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.

Progress and Struggles

On Thursday evening we had another obedience class.

Class started with me working in the ring alone. Susie is trying to help me become more confident with the exercises. She is hoping that by practicing each week, it will become less stressful and require very little thought to complete. I do different heeling patterns, walking forward, stopping and turning in various directions. Susie thinks I am looking less uncomfortable each week.

Some dogs, like Rogue, cue off their human’s body language, so if the human knows what they are doing, it’ll be easier to avoid cuing the dog to do the wrong behaviours.

When I was finished, I called Arizona into the ring and we got to work.

Heeling is still an issue, but we have progressed in other areas. Ari did several sit-stays ranging from 15 to 30 seconds long. She stayed in place until I recalled her, and then she stayed until I returned and released her. I also used ‘touch’ to keep her attention off Susie and Huib as they made “beep, beep…” sounds, so I knew where the posts were for the figure eight.

We will get there.

Rogue and Huib were awesome!! Huib has really worked on keeping Rogue’s attention on him, and it has made a huge difference!! He needs to continue working on having Rogue stay until he returns – she gets up as soon as he comes close – but it’ll come. She just needs to learn that when we cue a ‘stay,’ she’s supposed to remain in position, but if we’re just walking around the house, she needs to MOVE.

To add a bit of challenge to our work, Susie suggested we both come into the ring. She had us go to opposite ends of the room and asked us to follow her instructions. Both girls were distracted by the other team. Rogue was distracted by me and Ari, while Arizona was distracted by Huib and Rogue.

We also did a ‘group’ sit-stay. Both girls rocked it!!

Susie says we will do this each week to give the girls some high distraction work. No one is more distracting than your best buddy and your other human.

**********

Saturday morning was Cessna’s annual vet check. I was worried about the large lump under Cessna’s front left leg. It has grown since last year’s appointment, so I thought Bianca might say we needed to have it removed. We were pleasantly surprised to find out she was not really worried, but said we would continue watching it. I am glad because she’s almost 13.5, so I don’t know if it would be good to do surgery, and I don’t think I could decide against it. Cessna is really happy, pretty healthy, and appears to have a lot of life left in her.

Bianca asked a lot of questions about what we are feeding Cessna and what supplements she is getting. She also asked about any illness or concerns. Cessna has lost a whole kilogram since last year, so Bianca wants us to feed her more and to bring in a urine sample. She didn’t have any concerns when she did the physical exam, but did voice her distress regarding Cessna’s coat condition. I told her it hasn’t changed in the past year or so, even though we have tried a number of different options. We will not be vaccinating Cessna anymore, but Bianca still wanted to run Parvo and Distemper titres, along with a geriatric blood panel and a test for Heartworm and tick-borne diseases. The results from the tests should come back in about a week.

After paying, we took Cessna back to the vehicle, and then brought each of the others in to be weighed. All three youngsters need to lose about four pounds!!

**********

In the afternoon, we had tracking with Laura.

Canyon was all over the place for most of his track. He found both articles and did some pretty good work the last 10 metres or so. I think it is just going to take time.

Once he gets the idea, he’s going to be great!!

Arizona was amazing!! She found all of her articles, did some surface changes (crossing over sidewalks), and barely overshot corners. Unlike Rogue, Ari only seems to go a foot or two past her corners before she realizes she has lost scent.

She stopped a couple of times to think, but Laura said that’s normal, so not to worry and not to rush her.

Rogue started off really well, but I think having to relieve herself caused some focus issues. She rarely goes to the washroom when not at home, but we fed them after Cessna’s appointment, so I think her schedule was off.

Rogue missed her first two articles, but found the others. She cut corners in several spots, so I think that might have been why she ended up on the opposite side of the sidewalk from her track at one point.

Rogue has had a really good couple of months for tracking, so it was about time for some mistakes.

I’m thinking about entering her into an urban test at the end of April, so hopefully we’ve got our struggles done for a bit.

Until next time 🙂

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.

Busy Bees

The past two weekends have been good weather-wise, so we have been out tracking at the University of Guelph.

Last weekend Laura laid a really tough track for Rogue. She did an AMAZING job!!

The track was on Johnston Green, where a lot of students cut across to get to the corner of College and Gordon. There were a couple of corners where Rogue had to work harder to locate the track amongst all of the other scents, but she idd it perfectly. She has really improved over the past year.

This weekend’s track was a bit easier, but it still had some places where Rogue needed to work things out. I think the toughest part of her track was having to work through areas of slushy snow and puddles. It got up to about 8 degrees celsius on Saturday, so we had a lot of slush.

I am really glad I bought waterproof shoes last month. They kept my feet warm and dry, while also giving me enough traction to navigate the snow, slush and sections of ice.

Last weekend Arizona’s track was around MacDonald Hall towards the hospitality buildings. Laura and I stayed on the opposite side of the road to watch because Huib and Arizona had to cross the road twice. Arizona did a bang-up job!! Other than a bit of hesitation when she had to cross over the road, she really didn’t struggle at all. I love listening to people describe her working.

This weekend’s track was more about navigating the deeper snow. Laura wanted to see how she’d do with the challenge of finding her scent amongst the snow and other people’s footprints. Huib was able to see the track somewhat, so it gave him an idea of when Ari was checking out a cross track or if she was actually on the track itself. Other than taking the wrong direction near the end, she did great!! Ari had briefly indicated the correct direction, but it was such a fleeting indication, that Huib missed it.

Arizona has only been tracking for a year and she is such a different worker now than she was three months ago.

Last weekend, Canyon did a tough track that included pavement, snow, ice and sculptures. His track went through the sculpture garden at MacDonald Hall. I had to do a lot of encouraging, but he did a pretty good job considering how new all of this is for him.

This weekend, Canyon seemed a bit more unsure than usual. He kept running back to us, so I just encouraged him to continue on. Laura says that this behaviour is pretty common for obedience dogs. Canyon hasn’t really done formal obedience trials, but we have been training for them and he also does other dog events, like conformation, so I think her comment is still valid. She said that a lot of obedience dogs find it tough to work on their own, without constant direction, like they don’t think it’s okay to track.

I think it will just take Canyon some time to realize that it’s okay to work things out and to do things on his own, without any cues from me. Once he gets the idea of it, he’ll really excel!!

It has been really good for me to work with him. He is really a different worker than Rogue. I also find he’s less all over the track, so right now, it’s sometimes a bit easier to read him. This may change as he gets more confident though.

**********

On Tuesday I had my annual check up with my ophthalmologist. Alain wants to keep a close eye on how my optic nerves are doing, so each appointment begins with an O.C.T. (I just know the ‘O’ stands for optical). The images from the O.C.T. will give him a good idea of what is happening and if anything has changed. He wants to keep this record, so that when stem cell research into optic nerve regeneration progresses far enough, he will attempt it with my worse eye. In my left I really only have light perception, so I wouldn’t lose anything if it didn’t work. From the images he got this year, nothing has changed, so he was happy with the results. I had my pressure in each eye tested, but I didn’t have to have them dilated – YAY!!! My pressures were normal. Alain says he checks pressures because it would be a shame if I lost more vision because of something he could have prevented. He’s a pretty cool guy.

It would be really strange to have my full vision back. I wouldn’t mind having more than I do now, but I don’t know if I would want it all…

Unless I run into any problems, I’m good for another year.

We were going to meet one of my aunts for dinner, so we stuck around London after the appointment.

I needed to get a new CNIB card, since mine expires in March – it’s kind of funny to know that the card expires, it’s not like I’m going to stop being visually impaired. The new card should arrive in about two weeks. I hope the picture is better than my last one.

We went to dinner at Dawghouse with my Aunt Tracey. We haven’t seen her in a while, so it was nice to catch up. The food was great!! I had a vegetable stir fry with spicy teriyaki sauce, while Huib had a turkey club with fries and Aunty had a beef dip with a salad. We had a really large lunch at the Mandarin, so I ended up taking half of my meal home. After dinner we went over to Aunty’s place and they opened their Christmas presents. Last year, we had all planned to do a stocking sort of thing, so Aunty had Huib’s name and Dad had to buy for Aunty. We had an ice storm before our Christmas dinner, so Aunty was not able to make it. Huib got an awesome cushion for his chair at the office or in the car, along with a cute moose toque, a big travel mug and some other things that I cannot remember.

Huib is going to look pretty adorable tracking in his moose toque!!

**********

Friday was obedience class. Susie was quite impressed with the progress both girls have made.

Arizona and I need to continue working on heeling and sit-stays. I also need to get her used to people walking around her for the “sit for examination,” and making a beep noise when we’re doing the figure eight.

Since I cannot see, the obedience judge will have the ring stewards be the posts, making a “beep, beep…” sound as I approach. Arizona thinks this is pretty exciting at the moment, lol!!

I also need to keep working on ‘leave it’ because she wanted to sniff the floor at times, which really got in the way of my ability to remain in a straight line.

Like us, Rogue and Huib need to continue working on heeling and some stay stuff. She is paying more attention to him, dropping her head less, so that is huge progress!!

I think working with Rogue is good for Huib because it will make him a better trainer. He says that unlike the goldens, Rogue really seems to cue off his body. As a result, he needs to pay close attention to what he’s doing and make sure she knows he’s watching. When he doesn’t pay enough attention to her, she will often start tossing behaviours at him, hoping she’ll give him what he wants and get a reward.

From personally working with Rogue, and listening to them work together, I think the biggest thing he needs to do is talk to her more. I talk to her a lot when we are out walking and also while we’re tracking, so that’s what she is used to. I think she gets distracted or thinks she’s doing something wrong when we don’t communicate with her enough.

Rogue is a sensitive girl, so needs to know she’s doing things correctly. I think this communication is needed most when she’s initially learning things, then he can probably back off a bit.

While the girls were learning, Canyon was visiting his friends Mandi and Maddy. Last time we had obedience class, I left him at home, and he had a seizure. We got home just as it was finishing, but it still made us nervous to leave him again. Dad is usually pretty good at paying attention to him, but I think Canyon must have fallen asleep on the couch upstairs, waiting for us to return. i think the seizure caught him off guard, so he didn’t have enough time to get to Dad. It must have been a pretty mild one because when we arrived, he was still on the couch, laying close to the edge. If it had been a moderate or bad one, then he definitely would have fallen off. His head was up, so it was his usual partial one, but it still worried us. As long as Mandi and family are not busy, they have offered to take him while we are at class each week.

We are SO thankful for these guys!! They are so great with the goldens and amazingly accommodating.

Well, that’s a wrap. As you can see, our week was pretty busy.

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!!

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.

Determined

I am determined to get back into blogging.

It has been an extremely busy summer for all of us.

Here are some highlights:
In June, Rogue tried for her UTD (urban tracking dog) title, but wasn’t successful. We learned some important things at the test and we met some new people.

In July, Arizona entered the Maple Leaf Kennel Club’s UKC conformation show and got a group 4th on the Saturday. There were eight different breeds, so it was quite an exciting win for us.

Every week we have field and tracking classes. Arizona is progressing well with field, but she’s still hesitant to pick up any smelly or floppy ducks, so that’s been a bit frustrating. Rogue is doing well with tracking, working on both urban and field stuff. Arizona has also started tracking and is very slowly progressing. She has the ability to do it, but we never know what she’s going to give us at any given moment.

August 8th was a pretty sad day around here. Our long-time feline friend, Logan, unexpectedly passed away. We saw her Saturday, but weren’t too surprised when we didn’t see her or Laya on Sunday because we were moving stuff around, but on Monday morning Huib searched for her because only Laya came out for wet food. Logan loves canned food, so when we couldn’t find her, we were concerned. Huib found her behind a couch. He said she looked really peaceful, as though she had passed away in her sleep. Since her body was still stiff, our vet believes she probably had a heart attack in her sleep and we most likely discovered her within 8 hours of her passing. It was such a shocker!! We had no idea she was unwell 🙁

September was a pretty busy and exciting month for us all.

On the 9th, Arizona tried to earn her WC (working certificate), but instead of performing the drills, she decided to be the class clown – we’ll try again next year. In the land retrieves, she ‘marked’ perfectly, ran straight up to the duck, sniffed a couple of times, and then ran back to me. The judges asked me to resend her, and she ran two perfect land retrieves. When we attempted the water retrieve, she ‘marked’ beautifully, took a couple of steps into the pond, and ran right back. Huib thinks she didn’t like the smooshy bottom. We did finally get her to do a water retrieve, but we didn’t end up earning the title. We had a good time at the test though, meeting a lot of interesting people, so it was worth it.

On the 10th and 11th, we helped out at the Oakville & District Kennel Club’s conformation show. It took place at the International Centre, so it was a pretty big deal. I ran the Meet the Breeds Booth, getting to check out a number of breeds I had never heard of. Rogue worked, while Canyon and Arizona hung out in a crate when it wasn’t their turn to volunteer. Even with the long days, everyone seemed to have a good time.

On the 20th, I successfully defended my thesis. I now have a Master of Arts in Health and Aging degree. My convocation is on November 17th, so that should be fun.

What’s coming up for us?
On the 16th, Rogue will try again for her UTD title. We have tried to practice every couple of days, working in as many challenges as possible, so I’m hopeful we’ll succeed.

On the 30th Cessna will turn 13. It’s hard to believe my spunky little black lab is really a senior citizen. She still goes for 2 or 3 30 minute walks a day with my step Dad and wants to play with the others in the house from time-to-time. She has some health conditions, Hypothyroidism, mild incontinence, some tiny cataracts, mild arthritis, and some lumps, but overall Cessna’s a pretty happy and healthy old gal.

I will sign off for now, but hopefully I will be back sooner than later.

Look Out Donald!!

Arizona has finally done it!!

She finally retrieved her first duck!! I guess it’s time I get used to being handed one.

Even though the obedience part of our Thursday night didn’t go well in my opinion, our field part sure did. We were SO freaking proud of our little girl!!

Canyon seemed a bit off, and he was really distracted. Whenever I would stop, he’d lie down in order to sniff the ground or continually run to the end of his leash – Grrr!!! If that wasn’t bad enough, Arizona was revved!! She almost took off the tips of my fingers when I was offering a treat and she wanted nothing to do with staying in one spot.

I have a picture of Ari with her mallard to share, but I’m having some trouble uploading pictures, so hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to go back to the older posts and share the pictures. When that happens, I will post a quick message to let everyone know the pictures are up, and I’ll even try to give links to the posts so it will be easy to find the ones with newly added pictures.

We will be taking a break for Christmas, but our lessons will restart in early January.

Success!!

She did it!! Rogue passed her tracking test!!

She is now RLR Babe In Total Control TD CGN.

The test went REALLY well. Rogue was extremely revved before and during the test.

A gentleman asked me if my dog was ready for the test and I told him “I don’t know.”

It’s true, I didn’t know. Just like humans, dogs have their good days and their bad. I didn’t know what sort of day this was going to be for Rogue.

Well, it was a good day. Together, we made history. As far as I understand, I am the first blind person to track at a Canadian Kennel Club event.

Our track was 410 metres long and we finished it in just over 6 minutes. Huib and I were dying by the end, Rogue was freaking flying!!

I am SO proud of my little red girl! She has been a great friend and training buddy. Not only does she work well to keep me safe each day, she also works hard to impress me with her intelligence and willingness to try anything.

On Friday morning we are going to start training for the next level, TDX. If it is not too snowy or cold this winter we may also start training for our first urban tracking title.

**There are pictures from our tracking adventure, so I will see if Huib can help me post them in the next week or so**

In the News: Using the Canine Nose

In the United Kingdom, Tui, a flat-coated retriever is being trained to search for harvest mice.

Researchers are hoping Tui will be able to help them better estimate their numbers because it is believed that their population is on the decline.

You can read more about Tui and the reason for her mission here.

In ruled by paws news…

Rogue and I had an excellent tracking practice this morning, so this article was a great one to share.

We ran a CKC regulation length track in just over 8 minutes without difficulty.

We need to practice corners a bit more and work on Rogue’s article indication, but those are very minor problems.

I think I will break out the clicker and work on teaching Rogue to come “touch” me and then return to the article.

The countdown is on, 46 days until our tracking test.