Adventures in Running: Guide Runner

I have a guide runner!!

The University of Guelph is amazing to their alumni.

When my friend Jason heard Jess and I were trying to locate a guide runner for me, he talked to a disability advisor at the U of G, and they suggested I email Student Volunteer Connections. It took a bit of time for them to return my email, but when they did, things went pretty fast. We developed an ad, put it in their weekly newsletter and the following day, I got two responses. I emailed both students, but only heard back from one.

We met up for the first time on Wednesday morning.

D is great!! She has never guided, but she is very eager to learn.

To make things easier we met at my place. If we meet somewhere else, and Huib cannot drop me off, Rogue will need to run with us. Until we’re comfortable running together, it’s better if I don’t have her join.

D plotted out a 3.3 kilometre route. We began by just walking a few blocks. After we felt as though D had a good idea of what I need in terms of guiding, we started running 100 metres at a time. We ran about seven different times throughout the route.

We met again on Saturday morning. Even though it was about -12, we thought we’d still give it a shot. It wasn’t breezy, so -12 was quite comfortable, especially once we’d walked a few blocks.

This time, D plotted out a 4.1 kilometre route. In total, we ran about one full kilometre!! D said on average, we were running about 150 metres, 50 metres further than Wednesday!! Maybe it was the temperature, but I found it took less time to catch my breath after each period of running. D said that she felt I was doing a lot better.

Both days we were out for an hour.

Our next scheduled run is Wednesday morning.

Update on Tracking

Our winter wasn’t as cold or snowy as most, so we did get some opportunities to track. We didn’t really do any field tracking, but focused more on urban tracking.

In urban tracking the dog is learning to follow scent on short grass and pavement and in high traffic (or highly contaminated) areas. We tend to practice in school yards, on the University of Guelph campus or in local parks.

Rogue is loving it! And, she’s doing fabulously. We try to lay a track a few times a week and then we attend a private Friday or group Saturday tracking session, depending on Laura’s schedule.

If all goes well, we will be entering an urban tracking dog (UTD) test in June that is taking place in London.

I am trying to get Rogue to spend more time exploring the ‘scent pad’ by putting more food on it and by introducing a start cue “are you ready to track?” in an excited voice, and then once she looks at me, “FIND!!”

Some people ask their dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down’ before releasing them to start, but Rogue is usually quite revved up and she really doesn’t enjoy either of those cues. I know, you’re wondering how a service dog can succeed while disliking ‘sit’ and ‘down,’ well it’s because I try not to ask her for them unless we actually need to seriously do it.

So far we’ve done 2 to 3 hour old tracks between 200 and 300 meters long with a variety of surface changes and different numbers of turns. Rogue seems to be struggling with wind, with harnessing her enthusiasm, and, at times, with highly contaminated areas. We have a couple of months to go before the test, so we’re going to try and practice at least a few times a week, in different places, on different ages and lengths of tracks.

I really think Rogue can get her UTD this spring/summer, and then we’ll work towards possibly getting her TDX (or Tracking Dog Excellent) title in the fall.

Arizona has also started to track. We are practicing on short grass and pavement for now because it’s convenient, and it will help her in the end when she actually starts training for her TD, which is the first level of field tracking.

Arizona has a bit of trouble starting, but once she gets into the zone, she’s awesome! Huib has chosen to track with her on his own, and says she seems to be a more methodical tracker than Rogue.

The club here in Guelph hosts TD and TDX tests in early November, so I think we are going to try and enter both Arizona and Rogue.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, so stay tuned for more tracking news.

Summer Fun

It was a beautiful day, so Huib and I decided to take the dogs for a swim at the old Guelph penitentiary grounds.

Rogue standing in the water with a smile

With this smile, can you believe Rogue used to be the dog who wouldn’t even put a toe into a puddle?

Face shot of Cessna standing in the water smiling

Cessna hasn’t had a chance to swim this summer, so this outing was a pretty special one for her. She swam for probably 45 minutes before stopping for a rest.

Canyon, Rogue & Arizona swimming out to retrieve an orange bumper

Canyon often gets hot spots after swimming, so he hasn’t been in the water for probably 2 or more years. We thought we’d try it out and see what happened now that he really isn’t showing as often. He had a blast chasing the bumper and trying to keep it away from everyone.

Arizona spent a lot of the time on the shore waiting for the others to come back before she walked out to steal the bumper away. She’s such a lazy girl!

I’m not sure how Canyon’s skin will react to the water, but I definitely know the girls will be swimming again.

Prison Break!!

It was a regular afternoon at the ruled by paws house. I was busy working on school stuff and the dogs were busy catching up on their sleep, or at least I thought they all were…

Arizona likes to go in and out constantly throughout the day, but she also routinely falls asleep around 1:30pm and naps until close to 5:00pm.

I had been letting the dogs in and out all morning, so I settled back to work easily each time they returned. I knew each would let me know when they wanted out and then when they wanted back in, so I wasn’t really paying much attention, I was kind of on autopilot.

Around 2:00pm, I’m not sure why I did it, but I had a feeling something was up, so decided to do a head count. I went to the treat jar and started calling each of the dogs over. Everyone came over, but one…a cute, but devious female golden.

I was a bit nervous. I immediately ran over to the patio door and started whistling and calling her name. Nothing happened. I was becoming a bit more frantic, but I didn’t think it was possible for her to have left the yard.

As I was calling Arizona, Dad came in from outside and asked if all of the dogs were in side. Dad happened to be out in the front having a cigarette, and noticed a golden that looked kind of familiar across the road watching the neighbour’s cat.

I told him Arizona is missing and he ran back outside. He called her name and at first nothing happened. He called again, more firmly and she turned towards him and ran back across the road to the house. Dad said she didn’t even stop to check the traffic, but thankfully the traffic was light and no one had been driving by when she ran across to see the cat or back to him.

I gave her a big hug and some treats when she returned to me. I then texted Huib to let him know what had happened. We decided that for the rest of that day she wouldn’t be allowed outside without Dad to watch her.

We figured out that there was a breech in the fence where the fence meets the neighbour’s fence. Our fence is a white vinyl, but the neighbour’s fence is an older flexible metal, so Huib used some wire to tie our fence to the neighbour’s fence.

It seems to be holding so far, but we’re keeping a closer eye on our little Houdini.

Labrador Planter

Bright pink flower in a planter. The planter is a black lab puppy hanging over the side of a metal looking pail with a blue and peach bird sitting on the edge opposite the puppy.

Keith Urban

Brooke & Rogue posing in front of the Tiger Cats logo. Brooke is on one knee, wearing white jeans, a black hooded Roots sweatshirt, white roots baseball cap and black leather sandals, while Rogue is standing beside her in her red harness.

Last night Rogue and I went to see Darius Rucker and Keith Urban with Huib and our friend Sam. The new Tiger Cats stadium was opening in Hamilton and it was a pretty big event. The stadium was SO busy and loud, apparently there were like 20,000 people expected. Rogue was an absolute champ the entire evening. She walked beside me calmly when Huib guided me through the huge crowds, she guided me with confidence up and down the various stairs we needed to climb for our seats and during the concert, she slept under our chairs, where barely anyone noticed her. She wasn’t the only guide dog at the concert either, Huib saw a woman in the accessible seating area with her yellow lab guide that wore a brown harness. We chose not to sit in accessible seating because in my opinion it’s better not to use it if you don’t really need it – which I do not.

The concert was awesome. Darius Rucker played a lot of his newer stuff and a bit of his stuff from when he was with Hootie and the Blowfish. He has such an awesome sounding voice. Keith Urban was better though. He was so into making sure the crowd had a good time and interacted with as many people as he could. Even though Huib and I Originally weren’t too thrilled on going to see him, we are glad we did, he was just that good!

With this concert, Rogue has now attended 4 concerts and one musical. I’m not sure what our next adventure will be, but I’m sure it won’t be too far away.

The wild Child

Today we went to our friend, Sam’s place to help her move.

In the morning i just brought Arizona, so we wouldn’t need to worry about leaving her too long. She was awesome! She played out in the yard and then slept most of the afternoon.

Later on, Huib needed to go into work for a bit, so he brought over Rogue and Cessna and then took Canyon with him to work. the girls were all very well-behaved. They played together and then relaxed while Sam and I put together Kira’s room and helped Mikayla put up some pictures on her wall.

After Huib and Canyon returned, we all needed a break so sat on the deck while the dogs played.

Arizona is such a good sport. We thought it would be fun to see how she liked the swing and slide in the yard.

She LOVED it!

Arizona sits in a red baby swing with a yellow table.

We had to help her up the ladder on the slide, but she did the rest herself.

Arizona zooms down a yellow slide. She's kind of blurry because she's going so fast. She even has her front legs down flat in front of her and her hind end up as if she's going down a ski jump, lol!

Arizona is one CRAZY 3.5 year old puppy!!

RIM Park

Every Friday we get together with our friend karen and her dog, Spark, in either Guelph or Waterloo.

this week we chose to travel to RIM Park with Arizona and Cessna.

I had never been to RIM Park, so it was a pretty neat experience. There were tons of different things to do with Arizona and Spark.

We took them on various bleachers, over a number of different surfaces and even had them walking on the playground equipment.

Spark wasn’t too sure about some of the surfaces and playground stuff, but Arizona continues to wow us with her fearlessness.

Brooke, Cessna and Arizona sit in the middle of an artificial turf soccer field. Brooke is wearing a long sleeved teal shirt with a navy blue vest, jeans, a white roots baseball cap and white running shoes. Cessna is lying beside her wearing her black leather CVC harness, purple Silverfoot martingale collar that has brown Haida whales on it and a black nylon leash that goes across Brooke's body. Arizona is wearing her Mickey Mouse collar and harness with a thin black nylon leash. Arizona is all fuzzy because she's trying to jet away.

same picture as before, but this time Arizona is laying down in front of Brooke and Cessna.

Rogue In Action

After missing July’s tracking lesson, we got back at it.

And, Rogue was a freaking pro!!

Rogue searches for the scent. the picture is taken from the side, you can see me holding her tight leash and Huib walking closer to her head in case she needs some direction.

A front view of Rogue searching.

A front view picture taken from a lower point.

rogue is getting close to the end of the track we laid. She's pulling hard towards her prize.

Rogue has found her orange Orbi ball on an orange braided nylon strap. The picture is sort of taken from the side back and you can only see Rogue with her toy.

We laid two shorter (50 feet long) and three or four longer (130 feet long) tracks for rogue to do.

On the shorter tracks, we had the treats laid out every couple of feet, but once we got to the longer tracks she was only getting treats about every 10 to 20 feet. On the longer tracks, Huib would lay four treats a foot apart from one another and then walk 15 to 20 feet before he laid four more treats a foot apart from one another.

Rogue freaking rocked the tracking lesson. If we had not run out of treats, the instructor was going to have us start spacing the treats out to 25 or 30 feet – which is our homework.

Huib, Rogue and I stand together. Huib and I are facing the camera, but rogue has her side showing. Huib is wearing jeans with a navy blue hooded sweatshirt. I am wearing jeans with a teal t-shirt and navy blue vest, pink baseball cap and rogue is wearing her teal Silverfoot martingale and a brown leather braided leash.

Rogue made us SO proud! We are going to try hard to practice before the next session, when we’ll begin learning about tracking corners.

3 Months Already!!

Our little golden girl is now 3 months old.

Arizona sits on a big rock.

Arizona has experienced a lot of new things over the past two weeks.

On the 8th, we met up with our friends Karen and Spark at waterloo Park. When we arrived there were a couple guys playing drums, the noise didn’t phase Rogue or Arizona. We walked around the various park animals; peacocks, llamas, ponies, donkeys, pigs, ducks deer and chickens. Rogue was really interested in the animals, but was able to still guide me safely – which is a huge improvement from her predecessor, who couldn’t ever work in a park or around other animals. Arizona was interested in all of the animals, but really liked the ducks. after touring the animals we walked along the various paths and over bridges.

Arizona has become really confident on leash, so it’s definitely time to buy her a harness, so she doesn’t get into the habit of pulling on her collar.

On the 9th we went to Kira’s trailer. this was Arizona’s first opportunity to try out swimming. Because of the rough water I decided to have her wear a life jacket. she took to water so quickly that you’d think she has always been swimming.

Arizona runs down a cement boat ramp towards the water. She's wearing a pink camo life jacket.

While at the lake Arizona met several people and got to play with two poodles and a shepherd mix.

Arizona swims towards our friend Kira. You can see her little tail straight out behind her.

After swimming we hung out for a while and had dinner with Kira and her mom. Arizona dug up Sam’s garden – BAD PUPPY!! – and got to see a campfire for the first time.

Side view of rogue on a dock looking out at the water. She's wearing a red with black life jacket.

Rogue swam a bit more than previous years, but still felt more comfortable when she wore her life jacket.

On the 10th we went to visit Phoenix’s foster mom, alice, at her retirement home. Arizona found it a bit warm there, but finally settled on the tile after being pet by over a dozen people. she had wheelchairs and walkers pass her while she napped, but she didn’t even care.

After leaving Alice we went to my Aunt Dawn’s place where Arizona had a chance to meet my Aunt’s three little dogs, as well as, my cousin and her two kids. Arizona had no issues with my Aunt’s dogs and she played well with my cousin’s kids.

the only thing she did at one point that wasn’t so good was when she tried to pull the 3 year old’s shorts down, lol!

On the 13th Arizona had her first vet appointment. Bianca says she is a really healthy puppy and thinks she will be tall and slim. Arizona is just over 20lbs and got boosters for both Parvo and distemper. Bianca wasn’t sure about what the breeder’s vet gave the puppies, so decided to go with the boosters in order to make sure Arizona didn’t miss the important period of full immunity. She said her fecal test came back fine and that she doesn’t feel Arizona needs to go on Revolution this year. She says we’ll give her the rabies vaccine around a year of age like we did with Rogue, so we won’t need to bring her back until the others come for their annual check up.

On the 14th we went to Kira’s final soccer game of the summer. Arizona was busy mowing the lawn and exploring the area around our chairs the entire game, so when we got home she was absolutely exhausted.

On Friday night Arizona didn’t want to sleep, so I ended up having to go downstairs and sleep on the couch with her so that Huib could sleep for work. We had a really rough day on Saturday, which might also have been related to my horrible migraine, so when Huib got home in the evening I had a complete breakdown. I told him that I regret getting Arizona and that I feel as though she’s too much for us. I told him that I wished I had returned her after a week so we could get our money back, but that I knew that wouldn’t be happening now. I told him how frustrated I was about her mouthiness and vocalness and how I believed she was rude and mean to the other dogs.

Huib patiently listened to me while holding my hand and then gave me a big hug, and took over caring for Arizona for the rest of the night.

On Sunday we went to Pet smart and I bought Arizona two new crinkly Skinneez toys, a giraffe and an alligator, and then picked out a Mickey Mouse collar and harness. the collar is black and the harness is red with each of them having a ribbon sewed on it with Mickey’s head shape in red, yellow and blue. My description probably doesn’t make the most sense, so I’ll try to get a picture of them soon.

the past two weeks have been really challenging.

Arizona is extremely smart and devious, so we’ve really had to keep a close eye on her and make sure to use every moment as a teachable one.

I’ve continued to work on recall, ‘leave it’ and sit, and have begun introducing down and hand targeting.

I really hope my migraines calm down soon so that I can work more regularly with Arizona on these Level 1 behaviours, but in the meantime I am just trying to do at least a couple training sessions a day.