Adventures in Running: Just the Treadmill for Now

In 16 days, I will do my first 10k race. I am both excited and nervous.

My guide runner is gone for the summer, so we are working on finding another one. In the meantime, I am working on the treadmill.

The last time D and I were out, we went 5k in about 50-55 minutes. We ran a bit faster and maybe even for longer periods of time. She did say that I sprinted up the big hill that often winds me, so that was pretty cool. When she pointed it out, I told her the hill will be done faster if we go up it quicker, lol!! She will be back in September, so we’ll continue running together then.

In the meantime, I have contacted People and Information Network, which is Guelph’s volunteer organization. My friend, Jason, has also contacted the University of Guelph’s cross country coach, so hopefully between the two of us, we’ll find someone soon.

On the treadmill, my workouts continue to get tougher, but I am also progressing.

I am now running for two minutes at 5.5 miles and walking at 3.7, most of the time. In addition, workouts tend to be 40 minutes or more.

I also bought some new running shoes for the race. They are Saucony brand, and are light teal with black and white. I think they will look pretty good with my black Columbia running pants. Now I just need to buy a shirt and jacket, since the race will be in the evening.

Yesterday’s workout was 80 minutes of hills. Every other five minutes, I had to raise the incline. So, I did: level 1, level 2, level 1, level 3, level 1, level 4, level 1, level 5, and then went down again. I was able to go up to level four without a break, but then took a break after levels four and five. I also had to lower my walking speed to 3.5, from 3.7, to do the full five minutes at levels four and five. I was really hot and sweaty, and sleepy when I finished.

Today, I have to walk for an hour and 40 minutes. It isn’t going to be tough, but it will be boring and hot, so I’ll probably wait until Huib is home to talk to me.

Adventures in Running: Better

I have been training for 110 days.

I am still not a fan of running on the treadmill, but it is getting easier to run outdoors.

I haven’t been great about writing things down, so I am just going to talk about what I’ve been up to workout-wise the past couple of weeks.

After my week of not-so-good workouts, things began to improve.

I was pretty busy marking and preparing for the International Working dog Conference, so I only got a couple of workouts in before we left.

Tuesday afternoon, I did a run with D. I hadn’t done anything in a few days, so I did a bit of a pre-workout. I started with some stretching and then I walked on the treadmill for 10 minutes. I hoped the extra effort would improve our outing – it did!! We did our 4.1 kilometre route in 40 minutes. We ran about 120 to 150 metres five or six different times along the route. I felt a lot better than I had been. I felt lighter and did not seem to be heel-striking when I ran.

After the run, I talked to my friend Jason over iMessage about the improvement. I told him about the pre-workout stuff I did and he said it might be possible that I need a longer warm-up. I mentioned ;this to Jess and she agrees, so we’ll increase the warm-up portion of my workouts.

On Wednesday, I did a tough treadmill workout. Jess asked me to increase both my warm-up and cool downs to five minutes. She then gave me my assignment: one minute run, four minute walk, two minute run, three minute walk, three minute run, two minute walk, two minute run, three minute walk, one minute run and four minute walk. I warmed up at 3.1, ran at 4.5, walked at 3.5 and cooled down at 3.0 miles.

I did the warm-up, one minute run, four minute walk, two minute run, three minute walk and 3 minute run before I needed to take a 30 second breather. I then did the two minute walk and two minute run before taking another 30 seconds. Finally, I did the three minute walk, one minute run, four minute walk and then only did a three minute cool down. I didn’t do the full five minute cool down because I had a visitor coming in an hour and I needed time to shower and dress.

Even though I had to take breaks, I still felt my workout went a lot better than past ones.

While we were in Calgary and Banff, Huib and I did a lot of walking. Huib is a pretty fast walker, so I didn’t need to worry about finding a gym. I didn’t get any running in, but I don’t think my fitness level suffered.

Around 3:50pm today, D texted to see if I had time for a run. I was just drinking the last of an extra large coffee, so I said “sure,” but asked if we could get together in an hour. I wanted to give the coffee some time to vacate, lol!

D arrived around 4:40. We did our usual 4.1 kilometre route. We walked from my place, down Watt, left on Starwood up to Grange, crossed over and then began to run. We ran about five different times along the route. D felt we ran further than usual, doing at least 150 metres each time. We aren’t the greatest at measuring distances, so other than our full route, the rest of the measurements are kind of estimates. I was worried about the coffee making me feel sluggish, but I felt surprisingly light on my feet.

If it hadn’t been for the wind, I think we might have been able to run more. When we ran into the wind, I felt as though I couldn’t really breathe effectively. I honestly thought I might need to consider bringing my inhaler next time. It has been years since I actually needed to use it, but the wind really made me feel kind of nervous. Maybe if my nose hadn’t been as stuffy from the cold, breathing would have been a bit easier.

Other than the breathing problems, I didn’t feel any discomfort, so I guess my left hip muscle issue is gone – yay!!

I really think I’ve made a lot of progress since starting this adventure on December 19th.

Working Dog Conference: Calgary

Around 3:30am Friday, we woke up and began to get ready to head to the airport. Our luggage was packed, we just needed to add our toiletries after we were dressed. Once they were in, we secured the suitcases with zip ties and Huib put them in the car. While he was putting stuff into the car, I got the last of the stuff into a bag for the goldens to take to Mandi’s house, and double-checked that I had everything for Rogue.

We didn’t want anyone to have an accident before Dad woke up, so we left him food for everyone. Mandi was coming to get the goldens in the afternoon, so he just had to worry about them until she arrived.

Our trip to the airport was uneventful. We parked the car in a Park and Fly lot, then took a shuttle over to the terminal. We were glad we arrived on the early side because the baggage check-in line was really slow moving. At the front, they weighed our bags and then asked us to wait, so they could make sure the next people knew a service dog was coming. I’m not sure why they felt this was needed, but we had time to spare, so it wasn’t a big deal.

At security, I asked Rogue to sit and then I walked through. Huib planned to go after me, so that Rogue wouldn’t be worried about me leaving her behind. It worked out great. I thought they would ask me to take everything off her, but it didn’t happen, so when I called her through, she came running with her leash dragging behind.

We still had an hour or so to kill before we would be boarding, so we had some breakfast at Tim Hortons.

About 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off, they began to board everyone. We were in zone five, or about the middle of the plane, so we got in line. Rogue was a complete professional about it all. She patiently waited beside me and then once we were on the plane and I removed her handle, she curled up for a nap. She woke up a bit when we first took off, but once she knew there was nothing to worry about, she fell back asleep.

I read through my presentation notes a couple of times during the first part of the flight, then fell asleep for a bit. I think even Huib slept some.

Once we began descending, Rogue woke up, so I gave her some treats. When it was time to get off the plane, she walked nicely at my side.

At the baggage area, we waited a short time for our suitcases. While waiting, they announced that a person’s carry-on had been mistakenly taken by another passenger. It was a black bag, so probably an honest mistake, but who knows because they were still making the announcement as we left the airport.

We got a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We planned to see if we could drop the bags off, so we wouldn’t have to drag them around the city while we waited for our room, but we were pleasantly surprised to find out that we could check-in. The hotel had a room available on our floor, they assign all dogs to one floor, so they gave us an upgrade and we got a suite for two days!!

The room was great!! We had a small kitchenette with a sink, counter, table with chairs, a bar fridge and a microwave, a decent size living room with a TV, love seat and two chairs, then a bedroom with a king-size bed and a small bathroom. I thought it might be good to relax a bit before we went walking and for lunch, so we all settled in the living room. I read through my notes until I fell asleep, while Huib watched a bit of TV and dosed and Rogue slept on my legs and then in one of the chairs.

We walked for about three hours!! We checked out the mall and bought a few things. We walked the streets and along the pedestrian paths, stopping to take pictures in front of statues and to check out various stores. There were a lot of ‘interesting’ people along the way.

There was a woman walking along carrying her pants and shoes. I asked Huib if maybe he should stop and ask if she needed help, but he explained that there was another woman who appeared to be trying to help her. I guess he was right, because a bit later, we walked by them and she had helped the woman get dressed and was trying to convince her to come somewhere. At another spot, we passed a man loudly talking on his cell. It’s always funny to enter a conversation part way through. As we were passing, he said: “she got canned today too!!” Finally, there was another man talking on his phone, and as we passed by he was complaining to whoever he was talking to about the fact that he had been cut down to “just a pound and a half of medical marijuana.”

We then went back to the hotel for an hour to relax and drop our purchases off.

In the evening, we went for another walk. This time, we walked by the Bow River. It is a really nice spot to walk.

On Saturday morning, we woke up around 8:30am. The hotel had a breakfast buffet, so we got dressed and went down for food. It was a pretty good buffet. We had eggs, potatoes, grapefruit, orange juice and coffee. I had a croissant and Huib had a waffle. When we got back upstairs, Huib surprised Rogue with a couple of sausages to add to her pork rib breakfast.

I still needed to memorize my conference notes, so we spent a bit of time in the room before we went touring. We walked around Bow River, checking out the island in the middle. They created a really nice park on the island, with pedestrian bridges crossing over to it, so we walked around most of it. We also checked out some more stores. I almost bought a jacket for running, but it was only $20 off, so we decided to just wait because it was also on the bigger side.

For our last night in Calgary, we decided to go for a little bit of a fancy dinner. We walked around for over an hour and a half trying to decide where we wanted to eat, but there were too many options. Finally, we chose a place called The Gild. This place had caught our eye earlier that day because they had whole pig parts hanging in glass sided fridges to age. We thought it looked pretty interesting.

On the menu outside it listed meals from $40 to over $100. Once inside, we learned that the majority of the choices over $100 were meant to be shared, so I guess that actually isn’t too bad. When Huib read those options, he learned that they were 85% protein, so you got small sides and then a ridiculously huge portion of beef or something else.

I chose an applewood smoked half chicken meal that came with a cool poutine like side and grilled veggies. It was fries with chicken gravy, peas, shredded chicken and cheese – very yummy!! I also had a mimosa, a drink that contains champaign and orange juice.

Even though Alberta only recognizes program-trained service dogs, I did not get asked once about Rogue. The only comments I got were about how well-behaved and good looking she is.

Calgary is a pretty neat city. I think I would like to go back some day to see more of it.

Adventures in Running: A Rough One

I want to keep everyone up-to-date with my progress. I also think publicly writing about it helps me stay accountable.

Things are going pretty well this week, but last week was pretty rough.

D and I got together at 8:30am on the 15th for a run. It was a bit crisp temperature-wise, but once we got going, it wasn’t too bad. Our biggest challenge was the snow on the sidewalks. Most of the sidewalks close to my house were quite clear, but some of the others we travelled were full of drifts because on top of the snow was a lot of gusting wind.

Like usual we started out walking a couple of blocks to warm-up. There are three long metal electrical wire covers along the warm-up route, so that’s why we walk it. Once we passed the third grate, we started running to Grange. I’m not sure how far I made it, but probably about 100 metres before I needed to slow down. The rest of the route went very similar, we only did about four more running spurts which equalled about 100 metres each. So, on top of running less of a distance, we also couldn’t manage as many attempts.

On the bright side, we still got back to my place within the same amount of time as before, so I guess we must have at least walked faster.

We planned to get together again on Saturday, but D went home for the weekend, so we rescheduled for Wednesday. Then we got wild weather Wednesday, so we’ll try again Friday.

On the treadmill workout front, Jess continues to push me 🙂 Unfortunately, my migraines have really been getting in the way.

On Friday, I did 40 minutes that included incline work. I developed a bit of muscle discomfort in my left hip region, so Jess suggested I walk and avoid going past incline level four.

My walking pace has really increased since beginning this adventure. In December, my fastest speed was around 3.0, but this is now my cool down pace. My normal walking speed is up to 3.5 miles and is creeping towards 3.7.

The workout didn’t go too badly overall, but I definitely felt like giving up at various points. I pushed myself and got through all, but incline four, where my muscle discomfort began to increase after 2.5 minutes, so I finished the last 2.5 minutes at a lower incline level.

Jess and I have been talking about the 10k goal and we’ve decided to increase my workout days to four times a week.

On Monday, I had a migraine during the day, so in the evening I did a 35 minute walking workout that had me changing speeds. I did the usual three minute warm-up, then I did 6 reps of five minutes at 3.7 and five at 3.9. Other than getting really warm and wanting to stop because I was bored, I did it all, including a two minute cool down.

I’m not sure why, but i’m really finding it tough to get through some of my workouts right now…

Tuesday, I did a walk/run interval workout – I really dislike these ones!! I did my normal three minute warm-up at 3.1, up from 3.0, then attempted to do three minutes of walking at 3.6 and two minutes of running. I am still trying to figure out a good treadmill running speed, so I played around a little. My first run was at 5.0 and the second was at 5.5. After each run, I had to pause the timer for 30 seconds to catch my breath, wipe my face and drink a bit of water. Thinking I might be able to go without stopping if I slowed it down some, I did the third and fourth runs at 4.5, but I still had to take a break. At this point, I wanted to quit, but I also didn’t feel horrible, so I pushed myself to try a fifth run at 5.0. I only got through 90 seconds of the final run, but I was happy I tried and I finished with a three minute cool down at 3.0.

Since D and I weren’t able to get together on Wednesday, Jess said she had “an easy workout” for me to do. She was totally fibbing!! I got distracted by the papers I needed to mark and by a book I’m reading, so I didn’t get around to the workout until later in the evening.

In total, my workout was 48 minutes long. I did a three minute warm-up at 3.1, then did four intervals of walking at 3.7 and 3.9/4.0. I started out well. I did two full intervals without pausing the timer. After the second 4.0, I stopped for 30 seconds. I slowed the third interval from 4.0 to 3.9, hoping I could push through to the end of the fourth without stopping, but I had to stop for a minute. Then, after the fourth 3.7, I stopped for three minutes. I was done, I didn’t want to go any further, but then I felt really guilty. So, I made myself get back to work and squeezed out 2.5 minutes at 4.0 and then did a five minute cool down. Even though I didn’t get through the final five minutes of 4.0, I still felt good about it because I pushed myself to go further than I wanted.

Today is my day off, then D and I run at 8:30am.

Adventures in Running: Guide Runner

I have a guide runner!!

The University of Guelph is amazing to their alumni.

When my friend Jason heard Jess and I were trying to locate a guide runner for me, he talked to a disability advisor at the U of G, and they suggested I email Student Volunteer Connections. It took a bit of time for them to return my email, but when they did, things went pretty fast. We developed an ad, put it in their weekly newsletter and the following day, I got two responses. I emailed both students, but only heard back from one.

We met up for the first time on Wednesday morning.

D is great!! She has never guided, but she is very eager to learn.

To make things easier we met at my place. If we meet somewhere else, and Huib cannot drop me off, Rogue will need to run with us. Until we’re comfortable running together, it’s better if I don’t have her join.

D plotted out a 3.3 kilometre route. We began by just walking a few blocks. After we felt as though D had a good idea of what I need in terms of guiding, we started running 100 metres at a time. We ran about seven different times throughout the route.

We met again on Saturday morning. Even though it was about -12, we thought we’d still give it a shot. It wasn’t breezy, so -12 was quite comfortable, especially once we’d walked a few blocks.

This time, D plotted out a 4.1 kilometre route. In total, we ran about one full kilometre!! D said on average, we were running about 150 metres, 50 metres further than Wednesday!! Maybe it was the temperature, but I found it took less time to catch my breath after each period of running. D said that she felt I was doing a lot better.

Both days we were out for an hour.

Our next scheduled run is Wednesday morning.

Adventures In Running: What Am I Thinking?

I have been training to run for 63 days.

I am progressing slowly, but change is definitely happening – I have lost eight pounds!!

Two weeks ago, I found out my abstract was accepted, and I will be presenting at the annual Canadian Disability Studies Association conference taking place May 31 to June 2. I don’t know what day or time my presentation will be, but I now know that I am free the last weekend of May.

So…

I will be doing a 10 kilometre race with my friends, Jess, Jason and Jon, in Ottawa.

Now, my training really means more than just getting healthier.

My last two workout assignments from Jess were torture!!

On Saturday, before we did our tracking stuff, I did 23 minutes on the treadmill, which doesn’t seem too bad, right?

Well, Jess asked me to do my usual warm-up and cool down, and to do six repetitions of two minutes walking and one minute running. To get a comfortable running pace, I set the treadmill at 5.0 miles and then my walk is at 3.4.

The first three times through were fine. Once I finished the fourth session of running, I needed to stop. I had to stop the treadmill, for 30 seconds, in order to catch my breath. I did the same thing after my fifth running session.

I really didn’t think I was going to make it through the sixth time. Luckily, I had Huib to cheer me on. He counted down the seconds. When I finished the sixth repetition of running, I was DYING!!!

I had to stop the treadmill for a full minute before I could do my final walking session, and then the cool down.

I did it though. I did the entire assignment!!!

**********

Monday was another torture session.

When I first got my assignment, walk for 45 minutes raising the incline of the treadmill platform by one every other five minutes (lowering it back to the regular incline after five), I was like,, “cool, that’s no problem.”

In the past, the long walks with different incline work has been tough, but okay.

I was wrong. It was more than just tough…

I began with my usual warm-up of 3 minutes at 3.0, and then the ‘real’ work began.

The regular incline I work at is one, because this incline would be similar to running outdoors.

I started with five minutes at an incline of one, then I did five minutes at 2. At the 18 minute mark, I dropped down to one for five minutes, and then went up to level three for five minutes.

Incline levels two through four were tough, but not horrible. Level five was killer!!

I didn’t think I’d make it to the end of the five minutes, but I did. When I was through, I had to stop the treadmill and just breathe for a minute before I could complete the last walking part.

It is VERY awkward working at an incline of five. I couldn’t imagine having to do longer than five minutes.

Even though my comfortable, fast walking pace remains around 3.4 miles, it’s okay. I am just hoping I can start extending my runs to more than a minute at a time, or the 10 kilometre run is going to take forever, lol!!

Until next time.

Rough Conditions

Today was a tough day for tracking. It wasn’t extremely cold, but there was a light snow/rain mix, along with a bit of a breeze.

Wanting to keep everyone warm and dry, I had all three dogs wear their winter coats.

A few weeks ago, our friend, Kelly, asked if we might want a green Hurtta harness for Canyon. She purchased it a couple of years ago for Ace, but he has a very awkward body structure. On Saturday, she was at an agility thing with another friend, who offered to drop it off at our house.

I was looking forward to trying it out with Canyon.

Sunday’s tracking group consisted of: Stewart, the Belgian Tervuran, Cordelia, the Golden Retriever and our three.

Stewie tracks with his handler, Sandy, a lot more often than we admit to working with our guys – we’re so bad!! He tends to be quite on when he’s working, but he found this track to be really challenging. He missed almost all of his articles, which were mostly covered over with a light layer of snow, and he also had a bit of trouble locating the track while following it through a more contaminated area.

Rogue was up next and I was expecting the worst. Her first leg was a bit messy, like usual, so I brought her back to me and had her settle before cuing her to “find.” Once she settled in, she worked really well. She had some trouble locating her articles, but she let us know they were nearby, so we are all thinking the snow must have been creating some difficulties. Rogue did not really run into any issues following her track, even in the more contaminated areas. We were all quite surprised and excited!!

Next was Cordelia. She is still learning to do urban tracks, but she did very well. I don’t think there were any major problems. From listening to the rundown of her track by Laura and Sandy afterwards, it sounds like the biggest improvement came from her handler, Mary’s, work. Both Sandy and Laura said Mary has improved a lot in her ability to handle Cordelia on the track.

While Cordelia was running her track, Huib laid one for Canyon. When you are teaching a dog to track, you want to keep it fresh and avoid too many complications.

Arizona was next. Both Laura and Sandy were impressed. She found all of her articles and really didn’t struggle too much. The only place she showed some difficulty was as she neared the end. Arizona began to slow down, so Huib started tossing treats ahead, encouraging her to keep moving. We think part of the issue was that Laura had put a parking lot crossing into her track, so Ari got confused, but she figured it out and ended beautifully. We just need to continue extending her track, so she’ll be ready for the long ones at a test.

Last, but not least, it was Canyon’s turn. Huib put a squeaky tennis ball into his pocket as I got Canyon dressed. He really likes toys, especially balls, so we thought a ball, rather than a treat, would be a better reward at the end.

I will be handling Canyon in tests, so I am starting to work with him now. I need to work on teaching him to really check out the scent pad before we take off, but he did an okay job there. Once I felt he had located the track direction, I said “find” and we were off!! He is a very calm and focused worker. It was easy to follow him and he really didn’t seem to get distracted by other scents. I’m not sure if this will change, but it was sure a great start. Huib laid the track to have about 3 or 4 corners which Canyon found and navigated nicely. He is a very quick worker, so I’m sure glad that I’ve started to work on running. Once he located the glove at the end, he picked it up and gave it to me in exchange for the ball.

Despite the conditions, all three of our dogs did a fantastic job!!

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.

A Doggie Weekend

Saturday morning we did some tracking. It’s been pretty mild over the past week, so good winter tracking weather.

Other than Sandy and Stewart, we were also joined by Susie and two of her female labs, as well as a woman named Margot and her three Irish Water Spaniels. Susie and Margot are just starting out, so it was also a good opportunity for us to introduce Canyon to the sport.

Laura laid tracks for Arizona, Rogue and Stewart prior to our arrival so they could age. After explaining some basics about laying an urban track, we got to work on tracks for the remaining dogs.

While Margot and Susie were laying tracks for their girls, Laura took Huib and Arizona to run their track. Arizona is still learning, so her track does not need to be as old as Rogue or Stewart’s. I walked with Sandy and got a play-by-play.

Overall, Arizona did a good job. She got a little confused by contamination in a few spots, and distracted by smells on a couple of electrical boxes, but she located the turns well and found all of the articles.

Canyon was probably the biggest surprise for us all. He has not really formally tracked before, just followed an old one of Rogue’s or walked behind another dog with us, but not really tracking. Huib used Rogue’s tracking harness and ran the track with him because it’s the beginning stages, so a lot of times you’re bending down to show the dog where to go. Huib said he had a moderate, but not hard pull, and seemed to know what he was doing. He had put two articles on the track, not knowing if Canyon would just stop after finding the one, so he was pleasantly surprised when Canyon willingly gave up the first article and returned to tracking. When they were done, he came over proudly to show me what he had found. I look forward to working with him in the future. I think it will be a lot different reading him compared to Rogue.

Finally, it was Rogue’s turn. since she isn’t a fan of getting wet or cold, I don’t ask her to sit at the start of her track in the winter. She ran into a few obstacles along the track, all in spots where people did a lot of walking, but she worked hard to figure it out and was successful each time. Even though the track didn’t go perfectly smooth, I felt she did a good job of working out the problems and ignoring all distractions. Laura forgot about her issues with sticks as a first article, but Rogue surprised us and found the stick without having to be reminded to look closer. She navigated each turn well and did her surface changes perfectly. I think she’s becoming quite the little tracker.

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On Sunday we took part in the Labrador Owners Club’s Obedience Fun Match. For readers who do not know what a fun match is… Clubs will put on in-formal obedience events where people can run through a course, for a small amount of money, to see what it is like, and also see where they might need to work on things with their Dog. It is also a good opportunity to obtain critiques and advice on where problems might be and how to work through them.

Huib and I have never been to an obedience trial, so we thought a fun match would be a good start to our future obedience work.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, so I decided to pay for one run for each dog. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a lot of time to allow Arizona to settle, so she was a bit enthusiastic when her time came. Susie, our field and obedience instructor, was ‘judging,’ so I think that added to the excitement – Susie is Ari’s ‘friend.’

Arizona sat each time I asked her to sit and sort of walked with me, but she had to be kept on a really short leash. Also, when we did the figure eights, she wanted to visit the people who were acting as poles. They were making beeping noises, so that really distracted the Wild Child. I didn’t do the group sits with her because I am still working on her stays and I didn’t see the point of pretending she knows what she’s doing.

After Ari was done, Huib took her back to the car and got Canyon. Like Arizona, Canyon sat perfectly each time I asked and I thought he heeled a lot better, but he lacked enthusiasm. Huib thinks he might have been a bit uncomfortable with the environment, so feels we should try to get there earlier next time and allow everyone an opportunity to settle before participating. We did the figure eights quite well and I think working the course with him really helped me feel a bit more comfortable with the movements.

Huib was up next with Rogue. He has not done a lot of one-on-one work with her, so we weren’t sure how she would do. Huib said she did surprisingly well. He says they need to work on heeling and practice staying, even when I’m nearby, but otherwise he felt she did an okay job.

Once Rogue was done her course, it was time for the group stays, so I had to put Canyon in a sit-stay beside a young chocolate lab and then Huib had Rogue sit-stay on the other side of the lab. Huib suggested Rogue and Canyon not be right beside one another so she wouldn’t get distracted by him or confused when I returned to him. Canyon sat and waited for me, but Rogue broke her stay and charged me, lol!! Huib says it’s okay though because she might have gotten distracted by the other handler, who was returning to their dog to remind them to remain seated.

After the novice obedience dogs were done, the other pre-novice handler asked if she could do another run. Susie suggested I get Arizona and do the same. She feels Ari is the closest to being ready to actually attempt a pre-novice obedience run for real.

For a different experience, Susie asked another club member to ‘judge’ the runs. Arizona did a much better job of following my lead and ignored the beeping people a bit better. I need to learn how to walk in a straight line, but otherwise it’s just a lot of practice for us.

I am hoping to take Ari to another fun match before I actually consider entering a trial. We won’t be ready to try for novice obedience until next year, the dog needs to be able to heel off leash, but we should be able to attempt pre-novice by the spring.

We’ll also be restarting our weekly obedience lessons, so along with the work I do with the dogs through the Fenzi Academy and Training Levels Program, I hope we’ll see some progress.

Showing Good Work Ethic

This morning we ventured out to the University of Guelph campus to do some more tracking.

We weren’t the only ones this time, our buddies Sandy and Stewart joined the fun.

Since it wasn’t as cold – about -7 – just Rogue wore a coat. The goldens can handle the cold better, so I only make them wear coats on really frigid days.

Arizona was first. She still needs to obtain her TD (tracking dog) title, so her track was all on grass. Ari had some challenges, but she did her corners really well, found all of her articles, and showed great work ethic.

I think Arizona is finally beginning to understand her job and appears to enjoy it.

Rogue’s track was on grass and pavement. She found her scent pad and examined it thoroughly. She took a bit of time to decide what direction she wanted to go from the pad, but once she made up her mind, we were off!! She did a great job of finding all of the articles and showed amazing dedication. Rogue had a bit of trouble at one corner, taking close to three minutes to figure out where we needed to go, but she kept working and made the right decision.

There is really nothing bad I can say about the work either girl did..

Poor Canyon had to wait in the car. He did get some treats each time we got a girl or put one away, so I’m sure that made him happy. I’d leave him home, but I think he’d rather be with his ‘people.’

I am not a fan of summer, but I am even less of a fan of ice, so if it’s not going to snow, then it might as well warm up.