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.

Social Gathering At Fanshawe College

On Wednesday Aiden (15 weeks) and Cessna accompanied us on a trip to London where we attended Fanshawe College’s social gathering. It was a gathering of aboriginal students from the college and surrounding high schools, as well as some of the aboriginal community members. We missed the cultural teaching workshop in the morning, but were able to partake in the afternoon festivities. The afternoon was filled with traditional aboriginal dancing, with some people even wearing their regalia’s.

Cessna has been to several aboriginal gatherings so the noise of the drums and singing was no surprise to her, she just laid in front of me and slept. Aiden was quite curious at first, wanting to check out what was going on in the centre of the gym. After a bit though he just settled down for a nap…nothing seems to phase this little guy! There were people dressed in all sorts of regalia’s, every First Nations group has their own style and every type of regalia has a meaning.

Jingle Dress dancers are easy to spot because of the tin pieces in the shape of cones sewn carefully to their dress, as well as the jingling noise they make when dancing.
The jingle dress itself is a unique work of art. The dress, usually made of traditional buckskin is sewn in a straight fashion from sleeves to hem. Tradition states that the small metal cones, or the “Jingles” attached to the dress represent several different things. The sounds of the jingles ward off bad spirits and welcome good spirit into the dance.

The Grass dancers’ outfits of today consist of a belt, cuffs, headband and harness with a porcupine roach which adorns two eagle feathers or a set of plumes. The dancer moves his hips, arms, head and shoulders in harmony with the movement of his legs and dance steps. Dancers attempt to imitate nature, resembling the gentle swaying of grass on a windy day. Traditionally, the grass dancers were called out to the place where feasts and special events were to take place. The dancers blessed the ground while they danced in time with the beat of the drum. While the grass dancers danced, they flattened the grass with their feet in preparation for the ceremonies to take place.

The Women’s Fancy Shawl dance symbolizes the life of a butterfly. . Women’s Fancy Shawl dancers have beautifully intricate outfits. The dancer will wear a cape which is usually fully beaded. Also, they have matching leggings and moccasins, hairpieces and jewelry. Distinctive to the women’s Fancy Shawl dance is the way in which they use their shawl as adornment, delicately draping it over their bodies. It is in the movement of her body while she dances and the lightness of her dance steps that makes the butterfly come to life.

The Men’s Fancy Dance was meant for entertainment and still is today. The bright colours of the outfits rind the fast moves of the dancers provide an entertaining sight for onlookers. Men’s Fancy dancers wear two brightly coloured bustles on their backs. Some dancers choose to make their bustles out of man-made feathers while others choose eagle feathers. The dancers also wear a cape made of cloth, ribbon or are fully beaded. They also wear matching front and back aprons. In addition to their regalia, the
dancers wear porcupine head roaches, fur- leggings and bells.

There are Northern and Southern ways of dancing Women’s Traditional. Northern style is danced by remaining in one spot, lightly bouncing in rhythm with the drum. Southern style has the women slowly and gracefully walking around the Circle in time with the drum, gently stepping toe-heel, toe-heel with the feet appearing to “walk on clouds”. Both styles carry a fringed shawl folded over their bent left arm, a purse in their left hand, and a feather fan, usually eagle or hawk, in their right hand. The women hold themselves tall and proud, their bodies straight. The fringe on the shawl is to sway naturally with the movements of the women’s feet, not from upper body bending or swinging. The fan is raised in salute when the women hear the drum giving honor beats. At all times, the dancers are to stay in time with the drum and stop precisely when the drumming ends. The ladies wear knee-length beaded moccasins, leggings, and either a bucksin or cloth dress that has long, open sleeves. There are two styles of buckskin dress; once again, Northern and Southern. The Northern style is to completely bead the shoulder or cape part of the dress, whereas, the Southern style uses beadwork mainly as an accent. Also in bucksin regalia, the moccasins are either fully beaded (Northern) or accent-beaded (Southern).

Men’s Traditional dancers were an eagle feather bustle as part of their outfit. This dancer’s regalia is quite beautiful with colourful beadwork and a roach as a headpiece. Through his dance moves and steps the dancer tells a story of heroic battles or successful hunting trips.

Attending aboriginal gatherings such as Pow Wows is one of the highlights of my summer. I grew up knowing very little about my mother’s heritage, but as I grew older and was able to read about everything, I began to involve myself in my Ojibwe culture.

Trip To Elmira

Yesterday Cessna, Aiden and I accompanied a few other foster moms and their puppies to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival. I’ve never seen so many people in a small area (or what seemed like a small area) before! We had to weave our ways in and out of the crowds that filled the walkways and sidewalks. There were tons of vendors with food and merchandise. Cessna did an amazing guiding job, not walking me into one thing or one person the whole entire day…way to go baby girl! Too bad you weren’t a little taller though because then we might not have gotten momentarily separated from the grou…lol!

The puppies all enjoyed trying to get the various food items that had been dropped, but most were quickly removed by the fast reactions of the seasoned foster moms…thanks guys! Aiden thought it was a good idea to grab a whole napkin and eat it, but it was quickly taken out. Another time he decided to try and eat a pancake, but again it was removed successfully. Poor guy though had the runs last night, not sure what he got without all of us knowing, but he seems to be feeling better this morning…sorry monkey man for not allowing you to eat breakfast, but it’s for your own good! Did you know you can give a dog canned pumpkin when they have the runs? I didn’t, but my husband did some research on what to do with a 3 month old puppy who has the runs and learned about this interesting trick. We have opted for the fasting for 12 hours, but at least we know for another episode. When Aspen was a puppy, about Aiden’s age, she ate a corn starch bone by nyla and threw up for hours. We ended up having to take her to the vet for an afternoon of intravenous fluids, so no more corn starch bones for any of our dogs! After that day with Aspen we worry about something similar happening, but thankfully there is the internet to look up ideas for what to do.

The trip was quite exhausting for all of the puppies, including Cessna. They saw dogs of all types, people of all sorts, and even horses…Boomer, it is not necessary to bark at them, they were just giving the little kids rides you silly boy! All of us were stopped after every step we took to have people pet the puppies and ask about what they will do in the future and what our purpose was as a foster mom. I don’t think we even made it all the way through the entire place in the 4 hours we were there. Poor Cessna had to sit and watch while the puppies were all given tons of attention and treats, but she was a good sport about it. I think it must have been neat for the people walking by us to see coats of all colours and a working dog too. In our group we had: Foxy in purple (a foster for National Service Dogs), Varsity in green (a foster for Lions Foundation of Canada), Cessna in her harness, and Boomer and Aiden in their red coats (Autism Dog Services fosters). We also got a chance to meet up with 2 other NSD pups, Comet and Bo (I think), they were so well behaved. Maybe they will be able to come out on one of our future puppy adventures.

After we had all tired ourselves out we started the long trek back to the wagon to be taken to our cars. The puppies and Cessna were so exhausted that they just laid by our feet hoping no one would come near to bother them. On the car ride home Foxy and Aiden passed out and Cessna just laid in the back watching the world go by. At home Cessna and Aiden ate dinner and then crashed and never made a sound until later that night.

Trip To The Guelph Airport

On Monday Cessna and Aiden accompanied myself and Huib on a Beavers (5-7 year old scouts) trip to Guelph’s airport. Who would have ever thought Guelph would have an airport, I only ever learned of it because my friend’s boyfriend lived near it. The airport is small, only has room for smaller planes. They do mostly training, but do have some people come out and fly their own personal planes.

I sure wish we had brought our camera…maybe next time! The Beavers were so full of energy and excitement, Cessna was just lapping up all this energy…thank goodness I had a halti. We were given a one hour tour of the airport and allowed to check out a 2 seater Cessna and a 4 seater Cessna…yes, I said a Cessna! If we had only remembered our camera…we could have gotten a picture of my little Cessna sitting on the wing of a twin engine Cessna. That would have been SO cute! The woman giving the tour was quite good with the boys and good about explaining the various things they pointed out in interest. There were mostly planes used for training purposes, but there were also some neat vintage planes and some planes owned by Guelph residents. The boys thought the water plane was the coolest, they thought it would be neat to land on the water and cast a fishing line out the window.

During the tour Aiden and Cessna just walked along looking around at all the sites. Cessna was mostly interested in the Canada geese that were flying and landing in a nearby field, but Aiden thought the puddles were tons of fun to walk through…guys we were supposed to be experiencing new things, not enjoying the things we can do almost anywhere! Even though the energy level was high around them Cessna and Aiden did pretty well, not paying too much attention to everyone wanting to pet them. Maybe we’ll see if we can take you guys to another airport where we will actually remember our camera.

We ended the night by heading to Starbucks for a coffee and dessert with a friend. Cessna laid beside my chair watching the peple around her, while Aiden argued with Huib about whether he should be lying down or walking around under the table…in the end Huib won of course, I guess Aiden just got tired so curled up and fell asleep until we were ready to go home.

Having An Older Dog

With Phoenix being 11 ½ and not getting any younger I constantly find myself worrying about every little thing he does that is out of the usual. He is quite healthy for his age, only a bit of mild arthritis and pee pee accidents when he gets overly excited, but nothing more than that. But, I still find my mind wandering when I lay in bed trying to sleep wondering if I can handle the day he needs to cross over that Rainbow Bridge. I have had Phoenix for almost 10 years now and he is really my first pet which I raised on my own. I got him as a dog guide on July 23, 1998 at 10:00am and even though I had had a dog guide for a short time before him I fell in love with Phoenix right away.

My first dog guide and I really never truly bonded, but Phoenix and I were inseparable after the second week of class. He was quite attached to his trainer when I first received him, but after two weeks of being together he became my yellow shadow and has never let me down since. We had a great working life together, but after 7 years of a fast paced life he decided it was time for him to retire and become a pet. He decided you ask…yes, Phoenix decided to retire, he began to walk slow and do things out of the ordinary like become distracted or sniff uncontrollably. After 3 months of this I decided to ask the school to come out and tell me if I am doing something wrong or if he just isn’t interested in working anymore. After only 5 minutes of walking with us the trainer told me it was my choice, that there was nothing wrong with his guiding other than he was slow and that he seemed to have no health issues, but that they felt he would completely stop within 6 months. I asked when the next class was and was told to call and see what spots were available. I called when I got home and was informed that there was a class beginning in just over a week and that I was welcome to come in. Being a person who needs to make a decision and act before thinking too much, I agreed to come in and that is when I got Cessna.

We weren’t sure how well Phoenix would take to Cessna coming into our home and taking over some of my attention that would have usually been devoted to him, but he came to meet Cessna every Sunday I was in class and they have become the greatest buddies. Phoenix has now been retired for almost 3 years and is enjoying his time as a pet a lot. He will sometimes want to come along, but most times he will run back to the couch once I take down the harness, but the odd time he will shove Cessna and put it on himself…which makes me sad.

To get him back into semi-public life, but not as a dog guide, we have put him into the St. John’s Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. He along with Cessna goes to visit with residents of a long-term care home about once a week. Cessna is not as keen on the visits as Phoenix, but she does have her favourites. Phoenix will sit in front of the residents and let them pet him for as long as they want, sometimes even settling down on the floor in front for a rest.

When I sit alone with Phoenix by my side thinking about the past and thinking about what is to come, I still get tears. I know he has had a long and wonderful life, but I don’t know how life would be without my stubborn, deviant minded little buddy. He will do things to make you angry and when you get upset with him he will just wag his tail and laugh in his own way. He knows he is loved and knows who is boss, but still has to test the waters every once in a while. My husband, Huib, and Phoenix still fight over who’s boss, but in the end Phoenix tells him that it is me and then him followed by Huib.

When that dreadful day comes and Phoenix must say good-bye I will keep this poem in mind:

I’m still here

I stood beside your bed last night
I came to have a peek
I could see that you were crying
You found it hard to sleep
I whined to you softly
As you brushed away a tear
“It’s me, I haven’t left you,
I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast
I watched you pour the tea
You were thinking of the many times
Your hands reached down to me
I was with you at the shops today
Your arms were getting sore
I longed to take your parcels
I wish I could do more
I was with you at my grave today
You tend it with such care
I want to reassure you
That I’m not lying there
I walked with you toward the house
As you fumbled for your key
I gently put my paw on you
I smiled and said “It’s me.”
You looked so very tired
And sank into a chair
I tried so hard to let you know
That I was standing there
It’s possible for me to be
So near you everyday
To say to you with certainty
“I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly
Then you smiled, I think you knew
In the stillness of that evening
I was very close to you.
The day is over…
I smile and watch you yawning
And say “Good night, God bless,
I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right
For you to cross the brief divide
I’ll rush across to greet you
And we’ll stand side by side
I have so many things to show you
There is so much for you to see
Be patient, live your journey out
And then come home to be with me

– Author Unknown –

Little Aiden Goes To The Market

Saturday afternoon we took Aiden (now 14 weeks) for his first trip to St. Jacobs Farmers Market. Before heading to the market itself we took him for a walk around the Lego Store in the Factory Outlet and he got to sit and watch some kids building race cars and see some huge lego structures like a big stegosaurus. He wasn’t phased by this at all and did all of the stairs in the mall without any issues at all. It was only 2 weeks ago when he would shy away from walking down any more than 4 stairs at a time…way to go monkey man! After briefly walking around the outlet we headed to the market where he saw 2 large horses pulling a carriage, again not phased by this at all! Meanwhile, Cessna was so excited and began to make a low barking noise at them…crazy girl, they could stomp you in one quick raise of a hoof!

While at the market we walked around the flea market and the food buildings. We were constantly stopped so people could admire Aiden, he did so well sitting without much of a reminder and remaining quite calm while everyone made baby noises at him. Why do people do that??? The only real eventful thing which happened while at the market was when a kid fell to the floor screaming when Cessna stopped in front of it to let me know something was in the way…I swear…she didn’t do anything wrong at all! It is a shame that parents don’t encourage their children to check out things at such young ages, maybe then there would be less kids freaking out about dogs and maybe even less adults doing it in the future.

The market trip was such a success that we decided to head to a nearby baseball diamond for Cessna, Aiden and another ADS foster puppy to run free. Aiden did so well with recall on his first off leash run…there will be many more of those to come, don’t worry monkey man!

Today Aiden accompanied me to the mall with a friend while Cessna caught up on her beauty sleep. He did quite well with all the crowds and didn’t pull too much, maybe he’s actually finally learning the meaning of heel? It is amazing how many people notice someone walking with a puppy/dog, all the smiles we get and the people we pass that just happen to be talking about their dog. I can’t count the number of times my friend told me someone was smiling at us while we passed by. I guess if I could see I might do the same…who knows…I’d never seen a foster puppy or guide dog before I lost my sight and got my own guide dog.

A Jam Packed Weekend

What an exhausting Easter weekend! We started our weekend off by attending the All About Pets Show at the International Centre in Mississauga and finished it off yesterday with a long, but enjoyable trip to Fairview Mall in Kitchener.

Our trip to the show was fun, but overly exhausting for Cessna and Aiden. The crowds were huge and people kept stopping us to ask about Aiden and Cessna. I have never said “please don’t pet my dog” so many times in a day, thankfully our fellow fostering friend also took the liberty of asking people to STOP! Petting Cessna! Cessna is a good girl and rarely reacts to people paying attention to her, but I still feel it is important to educate the public on the importance of ignoring her. Aiden on the other hand just couldn’t get enough attention and thanks to our fellow fostering friend my husband and I were able to continue walking while she worked her way through the swarming puppy lovers.

Our first eventful moment at the show came when we got through security and Cessna saw a St. Bernard who she felt was getting too close to me so barked and growled at it. How many times do I have to remind you Cessna that you are not a big dog so challenging a dog over twice your size is not recommended! Next we came upon the Golden Rescue booth where we stopped to chat with another fellow fostering friend and Aiden decided “oh this golden looks like my Aspen so why don’t I chew on it”. The golden was so easy going with our little monster, it just rolled over onto it’s back and proceeded to play with him. The rest of the dog area was passed through without any further adventures.

But, then came the bird section…oh no! Cessna became alert and my husband said “keep her tight” without any explanation, so I did what I could, but Cessna still managed to jump up towards a bird that was sitting on a man’s finger. Luckily my husband was prepared for this and grabbed her in time! Who knows how expensive that bird was… We kept walking and Cessna again became alert, this time instead of a bird, it was a big turtle! Cessna and Aiden were quite intrigued by this “moving rock” and stood there watching in complete amazement.

Saturday was spent entertaining my family. We had a wonderful time chatting and the time just flew by. Everyone had arrived around 3:00pm and no one left until 9:00pm which is a record for such a gathering. I guess our first attempt at entertaining the family was a success…wonder when the next time will be… The dogs were all so good and well behaved, you would never have known there were four wandering around the party room. The little ones, Biinizi (1 ½), Nevaeh (2) and Harrison (3) loved to go up and check out each of them…good boy Phoenix, even though you aren’t a huge fan of kids, you were so patient with them! After everyone had helped with the clean up and left for home, the dogs all passed out on the couch and chairs and Aiden climbed into his crate and wasn’t heard from again until 7:00am. Sunday, not a day of rest, we set off for Waterloo for a visit with our friends Jess and Jetta. After chatting for a bit and having some pizza we decided to take Cessna and Jetta to a local dog park that we’d never been to…not a great park. Jess and I stood by the entrance gate chatting while my husband walked around taking random shots of the dogs. After about a half hour or more of trying to keep the beagle looking thing off Jetta, Cessna decided it would be a good idea to get into the middle of an argument that a big yellow lab and a big unfixed golden were having…wise idea girl! Thankfully Huib was quickly there to help her out of her mess…hmmm…I wonder why none of the other dog’s owners were there to help him? Well that ended our dog park trip. The end of our long weekend was spent at Fairview Mall walking around with other puppies and their families. Even though it was 3 hours, it was probably one of the most interesting trips I’ve ever been to at a mall. We learned lots and had some good conversations. Hopefully we can do it again sometime soon!

After such a long jam packed weekend it has been decided that today will be our “day of rest”.

Down…

Down…? Down how? Down who? Where’s down? What’s down? Just give me that darn cookie wil you! Aww….the wonders of teaching a puppy new commands…

So I decided that Aiden should now learn the meaning of down. He’s got most of the other basic commands, like “sit””, “come”, “quiet”, “no”, and “stay” mind you only for a few seconds, but he’s only 12 weeks right? Well our lesson began with me getting him to sit and then tapping the floor while saying “Aiden down” and him looking at me as if to ask “what are you doing?” So I say it a few more times and he actually goes down! I tell him to stay and then reach for a treat as he jumps up in excitement…what do I do now? So…I proceed to do the same thing, this time holding the treat in my closed hand, tappling the floor in front of him and saying “Aiden down” He looks at me, looks at the hand with the treat and begins to nose my hand, ignoring the fact that I want him to do something for it. After a moment of saying “Aiden down” I decide that maybe it’s a good idea to show him what I want and proceed to take his front paws and placing him into a down…he rolls over! Okay…so what now? I give him a treat because, well he did do something that sort of resembled what I wanted and then I proceed to try the whole process again. Aiden just continues to look up at me with this expression of “why don’t you just give me that darn cookie and we’ll all be fine because I have no freaking clue what, how or who down is!”

Meanwhile, my other three dogs are doing everything I am saying in the hopes that maybe Aiden might get the clue…and saying to themselves “why isn’t she paying any attention to the fact that we’re doing what she wants?”

Finally Ready

So I finally decided that it was about time to bite the bullet and join the fad of blogging. I have tried to stay away from fads all of my life, only deciding to do things because I felt it was interesting rather than just doing it because it was cool. To prove this I will admit that I have not read all of the Harry Potter books, yes! it’s true, I have only read books 1-4. I didn’t actually read my first one until 2004 and then my last one #4 this past summer. Crazy isn’t it?

Well with all the excitement of getting a new dog guide almost 3 years ago and now beginning to foster my first puppy, I’ve decided that maybe it might just be time to start a blog. I’ve enjoyed reading other dog guide users and foster family’s blogs so why not start my own? Here goes nothing…

So Cessna and I have now been together for almost 3 years, I can’t believe how time flies. She has matured so much over the past couple of years, it is amazing the changes people notice in her, she is no longer seen as the crazy dog, but rather the dog with a mission and the dog who loves her job, but also still enjoys just letting herself go crazy at times. She has sure changed my life in many ways, not to say Phoenix wasn’t a great dog guide, but there are some areas in which Cessna is just a little better and I guess she deserves the credit. I wonder if I’ll ever figure out what motivates her to do what she does…for Phoenix it was the food and what he would get out of it, but for Cessna I just don’t know…maybe she just enjoys it? Now for our new addition, Aiden, he is our little bundle of fun and adventure. Aiden is a 12 week old yellow lab, more of a tan colour actually. He has yellowish-brown eyes with maybe even a hint of blue…a strange colour for a yellow I think… We have now had him for just over 2 weeks and have had nothing but fun. He makes us laugh all of the time with his little wrinkley face and paws that are too big for his little body. He is already 26lbs and seems to be growing by the second…I think he is going to be a big one! Our dogs seem to be adapting to him being here, Phoenix has told him the boundaries and Cessna has taught him to growl when playing…not sure if that one’s such a good lesson Cess! Aspen though seems to love him being here, I guess it helps her to not be the bottom of the totem pole like she is with the other two. She has been teaching him the polite way to play and how not to be so rough..awww, I love my golden!

Well I will sign off for now, but stay tuned for more adventures with the rulers of the house.