Three Weeks In Kirkland Lake

Phoenix, Cessna, Reece and I just got back on Friday from a wonderful trip up north. Huib came to pick us up and we picked Aspen up from her breeder’s on our way back to Kirkland Lake. It was great to have the gang back together – I think Reece was the most excited because his surrogate mommy had finally returned! Too bad she went back up north with Huib yesterday though. The poor guy continually tries to get Cessna and Phoenix to play, but neither seem that interested in entertaining him.

While up north we took a trip out to the house we are planning to rent until our condo sells and then buy. It is small, only 2 bedrooms, but it has a lot of potential for expansion. It is situated on 73 acres of land surrounded by a whole lot of crown land. There is a lake just 2 minutes from the back door and a private dock. The nearest neighbours are probably a 5 minute drive or more. Huib will have a 30 minute commute to work, but with all the land and possibilities this house presents, we couldn’t say no. We will take possession around the end of August and begin to do a little landscaping.

On Canada Day we took Reece to see the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus tribute bands and wander around the kids area. Reece didn’t seem to mind all the kids running around him and didn’t even notice the bouncy equipment set up for them to play on. He even fell asleep in the grass after we stopped to stand and listen to the music. Later in the evening we took Cessna to see the Eagles tribute band and it was really good. Cessna was more interested in all the people coming up to say hi to her, she didn’t seem to care about the music or loud singing. We didn’t end up staying for the fireworks though. The concerts were over about an hour before they started so rather than just standing around, we took my sister home and returned to the college residence where we were staying.

On the Saturday following Canada Day there was a Tom Cochrane concert at the recreation centre. It was a good concert, except for the fact that people talked to one another all through the singing. I guess that’s part of living in a small town, everyone knows one another. Huib and I enjoyed the opening act the most – Serena Ryder. We even went up to get a signed copy of her newest CD when she was finished. Tom Cochrane was also good, but Huib didn’t find him as entertaining. He may have been too intoxicated to dance around or maybe just too old now, but Huib didn’t really like his performance as much. Cessna came with us to the concert. She was fine throughout Serena Ryder’s performance, but was a little shaky at first when Tom came on. But, we took her harness off and got her some popcorn which seemed to settle her down enough.

We didn’t really do anything else as exciting the rest of the time we were up north, but the dogs got tons of time to swim and run which they thoroughly enjoyed. I think Reece is finally getting the knack for swimming. Huib would throw the ball out for the girls to get and then throw a stuffed turtle for Reece to fetch. He didn’t throw the turtle as far out as he threw the ball, but a few times Reece actually attempted to go out for the ball with the girls. Phoenix swam a little, but spent most of his time rolling in the sand. I’m not sure why, but he seems to find it entertaining to get as dirty as possible!

Overall our trip up north was good. We got a few too many bug bites for my liking, but then I guess 35 in 3 weeks isn’t that terrible… We cane home Friday around midnight and joined in on an ADS puppy outing to the St. Jacob’s Market on Saturday. Reece did amazingly well – out of 4 puppies he was probably the best behaved. Ace is only 3 ½ months though so he still has time to catch up to Reece in abilities. We worked on stays and crowds most of the afternoon so by the time we were ready to go home the dogs were hot and exhausted. At home Cessna and Reece drank tons of water and then fell asleep until it was dinner time.

On Sunday Huib and I weighed and measured Reece. At 6 ½ months of age he is 66lbs, 22 inches tall and 22 inches long. I am not yet sure how big he’ll get, but judging from the size of his paws and wrists I would guess he will be either very thick and short or very tall and sturdy. He now has all of his basic obedience commands down and can walk on a loose leash 90% of the time. He still gets pully around other dogs and his nose likes to work a little too much, but overall he is progressing well. Our major hurdles right now are his chewing out of anger (when we leave him home alone) and his relieving in public (a HUGE frustration!!). Hopefully in a month or two he will mature more and stop these annoying habits. If he can get through these and if his shoulder stops acting up (hoping it’s a growth thing), then I think he will make a wonderful companion for a young child with autism.

“One of the best things to hold onto in this world is a friend.”

Is Your Dog Really Perfect?

“My dog is better than yours” a common phrase heard within the dog owner community. What makes a perfect dog? One that comes when you call, sits when you say, walks by your side as if you are the most important thing to them, waits patiently for your command, ignores other dogs who pass…well get a robot.

Do you sit patiently and wait for your parents, friends, spouse or whoever to tell you what to do? Do you listen intently to people who talk to you as if everything they say is gospel? Then why should we expect our dogs to do this? Like us, our dogs are not perfect and make mistakes and have good days and bad. I have met many more dogs who I would love to spend hours with than humans. Dogs are non-judgmental. Dogs aren’t afraid to show you how they are feeling or to let you know when they have had enough. Dogs don’t try to impress us or hide their desires – the amount of drool hanging from their jowls gives them away.

I don’t want a dog who listens every second of every day. I don’t want a dog who waits patiently for me to tell them what to do. I don’t want a dog who worships me. I want a dog who has spirit. I want a dog who loves doing what they do, not one who does it because that is what they were raised to do. I want a dog who thinks for them self. I want a dog who will tell me no and that I am expecting too much. I want a dog who will test me and give me a reality check when one is needed. That is why Phoenix, Cessna, Aspen and Aiden are four of the most important mammals in my life.

Phoenix wears a colourful party hat at Aspen's birthday party.I have had Phoenix for ten years now and he will be 12 in October. Some people would assume he was a perfect dog given his age and experience, but he is far from it. Phoenix isn’t afraid to give you the “f*** you” look when he isn’t in the mood to listen or feels he is above you. My husband gets the “f*** you” look on a weekly basis from Phoenix and gets little reminders every once in a while that he is third in command, me being the first and Phoenix the second. Don’t get me wrong, Phoenix is and will always be my buddy, he came to me when I was 17 and taught me how to be responsible, what being independent felt like, and what unconditional love truly meant. I can remember the times we’d be at school and I wouldn’t let him do something he wanted, he would give me a dirty look as he walked me full force into a garbage can. I’d correct him and he would just look up with this huge smile and his tail wagging.

Close up of Cessna wearing a white baseball cap.Cessna’s picture should be beside the word “spirit” in the dictionary. She is the true definition of a dog with spirit. She works well and loves her job, but she also loves to just drop the professionalism and go crazy. She is a dog who loves life and makes sure to make the most of it, sometimes it is as if she knows she won’t live forever. I can take her into Toronto and feel absolutely safe following behind her, but then she makes sure to remind me that she is not perfect, jumping around like a kangaroo, all proud of herself for making a flock of geese take flight at once by barking while she walks by. I can honestly say that Cessna makes me smile all of the time.

Aspen is our pet dog, she definitely didn’t pay attention to the lessons Phoenix tried to teach her. She may not have the intelligence of Phoenix and Cessna, but she sure does have her looks. She is cute, affectionate, and extremely happy with life. We have had Aspen since she was 8 weeks old and she just turned 5 in June. We have been trying to teach her for years to move out of the way when someone walks near, but all she will do is lift a leg and look up as if to ask “is that enough room for you to get by?” Her breeder told us to teach her all we could before the age of 6 months and we made sure to work hard on the basic obedience commands, she learned “sit” within hours of arriving. Maybe it was just laziness, but she would sit and look up at us anytime we said something so we just assumed she knew what we wanted. After she turned 6 months it was like the learning part of her brain turned off, it took her to the age of about 2 ½ to learn to swim and to the age of about 3 to learn the game of fetch. Phoenix has tried to teach her how to leash guide, but she just can’t seem to get the concept, Cessna learned in only two short lessons.

And finally we have Aiden. Aiden came to us at 10 weeks of age and has done nothing but absorb skills and mostly positive behaviours from Cessna and Phoenix. He just turned 8 months on Saturday and already he is showing signs of being mature and responsible. Unlike most puppies his age, Aiden is content to sit by my feet and watch the world go by. He loves to learn new things and devotes most of his attention to whoever has hold of his leash. But, just as the others aren’t, Aiden is not perfect. He has an overwhelming love for lotion, attacking whoever put some on with kiss after kiss until they get annoyed. He loves going places and just can’t seem to understand the concept of having a loose leash, even the halti doesn’t seem to make a difference. He is not a strong puller, but still there is tension on the leash.

As you can see none of my dogs are perfect, but I love them each for their personality and quirks. Life would be boring if they adhered to the ideals of the “perfect dog”. What’s the point of having a dog when you aren’t being challenged or made to laugh each day by their antics.

So my message to all you “perfect dog” owners out there is: maybe you should step back and take a closer look at your dog because if it’s :”perfect” then it isn’t really a dog, it’s a robot and what’s the fun in that?

“There is no faith which has never yet been broken, except that of a truly faithful dog.”

Weekend of Parties

It has been a while since I last posted an entry, so I thought I’d do one today. Friday was my cousin’s wedding. Lance is a year younger than me and works as a criminal defense lawyer in Toronto. Lance and I were always quite close as kids, but as we grew up, we also grew apart. Lance met his wife, Christina, at work about a year ago and it was love at first sight. Unlike most of his family, with their long relationships before marriage, Lance decided after just a year that it was time to propose and get married soon after.

The wedding was nice, the bride’s maids wore fuchsia pink dresses that were all designed to their liking, while the groomsmen wore black suits. The ceremony took place outside near a fountain which created a pleasant mist in the air every once in a while. The guests all sat on white plastic chairs which were decorated with white ribbons. The bride was beautiful coming down the aisle with her father and it was so cute to see Lance’s face as she approached. Being the oldest cousin in the family it is always neat to watch my younger ones grow up and become mature men and women. Our family sat mainly at the back, we’re the rowdy crowd J My younger cousins were all quite well-behaved sitting quietly and waiting for the ceremony to end. My youngest cousin, Harrison, was hilarious though, he has a habit of pushing on his mom’s breast with both hands to get her attention…oh baby, not in public!

The reception took place about an hour after the ceremony ended, the food was good and the desserts were awesome (this coming from someone who dislikes most desserts). Once everyone was nice and full the speeches began. Each speech was well presented, some brought tears to your eyes, while others were just too funny not to smile. The first dance of the night was beautiful, Christina’s dress just flowed around her so nicely. The rest of the night went by pretty quickly, Huib had to work the following day so when 11:00pm came we knew it was time to go.

On Saturday I spent the day with just Phoenix and Aspen, Cessna and Aiden were with my friend who had watched them while we attended the wedding. The day was so quiet and boring. Even though Aspen is only 5 years old, she is like having another older dog in the house. Finally, around 6:30pm Huib came home and we piled into the car and headed off to my friend Jess’s place. Jess was holding a retirement party for her guide dog Jetta. We arrived about half an hour before the other guest arrived and enjoyed greeting Aiden and Cessna who were quite excited to see us all. Aspen came along and created quite an eventful 20 minutes. Aspen has bowel issues and was having problems all day, but we thought she was feeling better so decided to bring her along. Aspen often has bowel flare ups when she is stressed and we believe she was stressed out about Cessna and Aiden’s absence. Well she was greeting Jess and cuddling with her on the couch, then she decided to clime up onto Jess to let Huib know that she needed to go out. Well when she climbed into Jess’s lap her bowels let go and what a mess it was. I was so upset, but also knew that Aspen did not mean for this to happen. Jess was a good sport about it all though which was nice. The party was fun, there were 6 dogs in total (us having 3 of them). Jetta seemed to enjoy her retirement cake along with the others, but didn’t seem to like all the company as much. Jetta will officially retire this coming weekend when she will head to Sault St. Marie with Jess’s parents to live. We will all miss Jetta, but I also know she will love her retirement.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
– Dr. Seuss

10 Years Together

Wednesday was Phoenix and my 10 year anniversary together. I can’t believe it has been 10 years already since I had the trainer knock at my door and hand me Phoenix’s leash. He was the second smallest in the class, a female black lab named Chelsey was a bit smaller, but he was sure the one with the most personality. I remember how he would walk me into things when I didn’t let him do something he wanted to do, and then when I would correct him for it he would just look up with a big smile and wag his tail. He has always had a deviant personality, but he has also been the most loyal of all my dogs. I remember how attached he was to his trainer, but then by the end of the second week in class he was following me everywhere. Phoenix was my protector all through my time at the University of Guelph and is still my protector now, I guess he doesn’t feel Cessna can do as good a job. The only time he will let his guard down is when Huib is home to take over watching me. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to move away from home and attend school alone, but with Phoenix I had the feeling I could do anything because I knew no matter what happened that I would never be alone.

Phoenix, we have reached our 10th anniversary, let’s try for another one!

Having An Older Dog

With Phoenix being 11 ½ and not getting any younger I constantly find myself worrying about every little thing he does that is out of the usual. He is quite healthy for his age, only a bit of mild arthritis and pee pee accidents when he gets overly excited, but nothing more than that. But, I still find my mind wandering when I lay in bed trying to sleep wondering if I can handle the day he needs to cross over that Rainbow Bridge. I have had Phoenix for almost 10 years now and he is really my first pet which I raised on my own. I got him as a dog guide on July 23, 1998 at 10:00am and even though I had had a dog guide for a short time before him I fell in love with Phoenix right away.

My first dog guide and I really never truly bonded, but Phoenix and I were inseparable after the second week of class. He was quite attached to his trainer when I first received him, but after two weeks of being together he became my yellow shadow and has never let me down since. We had a great working life together, but after 7 years of a fast paced life he decided it was time for him to retire and become a pet. He decided you ask…yes, Phoenix decided to retire, he began to walk slow and do things out of the ordinary like become distracted or sniff uncontrollably. After 3 months of this I decided to ask the school to come out and tell me if I am doing something wrong or if he just isn’t interested in working anymore. After only 5 minutes of walking with us the trainer told me it was my choice, that there was nothing wrong with his guiding other than he was slow and that he seemed to have no health issues, but that they felt he would completely stop within 6 months. I asked when the next class was and was told to call and see what spots were available. I called when I got home and was informed that there was a class beginning in just over a week and that I was welcome to come in. Being a person who needs to make a decision and act before thinking too much, I agreed to come in and that is when I got Cessna.

We weren’t sure how well Phoenix would take to Cessna coming into our home and taking over some of my attention that would have usually been devoted to him, but he came to meet Cessna every Sunday I was in class and they have become the greatest buddies. Phoenix has now been retired for almost 3 years and is enjoying his time as a pet a lot. He will sometimes want to come along, but most times he will run back to the couch once I take down the harness, but the odd time he will shove Cessna and put it on himself…which makes me sad.

To get him back into semi-public life, but not as a dog guide, we have put him into the St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. He along with Cessna goes to visit with residents of a long-term care home about once a week. Cessna is not as keen on the visits as Phoenix, but she does have her favourites. Phoenix will sit in front of the residents and let them pet him for as long as they want, sometimes even settling down on the floor in front for a rest.

When I sit alone with Phoenix by my side thinking about the past and thinking about what is to come, I still get tears. I know he has had a long and wonderful life, but I don’t know how life would be without my stubborn, deviant minded little buddy. He will do things to make you angry and when you get upset with him he will just wag his tail and laugh in his own way. He knows he is loved and knows who is boss, but still has to test the waters every once in a while. My husband, Huib, and Phoenix still fight over who’s boss, but in the end Phoenix tells him that it is me and then him followed by Huib.

When that dreadful day comes and Phoenix must say good-bye I will keep this poem in mind:

I’m still here

I stood beside your bed last night
I came to have a peek
I could see that you were crying
You found it hard to sleep
I whined to you softly
As you brushed away a tear
“It’s me, I haven’t left you,
I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast
I watched you pour the tea
You were thinking of the many times
Your hands reached down to me
I was with you at the shops today
Your arms were getting sore
I longed to take your parcels
I wish I could do more
I was with you at my grave today
You tend it with such care
I want to reassure you
That I’m not lying there
I walked with you toward the house
As you fumbled for your key
I gently put my paw on you
I smiled and said “It’s me.”
You looked so very tired
And sank into a chair
I tried so hard to let you know
That I was standing there
It’s possible for me to be
So near you everyday
To say to you with certainty
“I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly
Then you smiled, I think you knew
In the stillness of that evening
I was very close to you.
The day is over…
I smile and watch you yawning
And say “Good night, God bless,
I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right
For you to cross the brief divide
I’ll rush across to greet you
And we’ll stand side by side
I have so many things to show you
There is so much for you to see
Be patient, live your journey out
And then come home to be with me

– Author Unknown –

Finally Ready

So I finally decided that it was about time to bite the bullet and join the fad of blogging. I have tried to stay away from fads all of my life, only deciding to do things because I felt it was interesting rather than just doing it because it was cool. To prove this I will admit that I have not read all of the Harry Potter books, yes! it’s true, I have only read books 1-4. I didn’t actually read my first one until 2004 and then my last one #4 this past summer. Crazy isn’t it?

Well with all the excitement of getting a new dog guide almost 3 years ago and now beginning to foster my first puppy, I’ve decided that maybe it might just be time to start a blog. I’ve enjoyed reading other dog guide users and foster family’s blogs so why not start my own? Here goes nothing…

So Cessna and I have now been together for almost 3 years, I can’t believe how time flies. She has matured so much over the past couple of years, it is amazing the changes people notice in her, she is no longer seen as the crazy dog, but rather the dog with a mission and the dog who loves her job, but also still enjoys just letting herself go crazy at times. She has sure changed my life in many ways, not to say Phoenix wasn’t a great dog guide, but there are some areas in which Cessna is just a little better and I guess she deserves the credit. I wonder if I’ll ever figure out what motivates her to do what she does…for Phoenix it was the food and what he would get out of it, but for Cessna I just don’t know…maybe she just enjoys it? Now for our new addition, Aiden, he is our little bundle of fun and adventure. Aiden is a 12 week old yellow lab, more of a tan colour actually. He has yellowish-brown eyes with maybe even a hint of blue…a strange colour for a yellow I think… We have now had him for just over 2 weeks and have had nothing but fun. He makes us laugh all of the time with his little wrinkley face and paws that are too big for his little body. He is already 26lbs and seems to be growing by the second…I think he is going to be a big one! Our dogs seem to be adapting to him being here, Phoenix has told him the boundaries and Cessna has taught him to growl when playing…not sure if that one’s such a good lesson Cess! Aspen though seems to love him being here, I guess it helps her to not be the bottom of the totem pole like she is with the other two. She has been teaching him the polite way to play and how not to be so rough..awww, I love my golden!

Well I will sign off for now, but stay tuned for more adventures with the rulers of the house.