Canyon Makes His Debut

The Elora Gorge kennel Club held a Conformation Dog Show this week. Since we have friends in the area and Canyon’s co-breeder does not live too far away, Huib and I thought it was the perfect place for Canyon to make his debut.

There were not many golden retrievers entered in this show, which means Canyon did not have much of an opportunity to compete. We entered him into the Canadian Bred Dog class, since we did not know what the Open Class was all about, there was only one other dog entered along with him. Canyon’s co-breeder said it was unusual for there to be so few goldens being entered, but she felt it also gave Huib and Canyon a chance to get used to showing.

In all three of the All-Breed competitions, Canyon ended up receiving a second place ribbon. Since there was only one other dog entered with him, this means he just got last place. If there had not been another dog entered into his class, Canyon could have ended up with a first place ribbon (which seems silly to me). Each day of the competition, Huib and Canyon seemed to become more comfortable with the ring and Huib started to find ways of keeping Canyon’s attention on him and away from the other dog and its handler.

Our first day was a little rough, Canyon was the second dog to show so kept trying to run after the dog in front. He never once tried to sit though and self-stacked almost perfectly. Our judge is a breeder of English style golden retrievers, so receiving a second place was completely expected, since Canyon was slightly darker than his counterpart. I also don’t think it helped that he wanted to play with the other dog lol!

On the second day, Canyon was a little less interested in the other dog, but kept wanting to sit and was distracted by the other handler who was constantly squeaking a toy while the judge was examining Canyon. I think he had a chance of winning on the second day, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

On the final day, Canyon had two competitions since there was the regular All-Breed and then a Retriever Specialty. Similar to the first day, the All-Breed judge really seemed to like his lighter goldens over the darker ones, so we again received a second place.

Then the tables turned in our favour…

The judge for the Retriever Specialty, the husband of the second day’s judge, absolutely loved him! Huib and I had decided to allow a professional handler to do some touch-ups and I think that, as well as the fact that Huib had figured out a way to keep Canyon’s attention, did the trick.

When we saw that Canyon would be competing against the same dog as in the regular shows, we figured we’d be getting yet another second place ribbon – we were wrong!

Huib said he was shocked when the judge pointed to him first to come over.

Canyon’s co-breeder was beside herself with excitement, and the women sitting in front of us were cheering.

Huib had no idea what he was supposed to do next, this was uncharted territory!

They next competed with the winner from the Open Class (there had only been one dog entered so it automatically got first) and they won again!

Canyon’s co-breeder was so excited, and was wonderful at describing the judge’s every move and telling me about how Huib’s face was getting redder each time he received another first lol!

After getting Winner’s Dog, Huib and Canyon moved on to compete for Best of Breed.

In the Best of Breed category, there were five goldens in total – Canyon (Winner’s Dog), a young female (Winner’s Bitch) and then three Champions (goldens who already had their titles). The judge had each handler move around the ring with their dogs, watching closely. He then thoroughly examined each one, even making various noises to see what sorts of reactions he would get. I think it was at this point when Canyon decided to lean forward and give the judge a kiss lol! The judge asked the handlers with the champions to leave the ring and then re-examined Canyon and the young female. When Canyon’s co-breeder saw the champions leaving, she was amazed because it was uncommon for judges to choose younger dogs over champions, especially in a Specialty situation.

The young female received Best of Breed and Canyon got Best of Opposite Sex.

Canyon was done at this point, he had had enough of the show ring and Huib was relieved to be done because he felt Canyon’s exhaustion would have for sure caused problems. As they walked back to where I was sitting, Huib was stopped by a breeder, who asked how long Huib had been showing. He told her it was just his third day and she was shocked. She said congrats and told him that she had been showing for 10 years and had never won at a specialty. I think this made Huib’s year!

With these wins, we think Canyon has accumulated two points towards his Canadian championship title. As mentioned here, Canyon needs to earn ten points in total, so we’re already a fifth of the way there!

Where’s The Christmas Spirit?

I don’t really ever write about issues I’m having with Huib, but this one is a bit of a constant one, so I’m hoping that by writing it out, maybe it will stop bothering me so much.

Christmas has always been an exciting holiday for me. I love shopping for that “perfect” gift and then the anticipation of waiting to present it to the particular friend or family member.

I remember Christmas shopping with Mom when I was old enough to understand that Santa Claus was not real. She would have a list of things to buy for this person and that person – often multiple pages long. Dad would drop us off at the front door of the mall and I’d push her from this store to that store, as we searched high and low for the items on her list. Even though I knew Santa wasn’t real, Mom never asked me to pick up my own gifts, she’d leave those items on a separate list for when she’d shop with her friend.

Dad was never one to enjoy shopping, but he’d always take the plunge at Christmas to surprise Mom with something special.

When we were young, Brandi and I used to wake up early Christmas morning, so that we could open our gifts from Santa. Dad would make his usual breakfast of French toast and Mom would patiently listen to us babble about how excited we were about this or that gift. We’d show her all the various features of the new toys and put on a bit of a fashion show so she could “feel” how our new clothes fit. After breakfast, we’d all put on something new and then Dad would start piling presents into the car so that we could begin our three hour drive to visit Granny and enjoy our family dinner.

Now that Mom and Granny have passed away, we no longer have the big family dinners, but Huib and I still get together with Dad and Brandi during the holidays.

Huib has never been overly fond of Christmas. He has always been a bit of a Scrooge. We seem to always get into arguments during the holidays over this. I love shopping for people, he hates the expectation of having to shop and give gifts. I have tried, over the years, to explain how I feel about Christmas and how sad his behaviour makes me, but no matter what, he always seems to ruin the holidays for me.

Being married is a balancing act. Spouses sometimes need to make sacrifices for the other. I feel as though our marriage has been a little too one sided lately in the sacrifice making. I moved away from friends and a place I felt comfortable so that Huib could gain experience working in a small hospital. I spend multiple days a week alone with just the dogs and cats for company, so Huib can get as much work experience as possible through working part-time in two units, instead of full-time in one. And, even though I agreed to move here under the expectation that we would continue to go “down south” every six weeks, I have been patient about the lack of trips we’ve had since he switched from full-time to part-time.

In return….I’ve asked for very little.

I’ve asked him to help me train Rogue and get her into public places when he is not working – something that is not happening nearly as much as I’d like.

I’ve asked him to become more involved in the training I do with the dogs, in an effort to keep things a little more consistent – something he’s said he’d start doing, but has still not done.

And I’ve asked him to stop making promises that he cannot keep – a continued struggle.

Now that it is Christmas time…

I have asked him to help me shop for the dogs, my Dad and sister. I’ve drastically cut down our usual “shopping for” list in an effort to make things a little less stressful for him, but we’re still arguing.

He actually seems even worse this year than previous ones.

I know he doesn’t like shopping for gifts. I know he doesn’t like receiving gifts. And I know he doesn’t like the whole idea of Christmas overall.

But, I wish he’d make a sacrifice for me.

Humour me for once.

I wish he’d embrace Christmas. I wish we could have fun decorating the house together. I wish I could have fun looking for that “perfect” Christmas gift to give him and others, without having him make it really frustrating to do so. I wish it wasn’t such a struggle to get him to help me fill out and send Christmas cards. And, I wish he’d surprise me with a special gift at Christmas, not just buy me stuff whenever he sees I like it. It’s the whole thought behind it that I want, not the gift itself.

I wish he’d be more like my friends’ significant others and just embrace the fact that I like to do things he does not.

Most of all, I wish he would stop being such a Scrooge and ruining Christmas for me.

Huib is honestly the most amazing man in the world, but this is one area I wish he’d attempt to improve.

Part Of The Pack

As of today, Canyon has been with us for two years. He fits into our family so well, it feels as though he has been with us forever.

I can’t believe how much he has matured over the past two years.

This year started out a little rough with the news that he has scarring on his retinas and therefore cannot breed, but Canyon has shown us that there is so much more to him than his looks and temperament.

Even though we will not be breeding our golden boy, Huib has entered Canyon into a three day conformation show December 27th until the 29th. I’m not sure how they’ll do since Kitchener is golden retriever central, but Kelly and Canyon’s co-breeder are coming to watch so, I know it will end up being a lot of fun no matter what. So far we have bought a hair dryer, tan slip collar (the only style we’ve been able to find) and a hunter green leash. We still need to get a new comb for his show kit and probably a really fun toy for a reward, but we’ve got time to find those. Canyon’s co-breeder has also been giving us some tips on how to groom him, so hopefully that part will go well.

It’s taken us two years to get him into the show ring, but we’ve done it! Even if he doesn’t end up with any points at the end of the three day event, we’ll be able to connect with other breeders and receive some advice on how to better our chances at receiving points in the future. According to the rules and regulations of the Canadian Kennel Club, Canyon needs to accumulate ten points in total. From what I understand, the points need to come from three different judges and he has to win at the breed or group level at least once (if I am wrong, please do not hesitate to correct me in the comments section). Dr. b wants us to neuter him by the age of five in order to avoid testicular and prostate cancer, so we’ve got two years to get his Canadian Championship title.

Candyman, it has been a wonderful two years so far, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Tis The Season For Shopping

Over the past week, we’ve had the opportunity to get Cessna and rogue out shopping. Cessna isn’t the most excited shopper, but Rogue is always enthusiastic about seeing new places and to meet new people.

Rogue’s shyness and odd reactions to people seems to have resolved itself – which is a relief! She was startled briefly by a man’s suit jacket – it sort of moved weird above her head – and by a tablecloth – it swished unexpectedly – but after a few minutes of Huib showing it to her, she was no longer showing any nervousness.

Here are a couple of pictures from our day in Timmins.

We haven’t really gotten too much of our Christmas shopping done yet. Every time we go somewhere, we always seem to end up buying more things for ourselves than for others. In Timmins Huib bought me two polar fleece sweaters for my birthday and I bought a really, really cute brown corduroy stuffed reindeer for Canyon and pink corduroy rabbit for Rogue. Huggle-Hound makes these really cute corduroy animals that squeak, crinkle, grunt and have dangly limbs for shaking. Aspen really likes soft stuffies so we got her a little gingerbread woman that squeaks and Cessna likes toys she can tug and shake, so we got her a rubber ball thing that has long nylon ribbons that go through it. In addition to these things, we got a few other toys that were on sale at Costco and Pet Smart to put into their stockings, but we haven’t decided who will get what yet lol! I have also put together a list to order from Pet Edge because I want to get Cessna and Rogue a Premiere Easy Walk Harness like canyon has and they are like half the price through the website, compared to what we will pay in a store here. of course there are toys on the list as well, since it just wouldn’t be right to order only two items lol!

Huib has some more time off coming up, so hopefully we’ll get a little more shopping for others done then.

Hurricane Rogue

Since I’ve been mainly posting new pictures of Rogue, with very little detail on how she is doing, I thought I’d take a moment and update you all.

Rogue is now seven and a half months old. She is 46.8lbs, 21ish inches tall and 20ish inches long. She hasn’t really changed in colour since going from butterscotch to caramel, but her eyes are no longer blue and she has no more puppy teeth. Her eyes are now a medium-dark brown and she’s got a mouth full of adult teeth that still do not fully fit her face.

Along with the increase in age, Rogue’s energy level has risen. She was always an excited puppy, but now she just doesn’t seem to be able to sit still very long. It’s almost as though ten toddlers on sugar highs have taken up residence in my puppy that, once had an on and off button. Now her off button seems to have gotten stuck in the semi-on position. She isn’t always quite at a hurricane speed, but she’s never really quite in a calm state either. Most of the time this is not an issue, but right now I am in the middle of trying to finish up last minute assignments for my course and Hurricane Rogue isn’t always making landfall for just short periods of time.

In terms of training, Rogue seems to have hit a plateau. Her sits, downs, leave its, touches and really short waits are great, but her “loose leash” walking and overall distraction level in public and around other dogs is horrid. To add to this, she has also started letting out little random “woofs” and shying away from people who come to pet her. The shyness started the day she turned 7 months, so I’m assuming it is a phase. Huib has been working a lot though lately, so we really haven’t had a chance to get her out and socializing since she recovered from her spay. He has a few days off coming up though, so I’m really hoping we’ll see some improvement.

In other news, we got Rogue a new training vest from Active Dogs. It is a light teal colour and has three black rectangular patches – one on each side that say “In Training” and one on the back which says “Please Ask To Pet”. And thanks to Cyndy of Gentle Wit, we didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for shipping and brokerage fees! I will try and get some pictures of Rogue in her new vest this weekend.

I will try and update you all a little more regularly from now on…it’s been a little too long.

Birthday

Yesterday, November 29th, was my 32nd birthday.

It’s hard to believe that I’m already two years into my thirties. I don’t really feel like I’m older than 25 to be honest. I remember feeling older when I reached my 26th birthday, but since then I really haven’t felt much different.

When you are a young child, you can’t wait to be a teenager. Then when you are a teenager, you can’t wait to be an adult. Once you hit 25, you are no longer considered to be even a young adult – you’re just an adult.

Adulthood comes with so many responsibilities. So many regrets. And so many dreams for a better life.

When I was a young child, I dreamed of being a veterinarian, with a husband who wanted to stay home with the kids and dogs, in our beautiful, huge home, while I brought home the paycheck. When I was a teenager, I still wanted the husband, kids, dogs and huge home, but I now fantasized about being a successful lawyer.

Now that I am an adult and the world is real, not just a fantasy, my dreams are different. I already have the amazing husband and dogs, but instead of fantasizing about the huge home and high paying job, I think about realistic things.

I no longer dream, I hope.

I hope for a better future. I hope for a time when Huib no longer has to support me. I hope for the opportunity to do more than just take care of the dogs and go through the motions of being a happy stay-at-home wife.

I hope for realistic things.

Gone are the days when I fantasized about the wonderful world out there, that would give me everything I needed, as long as I put in the effort. The fantasies are now replaced with dashed hopes and the sad reality of a world that only rewards those people who are “normal”. A world that closes doors in the faces of people who cannot meet its expectations. A world that places undo hardship on those who choose to open the door for the “different”.

My first 32 years were filled with ups and downs. I would never trade my life for anyone else’s, but I hope the next 32 years will include a few more ups and a little fewer downs.

November 29th, 2011 was a good day though. I woke up beside my smiling soul mate and rambunctious retrievers. I opened my e-mail to find messages upon messages from friends wishing me a happy birthday. The Rogue puppy allowed me to finish off the second last assignment of my course. Then it ended with a delicious spaghetti dinner The promise of new clothes!

Thirty two may no longer be the age of dreams and childish fantasies, but if yesterday was any hint of what is to come, I don’t care…I’m ready for thirty three.

Just A Little Snow

So far we have only had a tiny bit of snow. It’s quite unusual for this to happen.

Huib decided to take the four dogs out and try to pose them in the snow. Here’s how it went.

Canyon never has an issue with posing for the camera, as long as you don’t mind him bringing a toy along.

Cessna is so used to posing for the camera, so could care less.

Aspen doesn’t mind posing either, but she just can’t seem to look happy about it.

Rogue isn’t as good about posing for pictures…

She just can’t seem to stay still.

Hopefully he’ll have better luck when we get some more snow lol!

City Adventure

On the Saturday (12th) of our trip “down south”, we took Cessna, Rogue and my friend Kelly’s Autism Dog Services foster, Willow, into Toronto on the GO Train. Rogue and Willow were awesome on the train ride, easily settling after just a few minutes.

After a couple of hours of walking around the city, riding the subway, street cars and meeting up with Taz and Caleb for lunch, Huib and I took the girls to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, to meet up with some LFC foster puppies.

Cessna really impressed me at the Royal. She only had to wear her newtrix for the first 20 minutes and she guided like a pro. She barked at a goat and some sheep, but in her defense, they also made noise at her lol!

Rogue on the other hand, was a monster! She pulled like crazy and sniffed everything! Poor Huib was happy when we were ready to return to the city for dinner with his sister.

Independent Woman

I’ve never taken part in the Disability Blog Carnival, but after reading this round’s topic, I was inspired.

I lost my sight in the summer of 1993. I had just finished grade 8 and was excited to begin grade 9 at a new school. It was a total shock. My parents weren’t sure where to turn. I spent my summer indoors, trying to adapt to a life without 20/20 vision.

September arrived and students returned to school. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. She kept me home the first day, and called our region’s Board of Education. She talked to a woman in charge of organizing special services and was relieved to learn that there was a department of sorts designed to help visually impaired and blind students.

That afternoon, I met a woman who would forever change my life.

Stephanie Sommer arrived around noon. She sat with my mom and I, at the kitchen table and asked questions. She had come to assess whether I truly required her assistance. The phone rang at some point during our meeting and after watching me reach past the phone, she took my hand and placed it onto the receiver with a smile.

After mom was finished with the call, Stephanie told us she would start working with me the following day.

Over the next five years, Stephanie would teach me not only the usual lessons of Braille and getting around safely with a cane, but she would inspire me to be an independent woman.

Stephanie never once treated me like I had a disability.

She expected me to act appropriately and study just as hard as every other student in my high school.

She always expected me to give eye contact.

She wouldn’t help me unless I said please or thank you.

And if I got frustrated and attempted to give up, she’d walk away and wait for me to get over it.

Stephanie and I developed more than just a student-teacher bond, we became friends. She told me about her own vision problems and told me how she embarked on an educational journey that led her to working with students like me.

I remember the feeling of comfort that would come over me each time I smelled her perfume, and the smile that would sprout on my face, no matter how bad the day, when I heard her voice. Stephanie was my navigator, guiding me through a world I now found scary and full of unknowns.

She taught me how to read Braille and how to fully utilize the vision I still had.

She showed me how to travel safely throughout my community with a cane, and then when I told her I wanted to apply for a guide dog, she challenged me to first move outside of my comfort zone. I learned how to take the bus to a neighbouring town to attend movies and shop alone in their mall. Then, she gave me the biggest test of all, she asked me to learn how to take the bus to Toronto and then learn to take the subway to the largest mall of all (at the time) – the Eatons Centre.

Once I entered my final year of high school, Stephanie was there to help me reach my goal of attending university. She read through university brochures and program descriptions. Then she helped me fill out application, after application because I couldn’t decide on which one to attend. She was there when I received each of my letters of acceptance and then took it upon herself to arrange campus tours so that I could better decide upon the school for me.

After I began university, Stephanie and I talked a couple times a year, but after she attended my wedding in 2006, we sadly lost touch.

I still think about the lessons she taught me. She inspired me how to be the woman I am today, because when no one else did, she believed I could be better.

Levels Progress

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how I had decided to start seriously working through Sue Ailsby’s Levels with Rogue.

Today, I thought I’d give everyone a progress report, and let everyone know where Canyon is, since we also started Level 1 recently.

Rogue has COMPLETELY passed Level 1!

Since implementing the training suggestions I received from the woman in Wyoming, Rogue quickly learned the “touch” command and her recall is improving daily.

Rogue now not only touches my palm, she literally nose-butts it lol!

We have now moved on to Level 2:
Come (from 40 feet, 2 cues)
Crate (enter, open/close door with 2 cues) – Passed
Distance (goes around a pole 2 feet away with 2 cues)
Down (from sit with 1 cue) – Passed
Down Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Go To Mat (from 5 feet away with 2 cues)
Handling (tail, ears, feet) – Passed
Leash (loose for 1 minute with 1 distraction)
Sit (from stand with 1 cue) – Passed
Sit Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Stand (from sit or down with 2 cues)
Stand Stay (without moving feet for 10 seconds)
Target/Touch (nose to marked end of stick with 1 cue)
Trick (can be a very simple one)
Watch (eye contact for 10 seconds with 2 voice cues)
Zen/Leave It (5 seconds in hand & 10 seconds on chair with 2 cues) – Passed

Rogue and I are still doing the short washroom training sessions to learn new things, in addition to short ones in other places to practice her Level 1 behaviours. Since I do not feel comfortable teaching her the “look” command, I have assigned that one to Huib, but have been working on: stand, sit-stay, down-stay and come.

I haven’t started the touch stick targeting yet because I’m trying to decide on a more accurate, blind-friendly way of teaching this one. I’m thinking I might use the bell we have hanging from the outside door for this because she really likes going outside and it would be useful to have her learn to touch the bell when she wants out.

I have also purchased a cheap lime green yoga mat for teaching her and later Canyon to go on to it when asked. Cessna knows this one pretty well, and has generalized it to mean going onto whatever I point to (bed, mat, chair, etc.).

As I mentioned, Canyon and I have also started to move through Level 1 together. He is really interested in having his “special” time with me, so I decided to re-start teaching him “touch”. We’ve only been working on it for two days so far, and he is already able to “touch” my right palm with one cue. He can still only do it when I have my palm right in front of him, but I think its only a matter of time before he can do it as well (maybe not as hard) as Rogue.

Once he is through Level 1, I’m thinking I might try teaching Aspen, but we’ll see what happens. Aspen is a lot more stubborn and sensitive, than the others, so I find it a little more frustrating to teach her new things.

I’ll write another Levels update when I have more to report.