A Sad Day

Today, I let go of my long-time companion and working partner.

A very young Cessna and I stand together. She is wearing her black leather CVC harness.

Cessna was my third guide from the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. We were matched on May 27, 2005, at which time she was only 19 months of age.

Today, I let go of the dog who taught me time and patience can lead to good things.

Due to her young age and spunky nature, we faced many trials and tribulations during the first couple years of our partnership. With patience and understanding, we were a successful team for about eight years. Cessna retired in the fall of 2013.

Cessna and I posing in the deer park. I'm squatting down and she is sitting, while a dozen or so deer surround us.

Today, we let go of the dog who changed our training philosophy.

Cessna learning to close a cupboard door with her nose.

Cessna had many emotional scars, so the training methods taught by her school did not work for us. I was determined to make our partnership work, so began researching alternatives. Through lessons at Dogs In The Park, a local dog training school, I learned about clicker training and positive reinforcement methods. It wasn’t until I learned this new philosophy, that Cessna and I really took off as a team.

Because of Cessna, all future dogs who entered our home have only known positive reinforcement methods.

Today, we let Cessna fly fast and run free!!!

Cessna running threw deep snow. The snow is flying up behind her as she runs.

On Wednesday night, Huib and I returned home from our trip to Victoria to find Cessna in poor health. It appeared she was going through a vestibular episode (also known as old dog syndrome). Phoenix dealt with this when he was 14, almost fully recovering within a few weeks, but given Cessna’s already poor health and mobility, she just didn’t have the fight left in her – she would have been 15 on the 30th.

So we did what was best for her, our duty as her family, we let her go.

I hope Phoenix, Aspen and Logan are there to meet her at the Rainbow Bridge and help her cross over safely.

Phoenix, Cessna and Aspen lying in the grass side-by-side. Cessna has her ears perked up, as though she is seeing a squirrel.

Until we meet again, fly fast and run free our little firecracker!!!

Wrapping Up 2017: Rogue, Canyon & Cessna

Now, onto the other three canines in the ruled by paws crew.

ROGUE
On the service dog front. Rogue has been an amazing little worker. In early April, we went to Banff for a conference. I presented at the International Working Dog Conference, and Rogue was an perfect example of a well-behaved owner-trained dog. I was a bit worried about taking her to Alberta, given their expectation that all service dogs be trained by an organization, but I shouldn’t have worried – we had ABSOLUTELY no issues. I even had a few store clerks compliment me on my little professional.

Our summer was a bit quiet, with me injuring my ankle and being unable to do much walking. Despite the time off, when we went to Victoria in late-November, Rogue was again stellar!!! She was a complete professional, at both the airport and throughout the city itself. Even though it rained a lot, Rogue worked flawlessly. I was a little concerned about the service dog laws in British Columbia, where teams are expected to be ‘certified,’ but I again should not have worried. We did not run into any problems.

In tracking, we progressed in many ways, but title-wise, we were unsuccessful. I entered Rogue in two tests this year. One was in London, in June, while the other was in October. At both tests we ran into problems on the first leg. I was a bit embarrassed by our performance at the October test, where the conditions were beautiful, but Rogue felt we MUST follow a cross-track. In spite of this, I felt we came out of the test with things to work on, so it was definitely worth attending.

Finally, on the obedience front. Huib and Rogue made their obedience debut in late-June, earning her pre-novice (PCD) title in mid-July.

I was SO proud of them!!!

MY GOALS FOR ROGUE
I would like to enter her into both UTD and TDX tests this spring or fall, depending on our schedule. I would absolutely love her to earn at least her UTD in 2018.

Huib hopes to continue with their obedience training, maybe entering a novice test in the fall or winter. Their biggest challenge will be finding the time and motivation to train together.

I love working and training with Rogue, so maybe we’ll see if there’s another performance venue she might enjoy and excel in.

CANYON
Poor Canyon has sort of been neglected this year. He attends field classes with Arizona from time-to-time, but we haven’t done any real competing in anything since before Ari was with us.

He started tracking training in the spring, and seems to really enjoy it. He can be a bit frantic at times, wanting badly to please us, so we’re teaching him to slow down and focus on the task. He seemed close to being ready to enter a test, but we decided to give him another year to train.

Canyon’s seizures seemed better this year. He has had seven, but he went an entire six months without, so we were quite excited about that. We will continue to follow the zero carb diet started in March, and hopefully his seizures will remain absent for longer periods.

MY GOALS FOR CANYON
I would really like to continue his tracking training, and maybe have him attempt to earn his TD in the fall.

I would also like to see if there is another performance venue that might interest him, as I feel like he could go further than he has so far.

CESSNA
Our little old lady turned 14 on October 30th. She continues to enjoy short walks with Dad and appears to be interested in what everyone in the house is up to. Her hearing is somewhat gone, but we really can’t tell how much or how little she can hear, as she also enjoys ignoring us, lol!!! Cessna’s vision also seems more limited, so we’ve started leaving lights on overnight, and have put a carpet on the stairs leading into the living room, so she can see/feel the stairs coming. In addition, her incontinence has gotten a bit worse, so she is almost on a full dose of her medication twice a day.

Unfortunately, she appears to have moderate to severe arthritis. She can walk okay, but does stumble on uneven terrain and sometimes finds it tough to jump onto or off of the couch. Added to this, she has a very large lump that has been slowly growing under/sort of behind her left front arm. The vet and us have left it alone, worried it will become a real issue if we disturb it, but I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll need to do something by the summer. It has taken two years or so, for it to get to this point, so maybe we can wait some more.

My poor old girl…

I really don’t have any goals for Cessna, other than to have her continue to live a good quality life. If I need to, I will begin pain medication, but for now, she seems okay with just her golden paste (turmeric) and other supplements.

Tomorrow, I will share my own accomplishments and personal goals for 2018.

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