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.

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.

I Wonder…

A year ago you had to leave us.

We know you didn’t want to go, but the Leukaemia was too hard to continue fighting.

I wonder where you are today.

I wonder what you’re doing.

I wonder if Phoenix found you and walked along side you as you entered your new home.

I wonder if we’ll get to see you once we leave this place…

Or is it a place where humans are not permitted entrance…

I wonder if you and Phoenix have found Harley and Thor…

It really doesn’t feel like a year since you left.

But, then it also doesn’t feel right that you’re gone.

Aspen, we miss you SO much!!!

Aspen lies on a pebble path

Aspen at 8 years of age

Until we meet again, rest peacefully our Golden Princess.

8 Years Already

HAPPY 8TH ANNIVERSARY HUIB!!

It’s hard to believe eight years have already gone by since our amazing wedding day.

I can still remember the stress of planning and then the excitement as the day drew near. I still remember the butterflies I had getting dressed in my gorgeous wedding dress, knowing that in just one short hour I’d be walking down the aisle. I still remember the huge smile I couldn’t hide as I walked with Dad and Uncle Daryl to join you at the front of the room with Reverend Anne. Even though we had been together for 5 years, I still remember how thrilled I was to be told we were now “husband and wife”.

Huib, you complete me. Before you, I was happy and content with my life, but with you I’m whole. I was fine on my own, but with you, I’m perfect.

thank you for 8 wonderful years as your wife, and thank you for 13 unforgettable years as your friend and lover.

Would Have Been

Aspen as a very cute, fluffy puppy

Aspen at 3 months

A side view of Aspen looking out onto a lake

Aspen at 7 years of age

Aspen lies on a pebble path

Aspen at 8 years of age

Today would have been Aspen’s 10th birthday.

With all my heart, I wish she was here to celebrate this milestone.

I wish she was here, to eat a cupcake made especially for her.

I wish she was here, to show off a new collar or bandana bought specifically for her.

I wish she was here to carry around and play with a toy bought just for her.

Instead, we’ll have to settle for remembering the good times we shared with an amazing golden friend who cannot be here.

Happy 10th Birthday Our Sweet Golden Girl

If It Should Be

2013 seems to be the year for losing our doggie friends to cancer. Since losing Aspen, we have learned about the passing of four other friends: Martin, Bosley, Felix, and just recently, Harley and Lotta.

Felix, a male black lab with his handler.

Harley, a big Rottie/german shepherd cross wears a colourful birthday hat.

Picture of Lotta, a big female yellow lab.

As a little tribute to our canine pals, we thought we’d post this poem:

If it should be that I grow weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad I understand,
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand,
For this day more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears,
You’d want me not to suffer, so
The time has come, please let me go.

Take me where my needs they’ll tend,
And please stay with me to the end.

Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see,
The kindness that you did for me.

Although my tail it’s last has wagged,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.

Please do not grieve it must be you,
Who had this painful thing to do.

We’ve been so close we two these years,
Don’t let your heart hold back it’s tears.

– Author Unknown –

Until we meet again, take care of one another.

Phoenix Loved Avril Lavigne

Last night after Huib left for work, I started listening to Hits 1, on Sirius/XM Radio.

Avril Lavigne has a new song out, called Here’s To Never Growing Up. It began playing as soon as the station tuned in, and I started thinking about Phoenix.

Don’t get me wrong, I think about Phoenix a lot, but hearing Avril made the memories come back stronger.

Phoenix loved Avril. He’d be sleeping on the couch (before he went deaf of course) and as soon as an Avril Lavigne song came on the radio, Huib said Phoenix’s tail would start wagging to the music. It was so strange!

It’s hard to believe he’s already been gone for a year and nine months.

Both Phoenix and Aspen were such a large part of our family. It’s hard to put into words how much their deaths have effected us.

Aspen has only been gone two months, so the pain and tears are still quite fresh, but we still miss Phoenix.

i hope they are running through fields, chasing leaves and enjoying crab apples together.

this is a picture of Phoenix and Aspen from 2007. Phoenix is standing with a very muddy Aspen in the wooded area behind our former condo building.

I hope they both know how much we love and miss them each day.

I also hope they know that they don’t have to worry about us, they did enough of that while they were still with us.

And to think this post all started from a song that came on the radio…

A Letter To Aspen

To Our Sweet Golden Girl:
It’s been a month since we had to say goodbye.

Thirty-one days since we learned the terrible news that would take you away.

I still can’t believe you’re gone…

i still expect to hear you moan and groan while I’m preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner.

and I still walk slowly through the kitchen, making sure I won’t trip over, or step on you.

But, I don’t hear your noises anymore…

And, I don’t find you sleeping by the kitchen table or in the living room chair.

Even though you never asked for much, the house still seems too quiet.

In a couple of months you will have been ten…

but Leukaemia took you away.

And you’ll forever be nine years old.

Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life.

You made us laugh…

You made us cry…

And, most importantly, you gave us memories that will forever remain in our hearts.

“Wounds heal in time, but they always leave scars.”

Isn’t that so true…

Rest Peacefully Our Golden Princess

On Thursday, March 14th, 2013, at approximately 3:30pm, we said goodbye to our Golden Princess.

Aspen stands in a blanket of fallen leaves.

We didn’t know Aspen was seriously ill. We had decided to take her to see Dr B because she didn’t seem to be herself and she was beginning to refuse her meals.

On Monday, Aspen was wrestling with rogue.

On Tuesday, Aspen only finished half of her turkey wing, so we thought her jaw might be sore from chewing beef bones and icicles, so Huib gave her a can of salmon instead, and she slowly ate it.

On Wednesday, Aspen seemed uninterested in interacting with anyone, and was hesitant about eating both her breakfast and dinner. I decided to brush her and look for any abnormal lumps or sores, but found none. I did notice that her heart seemed to be beating a bit quicker than normal, but I thought it might have just been her hatred for being groomed. but, I sent Huib an iMessage and he suggested I try to make an appointment with Dr B.

Thursday morning we woke up really early and piled everyone into the Orlando. aspen seemed tired and was panting a bit, but again, we weren’t too worried – it was 3am. when she went to jump into the back of the Orlando though, she didn’t quite make it and Huib had to help her – this made us worry a bit. On the drive, aspen sat up a few times and panted, but she always laid back down and didn’t seem distressed. when we arrived in Guelph, we let everyone relieve themselves and Aspen did both, so we returned to thinking it was going to be okay.

As soon as Dr b entered the examination room and saw Aspen lying on the floor, panting, she said she was concerned. She checked her heart rate, her temperature and listened to her lungs before she told us she didn’t feel it was going to be happy news. she was worried about Lymphoma and tumours on her spleen, but when she shaved her abdominal area to do an abdominal aspiration (to check for blood), she found unexplained bruising, and began to worry about anemia. she took some blood and sent it off to be tested.

She asked us to stay in the examination room with aspen until the test results came back because she wanted aspen to remain calm and relaxed. We sat with her for three hours, taking turns sitting on the floor to pet her.

When the test results came back, it wasn’t good news at all. We had known something was wrong from the way Aspen had begun to have more and more difficulty breathing and getting comfortable throughout the day, but we were hopeful that Dr b could do something to help her.

Aspen was diagnosed with a very aggressive case of Leukemia.

Close up of Aspen from our walk along the closed road near our house.

Dr b told us that Aspen’s white blood cell count was through the roof and her red blood cell count was beyond being anemic. She felt that Aspen wouldn’t make it through the night, let alone through a chemo treatment. She said that if we decided to try chemo, she could have aspen in for a round in the evening, but we all worried that she may die on the treatment table. It was so hard to get all this news. We were in complete shock and felt helpless. We worried about giving up too early on our golden girl, but we worried even more about putting her through a treatment that could either kill her or cause her pain and suffering that wouldn’t even end up giving her back any semblance of a life.

We sat for two hours with Aspen, talking about the options and spending as much time as we could with her, because deep down, I guess we already knew what our decision was going to have to be.

By 3:00pm, aspen was having more and more difficulty breathing and getting comfortable. She was so warm and it was heartbreaking to watch her struggle. at 3:20pm, we told Dr B that we had decided to let Aspen go. she felt we were making the best possible decision.

Aspen sits in front of a flowering apple tree.

Huib and I sat beside aspen, while Cessna, rogue and Canyon laid around us. Dr b began inserting the anesthetic and Huib said aspen passed before she had even finished inserting half of it. We feel as though she must have been ready to go. her body was just having too much trouble fighting to stay alive.

I meant to tell our blog readers about her passing sooner, but her sudden death has left us in a state of confusion and disbelief. It just happened so suddenly, that we are having trouble coming to terms with it all. We know time will heal some of the wounds, but we still keep wondering if there is something we missed or something more we could have done.

Rest peacefully and chase all the leaves you desire our Golden Princess. You and Phoenix are back together and I know you’ll both take good care of each other.

We all miss you little girl, and the paw prints you’ve left on our hearts will never be forgotten.

Married 7 Years

As of about 4:30pm today, Huib and I will have been married for seven years.

It’s hard to believe so many years have already passed, but then, as the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”.

I’m so lucky to be married to the most amazing man I know.

Words really can’t adequately express how amazing he is, so I’ll share 7 things that I love about him:
1. His willingness to listen. he may not always be good at listening to something I ask him to do, but he’s an amazing listener when I need a shoulder to cry on.
2. His mutual love of most chick flicks. Many of my friends have to bribe their significant others to go watch a chick flick, but Huib volunteers to go watch one with me. I’ll even find him crying at a particularly sad part, like at the ending of The Notebook.
3. His abundance of patience. Unlike my Mom, Huib’s only patients aren’t just located at work. The dogs and I can be pretty demanding at times, but he seems to take it all in stride.
4. His ability to put up with my extended family. Most people wouldn’t put up with such a dysfunctional bunch, but Huib seems to find their antics almost entertaining.
5. His ability to make me laugh even when I’m sad. No matter how I’m feeling, Huib always has something witty or completely corny to say that will cause me to smile.
6. His down to earth nature. I have a tendency to jump feet first into things, but Huib is the complete opposite. If I want to do something that he isn’t so sure about, he seems to know the right questions to ask that cause me to truly think the situation through before acting.
7. The fact that he loves me for me. No matter what others may see as my flaws, Huib loves me for me and says he couldn’t imagine me being any different.

I wish I had some recent pictures to share of us together, but we seem to only take pictures of the dogs.

Happy Anniversary My Love!

It’s been an amazing ride so far, I can’t wait to see what the future brings.