Tracking in the Rain

This rainy morning, we tracked with Laura and a new person named Sarah, who has a four month old, male German Shepherd.

Loch, the GSD puppy, just started tracking, so Laura laid three different short tracks for him to practice with. He is really cute and gets distracted pretty easily. I thought his distraction issues kind of reminded me of our little golden girl, lol!!

After Loch finished his first track, Huib got Canyon ready. Laura laid a relatively basic track for him, but also added in some longer grass. Canyon totally over-shot his first corner, but did an okay job otherwise. It might be that his hormones are beginning to stir, with Arizona approaching day 10 on Monday of her heat cycle, but Canyon was kind of all over the place. Maybe next time he’ll be less frantic.

*** From about day 10 to day 16 of Arizona’s heat cycle, Canyon tends to become really whiny and excessively clingy. Thankfully, our friends are taking him for the week. ***

Next was Arizona. Laura was surprised at how little her heat cycle affects her behaviour. Arizona was far from perfect, but she definitely wasn’t any more distracted than usual. She missed a couple corners, but eventually found them. A couple of times, she stopped to scratch or relieve herself – I think this is when she does her thinking, lol!! Overall, I think Ari did a pretty good job.

Oh, Arizona found a pretty cool object in the middle of the soccer field near her track – a big black and white training bumper!! It is similar to the ones we have, but a lot bigger, so it’ll be great for field.

Finally, it was Rogue’s turn. Laura laid a mainly hard surface track with lots of aborted transitions. She over shot one corner, but worked her way back to it. She found and indicated all of the articles, even the one that was in the middle of a deep puddle. Rogue thought about casually indicating the one in the puddle, but I asked her to show it to me again, so she did a better indication.

I think the online retrieve class we took through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy with Deb Jones and Judy Keller really helped Rogue with her article indications. More often than not, she is actually picking up the article to at least toss at us. I think I will do some more work with the class lectures and see if maybe I can even get her to carry the articles over to me.

I honestly can’t think of any real issues we had today. She worked surprisingly well in the rain – GOOD GIRL!!!

I think it’s time to do some tracking during the week on our own, instead of just working on the weekends. We usually start more regular tracking in September, but maybe the goldens will progress faster with more regular work.

Sorry for the boring blog posts. We really don’t do a lot each week. It’s a pretty routine life here.

Ankle Injury Update

Four week post-injury update.

My ankle is improving. I no longer experience any discomfort, unless I have done too much. I stopped icing it around Wednesday. I am still doing my daily range of motion exercises and I am walking indoors with Huib. I walk a bit outdoors, but I try to limit this right now.

On Thursday, while we got our car repairs done, I worked a bit with Rogue indoors. I had her walking slowly, so that I was safe, but it felt good to let her work.

I returned to tracking and field classes. I put my tensor bandage on and wear my hiking boots for extra support. For the most part, I’m doing well, but I do experience some discomfort when working on grass or in the fields, so I try to limit that. When I do notice some lingering pain, I make sure to take the following day off from all activities.

For exercise, I swim at least twice a week.

Our local pool has nightly lane swims, so Huib and I go to the 9:00pm time slot. As of last Thursday, we are up to 475 metres. I am hoping to reach 500 this week.

I am still not an effective swimmer, but I hope that will improve with time. I think the biggest thing holding me back is my dislike of getting water up my nose, so I need to work on breathing at the correct times.

As long as all continues the way it is going, I should be able to start short (about 5 minutes) walks on the treadmill later this week or next. I hope to start at least short fast walks the following week.

It has been a slow healing process, but I don’t want to be dealing with long-term arthritis issues, so I’m trying to be patient and listen to my body.

Ottawa

This weekend Huib and I headed to Ottawa with Rogue, Canyon and Arizona. Cessna doesn’t like long car trips, so she stayed home with Dad. I think she enjoys her park trips and Tim Hortons’ drive-thru adventures.

Our friend Jess is moving to Victoria, so we wanted to go spend time with her before she goes. Her parents are helping her pack up her apartment, so we stayed with our friend Jason. He has a nice apartment in a really cool area.

The traffic was busy at times, so we didn’t arrive in the city until about 6:00pm. Once the dogs were settled and our bags were out of the car, Jason made us dinner. The rest of the evening was spent chatting, which was quite relaxing.

On Saturday, Jess had a going-away party. I enjoyed meeting her co-workers, friends and the triathlon guides that I had not yet met. The food was also pretty good. 😉 With our three dogs, there were eight dogs in attendance. Jess had her three and then her two friends had their dogs as well. Other than some minor growling when Arizona got too close to a little dog that wasn’t Jess’, the dogs all got along well.

After most of the party attendees left, we went into the living room to enjoy some music. Jason and Peter, Jess’ friend, both played the guitar, while Jess and some others sang along. I think the best part of the whole night was when Jess’ Dad suggested we make up a song – it was hilarious!! I am not very good about making things up on the spot, so my verse wasn’t great, but we all laughed anyway.

On Sunday, Jason went to help Jess’ parents move her stuff out, while she worked. We went to track with our friend, Michelle.

Huib and Michelle laid the tracks, while I hung out with the dogs. Huib laid tracks for Cameron and Canyon, while Michelle laid one for Rogue and Arizona.

Canyon is really coming along with his tracking. Huib thinks that by the end of August, I should be able to take over as his handler. He laid three separate tracks for him, so that they could work on different things within each. Before Canyon got a chance to run them, two different dogs went all over them, so I’m sure most of the treats were missing. Despite the added cross-tracks, he did a really good job!! Huib put a squeaky tennis ball in the glove on the final track, so Canyon could have an exciting reward when he finished.

Similar to last week, Arizona did a nice job. She laid in the shade at a couple of spots, but otherwise I don’t think she ran into any major issues. Ari doesn’t really like the heat, so I think we need to start bringing water on the tracks, instead of just giving it to them at the car.

Rogue hasn’t done a long track in a while, so Michelle laid an awesome one for her. There were three articles and a number of different turns. I didn’t have to help her at all, but I did have to encourage her to keep going near the end. I really should have brought water for her, but I didn’t think she’d need it – Bad Handler!! The first leg or two were in really soggy grass, so Rogue had to work with wet paws, something she hates. We also tracked beside a ditch and then between two culverts. I was VERY proud of my little girl!!

Once everyone finished their track, Michelle did a little drill with Rogue and I. She showed me how to teach Rogue to move in more of a straight line, especially after finding an article. The track always goes straight after an article, so it’s good to reinforce this point with the dogs. I am going to work on this because I find Rogue sometimes porters (goes back and forth over the track) a bit more than I’d like.

After tracking, we said goodbye to Jason and Jess’ parents before heading home. The traffic was really busy in spots, so I’m glad we didn’t end up staying for dinner.

When we got back, Cessna was REALLY excited to see us. I was a bit worried about her because she was limping. Huib thinks it might just be that Dad took her for too many walks while we were away. Her back left leg seems to be the problem. Huib was able to move her leg without her saying anything, so we’ll see how it is on Tuesday. Cessna takes medication for incontinence that conflicts with many anti-inflammatories, so I will need to talk to Bianca if the limp persists. Even if she feels better tomorrow, I will make her relax. She will be sad not to have a walk, but I want her physically healthy before she goes out again.

We had a really good weekend, but I am sure glad to be home.

This Week’s Update

This week has been a bit busier. I am still not doing a lot of walking, and definitely no running, but we have managed to stay pretty busy.

On Sunday, we met up with Laura and Sandy for tracking at the University of Guelph. We haven’t done any tracking since Rogue’s test on the 12th, so the dogs were eager to get back to it.

We started out with Canyon. Huib has been handling him for the past couple of months because he is able to help him along the way. I think the golden boy is finally beginning to understand the point of the exercise. Huib said he did quite well for his level of difficulty – Good boy!!

Arizona was up next. For some reason she is struggling a bit with her focus. Huib has been her handler from day one. He said she seemed to know when she was out of scent, but she stopped a few times and just looked around. It’s like she needs time to think, lol!!

After Stewart (Sandy’s dog) went, it was Rogue’s turn. She was REVVED!!! I am still hurting a bit, so Laura just laid her tracks on hard surface. We had three different short ones. Our focus was on aborted transitions. I want to teach Rogue that her track will not always go from hard to soft or vice versa. I need her to realize that sometimes we will go towards the other surface (pavement to grass, grass to pavement, etc.) and turn before it.

Rogue did a really good job!! On the third track she insisted the track should go onto the grass, but she figured it out after a minute – Good Girl!! I think it really confused her that we never went onto the grass once, so when she got to the middle of the third track, she thought it must go there.

**********

On Tuesday, we had field class. Since Arizona and Shelby got their WCs on Thursday, we were in charge of bringing treats for the class. Huib asked his former co-worker to make us some field themed cookies – they were freaking awesome!! She made ducks, hunting rifles, duck calls, camouflage hats, orange vests with camouflage t-shirts underneath, gingerbread hunters, and some retrievers. She offers three different flavours, we asked for salted caramel – YUM!!!

This week Susie set up the water and land retrieves like we’ll see at a hunt test. In addition to the dogs needing to go further, they also had duck calls and one gunner was hidden.

Arizona did her first water retrieve really well. She barely hesitated before jumping into the pond. as she swam to the duck, Huib said she looked over at the decoys, but didn’t seem to care about them. When she reached the duck, I blew my whistle and she began to swim back. I repeated my whistle and continued to encourage her from time-to-time. Ari has been really good about not shore-running, so I am really trying to make sure she never starts.

Her second retrieve went a bit rough. It took a lot of convincing to get her into the pond, and then the gunner had to toss another duck because she lost sight of the first. Huib thinks her issue was mainly due to the fact she couldn’t see Laura (the second gunner), and also because there was a fallen branch at the edge of the pond. Once she finally got into the water and was tossed another duck, she swam right to it and brought it back to me.

Susie wants me to work on having her come to the front of me and hand the duck to me, instead of making me find her. Arizona is really good about doing this at home, usually coming and sitting in front of me and not releasing the item until I ask for it, but for some reason, she always seems to walk past me, so I have to search for her head. I am also going to ask her to have the gunners hide for a bit, so Ari will learn that this is something that could happen.

Both of Arizona’s land retrieves went perfectly. It might be because neither gunner was hidden, but you just never know with her.

**********

On Monday and Thursday evening, Huib and I went to the pool at the Westend Recreation Centre. Our local one doesn’t reopen until today, so we thought we’d try out that one. We did the 9:00pm to 10:00pm lane swim.

On Tuesday, we did five laps. The pool is 25 metres, so each lap was 50, meaning we did a total of 250 metres. We also did a minute of treading water.

My arms were SO tired by the end!!

On Thursday, we did seven and a half laps, which equals 375 metres!!!

I need to work on straightening out my body when I swim, so my back won’t hurt from the poor swimming posture. Huib says I look like I am doing the doggy paddle, lol!!

How embarrassing!!

I took swimming lessons when I was younger, so I remember some of the basics. I need to get comfortable having my face in the water, so my feet will rise and maybe then my arms won’t get as tired either.

Stay tuned…

Adventures in Running: OUCH!!!

On Monday, I got together with my new guide runner. C has never guided before, so I thought we should go for a walk around my neighbourhood. I wanted to show her what I needed to know and how best to warn me when obstacles were coming up.

While walking, we also got to know one another. C is really into running. She is training to run a marathon in October. Another really cool thing about her, is that she has a golden retriever. 😉

About halfway through our walk, we had a bit of an accident. C was doing a really good job of taking me around rough spots on the sidewalk and she seemed to be getting the idea of guiding. But, then there was a branch leaning over the sidewalk, so she moved me over to the left to get around it. We sadly moved over too far, and my left foot went sideways off the edge of the sidewalk – OUCH!!

At first, I thought I was going to have to call Huib to come pick us up. We stood for a couple of minutes, so I could assess the damage. I have a really high pain tolerance, so I really didn’t think it was too bad. So, we walked the rest of the way home.

I feel so bad for C. She was trying really hard to be careful. This was a pretty rough introduction to guiding. I hope she won’t be scared away, lol!!

When I got back, I showed Huib my right knee, which was scraped up, then I took my left shoe off and asked him how bad it looked…

His immediate response was: “Go sit on the love seat and put your foot up. I have no idea how you even walked home.”

My ankle was completely swollen. It looked like someone had cut a tennis ball in half and put it over my ankle – OOPS!!

Thankfully, C and I had just been walking.

Over the past five days, I have been icing several times a day and elevating my ankle. With all of the bruising, Huib was concerned I might have actually fractured it, but I can walk without much of a limp and the pain level isn’t too bad, so he thinks it’s just badly sprained.

I am going to keep icing and elevating it over the next week, so hopefully I can get back to tracking and field in a week, and running in a few more.

I will keep you all posted on my recovery.

Not This Time

Sunday was Rogue’s UTD test in London. Despite some really good work, she did not earn her title.

When we arrived at the draw, I picked track #2. Maybe I’m getting used to these tests, or maybe it helped that I knew several of the people, but I did not really feel nervous.

I am trying to stop worrying about the ribbons and titles, but to just enjoy the journey and the opportunity to socialize with others who enjoy the same sports.

Sunday was warm, I think it was already in the mid—twenties by the time the first track was run. Once the first dog had finished, I started getting Rogue ready. I put her tracking harness on, gave her some water and then clipped her tracking line to the front ring of her harness.

We walked up to the start flag which marked the scent pad. About three feet from the scent pad, I asked Rogue to sit and then clipped her line to the back ring of her harness, before saying: “Check it out.”

Rogue sniffed the scent pad really well, checked to the left, then right, and in front, before taking me to the right side from the scent pad. She was revved, she knew what she needed to do – Good Girl!!

A short distance from the first turn, we ran into problems. She started checking all over, trying to figure out where the track went next. She walked all around the berm to the left and checked to the right and a bit straight ahead. I think we stood waiting for her to decide for about three minutes, before she seemed to decide on turning left. Huib and I both weren’t completely convinced, but felt we should follow along and see what happens. About ten metres after turning, the judge blew the whistle – CRAP!!!

I think Rogue would have fixed herself if we had been given a bit more room, but who knows. She did a good job anyway.

After a quick chat with the judge, we were allowed to finish the track with Rogue. She was a bit less confident on the grass portions than on the pavement, but she found both of her articles and showed tons of enthusiasm when she located them – Good Girl!!

I think the quick switch in temperatures played a huge role in the test results for all four of the dogs who were at the test. Sadly, none of them passed.

Rogue loves the sun, even lays out in the backyard sunbathing, but she was panting a lot more than usual on her track. I think the heat really bothered her 🙁

Once everyone had run their track, we went back to the draw location and had lunch. The judge did a quick rundown of how each dog did, then we headed home.

I was very proud of Rogue. She did a great job!! Better luck next time 🙂

Busy Week

Since doing my 10k race, I have had a week off. It hasn’t been a quiet week though.

On Wednesday, we took the GO Train from Guelph into Toronto. We then took the subway to Dundas and walked over to Ryerson University. We were there for the Canadian Disability Studies Association Conference.

Ryerson is really spread out, so it took a bit for us to find our destination. Once we registered, we walked over to another building for the keynote presentation. I’m not sure if it’s always this way, but there were probably about 70 conference attendees. Maybe I’m just used to attending international conferences, but I found this one quite small.

There was one session after the keynote before we were given a break for lunch. They had coffee, water and juice, along with some muffins after the keynote, but no lunch was provided, so we walked over to Starbucks for a latte.

Rogue was perfectly behaved and worked quite well in the city. She made a few minor mistakes, like walking me too close to some people on the sidewalk, but overall, she did a good job. There were only three other dogs at the conference, so no one really had to worry about the dogs being distracted by one another.

Maybe it’s just the conference focus, but during the first day, I only found one session of interest.

After the final session of the day, we decided to walk back to Union Station from Ryerson, instead of taking the subway. I thought it would give Rogue some exercise and give us a chance to stretch our legs.

On Thursday, we took the train into the city and the subway over to Dundas.

My presentation slot was during a session between 9:30am and 11:00am. All of the talks during the session were about dogs. I think the most interesting presentation was done by a professor from the US. He talked about the increasing media focus on service dogs. He has a service dog from Paws for a Cause. His dog is a young male golden retriever named Ollie. Rogue and Ollie totally ignored one another – Good Dogs!!

I talked to him before our session began. He told me he read my thesis and found it quite interesting. I was honoured. I am hoping to contact him in the future and see if maybe he needs some research assistance.

My presentation was okay, Huib gave me an 80% mark. It could have gone a lot worse!! I relied on my notes a bit too much. I was dealing with a lot of migraines over the week, and Thursday was no exception, so I had to use my notes to rein in my medication fogged brain. I had hoped the fogginess would clear by the time I presented, but it wasn’t quite gone. 🙁

After our session, I selected one on Disability Justice, thinking it would have a criminology focus – I was totally wrong!! It was more of a philosophical debate, which was of no interest. I have never been good at philosophy.

Lunch consisted of some yummy wraps and delicious brownies. There was an annual general meeting for the Association, so that’s why lunch was provided. They had us vote on some changes and elect some new executive positions.

They also announced that next year’s conference will be in Regina, Saskatchewan. I won’t be attending the conference, but the following year is in Vancouver, so maybe I’ll go to that one. 🙂

The sessions in the afternoon were a bit more interesting. I think the best presentation was by a visually impaired woman who talked about her difficulties accessing material from the library. She wrote about feeling as though she didn’t belong in either the country of the blind or the country of the sighted. I guess her vision is such that she has enough to do some things, but then not enough to do others.

I could really relate to a lot of what she talked about, especially when I thought about my experiences earlier in my post-secondary education career, when I had more sight than I do now.

When the conference was over, we walked back to Union and caught a bit earlier train than the day before. We got home around 8:00pm and were all pretty exhausted.

Overall, I think the conference was boring and kind of a waste of time, but I also met a couple of people, so maybe those connections will turn into something – you just never know…

*****

On Friday, Huib and Rogue made their debut in the obedience ring. They earned one leg towards their pre-novice title.

Huib texted me throughout the morning. I stayed home with the others, as we had been away for most of the week and I worried about Canyon, who can have seizures when he’s stressed or the weather is poor. Thankfully, he was fine.

Huib entered Rogue in two obedience runs. The first went okay, but they didn’t pass because Rogue was a little too excited. She pulled a bit on her figure eight and let out a little bark. Then, during the recall portion, she torpedoed Huib, lol!!

Their second run went a lot better and they passed!!

After the obedience runs were over, Huib stayed a bit to watch rally. He is thinking about trying rally with Rogue, but he’ll wait until they finish their pre-novice title.

*****

Thankfully, the weekend was a lot quieter. We did some tracking, but otherwise, we just relaxed.

More Water

This week’s field class involved some more water work.

We started the evening in one of Susie’s shallower ponds. Arizona wasn’t too sure about getting in, but with some extra encouragement, she did it!! She swam right to the duck, came straight back and held it firmly until I said “give.”

The second attempt went better, only a slight hesitation – GOOD GIRL!!!

When Ari was done, we took her back to the car because the mosquitoes were pretty bad. We forgot to put repellent on her and us. Huib found the dogs’ herbal mosquito and tick repellent in the field gear bag, but ours was missing, so we decided to try out theirs. It works surprisingly well, and doesn’t smell bad either. I think we’ll keep using it for now.

*****

With Canyon’s seizures, we have to be really careful about the stuff we put on him, as well as what we use around him, so we try to use herbal stuff when possible. There are tick preventatives for dogs, but all of them have been found to have pretty nasty side effects for dogs with seizures, so we have chosen to avoid using them with everyone. Instead, they get Revolution monthly (prevents heartworm, fleas, some ticks and some other parasites), and we have them tested each spring for heartworm and tick-borne diseases, such as lyme.

*****

After all of the dogs – 5 labs and 2 goldens (including Ari) – had their turn, we packed up the gear and moved over to a deeper pond.

Arizona had more trouble with this one. It took a lot of encouragement to get her to jump in, but again, once she was in, she was perfect!!

Her second attempt was a little worse. It might have just been because she had to go to the washroom, but when I sent her, she went to the edge of the pond, walked around a bit, then walked away and relieved herself closer to the trees. When she finished, I called her back, got her set up, and sent her for the duck. She barely hesitated before jumping in.

I am hoping that as we introduce different ponds, she’ll continue to feel more comfortable.

But, like everything else we do, we aren’t in a rush, so she can take her time getting used to things.

Too Cold

Today’s field class was in the water.

Arizona wasn’t so sure she wanted to go in…

It took a lot of convincing, both from us and the gunners…

Once in, she went straight for the duck, then swam right back to me. She came out of the water, dropped the duck at my feet, and waited. I asked her to sit, but she refused, so after a few requests, she finally did. Then I asked her to shake, blowing in her face, before asking her to sit again, so I could put her leash on.

Then, we did it all again.

It took even more convincing the second time to get her to go into the pond. I wonder if she felt it was too cold.

Once in, she went to the duck, came right back and handed it to me – Good Girl!! I took the duck, asked her to sit, then shake, and sit again, so I could put her leash on.

Now that the warmer weather has arrived, Huib and I are going to try and get Ari swimming at least a few times a week.

Despite hesitating to go into the water, Arizona showed a lot of progress. Unlike previous years, she didn’t refuse to retrieve the duck or to bring it right back. So we’ll definitely call this a WIN!!

More Field

Sorry for the lack of entries, but life got a bit busy.

Field class continues to be going well for Arizona. Other than some minor issues during an indoor class, she has been rocking the retrieves.

We have had a lot of rain, so a few weeks ago, we had an indoor class. There were about six dogs present. Susie had us begin by walking our dogs around the room at the same time. Ari was really excited at first, but after a couple of laps, she calmed down and I had her walking really nicely. She had no problems passing the flat-coats or the lab, but every time we passed a toller, she wanted to play, lol!!

After a bit, we were each given a couple of bumpers to practice the retrieve and ‘hold’ with our dogs. Arizona was really distracted at first, but then became unsure. There were some dogs barking and some owners being a bit more firm with their dogs, so I think it made her nervous.

After talking to a couple of other friends who use mainly positive reinforcement with their dogs, I think her reaction was a side effect of our training choices. All of us have noticed similar behaviours in our dogs, they all seem a bit more sensitive to seeing or hearing other dogs disciplined. It’s not that we do not discipline our dogs, it’s that we do it in a less harsh manner.

Once we figured out she was nervous, we stoped trying to get her to take the bumper, and just sat on the floor with her, letting her observe everyone else. After about 15 minutes, I did some level 1 behaviours with her, to get her back “into the game,” and offered the bumper. She took it!!

Susie then had us all line up and send our dogs one at a time to retrieve a duck. Arizona was great!!

Arizona is fine at shows and other dog events, so we aren’t sure if it would be worthwhile signing her up for an actual indoor group class, but we are considering it.

The temperatures continue to be on the cooler side, so we haven’t been able to do any water work yet. Arizona is rocking the land retrieves though.

While we wait for things to warm up, I am working on lengthening her ‘hold,’ and making sure she gets an opportunity to retrieve a variety of ducks. This week, she retrieved two very smelly, squishy ducks. I so badly wanted to refuse to take them, but obviously I had to pretend she was giving me the best gift ever, lol!!

If she continues to retrieve like this, then I think we are going to have a really good field season.