Facebook: Attentive Students

I still can’t figure out the Instagram app, so I am trying out another option for sharing my pictures. I will set pictures that I want to share to public, so I think everyone should be able to view them.

Here, you will find pictures of Arizona and Rogue from obedience class.

In the first picture, they are waiting for class to begin. In the second, they are wondering why class has started without them. In that picture, I am in the obedience ring with Susie. She is teaching me the different exercises I will need to perform with Arizona.

Please let me know if this is not a good picture sharing option and I will try something else.

I Just Wanted to Enter

Let me begin by saying, I didn’t want to cause any problems for the Canadian Kennel Club, I just wanted the same opportunity as others to enter a tracking test with Rogue.

Over the past couple of months Rogue and I have ramped up our tracking practice. I have been trying to get us ready for the upcoming tests that happen in October and November.

I knew we wouldn’t be quite ready for October, so I had my eye on entering the tracking test being held in Guelph on November 8th. Not only do we live in Guelph, so the trip to the test wouldn’t be too long, but it also gives us a better chance of comfortable weather and more practice time.

I talked to my instructor, who also happens to be our area’s tracking rep, about my plans to enter the test. She said she would talk to other judges and see how the rules work for my situation. After talking to other judges, she suggested I talk to the CKC because there is a rule in the book that says people cannot have help on the track, so taken literally, this would mean I could not have a guide.

I called the CKC and the woman I talked to seemed quite willing to help me. She read through the rule book and also didn’t know what should happen. She suggested I talk to my area’s tracking rep and also gave me the email address for the Tracking Council.

I emailed the council and cc’d my instructor, so she was aware of what I had done.

It took a few days, but I finally got a response from the CKC rep for my area and he seemed to understand that it was against the law in Canada to discriminate based on a persons disability. He cc’d the head of CKC events in the hopes that she would be able to clear up the confusion.

The woman emailed back and said that “the issue” was on the agenda for the council conference call that was happening in early October, but then went on to say that she would let us all know if any decisions were made and changes implemented at their general meeting in December.

I wrote her back and said that I wanted to enter a test in November and asked if it would be possible for a temporary amendment to be put into the rules, so that I can be accommodated. She wrote back to say that unfortunately it was not possible because the rule book says no one can have assistance on the track, so it was up to the council to make the changes at their general meeting.

This response was not acceptable. The council cannot decide wether to accommodate a person with a disability, they need to accommodate them because it is the law in Canada.

So, I went to Twitter and Facebook, asking my friends and family to share our story.

Remember, I didn’t want to cause an issue, I just wanted to be given the same opportunity as a sighted person.

About two and a half to three hours later I got an email from the CKC.

After some digging, they located minutes from a 2009 meeting that put forth a policy allowing individual judges to make modifications when needed, such as for persons with disabilities. The policy was supposed to be written into the rule books of the various CKC events, but some rule books are still missing this policy.

The woman apologized and said that she would make sure the judge of my event is aware of the policy.

So, I went back on Twitter and Facebook, thanked my friends and family for their help and announced that I would be entering a tracking test on November 8th with Rogue.

Maybe some people would push this further, wanting to make sure the CKC does not do this to someone else, but I just want the opportunity to participate in dog sports like everyone else. I don’t want to cause any drama or problems.

Thank you friends and family for helping me achieve my goal, and thank you CKC for finding a solution to our dilemma.

8 days until we can submit our entry (fingers crossed we get in), and 47 days until Rogue and I try for Rogue’s Tracking Dog (TD) title.

Rogue Is Freedom

This is my submission for the 15th Assistance Dog Blog Carnival.

According to the free online dictionary, freedom is:
“1. the state of being free, or
2. exemption from external control.”

Therefore, Rogue is FREEDOM.

Rogue joined our family on June 10th, 2011 but even before her arrival she had begun to set me free.

Five months before picking up Rogue I lost most of my usable vision, and in the process, lost myself. I had always been a confident person. Even after being with Huib for over a decade, I still found it difficult to ask for help…I never wanted him to see me as dependent. When my vision changed and I no longer saw the same way, my world fell apart. I was scared. I didn’t know how I would ever learn to get around on my own again. It was easier to just go places with Huib or other people.

When we learned that Cessna was developing cataracts I knew I was going to need to seriously think about a successor. I had tossed around the idea of owner-training, but it wasn’t until this diagnosis that I really thought about it. I had less vision now than when I got Cessna, so I thought it would be better to return to Dog Guides for a successor, but Huib said he was confident in my abilities, so he convinced me to take the plunge.

This decision marked the beginning of rogue’s journey with me towards freedom.

Huib and I had raised two puppies for Autism dog Services, so knew we needed to expose our new puppy to as many people and experiences as possible from the start. We knew some of the more basic commands we needed to teach, and had an idea of the guiding skills our trainee would need to learn. We had no clue how we were going to accomplish this though. We knew lots of people who were blind and had a guide dog, but we didn’t know anyone who had raised and trained their dog themselves. So I got on the computer and started to look for service dog blogs and service dog handlers who had owner-trained. I found several people in the United States and began asking them questions.

if it weren’t for Rogue, I’m not sure I would have ever had the desire or courage to reach out to so many strangers, many of whom have now become very good friends.

Through my research and discussions, I was able to develop a preliminary training plan. I say preliminary because over the past three years I have had to make changes in order to fit our needs.

Rogue and I have had our ups and our downs. owner-training is like an addiction, even when are hitting rock-bottom, you keep pressing on because you remember the high you got when things were at their best. Unlike an addiction though, owner-training often ends on a positive note.

Rogue turned three on the 13th and is working pretty much full-time with me. Cessna comes out when she wants, but I think she’ll retire fully really soon.

Rogue has not only enriched my life by being a friend, but she has also set me free. She forces me to go outside of my comfort zone and work hard at regaining my independence. In the process, I have found myself again. I am not completely comfortable with going everywhere on my own yet, but Rogue has shown me that it’s possible because she’s by my side.

In The News: Owner-Training Service Dogs

This article isn’t perfect, but the journalist has made a very good effort at increasing public awareness of owner-trained service dogs.

As everyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows, I am raising and training Rogue to be my guide dog. She is the first guide I have ever trained myself, but she is my fourth guide dog.

Some people have the option of hiring a professional trainer or to attend weekly classes, but some do not. I do not attend classes or have a professional trainer to help me with Rogue’s training, but with the help of friends I have made online, who have trained several of their own guides, I have been able to prepare Rogue to take over from Cessna.

I hope more journalists take the time to interview other owner-trainers, so that the public will understand that just because a service dog isn’t from a program doesn’t mean it is a ‘fake’.

Rogue Goes To Toronto

Huib had to go to Toronto for a meeting, so Rogue and I tagged along.

We dropped the Orlando off in Oakville and took the GO Train to Union Station. At Union we took the subway to king Street and walked a couple blocks. Since we were in a bit of a rush, I decided not to work Rogue, but had her heel beside me.

After Huib’s meeting we continued down King to Mountain Equipment Co-op, a hiking and outdoorsy store. I had rogue work the entire route. she never once brushed me up against anyone and only overstepped one up-curb. at one point Huib was busy trying to figure out where we were in relation to where we were going and forgot to warn me that there were two random steps down, rogue was perfect! She stopped with her paws an inch from the stair’s edge and waited for me to give her the okay to continue on. As soon as she stopped, Huib said “GOOD GIRL!!” in an excited voice, so I think the immediate praise helped her to understand that is what I’m looking for from her when approaching stairs. This weekend we will probably be getting together with my friend Karen and her Belgian puppy, spark, so hopefully Rogue will show me some further progress with her understanding of stairs.

At MEC, we walked around the entire store and then bought a dark purple with black rock climbing chalk bag that I will use as a treat bag. I have been looking for a new treat bag since my lime green Columbia one is starting to show some wear, but I haven’t been able to locate one I like. the rock climbing chalk bag is perfect though. It is deep, the draw-string closes at the very top and it is made of a very durable material, so I am hoping it will last a long time.

After we finished shopping at MEC, we walked back to the King Street subway station and went to St. Patrck’s station. I needed to go to Sick Children’s Hospital and ask them to send my surgical notes to my new neurosurgeon. I had rogue work the entire route from the subway station to the hospital and again she didn’t brush me up against anyone and other than wanting to avoid all grates, she was perfect.

I am going to need to do some work with grates because rogue’s reaction to them is a little too extreme.

After the hospital we went back to the subway and went to Bloor station. We were going to meet up with a friend I made over Twitter.

When shane and Yager arrived at tim Hortons, rogue decided to bark a few times. I’m not sure why she does this, but she seems to do it a lot. She wasn’t trying to get to Yager, she was sitting beside me and barking – what a weirdo!!

Shane sits with his guide dog Yager, an English type black Labrador Retriever, at Tim Hortons.

After a couple hours of chatting with Shane it was time to head back to Union to catch the GO train back to Oakville. I had Rogue work to the Bloor subway station and she overstepped a down curb and up-curb, but otherwise she worked well around Yager. While waiting for the subway train to arrive, I practiced staying away from the yellow line with her. I haven’t really needed to show her what I want, she just seems to know that she needs to stay away from the yellow line unless the train is in the station. I ask my dogs to turn right into me when we approach the yellow line and walk with the line to their left, so I stay away from the gap.

Our trip back to Oakville and then Guelph was uneventful. When we got home rogue rolled around and then went outside with Cessna and Canyon.

It is neat to see how excited Cessna gets when I come home. She doesn’t seem to want to join me these days, but when I get home, she is just as excited as Canyon.

In The News: Origin of Popular Canine Cancer Found

In just over a month, it will be a year since we lost our golden princess to an aggressive case of Leukaemia.

Even though this isn’t the same type of cancer Aspen had, I still thought of her when I read the following:

Recently, scientists discovered the point of origin for a common canine cancer. According to researchers, this highly contagious cancer in dogs has been traced to an ancient Malamute type dog.

A Canine Transmissible Venereal tumour is passed from one dog to another through sex, licking or even touching one another.

CTV is common in street dogs throughout the developing world, but has not yet entered countries such as Canada or the United States.

Geneticist, Elizabeth Murchison, and her team have learned that the cancer is a living fossil and the tumours contain the DNA of a single ancient dog who lived 11,000 years ago.

Pretty darn neat, eh?

If you would like to learn more about CTV, please check out these two articles on Pet MD and Live Science.

In The News: Follow The Leader

Apparently it’s possible to identify the social ranking and personality traits of dogs.

In a recent study done by Dr. Mate Nagy of the Department of zoology at Oxford University, 6 dogs and their owners went on fourteen group walks that lasted between 30 and 40 minutes. The dogs wore harnesses that had GPS to monitor their movements.

The study found that it is not possible to determine the leader after a single walk, but after a number of walks the leader becomes clear.

Researchers feel that the information from this study may be able to help search and rescue groups decide upon which dogs will work best together, among other uses.

In the News: Canine Distemper In India

Last year the blog sort of moved away from being primarily dog related and I’m not sure if it’s related, but our readership has also seemed to suffer, so this year I’m going to make a conscious effort to try and limit the number of non-dog related posts that appear here.

I’m going to try something out though, let me know what you think.

I’m going to start sharing links to stories I find in the news that are somehow dog related.

Canine Distemper is killing India’s endangered tigers.

According to an article in the India Times, the virus has been found in the blood of several dead tigers at the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Patna Zoo and in many areas of west Bengal and Darjeeling.

The Canine Distemper Virus affects the respiratory and nervous systems while also causing havoc in other parts of the body. Most of the time death is not caused by the virus, but results from secondary infections. The virus breaks down the immune system of an affected animal, so they’re unable to fight off the attack.

Scientists and researchers feel that the virus is being spread through direct contact, as well as through the consumption of infected dogs. they believe that the spread of the virus could be stopped by the vaccination of local dogs, so are looking into plans for a large-scale vaccination program.

For even more information on the situation check out this link.

If It Weren’t For The Internet

This entry is for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival being hosted by Frida Writes.

Sometimes we need a friend. Someone to bounce ideas off. Someone to talk to when we’re unsure. someone to share our accomplishments with. someone to tell us we’re doing okay.

For me, this support has come from the internet.

If it weren’t for Twitter, blogging and Facebook, I’m not sure Cessna and I would have succeeded, or I would have gotten as far as I have in preparing Rogue for her future job of guide dog.

It is through Twitter and bloging, that I met others who have gone through similar experiences with their guide dogs, and others who have raised and trained their own service dogs. It is through Facebook and instant messaging, that I have been able to keep in close contact with old and new friends to talk about the ups and downs of work with Cessna, and training with Rogue.

When I received Cessna, almost eight years ago, i had no clue what I had gotten myself into. Cessna was not my first guide dog, or even my first guide from her school, she was my third, but she was the youngest and the most difficult. Cessna was an 18 month old, squirrel chaser, who had emotional scars from training and who knew the guide commands, but I’m convince, had no clue what to do with them. we struggled for over a year and a half, trying to understand one another, and getting nowhere fast. But, I had friends who listened to my worries, who listened to my thoughts, and who provided words of encouragement at the right moments in time. some friends were just a city away, but others were a couple provinces away, so Facebook, email and instant messaging were a big reason why Cessna and I succeeded.

A huge turning point for Cessna and I came when I decided to google service dog programs in my area. I had just finished my social work degree, and wanted to see if there was a small service dog program that would appreciate my social work skills on a volunteer basis. this is how I learned about K-9 Helpers, and began learning about clicker training. Cessna and I had been together for about two years, but it wasn’t until I started taking classes with Dogs In The Park, that we truly began to understand one another and Cessna’s emotional scars from training began to really heal. the primary trainer at Dogs In The Park was in charge of training the psychiatric service dogs for K-9 Helpers, so when I began volunteering, she offered to work with us.

the internet played such a vital role in helping Cessna and I become the dream team, and it has not failed me with rogue either. when I began thinking about raising and training Cessna’s successor, I was met with many questions and concerns from family members. through blogging about my issues, and tweeting about my thoughts, I met people who had and who were going through similar experiences. I met people with all sorts of disabilities that had overcome the odds and were successfully working with canine partners, they had raised and trained themselves. Over the past two years, rogue and I have encountered many obstacles, but our internet friends and blogging family have helped us defy expectations.

through the internet, I have met amazing people and made forever friends.

They listen to my thoughts. They listen to my worries. they share in my excitement. They feel for my losses. and they provide words of encouragement and wisdom at just the right moment.

If it weren’t for the internet. If it weren’t for our virtual friends and family. I’m pretty certain, Cessna and I wouldn’t have become a dream team, and Rogue would not be on the path to becoming my future partner in crime.

The Purina Diet

I received this from a friend via e-mail and find it funny every time I see it, so thought I’d share, in case others have not.

Yesterday I was at my local Pet Smart buying a large bag of Purina dog Chow for my loyal pet, Jake, the Wonder Dog and was in the check-out line when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog.

What did she think I had an elephant?

So because I’m retired and have little to do, on impulse I told her That no, I didn’t have a dog, I was starting the Purina Diet again. I
added that I probably shouldn’t, because I ended up in the hospital last time, but that I’d lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and
IVs in both arms.

I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is, to load your pants pockets with Purina Nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is
nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was
now enthralled with my story.)

Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care, because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no, I stopped to pee on a fire hydrant and a car hit me.

I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard.

PET SMART won’t let me shop there anymore.

Better watch what you ask retired people. They have all the time in the World to think of crazy Things to say.