New Liskeard

Yesterday Huib and I took Cessna and Rogue into New Liskeard to get some groceries. New Liskeard is about thirty minutes away, and provides many opportunities for getting almost anything you might want. Over the past week, Huib has been working a lot. And the week before, we didn’t really have a lot of desire to go very far from home.

So, we thought it was time to do some more extensive public training with Rogue, practicing her sits, downs, waits and starting to teach her some “loose leash walking”.

Cessna was guiding wonderfully. She was a little distracted by all the seagulls in the parking lot outside New Liskeard’s tiny mall, but she never once made any mistakes. I don’t think she really enjoys the trips where we do less continuous walking, and more practicing/teaching, but she was surprisingly patient.

Rogue was really excited to be out and about. She was eager to get started and investigate the world. Huib first got her to pee before putting on her “Service Dog In Training” jacket, and then proceeded to walk towards the mall doors. He stopped each time Rogue was pulling, and waited for her to return to his side while in the parking lot. This made the short walk, quite long. Once at the doors, Huib had Rogue sit and wait, while he opened it and only calling her through if she was still in the sitting position. Rogue seemed to transfer what we’d been doing with her at home to this situation, so it did not take much time for her to give Huib what he wanted. Once in the mall, she was pretty distracted at first. After having to stop several times, just trying to walk a few feet, I suggested we try using the clicker – clicking and treating when she was in the correct LLW position. It did not take Rogue long to figure out where she needed to be to get a treat, but of course, this being her first real LLW lesson, she will need further instruction. We tend to only use the clicker at home when we’re teaching new behaviours because Huib finds it tough paying attention to Rogue, where Cessna is guiding me, and clicking to be too much work. Now that he has seen how much the clicker is helping with teaching Rogue the correct walking position though, I think he will be more open to using it outside the house. In addition to asking Rogue for LLW, and a sit/wait at all doors, we would only allow her to greet other people if she was sitting nicely. It’s amazing to see how educated people are in the north, about not bothering service dogs, we actually went over to people we heard telling their children not to bother the dogs to ask if we could use them in teaching Rogue manners. When living in Southern Ontario, it wasn’t this difficult to find people, willing to just come up, and ask to pet the dogs lol!

I think the main two successes of this trip were that:
• Rogue did not have one accident

AND

• Rogue didn’t once pull like a sled dog

National Dog Day

Today is National Dog Day. It is an annual event, to bring attention to the dogs in need of homes, and to recognize the pet and working dogs who selflessly provide companionship and safety everyday.

You can learn more about this wonderful event by checking out this link.

Since this blog is mainly dedicated to my life with dogs, I thought, why not write yet another post which honours my canine companions.

First, I’d like to dedicate Bryan Adams’ song You’ve Been A Friend To Me, to them all.

The words of this song, ring so true. My dogs have been with me through thick or thin. They don’t judge me for how I look or for the way I dress. They forgive me for being irrational at times. And they don’t leave my side when I’m ill or in tears.

Each of them has provided me with some level of companionship. And each one has helped me feel safe, both emotionally and physically.

Being married to a nurse means you are alone a lot of the week because they are working anywhere from two to five days, depending on whether they’re doing eight or twelve hours at a time. My dogs are the only reason I can stay home alone in the middle of nowhere and still feel safe. If Cessna hears something, she’ll begin to bark, which alerts the others to either start barking or in Rogue’s case, look out the window behind the couch. Most times it is nothing, or at least I don’t notice anything, but I often wonder if maybe the dogs and their presence is part of what keeps it being nothing.

Cessna has been my dog guide for six years now and not once has she ever put me in harms way. She seems to always know when my attention is somewhere else and will actually shoreline )walk along) a set of stairs she is trying to tell me about with it on her side, until I notice and give her a sign that it is okay to listen to my “forward” command. I have corrected her and/or spoken firmly, trying to get her to obey, but she will continue to use “intelligent disobedience” until she knows I am actually aware of what she is showing me. This has also happened on the sidewalk when there was a barrier to show construction. We were walking to a place I knew well and when Cessna started to move onto the grass, I corrected her and firmly asked for a “forward” because I did not realize the barrier was in our way, and thought she was being silly. She proceeded to try walking onto the grass again, but I still did not realize something was in our way, so corrected her more firmly and ask for a “forward”. At this point, Cessna knew I still did not understand, so sat and just looked up in a questioning manner. It was then, that I realized she had been trying to tell me something and felt out in front of her, finding the construction barrier. I felt like such a jerk! So, I told her how good she was and then asked for a “forward”, she took me onto the grass, around the barrier, and once we were back onto the sidewalk, we had a party! If it weren’t for Cessna’s trust and willingness to “disobey”, I know there could have been times when I would have fallen.

These are just small snippets into my life with the dogs, and how their presence effects me each and every day. If they were not around, I can definitely tell you that I would not feel the same level of companionship and safety, that I do right now.

Thank you Cessna, for putting up with my mistakes and for looking out for my safety.

Thank you Aspen, for the constant smiles and surprising moments of safety you provide.

Thank you Canyon, for making me laugh with your toy obsession, and with watching over the girls (Cessna, Aspen & Rogue) as they play outside.

And, thank you Rogue, for being my snuggle buddy, and for doing your little part in keeping the house free of “invaders”.

Without all of you, life just wouldn’t be the same.

Please try to do a little something special for your canine companions today.

We’re Back!

Sorry for the long time away, but we’re now moved in and back online!! Thanks to Bell Mobility and their Turbo Hub, that works on the 4G cellular network, we’ve got even better internet than before!!

On June 28th, we packed all our belongings into a U-Haul trailer and drove to our new home. It’s only half an hour from our other place, but it sure took a while to get everything settled and all the utilities reinstalled.

Here’s what you missed while we were offline.

Rogue had her first three swimming adventures. We visited friends “down south”. And, we attended Red Labrador Retrievers’ Annual Reunion.

Since we no longer have direct lake access in our backyard, we had to find other swimming locations for the dogs. Huib did a bit of searching and found the perfect place, Larter river Provincial Park. There are a few different swimming opportunities there and best of all, it costs nothing to enter!

The first time we went, the dogs had a blast retrieving their new water toys from Christmas – a bright orange water dummy and a purple Jolly Ball. Phoenix just walked in the water, while Rogue would only get her paws wet before running onto shore for some exploring. We brought our cooler with drinks and snacks so I could read and Caleb could swim and collect rocks for his sword. It was a bit breezy though, so we didn’t end up staying much more than a couple of hours.

The next time we went, we brought the canoe. The water was still pretty choppy, so I refused to go with Huib and Caleb. I stayed on the shore with the dogs and read, while the boys attempted some fishing. Aspen didn’t really like the idea of Huib being out in the canoe without her, so she insisted on swimming along beside them until they pulled her in. Canyon and Cessna swam out once in a while to check in, but spent most of the afternoon with me on the shore, so I could throw their toy. Rogue was put on leash attached to the cooler so that I knew where she was and Phoenix just walked around, coming with me when I entered the water with the toy. He didn’t think I could handle being out there without him I guess. The neatest part of the whole trip was when Phoenix actually swam out to the canoe on his own. Huib and Caleb were paddling towards the shore and just happened to look out and see Phoenix swimming towards them. Once they said hi, he turned around and returned to me on the shore. Huib thinks he felt they had been out too long lol!

In Waterloo, we stayed with Karen and Wizard. Karen still has her foster from Lab Rescue so we weren’t able to do too much in the house, so we stayed out as much as possible. When we arrived on Friday, we first stopped in Guelph so Rogue could see Dr B. She was given a clean bill of health, but was a little wimpy when Dr B had her staff restrain her for some blood to be taken. Dr B. wants to follow a limited vaccine protocol to reduce the chances of Rogue becoming incontinent after spaying when she’s 6 months old. Therefore, she will not get her rabies vaccine until she’s older and instead of having her second set of puppy vaccines, we had titers done. She has sure grown a lot in a month, now weighing in at 19.4lbs or 8.8kg!

After the vet, we met up with another service dog handler for coffee. It was so great to see how well Patina had matured and settled into her work. I had gotten a chance to watch Patina learn the various skills she’d need to successfully work as a psychiatric service dog and grow from a tiny 14 week old puppy, to a beautiful (soon to be) two year old. Rogue had a bit of trouble settling during our outing. She wanted to play with Patina and found the patio environment to be a little too distracting. After coffee, we headed to Waterloo, where we met up with Karen and Wizard for a romp in the NCR baseball diamonds and later a dinner of sushi.

The following day, we woke up early and took Canyon, Cessna and Rogue to the St. Jacob’s Market. Karen and Wizard also joined us. At the Market Canyon showed off his newly acquired leash manners and behaved amazingly well for me. Huib focused on walking with Rogue while I got Cessna to work and had Canyon walk on my right. We really haven’t focused much on heeling with Canyon, but it seems as though he’s figured it out himself. He led out a bit like Cessna, but never put any tension on the leash. As long as Karen or Huib warned me of dogs coming our way, I had no issues redirecting either dog and found the trip to be quite exciting. We didn’t really buy much, just a taupe colour harness for Canyon (I would like to start teaching him scent work) and some turkey pepperoni sticks for Cessna and us to share. Rogue was a bit pully, but for the most part Huib was impressed. Around the end of our trip, Karen suggested we take everyone over to a set of open metal stairs for practice. The stairs are like metal grates with open backs and sides so we weren’t too sure how Rogue would do – she showed us!!! She bounced along with Huib and didn’t once consider the fact she was walking on something most dogs would find terrifying. Canyon even wanted to give it a try so I held Rogue’s leash and Huib took him up. He walked up with confidence until the third last step, paused a moment to assess what he had just done, and then continued walking up and then back down. Canyon never ceases to amaze me with his eagerness to try new things…

After the Market, we headed to Maidstone for Red Labrador Retrievers’ Annual Reunion. It wasn’t a great event, but given the circumstances surrounding Chris’ fall and then recovery shortly before, it wasn’t too bad. I think we’ll go next year, but if it’s similar, then we’ll probably forgo the rest. At the reunion, we got to see several dogs from other litters, such as a one year old female from Cheyenne. Rogue got to play with her brother Coal, who’s still with his breeder, and we saw Snickers (aka Sunny) from a distance. I wish we had gotten a chance to see some of her sisters, maybe next year they’ll come. After a couple of hours, we said our farewells and took a leisurely drive back to Waterloo. On the drive we picked up tons of fresh veggies and Huib showed me what wheat and barley looked like when still in the field. We really didn’t do much of anything after we got back to waterloo because it was late and Karen’s foster from Lab Rescue really isn’t great with other dogs.

On Sunday, we started our trip home. First we stopped in Toronto to pick up Caleb, Phoenix and Aspen. Caleb has been staying with us since June 15th, but has decided to come stay until the second or third week of August. Our next stop was the Bass pro Shop where we picked up a dehydrator and jerky maker, along with some fun travel mugs and a slingshot for Caleb. Then we stopped at Costco in Newmarket before heading to Bobcaygeon.

In bobcaygeon, we visited Amy at her cottage. She had two friends staying with her and Dave, so we made it a pretty short visit. While there, we met her new puppy, Waverley, and gave the dogs a chance to swim. Waverley is a female Dalmatian and seems to be a lot more timid than Rogue. Amy isn’t sure if it is the breed or breeder, but says Waverley seems to take a lot longer than her other dogs at getting used to new people and dogs. Waverley is just under a week younger than Rogue, but seems to be a little smaller and finds Rogue to be overwhelming lol! Monroe, Amy’s current LFC foster, really liked Rogue, but couldn’t play since she had just been spayed a few days before our visit. After dinner, we headed home.

This past week has been pretty uneventful, since Huib has had to work mostly night shifts. He’s had the entire weekend off though so on Friday, we went into New Liskeard with Cessna and Rogue to do some grocery shopping, as well as, to pick up some fencing supplies. Rogue has now started to walk on all outings so, we’ve had to really think about her relieving schedule and how to teach her about walking on a leash and leaving things alone on the floor. This was really our first official indoor outing where she’s walked the entire time, so we were able to see where exactly we’ll need to focus our attention. I think we’re going to pick up a walking harness to teach her leash manners so that she does not get used to pulling on the collar and so that she doesn’t sound as though she’s choking to death. Both her collar and first puppy coat are getting to the end of their ability to adjust, so we’ll have to get new ones ready for her soon.

Yesterday we did some rearranging and started to put up the fence for the dogs. Their fenced in area will be quite large with a ramp that goes from the deck into the area for Phoenix and a large gate for bringing in the riding lawn mower and any other supplies. Caleb and I helped Huib measure out, and hammer in the posts. Then, Caleb helped Huib attach the fencing to the posts, while I went inside with the labs (they also don’t enjoy the mosquitoes!). I’m really going to like having a designated area for the dogs to run, especially when Caleb goes home and I’m alone with them all. When the fence is all complete, we’re going to purchase some plastic stuff that goes along it to make it seem as though we have a wood fence (I’ll try to post pictures).

I will get Huib to help me load pictures from our last two weeks on to my laptop this evening and post them as soon as possible. Rogue has begun to darken a bit, so updated photos are needed here.

Agility

Cessna and Canyon had their second agility lesson on Tuesday. It was pretty sunny, so both were a little slower.

Cessna seemed to remember almost everything she’d learned on the weekend, so we started teaching her jumps and weaves, as well as, starting to ask her to do two jumps before being sent through a tunnel or shoot. Cessna and I learned jumps while taking lessons with Dogs In the Park, so it was nothing for her to start jumping 18 inches right away. We’ll raise the bar a bit further during her next lesson, but the Border Collie lady (Dawn) thought we’d start lower while we were teaching her what’s needed.

I didn’t need Huib’s help as much this time, so he took some pictures.

Cessna loves the Dog Walk and A-Frame, so even before I asked her to “walk on” or “climb” she was running towards the other end.

Cessna was a little warm by the end of her half hour, so she lazily walked through the tire.

Huib had to help me with the weaves, so didn’t get any pictures. For now, Cessna is just being asked to walk through a channel of poles that are about three or so feet apart. As she gets used to the poles, they’ll be brought in closer to one another. Dawn told me that her two year old female (Ruby) is just now starting to perfect her weaves after an entire summer of working on them four days a week, so she said we’ll take it slow. I think the weaves and teeter will be the main areas where Cessna and Canyon will need time and tons of practice before competing. They were both quite nervous walking along the teeter – I held their collars while they walked along and Dawn and Huib held the other end and slowly lowered it as we reached the other side. Cessna was the only one who didn’t try jumping off at the middle, she decided it was best to just get it over with and walk quickly lol!

Canyon didn’t have as great a session, he was really distracted!

He walked confidently along the A-Frame and Dog Walk. Loved running through the tunnels and shoots. And had no issues going through the tire and weaves, but he refused to go over the jumps and continually got off the teeter around the centre.

I really think I need to start using a leash with him when we’re in the arena though, he would do the piece of equipment I asked him to attempt and then run over to this place or that to “mark” or sniff.

Here are a couple of pictures Huib took of Canyon during his lesson.

Dawn is away for the next two weeks – attending a show in Sudbury with her younger dogs (Ruby and Tay) this weekend and then the agility regionals in Sault Ste Marie next weekend with two of her older ones (Gracie and Echo) – so we won’t have another lesson until the beginning of June. I think I’m going to try and build a makeshift jump for Canyon and Cessna to practice.

Before I go though, Dawn has asked me to come and participate in a demo she is hosting Canada Day weekend!! She thinks it is important for others to see how my disability isn’t deterring me from doing agility with my dogs. I know this could be seen as bad (you can insert whatever word you want here) to others, but I don’t mind being used for education – just weeks ago she didn’t think we could do it and now she wants us to show others we can, so this opportunity means a lot to me. I also found out that her sister is blind (or visually impaired) so I’m wondering if this is where a lot of her understanding and/or beliefs have come from. Maybe her sister isn’t as able or willing to participate in traditionally sight-oriented activities. I’m glad I’ve been given this opportunity to teach her that not all blind/visually impaired people are the same.

Guest Blogging

Jana Rade from
Dawg Business, asked me to write an entry for her blog about Phoenix and his life-long struggles with ear infections. She asked me to discuss the long process we had to undertake in order to discover what was causing his issues, what worked, what didn’t and how recently changing him to the raw diet and Dr B’s homeopathic regiment, has made a huge difference in his ear problems and overall health.

Here’s a direct quote from the blog to let you all know what Dawg Business is all about – “Owner-to-owner things I’ve learned about dogs and dog care. Sharing what I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. At the end, your dog’s health is in your hands.”. I hope you will visit her blog and see the wealth of information she has put together for all of us to enjoy.

When my post is up, I’ll let you all know.

Just For Her

Today I’ve decided to write a post dedicated solely to Cessna. Today isn’t our anniversary. It isn’t really a special day at all, but last night her and I had such an amazing informal training session that I needed to write about it.

Huib and I had just planned to practice the touch command with Canyon, in addition to the formal “front” (couldn’t find a good link), but after a frustrating session I decided to bring Cessna into the kitchen for some fun.

I started out with some basic stuff; sit, down, speak, “give five” and stand – with Huib clicking and me giving her the treat only if she did it immediately. After a few minutes of this, I moved on to getting her to “touch” my hand. We first learned this a couple of years ago when I was taking classes with dogs In the Park so it’s something we often practice during our impromptu training sessions. So far I’ve only expanded the cue to get her to ring a bell, we attached to our sliding door, when she needs to go out or to get her to show me where I’ve dropped something I don’t want her picking up. She only does the “touch” with her nose at the moment, but I’m hoping to get her doing a “touch” with her paw (but with a new name).

But, back to our session… so after she’d done some very basic hand touches, I decided to try something a little different. Huib went and got a piece of navy blue duct tape and I proceeded to stick it to the wall around her nose level. I had her sit and then asked her to “touch” – pointing to the piece of tape. She ran over and bumped the spot with her nose, Huib clicked and I gave her 3 treats with an excited “Good Girl!!” we did this a couple more times and then I asked her to sit and wait again while I moved the target to a spot just a bit higher up. Again I asked her to “touch” and pointed to the spot of navy blue tape. She ran over and hit it with no trouble whatsoever! After a couple practice rounds, she looked up at me as if to ask “what now?” Since she’d breezed through the last two challenges I decided to up the ante and proceeded to stick the tape to the wall around my shoulders, while she sat and waited for the release. I wasn’t sure she’d be able to reach or if she’d even attempt the request, but I asked her if she was ready and then said “touch” in an excited voice, while pointing. Her first attempt was more of a sniff, but she still got a click and treat for trying. Before asking for it again, I told her to sit so she’d calm down a bit and regain her focus – she can get a little exuberant when she knows she’s doing a good job. When she appeared more relaxed, I asked her to “touch” in an excited voice and pointed to the spot again. She ran over to the wall, put her paws up and did it!!! She put her nose right to the centre of the target. Huib clicked the second her nose made contact and I gave her a hand full of treats while we did a happy dance.

I’m hoping to use this new “development” to move onto more useful things like turning off lights, opening/closing doors, and who knows what else – the sky’s the limit! Cessna and I have been together for almost six years, but she still continues to amaze me with her overwhelming desire to learn new things. Huib’s been working on teaching her to pick up her toys and put them into the toy bin, which is another skill we can utilize and expand. She’s been picking up things and giving them to us for years, so we thought we might as well teach her something more she can do with it. I’ll continue to work on her targeting, but may also start teaching her to use her tugging abilities for more than play – maybe some bedroom door opening lessons?? I know Cessna isn’t a Special Skills Dog Guide, but she enjoys learning, so why not teach her some extra skills, right?

Maybe at a later date I’ll write about all the extra skills she currently possesses.

Vision returning

Over the past week my vision has begun returning to it’s original state, at least the state it was after the age of 13. It’s been a long, slow process, but I’m not complaining because it’s coming back!!

When I woke up to seeing barely nothing on January 5th, it wasn’t terrifying, but when it didn’t resolve itself within a couple days I began to worry. The doctors had no clue as to what was going on and they couldn’t tell me if my vision would ever return, so after a week of no changes, reality started to sink in. I didn’t know what the future held, I didn’t know what to look forward to and I worried about the possibility of having to retire Cessna because I wasn’t sure she could adapt to my new requirements. But, all of these worries are now dissolving because my vision is improving and Cessna has already begun to help me a little more. when I dropped a bottle of body spray, she immediately went over picked it up and After a few tries put it into my hand. This is not a skill her program taught her or even teaches dog guides for the blind, but it’s a skill her puppy raisers taught her in case she might have become a special skills dog.

I’m thankful to have my vision back, but know that unless the doctors figure out why it left in the first place, it could and more than likely will leave again in the future. I just hope next time I remember how well I coped and that it will just take time and patience for things to return to normal.

“If we all threw our problems into a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

A Month of Visitors

Over the past month we’ve had two young boys visiting us. Corbin is 18 months and Caleb is 12 years old. Corbin was here with his mom and her guide dog DeeDee, while Caleb stayed on his own with us.

During Corbin’s visit we learned that our dogs and cats have a huge amount of patience. Laya and Cessna tended to stay out of Corbin’s way, but the others were patient with his poking and pulling. I wasn’t sure what Logan would do around a young child, but there were times when we weren’t able to catch Corbin in time, so Logan would let out a low growl to let us know she needed our help. Corbin thought Logan was so cool, he liked pulling on her tail and grabbing her ears. Logan never once scratched him, she would just try and get away or call out for help. She isn’t one to hide either, unlike Laya, Logan was out in the open pretty much all the time – guess she thought he’d get the point after a while like the puppies usually do.

Phoenix and Aspen weren’t as into Corbin’s poking and pulling, but would patiently lie under him while he bounced until we caught him or he got bored. Corbin has a dog of his own, his mom’s guide dog, but he still doesn’t really know how to properly treat animals. He’s still young though, so hopefully he’ll learn soon. Canyon was the best with him. He never once shyed away and was always willing to let him pull on his tail, ears and jowls. At one point corbin even had a hold of Canyon’s lips while sticking his thumbs into his nose. Huib caught him in the act and that was discouraged. Even though Canyon didn’t always like what Corbin was doing, he still went up and wanted to play. It’s amazing to see how well cats and dogs can behave around young children – even when they aren’t used to having them around.

Caleb was much better with the animals. He offered to feed the cats each morning and let the dogs out for relief. The dogs loved having him around, but he wasn’t a huge fan of their desire to lick him or be in his face. His favourites were Cessna and Aspen, he’d ask to take them out with him all the time. Canyon was a little much at times for him, but I had to remind him that his energy level wasn’t always helping either. Caleb didn’t realize why Canyon wanted to always jump up on him when he was dancing around or laughing uncontrollably.

Caleb liked taking Cessna with us to the gold mine tour in Timmins and Science North in Sudbury. Caleb and his mom fostered a puppy named Jasper for Autism Dog Services so he was used to taking dogs places, but he still seemed to like seeing how Cessna reacted to the different environments. At the gold mine tour the tour guide showed us how the different machinery worked which freaked Cessna right out. The slusher and drill are extremely loud and with us being underground the rock vibrated and the noise was amplified. She was a trooper though and calmed right down once the machines were turned off.

At Science North I thought she’d be afraid of the noises coming from the dinosaurs and the ones that moved, but she surprised me and didn’t even react once. I think she really liked the insects and animals she got to see. Caleb was able to hold almost all of the insects in the exhibit and made sure to show Cessna, she thought that was pretty cool – I made sure she had her gentle leader on though so I could easily control her excitement. When we were on the animal floor, she was totally enthralled by the skunk who was anxious and walking back and forth in its enclosure. We didn’t take her with us on the second day, but I actually got to touch the skunk – she (Rosie) felt a lot like Cessna, but with fur about the length of Canyon or Laya.

Canyon came with us to Sudbury and Toronto, he was awesome! He settled immediately in his crate while we left him at the hotel – huib looked under the door to see what he what he was doing.

At Caleb’s house in Toronto he was interested in the bird and snake, but was easier to re-direct than Cessna who wouldn’t stop going up to the bird cage. On Saturday night I went onto Facebook to see what was new with my friends and family and saw that my friend’s daughter was back in the hospital. Knowing that we were only a few blocks away, I decided that we’d go visit with her before heading back north. Christina has a service dog from Autism Dog Services named Spencer so loves seeing us with the dogs when we visit. The second we entered her room she had a huge smile on her face and throughout our visit never fell asleep or stopped giggling. The funniest part of our visit with her, was to see how she pretended to sleep every time a doctor or nurse entered the room. When you first meet Christina you’d think she was unaware of her surroundings and it didn’t matter what you said around her – well you’d be completely wrong. She is unable to communicate, but from watching her facial expressions and observing her reactions to various incidents you actually understand that she’s quite an intelligent little girl who can’t express herself, but knows how to work the system  Christina’s seizures still seemed to be under control while we were visiting so the doctors were talking about sending her home the following day, so that was pretty exciting news.

Our trip home was pretty uneventful and boring for the dogs, but they were good little travelers as usual. It’s hard to believe, but as of Tuesday we’ve lived in Northeastern Ontario for a year. So far it hasn’t been all that great, but hopefully this year will bring a little more luck and less frustration. Huib has 3 more years left of his contract with the Kirkland & District Hospital, so hopefully the time will go quickly or things will improve dramatically.

4 Months Away


I have had a pretty busy few months so haven’t had the time to blog. Now that things have slowed some I’m going to try and post more often.

Canyon turned a year old on the 3rd of June and got some new toys to share with everyone. He is 23 inches tall, 22 inches long and just 70lbs. We had him to the vet for his heartworm test and the vet said we could continue feeding him puppy food and add in fats that might entice him to eat more. She says he should be closer to 80lbs by now and will get up to 90lbs by the time he has fully filled out. His coat has grown in nicely and he seems a bit darker than he was before his coat fell out. His obedience is well on it’s way and he has already started being able to play fetch with the girls in the yard. He still isn’t the greatest at heeling, but we got an easy walk harness in June and it seems to help redirect him easier than the newtrix, gentle leader or martin gale. We took him to Toronto for Woofstock with Cessna and he was fantastic! He was quite interested in all the different dogs and smells, but listened pretty well. We were with a bunch of puppies in training, so Canyon fit right in.

Aspen turned 7 on the 18th of June and was given the special task of cleaning out the lasagna pan. We also made some banana cinnamon cookies for her and Canyon to share with the others. She’s been swimming tons and playing fetch in the yard every chance she gets. Her and Canyon are obsessed with the game and will grab a toy as they walk out if you’re not watching.

Cessna and I celebrated our 5th year as a team on May 27th. She has really made a mark on my heart and I get sad thinking about the fact that she will be turning 7 in October. She has matured tons and become such an amazing companion. She spends almost all her day watching out for me and the other dogs. She will defend Aspen against Canyon when he’s being a bully and not allowing her to bring the toy to Huib or I, she will run to me and make sure I am okay when walking down the steps in front of our house and just always seems to be watching over everyone. I’m really not sure I’ll ever be able to find a dog good enough to fill her shoes. It’s been a long road, but we’ve gotten here and I hope she’ll work another couple years for me.

Phoenix is still the same old, happy go lucky, boy we’ve loved forever. He can’t hear or run, but he still makes sure to keep the younger ones in line. We started him on a new anti-inflammatory supplement a month ago and it really seems to be making a difference in his ability to get around. He doesn’t seem as stiff after lying in one spot for too long and he doesn’t seem to hesitate at the top of the stairs before going down to the grass. He’ll be 14 in October and I think he is doing amazing!

As you can see, lots has changed and been happening for us all. Canyon is becoming a man, Cessna is becoming a wise middle aged woman, Aspen is finally able to play, and Phoenix is moving smoothly through his golden years. I look forward to getting back into the whole blogging thing and sharing our lives with you all.

He’s Grown So Much…

I haven’t specifically written a post about Aiden in a while so I thought I’d do one today. Aiden has grown up to be such a handsome young man. He will be 9 months old on the 23rd and is already slightly taller and longer than my retired dog guide, weighing more than when I first got Phoenix as well at 67lbs! I will admit, Phoenix is not a big dog by any means (24 inches tall; 22 inches long & 70lbs while retired), but he is an 11 year old male so it still shocks me that Aiden has surpassed him in size at 9 months of age. Gone are the days when Cessna (21 inches tall; 19 inches long & 62lbs) could tower over Aiden and look so big beside him.

We had our first training session with his trainer in over a month and he was so amazed at how nicely Aiden had filled out and matured. He is no longer the silly looking puppy with the big head, big paws and small body. He is still tall and slim, but now his head and paws actually seem to suit his frame. At the session we did some obedience and some staying while people walked here and there through the mall. Aiden did overly well, he was a little too interested in what I had for him, but with time his stays will improve and his desire for all food will lessen – at least we hope it will!! I was so proud of my little Monkey Man, he was so well behaved and didn’t seem as young as he really is. His trainer commented that he looked great for 10 months, and I reminded him that he was actually only 8 months, this impressed him even more.

Over the past couple of weeks we have had some visitors which have both excited Aiden and also made him a little jealous. Foxy (foster puppy for National Service Dogs) came to visit for a week and Aiden loved to play and wrestle with her, she is only a month older than him so has a similar energy level. At times though I think Aiden wished she’d actually leave him alone so he could have a nap…oh baby boy, you are so lazy for your age! Foxy went home last Saturday and then we had a 7 month old male golden retriever come to visit for a bit. The golden wasn’t a huge fan of Aiden as he was also not yet neutered. I felt terrible seeing Aiden nervous to come near us and after only 6 days of assessing the golden, we decided to take him and his brother (who was staying with a friend) back to their breeder. They will some day make wonderful pets for someone, but I feel it would take too much time and effort to make them into successful service dogs. Aiden has been happy to finally have his home back and be the only puppy in the place, but to our sadness the weather has been quite rainy and for some reason Aiden’s energy level has decided to peak at this time… Hopefully soon we can get him out running every day so we can finally get a handle on this energy!

This afternoon Aiden and I will be joining a “stay” class which is held by Sue Alexander of Dogs in The Park. She believes in a dog’s ability to learn through reward rather than punishment. Aiden has so far been trained using the “punishment” way of doing things, but I am hoping that this class might help both him and I, him with his stays and me with learning the way of training through “reward” rather than “punishment”. We had a preliminary training session on Thursday and Aiden seemed to catch on slowly. We’ve been practicing this all weekend, I am hoping it will show, but I worry that his energy level might get in the way of his learning, especially when there will be other dogs in the room learning as well.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us! I will let you all know how it goes.