Back On Campus

yesterday, I had my first class on campus, after 9 years away.

Nine years ago, I graduated from the University of guelph, with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Policy. Since graduating, I completed a social work degree at McMaster University and have taken three courses online through the University of guelph, but I haven’t taken any courses on campus.

I hope to apply for masters, starting next fall, so I’ve decided to continue taking a class each semester, in order to improve my Grade Point Average.

this semester, I am taking a 4th year advanced topics course that looks at the area of human rights.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been thinking about doing a masters thesis relating to human rights, so I thought this course might be a good starting point.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with the labs on becoming familiar with the University campus. Since losing a bit more of my sight almost two years ago, I’ve had to relearn how to work with and trust Cessna, while also training Rogue. Even though I lived in guelph for almost 10 years, and attended the University for 5 of those years, I’ve had to relearn the city and campus, while also trying to regain some confidence.

When Cessna and I arrived at the University, we got off the bus and headed toward the University Centre. We found the first crossing with no problem, but then became disoriented. We were supposed to go over-left a bit and then continue walking forward, but Cessna continued walking to the left and I didn’t realize until I started hearing sounds that told me we were approaching an intersection. I turned around and asked her to go forward and then stopped to listen for sounds that might help me find the correct route. I knew we were close to the spot we needed to be, but couldn’t quite figure it out, so listened for someone to walk by. I heard someone and asked for help, a couple of people walked by, but then a woman stopped and said she was also going to the University Centre. I had Cessna follow her, and was quite amused by the woman. She kept telling Cessna to come along and when we got to some steps, Cessna paused to tell me, and the woman started saying “Up, up, come on, up…”. I almost laughed. Thankfully the woman’s calls fell on deaf ears and Cessna kept me safe. When we got to the University Centre, the woman went her way and I had Cessna find the spot where we were supposed to meet our guide. I ended up having to call my guide, we had missed each other, but we found each other in the end and I made it to class a few minutes before the professor arrived.

Cessna slept through the class and we got back to the bus and home without any further complications.

I’m going to take Cessna to campus a couple of times this week to work on our route to the University Centre, so that hopefully on Friday we won’t end up lost.

The Rogue roller Coaster

The past month has been full of ups and downs for rogue and I.

We are really getting into the tough part of training and it’s been quite the roller coaster.

We’ve had really good training sessions, and then we’ve had okay training sessions. I guess a positive part of all this is that we haven’t had any really bad training sessions.

Rogue is getting really comfortable with her new working gear and she is slowly settling into her guiding responsibilities.

I’ve been really focusing on her curb approaches, directions and confidence.

I’ve been trying to find friends willing to work with us, to give Rogue an opportunity to work without Huib.

I find my dogs get really comfortable with Huib and forget to focus on their jobs. they get into the habit of expecting Huib to take care of me, instead of just working along side him. It’s not just a problem rogue has, but one both Cessna and Phoenix have been guilty of.

Since Rogue and I did a lot of work in malls when we lived in the north, she is extremely confident and her work is almost always spot on. We had two really amazing training sessions that I wish i could have videoed. Her pace was amazing, her obstacle work was perfect, and her precision had me speechless.

Then, when we went to London to see my neuro ophthalmologist, she had me again speechless. She was guiding me around people and through the hospital hallways with such confidence, you’d think she had been there before. she was turning left and right when I asked and she only blew her up curbs by a couple of steps. Huib was with us and was so proud of the work we had done.

Last week I took Rogue and Cessna to the University of Guelph to learn the route from the bus stop to my class. I decided to start by working with Cessna, and then do it with Rogue. I thought Rogue would be able to learn from watching Cessna work – I was completely wrong. When it was Rogue’s turn, her pace was slow, we struggled with our curb approaches but her obstacle work and overall work was okay. I was frustrated because I didn’t understand where my confident little worker had gone.

On Saturday I returned to the campus with a friend to do some more work with Rogue. We still struggled with our curb approaches, she keeps stopping a few feet away from the down curb and then when we inch our way closer, she ends up blowing the curb by a couple of steps. her up curbs were a little better, but she was still taking a couple steps too much. her pace was better though and looking back, I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that her confidence level was higher, since we had been to the campus before. We worked on the route from the bus stop to my class and Rogue did well at finding the stairs, finding the doors, finding the ramps and even finding the elevator, but I think the biggest thing I realized was that I didn’t trust her. I was okay when I knew there wasn’t any stairs I could fall down, but as soon as I knew, or even thought, there were stairs coming up, I felt myself tensing and noticed Rogue’s attention drifting.

overall, I’d have to say rogue worked well, but I need work.

After talking to some friends about the work Rogue and I have done over the past month, I came to the conclusion that we aren’t going to get to the point where she can take over from Cessna if I don’t start getting her out daily. If I’m going to trust rogue, like I trust Cessna, then I am going to have to put in the time.

I’m going to get my cane out and use it to help rogue learn exactly where I want her to stop at curbs and stairs, while also using it to give me confidence that we’re safe.

I think the curb issues stem from something i unintentionally taught her.

To be honest, it seems that most of the issues I have with my dogs are because of something I unintentionally teach, lol!

I’m really going to try and make a conscious effort to get Rogue out daily, even if it means we need to work a bit in the rain.

Two Weeks In guelph

I had meant to write an update on Wednesday, but time got away from me. We’ve now been in our new home for two and a half weeks.

The past week and a half have been busy. We’ve unpacked more boxes and moved some furniture around. We’ve taken the labs on training trips. We’ve gotten together with Kelly and her pack twice. And we’ve taken all three dogs for hikes and a swim.

Last Sunday, we drove to Aurora to plant some flowers at my Mom’s grave. Mother’s Day has always been a tough day for me since Mom’s passing, but this year seemed easier. dad came with us, and I think seeing how happy he was helping Huib plant the flowers at Mom’s grave, really helped. After we were done, we drove to Sutton to see if my Aunt Dawn was around. her house was unlocked, so Huib called her cell phone and found out she was visiting her friend nearby. We drove over there and had a great time visiting. Aunt Dawn’s friend has several foster children, as well as, two male golden retrievers, two love birds and a 9 month old male pot belly pig. she told us to bring the dogs in with us, so we brought them in slowly. Canyon was initially interested in the pig, but quickly lost interest and settled at my feet, but Ruben, one of the goldens (Jack was away with her daughter tree planting) was a little too interested in him. Ruben kept licking Canyon’s face and ears, so just before we left, Huib took him and Rogue back to the car, so he could have a rest. The labs had to stay on leash because they were really interested in the birds and wouldn’t stop trying to sniff Poomba it was a good experience for Rogue though, she had never met a pig, let alone one that lives in a house.

Rogue and I have started doing some sidewalk guiding. She’s still hating the guide handle, but once she has it on for a while, she stops moping. I’ve been getting Cessna dressed and then her dressed, then walking around the house with Cessna, talking to her and giving her treats for being such a good girl, in an effort to make rogue jealous. It actually seems to be working. Rogue is taking less and less time to break free of the “roots” holding her in place when she first gets her vest and guide handle on. We’ve done some forward walking on the sidewalk, and other than her pull being excessive and her wanting to stay close to the grass on her side, she’s doing well. she is keeping me well away from the sidewalk edge and is quite responsive to my cues. this week, I hope to start her curb work, but it all depends upon her mood and the weather.

On Wednesday, Kelly, her boyfriend Josh, and their two Australian Shepherds, Piper and Baron, came to visit. the four of us, along with rogue and the Aussies, went over to the park across the road to do some group obedience. Josh was having a bit of a rough day, so he worked on keeping Baron’s attention and keeping him under threshold, while Kelly and I worked on getting the girls (Rogue and Piper) to perform their various obedience cues. Rogue was a little distracted by the smells and scenery, but overall, I think she did pretty well. I had her wear her new teal Kong harness, since I felt it was a good opportunity to work on her “pet” manners.

I bought Rogue the Kong harness so that she can wear it on leisure walks. I don’t want her to pull on her collar, and the Easy Walk harness seems to have caused some unforeseen issues. the Kong harness has a ring on the back that the leash attaches to and padding on the chest area, so Rogue finds it a bit too comfortable to pull. I’m going to work on her Level 1 behaviours, and start teaching her loose leash walking with it. I wanted to get her another front attach harness, but the only one I can find is the Easy Walk and I think the way it fit and the way it worked, may have caused Rogue discomfort and long-lasting issues with it. We’ve worked hard on getting her to feel okay with putting pressure into the chest strap of her Har-Vest, so I don’t want to go back to the beginning there.

On Thursday, Huib and I took the three dogs over to the park across the road to play frisbee. Canyon really likes frisbee, so we thought he’d enjoy running for it on the soccer field. He ran for it a few times, and then got distracted by another dog and ran over to check it out, ignoring our calls. Huib ran after him and noticed that it wasn’t actually the dog he was running to, it was a swampy pond he had seen. Canyon saw Huib coming, but totally ignored him and laid down in the muddy water – bad boy! Rogue had followed him, but did not get into the water – both youngsters were put back on leash and had to watch Cessna play frisbee on her own. Cessna thought it was awesome to be playing frisbee while the others were stuck on leash. After Cessna had had enough, we put her back on leash and then started walking along the gravel path that leads around the swampy pond (the water from the rain gutters collects there). I think that once Cessna and I do the route a few more times with Huib, we’ll be able to walk it on our own.

On Friday, we met up with a friend for lunch at Eastside Mario’s. I met Evelyn during my time at the University of Guelph. I had been a volunteer and then Co-ordinator for their Safe Walk Program, and Evelyn was a dispatcher for the University of Guelph Police. I’m not sure how we got talking, but when I used to live in Guelph, evelyn and I would get together for lunch once a month, so now that I’m back, we’re going to try doing that again.

When we had arrived at Eastside’s Huib went to park and the orlando stalled on him twice. we have had this happen a couple of times before, but they were never this frequent, so Huib became concerned. When we were done lunch, I asked evelyn if she’d mind following us over to the GM dealership, and of course, she said no problem. When we got back into the car, Huib saw that the engine light had come on, so we knew something was up. At the dealership, the woman at the counter told us they had no appointments, but Huib asked if they could at least run a diagnostics to see if it was safe for him to continue driving (since it was Friday), she said it might just take a bit. We took the labs into the waiting room and I did some obedience with Rogue – I try to do this in all places, so she learns to follow my cues everywhere. About 30 minutes later, we heard our names over the intercom and were told that the orlando was ready. They had replaced a valve.

While we had been waiting, I received a text from kelly asking if we wanted to meet her and Ace (her 4 year old male black lab) for a hike and swim. We met them at an old quarry near our former condo building. the dogs ran ahead, while we chatted. At the end of the long path, there’s a river that used to have a bridge over it, but the city must have taken the bridge down, so we let the dogs play there. A woman and her young male italian Mastiff were there as well, so we were a bit more cautious with allowing Canyon to roam. the other dog was intact, and seemed to be paying a little too much attention to Canyon, so Huib called Canyon over for some treats and waited until the woman and her dog were gone, before releasing him again. After about half an hour of swimming, we started walking back towards the vehicles. Kelly and Ace had to get back home to let the Aussies out, but we stayed behind and let our three swim in the quarry. Canyon was hilarious. He kept running along the shore to find the shortest route to the toy, while Cessna swam out to retrieve it. Once she made her way back to the shore, Canyon would meet her and bring the toy back to us as though he had been the one to do all the work. Just before we left, a woman and her female golden retriever showed up. the golden was really interested in our toy, so Huib threw it a few times for her to retrieve – the other woman hadn’t brought any toys for her.

this weekend we haven’t done too much. the weather is warm and starting to get a hint of humidity, so I play short games of fetch with Canyon in the backyard, but try to stay cool indoors otherwise. My migraines seem to be better living here. Maybe it’s because I am able to stay cooler, dad doesn’t have access to a wood stove, or maybe the weather is just more stable right now – either way, it’s nice not having to take extra meds.

So Much Randomness

Grab a coffee or your favourite beverage because this one may be long…

Are you ready for some randomness?

here we go…

I just finished reading “11/22/63” by Stephen King. I’ve read some of his books before, but this one is so different from “Carrie” and “Pet Cemetery”.

*****

I finished my current online course. It was a very intense class. Not only was there a ton of reading, but the instructor was not very good at explaining herself in the assignment guidelines so I found the course frustrating. I did quite well in the class. I received one really poor mark, due to the vague assignment instructions, but I was able to make up for this in the other course components.

For the winter semester, I have signed up to take “environment and History”. I’ll be learning about: “the causes and impact of human-induced modification of the natural world in selected areas of the globe, the evolution of attitudes and ideas about the natural world over time and the growth of conservation/environmental issues and movements” (University of Guelph, 2012).

Sounds interesting eh?

*****

I’m sure I’ve written about it here before, Rogue has an issue with putting her head into things. It doesn’t matter what it is; a collar, the neck hole of her winter coat, the chest strap of her training vest, she hates it all!

I’ve been trying to work with her on this for over a year now. She still gets all weird about it…

So, Huib and I have decided to just deal with it and work on finding collars, working gear and winter coats that she doesn’t have to put her head into. It’s going to be a bit of a struggle at times, but so far we’ve found martingales that fully open with a plastic buckle, we’re making sure to completely undo her winter coat to put it on and take it off, and we’re turning an Outward Hound back pack into a guide harness.

On Wednesday, rogue wore the back pack for the first time. She didn’t try to duck, when I reached for her. She just patiently stood and waited while I placed the back pack onto her back and then did up each of the three plastic buckles.

For now, Rogue is going to wear the back pack without the guide handle attached. I want her to get used to the feel of the pack before I add another element.

It took a couple days of Google searches, but we’ve located a company in canada that supplies service dog patches and other equipment. We’ve ordered three different patches for Rogue’s pack – “Guide Dog”, “Service Dog, Please Ask To Pet” and “In Training”. I’m going to sew the guide dog patches onto the side pockets and place the “Service Dog, Please Ask To Pet” onto the back panel. The “in Training” patch will also be placed onto the side pocket, but we’re going to make it removable, since she won’t always be in training 🙂

While we wait for the patches to arrive, Huib is going to clip Rogue’s old training vest to his belt while we’re in public, so that strangers don’t think we’re bringing our pet dog into stores and restaurants.

*****

We’re pretty certain Rogue has at least a mildly soft trachea. If she puts any pressure at all on her neck, she begins coughing and gagging. After a bit of trial and error, we’ve found that using a martingale collar with her works well. In addition to working on keeping a loose leash, it seems as though the equalized pressure of the martingale prevents the coughing and gagging.

We’ve also stopped using kibble during her training because it was causing some coughing, and instead, use some homemade apple and cinnamon treats. Some dogs with soft tracheas cannot eat hard treats at all, but so far with Rogue it seems as though using slightly larger treats is going to work out.

*****

My little sister is engaged! She’s been talking about this for a couple of weeks now, but it finally happened.

Her fiance’s name is Mark. They dated a while back, but broke up because of personal differences. Brandi has always wondered if things could have been different, but she tried to move on. In June though, they reconnected and have never looked back.

I’m not totally sure how I feel about this right now. Mark is a really nice guy, but there are a few unknowns in my mind. I’m glad to know they’ve reunited after some time apart, so know what they are getting into and know what they missed, but I am not totally certain they are truly ready for the commitment of marriage.

As of right now, they are talking about a small ceremony in Niagara Falls in June, but my sister is always changing her mind, so I guess we’ll see what happens.

I think that’s everything for now. Sorry for the long-winded and random post, but I had a lot of news.

12 Years

On Sunday, Huib and I celebrated our 12th anniversary. Twelve years ago, Huib and I began dating.

I remember the day.

Huib had gone to Toronto to see The Barenaked Ladies in concert with his roommate and said he’d come over to watch a movie when they had returned. Around 10pm he arrived and we began watching the movie Far And Away. It stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. We were watching the movie on my little 13 inch television, in my residence room at the University of Guelph. As the movie was ending, Huib leaned over and kissed me. He quickly backed up and just looked at me, worried I might smack him. Well, the only response I could muster, was “Wow” lol!

Since that day, we’ve been inseparable. We hang out with friends together. We shop together. We go hiking and on long walks together. We don’t really do too much without one another really.

**********

On Sunday, we took the labs to a buffet that has about five different stations to pick food from. When we arrived, there was a live band playing, something new for Rogue. We settled at a table near the back of the restaurant so the dogs weren’t right up close, and Huib began bringing small portions of different items from the buffet for me to try. There was creamy caesar salad, a greek style pasta salad, pork snitzel, roast beef, chicken drumsticks, potatoes done in various ways, gravies of different varieties, a stewy thing, muscles, a cabbage casserole, and tons of desserts and other items we didn’t try. I loved the caesar salad, mashed potatoes with beef gravy, roast beef and white chocolate cheesecake. By the time we had finished eating, I was so stuffed it hurt to breathe! I have never eaten so much in my life and can honestly say it will never happen again.

Rogue wasn’t too sure of the music at first. She kept getting up and trying to get from under the table. Since she loves food, we started giving her treats, along with a bit of cheese from the buffet for extra motivation to stay down. I wouldn’t say she was totally comfortable with the music by the end, but she was at least tolerating it and I think with more practice, she’ll be able to fully tolerate it like Cessna does. I don’t often take my dogs to loud music venues, but sometimes I do and they need to learn to at least tolerate the experience.

**********

It’s hard to believe 12 years have already passed since the day you asked me out Huib, but they have been the happiest twelve years of my life and I cannot wait to see what the next twelve have in store for us.

Books 9, 10, 11 & 12 Of 2012

I have now finished four more books.

For my class, I was assigned to read “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser. “Fast Food Nation”, as I’m sure you can guess from the title, is a book about the fast food culture. I won’t say too much, but if you love fast food and/or just want to read a well-documented account of the industry, then I completely recommend you read this book.

Upon finishing, I felt both grossed out and intrigued by the rise of fast food and the success of the various key players.

The next three books I read go together: “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson. Let me start by saying, I loved these books! I understand that some people find them hard to read and others can’t even stomach the content, but I personally loved the books and wish Larsson had lived longer in order to write more books. His writing style is different, but for some reason, I find such styles attractive. I started the trilogy just over a week ago and whenever I had the chance, I got out Huib’s iPad and read for as long as possible.

Lisbeth Salander is an anti-social, introvert who likes nothing more than to spend hours skimming mathematical textbooks and learning as much as she possibly can about others in order to keep herself safe. As a young girl, she was locked up for two years in a psychiatric institution and then released under guardianship. No one understood this quiet young woman and assumed that she was mentally unstable. Throughout the trilogy you learn more about Lisbeth and her abilities and you watch people try to break through her personal walls of stone. In between all of the drama Lisbeth experiences, she helps a journalist, Michael Blomkvist, with an assignment to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, decades earlier. Then, in the second and third books, it is Blomkvist’s turn to help Salander.

If you’re looking for something different to read, I recommend all four of these books.

**************

Before I hit publish, I wanted to ask everyone to please take a moment and vote for Canyon in the Modern Dog Holiday Hounds Photo Contest. You just need to click here, and “like” his picture. Then, if you feel up to it, ask your friends and followers on your blog, Facebook and/or Twitter to do the same. Canyon thanks everyone for their help. The contest ends on December 17th, so I’ll be posting reminders here as I post new entries.

The Working Beauties

Cessna lies in front of limestone columns.  She is wearing her black leather CVC guide harness, a baby blue martingale collar with various coloured bugs and a black leather leash that is partially braided.

Rogue stands in front of limestone columns.  She is wearing her teal Active Dogs vest with her Silverfoot collar and leash that are different shades of blue.

Food For Thought

As mentioned earlier, I am taking an online course through the University of Guelph, called The economics Of Food Usage.

We are entering week six of the course, and I am finding there to be a lot of repetition in what people are writing in their discussion posts.

The most popular answers are:

* Food contamination;
* environmental Degradation;
* Social Inequalities; and
* Genetically Modified Organisms.

I’m not sure why, but it seems as though the above are the only possible responses to questions being posed in this class.

this week is my group’s opportunity to lead the online discussion, so I was doing some web searches to find some interesting resources I might offer on supply chain management – I know, so boring, but that is what we were assigned!

here’s an interesting link I came across that discusses the recent debates on GMOs and Monsanto:

I Learned I am the Problem

An interesting viewpoint, isn’t it?

Book #8 Of 2012

On the weekend, I finished reading “Persuader” by Lee Child.

Let me start out by saying, it was awesome! Even though I have tons of reading to do for school this semester, I couldn’t put the book down, so finished it as quickly as possible.

Jack Reacher is a retired military cop. he is approached by two federal agents, Duffy and eliot. they had been told that he was looking into the license plate number of a person they suspected of illegal activities. They want to know why he is interested in this person and what he knows about him. Reacher joins Duffy and eliot, in their investigation and in the process, hopes to finally avenge the death of a former military underling.

I’m sorry for the vague description, but I really don’t want to give too much away. It was an action-packed book from start to finish. I can’t wait to read another book from this series.

Since I have a lot of reading for school, I don’t know if I will get much more leisure reading done until early November.

General News

Again, sorry for the lack of blogging everyone. Hopefully this phase will pass soon.

Tomorrow, I will be starting another online course through the University of Guelph.

This will be the third course I have taken with them since moving to Northeastern Ontario.

This semester I have chosen to take Economics of Food Usage, through the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

I’ve never taken a course through this department, but from the course description and list of assignments, I think it should be a good one.

Next…

In just over a week, Rogue will be 17 months old.

Over the past couple of months, we have been trying to proof Rogue’s obedience outside the house, but have run into some difficulties. After some discussion, we’ve decided to try working on basic obedience in the house wearing a leash and her vest. We are beginning to wonder if maybe Rogue is having trouble associating the various obedience commands she knows so well at home with also being able to be done while wearing a leash and her vest. It sounds silly, but from what I’ve learned, dogs are really horrible at generalizing.

Another area which we have been having some troubles, is with Rogue putting on her collar, Easy Walk Harness and vest. Rogue seems to have a big issue with things going over her head, so we have decided to start making everyone wear their collars all the time. I used to have collars on my dogs at all times, but started leaving them off when Canyon was little and would use the collars to drag the other dogs around the house. Then, Rogue almost snapped her neck from falling off the bed when she was around six months of age. It didn’t happen, obviously, but if Huib had not been there when her collar looped itself around our bed post and she lost her balance, I really don’t know what would have become of our little Hurricane.

Now that she is older, and to try and combat the problems with having things go over her head, we have started leaving the collars on everyone. It has been about a month now, and I think it may be helping, but we’ll wait a bit longer to see if she’s really gotten over the problem.

Lately, we have been noticing our little Hurricane maturing. People are starting to see her less as a cute little puppy, and more as a service dog who should not be bothered. We are still encouraging people to approach her and pet, but we have also started truly teaching rogue to stop and wait at curbs, steps and any other sort of surface change I may need to be warned of. Huib and I seem to be on different pages with consistency in this portion of her training, but I am hoping that maybe I can start taking a little more of a role in her public access training – which will in turn, increase consistency.

In addition to learning to stop at surface changes, Rogue is starting to hear some of the directional commands she will need to know for guiding and in time, I hope to start teaching her their meanings in harness.

It’s honestly hard to believe that Cessna was almost fully trained at this age, and would begin working with me in just a month’s time.

I hope to sit down, and start really putting together a solid training plan for Rogue, so that Cessna can retire from service in the spring/summer. I’m just so nervous and worried about doing things wrong, that I guess I’ve really delayed things I probably didn’t have to.

Hmmm, what else have we been up to…

Just over six weeks ago, we went down to Guelph for a few days and took Aspen to see a doggie chiropractor. I honestly never thought I’d ever be taking my dog to a chiropractor, but after seeing how much of a difference the adjustments have made for Aspen, I am definitely a fan.

On Monday, Aspen will go for another treatment and we’ll get to see if the adjustments are sticking long-term or if we will need to continue going on a semi-regular basis (which, if they are helping, then I will do for her lifetime if needed).

I think I’ll stop here, but please come back tomorrow for some Canyon news 🙂