Busy Busy

What a week!!

Around 3:00am Wednesday morning, Huib, Rogue, the goldens and I took off for Gatineau. I had to attend a three day meeting that would be starting at 9:0am. We had originally planned to leave Tuesday evening, but Ottawa got a lot of snow, so instead of worrying about the road conditions, we decided to delay our departure and do an early morning drive. Our drive was smooth and uneventful – it only took us five hours, compared to the usual six.

After dropping Rogue and I off at the meeting, Huib and the goldens drove to our friend Jess’ place. They spent the day relaxing and helping Jess run a few errands.

Rogue and I had a pretty boring day. She slept under my chair most of the time, while I tried to pay attention and control my facial expressions. When you are in a room with a group of people who have very different life experiences and opinions, it can be difficult at times not to scowl or roll your eyes, but it’s important to try not to do so, just in case you might insult someone.

I’m not sure how many other service dogs were in the room, but Rogue was fabulous!! We had another dog sitting right beside us, but she never paid any attention to him. Other than getting up a bit more often starting around 3:00pm, an hour before the meeting’s end, Rogue remained relaxed throughout.

With the early start, we were all pretty exhausted Wednesday evening, so other than ordering some pizza and salad for dinner, we did nothing and went to bed by 9:00pm.

On Thursday, Huib fed and relieved the dogs while I got ready. Rogue and I had to go to another full day of meetings, so Huib tried to ensure she had a good amount of time to relieve herself. Rogue can be a bit of a finicky reliever when not at home, but I think it helped that she had been to Jess’ place before because she had no problems.

We were a little late getting to the meeting, so we had to rush into the building. We got stuck in traffic between Ottawa and Gatineau. With the rush, I let Huib get Rogue ready while I got my backpack on. He passed me her leash and we were off. As we were walking/running to the room, Rogue tried to sniff some things, so I told her to “leave it!” It isn’t normal for her to try sniffing in harness, so I was a bit firmer the second time it happened. When I settled at my chair, the woman beside me asked me if I meant to have Rogue work without her harness. The woman knows I am visually impaired, so told me about the missing harness because she was surprised I would choose not to have her wearing it. I laughed and immediately messaged Huib, who came running back inside with it. The mistake totally explained why Rogue was so interested in smelling things as we were walking through the building.

The rest of our day was completely uneventful.

At 4:30pm, Huib came to get us. Jess was also with him because her and I were going to her running group.

Before Christmas, I started walking a few times a week on my treadmill. Jess has been helping me increase my speed and endurance over the past month. Our treadmill measures things in miles, so I have gone from doing my workouts at 3.0 to 3.5 miles.

Jess has asked me to do a 10 kilometre race with her the last weekend in May. As long as I do not have a presentation that weekend, I said I would do it.

Walking/running outside is a lot different than doing it on a treadmill, so Jess asked one of her guides to guide me Thursday evening. I didn’t realize we weren’t going back to her place before the running group, so I forgot to pack my running clothes in the car. I had okay shoes for the run, but my clothes were a bit of a poor choice. I was wearing jeans and a knitted sweater, lol!! Jess asked one of the guys if they had a shirt I could borrow, which they did, so I changed out of my sweater and was ready enough to go.

The walk/run went well. The roads and sidewalks were a bit icy, so we only ran when the path was clear. I think we ended up doing a total of four or five short running sessions. While we walked, I learned about getting into a stretching routine, the importance of breathing and not heel-striking when running.

Jess, and our friend Jason, are going to see if they can find guides for me in Guelph, so i can continue working outdoors.

Every time I think about the fact I am actually considering a 10 kilometre run, I laugh. I have never been interested in running, but Jess has really motivated me to try.

Stay tuned for more updates!!

Friday was another full day of meetings. It is tough not being able to talk about the meetings, but I can say Friday was pretty serious and intense. It is sometimes rough going when you’ve got a large group of people coming from different walks of life. everyone has their own opinion on how the work needs to be done and has their own agenda. As a non-voting member of the committee, it can be frustrating at times not feeling as though you’ve really got a voice in the discussion.

On Friday evening we went to dinner with Jess, our friend Jason and some others. We met at a pub that had a nice atmosphere and good food. I had a nut burger with fries, while Huib had some sort of potato and veggie thing with fries. Jess and two others had fish in a coconut sauce with fries and I can’t remember what the other two people had. It was nice to catch up with Jason and to hear about the trip him and his wife had taken to Barbados. Jason is pretty excited about me running, so we took some time to chat about that as well. He has a lot of connections here in Guelph with the running community, so I hope he’ll be able to find some guides for me.

On Saturday, Jess had a triathlon camp to attend, so we got together with a friend to track. We have met Michelle at a couple of tracking tests, so when I knew we were going to be in Ottawa for a few days, I sent her a message on Facebook to see if she might want to do some tracking.

We got together at one of the National Research Council sites – a great place to track!! Huib laid a track for her dog, Cameron, while she laid tracks for Rogue and Arizona. Huib also laid a track for Canyon, so the poor guy wouldn’t be left out. After all of the tracks were laid, I had to pee, so we went to a little coffee shop nearby. They have tasty cinnamon buns and some good coffee.

Since Canyon is still learning, Huib had him run his track first. Michelle said he did a fabulous job!! This is Canyon’s second time formally tracking, so she was impressed. Huib says he thinks I can start handling Canyon now. Huib usually starts with them, so he can point out where the track is if the dogs need help, but Canyon seems to be a natural.

Next it was Arizona’s turn. I’m not sure where our crazy girl went, but Ari seems to have found her work ethic. She did a great job on her track. I walked along behind with Michelle, so got a play-by-play.

Cameron’s track was closest, so we did his next. Michelle did a really good job of handling him and he followed his track well. It was interesting to see the differences between his work and the way our retrievers work. Cameron checked out each of the cross tracks we passed, but never really went far off his actual track. I also liked how he picked up the article – I hope Rogue will do this some day!!

Rogue’s track was next. She was a bit excited at the beginning, so she had a bit of a messy start. She never got off track, but she was portering a lot. Michelle suggested I rein her in, not giving her so much line, so I brought her closer. She wasn’t as exact on her corners, but she followed her track well and found every single article!! Afterwards, I asked for Michelle’s opinion and she recommends I talk to her a bit less and also stop giving her so much line. I am going to work on this.

I liked having someone different lay her track because then she had an opportunity to follow another person’s scent and also work someone else’s track idea. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think we sometimes lay tracks in our own ways, so it can become a routine that the dog can predict.

For fun Michelle laid a quick track for me to run with Cameron. I have never worked with any other breeds than my own, so it was fun. Cameron is an English Springer Spaniel, so a lot lighter and different from my retrievers. Maybe it’s just that Cameron is more experienced, but I found him a lot less frantic or crazed than my guys can be. He checked out the scent pad, then followed the short track to the glove, picking it up and bringing it over to me. Michelle told me not to talk too much and I could see how the quiet really helped him concentrate.

Nothing too exciting happened while I ran Cameron, but funny stuff did occur before and after. As we were walking over to the scent pad, Huib had to take me over and through a difficult path of snow and ice. My guys are used to my balance being off, so they sometimes get pulled in different directions, so I felt bad for Cameron, but he was a good sport about it all. After the track, Michelle gave me a container and asked me to open it and give it to him. I had heard her mention bringing cheese curds with us, so I thought that was what was in the container. After I took the lid off, I reached in to get the curds and found wet food!! I quickly removed my hand and both Huib and Michelle laughed…lol! SO gross!!

I am glad we had a chance to meet up with Michelle and Cameron. I hope we can do it again.

In the evening, we were all pretty tired, so Huib made some yummy salad and pasta for dinner. We then chatted about our days and went to bed around 10:00pm.

On Sunday Jess had a 10 kilometre run in the morning, so we slept in and then started packing up. I had two hard boiled eggs and a bowl of Smarties ice cream for breakfast with some coffee – I love being an adult!!

When Jess came back, she brought Jason. It was nice chatting with them before we left.

On our way home we planned to stop in at Arizona’s breeder, so we left around 10:00am. The drive to Anne’s place was quiet and pretty. Anne and Jeff live outside Perth in Tay County. They have a beautiful house beside a lake.

When we arrived, we let Arizona out to pee and then went up to knock at the door. Anne came and let Sitka and Teal out to greet Ari before we all went inside.

Sitka has the same dam, but different sire than Arizona. I have always loved Sitka, she is very loving and adorable. In August she had a litter of seven puppies sired by Teak, Ari’s sire. I wish we had known about the breeding because we would love to have another Teak puppy.

Teal is six months old and one of Denali’s puppies. Denali has the same sire as Ari, but a different dam. Teal is a very cute girl!! She kept climbing into our laps and giving us kisses while we were there.

Anne brought Denali and Abba out after putting Sitka and Teal away. She wanted the girls to get a chance to greet Ari separately.

Abba came over and checked out Arizona, letting her do the same. Abba is now ten or eleven years old, so has some old lady lumps, but looks pretty good. After she was satisfied with Ari, she came over to cuddle with me – I loved it!!

Denali was a bit more enthusiastic about greeting Arizona. She is just a year older than Ari, so definitely has more energy than Abba.

Arizona was a good sport about being checked out by everyone, but she did get a bit grumbly after a while. teal had her head inside Ari’s mouth a few times, so I can’t really fault Ari for grumbling. She never went any further than that, so I didn’t say anything. Huib just had her come over and sit with him and lie down by his feet so he could control things a bit.

The only girl Arizona didn’t grumble with was Abba. I think Abba is a lot calmer and more respectful when greeting, so she didn’t annoy Ari.

I think this was probably the longest we’ve ever spent just chatting with Anne and Jeff. It was great!! I didn’t come right out and ask Anne about breeding rights for Ari, but from some of the things she said, we think she knows we want them. We are going to start getting Ari’s health clearances done, starting with her eyes and thyroid.

After a bit, Anne let Sitka and Teal back out and for the rest of the visit, we had all five girls together in the living room.

It was really interesting to learn about the personalities of each. Sitka and Ari seem to have the same independent-mindedness, which we think comes from Abba. Denali and Ari have the same crazy nature, but willingness to learn, so we think that must come from Teak. Anne says she never really knows what to expect at a test or trial with Sitka, and that Denali always makes life interesting – we all know who that reminds us of…lol!

Anne showed us her training room and had Sitka and Teal demonstrate some of the things they can do. It was fun to watch little Teal work, she’s such a smart girl!! One thing Anne uses, that we don’t feel comfortable doing ourselves, is use a prong collar when teaching the heel. She said her trainer suggested it and that she finds it works well.

Anne told us that she is hoping to start training for utility with Denali, but that she is done with obedience with Sitka because she really doesn’t seem to enjoy it. I asked her if she had any suggestions on how to get Ari in the game with obedience and she suggested using a puppy sized bumper as a reward, since it works really well with Sitka. Huib and I are going to find one and try it out.

Sitka will be trying for her senior hunt title this summer, but I’m not sure what Denali is working towards.

Before we left, Anne gave us a couple of goose wings and a few ducks for training. I am looking forward to seeing what Ari thinks of the goose wings.

Our drive home was nice. Huib decided to take the long way, since we weren’t in a hurry and we needed to make a stop in Aurora anyway. When we got home, Cessna was SO excited to see us!! She loves staying with Dad, but I think she also likes when we all return.

It was a great trip, but an exhausting one. Now I must get back to work, preparing my PhD application and a mini presentation for Friday.

Fortknox’s Burning Ember

A female medium coloured golden retriever stands on the grass. She has her tail curled upwards and she has a blue and yellow stuffed ball on the ground in front of her.

A Golden Visitor

For the past week and a half, we’ve had a visitor.

Emmie, or Fortknox’s Burning Ember, is owned by Canyon’s co-breeder, Judi of Ramblin Goldens.

Judi has wanted to begin showing Emmie, but has been quite busy. We keep in touch with Judi and give her random updates on how Canyon is doing. During one of these updates, I mentioned that we were planning on entering Canyon into the Oakville & district Kennl Club show on September 14th and 15th. Judi emailed back to say she wanted to get Emmie started on her championship title, but hadn’t yet gotten around to it. I wrote back to say that if she wanted, Huib and I wouldn’t mind working with emmie and getting her ready to enter with Canyon.

Judi dropped Emmie off almost two weeks ago and we have been working on teaching emmie to walk nicely on leash and to stack.

It’s been a lot of fun having emmie visit. our dogs aren’t always a fan of visitors who stay without their “humans”, but they have accepted Emmie like one of the pack. she’s very well behaved and interacts well with each of the dogs.

The Oakville show is in just over a week and we have been working hard on getting Emmie ready.

But, we’ve run into a bit of a problem.

Canyon has thrown Emmie into heat a month early – WHOOPSIE!

As a result, Judi will be coming to pick her up on Saturday and will have to cancel her entry into the show. It’s possible to show a female in heat, but Judi doesn’t want to cause any problems for or with the other exhibitors – Huib and I totally agree with her decision. At the last oakville show, there was a female Pointer in heat and Canyon was so interested in her that he snapped his show leash three minutes before him and Huib were due in the ring, lol!

As long as all goes well, Emmie will be bred with Canyon’s sire, Blaze. This means there should be puppies sometime in November, and it’s possible…we may have one of the puppies join the ruled by paws gang…

Eye Checks

Today, we took Rogue and Cessna to a CERF clinic held in simcoe. Rogue is now 27 months, so I wanted to make sure her vision was good before we continued her training.

A blind guide dog isn’t too much help to a blind person 😉

Two years ago, we took Cessna and Canyon to a CERF clinic held in Kitchener and learned that she had developed tiny cataracts. Since Dr Nick Whelan, was going to be the ophthalmologist at this clinic, I thought I’d get Cessna’s eyes rechecked. Well…the news was both good and bad. the good news is that Cessna can still see perfectly fine, but the bad news is that she now has three additional cataracts in her right eye. At the last check she had just three in that eye, but now there are six. There are still only two in her left eye though, which also good, I guess…

Dr Whelan says that she will most likely develop more of these tiny cataracts, which will at some point interfere with her vision, but that they will probably continue to remain tiny. I’m both happy and sad with this news. I’m happy that Cessna can still work with me, but I’m sad to know that someday she may not be able to see well enough to chase her beloved squirrels and chipmunks.

Moving on to better news. Rogue’s vision is perfect! Other than some capillaries that didn’t go away at birth, something that doesn’t effect her vision, she’s got perfect amber coloured eyes.

With CERF clinics being so inexpensive and most doctors offering free exams to service dogs, I really don’t see why dog guide programs aren’t asking their clients to take their dogs on an annual basis. If it weren’t for Canyon’s need to get his clearances for breeding, I would never have known Cessna was developing cataracts. The cataracts aren’t causing any issues with her vision, so we’re a safe team, but it’s still a good thing to know and keep tabs on.

When I Need To Escape

Last week I read about daily blogging prompts WordPress sends out via Twitter and I immediately joined the feed. As many of my blog readers know, finding something to write about the past year has been a bit of a struggle, so any help I can get is greatly appreciated.

today’s prompt is: “Tell us about your oasis. Where do you go when you need a break from life.”

When I’m feeling stressed and need to escape, I go to the internet and begin browsing the websites of golden retriever breeders. Even though I cannot see the pictures, I find it relaxing to read about the various dogs, about their accomplishments and about the current and planned litters.

Huib says that even though he doesn’t always see what I am looking at on the computer, he usually knows from the expression on my face. He says that I seem to always be smiling when I’m looking at a dog-related website lol!

In related news. Huib and I have started filtering through the various Ontario golden breeder websites in order to shorten the list for our potential golden female. Once we’ve eliminated all of the breeders who breed dogs that do not fit our ideal type, then I will begin e-mailing the ones that are left, for information. With the information I receive back, we’ll be able to further eliminate breeders from our huge list.

Now it’s your turn to tell me about your oasis. Where do you go when you need to get away from life?

Seminar & Other Stuff

This weekend, Huib, Cessna and I attended a breeding seminar with Amy from Me And My Pups. the seminar was being hosted by The Labrador Owners Club so of course their were several lab breeders in attendance, as well as, a table of West Highland White Terrier breeders, a Duck Toller breeder, a couple Wheaten breeders, a man who breeds Old English Sheepdogs, a woman who breeds golden retrievers and some others that I can’t remember.

Dr. Carmen Battaglia, a breeder, lecturer, researcher and author of “Breeding Dogs To Win”, was the presenter for the two day seminar. He taught us an easier way of understanding the pedigree of dogs through the introduction of “stick dog” figures, and a “symbols” pedigree. By using these two methods, breeders are better able to visualize the strengths and weaknesses of their females in order to find a stud that will help alleviate some of their weak traits or compliment their strengths. I found the seminar to be a bit on the more visual side, but also found it educational. Huib and I are not looking at getting a breeding female until Phoenix crosses the rainbow bridge, so have tons of time to collect pedigrees and learn all we can about the “missing” pieces of a traditional pedigree – such as the health concerns and structural traits of the ancestors.

On Sunday we began our journey home and experienced some problems with the truck around Oshawa. Luckily Amy was still with us, so we called CAA and had the truck towed to a dealership near her parent’s place. We stayed the night and had the truck examined the following morning. I was pretty frustrated by the lack of attention the dealership gave us, but was happy when they finally called to say we could pick it up around 5:30pm and head north. Phoenix, Aspen and Canyon had stayed with my step-dad and sister while we were away so I was eager to get home and pick them up. My Dad and sister are great with the dogs, but for some reason Aspen was stressed and having issues with her incontinence so I was pretty worried about her and annoyed that we would be delayed in returning. Aspen has had issues with incontinence since she was young, but for the most part it doesn’t happen often – just when she’s had too much water or when she is feeling stressed. While with my sister, she had about two or three incidents a day, which is unusual, so I really wanted to get back to her. Since we picked them up Monday night, she has not had an issue…

On Sunday I also sent an e-mail to the breeder who owns Canyon’s sire and brother to see how Phoenix’s (brother) clearances had gone. Judi was taking Phoenix to have his clearances done that morning, so I was eager to learn about his eyes. Well, it turns out that Phoenix also has scarring on the retina of his right eye in addition to folds. As far as I know, retinal folds are an issue common in the collie breeds (not so much in golden retrievers), but in Phoenix’s case, Huib is wondering if it might not be related to whatever caused the scarring in the two brothers. He is thinking that maybe Phoenix had the infection or whatever slightly worse in his right eye, causing inflammation that left the folds. I think it would be interesting to find out if their sisters also have the scarring, but since they are most likely just pet dogs, I don’t think we’ll ever know. With this news, Judi has begun the process of finding Phoenix a new home because it is not possible for her to keep a dog who cannot be in her program. I really wish we had known this a few months ago because I know Brandi would have adopted him for sure, but she now has Dawsen and doesn’t think she could handle another dog at this point.

Here’s a picture of Dawsen from one of our many walks in the winter.

Yesterday Canyon and I had our fifth training session with the Border Collie lady and again it went well. Brandi came along to watch so she could see what we were learning and if she would like to do something similar with Dawsen. We did some “lefts” and “rights”, practiced the “heel” position a bit more and worked on his “fronts”. Then, we started teaching him to “go around” so that in the summer he will be ready for Flyball lessons. I thought he would be too big for Flyball, but the Border Collie lady thinks that his obsession with balls will work well in this sport.

As an aside, I’m sort of getting the impression that she isn’t sure I will be able to be successful in agility with my dogs since I won’t be able to run the course with them. I’ve tried to explain that I could stand in the middle and direct them, but I’m not sure she sees how it is possible to be successful…so I guess I’ll just have to show her how it’s done. Does anyone else know of a blind or visually impaired person who has done agility with their dogs?

After the session was over, we talked a bit about the seminar I had attended on the weekend and she really thinks that we should show Canyon even once for the experience. So, Huib has said that if the Temiskaming Kennel Club has their show in new Liskeard this summer, that he would be willing to show Canyon for me – could I be rubbing off on him? Then, just before we were leaving the Border Collie lady asked my sister if she had a dog and Brandi told her about Dawsen. After listening to the concerns Brandi had, she asked if she would be interested in attending some obedience classes and Brandi said she’d love to. So, Dawsen will be starting his classes next Thursday!! Brandi wants me to come along, but Huib and I both told her that we think it would be better for her to do this on her own with Dawsen because part of the issue is that she worries about what others think and relies on us to help her, so it’s time they did some real work together and develop a more respectful relationship. I’ll keep you all posted on how their classes go…

Before I end this post, I thought I’d let you all know that our potential puppy is due on Monday (April 18th). Cheyenne is the dam of this litter and her breeder feels that one of her girls might be a good fit for us. They tend to be a little more independent minded and she finds them a little harder to place in homes because they need more experienced handlers and more stimulation. Our ideal puppy is exactly what she has described, so we’re quite eager to hear about the litter and to find out how well they score on the aptitude test. We’re still waiting for the pedigrees and clearances the breeder was supposed to send us, but are hoping that this delay isn’t a sign that we should be looking elsewhere. I think I’ll e-mail her again and give her my sister’s address in addition to the hospital’s fax number and my e-mail address in the hopes that it’s just our mail service that is the issue.

At Least Phoenix Is On the Mend

On Sunday, Huib and I piled the dogs into the truck for a short trip “down south”. We arrived in Guelph around noon and picked up some food and toys for everyone before meeting with the show handler who was interested in showing Canyon for us. The meeting went well and Peter was quite happy with Canyon’s looks, confidence and his ability to walk on a leash. We were surprised about the leash part since we had just begun his lessons, but Peter was impressed and wanted to enter him into the upcoming Sudbury show at the end of March. After the meeting we got back into the truck and headed into Kitchener.

There, we took Canyon and Cessna to a CERF clinic the Kitchener-Waterloo Kennel Club was hosting. We had originally signed up to have just canyon’s eyes tested, but when they learned Cessna was a dog guide we were told hers could be done for free. First Canyon went in and we were told he has scarring on his retinas. The ophthalmologist doesn’t think it is congenital, but he said we will need to do some research on that. He feels the scarring was most likely caused by an infection during the first few weeks of life and said that his litter mates will also have the scarring. Even though this does not officially bar Canyon from breeding, we have decided to forgo both showing and breeding because with this defect there is a very low chance another breeder would want to use him. Instead, we will work on some sporting and obedience titles while looking for our next breeding candidate.

After this disheartening news, it was Cessna’s turn. The ophthalmologist dilated her eyes and found 2 tiny cataracts on her left eye and three on her right. This particular doctor is one of the ones LFC uses to test their puppy’s at 10 months of age so he was well aware of the demands I put on Cessna. He showed Huib the cataracts and told us that they are tiny so Cessna probably doesn’t even notice them and her work will not be effected. He wants to see her in a year and thinks there is a possibility the cataracts won’t get any bigger. We saw our vet the following day and she recommended we start her on a homeopathic regiment and try to prevent them from getting worse. There’s no guarantees it will do anything, but it would bother me even more if I didn’t do it and it could have worked.

Phoenix saw the vet on Monday and was given a clean bill of health for his age. Dr B was impressed with his progress and has given him a homeopathic remedy to try and jump start his immune system and hopefully rid him of the ear issue for good. In order to check him out and watch him move she had him examined in the waiting room because he was able to walk on carpet for traction and seemed to stay quite calm and relaxed. I’m so glad she was able to tell us something good, because I’m not sure I could handle anymore bad news in a 24 hour period. After the appointment we took him to see his puppy raisers and they were also quite happy with his progress. The last time they had seen him was just before we took him to dr b for the IVD diagnosis. Huib had carried him in and I explained what had happened and what we were most afraid of learning – that we may have to say good-bye.

On Tuesday it was my turn to see the ophthalmologist and I also learned some not so happy news – my distance vision is gone. The doctor’s assistant asked me to read various lines on the eye chart and I couldn’t read even the biggest letter. The doctor isn’t sure why this has happened, but has ordered a lumbar puncture to be done in a week and is checking to make sure there is no inter cranial pressure or infection. This is yet another part of my vision saga. While we were at the hospital, Phoenix, Aspen and Canyon stayed with a friend and her daycare kids. My friend said Aspen and Canyon weren’t overly interested in them, but Phoenix wandered into the playroom at some point and when she went to check on everything she found him in the circle of little ones with a teacup and saucer between his paws. I guess the kids decided he should participate in their tea party – I sure wish my friend had gotten a picture! I guess they had tried doing the same with Canyon, but he wouldn’t stay still, so decided to let Phoenix in on the fun.

We headed home that evening and made a stop in Bradford to see my friend Heather, her fiance and her border terrier Harley. The dogs enjoyed playing with Harley’s rawhide bones and ran around in the yard, but Harley wasn’t as sure – I guess she was a little overwhelmed by the number of big dogs that came into the house. Overall our trip “down south” was crappy, but at least we got a chance to see friends and find out how Phoenix is doing.

Pedigree

This entry has been revised after receiving a comment which pointed out that a statement made previously was unproven – thank you for making me aware of this discrepancy.

On Monday I received an e-mail from Canyon’s sire’s breeder to inform me that she had put all of his information on K9data a website that helps a breeder look at a registered golden or labrador’s pedigree. I had learned about this website a few months ago when researching golden retriever breeders and was hoping that once I received the transfer paperwork for Canyon from the Canadian Kennel Club that I’d be able to enter Canyon’s information. If you are interested in looking at it, you can GO HERE. I’m excited about this development because it means we’re just one step closer to fulfilling our dream of having canyon perform stud services.

After getting this e-mail I began thinking about pedigree and how important it is to look at when considering the breeding process. I was looking at the Blackpool Golden Retrievers website and they give a checklist of things to consider or ask when looking at a kennel or potential puppy. In this checklist they explain that some breeders will try and hide their dog’s lineage in order to hide inbreeding or that they might have gotten their dogs from puppy mills, so to look for breeders who list their dog’s pedigree on their websites. Blackpool sites k9data as a place where they have registered their stock and explain that you can not only find their dog’s lineage, but also their longevity and health clearances.

In an earlier post I discussed the theory behind line breeding so I won’t do it again here, but from my research on the effects of inbreeding on a line, it has been found that the progeny often become weak, small and timid. Some breeders will use this method to fix a specific trait, but given the results, I see line breeding as a much more effective method for fixing traits.

I’m not sure what brought me to write this entry, but I guess all this excitement surrounding Canyon’s paperwork finally arriving and now having him registered on k9data has just got me interested even more on learning all I can about the breeding process. I’ll close this post by saying;

Pedigree equals Quality – Reputable breeders follow a set of breed standards (set by the Canadian Kennel Club in Canada) in order to ensure the best quality dogs go on to be the parents of the next generation.

Finally!!!

Some very exciting news to share with everyone. Canyon’s Canadian Kennel club paperwork has arrived!! It has been a long year of constantly e-mailing his sire’s breeder to get it done, but it’s been worth it.

Canyon is such a “diamond in the rough” and the delay has given us a chance to polish him up and see him shine.

Now that we have the official ownership transfer, we can begin some serious training and hopefully competing in the near future!!

“I’m going to stop procrastinating…once I get around to it.”

Decisions, decisions

This year I’ve decided to take part in the Assistance Dog blog Carnival and the topic is decisions. Over the past 15 years I’ve had to make many decisions in regards to applying for, working with, retiring, and then raising an assistance dog. Not many people can actually say they’ve been involved in all areas of the service dog experience, but here’s my story.

In the summer of 1993 my shunt (a tube which runs from my brain into my abdomen) blocked. This caused the cerebral fluid around my brain to build up and create pressure which damaged my optic nerves. In a matter of a couple weeks, I went from seeing 20/20 to seeing nothing out of my left eye and only through 3 pin holes in the very centre of my right. It was tough at first, but I had the support of an amazing vision teacher who re-taught me everything from completing daily tasks to getting around the world with a white cane, in addition to a mother who refused to see me any different from the daughter she had given birth to 13 years prior. Now that I’ve laid out some background information to my story, let’s move on to the day I decided to apply for my first guide.

From the first day I was introduced to the white cane I knew I had to get rid of it. I hated the way it felt in my hand, the way people looked at me, the ways it limited me, and well….it was just plain ugly! I made a point of telling my vision teacher this almost every time we had a lesson until the day she told me about guide dogs. I had always wanted a pet dog and to know there was a way of both getting rid of my cane and having a dog of my own, I told her I’d do anything she wanted. She told me that if I worked hard over the next couple of years she’d help me convince my parents to let me get a dog and that she’d help me with the application. It was a long 3 years, but finally in January of 1997 my vision teacher and I began researching programs and decided on the Lions foundation of Canada Dog Guides because it was close to my hometown (Aurora, Ontario) and because the classes were small. I received my first guide, Gryphon, in August of that year and put my white cane on the shelf forever.

Gryphon was a 21 month old tall, slim, male black labrador retriever who weighed about 81lbs. We were matched around August 1st of 1997 and worked together for only a year. Gryphon was not the right dog for me, but he worked well and the trainers felt he was a good fit for a young first time handler, who just happened to be the youngest they’d ever accepted into the program. Gryphon was a great dog and he taught me tons, but we never bonded the way a working team should so, when he was career changed after only a year I wasn’t too upset. Gryphon had become traffic shy after an altercation with a car in Toronto and both the trainers at LFC and myself were unable to get him past his fears. He was later retrained as a special Skills Dog and worked for a while before being retired for health reasons.

Phoenix and I were matched in July of 1998 and worked together for almost 7 years. I remember our time in class together, he was only 20 months and full of personality. From day one he has always had his opinions on how things should be done and has never been afraid to let me know what he’s thinking. We attended my final year of high school together and then completed an entire honors degree at the University of Guelph. Phoenix had severe separation anxiety until he retired so accompanied me on excursions I’d never dream of taking Cessna to – a packed Montreal night club, the outdoor Walkerton Country Music Festival or full day visits to Canada’s Wonderland, just to name a few. Phoenix was always faithful and willing to work at any hour and in any environment, but at the age of 8 and a half he began slowing down and wanting to just chill at home rather than work, so I knew it was time for retirement. It was a hard decision because we had developed such a bond and I worried about hurting his feelings by getting a new guide to replace him. But, most of all I worried about the training process and the hardships involved in bonding with a new working companion.

Cessna and I were matched on May 27th, 2005. She was not truly ready to be responsible for a blind person but the trainers had confidence in my abilities and saw the chemistry between us. Cessna was only 18 months so had tons of maturing left to do. She barked at other dogs out of excitement, jumped around like a kangaroo when she saw squirrels or birds and couldn’t settle in my social work classes without a long run beforehand. This crazy, immature puppy is long gone and has been replaced by a mature, sensitive companion who desires to learn more everyday. Over the past 5 years Cessna and I have worked hard to understand what each other needs and have become a dream team.

With all the skills and experience I obtained “training” Cessna, I began looking for other learning opportunities and learned about Autism Dog Services. Huib and I had talked about what it would be like to raise an assistance puppy and had even gone as far as asking the LFC for a puppy to foster. We were told that instead of having to explain to some clients why they couldn’t raise a puppy when others could, that they had made it their policy to refuse everyone, but they said nothing was stopping us from fostering for another organization. Autism Dog Services was started by a former LFC trainer whom I knew from training with Gryphon and Phoenix. A couple LFC foster families we knew began raising puppies for ADS and suggested we contact them to see if we could also be of help. After a few e-mails back and forth we made the decision to welcome a 10 week old caramel coloured Labrador retriever into our home on March 1st, 2008.

We fostered Aiden until he was 13 months of age and began raising Reece in February of 2009. Our experience with autism Dog Services was both gratifying and heart aching. We loved having Aiden and Reece in our home and are thankful to have been given the opportunity to help ADS in providing independence and safety to children with autism, but this experience has also left us with some lessons. We don’t regret our decision to help raise Aiden and Reece for Autism Dog Services, but wish this experience didn’t have to be another hat placed on the shelf of tough lessons learned.

Since cutting our ties with autism Dog Services we made the decision to purchase a male golden retriever in December of 2009 and raise him as our future stud dog and obedience champion. Canyon is not a service dog, but he has taught me further lessons about loyalty and thinking outside the box. He will go for his health clearances in June and hopefully begin producing offspring who will carry on his temperament and lust for life and who knows, maybe one of them will become an assistance dog in the future.