey together.

Thank you everyone for submitting an entry and making the 13th round such a huge success!

The Rogue Lesson

No matter what we think, our dogs are always watching and learning.

This is the most important lesson rogue has taught me.

Let me explain.

As most of my blog readers already know, Rogue is my Guide Dog In Training.

Cessna will be 10 years old tomorrow, so I would like to begin retiring her after Christmas. She could still work another year or so, but I would like to have her enjoy at least a couple years of care-free pet life before she becomes too old to do so.

I began Rogue’s formal guide work training last fall, starting with basic forward guiding in hallways. Over the past year, Rogue has learned how to:

Follow directional cues;
Take me around various obstacles;
Manoeuvre through crowds;
Find doors, curbs and stairways;
Stop at curbs; and more recently,
She has gone on short trips with me.

The past twelve months have not been smooth sailing. It seems as though, for every success, there have been double the obstacles.

First we had the gear issue. rogue has always had a problem with how certain gear feels and it takes her a really long time to get used to wearing something as simple as a new collar.

Then we had the confidence issue. It’s probably pretty normal, but to me, it seems as though rogue takes a lot longer to feel comfortable with a new concept or route. when we begin working on a new route, for example, she will often stop every few steps to check in with me, or if she’s feeling really uncertain, she’ll sit and refuse to move. Even if i can get her moving, it honestly feels as though she is walking with a pickle between her bum cheeks. but, once she feels good about the new route, she picks up speed and walks faster than Cessna’s usual pace.

Our most recent problems though have been my fault. I have forgotten something important. I forgot how easy it is to “teach” a dog something you didn’t mean to “teach” them.

Rogue is very close to being able to take over, at least part-time, from Cessna. We just have one little problem.

Somehow, I taught Rogue that it is important for her to stop three feet back from a down curb and at least a foot back from the up curb – Whoopsie!

How did I teach her such a thing you ask?

It was a little easier than you’d think…

While we were working on learning to stop at curbs, I would dramatically tell Rogue that she had overstepped the curb edge and then immediately turn back and re-do it. the problem came from the distance I tended to walk back to before approaching the curb again. for some reason, I kept walking three feet back from a down curb and about a foot back from an up curb – Double whoopsie!

Now Rogue thinks she needs to stop exactly where we used to stop when re-working the curb…

Here i thought Rogue was having trouble learning what I wanted, when in fact, she was giving me exactly what I had taught her to do – Silly Human!

In order to fix the mistake, I have asked Huib to help me re-teach rogue proper curb approaches. he takes her out, in harness, to practice five up curbs and five down curbs each day. It’s taken her about two weeks, but she’s begun to have a 90% success rate, so we’ve begun going out together and Huib stops me the second Rogue is about to overstep a curb or tells me to keep going if she’s beginning to slow down too soon. when rogue does it correctly, Huib clicks and I give her a treat.

It’s amazing to look back at all rogue and I have accomplished in twelve months, but it’s more amazing, to look back at all of the lessons she’s taught me.

She’s taught me that not every dog learns the same way. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

She taught me that sometimes you need to step back and appreciate what you’ve already learned.

She’s taught me that no matter how well-behaved she can be, she is and always will be a dog.

She’s taught me that I’m not perfect.

and, most importantly, she’s taught me that it may not look like it, but she’s always watching and learning.

Call For Submissions

***ATTENTION PLEASE! ruled by paws was down for a bit this afternoon/evening, so I have decided to extend the submission deadline to October 31st at midnight***

Welcome to the 13th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

The topic for this round is “lessons”.

Rogue and I are nearing the end of her initial guide training, of course training will continue, and I’ve had to work through a lot of minor problems that ended up being my fault. I had unintentionally taught Rogue to do things in a way that I am now trying to stop.

* Are there things you’ve taught your service dog that make you really proud?
* Have you unintentionally taught your service dog something?
* Is there something you’ve learned from your service dog?
* Is there something you’ve learned from another service dog or their person?

The sky’s the limit with this topic, so please share some “lessons” – We’re all ready to learn!

The deadline for submissions is October 30th at 7:47pm. You’re probably wondering why I’ve chosen this date and time, it’s because it’s Cessna’s birthday!!

Once your submission is ready, please comment on this post with:
1. Your name;
2. the name of your blog;
3. The name of your submission; and
4. the URL relating to your submission.

If for any reason you require a bit longer to write your entry, just let me know.

Ready…set…type!!!

If It Weren’t For The Internet

This entry is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival being hosted by Frida Writes.

Sometimes we need a friend. Someone to bounce ideas off. Someone to talk to when we’re unsure. someone to share our accomplishments with. someone to tell us we’re doing okay.

For me, this support has come from the internet.

If it weren’t for Twitter, blogging and Facebook, I’m not sure Cessna and I would have succeeded, or I would have gotten as far as I have in preparing Rogue for her future job of guide dog.

It is through Twitter and bloging, that I met others who have gone through similar experiences with their guide dogs, and others who have raised and trained their own service dogs. It is through Facebook and instant messaging, that I have been able to keep in close contact with old and new friends to talk about the ups and downs of work with Cessna, and training with Rogue.

When I received Cessna, almost eight years ago, i had no clue what I had gotten myself into. Cessna was not my first guide dog, or even my first guide from her school, she was my third, but she was the youngest and the most difficult. Cessna was an 18 month old, squirrel chaser, who had emotional scars from training and who knew the guide commands, but I’m convince, had no clue what to do with them. we struggled for over a year and a half, trying to understand one another, and getting nowhere fast. But, I had friends who listened to my worries, who listened to my thoughts, and who provided words of encouragement at the right moments in time. some friends were just a city away, but others were a couple provinces away, so Facebook, email and instant messaging were a big reason why Cessna and I succeeded.

A huge turning point for Cessna and I came when I decided to google service dog programs in my area. I had just finished my social work degree, and wanted to see if there was a small service dog program that would appreciate my social work skills on a volunteer basis. this is how I learned about K-9 Helpers, and began learning about clicker training. Cessna and I had been together for about two years, but it wasn’t until I started taking classes with Dogs In The Park, that we truly began to understand one another and Cessna’s emotional scars from training began to really heal. the primary trainer at Dogs In The Park was in charge of training the psychiatric service dogs for K-9 Helpers, so when I began volunteering, she offered to work with us.

the internet played such a vital role in helping Cessna and I become the dream team, and it has not failed me with rogue either. when I began thinking about raising and training Cessna’s successor, I was met with many questions and concerns from family members. through blogging about my issues, and tweeting about my thoughts, I met people who had and who were going through similar experiences. I met people with all sorts of disabilities that had overcome the odds and were successfully working with canine partners, they had raised and trained themselves. Over the past two years, rogue and I have encountered many obstacles, but our internet friends and blogging family have helped us defy expectations.

through the internet, I have met amazing people and made forever friends.

They listen to my thoughts. They listen to my worries. they share in my excitement. They feel for my losses. and they provide words of encouragement and wisdom at just the right moment.

If it weren’t for the internet. If it weren’t for our virtual friends and family. I’m pretty certain, Cessna and I wouldn’t have become a dream team, and Rogue would not be on the path to becoming my future partner in crime.