A Mix of Stuff

This week and a half has been a week of testing for Aiden, he seems to feel comfortable now in his environment and has begun testing us with a vengeance. I guess I should have known this would come sooner or later, but it was like it had all come about all of a sudden. He is such a good boy, but this week he has chewed the plug off Huib’s power saw, then once it was fixed he decided to chew the entire cord off. In addition to this he has chewed my flip flops and decided that obedience is not in his vocabulary right now. I guess now is truly when the fun begins. So he is close to being the same height and length as Cessna and even weighs almost as much as she does. I think he is going to be huge when he finishes all this growing!

Last Wednesday (June 18) was Aspen’s 5th birthday. I can’t believe it has been that long since we picked her up on August 8th, 2003, I guess time does fly. She was so cute when we got her, not that she isn’t cute now, but she was adorable back then. She looked like a yellow lab puppy and would run with Phoenix, but then all of a sudden decide to stop and sit…poor Phoenix couldn’t stop as quickly so would run right over top of her. Aspen would begin yelping and crying and run back to Huib and I…she was such a drama queen! I remember a couple of days after we had gotten her my aunt and Huib were dropping me off at a camp for the week and my aunt almost fell down their crazy steps. She was carrying Aspen so as she fell she made Aspen roll out of her arms and onto the ground so she didn’t get hurt. Well Aspen laid there on the ground for a full 5 minutes not moving even a hair, my poor aunt thought she had hurt my puppy. Well all of a sudden Aspen got to her feet and began running around like a crazy puppy! Well it has been almost 5 years since then and she is still as dramatic as she used to be and Phoenix is still her best buddy. She likes Cessna and Aiden, but she absolutely loves Phoenix and sometimes we think she wishes he’d go get his battery changed or get a new engine. She will run circles around him trying to get him to play with her, but he just doesn’t have the energy to do it these days, I’m not sure what she will do when her best buddy is no longer with us. For her birthday this year she got a stuffed pink teddy that squeaks and a pool to play in when it’s warm.

Last Tuesday (June 17) we took the dogs to the Rockwood Conservation Area to swim. They had such a great time, swam for over 45 minutes and then we went for a walk to the caves and back. It was pretty cool out though so we didn’t get to enjoy our trip overly much, hopefully the warmer weather will soon return. In In the evening though Cessna began to scream whenever she would sit or try and “swish” her tail (Cessna doesn’t wag, she swishes). I was so upset about her screaming because I knew immediately what had happened. She has rudder tail again, she had gotten it the first summer I had her and now again L Rudder tail is from swimming too fast, too hard and for too long…it is sort of like they sprain their tail. I had a feeling I shouldn’t have let her swim so much, but she was having such a great time I didn’t want to make her stop. Well we gave her an Aspirin and it seemed to help dramatically, within about half an hour she was able to sit comfortably. As of Saturday she was fine and her tail no longer looked like it was just pinned to her.

This week has been busy, but fun at the same time. Saturday we were supposed to go to the Multicultural Festival in Kitchener, but it was storming like crazy…the weather these past few weeks has been nothing we’ve ever seen before. On Monday Cessna, my sister and I all headed to Toronto to visit with my friend Lynette and her new guide dog DeeDee. DeeDee is so tiny and so cute. She wasn’t overly sure about Cessna with her energy, but I think after a few times of seeing her DeeDee will understand that Cessna is just playful. This coming weekend we will be having a birthday party for Aspen (5th) and Aiden (6 months). We invited about 15 different dogs and their moms, but only 12 will be attending including my gang. I will post pictures if we get some good ones, last time we had a party for Aspen the pictures didn’t turn out overly well. I know it sounds weird to have a birthday party for your dog and to invite so many other dogs, but I am who I am and well my dogs are not just dogs to me, they are my family. I am always being told that I have too many and that I should get rid of some, but I just tell those people not to come visit if it bothers them because my dogs are all well behaved and get tons of love and exercise so to me that is all that matters.

“Live the life you love , love the life you live.”

Updates & Stuff

I thought I’d first begin this entry by updating everyone on how Teal and Amber are doing at their new homes, then updating everyone on how Lynette is doing at GDB. Teal looks to be doing wonderfully with his foster mom. I have not yet had a chance to get together with her or see her on an outing, but I am sure that soon enough we will cross paths again. Amber has now been with her foster mom for almost 3 weeks and also looks to be improving nicely. We have run into them a couple of times and Amber still seems to have a huge attraction to Aiden, but at least now she is settling down quicker and not stressing when she can’t be near him. Amber seems to be learning things quickly, she rides on the bus every day without any issues and attends school with her foster mom, settling down for a nap once they get into the classroom. The only real concern right now is her fear of traffic. I think with time though she will get through this fear…I guess living in a small village she didn’t encounter much traffic in the first few months. I will post some new pictures of both Teal and Amber once I get some from their foster moms. We will be seeing Amber again on Monday and this will be the first real time her and Aiden will be working side by side…hopefully it will go well.

Lynette has now been at GDB for almost 2 weeks, just one more week to go and she will be on a plane back to Toronto. She was placed with a fairly energetic and challenging female yellow lab at first, but after just a few days the dog began to show a lack of confidence, so Lynette decided that a dog change was necessary. She now has a tiny female black lab who works extremely well, but is also playful and challenging at times. If you are interested in seeing more about how she is doing and learning a little about her former guide, you can visit her blog at http://lynessence.typepad.com/.

Last weekend was a pretty busy one. On Friday we went to a friend’s graduation barbecue and then on Saturday we attended a Labrador retriever breeder show. If that wasn’t enough then Sunday we spent the entire day in Toronto, in the morning we attended the Walk for Autism at Nathan Philips Square and then in the afternoon we walked around Woofstock. The barbecue was fun, we spent about 3 hours there chatting with my friend and listening to stories her friends told about random things. Aiden and Cessna both came with us, Aiden was pretty interested in Jess’s friend’s guide named Cotton. Cotton is a bernese lab cross so is quite large and well energetic to add to it all. Aiden tried to play with Cotton for a while, but Cotton began to be a little too rough with him so we stopped the games. Cotton is over 85lbs and Aiden was 49lbs (now 54lbs!) at that point so we worried about having an Aiden pancake if Cotton were to actually sit on him, which he was trying to do. The lab breeder show was also pretty interesting, we were helping out at the Autism Dog Services booth, but also got a chance to walk around and see the different kennel’s booths and food vendors. Purina was giving out the more interesting stuff, they gave us a bag and told us to take as many treats as we wanted, they weren’t packages, but out loose for people to let their dogs test.

Sunday was very tiring, but fun and a great experience for both Cessna and Aiden. At the walk I stayed with Cessna at the booth, I didn’t want her to get too overheated – it was over 30 degrees celsius out and she is a black lab. At the booth I was with another foster mom and we took turns answering questions about the organization. It is amazing how many people look at the name of the organization and assume we work with autistic dogs…well I really do hope not, but then again are there autistic dogs out there? Another interesting, but strange question we were asked was if the dogs bite…sir I really do hope not, but if they do of course they wouldn’t continue in the program. Since we didn’t have any ADS fosters at the booth during the walk, we decided to put a training coat onto Cessna, people really didn’t notice the difference and to be honest I think she was a pretty good mascot for the organization. People and kids came up asking to pet her and she just laid there sun bathing…Cessna you are a black lab, how can you find sun bathing fun? Some parents told me that Cessna was such a good girl because normally their kids were afraid of dogs, but for some reason were attracted to her. One child asked to give her a treat and well she is the one dog of mine that I completely trust to allow a child to give her something. After the walk was over we headed over to the Eatons Centre to cool down and grab some lunch. At Woofstock there were tons of people and tons of dogs…why do all small dogs seem to have an issue with dogs that are larger than them? While walking through the crowds poor Aiden was snarled at and even snapped at by all sorts of smaller dogs…another question, why do people insist on allowing their dogs to walk on flexi leashes in crowded areas? I would think common sense would tell people to use a shorter leash in such places, but then again not everyone seems to understand common sense. Once we finished walking through all of the exhibits we began our trip back to the car. Aiden was so exhausted, he wanted to stay on the subway train rather than get off and go home. I thought at one point we were going to have to carry him.

This week has been off and on busy as well. Huib has been working a lot and my sister and her cat moved in for the year on Monday. I attended a presentation on Tuesday night at the Legion with Cessna…it was a presentation on K-9 Helpers so it was useful information. On Wednesday I officially began my volunteering with the ABI program at our local long-term care home. It was nice getting to know all of the participants and staff. Cessna slept the entire 2 hours we were there, she is not a morning dog so waking up at 7:30am wasn’t her idea of fun. Today I did my second day of working with K-9 Helpers, I think I am going to really enjoy this job. I have been assigned many different tasks and all seem to have elements that will challenge me both skill wise and comfort wise. I will continue to write updates as time progresses. Right now my main task is to learn all I can about the organization, so not currently a real challenge, but I will make sure I put all my effort into this job because it’s not often that such a wonderful opportunity is set before someone.

“Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.”

A Week of New Beginnings

This week has been a week of many doors opening for me. On Monday I met with a local dog trainer (www.dogsinthepark.ca) who I will be apprenticing with, while also helping her with her service dog organization, K9 Helpers. This organization works to train dogs for people with various psychiatric conditions.

As the client support staffer within K9 Helpers, I will be working toward taking over the administration aspects of the organization, while also working within their intake and follow-up programs. When the public calls the office to inquire about the program I will be the one to call people back with the information they request. Using my social work degree I will be able to help the organization re-work their application process, as well as by acting as a liaison between them and the individual client teams. I am really looking forward to the opportunity I have been given to not only use my social work degree, but to also learn things about an area I am passionate about, service dogs.

This week in my apprenticeship I have begun to learn clicker training. I am currently using Cessna as my trial dog, since I might as well work on problems with her before trying to help others with their dogs. She seems to be taking well to clicker training so far, she is beginning to learn what the click sound means and is beginning to re-learn the importance of focusing. On Monday we worked on teaching her that she will only get a treat when she pays attention to me and not to what is being thrown in front of her. Thursday we began to work on teaching her to “choose to heel”. She is a very smart girl, but quite impatient at the same time. She wants to please most of the time, but gets bored easily by training sessions and therefore begins to focus on the person with the treats rather than on the person (me) who she needs to focus on. I think after a while she will begin to learn the meaning of the clicker and the importance of focusing on me and her work, and not on the world around her. I think these training sessions will do wonders for us both; for my shoulder, for my frustrations, and for her overall desire to work hard and help me, help her to enjoy herself even when we aren’t out playing fetch.

Today was a crazy warm day, it got up to 40 degrees celsius with the humidex. Our dogs are not finding this weather too pleasurable, but they will learn to tolerate it after a while. Aiden is having the roughest time adjusting to the warm weather, he was born just before Christmas so this warmer weather is terribly tough to get used to. We went to the mall this afternoon to try and give him a bit of a break from the warmth, we have an air conditioner in our bedroom and a large fan at the end of the hall to help the air circulate, but it still seems a little warm in here. He did quite well at the mall, but I found it hard on my shoulder when he would continually pull down to sniff something. I decided to try a halti for a few seconds just to see if it might make a difference. He hated it, but it at least gave my shoulder some relief, but then we came upon his sister with her foster mom and she was so excited to see him that he also got excited. In that few seconds I pulled back on the leash to try and get him under control, but instead of restraining him the halti came off and the leash went flying over my back and almost hit a woman in the face. I was so shocked at what Huib told me had happened, that I didn’t get a chance to say sorry, but I am sure she understood that it was an accident…an embarrassing one on my part, but definitely an accident. No more haltis for our little guy, I think I’ll just have to find a better way of getting him over his need to pull down on the leash.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
– Albert Einstein

Three Years of Adventure

This past Tuesday (May 27) was mine and Cessna’s 3rd year anniversary. I can’t believe it was 3 years ago at 10:00am the trainer came to my door (we were sent to our rooms to await our dogs) and said “guess who this is.” I had tried several different dogs without much success, all were wonderful dogs just too slow. I am a quick walker most of the time, that among other reasons is why I agreed with Phoenix that he should retire. Cessna had been the final dog they brought out for me and she had been the only one fast enough, sometimes too fast, to walk with me. I remember when they brought Cessna out of the kennels, she was so excited and just a bundle of energy rearing to go and be released.

During training Cessna and I had a lot of rough times, she was the first female dog I’d ever walked with so it took a lot of getting used to, as well she really loves to take off and go and loves her squirrels. The first eight months were stressful and overly emotional for both of us, my grandma passed away about a month after I came home with Cessna, then I had the wonderful task of planning a wedding, and I started my bachelors of social work as well at McMaster. There were a few times I considered sending Cessna back, she insisted on pulling like she was a 100lbs dog and would jump around like a kangaroo whenever she saw another dog or small creature like a squirrel. It was not until Febuary 4, the day of my wedding, that I truly realized Cessna could be the dog for me. She was so good, listened amazingly well and never once made a noise or protested going off with friends for a break.

The next eight months were still tough, but I saw that glimmer so worked hard towards becoming a great team. The Cessna everyone knows today, is not the Cessna I first received, her work is always 100% no matter whether she has been off for a few days or working constantly. Here’s to you, Cessna, you chaned my life for the better with your energy and your spirit for life and I hope we have many more years together.

“where ever life may take us…we will never walk alone.”

A Weekend of Change & Fun

Saturday was a pretty lazy day, but Sunday was a little more exciting. A friend’s sister had begun to e-mail me regarding the possibility of fostering Amber. She has never fostered before so mainly wanted to know her responsibilities and whether she was able to take Amber everywhere with her. After a few e-mails back and forth she talked with her parents and they were all for her fostering. Meghan attends the University of Guelph so Amber will get tons of time in classes, as well as, tons of time to be a dog since the student life is not always overly demanding. Sunday afternoon we packed up Amber along with all of her things and headed off to Meghan’s place.

When we first arrived Meghan and her roommate were not home, but a short time after we went back to the car they arrived with bags full of things for Amber. She got her new bowls, a leash, and some toys…what a spoiled little girl! Amber was quite excited to meet Meghan and they seemed to fall in love instantly. Amber almost immediately began to make herself at home, wandering the house and checking out Meghan’s roomate’s dog Jack. After going over some things, we turned to leave, Amber wasn’t so sure about this and ran out the door. We got her back in without too much difficulty and said our good-byes. Meghan’s sister called me that evening to let me know how happy Meghan seemed. She said that she thinks I might have made her year . As I hear more I will update everyone on Amber’s progress.

After leaving we headed out to the University to begin planning our walk route. This coming Sunday morning will be Guelph’s 2nd Annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides so I want to make it as perfect as possible. This year the walk could not take place at the park we had done it at last year because some booking issues had occurred and by the time we had put our request in the space was gone. The University’s V.P. Student Affairs came to our rescue though, offering to pay for the rental fees if we wanted to use their Arboretum Centre. The facility is beautiful, the only problem is no dogs are allowed inside except for working ones and I assume fosters as well. Having no real other option we decided on taking up her offer and began the process of planning the day. The day will begin with a catered sort of breakfast provided by the University’s food services department. Then the walk will commence and afterward there will be raffles and fun dog contests.

In planning the route we decided to first walk down the main driveway and head onto main campus. We walked through various areas of the campus stopping at one spot to take some pictures of Cessna and I. Cessna found the campus to be quite interesting with all the squirrels running about and the fields where she could run. I guess she hasn’t been there enough to get over the excitement yet. Phoenix lived and worked with me on this campus for five years so the novelty of it all sort of wore off after the first year there. After about an hour and a half we were done planning the route. This year the walk will be about an hour and fifteen minutes of walking, a little longer than it is supposed to be, but the walk is pretty scenic in spots so I am sure the community members coming out will enjoy it. I think as a preliminary precaution though we might figure out where the halfway point would be and have volunteers let the walkers know that if they turn around there then once they reach the centre again they will have done half the walk. I don’t want people getting too tired or warm not having the chance to take a shortcut. The route follows the main driveway from the Arboretum Centre and then goes through campus by their new Science Complex and then goes along Gordon Street to College where they will turn and walk by War Memorial Hall (a beautiful building) and by some of the residences such as McDonald Hall, Mills Hall, and Johnston Hall. Once they reach Wineguard Walk they will turn and go past the main cafeteria (Creelman Hall) and then pass by the library and some other older buildings. They will then turn down towards the Athletic Centre and head back towards the Arboretum Centre this time walking along some of the paths rather than the main driveway. I am looking forward to all of this being done, it has been a stressful process, but hopefully it will be all worth it in the end.

Today wasn’t too eventful, we only went out to the school yard near our place to play some fetch. The weather has become quite warm and humid and Aiden is having some trouble adjusting once again.

“Challenges are what makes life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
– Joshua J. Marine

A Week Has Passed

It has now been over a week since we picked up Aiden’s siblings, Amber and Teal. Teal seems to be doing well with his foster mom in Leamington. Last I heard she was slowly working on the basic obedience needs of ADS and on his house training. Like Amber, Teal has still not completely learned the importance of not going wherever desired, but telling us they need to go. Teal is not the only dog in the house, his foster mom has a large male golden named Denver. When Teal first arrived a the house he was a little intimidated by Denver, but not long after they were sleeping together while their mom worked on the computer.

Amber is still with us, she has not yet found that perfect home for her. I am sure she will soon enough, she is a real sweet girl, just a little stubborn. Her and I seem to clash every day, she doesn’t like to be forced to do something, so it breaks my heart when she looks up at me as if to say “you are the most terrible person.” I guess her and I were just not meant to be together.

This week has been a week of new experiences for Amber, she has learned lots and seen tons. Last Sunday we went on a puppy outing to Waterloo Park. The dogs enjoyed seeing all of the different animals in their petting zoo. The puppies behaved pretty wel, but Cessna was a complete embarrassment! She barked at this and tried to pull my arm off to see that. She grew up on a farm so her prey drive is quite high, but usually in such situations I don’t use her in harness and I remember to bring her halti or newtrix collar (www.newtrix.ca). Once we had walked around the park a while we decided to allow the dogs to run in one of the fields. Cessna had a great time playing fetch with Boomer, one of the other ADS fosters. Boomer is a bit bigger than Cessna, but still they seemed to be able to keep up with one another. Aiden and Amber ran a bit, but after a while got pretty tired so stayed around us waiting for the older dogs to be done their game. After the run we went for a walk along King Street. Amber didn’t seem to be phased by most of the things around her, but she did not enjoy having to go do stairs a second time without Aiden. I had decided that there was no point in me and Cessna joining on the second walk up, since she knows her stairs and well Aiden does too so we stayed at the bottom while Huib worked with Amber and Karen with Boomer.

We didn’t do too much interesting over the next few days, just the regular walks and stuff in our neighbourhood. Amber was not a huge fan of a bus rushing by while she was on that side of the sidewalk. She seems better now though. Thursday we took Cessna and the pups to visit Velma and Bob, Cessna’s foster family. Cessna was so excited to see them and immediately ran to her bath tub to splash around. Velma and Bob have an old claw foot bath tub at the side of their house for the dogs to play in. Aiden and Amber joined in on the splashing around in the tub and then ran circles in the yard trying to catch up with Cess. After some energy was burnt we headed out on a walk through the bush, the pups did really well with their recall so we allowed them to run up ahead with Cessna. Velma and Bob have a new pet dog anemd Jasmine. Jasmine wasn’t too big a fan of the energy the pups had so stayed out of their way, but later on when Bob took just Cessna for another walk, Jasmine joined and was at Cessna constantly, trying to get her to play. After an exhausting eight hours we piled the dogs back into the car and headed home.

Despite the lack of energy in the house, we decided to go on another puppy outing yesterday evening. We joined Karen and Boomer at Victoria Park. This time I remembered to bring Cessna’s newtrix collar and didn’t put her into harness, this way at least she couldn’t be identified as a dog guide. All the dogs seemed to enjoy the evening walk and behaved quite well. Cessna was still overly pully and interested in the swans and ducks in the water around the park…what am I going to do with you girl? Boomer is pretty attached to his foster mom, so she passed him to Huib during some of the walk in the hopes that he might get used to walking okay with another person while she was around. Amber and Aiden walked well, only getting excited to see the other dogs passing by, but I think the energy radiating off Cessna didn’t help the situation either. After a while of walking through the park we decided to walk around downtown Kitchener. Amber was okay not being with Aiden during most of the outing, but once he was no longer in sight she began to panic. Once the panic had set in she didn’t really settle until we got back into the car and she was able to snuggle up beside him. Amber sadly seems to have an unhealthy attachment to Aiden so I feel she will need to go to a new home sooner than later, because I fear with time it will only get worse.

Update Finally

Aiden is now 4 months and a week old, weighing in at 40lbs! Not as big as one of my fellow fostering mom’s puppy, but still a big boy. He is doing extremely well with his learning and makes us smile every moment of the day. He now knows all of the basic commands and we are just working on getting him to do them right away rather than when he feels like doing them. He loves his treats, so we’re using them a lot, but at the same time we’re having to be careful because he sometimes gets so focused on the treat that he’ll do every single command he knows instead of just doing the one we want. I think he might have learned that one from my old boy, Phoenix, he is crazy about food and will do anything for it!

Since Aiden is doing so well on his obedience commands, we have decided to begin teaching him some tricks. So far he knows how to give “five” and is so-so on rolling over. We thought that a child might enjoy an autism assistance dog who could do tricks. Not sure what else we will teach him, but I will keep everyone up-to-date with his trick learning successes.

We haven’t been doing too many exciting things with him these days. My husband has finished school for the summer so is working a lot more. I decided to take Aiden and Cessna for a walk on my own around my neighbourhood, they did so well together! Even though Aiden was being a bit of a butt head at times, Cessna never missed a curb or obstacle, she wasn’t even the littlest bit distracted either…I’m so proud of my baby girl!

I guess the most interesting thing that has happened around here over the past couple of weeks is that my neighbour’s dog has decided it is fun to jump off her balcony. Harley is a 6 ½ year old 92lbs German Shepherd Rottie cross. They live on the 3rd floor in our building and it is about a 30 foot drop from their balcony to the ground. He did it three times and for some reason did not injure himself at all. He was a little stiff last week, but he would totally do it again if he were given the chance. They have lived here for over 6 years and not once has Harley ever tried something like this. He likes to have access to the balcony while our neighbour is away at work, but now that privilege has been removed which has made him a little pissed off. The first day she barricaded him from the balcony he tore apart her place and broke the patio door window, cutting up both sides of his face…guess he is a little claustrophobic. He has been staying with us during the day while she is away at work, but we’re slowly rehabilitating him by not picking him up until about 2 hours after she leaves and then dropping him back off at home about 2 hours before she arrives. She said he was a little pissed off when she got home yesterday, but it is definitely a positive move towards staying home for the entire day on his own again. Harley is a bit of a bad ass at times, so having him around can be frustrating, but he seems to understand that my husband and I don’t put up with much, so he has gotten into the habit of coming over and listening which is a nice change. Hopefully within the month he’ll be back to staying home alone though because having a dog his size in our 2-bedroom condo apartment along with our own dogs can be a little chaotic at times.

I got an e-mail from Aiden’s breeder last week. She still has two of Aiden’s litter mates and sent me a picture of them. Amber is the darker one on the left and Teal is the lighter one on the right. She is still waiting to find that perfect family for them, so for now she has put up a fence to keep them out of the neighbour’s yard and is working on teaching them some of the basic obedience commands. I guess Teal is a bit larger than Aiden, weighing in at 47lbs and Amber seems to be quite similar in looks to Aiden. I really do need a farm…to have other little Aiden’s running around would be so cool!

Spring Is Here!

This week has been pretty uneventful. Cessna and Aiden (16 weeks) went to the vet to get their vaccinations. Cessna got a clean bill of health and happily only had to get one needle and then some blood drawn for her heartworm test…what a brave little girl! Aiden got his final set of puppy vaccinations and also got a clean bill of health, he now weighs 35lbs! After a week of not feeling so hot, his belly is now back to normal, it’s amazing what a few days of just rice and Pepto will do. After going to the vet we headed off to visit a friend who also has a dog guide. Boise is a 4 year old black lab from GDB, a VERY big boy! Cessna and Aiden wasn’t sure what to think of Boise, he had surgery on his eye about two weeks ago and is still needing to wear his cone to protect him from scratching at it. Just imagine what it would be like to see a great dane wearing a cone on it’s head…that’s how big he is and how strange it looked. After a nice visit with my friend and Boise we headed off to dinner with another friend at Frankie Tomatoes…yummy all you can eat Italian! Cessna and Aiden did very well, just lying under the table and watching the other patrons walk by with their plates full of food.

The rest of our week has been spent working on plans for our local Purina Walk for Dog Guides and spending lots of time outside. Aiden was born in December so has never experienced the heat of an Ontario summer, did he ever get a quick lesson. We took everyone to the local school yard to play fetch each day this week so they are really beginning to enjoy the nicer weather. Aspen and Aiden are finding it a bit hard to get used to right now, but I think soon enough Aiden will adjust like Phoenix has who is also a yellow lab. Aspen on the other hand hates the summer months, being a golden she likes it as cold as possible. When Cessna and Phoenix are lifting their paws in the winter, Aspen is laying in the snow eating ice and loving it. Cessna finds it tough when it is really sunny out because her black coat just seems to draw in the heat, but she still loves her free runs no matter what the temperature.

Social Gathering At Fanshawe College

On Wednesday Aiden (15 weeks) and Cessna accompanied us on a trip to London where we attended Fanshawe College’s social gathering. It was a gathering of aboriginal students from the college and surrounding high schools, as well as some of the aboriginal community members. We missed the cultural teaching workshop in the morning, but were able to partake in the afternoon festivities. The afternoon was filled with traditional aboriginal dancing, with some people even wearing their regalia’s.

Cessna has been to several aboriginal gatherings so the noise of the drums and singing was no surprise to her, she just laid in front of me and slept. Aiden was quite curious at first, wanting to check out what was going on in the centre of the gym. After a bit though he just settled down for a nap…nothing seems to phase this little guy! There were people dressed in all sorts of regalia’s, every First Nations group has their own style and every type of regalia has a meaning.

Jingle Dress dancers are easy to spot because of the tin pieces in the shape of cones sewn carefully to their dress, as well as the jingling noise they make when dancing.
The jingle dress itself is a unique work of art. The dress, usually made of traditional buckskin is sewn in a straight fashion from sleeves to hem. Tradition states that the small metal cones, or the “Jingles” attached to the dress represent several different things. The sounds of the jingles ward off bad spirits and welcome good spirit into the dance.

The Grass dancers’ outfits of today consist of a belt, cuffs, headband and harness with a porcupine roach which adorns two eagle feathers or a set of plumes. The dancer moves his hips, arms, head and shoulders in harmony with the movement of his legs and dance steps. Dancers attempt to imitate nature, resembling the gentle swaying of grass on a windy day. Traditionally, the grass dancers were called out to the place where feasts and special events were to take place. The dancers blessed the ground while they danced in time with the beat of the drum. While the grass dancers danced, they flattened the grass with their feet in preparation for the ceremonies to take place.

The Women’s Fancy Shawl dance symbolizes the life of a butterfly. . Women’s Fancy Shawl dancers have beautifully intricate outfits. The dancer will wear a cape which is usually fully beaded. Also, they have matching leggings and moccasins, hairpieces and jewelry. Distinctive to the women’s Fancy Shawl dance is the way in which they use their shawl as adornment, delicately draping it over their bodies. It is in the movement of her body while she dances and the lightness of her dance steps that makes the butterfly come to life.

The Men’s Fancy Dance was meant for entertainment and still is today. The bright colours of the outfits rind the fast moves of the dancers provide an entertaining sight for onlookers. Men’s Fancy dancers wear two brightly coloured bustles on their backs. Some dancers choose to make their bustles out of man-made feathers while others choose eagle feathers. The dancers also wear a cape made of cloth, ribbon or are fully beaded. They also wear matching front and back aprons. In addition to their regalia, the
dancers wear porcupine head roaches, fur- leggings and bells.

There are Northern and Southern ways of dancing Women’s Traditional. Northern style is danced by remaining in one spot, lightly bouncing in rhythm with the drum. Southern style has the women slowly and gracefully walking around the Circle in time with the drum, gently stepping toe-heel, toe-heel with the feet appearing to “walk on clouds”. Both styles carry a fringed shawl folded over their bent left arm, a purse in their left hand, and a feather fan, usually eagle or hawk, in their right hand. The women hold themselves tall and proud, their bodies straight. The fringe on the shawl is to sway naturally with the movements of the women’s feet, not from upper body bending or swinging. The fan is raised in salute when the women hear the drum giving honor beats. At all times, the dancers are to stay in time with the drum and stop precisely when the drumming ends. The ladies wear knee-length beaded moccasins, leggings, and either a bucksin or cloth dress that has long, open sleeves. There are two styles of buckskin dress; once again, Northern and Southern. The Northern style is to completely bead the shoulder or cape part of the dress, whereas, the Southern style uses beadwork mainly as an accent. Also in bucksin regalia, the moccasins are either fully beaded (Northern) or accent-beaded (Southern).

Men’s Traditional dancers were an eagle feather bustle as part of their outfit. This dancer’s regalia is quite beautiful with colourful beadwork and a roach as a headpiece. Through his dance moves and steps the dancer tells a story of heroic battles or successful hunting trips.

Attending aboriginal gatherings such as Pow Wows is one of the highlights of my summer. I grew up knowing very little about my mother’s heritage, but as I grew older and was able to read about everything, I began to involve myself in my Ojibwe culture.

Trip To Elmira

Yesterday Cessna, Aiden and I accompanied a few other foster moms and their puppies to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. I’ve never seen so many people in a small area (or what seemed like a small area) before! We had to weave our ways in and out of the crowds that filled the walkways and sidewalks. There were tons of vendors with food and merchandise. Cessna did an amazing guiding job, not walking me into one thing or one person the whole entire day…way to go baby girl! Too bad you weren’t a little taller though because then we might not have gotten momentarily separated from the grou…lol!

The puppies all enjoyed trying to get the various food items that had been dropped, but most were quickly removed by the fast reactions of the seasoned foster moms…thanks guys! Aiden thought it was a good idea to grab a whole napkin and eat it, but it was quickly taken out. Another time he decided to try and eat a pancake, but again it was removed successfully. Poor guy though had the runs last night, not sure what he got without all of us knowing, but he seems to be feeling better this morning…sorry monkey man for not allowing you to eat breakfast, but it’s for your own good! Did you know you can give a dog canned pumpkin when they have the runs? I didn’t, but my husband did some research on what to do with a 3 month old puppy who has the runs and learned about this interesting trick. We have opted for the fasting for 12 hours, but at least we know for another episode. When Aspen was a puppy, about Aiden’s age, she ate a corn starch bone by nyla and threw up for hours. We ended up having to take her to the vet for an afternoon of intravenous fluids, so no more corn starch bones for any of our dogs! After that day with Aspen we worry about something similar happening, but thankfully there is the internet to look up ideas for what to do.

The trip was quite exhausting for all of the puppies, including Cessna. They saw dogs of all types, people of all sorts, and even horses…Boomer, it is not necessary to bark at them, they were just giving the little kids rides you silly boy! All of us were stopped after every step we took to have people pet the puppies and ask about what they will do in the future and what our purpose was as a foster mom. I don’t think we even made it all the way through the entire place in the 4 hours we were there. Poor Cessna had to sit and watch while the puppies were all given tons of attention and treats, but she was a good sport about it. I think it must have been neat for the people walking by us to see coats of all colours and a working dog too. In our group we had: Foxy in purple (a foster for National Service Dogs), Varsity in green (a foster for Lions Foundation of Canada), Cessna in her harness, and Boomer and Aiden in their red coats (Autism Dog Services fosters). We also got a chance to meet up with 2 other NSD pups, Comet and Bo (I think), they were so well behaved. Maybe they will be able to come out on one of our future puppy adventures.

After we had all tired ourselves out we started the long trek back to the wagon to be taken to our cars. The puppies and Cessna were so exhausted that they just laid by our feet hoping no one would come near to bother them. On the car ride home Foxy and Aiden passed out and Cessna just laid in the back watching the world go by. At home Cessna and Aiden ate dinner and then crashed and never made a sound until later that night.