3 Days To Go!!

Time is flying by!

We’ll be picking up our little family member in three short days!

Huib had some time last night to make our puppy’s first training jacket. we still need to attach the straps and get “Service Dog In Training” embroidered on it, but here’s what it looks like so far.

When the jacket is completely finished, I’ll post another picture, but that may not happen until Friday so you’ll get to see puppy wearing the finished product.

Monday Is For Music – Don’t Stop Believin’

Today I’ve chosen, “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.

Click here to see the music video.

“Don’t Stop Believin’” was first released on Journey’s 1981 album, “Escape”. The song only reached number six on the UK charts and nine in the US. It’s not Journey’s most successful song, but it’s definitely their most popular. “Don’t Stop Believin’” has been used in several different movies, commercials and television programs. It first appeared in the 2003 movie “Monster”, based on the notorious female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. Then recently, the song was remade by the cast of Glee and debuted at number five on the Billboard Hot 100 (Song Facts, 2011).

On Friday, I will begin raising and training Cessna’s successor, so I thought this was a wonderful choice.

Since telling friends and family about my decision to owner-train instead of getting Cessna’s successor from a program, I’ve had an ongoing parade of comments against this choice. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had many friends voice their excitement surrounding the arrival of a new fur baby. But, my family and several other friends do not understand why I would want to bring another dog into our home and go through the headache of training my own guide dog.

They also do not believe it’s possible for me to succeed without a program trainer’s involvement.

Thankfully, Huib is not one of these people. He is fully on board with my decision and actually seems mildly excited about the new family member.

I know that the journey will not be smooth sailing. But, I also know Huib and I have the skills and ability to be successful.

So…Journey…I’m going to follow your advice, and keep “believin’ and holdin’ on to the feelin’”.

4 DAYS TO GO!!

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.

Fun With Dad

On Monday, Huib took Cessna and the goldens for a swim and hike. I had a migraine and Phoenix had already done a lot so I felt the trip would be too much for both of us.

Here’s what we missed

Canyon found a giant stick in the lake and of course, couldn’t leave it…

Aspen thinks Canyon should share.

Huib finally gets one of the dogs to pose on the rocks for a photo.

Here’s a cool action shot of Canyon shaking water off his coat.

Canyon is such a photogenic boy!

Updates Galore!

I’ve got a bunch of updates to give you all regarding previous posts…

Yesterday I found out that Christina has been given a surgery date!! She will have the Vegas nerve Stimulator implanted on June 3rd at 8:00am!! I’m not sure what caused Sick Children’s Hospital to change their decision regarding the funding cap, but Monique has informed me that it has now been removed, so hopefully more children like Christina will be getting this lifesaving surgery soon! I’ll continue to post updates on Christina when possible.

I wrote earlier
about an entry I had been asked to write for Dawg Business regarding Phoenix’s constant ear infections. It’s now up on the blog and here’s the link.

Next, Huib will be starting a new position at the Kirkland & District Hospital. He will be working part-time in the emergency department and part-time in the intensive care unit, while occasionally filling in on the ward. He is quite excited about this new position because he’ll gain more experience and be forced to work outside his comfort level.

And, if this isn’t enough news, we’re also moving! Around the end of June, we’ll be packing up the gang and relocating to a three bedroom house just outside Englehart. Huib will be closer to the long-term care home he works at, but about ten minutes further away from the hospital. The house has three bedrooms, two are the same size as our current rooms, and the third is smaller, but will make an awesome room for a child we might foster or adopt. The living room and kitchen are pretty much one room so it will be a little harder to keep Cessna from counter surfing while we’re away or keeping Dawsen away from the food in general, but I think the openness will give the dogs even more room to wrestle and play. The only real downfall of this new house is that there is no basement to store our extra clothes and other stuff we won’t be using, so we’ll either need to make sure the shed is well sealed or take stuff to my sister’s house for storage. We really like living in our current home, but the landlord keeps hinting that she’d like to sell at some point in the near future, so Huib decided to start looking for a new place before she could ask us to leave. The woman who owns this new place seems quite nice, so I’m hoping it will work out a little better for us all.

Finally, I may have already announced this, but Huib and I got a call a few weeks ago from Temiskaming Child and Family Services regarding our application to foster. I called the woman back and she has passed our file on to the adoption workers because we have decided to “foster with a view” instead of just foster, because after a year of waiting we think adoption is going to be our ultimate goal. We’re now waiting for the adoption worker to contact us so we can start the necessary home study.

Stay tuned!!

Everyone’s got An Opinion

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

The above quote, was taken from a Twitter feed I follow, that sends out random quotes about life. I know I’ve been blogging a lot about things I’ve read, that were inspiring, but I’m hoping everyone enjoys the break from hearing solely about the fur babies.

When I read the above quote a few days ago, I began thinking about my aunts and how they seem to find it necessary to criticize other family member’s life choices, but seem to overlook the fact that their decisions haven’t been much better.

I know constantly being told what to do or what you’re doing wrong, is just part of being the “younger” generation of a family, but my sister and I seem to be even more of a target now that we’re older and Mom’s not around to defend us. I try and keep my distance. Try not to have to be in a situation where I’ll be alone with an “interrogator”, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Maybe it’s partly because I can’t see well enough to know when others are leaving the room. Or maybe it’s because I’m just too nice, but it always seems to happen at a family gathering and it’s gotten to the point where I dread having to attend.

My family thinks Huib is the greatest guy ever. They have no complaints when it comes to him and my decision to get married, but they still find ways of sticking their two cents into our relationship. They find it necessary to give me advice on having a successful marriage – which they haven’t succeeded in doing themselves, so I’m not sure how their advice is going to help me. They like criticizing the way I interact with Huib and ask why he doesn’t want to go outside with the “boys” rather than just sitting with me – because that’s what all guys do right? And then when I’m thoroughly annoyed, one of the aunts begin asking if we want kids and when I explain that things just haven’t worked out the way we’d like, they proceed to ask if we’ve actually been trying….well, isn’t that self-explanatory? AND is it really your business? I guess it just seems strange to them that their own children could be popping out babies without any real effort, but Huib and I are having trouble.

Then, after all that is over, we come to the weight questions… So you’ve gained some weight since the last time I saw you… – you don’t think I’ve noticed? Have you looked at your own belt size? Oh, the things I would love to say if I weren’t a caring and patient person lol! When I just sit there with a look of shock on my face, someone will proceed to begin advising me on how to lose the extra weight, which would be fine if they, themselves weren’t also fighting a weight issue. It seems as though our family’s genes just aren’t conducive to being thin.

It’s funny to observe them though when the tables have turned. When people begin criticizing them or asking them questions and giving “advice”. They just sit there and go red, not out of embarrassment, but anger because they see the questions as a personal attack. This is when one usually ends up crying or leaving because someone hurt their feelings or offended them.

Do you have any people in your life that you wish could take a moment, and just look in the mirror?

Training With Canyon

On Tuesday, Canyon and I had our fourth lesson with the Border Collie lady and it went quite well!

Last week, we worked some more on our positioning for the “heel” and then began trying to walk further and further with him remaining “in position”. He stays right by my side most of the time, but will sometimes get a little ahead, so this week we started saying “wrong” and starting over again. She explained that if I just kept changing directions when he got out of place that he wouldn’t understand exactly where or if he did something wrong. This really made sense to me, so instead of just continuing on for as long as I want, I’m stopping the second he’s out of place, telling him “wrong” and returning to where we started. I found this week to be one of the best sessions because Canyon and I have really begun to understand one another.

This week we also practiced our “fronts”, “sit-stays” and “hand touches”. For the “front”, she has me sit on the very edge of a chair with my legs slightly outstretched to give Canyon a sort of spot to aim for. Then she has me throw a treat and then call him, using my hands to sort of direct him into the centre of my body – not sure this really makes too much sense, so I’ll try and explain how I position my hands. When Canyon is retrieving the treat, I sort of hold my hands together as though I’m praying, but have my arms outstretched, and as he comes I bring my arms towards my body in a sort of “U” motion. For the most part, Canyon tends to come in straight, but stays about a foot or so back. The Border Collie lady thinks this is probably close enough since he’s a big boy, but we are rewarding the times he comes in really close, as opposed to when he is just perfectly straight. His “hand touches” are coming along, but he still won’t really do them on command – it more looks as though he’s just bumping my hand because it was there or because he thinks there is a treat. I’ve made a “touch stick” to try and further his understanding. We made the “touch stick” from a mop handle and put bright yellow and navy blue electrical tape on one end to give him a target. Cessna already knows this game, so I’ve also purchased a button thingy that makes different laughing noises when pressed for her to practice the “touch” with. I want her to get really good at “nose touching” before we move on to learning a new command for “paw touching”.

The rest of our session this week was spent learning two new behaviours – backing up and turning left and right. For backing up, she has us toss treats between his front paws and as he goes to move, we say “back”. He really liked this game, but after ten tries was not quite ready to do it without the treat being thrown. Unfortunately, Huib will have to help with this one because the aim needs to be perfect and I need to click the second he moves his paws. I think teaching Cessna this command on my own will be easier though since she is black and there is better contrast between her paws and the floor. she already knows how to back up when on leash, so I think it shouldn’t be too hard to teach her how to do it in other contexts.

Then, to teach the the lefts and rights, the Border Collie lady had me hold a treat above Canyon’s head and with my right hand move him in a counter-clockwise circle while saying “left” and then doing the same with my left hand, but instead having him move in a clockwise circle while saying “right”. He started doing this one quite easily, but we’ll have to practice a bit before I think he’ll do it without the lure. Cessna knows her lefts and rights for working, so again I think it will be easy to teach her in the new context.

Canyon and I have four more obedience lessons with the Border Collie lady before she sets up her agility equipment for the spring/summer sessions. At this point, we’ll be working outside and she’ll have less of a time constraint, so Cessna will begin coming as well. I won’t work the two together, but will have one in the truck while the other has their half hour lesson. I’m hoping to build some of my own agility equipment in the summer, so we can practice what we’ve learned at home.

Advice For Life

This morning, I was reading through blogs I follow, trying to find some inspiration for a post and found it on Rolling Around In My Head. Mr. Hingsburger was writing about a particular book he enjoys writing notes in for presentations or blog entries and how he had come across an old entry from back when he had first learned of his disability. He writes about some of the feelings he had and then ends the post with these three words “live what’s given.”

Tough to do sometimes…

When we’re children, we dream of the amazing life we’ll have as adults. We think about the high paying job. About the big house, expensive car and fancy neighbourhood. We fantasize about the special person we’ll share our fairytale life with an some, will dream of the children they will have.

But…then…we grow up…

We become adults. We quickly realize that achieving that fairytale is impossible. We learn that we were naive to think that if we just followed the rules, our dreams would come true.

Our dreams never included, the road blocks, detours or crashes, that make up real life.

In my fairytale life, I was a successful veterinarian. Living in a large house. With a fancy car and all the possessions I could dream of. I never wanted to have my own children, but thought I would adopt and have a husband willing to be the “stay at home” Dad.

Well at the age of 13, I got my first real life check. I lost most of my vision and could no longer be the veterinarian in my dreams. But, I didn’t want to let this damper my fairytale, so decided on being a lawyer and worked hard in school. I met the man of my dreams while working on my first university degree and thought life was now beginning to work out the way I had dreamed – just a little glitch right? Well, I finished my first degree and after completing the LSAT, decided law school wasn’t really for me, so began applying to various schools for social work. I got into my first choice, McMaster University, and got my next reality check during the search for a field placement. I hadn’t really tried to find work before attending Mac so did not believe friends when they told me it was extremely difficult to find work with a disability. I guess I didn’t want to believe that society could still be discriminatory against people in this day and age. I wanted to believe that having two university degrees would shelter me from this horrible truth and that I would be one of the few who had defied the odds. Well, I was sadly mistaken; I’m still not working after graduating in June of 2007.

When I read Mr. Hingsburger’s post and saw “live what’s given,” I began to think about all the good things in my life that would never have happened if my shunt had not blocked and caused me to lose most of my vision.

I think the first thing I will thank my vision loss for, is Huib. You’re probably wondering why I would give my vision loss the credit for bringing Huib into my life, but if it weren’t for being visually impaired, I’m not sure we would have had the opportunity to meet or become so close. We still would have been at the University of Guelph together, but because of my vision loss I met a lot of different people and learned about many volunteer opportunities via peer helpers who were assigned to help Phoenix and I become accustomed to the campus. It was through these interactions that I found out about the University’s Safe Walk program and later met Huib.

Second, I’d like to thank my vision loss for Gryphon. You’re probably wondering why I’m not giving thanks for Phoenix and the others, but Gryphon was my first dog guide. And, even though him and I did not work for long, he still left an impression on me, that would lead to me never returning to the white cane. In addition to this, Gryphon re-ignited my desire to work with animals. Even though I can no longer be a veterinarian, I have directed my efforts towards learning all I can about training and caring for dogs so that maybe in the future I can begin a breeding program and/or a rescue group.

Finally, I’d like to thank my vision loss for showing me “the humour in life.” Because, without the ability to look back on experiences and smile, I don’t believe I could have become the woman I am today.

I think it’s important to learn how to “live what’s given” because if we spend our whole life thinking about how it could have been, we’ll miss the good things that would not have happened if our childhood fairytales had come true.

It’s Our Choice

Last week I was telling a friend about what I’ve recently taught Cessna and Canyon. Instead of the usual questions though, he asked about whether our landlords would care that we had been putting tape on the walls and then finished off by saying he doesn’t get why I do all this with them because they are just dogs. The fact that he seemed disinterested in what I was telling him was frustrating, but what really stuck in my mind was his “they’re just dogs” comment.

I’m sure all other dog owners out there get similar questions and comments, but doesn’t it get tiring to here the same ones over and over again? The ones that really bug me are; “Don’t you think you guys have enough dogs?”, “I don’t know how you guys put up with all the hair…”, “you’ve got your hands busy there…”, Or “why do you bother? They’re just dogs…”. The first one and last one are the ones we get the most from family and friends and are the ones this entry will focus on.

As everyone knows, Huib and I are the proud guardians of four dogs and two cats. Each one has entered our lives at different points and each one has made a difference in their own way. Phoenix was already with me when I first began dating Huib so, when he retired there was no other possible choice than to keep him as our pet. I write a lot about Phoenix and how important he is and has been to making me who I am today, so I will not bore you with more on that. Next came Logan and Laya. Huib was living in a bachelor apartment during our second year of dating and was finding it lonely when Phoenix and I couldn’t come visit. He had only ever had a pet when he was really young, but had become accustomed to our presence so found it hard being alone at times. When his birthday came around, I decided to take him to the Guelph Humane Society and we’d pick out a kitten. We looked at several different options, but settled on a 10 week old female calico who had just been surrendered that morning. She was extremely friendly and just wanted to curl up in our arms and purr. A couple of months later, Huib decided that Logan needed a friend and that I should also have a kitten. We returned to the Guelph Humane Society around my birthday and we picked out a very fluffy little 10 week old female maine coon cross who had been hiding in the back corner of her cage. Laya has continued to be shy, but after a tense couple weeks of her fending off Phoenix’s attention, she began settling into our growing family. In the spring of 2003, Huib and I began talking about how we’d really like to get a golden retriever puppy. Huib really wanted me to wait until graduation, but when the settlement money finally came in from Mom’s malpractice suit she had started before her death, I decided it was the perfect time to get our new golden family member. We called a few different breeders who were listed in the Dogs Annual Magazine and settled on one from Hanover, Ontario. We had left a message on her answering machine inquiring about her prices and whether she had any puppies or was expecting a litter in the summer, so she called us back. She told us about: her dam and stud, where the puppies were born and whelped, what was included in her fees and then asked us to come out and meet everyone in a couple of weeks. Aspen and her litter had been about a week old at this point, so we ended up waiting about a month before we ventured out to pick out our little bundle. I’ve already explained the story of getting Aspen and how she has become Phoenix’s best friend, so I’ll end my discussion about her here. Cessna joined our family when Phoenix retired, so no real exciting background there, but if it weren’t for her I don’t think we would have fostered Aiden and Reece or decided to get Canyon. Phoenix and Aspen are both really laid back dogs, so we never really had to put much effort into keeping them happy or out of trouble. Cessna on the other hand has loads of energy and works best when regularly challenged. I know it’s not necessary to explain to you all why we have brought each one of our four-legged family members into our home, but it helps to give a little background to my explanation I often give to friends and family who ask if we think we have reached our limit.

Each one of our fur babies have come into our lives for a different reason and we don’t regret bringing any of them into our home. We do not actively search for new additions, but would never say we have reached our limit. We started out with Phoenix and didn’t think we would have the cats, let alone three additional dogs, but they are here. We may want to welcome an addition in the future, but that is for us to decide and is not something other people’s opinions will have any weight upon.

��As for the second most annoying question or comment, “Why bother? They’re just dogs.” To you they might “just” be dogs, but to us they are our family and if they enjoy learning new things, then why shouldn’t we take the opportunity to teach them and learn something new ourselves? Cessna loves to try new things and our working relationship improves when she’s happy, so why wouldn’t I try and teach her new skills or introduce her to something as fun as agility? Canyon is not even two years old so has a pretty empty slate on which I can create an all around talented companion, so why wouldn’t I want to do some training lessons now and competing in the future?

Does anyone else get bothered by friends and family who find it necessary to make comments about their choices in life?

Canadian

On Monday, Huib and I were in Kirkland Lake so I could get blood taken in preparation for my lumbar puncture that is scheduled for a week today. The doctors still don’t know why my vision deteriorated so suddenly and then came back after a few weeks, so as a last ditch effort to figure it all out I’ve been scheduled for an LP. I haven’t had one since I was a teenager, they were terrible and the thought of having to endure one makes me cringe. But, we’ll leave that for another day and move on because I’m just not ready to talk about that. So, Huib and I were in town and decided to get a coffee at one of they’re two Tim Horton’s locations – yes, Kirkland Lake only has about 8,000 people, but has two Timmy’s! After ordering our coffees at the speaker, Huib moved up to the window and saw a sign for “Roll-Up The Rim”. “Roll-Up The Rim” is an approximately two week promotion Timmy’s runs, where people can win things just by buying a coffee, hot chocolate or tea. The promotional television ads last year for “Roll-Up the Rim” had a guy call his friend to inform them that it was time and instructed him to grab his toque (for those non-Canadians, it’s a winter hat) and jump on their moose so they could go grab their timmy’s double double. I used to laugh each time I heard the commercial and thought it was funny how they were able to incorporate several “Canadian things” without making it sound dumb.

This got me thinking about what other things are “Canadian things” and wondering why we take such pride in them. Last year Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and I remember Huib and I watching the closing ceremonies and laughing. The organizers had decided to showcase some of our Canadian talent and began everything by presenting a little skit of sorts to make fun of the various Canadian images – the beaver, the RCMP, and the maple leaf, among other things. I’m not sure if other countries are like this, but for some reason it seems as though Canadians find it necessary to make fun of themselves and be sure others don’t mistake us for Americans.

I think it’s wonderful to have such pride in your own country, but I’m also not sure I believe we are better than other countries. Yes, we have a wonderful public health care system where no one ends up in debt because of illness or dies because they couldn’t afford care, but what about the seniors who are struggling to survive on a less than adequate income or the Canadians suffering from mental illness who can’t afford help and end up in prison or living on the street?
I’m thankful to live in a peaceful country and know that when I wake up in the morning my neighbour’s house won’t be replaced by a bomb crater, but how can we take pride in a country that allows their veterans to live below the poverty line and when someone tries to speak up, information on his financial, medical and psychological condition is given to a cabinet minister? I’m not sure about you, but these facts sure don’t make me feel pride in my country… I will always be thankful for living in Canada and will wear the Canadian flag on my dog’s harness or my backpack with pride, but I will never see myself as better than Americans or any other country’s citizens because no matter what, they all have their “skeletons in the closet”. So, instead of trying so hard to be “un-American” maybe we should take a better look at Canada and focus on trying to solve our own shameful social problems.

And…to think, this was all started by ordering an extra large one and a half Splenda, two cream and a large black I wonder if Terri Clark was onto something when she released her song “I Think the World Needs A Drink”…