Weekend visitors

dexter, a 7 month old mini chocolate coloured poodle with tan markings sits beside my brother-in-law, Mark.

Dexter has grown a bit and is no longer scared of everything.

Brandi and Mark sit on the love seat on our back patio with Dexter sitting in between them.

My sister and her husband came to visit for the weekend. We did some shopping Saturday morning and then in the evening we all went to Mohawk raceway for the Pepsi North American Cup, it’s the biggest race for harness racing.

We didn’t lose too much, but we also didn’t win too many bets either. For the last three races, we had Rogue pick our horse and she won back our twenty-five dollars. for her winnings, she got a new martingale collar that is red and black with black deer in a hunter green circle and tan background – it looks really nice on her. She also got some liver treats.

We’ll have to take her to the races again sometime and let her pick for every race now, lol!

Since Returning

Rogue and I have now been home for two weeks. It has been a busy two weeks, but most of the time it’s been stress-free.

Rogue had a bit of a lapse in her work the week after we returned. she seemed to think Huib should be guiding me and also it got really warm quickly, so she was a bit iffy on her curb-work and her pace was slower than I feel comfortable with. I took robin’s advice and ignored Rogue’s protests. I began to speak firmer and also made her redo any curb she even slightly messed up. It seemed to work because her work got better the following day and then even better the next.

Now her work is back to what it had been in Wyoming.

I think it was hard for Huib not to step in and help us out, but he did a really good job at restraining himself.

I try to get rogue out working every day, even just for a short trip around the neighbourhood. I ask her to take me directly to the curbs, even if we are planning on not crossing. I think Rogue is beginning to understand the whole “barrier to barrier” activity. I think it will help us both with orientation in the end, I just need to remind myself not to begin relaxing things as we get further into our partnership.

This past Friday I had Rogue’s eyes tested. Our friend Sam had to take her French Bulldog to the eye vet for an appointment, so I joined her. I planned to set up an appointment for Rogue and Cessna to have their eyes tested at a later date, but someone had cancelled and Dr Whalen said he could check without dilating her eyes, so we did it. her eyes are perfect! I assumed they were fine, but I wanted to make sure things were good before I completely retired Cessna. Labs tend to begin having eye issues around 2-3 years of age, so it’s always good to check things out.

other than working, rogue and I have attended a couple of soccer games with our friend Sam. her daughter, Kira, plays soccer every Thursday, so we’ve been going to watch. Rogue is really interested in watching, but she gets cold and bored after a while, so we’ve started bringing a blanket for her to lie on or under, depending on what she wants. there always seems to be other dogs at the games, but Rogue really doesn’t seem phased by them. One of the dogs who attends is a puppy in training from Dog Guides, so it was cool to meet her and her foster family. Norma is about 5 months old.

Wyoming Trip: Time To Go Home

As Robin liked to say: “Bootcamp is over and your release papers are in”.

Around 8am, all of us woke up, had our coffee, fed the dogs and then got ready for our final breakfast together.

Once breakfast was over, I went to finish packing the rest of my clothes and then Bill came into the room to make sure I didn’t miss anything obvious. I was shocked, but all of our stuff fit back into the suitcase without the need of the expansion portion either. Huib told me the suitcase is stronger without the expansion part being used, so I tried to make sure I could close it without the need of more room.

Around noon we piled the dogs, my suitcase and backpack into the vehicle and set off for Denver.

Other than a quick stop for lunch in Longmont, we didn’t make any other stops and arrived at Denver International Airport around 2pm, two and a half hours before my flight – which is a good thing because I didn’t make it to the gate until 3:40.

When we finally found the check-in counter, the clerk told me that she would order a wheelchair. When I explained that I did not require one, I just needed someone’s arm, she said that my request was not possible, that they only had people with wheelchairs available. I asked to see her supervisor. I don’t like being difficult, but the clerk was being rude and stupid. There is no reason why an airport shouldn’t have people to escort me to the gate without me needing to sit in a wheelchair to get there. After about 10 minutes of waiting, I moved back to the counter and asked her again to speak to her supervisor. She said her supervisor was busy, but that she would check me in and take my suitcase while I waited. She also said that she could give Bill a boarding pass and he could escort me to the gate. I asked that both Bill and Robin be able to do it if that was needed, but Robin didn’t have her ID, so I told the woman that an escort was going to be needed – I didn’t want Robin to have to sit and wait for Bill to return. the supervisor finally came out after 20 minutes and apologized for being so long. She said they had some trouble with an Ice Air flight and she also apologized about her employee. She said the woman was newer and had not assisted a person with a disability before. She said that it was her who had told the clerk to order a wheelchair, but that once the clerk learned I was visually impaired, that she should have found me an escort to walk down with, not expected me to sit in a wheelchair – I had decided that if I was going to have to have someone take me down with a wheelchair, that I was going to put Rogue into it and hold the back handle, lol! The supervisor said that it was going to take about 30 minutes for an escort to come help me, which I was okay with, but Robin told bill to take rogue and I to the gate.

After getting his boarding pass, Bill, Rogue and I set off for our gate. After going down a couple of escalators we finally made it to security where Bill’s boarding pass refused to work. After about 5 minutes of waiting, the guy gave bill another one. At security, I took off my shoes and belt and took my laptop out of my backpack, then proceeded through the metal detectors and, of course, I beeped. The guard asked if Rogue’s harness had any metal on it and I said yes, but offered to take everything off and have Bill call her back through. I did this. I stripped rogue completely down and wearing nothing, she ran through the detectors back to Bill – I was SO proud of her! I then walked back through the detector and beeped, so they asked for a female screener to come do a pat-down. the screener was really nervous, she worried about hurting me and also worried that Rogue would mind her touching me. Once I reassured her, she did her thing. while we were with the screener, another woman with a service dog was in a couple slots down. Rogue alerted me to the other dog, but when I asked her to stay, she stopped paying attention to the dog and just stayed standing where I asked with her leash loosely between us. Bill said he saw all of this and was very impressed. Once the pat-down was done, Bill came over with my stuff and I got everything back in its place.

At the gate, Rogue and I said goodbye to bill and then settled between two guys that were really friendly. One guy was travelling with another man and the other guy was travelling with a woman and a man. After a bit of waiting, the one guy asked me if I was going to be pre-boarded and when I said yes, he said that someone would probably come soon because they were taking some people in wheelchairs over to the ramp onto the plane. When I said that I hoped they didn’t forget I was there, both men said that I didn’t need to worry because they wouldn’t allow the plane to forget us – Canadians are SO friendly!!

Once on the plane, Rogue settled at my feet and since no one was in the seat beside me, I put my backpack under the seat in front and waited for takeoff.

The flight was relatively smooth. A flight attendant offered everyone beverages, so I had a Coca-cola while I read. When we got closer to Toronto, a flight attendant came over and gave me a customs form. I explained that I was visually impaired and would need assistance filling it out. She said that no one had told the attendants I was blind, so she felt bad that I had not been shown the safety features personally. I told her I was okay.

When we landed, I immediately sent Huib a message to say we had touched down. He said they were waiting just past baggage. The plane had to taxi for a bit so a spot would clear for the pilot to park, so I didn’t end up getting to Huib, Dad and Cessna until about 20 minutes or more after I had initially messaged him. Rogue was SO happy to see Huib and Cessna was SO happy to see me. I gave Rogue’s leash to Huib and he gave me Cessna’s.

It was an awesome trip and experience for both Rogue and I. Hopefully someday we’ll get a chance to return and show Robin how much we’ve grown as a team.

Wyoming Trip: Lots of Laughs

Today we woke up on the earlier side and had some breakfast before discussing what we would be doing.

While Bill was getting ready, Robin and I took Rogue outside and practiced having her sit every two steps. If she didn’t sit or didn’t sit quick enough, I was to say nothing and keep walking, asking her to sit after two more steps. If she sat the second round, I was to just say “good girl” and keep going, asking for a sit at the second step again. If she sat quickly that time I was to click and while I was taking my next step, hand out the treat. It was SO hilarious! I was completely uncoordinated, so it was lots of laughs. Rogue got really good at it though and when Robin took her to try it out, she was really good too. By practicing this exercise on a regular basis, I will be able to increase Rogue’s response time for cues. After she masters sit, I am supposed to go to down and then do random sits and downs, so she needs to listen closely to what I am asking for.

Once robin and I had had a quick coffee, we all set out for Fort Collins. It takes about 45 minutes or so to get there, so on the way we discussed the week and why highways were called highways, driveways aren’t called parkways and so-on.

In Fort Collins we took Rogue, Sherman and Heidi Ho Ho to Pet Smart. Rogue and Sherman had to work, but were also allowed to check out the merchandise when we stopped to look at stuff. After looking at all of the toys, I settled on a green ball made by Chuckit, that bounces in different ways because it is not quite round, it has lots of flat areas on it. I also got a purple foot ball that is rubber and very holey and flexible, it is almost like mesh, but rubber. I think Canyon will really like his new toys. Robin got Sherman a new head collar, it’s like a combination between a Halti and Gentle Leader. While checking out the head collars, we came across a woman with a small dog that made all of the dogs really excited. robin used the woman as a distraction to work Sherman around, the woman didn’t mind at all. Rogue got a bit excited at first, but settled down quickly. I brought her Halti in, but I didn’t need it at all, which I thought was cool.

After a successful shopping/training session at Pet Smart, we headed to Schlotski’s, a really good sub place. While sitting down to eat, a woman came over to ask about the dogs and told us about being a former dog trainer and about some of the dogs she had in the past. I think it’s kind of funny to listen to the stories people seem to feel they need to tell someone with a service dog.

Once we finished eating, we got back into the vehicle and headed back to Cheyenne.

While I surfed the internet and checked if Huib was around, Robin shortened Rogue’s girth strap on her new red harness and made her a longer guide handle. Rogue wore her green harness when we came to visit, but Robin gave her and Soleil new red ones, so Rogue has been wearing it since the second day. The harness fit well, but it didn’t really have any room left to tighten the girth strap, so Robin felt she should shorten it. The guide handle she made us is long enough, but Robin made me one that is about two inches longer, so in a couple of months, we will most likely move to that one since it will be even better. Robin wants me to work with the shorter one for now, so I can learn the movements rogue makes and also so Rogue has less room to move around me when we stop.

Before dinner we went for another walk around the neighbourhood, but in the opposite direction from the day before. Robin wanted me to, again, tell her when I felt Rogue begin to turn and then stop when we were straightening out. I nailed the first turn, but stopped two steps too soon. On the second turn, I nailed both and did the same on the third and fourth turns. On the second go-around, I nailed the first turn, but stopped half a step too soon, lol! I did the last three turns perfectly, but on our way back to robin’s driveway, Rogue decided to try and veer, so I stopped her, asked her to take me to the curb so I could regain my orientation and when I reached the curb, Robin started cheering. She was excited to see me using my newly acquired skills for finding out where I was in relation to something else. When we got home, bill clicked the clicker and then offered me a peanut butter filled chocolate egg, lol!

In the evening, Robin worked on teaching me how to do a square braid. She makes her own fleece tugs, so she wanted to teach me how to do the sure braided style. She got out some parachute cord and a metal ring for me to start with. Once I am done with that, I will have a tug to use as a pull for teaching the dogs to open doors. It took me about two hours to figure out how the square braid went, but it was also a lot of laughs.

Tomorrow is our final day in Wyoming, then we’re homeward bound.

Wyoming Trip: Getting The Feel

As a result of our late night discussion Monday, all of us were tired and slept in until about 9:00am.

After breakfast, I harnessed up Rogue and Robin and I set off for a walk around the neighbourhood. Robin wanted to work on helping me to feel the sutler movements of Rogue. She had me walk around her block several times, telling her when I felt Rogue beginning to turn and then stopping when I felt her straighten out. We had no streets to cross, we were just walking around in a rectangle pattern. robin used her cane to avoid confusion and Bill walked nearby to let us know when I had mastered it.

At the first turn, I felt rogue begin to turn too late and then over-stepped her straightening out by 5 steps. Robin had me take her arm and redo the turn, I did better that time. On the second turn, I was spot on with the turn, but missed the straightening out by a couple of steps. The second and third turns went well. On my next go-around, I did a lot better, catching each turn and straightening out perfectly. On our third go-around, I missed one turn because Rogue began walking slower, so Bill said we did the turn so gradually that I probably didn’t even feel it. Robin had me take her arm again and then redo the turn. We finished off and decided to do the other direction tomorrow.

after a bit of a rest, we set off for Walmart. Robin wanted to pick up some fruit and I wanted to get some souvenirs for Huib, Dad, Brandi and Mark (my brother-in-law). At Walmart, I had a bit of trouble hearing bill’s directions once we entered the first door, so I got a bit disoriented until Bill came back and re-explained the layout. In the store, we did a lot of zigging and zagging, so the dogs had a good opportunity to practice their ‘follow’ cue. Rogue has gotten really good at the ‘follow’ cue, so we only lost Robin and bill twice. Once because someone walked in front of Rogue, blocking her view of them, and then once because she saw a “shiny butterfly”, which is my way of saying she got distracted.

Walmart had several Duck Dynasty t-shirts on sale, so all of us got some. I got one for each Dad, Uncle Daryl and Mark. I also bought myself a Kermit the Frog t-shirt to wear as pyjamas.

After Walmart we headed to the State Museum because Robin thought they would have more souvenirs. She was right, they had some pretty neat stuff. I bought Dad a coaster that is made of some sort of rock and has some pretty neat colours in it. I bought Brandi a pair of really neat blue glass earrings that were made by an artist in Casper. I bought Mark a really cool whistle that is made out of a deer antler and can be worn as a necklace. i thought he’d like wearing it when he went hunting, just in case he got lost or something. I bought myself a fun Wyoming keychain and little stuffed Jackalope, which is an animal that is part rabbit and antelope, lol! I guess it’s a Wyoming thing. I bought Huib a couple of really cool things, but I can’t write it here in case he reads the blog 😉

In the evening, Robin’s son and daughter-in-law took us all out for dinner at a local restaurant. I ordered rosemary chicken and dumplings, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was good though. It was biscuits and chicken covered in a gravy. dinner was pretty funny. We talked about the different foods they eat in the southern states and Robin and fun asking if I had heard of this or that – of course, I hadn’t.

As an aside, it’s quite sad to know that they have never had a poutine – they are awesome! They had also never heard of Nanaimo bars. I know they originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, but I totally fought everyone knew about them. Thankfully for them, I brought two large packages, so they are no longer missing out on something delicious!

After we got home from dinner, we all chilled. The dogs played chase and tug, while I went on my computer and Robin relaxed.

It’s hard to believe that we will be going home in less than 72 hours. Even though I have loved the trip, i really miss home. Huib has also said that Cessna seems to be slightly depressed, which makes me sad. he is going to bring her to the airport to meet us, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Wyoming Trip: The Public Access Test

Today was the big day. Today was the dreaded public access test.

The public access test is a set of standards Assistance Dogs International designed for their member organizations to follow when deciding on whether a trainee should graduate.

Robin felt Rogue, Sherman and Soleil were ready for the test, so asked her friend to conduct it. Robin’s friend assesses dogs for search and rescue, as well as, evaluates dogs for the AKC’s Canine good Citizen certification.

I was SO nervous!! I totally thought Rogue and I were going to flunk.

we didn’t though… We passed with flying colours!!!

We all drove to the mall around 10:00 and waited for Robin’s friend to arrive. We then had our dogs calmly exit the vehicle and take us to the doors. Once we entered Sears, we asked our dogs to sit and then did a mini sit-stay and down-stay exercise while robin’s friend watched. We then walked through Sears and stopped in the busy mall hallway. there, we had our dogs sit and then Robin’s friend came up and pretended to greet us and our dog. Rogue was very intent on getting a treat from me as often as possible, so continually poked me in the leg with her nose, which is her ‘look’ cue or eye contact since I cannot see enough to give her true eye contact.

After Robin’s friend finished greeting us all, we did a mini recall of each dog. We had them all go into a down and then stay while we went to the very end of their leash and then after a few seconds, called them over. Rogue bounded towards me with lots of enthusiasm, lol!

We then walked through the mall to a small fabric store, where Bill proceeded to push a cart around the store while we asked our dogs to sit, lie down and guide us with him walking by. None of the dogs seemed to care.

next, we walked to the Chick-fil-A for a drink. the dogs had to lie quietly while we drank our beverages and Robin threw treats around them. Each dog ended up picking up one of the treats, but left lots of them alone completely, so it was no big deal. Rogue had a treat sitting around her belly area, but left it alone. She ate the one that ended up underneath her though. Bill took a short video of this, so I am hoping I can post a link to it sometime soon.

Once everyone was done their beverage, we proceeded to walk back through Sears to the vehicle, where Robin’s friend watched us all re-load the dogs. the only test we didn’t do was the behaving around dogs because we had each other’s dog to work around and Robin’s friend had met up with us the evening before with her almost 2 year old Bloodhound, so knew how all of the dogs would react.

It was SO neat to see how well each of the dogs performed the tasks. I was surprised at how serious each of them were about their work.

In the afternoon Robin’s son, daughter-in-law and friends came over for a barbecue. It was raining though, so it was more of an indoor one.

I can be a bit shy at times, so I wasn’t really sure how it would be, but I ended up having a blast. Roxy and I talked a lot and practiced some finger spelling and she taught me some new signs. We also entertained Robin’s company by commenting on things and telling hilarious stories.

When we were getting our food, for example, we didn’t really intend to do it, but we kept referring to items on the counter in sexual terms. to give you an example, I asked Roxy if she could tell me what kinds of condoms there were, instead of asking about the condiments. Then I asked her to pass me a bun and rare meat (burger) because I didn’t like it hard and dry, lol! I really didn’t mean for things to sound so bad, but it just kept coming out and Robin’s son and daughter-in-law were laughing.

After Robin’s company had gone home, it was time for roxy to pack because she needed to catch her plane back to New orleans the following morning.

I’m here for 5 more days, so it will be so strange not having Roxy and the Sunshine Dog around.

Wyoming Trip: Blind Man’s Chicken

Friday was a good day.

Soleil came down and woke me up around 6:30 by jumping on the bed and giving me tons of kisses. It is so funny to see how excited she is about life.

after breakfast we got ready to do some solo work.

Robin explained the route and then I offered to go first. We were going to set off at 5 minute intervals, so the dogs would have a chance to work without help.

Rogue and I did really well. we found our curbs, we made our turns when they came and we figured out any confusing spots. at the second crossing, we accidentally went up someone’s driveway instead of the sidewalk, so once I felt the brick wall in front of me, I asked Rogue to turn around and then we made our way back to the curb, so we could try again. The next area we had some trouble was when we walked down a road that has a number of really defined driveways, it felt as though we were stopping at curbs each time we crossed one, so when we stopped at the first down-curb of the driveway, I was confused, so I had Rogue turn around and then we walked back to the last crossing to figure out what went wrong. When I got close to the crossing, I heard roxy and Soleil, so I had Rogue move over and we let them pass us and then I waited a couple of minutes before proceeding on. We had actually been doing okay, I just didn’t realize how defined the driveways were going to be. Once we passed all four, I began asking Rogue to “find the chair”. she walked right to the curb at the next road, so I had her turn around and then decided to try asking her to “find the bus” and she did. It was a really cool experience to be working solo with Rogue and succeeding in our mission to find the meeting spot.

Once we got back to Robin’s driveway, we all decided to trade dogs and see how it feels to walk a short block. I tried walking with Sherman, the male standard poodle, first. Sherman walks a lot slower than Rogue and is a lot taller and longer, so it was a really interesting experience. I think Sherman would be an awesome dog to go window shopping with.

After I got back to the driveway, I took soleil for a spin. walking with her was similar to walking with Rogue, but she is a bit shorter and Roxy is shorter than me, so the guide handle is short. I had a bit of trouble finding my groove with her and we missed the down-curb, but we survived and I think Roxy and I are going to try switching dogs tomorrow.

Both Roxy and Robin say Rogue is a really good dog and that her work is superb. robin says that once I refine my precision, Rogue’s work will shine. they say Rogue is stubborn and manipulative, so I need to wait her out and be more firm in my requests. This is something Huib has also been trying to work on with me, so hopefully with practice, I’ll finally master it.

Robin wants me to try talking less and to stop fidgeting when we’re stopped because she didn’t find Rogue as bad as I told her she was about standing straight and not moving at curb edges.

I’ve got some work to do. It’s really nice though to hear that my dog will work amazingly well with someone who has more precise movements and requests. It makes me even more motivated to work on being still and quiet.

In the afternoon we did some traffic checks, or “blind man’s chicken” as Roxy likes to call it.

Robin and Sherman went out first. Bill was driving their van and their daughter-in-law was driving her car. We had to walk around their cal neighbourhood while bill and april tried to block our path and run us down. Sherman did amazingly well, which wasn’t a surprise.

When it was our turn, I asked Rogue to take me to the curb at the end of the driveway and then to turn right. When we were walking down the block, we came upon a car parked across the sidewalk in their driveway, so after rogue showed me, I asked her to ‘forward’ and she…turned left…stopped at the curb and then proceeded to walk along the back of the car…and then went back up onto the sidewalk and continued our route. Shortly after that, we had another vehicle parked too close to the sidewalk, so Rogue took me as close to the road as needed and walked around it before returning to the path. At the next street, we crossed over diagonally, which was not supposed to happen. they live in an oddly shaped neighbourhood, so when Rogue showed me the curb, we were at a curve in the sidewalk and not quite at the actual crossing spot. So, even though we didn’t do the crossing correctly, we did go curb to curb the way we were lined up, so maybe that’s a sort of win??

After bill came over and directed me back to where robin and Sherman were waiting, I proceeded along the route and came across a car that turned in front of us, a few more vehicles blocking sidewalk access and a car honking it’s horn as it raced behind us. I probably missed describing some of the tests we went through, but in all cases rogue was an absolute super hero!! She did everything smoothly and when we were cut off or whatever, I often didn’t even notice, I either wondered if I was imagining things or it was done so easily that we didn’t even break stride. I really think we’re going to be okay with anything we encounter at home.

Last to go was Roxy and Soleil. roxy encounters a lot of aggressive driving and people using their horns a lot, so she asked bill and April to be a little more scary looking and sounding.

I am happy to report that we have all lived to see another day.

In the evening we returned to the capital building and met up with robin’s friend who has a one and a half year old blood hound named boo. I have never seen a blood hound before, so I asked Becky and she let me feel boo. he is really neat, I love his ears! they are SO big! rogue was a bit excited to see him, so before we got out of the van I put her Halti on and then took it back off a few minutes later because she calmed down. After the greetings were done, we walked back towards the big staircase at the capital building because Roxy wanted to practice them now that she had a proper stability handle. rogue did really well on the stairs. When she showed me the first step up, I moved over to the railing and asked her to show me it. she got really excited about that and even jumped up to put her paws on the top, lol! Once we reached the top, I turned around and asked her to show me the railing, which she did by jumping up again, lol! I am going to work on this cue because I am thinking it might make stairs a bit less scary because I will know Rogue is focused on showing me the railing first and not just on showing me the edge of the staircase.

after we finished with the stairs, the wind began to pick up, so we decided to do a really quick loop along the sidewalks in the area. rogue did well at avoiding all of the planters and at showing me the various grates along the way, lol! She really hates grates, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to step over, she just stops dead in her tracks. At one point along our walk, Rogue stopped and Bill came up and said he thought it was really cool to see her showing me that there was a sidewalk to my left, even though the intersection itself was a few metres further ahead. I asked him how he thought I could teach her to make more of a signal for me to understand what she’s showing me, he suggested I ask Robin about it. Once everyone had caught up, we turned and walked back towards the intersection that would take us to the van. rogue stopped to show me exactly where we had entered the capital building, which Bill also thought was neat, so we used the spot to wait for the others.

Oh, I forgot. Rogue saw a SQUIRREL along our route and was SO excited about it, but I got her to sit, target my hand, target my hip and lie down, so she quickly reigned her head.

robin came down to talk to me before bed about how Rogue and I are doing. she thinks Rogue is amazing and that Huib and I did a really good job with her training. she says that I need to work on being more black and white with her for a while before I start asking her to learn new skills like showing me places we’d already visited or paths that are branching off the sidewalk. She said that the problems we’re having seem to stem from the fact that I am not as confident since losing more sight 3 years ago and more hearing along with it. She said that we’re going to do some cane work (blah!) next week and she’ll give me some tips for recognizing useful landmarks when walking since before, I used my sight to follow the grass and pavement lines. She said that our issues are very minor and when I asked her “If I were to give you Rogue right now forever, would you feel safe working with her?”, she said absolutely! I am SO proud of my Rogie Monster, she’s been such an amazing teacher and friend.

I am going to close this entry by making a public promise to Rogue. Rogue, I promise to work hard at improving my orientation skills and I promise to work even harder at regaining my confidence. It’s the least I can do to repay you for all you’ve given me since you came into my life.

Wyoming Trip: Leaving On A Jet Plane

Don’t worry, we’ll be coming back again.

Early Tuesday morning, Huib and I woke up, took showers and got the Orlando ready to go to Pearson International Airport. Rogue and I were due to board the 8:15 flight to Denver.

At the airport, Huib and Dad walked us to terminal one, where we were met by a special services person from Air Canada. Huib and Dad were not allowed to pass through security, so after saying our goodbyes, Rogue and I followed the Air Canada person.

Rogue was awesome! She never once turned to see why Huib wasn’t joining us, she just guided me with complete confidence. We dropped our suitcase off at baggage checkin and then I had to remove various items to go through security – of course I beeped.

I was surprised that the security person didn’t ask me to take Rogue’s harness off or to have her come through the detectors alone. The lady just felt each of us lightly and then passed her wand over.

Around 7:30, Rogue and I finally reached the gate, where we waited for another Air Canada person to come escort us onto the plane. Usually the staff take persons with disabilities from place to place on a cart, but the woman who escorted us from security to the gate told me that whoever was driving the carts said they didn’t feel it was safe for Rogue. I really didn’t mind though. It was a bit of a walk, but it was also a good walk for Rogue before she would need to lie calmly on the plane for close to 4 hours.

Once our flight was called, a woman came over and escorted Rogue and I to the plane, where a flight attendant took us to our seat. Even though I was not sitting where the attendant thought I should be, bulkhead, Rogue had a good amount of space to just relax. She slept the entire flight, only getting up when people began moving around.

Once we landed, a flight attendant came to escort us to the doors, where a guy waited to take us to baggage, where our friends were waiting.

It was so awesome to finally meet Robin, Roxy and Bill for the first time in person. Bill helped me get my suitcase off the carousel and then we walked over to where Robin and Roxy were waiting with their dogs Sherman and Soleil.

After piling into the van, we made our way to Cheyenne, which is about an hour and a half or so from Denver.

At Robin and Bill’s house, we let the dogs play and then got ready to take the dogs out on their first walk in the area.

Rogue and I had some trouble with the funky curb-cuts in the area, but otherwise we did quite well.

I think this trip is going to be awesome for both of us because we are together without Huib and because both Robin and Roxy are willing to help us work out some of the kinks.

Rogue Is Freedom

This is my submission for the 15th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

According to the free online dictionary, freedom is:
“1. the state of being free, or
2. exemption from external control.”

Therefore, Rogue is FREEDOM.

Rogue joined our family on June 10th, 2011 but even before her arrival she had begun to set me free.

Five months before picking up Rogue I lost most of my usable vision, and in the process, lost myself. I had always been a confident person. Even after being with Huib for over a decade, I still found it difficult to ask for help…I never wanted him to see me as dependent. When my vision changed and I no longer saw the same way, my world fell apart. I was scared. I didn’t know how I would ever learn to get around on my own again. It was easier to just go places with Huib or other people.

When we learned that Cessna was developing cataracts I knew I was going to need to seriously think about a successor. I had tossed around the idea of owner-training, but it wasn’t until this diagnosis that I really thought about it. I had less vision now than when I got Cessna, so I thought it would be better to return to Dog Guides for a successor, but Huib said he was confident in my abilities, so he convinced me to take the plunge.

This decision marked the beginning of rogue’s journey with me towards freedom.

Huib and I had raised two puppies for Autism dog Services, so knew we needed to expose our new puppy to as many people and experiences as possible from the start. We knew some of the more basic commands we needed to teach, and had an idea of the guiding skills our trainee would need to learn. We had no clue how we were going to accomplish this though. We knew lots of people who were blind and had a guide dog, but we didn’t know anyone who had raised and trained their dog themselves. So I got on the computer and started to look for service dog blogs and service dog handlers who had owner-trained. I found several people in the United States and began asking them questions.

if it weren’t for Rogue, I’m not sure I would have ever had the desire or courage to reach out to so many strangers, many of whom have now become very good friends.

Through my research and discussions, I was able to develop a preliminary training plan. I say preliminary because over the past three years I have had to make changes in order to fit our needs.

Rogue and I have had our ups and our downs. owner-training is like an addiction, even when are hitting rock-bottom, you keep pressing on because you remember the high you got when things were at their best. Unlike an addiction though, owner-training often ends on a positive note.

Rogue turned three on the 13th and is working pretty much full-time with me. Cessna comes out when she wants, but I think she’ll retire fully really soon.

Rogue has not only enriched my life by being a friend, but she has also set me free. She forces me to go outside of my comfort zone and work hard at regaining my independence. In the process, I have found myself again. I am not completely comfortable with going everywhere on my own yet, but Rogue has shown me that it’s possible because she’s by my side.

Hard at Work

Or at least they are trying to seem as though they are hard at work…

Rogue and aiden are lying under a table at Costco. Aiden is wearing his red and black mesh Autism dog Services vest with a black martingale and red leash. rogue is lying behind him in her navy blue harness, light blue collar and black leather braided leash.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had people come up to me and ask if the dogs are no longer on duty at times like this.

even though we are obviously still in a public place, where pets are not welcome, people seem to think that because the dogs are lying quietly while we eat or whatever, that they are no longer working and can be loved.

I am always willing to talk to people about the dogs and often allow people to talk to them while they’re chilling, but I also try to inform the public about the fact that even though it may not look as though they are actively working, the dogs are still on alert and ready to move when asked, so as long as their working gear is on, they are on duty.

On an aside, rogue found it really hard to stay hidden with aiden under the table as well. he’s a big boy, so takes up almost all of the room, but she made a good effort at staying out of the way. Maybe it was having aiden there, but Rogue also did really well at staying down when I asked her to.