Who’s Smarter Than A Golden?

Rogue lies in front of the kitchen cupboards on a mat that has different shades of brown.

THE FOX RED LABRADOR RETRIEVER IS!!

Back in October, I bought Cessna a puzzle toy made by Toys R Us. With this cold weather I’ve been bringing out the treat balls and the puzzle toy to keep the dogs relaxed.

A round orange plastic plate sized toy with four removable round blue plastic blocks.

rogue will work hard to get the treats out of the puzzle toys, but canyon just lies his head on the toy and waits for me to pick out the blue blocks so he can get to the prize.

Case of the Screaming Rabbit

My labs are SO bad!!

Last night, around midnight, I let the dogs out for their final relief. I asked everyone to sit, stuck my head out the sliding door to make sure there were no skunks, and then released everyone to go outside.

Rogue barked once. I told her to be quiet. she barked once more. I told her that was enough.

And then the screaming started.

It wasn’t the dogs. It wasn’t a person. It was like a high pitched screeching.

I immediately opened the sliding door and said “LEAVE IT!”

Huib ran over to the door and went toward the girls. As he left, he told me Canyon was hiding behind me – he’s too cute!

He said that once he was close, he saw a rabbit quickly hop away.

I guess Rogue had seen the rabbit and ran over. When she barked, she must have scared it so it froze in place. that gave Cessna enough time to join rogue and together they pinned the poor thing, probably scaring it, so it screamed. thankfully the rabbit didn’t injure the labs and they didn’t seem to injure it. when Huib got the girls back inside, he checked them over for injuries and then took a flashlight outside to see if he saw any blood. all he found was some fur, so hopefully the rabbit lived and didn’t end up having a heart attack somewhere.

Rogue is from a hunting line and I’m pretty sure Cessna is as well, so I can’t really blame the girls for their reaction, but I definitely feel bad for the rabbit. If Huib hadn’t run over, I’m not sure it would have survived, and I guess the girls would have had breakfast.

We’re Getting There…

We’re getting there…

Rogue is doing really well with her guide work training. She is working with me about three quarters of the time now. Her guiding is pretty close to always spot on and her confidence level is rising steadily. Rogue does well with formal turns – stopping and then asking for a left or right. She struggles a bit with moving turns though, so we still need to work a bit on that. We also need to work on her distraction level because I find she misses doors, openings and stuff when I ask her to find it. I know it’s a distraction issue because if we’re in a quiet, less stimulating environment, she has no problems locating things I ask for. She is still very new to the job though, so I know she’s going to be okay.

Rogue and I standing together on the snowy brick walkway at the University of Guelph. I am wearing blue denim jeans, white with grey winter boots, a primarily white winter coat with some navy blue on it, as well as a white roots baseball cap and you can also see the hood of my navy blue Dog Guides sweatshirt and a bit of my white backpack. Rogue is standing slightly in front of me wearing her navy blue harness what has lighter blue strapping. she is also wearing a light blue limited slip collar and a black leather half braided leash.

Our main challenge is still curbs and stairs. I feel as though I’m constantly writing this, but know it will fall into place when it’s meant to.

After talking with a couple of friends, it’s been decided that I will start using Rogue’s paw targeting to teach her exactly where I want her paws to be when we come to a curb or stairway. Right now she is still stoping a bit too far back at down curbs, forgetting to stop at up curbs and often comes to a stairwell at an angle – which is a bit dangerous for me. I’m going to start by doing some paw targeting in the house, using the surface change between the carpeting in our living room and the tile in the front foyer. Then I will take the yogurt container lids I have put some coloured electrical tape on, to the university campus and practice the stairways in the University Centre and in the primary building I have classes in, McKinnon Hall. With the snow, it’s a bit difficult to do curb work, but I’ll have to figure something out for that.

My friend Karen has just gotten a puppy, a male Belgian Shepherd who is now 10 weeks, so her and I have decided to try getting together every weekend for a couple of hours to work on stuff with her puppy (he’s not yet names) and Rogue or sometimes Canyon.

Cessna is deciding more often these days to stay home and not go places with me, so I know it’s just a matter of time before I need to call Dog Guides and inform them that she’s retiring. For now, I let her choose when she wants to work and her work is still 100%, so I think this arrangement is okay.

Path of Ice

Southern Ontario has been hit by an ice storm that has left quite a lot of damage in its wake.

Canyon stands in ice covered grass looking to his left

Canyon stands in ice covered grass looking toward the camera

Canyon sits in front of an ice covered shrub looking toward the camera

Canyon stands on a path. You can see ice covered pine needles above him.

Close up of Canyon sitting in front of an icy shrub

The ice storm has also resulted in some nice pictures.

SNOW!!

Canyon sits on a wooden deck covered in a light layer of snow.

Kirkland Lake (where we used to live) already has a few inches of snow and so far Guelph has been spared, but it looks like it’s coming.

Canyon at Dusk

canyon stands on a wooded trail.

Wine Country Kennel Club

Sorry it took me so long to write about the Wine Country Kennel Club conformation dog show, but it was kind of a horrible weekend.

Judi (canyon’s co-breeder) picked us up early Saturday (October 12) morning and we headed to Welland. Canyon and Emmie were two of just six golden retrievers at the show, so right off the bat we knew it wasn’t going to be amazing. When we arrived, we set up the x-pens, camping chairs and shelter, then Huib started getting both goldens ready for the ring. Canyon’s coat was awesome and for some reason, his tail has gotten fuller, so we were really hoping he’d do well. Emmie’s coat, on the other hand, was not cooperating. It was overly wavy and has gotten thinner since she started to show. Once they were all groomed, Huib took each of them out for a quick tour around the fair grounds to practice walking and give them a chance to take in all of the sights and sounds. Then, at 10:30am it was show time.

Huib and Canyon were perfect! Canyon seems to know what he’s doing and barely needs Huib at all. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the judge’s type and ended up getting nothing, except for 1st place in the Canadian Bred Dog class because he was the only one entered. When it was time for Huib and emmie to enter, I took Canyon and they did their thing. emmie was absolutely horrible! Huib nicknamed her the bucking bronco and couldn’t do anything to get her to stop galloping and jumping around like a horse.

And, sadly, the next two days went the same for both dogs.

Judi thinks showing is just not emmie’s thing and will most likely stop trying to get her Canadian Championship.

canyon still loves the show ring, so we’ve scheduled him to have the inflamed gland on the lower lid of his left eye removed on October 30th. In addition to the worry that he might end up getting a major eye infection from injuring the spot, we think that having the spot removed will help his chances in the show ring and hopefully he’ll get an opportunity to finally get his title.

I’m not sure how much I’ve said about the spot on the lower lid of his left eye, but we took him for a surgical consult on the 15th, and were told that it’s not actually a cyst, but an inflamed gland. the vet told us that dogs and humans have glands in their eye lids and that sometimes they become inflamed, but usually return to normal. She said that sometimes this doesn’t happen, so the gland needs to be completely removed. canyon’s inflamed gland is right next to his tear duct, so she said that it’s even more important that we have it done.

This will be Canyon’s first time having surgery, so hopefully nothing eventful happens. He’ll have his blood drawn before the surgery in order to make sure all of his values are normal and we’ve also asked them to run his thyroid since Hypothyroidism is really common in golden retrievers. The surgery will last about 20 to 30 minutes and then we’ll pick him up sometime after 1:00pm. We’ll stay with him in the waiting room before the surgery while he is given the mild sedation and then the vet will take him into the surgical suite to have the rest done. He’ll have to wear the “cone of shame” for about a week and then she said he should be totally fine to return to his normal activities.

I’ll let everyone know how the surgery goes, but I don’t suspect it will be anything major.

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.

Fortknox’s Burning Ember

A female medium coloured golden retriever stands on the grass. She has her tail curled upwards and she has a blue and yellow stuffed ball on the ground in front of her.

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.