Introducing Canyon


After some unfortunate circumstances, we have put our puppy raising hat on the shelf. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Autism dog Services, but it is now time to move on.

For the past month and a bit Huib and I have been trying to decide on what breed of dog we wanted to introduce into our family. We looked at getting a Bernese mountain dog, but due to timing, decided to wait a year or two. While surfing on the internet, I decided to look on the website of Rambling Goldens to see if they had any puppies coming from Smooches, the niece of our Aspen. Unfortunately she has been retired from their breeding stalk, but when I looked on their young adults available page I saw a puppy who interested me. When Huib got home that evening I showed him the pictures and profile. He asked me if it was still available and that question began our journey to bringing home Canyon (formerly sparky).

Canyon is a 6 ½ month old male golden retriever. He is (coincidentally) Aspen’s nephew – his mom, Goldie, is her half sister. He is 60lbs and already physically bigger than both Cessna and Aspen. His coat is thick and very fluffy – Aspen’s is not even close to as thick. He has not begun to feather, so it will be interesting to see how he looks in 6 months to a year’s time. His coat is similar to aspen in colour, except that his does not have as much white and hers has a little more red to it. He is gentle and sweet, but being a puppy he is also a big goof.

He does not yet know his name, but he did not seem to respond to Sparky so we decided that changing it wouldn’t be a big problem. We got the name Canyon from a list of cities in Texas. We now have Phoenix (Arizona), aspen (Colorado) and Canyon (Texas). The name Cessna does not really fit into our naming theme, but I’m sure Cessnas fly to each of those cities so it works  In order to teach him his name, we are practicing recall as much as possible.

Canyon has now been with us for 4 days and seems to be settling into our pack. Both Aspen and Cessna will play with him outside and Phoenix no longer gives him warning barks when he comes too close. he was not used to living in a house, but in such a short period of time he has already figured it all out. There has only been one accident inside and he is starting to pace less. Today he has actually been lying beside me longer than he has paced around the house. Our cats aren’t a huge fan, but I’m sure they will get used to him soon. They are never a big fan of a new dog coming into the house.

Before closing this post, a quick update on Reece. He is still waiting to be adopted, but the surgeon has decided that even though he is a good candidate for the corrective surgery, he probably won’t benefit much at this time. He is currently staying with a family in Kitchener, but hopefully soon he will find his forever home. I will post a picture or two of him when I get them.

“Every dog should have a man of his own. There is nothing like a well-behaved person around the house to spread the dog’s blanket for him, or bring him his supper when he comes home man-tired at night.”

A Wonderful Week Away

On Monday morning we set off for Waterloo. We picked up my sister in Kirkland Lake and then dropped her off in Huntsville before continuing on our way south. We arrived in Guelph around 7:00pm and did a bit of running around before we met up with a friend for coffee at William’s Coffee Pub. I sure do miss my latés living up north. We arrived in Waterloo around 10:00pm and headed straight to bed.

On Tuesday we took Jasper (an ADS foster who’s almost ready for training) and Cessna to Costco for a bit of shopping and then went to meet up with a friend for lunch. Lunch was great. My friend and I decided to share two dishes we both enjoy, a wonderful decision seeing as we both couldn’t decide between the two and would not have been able to eat two full meals ourselves. After lunch we ran a few errands and then went into Cambridge to visit with Jess and Glacier. Glacier was excited to see us and was happy to have Jasper to play with. Before taking Jess to horseback riding we went for dinner at a little Mexican restaurant near her house. It was pretty yummy, but not completely worth the money in my opinion. When we got back to Waterloo, Jasper and Cessna were exhausted so slept while we played Dog-opoly with Karen. My sister bought me the game as an early Christmas present.

On Wednesday we went to a couple of appointments in Guelph and then met up with Kelly and Ace another foster puppy from ADS. The dogs had fun playing with Ace and were all ready for a nap by the time we returned to Karen’s. In the evening we went to a puppy outing at Fairview Mall where there were 5 other ADS families with their puppies(Chester, Finnley, Cooper, Urban and Ace), not including us with Cessna and Karen with Jasper. We had a good outing and ended it all at Crabby Joe’s for a drink and appetizer. It was great to see how much some of the puppies have matured over the past month since we saw them last. Ace was still as well-behaved as usual and Cooper continued to outshine many of his older puppy buddies.

On Thursday Huib finally got his hair cut and we ran a few more errands in Guelph before heading to Etobicoke to visit with Phoenix’s puppy raisers. Alice (his foster mom) is improving everyday and is now walking a bit with the use of a walker. It has been neat to see how determination can overcome negative odds. She had a stroke in January of 2009 which left her in a wheelchair, unable to use her left side or eat solid foods. Now she is eating and drinking anything she wants and moving her left hand/arm more each time we visit. She is able to lift herself into a stand position and walk a bit with the walker. If her determination to go home continues to be this strong then it may be very possible that it could happen  We took Phoenix in to visit and then brought each of the other three (Cessna, Jasper & Aspen) one by one in order not to take up too much space in the small sun room. Thursday evening was pretty laid back with a bit of moving furniture and then playing a bit more Dog-opoly.

Friday was Cessna’s 6th birthday. We got her a couple new toys over the week – a fox wubba and a toy called a Flappy (a long rubber stick shape covered in colourful canvas that has tail like pieces sticking out from either side). Her auntie Jess bought her a stuffed squirrel toy and liver treats which she loves. We packed everyone into the car after a run in the baseball diamonds near Karen’s house and headed to Lindsay. In Lindsay we met up with Aiden’s new mom and followed her to their house which is about 25km from town. Aiden took about 20 seconds to realize it was us, but then the wiggles started and he almost couldn’t control himself. He looks fantastic and seems so happy. We gave him his new toy, a fox wubba and he ran around squeaking it and throwing it to us for another toss. Aiden’s new mom told us about how he has been doing and how much he has changed her son’s life. Aiden passed his public access test just over a week ago and will soon be attending school with Kamaran. We were there for about 3 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. Aiden has not changed at all. He is still full of beans and loves to give kisses and play fetch. For the last half hour we played fetch with Aiden and our dogs. Before leaving we gave Aiden a rawhide ball and he has it broken open and the middle eaten before we were in the car. It was nice to see that he didn’t mind us leaving – something I also see with Cessna and Phoenix when they visit with their raisers.

We met up with a fellow puppy raiser for dinner along with my uncle before heading home. It was great to see both of them. Our drive home was uneventful. We saw a wolf crossing the road just outside New Liskeard, but nothing else too exciting. Now that we are home, we have begun to unpack the car and will probably do a bit of cleaning before Huib returns to work on Monday.

Just a short update on Reece. He has been diagnosed with ununited coronoid process and has been released from the ADS program. He requires a very expensive surgery to correct the problem, but in the end will most likely develop arthritis by 5 or 6 years of age. We are not able to afford this surgery so have had to pass on adopting him, but hopefully soon the program will find a permanent home and family willing to cover the cost. In the meantime he is staying with the other foster mom and will go for a few x-rays to determine the true extent of his condition and a decision will then be made as to what exactly needs to be done and when it will take place. We will keep you all updated as we find out more about him.

A Month Has Passed

It has been just over a month since we moved north and I thought it was about time I sit down and fill everyone in on what’s been happening. The movers came around 9:00am on Monday the 24th of August and Huib and I piled the dogs into the car and set off on our long drive north. We made a bunch of stops in Guelph before leaving and then made a few stops on the drive to let the dogs relieve themselves and stretch their legs. They were all so good about being packed into the back of our little Cavalier. We arrived in Engleheart around 10:00pm and picked up our keys from the home owners. When we arrived at the house the dogs did their usual sniffing around and then quickly settled in for the night. The movers arrived around 10:00pm on Tuesday and quickly unpacked our stuff. They put together our bed, set up our china cabinet and put all of the boxes and Rubbermaid containers in their designated areas. My aunt and her guy friend arrived shortly after the movers and began helping us unpack and put things together. It was a long day, but we got a lot accomplished.

We have been living here for just over a month now and have only a few containers left to sort through. Huib has begun to create a path from our house to the lake and the dogs have begun to learn their boundaries. Cessna and Aspen both love the swimming and are learning to dock dive. Cessna has become pretty good at it, but Aspen still stops at the end of the dock and barks at the water not knowing what to do, but wanting to go after the toy that was thrown. Reece (9 months & 75lbs) still isn’t a huge fan of swimming, so spends most of his time running back and forth along the dock and shore waiting for the girls to come in so he can pounce on them and steal the toy or stick. Phoenix will go in to his shoulders and sometimes swim for a toy a couple of times, but most of the time he stands on the dock watching the “fools” chase the thrown object. I think he has decided that playing fetch is now for the “fools” to do rather than for him to waste his energy participating.

On the 14th of September we headed down to Waterloo and stayed with another fellow puppy raiser. We dropped Aspen off in Hanover to visit her breeder for a bit so only had Reece, Cessna and Phoenix. While “down south” as my sister likes to call it, we did some shopping at Costco, visited some friends and picked up some paperwork at the college. On the Wednesday evening we took part in the weekly puppy outing and got to meet an adorable new golden foster named Cooper. He was so tiny and fluffy – it made me miss my little golden girl. Reece was a star and out shined many of the other puppies around his age. He has come a long way from the insecure little chocolate puppy we picked up just 7 months ago.

On the Thursday morning we met up with another puppy raiser and gave Reece to her for his elbow assessment. Over the past month his limp has only improved when not doing the usual pavement and slippery floor walking he did while living in Guelph. Once we begin taking him for walks in town his limp gets progressively worse. Last week we got an update on Reece and he is behaving well – going into his crate without protest and playing well with the raisers other dogs (2 goldens, 1 lab, 1 toy poodle & a mix of some sort). She is still waiting for his vet records to arrive in the mail from the vet we took him to see, but is hoping to have him assessed this coming week so that we can pick him up on the weekend when we go back “down south” to retrieve Aspen. We will either be picking him up to continue fostering or we will be taking him to his forever home – a family with two young children. We had them come to meet Reece and he did absolutely amazing with both the 7 year old boy and his older sister. The young boy had him running up and down stairs and hills, but never once did Reece pull him off his feet. These children have ADHD and even though he might not be able to help them through service, Reece will be able to help them in other ways as their pet. It will be hard to say good-bye, but we know it is for the best – he is not a dog for us and we know he can do more for these children than he can staying with us.

It has sure been a quiet week without Aspen and Reece. Phoenix and Cessna sleep most of the time when Huib is at work. When he is home, we take them to the water to swim or around the property for a little exploring. We have started playing fetch with Cessna in the longer grass to see how she does at finding her Frisbee. On Friday she only missed finding it once out of the 10 or more times we threw it. I think we are going to look at the training that would need to happen for search and rescue and see if we can teach her some of that before looking into the actual volunteer process. Even though Cessna will be 6 years old at the end of October she still continues to learn new skills and desires the constant challenge.

Three Weeks In Kirkland Lake

Phoenix, Cessna, Reece and I just got back on Friday from a wonderful trip up north. Huib came to pick us up and we picked Aspen up from her breeder’s on our way back to Kirkland Lake. It was great to have the gang back together – I think Reece was the most excited because his surrogate mommy had finally returned! Too bad she went back up north with Huib yesterday though. The poor guy continually tries to get Cessna and Phoenix to play, but neither seem that interested in entertaining him.

While up north we took a trip out to the house we are planning to rent until our condo sells and then buy. It is small, only 2 bedrooms, but it has a lot of potential for expansion. It is situated on 73 acres of land surrounded by a whole lot of crown land. There is a lake just 2 minutes from the back door and a private dock. The nearest neighbours are probably a 5 minute drive or more. Huib will have a 30 minute commute to work, but with all the land and possibilities this house presents, we couldn’t say no. We will take possession around the end of August and begin to do a little landscaping.

On Canada Day we took Reece to see the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus tribute bands and wander around the kids area. Reece didn’t seem to mind all the kids running around him and didn’t even notice the bouncy equipment set up for them to play on. He even fell asleep in the grass after we stopped to stand and listen to the music. Later in the evening we took Cessna to see the Eagles tribute band and it was really good. Cessna was more interested in all the people coming up to say hi to her, she didn’t seem to care about the music or loud singing. We didn’t end up staying for the fireworks though. The concerts were over about an hour before they started so rather than just standing around, we took my sister home and returned to the college residence where we were staying.

On the Saturday following Canada Day there was a Tom Cochrane concert at the recreation centre. It was a good concert, except for the fact that people talked to one another all through the singing. I guess that’s part of living in a small town, everyone knows one another. Huib and I enjoyed the opening act the most – Serena Ryder. We even went up to get a signed copy of her newest CD when she was finished. Tom Cochrane was also good, but Huib didn’t find him as entertaining. He may have been too intoxicated to dance around or maybe just too old now, but Huib didn’t really like his performance as much. Cessna came with us to the concert. She was fine throughout Serena Ryder’s performance, but was a little shaky at first when Tom came on. But, we took her harness off and got her some popcorn which seemed to settle her down enough.

We didn’t really do anything else as exciting the rest of the time we were up north, but the dogs got tons of time to swim and run which they thoroughly enjoyed. I think Reece is finally getting the knack for swimming. Huib would throw the ball out for the girls to get and then throw a stuffed turtle for Reece to fetch. He didn’t throw the turtle as far out as he threw the ball, but a few times Reece actually attempted to go out for the ball with the girls. Phoenix swam a little, but spent most of his time rolling in the sand. I’m not sure why, but he seems to find it entertaining to get as dirty as possible!

Overall our trip up north was good. We got a few too many bug bites for my liking, but then I guess 35 in 3 weeks isn’t that terrible… We cane home Friday around midnight and joined in on an ADS puppy outing to the St. Jacob’s Market on Saturday. Reece did amazingly well – out of 4 puppies he was probably the best behaved. Ace is only 3 ½ months though so he still has time to catch up to Reece in abilities. We worked on stays and crowds most of the afternoon so by the time we were ready to go home the dogs were hot and exhausted. At home Cessna and Reece drank tons of water and then fell asleep until it was dinner time.

On Sunday Huib and I weighed and measured Reece. At 6 ½ months of age he is 66lbs, 22 inches tall and 22 inches long. I am not yet sure how big he’ll get, but judging from the size of his paws and wrists I would guess he will be either very thick and short or very tall and sturdy. He now has all of his basic obedience commands down and can walk on a loose leash 90% of the time. He still gets pully around other dogs and his nose likes to work a little too much, but overall he is progressing well. Our major hurdles right now are his chewing out of anger (when we leave him home alone) and his relieving in public (a HUGE frustration!!). Hopefully in a month or two he will mature more and stop these annoying habits. If he can get through these and if his shoulder stops acting up (hoping it’s a growth thing), then I think he will make a wonderful companion for a young child with autism.

“One of the best things to hold onto in this world is a friend.”

A Wonderful Week


This week has been a busy one. Huib and I picked Aiden up in King City on Tuesday and headed off to Kirkland Lake. We looked at several houses while there and both Aiden and Cessna got a good run Wednesday morning. I think Aiden is going to start refusing to come visit us soon, as every time he comes we end up going on a long drive…lol! On Thursday Aiden went to school with Huib, it was his final day of school and Aiden was very well behaved – I think it helped that he didn’t get much sleep the night before…lol! On Friday we went to see Phoenix’s foster mom and then headed to the “All About Pets Show” in Mississauga afterwords. We met up with another foster mom and her daughter who were watching our little chocolate man. We thought the drive to Kirkland Lake would be too much for him so decided to see if a friend would take him. He got lots of different experiences and was a very good little house guest – at least that’s what I was told…hahaha!

The show was great, we saw lots of different cats, dogs, and birds. The boys (Aiden & Reece) and Cessna were really good. They got lots of treats and we even bought our cats a new litter box that looks like a doll house. Reece seems to really like bigger dogs, he tried to curl up with every one at booths where we stopped to talk to the exhibitor. On Saturday we went to Ren’s Pet Depot to buy the dogs each an Easter present – Aiden & Cessna got a squeaky tennis ball with a colourful canvas swirly tail (sort of looks like a comet), Aspen got a squeaky tennis ball with colourful little canvas ribbons, Phoenix got a toy that has two squeaky tennis balls connected with a canvas strip and Reece got a toy that looks like a fox skin with squeakers at the head and tail (called a Skinneez). They were all spoiled and have been playing with their new toys all weekend – except Cessna’s got killed in a game of tug so we put Aiden’s away before it met the same fate…lol!

Aiden will be staying with us until Friday or Saturday, so lots of time left for snuggles and long walks. He is such a bouncy guy, so full of personality and affection. His heeling seems to have improved a lot, but his energy level seems to have gone through the roof  He never needed as much exercise as he does now, hopefully he goes to a family with a lot of property or who loves to be outdoors or it might be an interesting placement. No matter what though, he will always be welcome to come home, whether it be for a visit or forever.

The upside to our long trip to Kirkland Lake is that we found a great house (lots of space inside & a large yard). We made an offer on it and after a bit of back and forth we settled on a purchasing price. As long as we are able to sell our current place within a month’s time then we will be moving in around June 18th! I think the dogs will love their new home and the cats will not know what to do with all the space they have to run.

Road Trip


Aiden arrived home last Friday around 1:30pm and immediately settled back into his normal routine. We never really realized how much we actually missed having him around until we spent a few hours alone. He is such a wonderful little guy, so full of personality and love. He follows me everywhere and has such focus when we are out. The first evening was spent on a puppy outing to Conestoga Mall where him and Reece met up with Amber and Honey. All of the puppies were well behaved and Aiden showed off his maturity and improved heeling abilities. The following day we hosted a puppy social. We had about ten dogs in attendance and all got along except this little black lab (Jasper) who decided it was a good idea to mount everyone!! He had a huge crush on my friend Jess’s guide dog Glacier, poor guy took it well though.

Sunday morning we got everyone packed into the rental and set off for Lindsay where we picked up my uncle. Cessna and Aiden slept in the back of the SUV while we chatted about the scenery and how excited we were to be looking at houses soon. Our first stop was in Bracebridge for some snacks and coffee. While at the Walmart my sister and Aiden got a picture done with Sponge Bob who had stopped there on his across Canada tour. Aiden did well, just sat beside him and allowed us to get a good picture. Our next stop was in North Bay for a pee break and some more coffee. I never realized North Bay was as big as it is. Aiden and Cessna loved the treats and pepperoni sticks they got throughout the drive, but weren’t overly happy being stuck in the back while we sat up front. Whenever we stopped somewhere Cessna would jump into the seats or Aiden would bat my sister in the head because he was bored. When we finally arrived in Kirkland Lake the dogs were excited to finally get out and be able to release some energy in the hotel room. Aiden had fun jumping from bed to bed while Cessna rolled around on the floor excited to be able to move around and get some belly rubs.

The house we looked at in town was nice. It needs a little more work than the sellers tried to say, but overall it was exactly what we wanted. The dogs did not come in with us as the woman who was still there at the time had a little dog so we didn’t feel it was right to bring ours into its territory. After the viewing we went to dinner at a restaurant not far from the house. The dogs had some water and then settled under the table for a bit of a nap. It was so nice having the two of them with us. Our other three are also great dogs, but often need more care or require special attention. I think they will like their new home though – it has lots of space and a fully fenced back and front yard. After dinner we returned to the hotel and played a bit of fetch with the dogs before getting ready to watch a movie. Both Cessna and Aiden curled up on the bed with my sister and I while Huib and my uncle had the entire bed to themselves. The following day my uncle and I packed up the room while Huib and my sister went to their perspective appointments. We had some lunch at the same restaurant and then set off to look at a house in the country about 30 minutes drive from town. The house was a 5-bedroom log home on 40 acres of land. The property was absolutely gorgeous, but the house needs tons more work than we can afford at the moment. In order to even live in it a great deal of work would need to be done so we just asked the real estate woman to keep us informed about any changes in price. It would be a great place to buy for the land and as a pet project for Huib to fix up over an extended amount of time. We let Aiden and Cessna run around a bit on the property before we put them back into the vehicle to begin the long journey to Deerhurst Resort.

The drive was beautiful, except for a bit of rain. The scenery along the roads are so nice to look at and the traffic was pretty light the entire drive. We saw a spot in the road where there had been a rock slide, another spot where a truck had lost its load of logs, and then about 10 deer in two different fields. When we were about 30 minutes or so from Huntsville there was a large truck which decided it was a good idea to hug the bumper of our car. Huib tried to speed up a bit and get the truck away, but the driver was persistent until my sister and Huib began taking pictures. We arrived at the resort around 8:00pm and immediately upon arrival the dogs began to run and play together in our suite. We had reserved a 2-bedrom suite for the night so the dogs had tons of room to play with one another. It was funny to see that Aiden still had his love for the tub because as soon as I entered the bathroom he followed and jumped right into the Jacuzzi tub to check it out. We got some good pictures of him in it and even got one of my sister sitting with both Aiden and Cessna.

The following morning Huib and I took the dogs for a bit of a walk around the resort and got some good pictures. Around 1:00pm we packed everything back into the car and headed off to Lindsay to drop off my uncle. The drive was quiet and we only stopped once to get some coffee and have a pee break. After dropping my uncle off we started the drive back home. We stopped at my aunt’s place to see if she was home, but no one was there so we continued on to Toronto. In the city we picked up Reece from another foster family and then went home. It was so great to finally get home and see Phoenix. He had stayed with our neighbour and was absolutely beside himself with excitement when we arrived.

We picked Aspen up at her breeder’s place Wednesday evening and were happy to see her again. It had been almost a week since we had dropped her off, but we knew she was happy there so weren’t too worried about the length of time. She was not overly happy at first when we arrived, but then after a few minutes began jumping up and making her whining noises. We let the other dogs out of the car to greet her and then everyone (Aspen being the second) jumped back into the car to head home. I think Aspen was really excited to see them all, her breeder has two dogs (Aspen’s dad & another retired stud) but they are older so not as into playing with her. She did get a chance though to play with her half sister Moose, who came to visit for a bit while her family was at work.

Aiden will be staying with us until Tuesday. We got an e-mail from his trainer when we arrived home to see if we wanted to keep him longer – of course we said yes!

She’s Five!

A week ago today (October 30th) Cessna turned 5. It is hard to believe we’ve been together for three and a half years now. She has matured so much in the past year, I guess females matured later than males because I remember the “light bulb” turning on a lot earlier for Phoenix. Cessna has been a wonderful companion for me and I know our next few years of working will only bring us closer.

Cessna has been doing advanced obedience classes and has been excelling in her lessons. Her work has improved tons and she seems to be enjoying the lessons. She is doing so well that the dog trainer I am working with asked me to inquire about getting a copy of her Canadian Kennel Club registration papers. I wrote her program head and today was given the green light to begin competing when I feel ready to do so. I was quite nervous about asking, but am absolutely thrilled with the answer. I think Cessna will like the challenge and that she will not only get better in her primary job, but also excel in her competitions.

I don’t know many dogs who have this continuous desire to learn, but no matter what I ask of her, Cessna continues to step up to the challenge with her usual excitement.

“… it takes a strong-minded human to appreciate a strong-minded dog!”

A Medley of News

Looking at my blog today I realized that I haven’t posted in over two weeks and there is so much new to say. Aiden has now had four stay classes and is doing wonderfully! He is understanding now that I will not pay attention to him if he is not lying down in a stay position and it takes very little time for him to go back down after getting up for a moment. When we first began it could take as long as 15 minutes for him to lie back down, but now it sometimes takes as little as me just turning my back on him. I am so proud of my little guy, he is only 9 months old now, but acts so mature and adult-like. This Sunday we will be missing our class, but I will continue to practice while we are away. Last week instead of just staying, the dogs are now learning to relax as well.

On Wednesday Cessna and I began a Foundations class with Dogs In The Park. In this six week class she will learn some of the basic obedience skills needed for becoming a competition dog. I know she should know her basic obedience commands, but in this class we are taking it a step further by asking her to do them completely off leash and slightly differently. She is learning to stay like Aiden is in his class, but instead of only doing down-stays we are instead practicing a stay they are not as good at…this varies depending on the dog. For Cessna it is the down-stay, she does stays well in a sit position, but she isn’t as good about staying in a down when asked. To her, it is good enough to have her bum always on the ground, she doesn’t see why it matters whether she is in a down or a sit as long as she is staying. The class began with us practicing stays, then we moved on to teaching our dogs to come to the front of us. Cessna caught on quickly to this, so we moved on to trying to get them to touch a “target”. She was not so good at this, she became impatient and started to paw me and bark in frustration. The next skill we worked on was heeling, because she is already able to heel well on the left we began to teach her to heel on the right (just a note, that all of this class is done off leash). Cessna took a bit to figure out what I wanted, but soon got really good at it so instead of just standing and waiting for her to get into the right side heel I began taking steps away as she approached my right side. I guess after a bit she will begin to just walk along beside me without any issues. The class ended with us introducing the dogs to the barrels holding the bar they would later jump over. We walked through and whenever the dog walk over the bar we clicked and gave them treats. Once they were good at this we began walking around the barrels and getting them to walk between and over the bar. I think this class will not only give Cessna different abilities and learning opportunities, but that it will also improve her guide work because she will learn to focus better and listen to commands easier.

My final update is about my friend Jess who has now returned from Beijing and is at Leader Dog in Michigan getting her new guide dog. In Beijing she ended her paralympic swimming career on a high note, breaking her personal time records. She is not yet sure what she will fill all her free time with, but in January she will be starting massage school which will hopefully lead to a position on the National Paralympic team as their massage therapist. She has been at Leader Dog since September 21st and received her new partner in crime on the following Wednesday. Glacier is a 1 ½ year old male yellow (more white) lab, weighing in at 67lbs. I have not yet gotten a chance to meet him, but we are going to visit her on Sunday and will hopefully get some pictures to share. Even though Jess and Glacier have only been together for a week and a half she says they have bonded more in that time than her and Jetta (her previous guide) bonded in six months. Jetta was a wonderful guide dog, but she was not an affectionate or playful dog. Jetta is settling nicely into her retired life with Jess’s parents in Sault Ste Marie. I will update you all on their progress as time goes on.

Is Your Dog Really Perfect?

“My dog is better than yours” a common phrase heard within the dog owner community. What makes a perfect dog? One that comes when you call, sits when you say, walks by your side as if you are the most important thing to them, waits patiently for your command, ignores other dogs who pass…well get a robot.

Do you sit patiently and wait for your parents, friends, spouse or whoever to tell you what to do? Do you listen intently to people who talk to you as if everything they say is gospel? Then why should we expect our dogs to do this? Like us, our dogs are not perfect and make mistakes and have good days and bad. I have met many more dogs who I would love to spend hours with than humans. Dogs are non-judgmental. Dogs aren’t afraid to show you how they are feeling or to let you know when they have had enough. Dogs don’t try to impress us or hide their desires – the amount of drool hanging from their jowls gives them away.

I don’t want a dog who listens every second of every day. I don’t want a dog who waits patiently for me to tell them what to do. I don’t want a dog who worships me. I want a dog who has spirit. I want a dog who loves doing what they do, not one who does it because that is what they were raised to do. I want a dog who thinks for them self. I want a dog who will tell me no and that I am expecting too much. I want a dog who will test me and give me a reality check when one is needed. That is why Phoenix, Cessna, Aspen and Aiden are four of the most important mammals in my life.

Phoenix wears a colourful party hat at Aspen's birthday party.I have had Phoenix for ten years now and he will be 12 in October. Some people would assume he was a perfect dog given his age and experience, but he is far from it. Phoenix isn’t afraid to give you the “f*** you” look when he isn’t in the mood to listen or feels he is above you. My husband gets the “f*** you” look on a weekly basis from Phoenix and gets little reminders every once in a while that he is third in command, me being the first and Phoenix the second. Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix is and will always be my buddy, he came to me when I was 17 and taught me how to be responsible, what being independent felt like, and what unconditional love truly meant. I can remember the times we’d be at school and I wouldn’t let him do something he wanted, he would give me a dirty look as he walked me full force into a garbage can. I’d correct him and he would just look up with this huge smile and his tail wagging.

Close up of Cessna wearing a white baseball cap.Cessna’s picture should be beside the word “spirit” in the dictionary. She is the true definition of a dog with spirit. She works well and loves her job, but she also loves to just drop the professionalism and go crazy. She is a dog who loves life and makes sure to make the most of it, sometimes it is as if she knows she won’t live forever. I can take her into Toronto and feel absolutely safe following behind her, but then she makes sure to remind me that she is not perfect, jumping around like a kangaroo, all proud of herself for making a flock of geese take flight at once by barking while she walks by. I can honestly say that Cessna makes me smile all of the time.

Aspen is our pet dog, she definitely didn’t pay attention to the lessons Phoenix tried to teach her. She may not have the intelligence of Phoenix and Cessna, but she sure does have her looks. She is cute, affectionate, and extremely happy with life. We have had Aspen since she was 8 weeks old and she just turned 5 in June. We have been trying to teach her for years to move out of the way when someone walks near, but all she will do is lift a leg and look up as if to ask “is that enough room for you to get by?” Her breeder told us to teach her all we could before the age of 6 months and we made sure to work hard on the basic obedience commands, she learned “sit” within hours of arriving. Maybe it was just laziness, but she would sit and look up at us anytime we said something so we just assumed she knew what we wanted. After she turned 6 months it was like the learning part of her brain turned off, it took her to the age of about 2 ½ to learn to swim and to the age of about 3 to learn the game of fetch. Phoenix has tried to teach her how to leash guide, but she just can’t seem to get the concept, Cessna learned in only two short lessons.

And finally we have Aiden. Aiden came to us at 10 weeks of age and has done nothing but absorb skills and mostly positive behaviours from Cessna and Phoenix. He just turned 8 months on Saturday and already he is showing signs of being mature and responsible. Unlike most puppies his age, Aiden is content to sit by my feet and watch the world go by. He loves to learn new things and devotes most of his attention to whoever has hold of his leash. But, just as the others aren’t, Aiden is not perfect. He has an overwhelming love for lotion, attacking whoever put some on with kiss after kiss until they get annoyed. He loves going places and just can’t seem to understand the concept of having a loose leash, even the halti doesn’t seem to make a difference. He is not a strong puller, but still there is tension on the leash.

As you can see none of my dogs are perfect, but I love them each for their personality and quirks. Life would be boring if they adhered to the ideals of the “perfect dog”. What’s the point of having a dog when you aren’t being challenged or made to laugh each day by their antics.

So my message to all you “perfect dog” owners out there is: maybe you should step back and take a closer look at your dog because if it’s :”perfect” then it isn’t really a dog, it’s a robot and what’s the fun in that?

“There is no faith which has never yet been broken, except that of a truly faithful dog.”

Cessie’s Trip To Marineland

On Tuesday Huib, Cessna and I all packed into the car and headed off to Niagara Falls for a trip to Marineland. My friend and her group home were going so we thought we’d tag along. I was surprised when my friend called ahead and they agreed to allow Cessna to attend with us, the Toronto Zoo forbids service dogs from entering their premises. We arrived around 11:15am and waited for my friend and her group to arrive. Marineland was busy, I think it must have been group trip day or something because there were bus loads of people arriving one after another. The group arrived around noon and after a quick lunch we all headed into the park.

The first exhibit we checked out was the feeding of the sea lions. Cessna growled and made small barking noises at them, but I muffled her noises by holding her mouth closed. She was fascinated by the sea lions who were swimming around and making different noises. Next we watched the performing seals, dolphins, and walrus. Cessna was trembling with excitement, she began whining after a while of watching the show. I am surprised the people in front of us didn’t complain because she was right between them. After the show we headed over to the orca whales where we were splashed and entertained. Cessna was absolutely thrilled by them, she was so excited watching them swim and jump below her. Huib held her a couple of times so she could see better, she whined tons, wanting to swim with them. She enjoyed them so much that we went by and watched again before leaving.
Another eventful part of our day was when we entered the area where their were deer roaming free. We entered the iron gate and walked along, Cessna was absolutely amazing, she just walked along side me looking around with interest. About halfway through this part Huib looked back and noticed that all of the deer were following us, he stopped and took some pictures. When we began walking again a brave deer began to approach us, Huib scared him off several times, but he continued to come towards us so we left as quickly as we could.

Next we walked by a red deer, elk, and buffalo…I always thought that deer had smooth coats… Our final visit was to the beluga whales, they were boring! The line up to pet them was too long so we left after only a few minutes of watching. Overall we spent 4 hours at Marineland and had a great time. I don’t know if it would have been as much fun though without Cessna.

“Sing like no one’s listening; love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching; and live like it’s heaven on earth.” Mark Twain