It’s Official!!!

even though Cessna has been retired for almost a year, I didn’t call her school to let them know – I honestly didn’t see the point since we hadn’t heard from them in years.

I got a call a couple of weeks ago to “check in.” It may have been a call to let me know that it was time to consider retiring Cessna since she’ll be 12 at the end of October.

I personally think someone finally mentioned Rogue to a trainer. I don’t mind though.

The trainer asked how we are doing. I told her I had retired her back in October, but that I hadn’t called because I assumed it didn’t matter since I was planning on keeping her.

She said that they wanted to update my file, so were calling to make sure things were still up to date. I gave her my new address.

She said that they would send me Cessna’s adoption papers to make it “official.”

The papers arrived last week. In addition to saying that by adopting her I was no longer able to work her, it said that I am also responsible for paying for vet bills – which is funny because I have been paying the bills since I got her.

I am sitting at a table holding a pen above a piece of paper with writing on it. Arizona has her paws up and she's looking over my left arm at the paper. I am wearing a navy blue hooded sweatshirt with a grey bear paw on the front.

Now that I have signed the papers, with Arizona’s help, I guess Cessna is officially mine.

I hope we have several more years of adventures ahead of us.

They’ll no longer be working adventures, but they’ll be adventures nonetheless.

Goodbye 2014

2014 is about to come to an end.

And, what a year it has been…

Here are some of the highlights:
We bought a house
Aiden came to visit for 10 days
Huib was promoted to Assistant Director of Nursing at the Village of Riverside Glen
I was accepted into the Health and Aging masters program at McMaster University
Rogue passed the Assistance Dogs International Public Access Test in May
Arizona joined our family in July
Rogue and I started graduate school in September
Canyon earned another point towards his Canadian Championship title in October
Cessna officially retired from guide work

We can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for us.

From all of us at ruled by paws, have a very safe and happy new year!

It’s Time

Well, I guess it’s time. It’s time to make it official.

Cessna is now retired.

I had always planned to retire her by the age of 10, but she wanted to work longer, so I let her make the decision. She hasn’t wanted to come out for a while now, so if I think back to the last time she worked, I think it would be at the end of September or early October. that means she’s been retired for over 2 months now.

Can you believe that? Retired for 2 months and I just finally got around to making it official.

I haven’t told her school yet and I’m not really sure I ever will. They haven’t contacted me in years and to be honest, I could care less about them knowing.

All that really matters is she’s happy and healthy.

I had wanted to have a retirement party for Cessna, but all of our friends have been busy and many have moved away, so I think I’ll just let it go. I think I will buy her a new retirement collar and leash though…

This is really hard. It’s hard putting it into real words, finally saying to everyone that Cessna is retired. She hasn’t worked in a while, so it’s not like I haven’t known it was happening, but putting it into words makes it real.

It’s been an amazing 9 plus years of working together my little Cessnaroo, but it is time to hang up your harness for good and to start a new adventure together. You taught me so much over the years. If it weren’t for you, I’m not sure I would have ever learned about clicker training or the importance of positive reinforcement. I’m not even sure I would have thought about fostering puppies, let alone raise and train my own guide dog. You are one amazing little lab.

I will try to make your retirement years as wonderful as your working years have been.

Rogue and Cessna Take on New York: Part II

On Monday (the 25th), we woke up pretty late. We had had such a busy first day that we all didn’t want to get out of bed, the humans included.

Once we had all eaten breakfast, Mommy and Cyndy packed their bags for the day and we set off for the subway. Cessna was kind of achy and the humans had sore feet, so we decided that it would be best to take the subway as much as possible.

our first stop was to see the Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. The exhibit was cool because Mommy and Cyndy got to feel all of the different statues and carvings on the sarcophaguses.

Brooke touching a statue. I'm wearing blue denim jeans, a burgundy hooded sweatshirt that says GAP in gray and an off-white Roots baseball cap.

Plaque that explains the statue Brooke is touching

Brooke checking out a Sphynx statue.

Egyptian statue of a man reading a scroll

while Cyndy and Mommy were checking out one of the sarcophaguses a museum worker came over, pulled Cyndy’s hand off, pointed and told her not to touch. Mommy was standing beside Cyndy feeling the different carvings and Uschi was standing right beside Cyndy, so it was as though the guy thought she wasn’t blind enough. The humans had wanted to see some of the other exhibits, but after that, they decided that we would move on to the Guggenheim.

Vulture on the Temple of Dendur

Huib with Cessna and Brooke with Rogue checking out a sarcophagus. Huib is wearing a navy blue jacket with white running shoes, blue denim jeans and carrying Brooke's white backpack. Cessna is wearing her black leather harness and Rogue's reddish-brown leather leash. Rogue is wearing a camo green harness that has Service Dog written in white on the pocket and has black strapping that has little white reflective paw prints all over it.

Monkey engravings on the side of a sarcophagus

Brooke and Rogue at the Met. Rogue is sitting beside Brooke.

Since Cessna was kind of tired, Mommy decided to give her to Daddy and asked me to help her out. I did pretty well. I overstepped a couple of curbs, but Mommy backed up quickly and we did them again. After a bit, I caught on and kept Mommy safe while Cessna took a break. At the Guggenheim I continued to help Mommy and we walked all over the building together. Mommy thinks I’m finally ready to do more of Cessna’s job which makes me really happy!

Walking toward the Guggenheim

Brooke and Cyndy sitting on the steps of the Guggenheim having a drink with Cessna, Rogue and Uschi. Cyndy is wearing a purple winter coat and Brooke is wearing a white with navy blue winter coat.

Brooke and Rogue standing together on the main floor of the Guggenheim.

Rogue with her paws up, looking down from the top of the Guggenheim

Roof of the Guggenheim

levels of the Guggenheim

After we had finished taking pictures and looking around, we walked across Central Park and headed back to the subway that would take us to our hotel. We were all tired from walking around, so the humans ordered pizza and canollis, and we watched television for the rest of the night.

Brooke with Cessna and Cyndy with Uschi walking through Central Park.

Rogue sitting in Central Park looking toward the camera

Oh, Cessna went on strike by the end of our second day, so Mommy had to ask Daddy for help. Mommy says Cessna is getting ready to retire and that she won’t be asking her to do anymore marathon trips. She’s only going to ask her to work when she feels like it.

Cessna

Come back tomorrow for the final entry on our trip.

Before I really sign off though, I’d like to wish Mommy and Daddy a VERY Happy 13th Anniversary! Thirteen years ago Daddy asked Mommy to go out with him 🙂

The Rogue Lesson

No matter what we think, our dogs are always watching and learning.

This is the most important lesson rogue has taught me.

Let me explain.

As most of my blog readers already know, Rogue is my Guide Dog In Training.

Cessna will be 10 years old tomorrow, so I would like to begin retiring her after Christmas. She could still work another year or so, but I would like to have her enjoy at least a couple years of care-free pet life before she becomes too old to do so.

I began Rogue’s formal guide work training last fall, starting with basic forward guiding in hallways. Over the past year, Rogue has learned how to:

Follow directional cues;
Take me around various obstacles;
Manoeuvre through crowds;
Find doors, curbs and stairways;
Stop at curbs; and more recently,
She has gone on short trips with me.

The past twelve months have not been smooth sailing. It seems as though, for every success, there have been double the obstacles.

First we had the gear issue. rogue has always had a problem with how certain gear feels and it takes her a really long time to get used to wearing something as simple as a new collar.

Then we had the confidence issue. It’s probably pretty normal, but to me, it seems as though rogue takes a lot longer to feel comfortable with a new concept or route. when we begin working on a new route, for example, she will often stop every few steps to check in with me, or if she’s feeling really uncertain, she’ll sit and refuse to move. Even if i can get her moving, it honestly feels as though she is walking with a pickle between her bum cheeks. but, once she feels good about the new route, she picks up speed and walks faster than Cessna’s usual pace.

Our most recent problems though have been my fault. I have forgotten something important. I forgot how easy it is to “teach” a dog something you didn’t mean to “teach” them.

Rogue is very close to being able to take over, at least part-time, from Cessna. We just have one little problem.

Somehow, I taught Rogue that it is important for her to stop three feet back from a down curb and at least a foot back from the up curb – Whoopsie!

How did I teach her such a thing you ask?

It was a little easier than you’d think…

While we were working on learning to stop at curbs, I would dramatically tell Rogue that she had overstepped the curb edge and then immediately turn back and re-do it. the problem came from the distance I tended to walk back to before approaching the curb again. for some reason, I kept walking three feet back from a down curb and about a foot back from an up curb – Double whoopsie!

Now Rogue thinks she needs to stop exactly where we used to stop when re-working the curb…

Here i thought Rogue was having trouble learning what I wanted, when in fact, she was giving me exactly what I had taught her to do – Silly Human!

In order to fix the mistake, I have asked Huib to help me re-teach rogue proper curb approaches. he takes her out, in harness, to practice five up curbs and five down curbs each day. It’s taken her about two weeks, but she’s begun to have a 90% success rate, so we’ve begun going out together and Huib stops me the second Rogue is about to overstep a curb or tells me to keep going if she’s beginning to slow down too soon. when rogue does it correctly, Huib clicks and I give her a treat.

It’s amazing to look back at all rogue and I have accomplished in twelve months, but it’s more amazing, to look back at all of the lessons she’s taught me.

She’s taught me that not every dog learns the same way. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

She taught me that sometimes you need to step back and appreciate what you’ve already learned.

She’s taught me that no matter how well-behaved she can be, she is and always will be a dog.

She’s taught me that I’m not perfect.

and, most importantly, she’s taught me that it may not look like it, but she’s always watching and learning.

A golden angel Passes

Yesterday Aries, a thirteen and a half year old female golden retriever took her last breath on earth to make her final journey across the “rainbow bridge” and join her canine friends. Aries had been losing weight over the past few months and had begun to refuse her food just after Christmas. On Friday night, just before her family rang in the new year, she began to tremble, seemed confused, and couldn’t get up or down without help. Her family worried, but couldn’t get her into the vet until Tuesday when they were told she probably had a tumor in her spleen which caused it to rupture – she was dying of internal bleeding.

I met Aries in 2000 when she was working as a dog guide for Lynette (handler of Endora & now DeeDee). They were living in Oakville at the time and I took Phoenix to visit for the weekend, so we could attend Midnight Madness. The Lions Foundation had asked clients to come with their dogs and I thought it was a good opportunity to meet Lynette, whom I had been chatting with online for over a year – we met on a client chat forum the LFC used to run on their website. Aries was a beautiful 3 year old and I instantly fell in love. Now looking back I think she is part of the reason I still have my love affair with goldens. I remember the visit well because it was quite the eventful first day. I had offered to brush Aries for Lynette and was sitting on the floor combing her when Lynette’s former fiance’s dog came over and began to pee in my lap. I’m not sure what got into him, but during the commotion of getting up and trying to clean up the mess, Phoenix went over and peed on his toy creating another mess. It’s funny to look back now at that moment, but I remember being horrified and wanting to take Phoenix directly home because I was so embarrassed. Aries was fine with the whole situation and just sat there waiting for me to return to combing her. The funniest part about the whole thing though, was that Aries was the one who tended to have accidents inside and that day she didn’t have even one.

Aries was never the greatest guide for Lynette, she had too many fears and stressed out easily, so after only 3 years of working she was retired and went to live with her parents in Cape Breton. I sadly never got to see Aries again, but Lynette made sure to keep me up to date on how she was doing over the years. She developed arthritis when she was about 10 and went deaf around the same time Phoenix did, but overall she was doing well in her older years – even her Inflammatory bowel Disease seemed to disappear in retirement. Even though she was never the dog guide Lynette found in Endora, Aries still remained a big part of Lynette’s life and I know she will be truly missed.

Rest in peace our little golden friend, even though you may not have been cut out to be a working companion, you were still a companion and have left your mark on many who knew you. I hope you find your new home to be even more special than the one you left behind.

Cola

Just thought I’d write a quick entry on an acquaintance’s dog who has recently retired. Cola is a 5 ½ year old female black lab from the same school as I received Phoenix and Cessna. Cola was matched with Jackie in October of 2006 and has been a great companion. Jackie had another dog prior to Cola, but due to some unfortunate circumstances had to retire the dog after less than a year of working. When Jackie first got Cola she was full of energy. I remember visiting with her at the training centre and laughing at how wiggly and silly she was. Jackie was up to the challenge though – she worked hard and did all she could to create a fabulous working relationship. Jackie and I talked regularly at first about concerns, but no matter what she thought, I always knew she was fine and just needed to have some confidence in herself. Sadly, Cola has had to retire due to severe allergies and working stress. Jackie and her family will be adopting Cola, so she will get to stay with the family she has grown to love and trust.

About a week ago Jackie returned to the training centre and has been placed with her new partner in crime. I do not yet know what breed, sex or age the new dog is, but will update everyone when I talk to her in October. For now, all I know is that she has been placed with a dog who matches everything she requested and hopefully this time she’ll get to experience a full working life with a dog without issues.

Good luck Jackie and I hope to hear all about your new companion real soon!! I will post pictures of Cola and of jackie’s new companion when I get a chance to ask her for some.

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

Endora Retires

Thursday (May 29) was the big day for Endora, she has now officially retired. Endora is 7 ½ so will hopefully have a long life of being a pampered pet. Over the almost 6 years that she was with Lynette she moved several times, had a period of being overweight, and then had periods of being on a regular routine and then being on no real routine. Now that Lynette has been hired by the Ontario Government and works 9-5pm everyday Endora has decided that this routine is too much for her and she’d rather retire than continue to work.

Endora will always be my American Princess, she is from GDB and has a lot of personality. If she is not your friend or if she is in a mood she will sit as far away from you as she can, for this I nicknamed her the American Snob. Endora was always a faithful dog and would go anywhere and do anything she could for Lynette. When Lynette was having a bad day, Endora always seemed to know and would be extremely snuggley and affectionate, trying to make Lynette feel better. Endora and I became great friends from day one, I met her about 2 weeks after her and Lynette came home. As soon as I sat down on the couch, she got up beside me and put her head on my lap for some love. Over the years her and I have become closer and I always enjoyed her visits…not sure my cats did, but she always had a way of making us all smile.

Lynette arrived at GDB, California campus, yesterday evening after a day of craziness. I talked with her last night and she seems to be settling in and getting excited about her new friend to come. She took Endora to Halifax where she will be living with her aunt and uncle. The first night there Lynette slept downstairs and since they do not have any carpet on them and they are steep Endora wouldn’t go down, but instead slept in her aunt and uncle’s room. In the morning her aunt leaned over to say hi to Endora and with no time to say a word, Endora was up on the bed and snuggling in between her and her husband. Lynette left her alone at her aunt and uncle’s place a few times while she was there over the weekend and Endora quickly made friends with her uncle, not leaving his side. I think Endora has found her forever home, the home she deserves and the home she will live in until she moves onto the next phase of her life. I will keep everyone posted on how Lynette is doing in class and how Endora is settling in to her new home.

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

Beautiful Weather

The weather has been wonderful the past few days and we’ve been making sure to get the most out of it as possible, because you never know when the rain or cooler weather might return. Yesterday we took the gang out to one of the local conservation areas to run with my friend’s guide dog Jetta. The conservation area runs along side Highway #6 and also goes east towards Milton. The gang love it there because there are always tons of other dogs to go and check out In spots there is water, mostly mucky grossness, but the gang loves it!

This was Jetta and Aiden’s first time there so they were quite interested in all the sites. Aiden stayed on leash since we weren’t sure how many other dogs might be coming along the paths and our dogs tend to run up ahead. Jetta is not usually much of a dog to go off running and playing, but she seemed to love the freedom and took full grasp of it. To our astonishment she even went and played in the water, which is quite abnormal for her. Jetta’s mom is a paralympic swimmer and is both happy and sad that Jetta does not enjoy the water as she does. Jetta goes to swim meets quite often with her mom, so it is nice that she isn’t a lover of water like my Cessna who will whine and try everything possible to get in and splash around. Instead Jetta just lies on the pool deck or walks along the edge of the pool watching her mom’s every move. Jetta will be retiring at the end of August when her mom heads off to China for the Paralympics because Jetta has begun to tell her mom that she doesn’t want to do this anymore. Jetta has flown across the world and seen many cities and countries, she has attended 2 Paralympics and has attended university with her mom for five years as well. If you ever want to meet a well rounded dog then you should meet Jetta, she is a lot like Cessna, but will be turning 8 in December. Knowing Jetta has shown me that Cessna may always be her spirited self even when she gets older and this makes me smile. Cessna and Jetta are the best of buddies, so I’m not sure how Cessna will take to Jetta retiring and going to live with her mom’s parents, I guess she will adapt and learn to love the new addition.

Today we didn’t do too much, just went for a few walks around the neighbourhood to work on Aiden’s leash manners and to the Brick to see if we could find a new rug for our living room. Cessna stayed home while we were at the Brick and Aiden came with us. We didn’t find much of interest, but did grab a hamburger from their charity barbecue. Tomorrow I think we might go out to the school yard for some fetch or maybe even to the quarry near our place for a swim (not us, but the dogs). Cessna absolutely loves water and will make the most awful noises until I clip off her leash and let her go. She would swim for hours if we let her, but we have to watch the amount she swims at a time because the first summer we got her she ended up with a swollen tail – “Rudder Tail” is what the vet told us. I guess some dogs get it from swimming too much, too fast and turning too quickly. Cessna was named quite accurately, everything she does is fast, she sometimes even wishes she could fly.