We’re Back!

Sorry for the long time away, but we’re now moved in and back online!! Thanks to Bell Mobility and their Turbo Hub, that works on the 4G cellular network, we’ve got even better internet than before!!

On June 28th, we packed all our belongings into a U-Haul trailer and drove to our new home. It’s only half an hour from our other place, but it sure took a while to get everything settled and all the utilities reinstalled.

Here’s what you missed while we were offline.

Rogue had her first three swimming adventures. We visited friends “down south”. And, we attended Red Labrador Retrievers’ Annual Reunion.

Since we no longer have direct lake access in our backyard, we had to find other swimming locations for the dogs. Huib did a bit of searching and found the perfect place, Larter river Provincial Park. There are a few different swimming opportunities there and best of all, it costs nothing to enter!

The first time we went, the dogs had a blast retrieving their new water toys from Christmas – a bright orange water dummy and a purple Jolly Ball. Phoenix just walked in the water, while Rogue would only get her paws wet before running onto shore for some exploring. We brought our cooler with drinks and snacks so I could read and Caleb could swim and collect rocks for his sword. It was a bit breezy though, so we didn’t end up staying much more than a couple of hours.

The next time we went, we brought the canoe. The water was still pretty choppy, so I refused to go with Huib and Caleb. I stayed on the shore with the dogs and read, while the boys attempted some fishing. Aspen didn’t really like the idea of Huib being out in the canoe without her, so she insisted on swimming along beside them until they pulled her in. Canyon and Cessna swam out once in a while to check in, but spent most of the afternoon with me on the shore, so I could throw their toy. Rogue was put on leash attached to the cooler so that I knew where she was and Phoenix just walked around, coming with me when I entered the water with the toy. He didn’t think I could handle being out there without him I guess. The neatest part of the whole trip was when Phoenix actually swam out to the canoe on his own. Huib and Caleb were paddling towards the shore and just happened to look out and see Phoenix swimming towards them. Once they said hi, he turned around and returned to me on the shore. Huib thinks he felt they had been out too long lol!

In Waterloo, we stayed with Karen and Wizard. Karen still has her foster from Lab Rescue so we weren’t able to do too much in the house, so we stayed out as much as possible. When we arrived on Friday, we first stopped in Guelph so Rogue could see Dr B. She was given a clean bill of health, but was a little wimpy when Dr B had her staff restrain her for some blood to be taken. Dr B. wants to follow a limited vaccine protocol to reduce the chances of Rogue becoming incontinent after spaying when she’s 6 months old. Therefore, she will not get her rabies vaccine until she’s older and instead of having her second set of puppy vaccines, we had titers done. She has sure grown a lot in a month, now weighing in at 19.4lbs or 8.8kg!

After the vet, we met up with another service dog handler for coffee. It was so great to see how well Patina had matured and settled into her work. I had gotten a chance to watch Patina learn the various skills she’d need to successfully work as a psychiatric service dog and grow from a tiny 14 week old puppy, to a beautiful (soon to be) two year old. Rogue had a bit of trouble settling during our outing. She wanted to play with Patina and found the patio environment to be a little too distracting. After coffee, we headed to Waterloo, where we met up with Karen and Wizard for a romp in the NCR baseball diamonds and later a dinner of sushi.

The following day, we woke up early and took Canyon, Cessna and Rogue to the St. Jacob’s Market. Karen and Wizard also joined us. At the Market Canyon showed off his newly acquired leash manners and behaved amazingly well for me. Huib focused on walking with Rogue while I got Cessna to work and had Canyon walk on my right. We really haven’t focused much on heeling with Canyon, but it seems as though he’s figured it out himself. He led out a bit like Cessna, but never put any tension on the leash. As long as Karen or Huib warned me of dogs coming our way, I had no issues redirecting either dog and found the trip to be quite exciting. We didn’t really buy much, just a taupe colour harness for Canyon (I would like to start teaching him scent work) and some turkey pepperoni sticks for Cessna and us to share. Rogue was a bit pully, but for the most part Huib was impressed. Around the end of our trip, Karen suggested we take everyone over to a set of open metal stairs for practice. The stairs are like metal grates with open backs and sides so we weren’t too sure how Rogue would do – she showed us!!! She bounced along with Huib and didn’t once consider the fact she was walking on something most dogs would find terrifying. Canyon even wanted to give it a try so I held Rogue’s leash and Huib took him up. He walked up with confidence until the third last step, paused a moment to assess what he had just done, and then continued walking up and then back down. Canyon never ceases to amaze me with his eagerness to try new things…

After the Market, we headed to Maidstone for Red Labrador Retrievers’ Annual Reunion. It wasn’t a great event, but given the circumstances surrounding Chris’ fall and then recovery shortly before, it wasn’t too bad. I think we’ll go next year, but if it’s similar, then we’ll probably forgo the rest. At the reunion, we got to see several dogs from other litters, such as a one year old female from Cheyenne. Rogue got to play with her brother Coal, who’s still with his breeder, and we saw Snickers (aka Sunny) from a distance. I wish we had gotten a chance to see some of her sisters, maybe next year they’ll come. After a couple of hours, we said our farewells and took a leisurely drive back to Waterloo. On the drive we picked up tons of fresh veggies and Huib showed me what wheat and barley looked like when still in the field. We really didn’t do much of anything after we got back to waterloo because it was late and Karen’s foster from Lab Rescue really isn’t great with other dogs.

On Sunday, we started our trip home. First we stopped in Toronto to pick up Caleb, Phoenix and Aspen. Caleb has been staying with us since June 15th, but has decided to come stay until the second or third week of August. Our next stop was the Bass pro Shop where we picked up a dehydrator and jerky maker, along with some fun travel mugs and a slingshot for Caleb. Then we stopped at Costco in Newmarket before heading to Bobcaygeon.

In bobcaygeon, we visited Amy at her cottage. She had two friends staying with her and Dave, so we made it a pretty short visit. While there, we met her new puppy, Waverley, and gave the dogs a chance to swim. Waverley is a female Dalmatian and seems to be a lot more timid than Rogue. Amy isn’t sure if it is the breed or breeder, but says Waverley seems to take a lot longer than her other dogs at getting used to new people and dogs. Waverley is just under a week younger than Rogue, but seems to be a little smaller and finds Rogue to be overwhelming lol! Monroe, Amy’s current LFC foster, really liked Rogue, but couldn’t play since she had just been spayed a few days before our visit. After dinner, we headed home.

This past week has been pretty uneventful, since Huib has had to work mostly night shifts. He’s had the entire weekend off though so on Friday, we went into New Liskeard with Cessna and Rogue to do some grocery shopping, as well as, to pick up some fencing supplies. Rogue has now started to walk on all outings so, we’ve had to really think about her relieving schedule and how to teach her about walking on a leash and leaving things alone on the floor. This was really our first official indoor outing where she’s walked the entire time, so we were able to see where exactly we’ll need to focus our attention. I think we’re going to pick up a walking harness to teach her leash manners so that she does not get used to pulling on the collar and so that she doesn’t sound as though she’s choking to death. Both her collar and first puppy coat are getting to the end of their ability to adjust, so we’ll have to get new ones ready for her soon.

Yesterday we did some rearranging and started to put up the fence for the dogs. Their fenced in area will be quite large with a ramp that goes from the deck into the area for Phoenix and a large gate for bringing in the riding lawn mower and any other supplies. Caleb and I helped Huib measure out, and hammer in the posts. Then, Caleb helped Huib attach the fencing to the posts, while I went inside with the labs (they also don’t enjoy the mosquitoes!). I’m really going to like having a designated area for the dogs to run, especially when Caleb goes home and I’m alone with them all. When the fence is all complete, we’re going to purchase some plastic stuff that goes along it to make it seem as though we have a wood fence (I’ll try to post pictures).

I will get Huib to help me load pictures from our last two weeks on to my laptop this evening and post them as soon as possible. Rogue has begun to darken a bit, so updated photos are needed here.

Introducing Rogue

It’s been almost a week since we picked up our little girl. I haven’t had much time to go on the computer for more than a few minutes, so I’ll start this entry by writing a little description of our visit to the breeder.

We woke up at 5:30am to feed and relieve everyone before leaving to get puppy. We decided to bring everyone along because at 2:00pm, we had to be in Guelph for their annual check-ups. We thought it would take about three hours to drive from London to Maidstone, but ended up an hour ahead of schedule so, stopped for some breakfast and then pulled in about twenty minutes early. When we arrived, the puppies were in an outdoor pen so we went over and looked at them all. Karen came out in her pajamas a few minutes later and told us we had arrived during feeding time. She ran inside to get dressed and let her husband, Chris, know we’d arrived. When she was dressed, we helped her carry three puppies into the house.

We put the puppies on the living room floor and observed. Karen had brought in “Pinkie”, “Coal” and “Violet”. We quickly removed “Violet” from the mix because she was more interested in exploring the house, than in interacting with us or the other puppies. Karen wasn’t totally sure which puppy was “Pinkie” so brought “Flower” in as well to double check that she had the correct puppy. The puppies had all chewed each other’s collars off and Chris and Karen hadn’t had a chance to microchip them yet, since they had just returned from a trip to California. “Flower” was cute, but also didn’t seem overly interested in us, so she returned to the outdoor pen for breakfast and play. Once we had it narrowed down to “Pinkie” and “Coal”, we just sat and observed, calling them over once in a while to see how they reacted. Both puppies came running when we called “Puppy, Puppy” and when we were paying attention to one, the other would be licking our arm trying to get some love too. We had a lot of trouble making a decision, but after 45 minutes of observing and interacting, we decided on “Pinkie”. We both really liked “Coal” as well, but Huib left it up to me and I really wanted a girl, so chose “Pinkie” and named her Rogue.

Rogue is the lightest in colour of the seven puppies and already weighs 10.6lbs. She is the colour of butterscotch pudding and has grayish colour eyes that will someday be either a medium or dark brown. She has a very cute face and shows lots of expression. For an eight week old puppy, Rogue is extremely brave and confident.

Once the decision was made. Karen got us to fill out some forms and Chris took Rogue to be micro chipped. Karen will be sending the CKC paperwork in for the puppies when they are sixteen weeks so that everyone has a chance to decide on a name for their fur baby. Before leaving, we met her dam and sire, and let Phoenix, Cessna, Aspen and Canyon meet Rogue. They sniffed her a bit, but only canyon really showed much interest. The girls were a little disgruntled with the whole situation and Phoenix just saw her as another puppy, so no big deal lol!

During our three hour drive to Guelph, Rogue laid in my lap. Some of the time she was looking out the window or watching Huib drive, while other times she was napping. Never once during the drive did she whimper or whine, but looked around when a sound caught her ear. Our first stop was to see Dr B for the older dogs to get their annual check-ups and vaccinations. Rogue hung out with the vet staff, while we were in the examination room with the others. It was a pretty long appointment, so around the one hour mark, Rogue fell asleep under Huib’s chair. We will be bringing Rogue for her first visit with Dr B in a month’s time, but for now we just weighed her and discussed feeding options – she’ll be starting on raw when her kibble from the breeder finishes up.

First Dr B checked over Phoenix. She decided against giving him any further vaccinations and said the heartworm test isn’t really necessary. She still isn’t happy with his ears, so cleaned them out and gave us a new medication to try. She seems happy with him overall, saying that one thing she knows he won’t die of, is heart failure, because his heart is extremely healthy for his age.

She then looked over Canyon. We discussed neutering and she said that her only advice is to get it done by the age of five since that is when most of the cancer issues seem to begin. He had his titers done for Distemper, Parvo and the other diseases that are vaccinated against, other than Rabies – the Rabies titer is extremely expensive so we’ll probably just continue to vaccinate for that. She said he looks great, but might be developing an ear infection, so has asked us to clean it for a week and see where that goes.

Aspen was also pretty straight forward and cooperative. She had her titers done, along with a Heartworm test. We discussed options for treating her incontinence and have decided to try “No More Leaks”, a mixture of different homeopaths that you can buy in a pet store. If that doesn’t seem to help, then we’ll look at other options.

Cessna got a clean bill of health as well, but was a little less cooperative. She really doesn’t like when people touch her paws or tail, so was quite rigid when Dr B went to try taking her blood for the titer and heartworm test. We will be starting her and Aspen on a daily Glucosamine supplement, since they will be eight this year.

After paying our $1,300 vet bill, we headed to the Kitchener Ren’s Pets Depot to visit with Kelly, pick up some toys and a collar for Rogue. Since she doesn’t have her final set of vaccinations, Kelly and her manager carried her around the pet store while we shopped. We picked out an orange, yellow and black collar along with a black leash that we will start using once she learns not to chew it – for now, we’re using two rope style leashes from the dollar store. In addition, we got her a little pink puppy kong, a puppy-sized kong treat bone and a light blue monkey that’s a ball with really long fleece arms and legs. Since it was Canyon’s birthday the week before, we got him two new JW Arachnoid Balls and a hedgehog that has a ball for a torso and canvas limbs that have squeakers in them. We finished off our shopping trip, by picking up some food for my sister’s cat, Branden, and Logan, our calico.

I’ll now do a little bit of point form notes, to start Rogue’s training journal. If you have any suggestions on things I should not have been doing or on things I should be adding to the journal, please let me know. I’m new to this, so am still in the trial and error phase.

Day One
• rode in the truck for almost 6 hours along Highway 401 (air brakes, squealing trucks, strange smells)
• visited the vet office (printer, strange smells, 4 staff members)
• briefly met my former long-term care resident (sounds & smells of the building)
• met four people at the pet store (tons of food & animal smells)
• had an accident on the floor mat of the truck, became wiggly so I put her down
• met two friends we were staying with
• ran to hide after being told off by Phoenix for jumping around his face
• saw a Great Dane & Shih Tzu while out for relief (no direct contact)
• had an accident while sleeping beside Huib on the couch
• used her nails to climb up mesh of play pen we were using as her bed, barked to let us know she was stuck between the play pen & air mattress
• slept 2 hours before needing out
• bounced half way out of play pen so we brought her onto the air mattress, where she slept another 4 hours

Day Two
• ate half a cup of kibble & did both outside 20 minutes later
• hid behind a table when Aspen barked at her
• met 2 teenage girls while being carried through Dollarama
• met manager & waitress & took about 10 minutes on a really short leash to settle under the table at Montana’s
• my cousin carried her around White Oaks Mall & we took a picture of her laying in front of some clothing at The Bay
• discovered my friend’s five bunnies & taunted them for about 15 minutes (play bowing in front of their cages & jumping back when they moved, briefly hiding when she bumped into a table leg)
• climbed on & slid off couch on to Phoenix & he just looked at her
• at last relief, Huib put her on the ground to walk into the elevator & 2 of her legs fell into the gap, Huib helped her out & she approached it curiously

Day Three
• truck broke down (alternator died) & we had to wait for a tow truck & then a stranger drove us back to my friend’s house
• played more with the bunnies, putting her paws against the sides & barking excitedly (Rue actually started playing back)
• rode in the child seat of a cart while we picked up snacks at Food Basics (first on bare wire & then on slippery cardboard)
• met a friend with the 2 Smooth Collies of ADS (hid behind Huib’s chair at first because the collies were excited)
• accompanied us at Dollarama, Giant tiger & Zellers
• rolled around trying to get Cessna’s tags off her collar (I’d put them on to find her easier)
• climbed over a baby gate we had used to block her in the kitchen with a bit of peanut butter in her Kong (we’d decided to leave her for 30 minutes while we got ice cream & came back to find her in the living room with the others)

Day Four
• slept 4 hours before going out for relief & then slept another 4
• met several people while Huib carried her around masonville Mall
• walked down 1 aisle at Costco before settling on a soft/squishy mat in the cart (met several people & had items piled around her)
• carried her around Pet Smart to find some bells for her collar (she’s learned I can’t see & will come just out of my reach & run when I move closer)
• fell asleep in front of a shelf at Chapters
• started keeping her on leash until she goes out because she’s begun relieving inside, even after going out

Day Five
• rode in truck from London to Guelph
• met a friend who has an SSD standard poodle (Kelly is hard of hearing & uses an electric wheelchair part-time)
• met my orthotics guy & his daughter
• went into the University of Guelph to hand in my application (walked up some short steps, rode in an older elevator & met a staff member who uses a scooter)
• stopped to pick up some chicken at Maple Lodge Farms (smells of slaughter house & processing plant)
• met Taz, Caleb & their landlord with her infant son
• Caleb showed her Sage (his Bengal) she barked a bit & wanted to play
• fell asleep under the table at the Lakeview while we ate some lunch
• rode in truck for 7 hours, had a little dribble on the seat after drinking too much water the stop before
• explored the house & chased the cats
• had 2 accidents in the house
• checked out the toys & played with bone that was bigger than her

Day Six
• slept between us, used a leash to keep her from jumping off
• slept about 5 hours before needing out, then slept another 3-4
• got her first taste of raw chicken breast, ate it before the kibble
• explored the house some more, had 2 more accidents
• tried to steal something off a shelf while we walked by at Value Mart
• hung out in the kitchen of the new house while Huib painted & we began taking apart the closet
• started introducing the clicker while feeding lunch (clicked & treated for half) around the 5th click, she started bumping my hand with her nose as if to ask for the noise lol!
• Sat while we trained & then wandered off when she was full, leaving about a hand full
• Attached her to a cupboard while I started pulling apart the closet with a crowbar, whined & barked because she couldn’t come near (didn’t return to her side until she was quiet for a few minutes)
• Laid in a semi-sleep position while Huib finished taking down the closet, banging down drywall & pulling out nails
• Introduced the canvas crate, she barked & cried the whole time she was in it (didn’t let her out until she was quiet for a minute)
• Cornered Laya & Logan because she wanted to play
• Got her head stuck under the china cabinet while exploring, cried until Caleb showed her how to get out
• Played under couch & chair with toys

Sorry for the really, really long entry, but I wanted to get everything down so I’ll remember. I’ll try and update the journal as frequently as possible (we’ll try daily, but no promises).

So far, I think Rogue is absolutely amazing! She’s a lot of fun to have around and extremely smart, so we’ll need to keep a close eye on her. We’ve already taken over sixty pictures, so I’ll begin posting them here.

raw, Homemade Or Commercial…

Ever since Phoenix was diagnosed with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease on December 3rd, we’ve been trying to make a decision on what to feed him. Dr B does not want him eating kibble because he doesn’t chew his food and worries he will aspirate, but she also wonders if changing to more of a natural diet might also help clear up his ears and get rid of some of the other annoying issues he has from both old age and his pesky life-long allergies.

You’d think this would be an easy decision, but there are several factors which need to be considered – cost, preparation time, safety and our other dogs, just to name a few.

Cost is something I always think about when deciding to change something with my dogs, because I do not work and Huib has been wonderful about supporting me, but I don’t want to push his loyalty too far. We’ve been looking at the possibility of buying a bigger chest freezer and ordering large quantities of meat from local farmers, but so far have run into the problem of where to find reasonably priced beef, pork and lamb – we will continue to get our chicken from the Maple Lodge Factory and whole chickens from the farm down the road. When you live in northeastern Ontario like we do, there is a limited supply of farmers who raise and sell their own livestock. As for finding the veggies at a reasonable price we’ve decided that it will be easiest to get stuff when we’re in Waterloo at Costco and the St. Jacob’s Farmers Market or check out the discount section in the grocery store for a little more variety. Then in the summer we will be able to grow some of our own veggies and catch some pike and bass in the lake behind our house.

Right now we feed Phoenix a mixture of a cup and a half of moistened kibble (Fromm’s white fish & sweet potato) and a can of wet food (either Merrick’s Before Grain or Performatin Ultra) each day so it works out to be about 3-5 dollars a day. In order to feed Phoenix a homemade diet he will need to have a mixture of muscle meat, organ meat, veggies, and a small amount of dairy and grains, in addition to supplements which include a high level of calcium carbonate. This supplement can be highly expensive, even though farmers use it as a part of their fertilizers, so this is one factor that has made our decision to move from commercial food more difficult. In a raw diet, half of the diet should be raw meaty bones (ie. Chicken necks, pork feet or beef tails) which eliminates the need to supplement with calcium carbonate because the bones are ground up with the meat, as opposed to removing them, like in the homemade diet. Taking just cost into consideration we’re thinking that homemade diets are out, but still aren’t sure if a raw diet is right – even though it would also mean we would eat more healthy, since it would be silly only to feed the wonderful veggies and meat to Phoenix.

Next we’ve been looking at preparation time. When feeding Phoenix his current diet of commercial food it takes about 30-45 minutes to prepare because we have to turn on the kettle to boil the water needed to moisten the kibble, then we have to wait for the mush to cool before adding the wet food and necessary supplements (for old age & allergy prevention). If we were to change to a raw diet we would need to think much further ahead and it would take a bit more time to prepare, but if we made more than one meal at a time would it be easier in the end? I think the barrier to feeding raw here would be, what will we do in the case of our visits to Waterloo every six weeks…?

After looking at the above factors – cost & preparation time – we’ve begun looking at the safety of a raw diet. There are many people who would say there are absolutely no risks involved with feeding a raw diet, but with Huib being a nurse and me not having the greatest vision this is something we need to think long and hard about. The University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College hosts a blog where various pet related issues are discussed and they have posted a very informative pdf file on the raw meat controversy, which can be found on their resources page. The main concerns they outline are the possible transmission of infection and disease (for example salmonella), a potential dietary nutritional imbalance and the issue of swallowing foreign bodies (such as bones). Even though proponents of the raw diet would consider these as being a non-issue, Huib and I need to really look at safety as a possible deal breaker in making this change with Phoenix – he needs to worry about his patients and I need to think about my safety as well as the safety of the other animals.

One way in which we could avoid the risks of swallowing foreign objects would be to ground the bones along with the meat so there would be no possibility of choking or injury to Phoenix’s throat or intestines through splintering. Since eating slowly is not something Phoenix knows how to do, I think making his food into a smoother consistency would be a good idea. As for the risk involved in the transmission of disease, I think it’s reasonable to think that this would be something we’d need to look at in not just his food, but our own as well. I guess all we can do here is to make sure we only buy our meats from a respectable supplier and take care in the storage and preparation process. No matter how careful someone is though, there is always the possibility of something going wrong, so as long as we’re always conscious of safety, I don’t see feeding Phoenix a raw diet as being out of the question.

Finally, there is the consideration of our other dogs. Cessna and Canyon have always been picky eaters and as a result we’ve had to try and think of creative ways of keeping them interested in their kibble. We’ve tried adding canned food or juices and fats from cooking once in a while, in addition to changing their kibble all together on a semi-regular basis. This has worked well in the past, but we’re wondering if by feeding Phoenix differently, we might run into some problems with getting them to continue with their commercial diets. We have thought about changing everyone over to the same sort of raw diet, but Aspen is doing well with her current food and we worry that by changing her we might irritate her sensitive bowel. Then there’s Cessna, our always willing “hunger striker” – would she even consider eating something (raw meat) we ourselves wouldn’t even think of? I wonder this because my aunt’s friend is a hunter and one day while preparing a venison stew for us decided to give Cessna an uncooked piece, she immediately dropped it on the floor and looked up at him in disgust – she ate a piece later though that I offered her from my leftovers before throwing them out. I’m sure Canyon would be totally willing to change over to this way of life, but I’m not so sure about my little Cessnaroo.

I guess it would be easiest and make most sense to just focus on getting a diet ready for Phoenix before worrying about who else might benefit or be willing to change. But, if we’re wanting to use Canyon as a stud it might be something to consider in the future…

I know this post ended up being a long-winded ramble, but I hope it helps others out there who might be considering whether a change to a homemade or raw diet could be better than the commercial food their dogs are currently eating.

Phoenix, the Miracle

On Thursday night we got home from a week in Waterloo to find Phoenix in terrible shape. Dad was watching him and Aspen, since they don’t enjoy the traveling and aren’t a huge fan of my friend’s current foster puppy. Huib carried him out to greet me and I was in shock to see how immobile he was. We worried all night and had him sleep with us so we could monitor his health and help him when needed. He could not sleep well on his right side, finding it hard to move and find a comfortable head position, but on his left he was a bit more settled. We set off for Guelph around 9am and called the vet from North Bay.

Dad told us that on Wednesday morning around 10:30 he came out of the bedroom and stopped in the doorway. He said he all of a sudden began to tremble and fought to stay on his feet, but eventually fell over to the right and couldn’t get up. Dad didn’t have a phone or car so cared for him the best he could. He said it looked like a stroke and he was so worried.

When we first arrived, Phoenix couldn’t stand and didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything. He was drooling excessively and his nose ran. His head was at a tilt to the right and his eyes twitched. I was so upset, but knew we had to take him to his vet in Guelph because I knew she would do everything possible and be honest with us regarding his prognosis. We decided to stop at his foster family’s house before the vet just in case the worst was to happen, we knew he needed to see them and they needed the visit. After visiting for 10 minutes we set off to Guelph (they live in Etobicoke). It was the longest hour I’ve ever spent in a car and couldn’t stop crying and thinking that this could be the last drive we sat together.

We arrived at the office around 6:00pm and were greeted by Dr. b and one of her assistants, who just happened to attend the University of Guelph when Phoenix and I were there. Huib carried him into the examination room and placed him on the table which was covered with a blanket and towel for comfort. Dr. b asked us questions and then began examining him. After a few heart wrenching minutes she looked up and I said “it’s bad, isn’t it?”. She said it actually wasn’t as bad as we’d thought and that dogs do not really have strokes, but that they are more common in cats. She diagnosed Phoenix with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease and said that he should almost fully recover, but that I had to be willing to put in the time and effort to get him back to “normal”. I told her I’d do anything necessary and asked what was needed. She explained that there aren’t any treatments, it just takes time and patience since this condition seems to appear all of a sudden and then go away within a week or month’s time. She said there shouldn’t be any ill effects, but that he may have a permanent head tilt and his eyes may not completely stop twitching, but that he can see perfectly fine and will slowly get used to all of this. She explained that the reason he cannot walk on his own and tends to fall to the right is because IVD effects his balance and causes dizziness – I guess sort of like Vertigo in humans. Dr. B went to prepare a homeopathic remedy while her assistant and I stayed with Phoenix. He didn’t like being up on the table so Huib picked him up and put him onto the blanket on the floor where he felt more comfortable. After giving Phoenix the remedy, Dr. b assessed him further and asked that we call her on Saturday with an update and then set up a phone consult for Tuesday or Wednesday. She asked that we put him onto a mixture of mushy kibble and canned food so he won’t inhale his food and aspirate – this was her biggest worry since he could get pneumonia. After picking out some gluten-free food and paying the bill, we set off for home. It was a long day, we barely slept Thursday night and couldn’t relax in the truck on the way so slept off and on during the drive home – thankfully Dad came and drove most of the way home.

On Saturday, Phoenix woke me up around 8:30am wanting to go out and eat breakfast. I put one of our doggie life jackets on him so we could use the handle to support him as he tried to walk. I found improvements in the way he held himself, standing straighter and actually weight baring, rather than needing assistance to both stand and walk. When in a down in the kitchen – while I ate breakfast – he was able to lie semi-normally and look around at all the action. At one point he even got up on his own and walked over to the water bowl for a drink before I noticed. I put him on the couch for the afternoon while I surfed the internet and watched some television. Whenever I got up and he was still asleep I attached a bear bell to the back of the life jacket so I’d know when he was awake. Dad and Huib carried Phoenix inside the last two times he went out for relief because he seemed to freeze in one spot and refuse to move any further – guessing the outdoors got a little overwhelming at night for him. The other times Dad or I took him out during the day he seemed willing to help as much as possible as long as we were patient enough to wait for him to try a step. Huib and I slept with him between us last night and once he was put onto his left side he fell asleep and didn’t stir until about 7.5 hours later.

Today he seems a little stronger on his feet and actually wanted to stand while eating breakfast. Huib tried to get him to lie down, but he refused, so we just held his bowl up and watched to make sure he didn’t lose his balance. I took him out around 10 this morning and he tried to walk further than yesterday, but it is sort of a blizzard out there so I convinced him to go back inside. I have to almost carry him down the stairs, but he tries to help on the way up. He’s been sleeping on the couch beside me this afternoon, but I’ll probably take him out for relief soon and see how he does.

From the research I’ve done on IVD Phoenix should continue to improve and like Dr. B said not have any real side effects other than the slight head tilt. I’m so blessed to still have Phoenix and am relieved to know that he will soon make a full recovery.

A Little Help With Training

On Monday we headed down to Waterloo for a brief visit. We took all four of the dogs as well as my sister because she wanted to see her friend from school and Phoenix had to go to the vet and have his ear flap drained. Just over a week ago Phoenix’s left ear flap became swollen with blood and it looked as though someone had inserted an egg into it. We had a short phone consult with the vet and were told we could wait until Monday to see her because it wasn’t life threatening and it didn’t seem to be bothering him. After draining the ear, she put it onto his head and bandaged him up so that he won’t be able to shake it and hopefully in a week or so all will be healed. We chose bright orange vet wrap for the bandage and have a roll of purple and teal for when we change it in a day or so. I’ll try and post pictures with this entry at a later date when Huib can hook up our external monitor with the laptop since the monitor is currently cracked and he’s unable to use it.

On Monday evening we went to see a woman named Debby DaCosta in Vanessa for some dog training direction (www.thepoodlefarm.com). I have been trying to follow the training methods I was taught while attending sessions at Dogs In the Park with Cessna, as well as, follow the suggestions on Sue Ailsbey’s clicker training website, but I had run into some road blocks that I couldn’t get around. After talking to a friend who does rally obedience with her former ADS foster puppy (Ace) I contacted Debby. Debby judges rally obedience and has poodles of all sizes who have achieved a wide array of competition titles. We have been in contact over e-mail for the past few weeks and she’s been trying to give me suggestions, but after a 2 hour session with her one-on-one I feel as though I am now ready to work past these road blocks.

Debby uses solely positive training methods and tries to keep her sessions (with her dogs) short and fun. She promotes the use of treats and toys and suggests using your time in the washroom or kitchen for training – taking 10 treats and a dog into the room and focusing on one behavior, like touch, “take it” and “give it”, or teaching tug (for example). She went over how to motivate Canyon to give me what I want and how to work past his more stubborn moments. We had only planned to meet an hour, but 2 hours just flew by and Canyon seemed to be having a blast. It was nice to have Huib and my sister watching so they could hear what Debby told me about not asking for behaviours repetitively but just taking his collar and waiting for him to give it to us, how it was important not to use words like “heel” without taking the time to teach it properly (she said to use his easy walk when we’re not able to take the time to train & just the collar when we’re actually going to take the time) or how it was important to always give him the release word when we were done “work”. At the end she went over how to begin teaching Canyon to heel and how to teach the “front” and “finish” behaviours we’ll need for obedience trials. I have lots to work on now and have already begun our bathroom training sessions 

We’ll be going back to Waterloo for a week on the 26th, but I’m not yet sure if I’ll meet with Debby or continue working on what she’s taught me and meet with her in January. I got an e-mail from her yesterday and was surprised to see her praise of my training abilities and future hopes for Canyon.

I look forward to working with her in the future and think I’ll be able to enter canyon in his first obedience trial real soon – it all depends on the paperwork though…

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” – Oprah Winfrey

4 Months Away


I have had a pretty busy few months so haven’t had the time to blog. Now that things have slowed some I’m going to try and post more often.

Canyon turned a year old on the 3rd of June and got some new toys to share with everyone. He is 23 inches tall, 22 inches long and just 70lbs. We had him to the vet for his heartworm test and the vet said we could continue feeding him puppy food and add in fats that might entice him to eat more. She says he should be closer to 80lbs by now and will get up to 90lbs by the time he has fully filled out. His coat has grown in nicely and he seems a bit darker than he was before his coat fell out. His obedience is well on it’s way and he has already started being able to play fetch with the girls in the yard. He still isn’t the greatest at heeling, but we got an easy walk harness in June and it seems to help redirect him easier than the newtrix, gentle leader or martin gale. We took him to Toronto for Woofstock with Cessna and he was fantastic! He was quite interested in all the different dogs and smells, but listened pretty well. We were with a bunch of puppies in training, so Canyon fit right in.

Aspen turned 7 on the 18th of June and was given the special task of cleaning out the lasagna pan. We also made some banana cinnamon cookies for her and Canyon to share with the others. She’s been swimming tons and playing fetch in the yard every chance she gets. Her and Canyon are obsessed with the game and will grab a toy as they walk out if you’re not watching.

Cessna and I celebrated our 5th year as a team on May 27th. She has really made a mark on my heart and I get sad thinking about the fact that she will be turning 7 in October. She has matured tons and become such an amazing companion. She spends almost all her day watching out for me and the other dogs. She will defend Aspen against Canyon when he’s being a bully and not allowing her to bring the toy to Huib or I, she will run to me and make sure I am okay when walking down the steps in front of our house and just always seems to be watching over everyone. I’m really not sure I’ll ever be able to find a dog good enough to fill her shoes. It’s been a long road, but we’ve gotten here and I hope she’ll work another couple years for me.

Phoenix is still the same old, happy go lucky, boy we’ve loved forever. He can’t hear or run, but he still makes sure to keep the younger ones in line. We started him on a new anti-inflammatory supplement a month ago and it really seems to be making a difference in his ability to get around. He doesn’t seem as stiff after lying in one spot for too long and he doesn’t seem to hesitate at the top of the stairs before going down to the grass. He’ll be 14 in October and I think he is doing amazing!

As you can see, lots has changed and been happening for us all. Canyon is becoming a man, Cessna is becoming a wise middle aged woman, Aspen is finally able to play, and Phoenix is moving smoothly through his golden years. I look forward to getting back into the whole blogging thing and sharing our lives with you all.

Training At Square One

Today we had a puppy training session at Square One. I have only ever been to this particular mall once or twice before, so was amazed by it’s size and variety of stores. We arrived about an hour into the session as we went to visit Phoenix’s foster mom before – she had a stroke in early January and is currently living in long-term care. After walking around a bit we found the rest of the group and the trainer asked if we wanted to go and get Aiden – of course we did! As usual Aiden was excited to see us and we made sure to cherish the short time we had. I am not sure how many more of these times we will have, so gotta make the best of the ones we do.

Both Reece and Aiden were well-behaved in the mall. They weren’t overly excited around the other puppies at the session, but they were quite interested in all of the smells when we decided to take them to PJ Pets for some treat shopping. I am not a huge fan of stores who sell animals in their stores, but I know that this practice will not stop until people stop buying them. Aiden, Reece and Cessna were quite interested in the puppies that were behind the glass, but when the puppies began to make tons of noise we made sure to leave the aisle in a hurry. After the pet store we went back to the group and did some down stays and proper greeting with the boys – as usual they were fantastic! I think Reece is going to be a wonderful little guy to raise, as was his predecessor. I am not sure if it is the puppies themselves who are born amazing or if the older ones in our house teach them great manners, but one thing I do know is that I am spoiled!

Reece had his second set of vaccinations yesterday and was given a pretty much clear bill of health. He has a minor ear infection, but otherwise he is doing well. He weighed in at 24lbs and we were told he is going to be another big one. He was so tolerant of the vet and her assistants checking him over and didn’t even care about the vaccinations themselves or with the thermometer being shoved up his bum – he was more interested in the treats! After the check up was all over and we headed over to the desk to pick up the ear ointment, Reece decided to settle back onto the scale for a quick nap – crazy boy! He will go for his final set of vaccines on the 14th of April along with Aiden who will be getting his yearly’s – oh what fun!

Spring Is Here!

This week has been pretty uneventful. Cessna and Aiden (16 weeks) went to the vet to get their vaccinations. Cessna got a clean bill of health and happily only had to get one needle and then some blood drawn for her heartworm test…what a brave little girl! Aiden got his final set of puppy vaccinations and also got a clean bill of health, he now weighs 35lbs! After a week of not feeling so hot, his belly is now back to normal, it’s amazing what a few days of just rice and Pepto will do. After going to the vet we headed off to visit a friend who also has a dog guide. Boise is a 4 year old black lab from GDB, a VERY big boy! Cessna and Aiden wasn’t sure what to think of Boise, he had surgery on his eye about two weeks ago and is still needing to wear his cone to protect him from scratching at it. Just imagine what it would be like to see a great dane wearing a cone on it’s head…that’s how big he is and how strange it looked. After a nice visit with my friend and Boise we headed off to dinner with another friend at Frankie Tomatoes…yummy all you can eat Italian! Cessna and Aiden did very well, just lying under the table and watching the other patrons walk by with their plates full of food.

The rest of our week has been spent working on plans for our local Purina Walk for Dog Guides and spending lots of time outside. Aiden was born in December so has never experienced the heat of an Ontario summer, did he ever get a quick lesson. We took everyone to the local school yard to play fetch each day this week so they are really beginning to enjoy the nicer weather. Aspen and Aiden are finding it a bit hard to get used to right now, but I think soon enough Aiden will adjust like Phoenix has who is also a yellow lab. Aspen on the other hand hates the summer months, being a golden she likes it as cold as possible. When Cessna and Phoenix are lifting their paws in the winter, Aspen is laying in the snow eating ice and loving it. Cessna finds it tough when it is really sunny out because her black coat just seems to draw in the heat, but she still loves her free runs no matter what the temperature.