The 10th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Entries

The 10th round of the Assistance Dog blog Carnival has come and gone.

I wrote a post about Rogue and how perfection is an impossible goal. if you’d like to check that out, you can go here.

For those who are interested in reading some of the other submissions, you can find them here.

Impossible Perfection

This post is for the 10th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival button

About two years ago, I began researching Labrador Retriever breeders in Ontario. I had learned that Cessna, my current program trained guide dog, had developed tiny cataracts, so had made the decision to “take the plunge” and owner-train her successor. The vet wasn’t sure if Cessna’s cataracts would grow and how long she would be able to work, so I decided then and there that we would need to begin our search for the right “Future Guide Dog Hopeful”.

It took about two months for us to settle upon a breeder, Red Labrador Retrievers, and about a month more before the litter that contained my little caramel firecracker was born.

On June 10th, 2011, RLR’s Babe In Total Control or Rogue for short, entered our family. From the start I just knew I had made the correct selection. Rogue was confident. Rogue was busy. And most important to me, Rogue was independent-minded.

Over the past year and a half rogue and I have had our challenges. I have tried to make sure she obtains all of the exposures, socialization opportunities and challenges needed to give her a proper start on her journey to becoming a guide dog, but the road has not always been smooth. Many people would probably look back at our challenges and suggest that I wash her from training and return to Dog Guides, but we’re not yet ready to quit.

Our first real obstacle came when rogue turned 7 months. It was like someone had turned a switch. rogue was no longer feeling confident in public. She was backing away from people who wanted to greet her. She was hiding behind our legs and peaking out to see if the person had left. She wouldn’t come out when the person squatted and started calling her in an excited voice. She wouldn’t even come out when we had them hold out some treats. Sometimes she’d also begin barking at them when she was backing away, or bark at random people passing our table in coffee shops or walking past us in the grocery store. We were not ready for this sort of reaction, but knew it must be some part of her normal puppy development. I also knew that one of her half siblings had been washed from autism service dog training for shyness, so I knew it was possible she could face the same fate if we weren’t able to work with her through this issue.

We decided the best thing to do initially was to take a few weeks break from training all together. rogue was spayed, so needed a week to heal and I also felt as though she needed some time to just be a dog. After the three weeks were over, we started taking Rogue on short trips into town for lunch or coffee. If she barked at anyone, we said “quiet” and then asked the person, if they hadn’t run off, if they wouldn’t mind offering her a piece of hot dog. Rogue was better with some people than others. We couldn’t figure out a pattern, so just worked with what we had. If she didn’t immediately shy away from the person offering her the treat, we’d push her a little further and see if she would allow them to give her attention. We did this for about three or four months before we noticed she was no longer barking at random people and shying away from their greetings. We didn’t always stick to our short outings of course, taking her to run errands and for totally new exposures, but I think being patient and rewarding her for being quiet and greeting politely was what helped Rogue regain her confidence.

Our next real challenge didn’t show itself until November. Don’t get me wrong, Rogue’s training hasn’t gone completely flawless, but it wasn’t until November that we were confronted with a problem I didn’t see a way around. Since last Christmas, Rogue has been wearing the Active Dogs padded harness vest along with the Premier Easy Walk Harness. I thought she was comfortable with the equipment, but then a friend pointed out issues with her body posture and the way she was holding her head. Huib started to pay more attention to this and said that he felt Rogue may be uncomfortable with either being in public or the equipment she was wearing. I decided it was time to work more seriously on loose leash walking in public (I’d been working on it with rogue in the house for months). Rogue had always been ducking the opening to her vest when I would go to put it on so I didn’t think that was an issue, but felt that maybe she was reacting to the feel of the Easy walk. We stopped using it and were introduced to the fact that Rogue has a soft trachea. Back in May Rogue had made us suspicious of this possibility when she had 48 hours of reverse sneezing episodes, but with the use of the Easy walk, we didn’t really understand how bad the problem was. After speaking to a friend who knows a great deal about the condition, we switched Rogue from a regular nylon flat collar to a martingale. Similar to her ducking of the vest opening, she was ducking my efforts to put her nose through the opening of the martingale. It was the introduction of the martingale that brought us to the realization that Rogue was not only reacting to the feel of the Easy Walk, but that she was also upset about the gear in general.

I was at a loss.

I was convinced that I would now have to wash my girl.

I didn’t see how I could possibly get her comfortable with wearing a martingale and guide harness.

After days of e-mailing back and forth with friends and talking to Huib, it was decided that we should try finding gear that didn’t require Rogue to put her head in to put on. I also decided to take another break from training and just focus on what Rogue already knew. First, we found martingales that opened up like a nylon flat collar on the Silverfoot website. Then I came across a doggie back pack we had purchased in the summer for Canyon. I asked Huib if it would be possible to modify it, so that Rogue could wear it for guiding, he didn’t see why not. I ordered the new martingales and Huib got to work on converting Canyon’s Outward Hound back pack into a guide harness.

It has been about a month since we started using the new martingales and Outward Hound back pack. Rogue’s attitude and body posture in public has changed drastically! She’s happy to be out and even tries to seek out the attention of random strangers – something I’ll need to now work on, but it’s a place to start. the martingales also seem to eliminate the coughing and gagging when we’re not paying close enough attention and rogue happens to get to the end of her leash.

Some people may look at the challenges I’ve faced and suggest it is time to cut my losses and accept the fact that Rogue may never become a guide dog, but we’ve overcome things so far and I’m not ready to throw in the towel.

Some people may look at our challenges and say that Rogue isn’t an acceptable guide dog candidate, but I’m not ready to give up on her. If I had given up on Cessna so easily, I would have missed out on eight amazing years of partnership with an amazing teacher.

Some people may look at my lack of training knowledge and suggest training rogue is too big a job for me to do on my own, but I’m not ready to agree. Rogue and I have gotten this far with my trial and error style of training, so I don’t think it’s time to stop moving forward.

Rogue may never be a “perfect” guide dog, but am I a “perfect” trainer? Were Phoenix and Cessna “perfect” guide dogs? Is anyone “perfect”?

The only answer I can give is that Rogue has been a patient learner and I think she’ll make the “perfect” guide dog for me.

Rogue stands in the snow wearing Muttlucks. She's wearing two different colour boots, royal blue ones on the front and hunter green ones on the back. The cuffs of the boots are full of snow after running through drifts, so it looks as though she has swollen ankles. She has a big smile on her face because she's in the middle of a game of fetch.

It’s Carnival Time!

The call for submissions has been posted. It’s time for the 10th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

The topic for this round is “Perfect 10”. You can write anything you want as long as it refers to assistance dogs in some way, and as long as it relates to the topic – whether it relates to “perfect”, “10” or “perfect 10”.

If you have an entry you’d like to share, please go on over to After Gadget, and leave a comment with:

1. The name of and link to your blog;
2. The name of and link to your entry; and
3. Your name.

I hope you’ll participate.

He Said It Was Time

As mentioned in an earlier post, the topic for the 9th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “Moments”. From the first moment I read the topic, I knew what I had to write about. Even though it isn’t a happy moment, it’s a moment that I feel needs to be written about.

The moment I am going to write about, is the moment I knew it was time to say goodbye to Phoenix, my second dog guide.

Since the first day we became a team, Phoenix has always lived his life the way he wanted. If Phoenix didn’t want to do something, then he made sure I knew exactly how he felt about me asking him to do it. if Phoenix wanted to do something, then he made it completely clear to me that it was going to happen or he’d try his darnedest to make sure it did.

Phoenix and I worked well together because we both had a stubborn streak and we both knew how to keep the other one guessing.

Seven years after we were matched, Phoenix began to make it clear to me that he wanted to retire. I tried to convince myself that he was just being a big baby about the winter and that he’d be back to normal in the spring/summer months, but when things didn’t improve by May, I knew he had made his decision.

Phoenix retired on May 13th, 2005, seven years after he had begun working.

Phoenix settled well into retirement from the start. If he saw me take Cessna’s harness from the leash rack, he immediately ran over to the couch for a nap. When we arrived home, he was always waiting with a toy or his metal bowl at the door, wagging his tail. He took well to having Cessna take over his role as my guide and he seemed to enjoy his new job of being the protector of the house and Aspen’s babysitter. When we fostered Aiden and Reece, Phoenix taught them about respecting their elders and as they grew, he began to play with them and to keep them in line when needed. When we moved to Northeastern Ontario and brought Canyon into our home, Phoenix seemed disinterested in interacting with him, but he also didn’t seem upset about his arrival.

I sometimes wonder if maybe Phoenix felt as though Canyon would be able to take over as my protector since he was a boy, or if maybe he was just too old to care.

About two months after Phoenix’s 14th birthday, I came home to find him in horrible shape. My step dad had been watching him for me, and said that he thought he had had a stroke. We rushed Phoenix down to the vet thinking the worst, but hoping for the best. During the entire seven hour drive, I held Phoenix’s paw and told him how much I loved him and that it was okay to go if he needed to. When Dr B finished examining him, she said he had an acute onset of Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, and that if I had the time and patience, that I could get him back to normal within a couple of weeks. This was the best news I’d ever heard and devoted the next month to helping Phoenix with his rehabilitation. He ended up keeping a bit of the head tilt associated with IVD, but he regained all other function.

From that experience, I began learning about the raw diet and how it could possibly give me more time with my old boy. Phoenix had dealt with ear infections our entire twelve years together, so Dr B felt that a more natural diet might be the answer we’d been looking for. I started Phoenix on his raw diet around the middle of January and within weeks noticed a drastic difference in his level of shedding and saw that he even had a bit more spunk and energy at times. We spent the next few months together without any health issues. He seemed to be aging well and I was starting to tell myself that I may have a year or more with my faithful companion.

In June we picked up a spunky little caramel lab, we named Rogue, and Phoenix did his usual shunning of the youngster. I knew it would take time for him to get used to her, and that she would need to learn to respect his space, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly she began to understand his boundaries.

About a month after picking up Rogue, Phoenix began to refuse his meals. He had never refused to eat, so this change really began to worry me after the second day of him doing this. We were unable to get him to Dr B for a couple of weeks, so I stayed in constant contact with her by phone and e-mail. She suggested different ways of getting him to eat, and sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t. Finally, after three weeks of Phoenix barely eating, she told me to give him anything he’d take and not to worry about his allergies or about if it was any good for him. Again, sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t.

On August 10th, 2011, we headed down to Guelph. We stayed with friends for the night and then took Phenix and Rogue to see Dr B.

As soon as Dr B saw Phoenix she knew it wasn’t good. She said that she’d run tests and give him pain medication if we wanted, but that she felt he had already made his decision. Dr B felt that Phoenix was tired and just wanted to go, but needed me to help him. Huib and I had both decided on our way to her clinic that we would do whatever she suggested, but from Dr B’s words, we knew it wasn’t what she suggested, but what Phoenix wanted.

On August 11th, 2011, at 1:20pm, Dr B gave Phoenix the medication that would help him leave us peacefully. Rogue, our 4 month old caramel puppy, laid against him while Dr B administered the injection and I held his paw and Huib stroked his head. Rogue stayed curled up against Phoenix for close to 5 minutes after Dr B had checked to make sure he no longer had a heart beat, and then got up, walked around him sniffing every part of him and then walked to the door and turned to look at us, as if to say “it’s okay, he’s gone now”.

It is this moment in time, that will remain with me forever.

The moment I said goodbye to my old friend.

The moment I realized that his spirit would live on, within my new friend.

The moment I knew he’d be with me forever in my heart and in my memories.

It’s Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Time!

It’s that time AGAIN!

It’s time for round 9 of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

this round is being hosted by Martha of Believe In Who You Are, and the topic she has chosen is MOMENTS.

You don’t have to be a service dog handler or puppy raiser, you just need to write something that is related to service dogs.

I hope you will take the time to visit Martha’s blog, and maybe even join me in this round of the ADBC.

The 8th Round Of The Assistance Dog Blog Carnival

***ATTENTION PLEASE! I just wanted to let everyone know that I forgot to announce the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card. It was awarded to Nadja & Hera shortly after this post was made public, but I totally forgot to announce it here – sorry everyone!***

Just over a month ago, we were asked to host the 8th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival buttonSeeing as the ruled by paws gang isn’t like most, I decided “MARCHIN’ TO YOUR OWN DRUM” would be a fitting topic for our turn.

Over the past month, I have been receiving submissions from various service dog handlers who march to their own drum in different ways. some have chosen to celebrate their dog’s uniqueness, others have written about their choices which do not conform to mainstream ideals, and a few have taken time to set the public straight.

Before I share the submissions we’ve received, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone for participating and for sharing news of the carnival with their friends and followers. Without everyone’s help, I know this round wouldn’t have been as successful in acquiring entries.

So, without further ado, I present to you…

The 8th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

In It’s Not Always Just Black And White, Karyn, reminds us all that not everything is straight forward, sometimes we have to figure things out for ourselves:

“Many in the service dog world believe that once a service dog has developed a health condition that it is time to retire them. I don’t believe it is really so simple – so black and white.”

In Can’t Is A Four Letter Word, Ms. Paw Power, writes about how she marchs to her own drum out of necessity:

“I am a Deafblind dog trainer with balance problems. My dogs are owner trained, gotten from an animal shelter or rescue, raw fed, minimally vaccinated, and clicker trained. I have been accused by some, of just “needing to be different”. But as strange as it may seem, I’m really not like that.”

In Setting The Rhythm, Flo, writes about the reason for owner training as opposed to getting a dog from a program:

“…All fuelled by need it now, can’t fail and fear…”

In Shai Marchin’ In the Moonlight, khills, writes a beautiful post about the way in which they are not like every other service dog team:

“Because of my unique work situation, Shai & I dance to a different drum beat than other service dog teams…”

In They’re Assistance dogs, Not Public Access Dogs, Sharon Wachsler, writes about how her needs of her service dog do not fit into the current standards set forth by various organizations:

“I have to sign a form saying that my SD has or would be able to pass their public access test/definition. So, even though I have had two previous SDs and have been an IADP member for a dozen years, now I’m no longer a partner member because Barnum and I don’t go out.”

In Taking New Steps, Martha, writes about the ways she has changed in her training methods and feeding practices with each dog she is paired with:

“I don’t march to my own drum as much as assistance dog partners who owner train, but I add as much as I can to make my dog and I the best team we can be. Every dog is unique, and I can’t wait to see the different steps my new partner adds to the march.”

In Carnival Post: Walk the Halls, Ro, writes about how she must find creative ways of exercising her guide dog, while also taking care of her own medical needs:

“Life with a guide dog and two disabilities means constantly finding new ways of doing something. If that’s not marching to our own distinctive beat, I don’t know what is!”

In Forward, March!, Carin, writes about how she feels as though she does not really march to her own drum, but that as a service dog user, she really has had to forge her own path:

“So I don’t really feel like I’m that original or different from your average bear. So how could I possibly write for this carnival? But then it hit me. Just the act of getting an assistance dog forces you to march to the beat of your own drum.”

In Continue To March, L-Squared, writes about how she has had to pave her own way within her community as someone who has chosen to become a guide dog user:

“I have learned that it can sometimes take a whole lot of courage and a great deal of stamina to make your own choices and stick with them.”

In ADBC: Marchin’ To Your Own Drum, Ashely, shares the reasons for her love of standard poodles:

“Poodles fit me more than any other breed has. Their temperament, drive and just love of life work so well with my personality.”

In Embracing The challenges Of Guide Work, Lynette, writes about how she enjoys working with dogs who challenge her and make her work for their respect:

“DeeDee’s work isn’t always perfect, but then again, neither is my leadership. Teamwork isn’t about being perfect, it’s about balance, intuition, and cooperation. Often times, I think we stray off the beaten path, but neither of us would have it any other way.”

In Not Like Most, I write about choosing to owner train, and how I prefer dogs with spirit.

In The 8th ADBC: Marching To Your Own Drum, Tori, writes about how her guide dog marches to her own drum:

“Despite all her little quirks, I love having her and wouldn’t change her. She can be quite a challenge sometimes though.”

In Marching To My Own Drum, Hera, takes over the blog, and takes some time to tell us all about herself:

“I’m happy that I’ve been given the privilege to be a guide dog. I love life and I’m looking forward to all the adventures Mummy and I’ll experience together.”

In Furry Twister, Pattib, shares her poem she wrote about her current Leader Dog puppy:

“The beat, beat, beat travels through her feet”

In I Am the Drummer, Katrin, writes about the way she chose to deal with an issue she was having at her local Home Depot:

“Many people placed in the negative situations, would have complained, become disgruntled and perhaps chose not to continue to shop at that place of business. Instead I chose to attempt to bring some positive change and outcome from my experience and give the place of business an opportunity in education.”

Finally, in An Open Letter to The Public. Cyndy Otty, writes a hilarious letter explaining why she finds it necessary to part ways with the public:

“I’ll be blunt. This just isn’t working out. And I think we need to start seeing other people. Privately.”

Please take some time to visit each of the participating bloggers, and leave them a comment to let them know you stopped by.

The next Assistance Dog Blog Carnival will be hosted by Martha of Believe In Who You Are in october.

Thank you again to all who took the time to submit an entry, I had a lot of fun reading everyone’s submission.

**I will contact the raffle winner soon to make arrangements for sending them the Amazon gift card**

Not Like Most

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

This well-known saying, is one I’ve heard regularly over my thirty-two years of life.

Time and time again, people are telling me not to change things if they work.

Most people would listen to the advice, but I’m not like most..

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival buttonI received three wonderful guides from The Lions Foundation of canada Dog Guides. Gryphon only worked nine months because of an unfortunate incident with a car, but Phoenix worked seven years and Cessna will retire after eight.

Given this record, most people would be planning to return for a fourth, but I’m not like most.

As many friends and readers of this blog already know, instead of returning to Dog Guides for my fourth guide, I have decided to give owner-training a try.

Most people would look for a puppy who is calm, confident and shows an eagerness to please, but I am not like most.

Rogue is confident, but instead of being calm and eager to please, she is busy and independent-minded.

Most people would rather not spend the time and money raising a puppy, and would rather have a guide who is fully trained and ready to take on the challenges of guiding a blind person.

Not me, I’m not like most.

I look forward to the challenge of raising and training Cessna’s successor. I enjoy the obstacles Rogue places before me, and believe that her spirited nature makes me a better person and subsequently a better trainer. Together, Rogue and I approach problems with enthusiasm, because I know she’ll forgive me for my faults, and she knows I’ll forgive her for her mistakes.

Most people want a service dog who will perform their tasks when they are asked to do so.

Not me, I’m not like most.

I like dogs who have a mind of their own. I don’t want a dog who will go into robot mode and work the second I pick up the harness handle. I want a dog who will question me, and who will make me work for their respect.

We all have our hopes and dreams regarding what a service dog will bring to our lives. some hope for miracles, but others just hope they can make the partnership work.

When I applied for my first guide, I looked forward to getting rid of my white cane, and to the opportunity to share my experiences with another. I was young and full of dreams, but I knew from the start that I needed a dog who would challenge me, and who would force me to go outside of my comfort zone to make our partnership work.

Phoenix worked well and challenged me almost daily. If he wanted to do something and i didn’t allow it, he’d plan his revenge and I never knew when it would come. In order to keep his work at its best, I not only had to practice his basic obedience a few times a week, but also had to make trips into bigger cities for him to feel challenged as well.

“Marchin’ To Your Own Drum” is something most service dog handlers do, but for some, it is something we take to heart because we’re not like most.

ATTENTION Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Participants…

Since we haven’t received many submissions for this round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival, we have decided to do a raffle.

Here’s the scoop…

All submissions will be placed into a raffle for a $25 Amazon gift card.

It’s that simple…

You submit an entry, and your name is placed into a raffle.

Please tell your friends and followers about this one in a lifetime opportunity to not only participate in the 8th round of the Assistance dog Blog Carnival, but to also win a $25 Amazon gift card if their name is drawn.

We look forward to the upcoming wave of submissions to come 🙂

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Call For Submissions

Assistance Dog Blog Carnival Badge

Welcome to the 8th round of the assistance Dog Blog Carnival!

For those who do not know what the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is, here’s a little bit of background information.

Since many of the ruled by paws followers are not assistance dog users, we’d like to personally invite you all to check out the link above, and come join your first (and hopefully not last) Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

So, here’s the scoop…

The topic for the 8th round of the ADBC is, “MARCHIN’ TO YOUR OWN DRUM”.

Before you get worried, here are some examples to get you going:

Does your assistance dog fit the traditional mould? (does he or she have any special quirks or behaviours?)
Does your dog do things differently from past partners (or the partners of friends)?
Why did you choose to go with a program dog after your owner-trained one retired? (or vice versa)
Why did you choose a non-traditional breed for your partner?
Did you have to overcome any sort of resistance from family, friends or employers when deciding to partner with an assistance dog?
Have you witnessed any unique or special assistance dogs in action? (what made them stand out?)
Did you have preconceived notions of what an assistance dog should look like, only to have them changed by witnessing one in action or reading about one?

The above, are just a sample of the things you could write about, the options are nearly endless – we can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

For anyone who knows the ruled by paws gang, you can guess where this topic came from. “MARCHIN’ TO YOUR OWN DRUM”, is something we do on a daily basis here. We invite you all to think about the ways in which you and your four-legged partner do things your own way – and let’s celebrate!

Submissions for the8th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival are due by 7:47pm on July 29th – why 7:47 you ask? Because Cessna thinks it’s a great time). I’ll be posting the finished product on July 31st, but if anyone requires a little extra time, just let me know (I don’t mind adding extra submissions as they arrive).

To submit your post, please comment here with the following information:
1. Name of your blog
2. Your name (as you want it to appear in the carnival)
3. Name of your post
4. URL for the post

We ask as a courtesy that you link back to this post and to the carnival home page in your post.

If you have any trouble leaving a comment here, contact me at sillabyquist at gmail dot com or you can reach us on Twitter at ruledbypaws.

So, I think I’ve covered everything. It’s now your turn. Come join us and help make the 8th round, the biggest and best we’ve seen so far!

***Even if you don’t think you can submit an entry, please take a moment and tell your blog followers and friends**

It’s Carnival Time!

It’s time for another Assistance dog Blog Carnival!

Since I’ve participated in the past three, I guess I had better get working on my entry.

This round is being hosted by Cait of Dogstar Academy, and the theme she has chosen is “obstacles”. You can read more about it here.

I hope you will take the time to read through the various entries when it’s up or even better, join me.