Cola

Just thought I’d write a quick entry on an acquaintance’s dog who has recently retired. Cola is a 5 ½ year old female black lab from the same school as I received Phoenix and Cessna. Cola was matched with Jackie in October of 2006 and has been a great companion. Jackie had another dog prior to Cola, but due to some unfortunate circumstances had to retire the dog after less than a year of working. When Jackie first got Cola she was full of energy. I remember visiting with her at the training centre and laughing at how wiggly and silly she was. Jackie was up to the challenge though – she worked hard and did all she could to create a fabulous working relationship. Jackie and I talked regularly at first about concerns, but no matter what she thought, I always knew she was fine and just needed to have some confidence in herself. Sadly, Cola has had to retire due to severe allergies and working stress. Jackie and her family will be adopting Cola, so she will get to stay with the family she has grown to love and trust.

About a week ago Jackie returned to the training centre and has been placed with her new partner in crime. I do not yet know what breed, sex or age the new dog is, but will update everyone when I talk to her in October. For now, all I know is that she has been placed with a dog who matches everything she requested and hopefully this time she’ll get to experience a full working life with a dog without issues.

Good luck Jackie and I hope to hear all about your new companion real soon!! I will post pictures of Cola and of jackie’s new companion when I get a chance to ask her for some.

Our Step-Dad

Dad entered our lives when I was 4 ½ and Brandi was 18 months. Both our sperm donors weren’t “ready” to be fathers so it was up to mom to raise us. She worked as an RNA (now called an RPN) at a local long-term care home and found it hard to meet people with her two young children following behind. She met Dad at a neighbour’s New Year’s Eve party and I guess that’s where it all began.

Over the years Dad has been a sore spot for me at times – not being willing to work longer than a year at a time and often spending weeks on end lying around and making things tough for the rest of us. When mom was getting sick Dad took care of her, but he also made things harder for us as well – financially and emotionally. Dad wasn’t really into children and found it hard to be patient and caring when Brandi and I were causing trouble. I remember asking mom why she put up with him and wondered if things would have been easier if he wasn’t around. Well mom passed away in 1998 and my relationship with Dad became tougher.

When I went away to university I made sure to spend as little time as possible back home and this seemed to suit Dad fine. Our relationship became really rocky though during my second year when I decided he had used up enough of our inheritance and decided to remove it from our joint account. Over the following years we saw very little of one another, but seemed to get along fine during our occasional visits.

Last year Dad came to visit for a couple weeks in Guelph when we decided to hold a birthday party for him. This visit began our new chapter. Since April Dad has been living with Brandi and things have really seemed to improve between the two of us – with him staying here once in a while for a week or so break. I’m not sure if it is his decision to finally deal with his debilitating depression or if he’s mellowed during his older years, but I really do find myself enjoying our time together – which was not something I did as a child.

Dad and Brandi have decided to move into a 3-bedroom house together and we’ve been helping them paint when Huib isn’t working. The house is cute – 2 bedrooms upstairs along with a bathroom and downstairs a small kitchen with a large living room and a third bedroom off that which Brandi has decided to use as her office and a spare room for visitors. The painting process has been a little stressful, with Dad not taking the time he should be with preparation and more careful painting, but Huib has promised Brandi that he will help her and fix what needs to be done better. On the weekend we helped her paint the living room and the house is finally looking presentable. I wasn’t sure about Brandi’s colour choices at first, but now that they are up on the walls – I think they’re great! Tomorrow we’ll go over and finish off the living room before moving onto the sun room or dining room as they will be using it. The upstairs is where Dad is doing his work and from what Huib has said, he sure isn’t the painter he used to be.

When all is done, I will try and post some pictures.

To Show, Or Not To Show…

Over the past 8 months Canyon has grown up to be handsome, confident and a great companion. When we got him in December we signed a contract saying we would not neuter him until he was a year of age, which was on June 3rd – almost 3 months ago now. Over the past couple of months Huib and I have been considering a change in our non-breeding contract, because given Canyon’s looks and temperament we really think it would be a loss to neuter him and have him to just be a regular pet. We have discussed our thoughts with the breeder (Judi Ford of Ramblin Goldens) of his sire (Kashuba’s Ramblin Blaze N Time) and she seems quite supportive of us changing our original plans and helping us where possible.

Some breeders seem really focused on titles so I guess we should consider this for our golden boy…especially if we want some business for our future stud.

Both Huib and I don’t really know much about the whole show dog world – just what we’ve seen on television – so we talked to Judi and she gave us the names of a couple handlers she has used for Blaze and another of her dogs, Gracie (Dove Cottage Grace Under Fire). I have sent an e-mail out to one of them (colin Brownlee) and am awaiting his response. We have not completely decided yet, whether we’ll show Canyon, but at least we’ve started the process. I guess our biggest concern is the effect the show ring atmosphere might have on our golden boy. He’s so laid back and has an extremely soft temperament – will the breeding change this? We’re also not wanting our training methods to change – we’ve used absolutely no collar corrections and have tried to teach him everything through shaping and praise (he actually rarely ever wears a collar at all). Will another person (even if it is just for the show ring) be willing to continue what we’ve started?

Last night I wasn’t really tired and did some research on confirmation and obedience trials. I’ve been informed by fellow dog owners that my visual impairment might cause issues in showing Canyon myself – this is why we’ve decided to look for someone else to help. After reading several websites on showing a dog, I’ve come to realize that Canyon might have a difficult time in the ring because the number one suggestion on every site is that you not teach your dog to sit… When we got Canyon (at 6.5 months) he had a bad habit of jumping up and barging through doors, so we taught him to sit in an effort to eliminate these behaviours. Now I’m stuck wondering if maybe this was not such a good idea after all.

When reading some other websites on obedience titles though, I realized that it would be silly for me not to work towards having Canyon attain at least his Novice (CD). So today I did some refresher reading on clicker training and have decided to try and slowly work through Sue Ailsby’s training levels. I worked on these a year ago with Cessna, almost getting her through level three, but we are a little rusty now.

So, tomorrow’s lesson for Canyon is clicker sensitizing (might not be the right word) and doggie zen. Maybe I’ll even start working through the levels with Cessna again – can’t hurt right? Stay tuned for updates!

“Don’t be afraid to reach for the moon because even if you don’t succeed you’ll still be one of the stars.”

A Month of Visitors

Over the past month we’ve had two young boys visiting us. Corbin is 18 months and Caleb is 12 years old. Corbin was here with his mom and her guide dog DeeDee, while Caleb stayed on his own with us.

During Corbin’s visit we learned that our dogs and cats have a huge amount of patience. Laya and Cessna tended to stay out of Corbin’s way, but the others were patient with his poking and pulling. I wasn’t sure what Logan would do around a young child, but there were times when we weren’t able to catch Corbin in time, so Logan would let out a low growl to let us know she needed our help. Corbin thought Logan was so cool, he liked pulling on her tail and grabbing her ears. Logan never once scratched him, she would just try and get away or call out for help. She isn’t one to hide either, unlike Laya, Logan was out in the open pretty much all the time – guess she thought he’d get the point after a while like the puppies usually do.

Phoenix and Aspen weren’t as into Corbin’s poking and pulling, but would patiently lie under him while he bounced until we caught him or he got bored. Corbin has a dog of his own, his mom’s guide dog, but he still doesn’t really know how to properly treat animals. He’s still young though, so hopefully he’ll learn soon. Canyon was the best with him. He never once shyed away and was always willing to let him pull on his tail, ears and jowls. At one point corbin even had a hold of Canyon’s lips while sticking his thumbs into his nose. Huib caught him in the act and that was discouraged. Even though Canyon didn’t always like what Corbin was doing, he still went up and wanted to play. It’s amazing to see how well cats and dogs can behave around young children – even when they aren’t used to having them around.

Caleb was much better with the animals. He offered to feed the cats each morning and let the dogs out for relief. The dogs loved having him around, but he wasn’t a huge fan of their desire to lick him or be in his face. His favourites were Cessna and Aspen, he’d ask to take them out with him all the time. Canyon was a little much at times for him, but I had to remind him that his energy level wasn’t always helping either. Caleb didn’t realize why Canyon wanted to always jump up on him when he was dancing around or laughing uncontrollably.

Caleb liked taking Cessna with us to the gold mine tour in Timmins and Science North in Sudbury. Caleb and his mom fostered a puppy named Jasper for Autism Dog Services so he was used to taking dogs places, but he still seemed to like seeing how Cessna reacted to the different environments. At the gold mine tour the tour guide showed us how the different machinery worked which freaked Cessna right out. The slusher and drill are extremely loud and with us being underground the rock vibrated and the noise was amplified. She was a trooper though and calmed right down once the machines were turned off.

At Science North I thought she’d be afraid of the noises coming from the dinosaurs and the ones that moved, but she surprised me and didn’t even react once. I think she really liked the insects and animals she got to see. Caleb was able to hold almost all of the insects in the exhibit and made sure to show Cessna, she thought that was pretty cool – I made sure she had her gentle leader on though so I could easily control her excitement. When we were on the animal floor, she was totally enthralled by the skunk who was anxious and walking back and forth in its enclosure. We didn’t take her with us on the second day, but I actually got to touch the skunk – she (Rosie) felt a lot like Cessna, but with fur about the length of Canyon or Laya.

Canyon came with us to Sudbury and Toronto, he was awesome! He settled immediately in his crate while we left him at the hotel – huib looked under the door to see what he what he was doing.

At Caleb’s house in Toronto he was interested in the bird and snake, but was easier to re-direct than Cessna who wouldn’t stop going up to the bird cage. On Saturday night I went onto Facebook to see what was new with my friends and family and saw that my friend’s daughter was back in the hospital. Knowing that we were only a few blocks away, I decided that we’d go visit with her before heading back north. Christina has a service dog from Autism Dog Services named Spencer so loves seeing us with the dogs when we visit. The second we entered her room she had a huge smile on her face and throughout our visit never fell asleep or stopped giggling. The funniest part of our visit with her, was to see how she pretended to sleep every time a doctor or nurse entered the room. When you first meet Christina you’d think she was unaware of her surroundings and it didn’t matter what you said around her – well you’d be completely wrong. She is unable to communicate, but from watching her facial expressions and observing her reactions to various incidents you actually understand that she’s quite an intelligent little girl who can’t express herself, but knows how to work the system  Christina’s seizures still seemed to be under control while we were visiting so the doctors were talking about sending her home the following day, so that was pretty exciting news.

Our trip home was pretty uneventful and boring for the dogs, but they were good little travelers as usual. It’s hard to believe, but as of Tuesday we’ve lived in Northeastern Ontario for a year. So far it hasn’t been all that great, but hopefully this year will bring a little more luck and less frustration. Huib has 3 more years left of his contract with the Kirkland & District Hospital, so hopefully the time will go quickly or things will improve dramatically.

Now What?

When I was in high school and had just recently lost most of my sight I was still naive and thought no matter what, nothing would hold me back from achieving my dreams. When I was picking a university to attend and chose Guelph for their new Criminal Justice and Public Policy program I thought “here’s the program that will start me on my way to becoming a lawyer”. As I was nearing the end of my time at the University of Guelph I still thought I was invincible and that I could do anything I put my mind to. It was that summer (2003( when I realized I was terribly misled 

Just before I finished my degree at Guelph I began studying for the LSAT and applied to potential law schools. I went into the test not knowing how I would do, but left knowing for sure I had failed – my proctor was diabetic and had a low blood episode so incorrectly filled in my score sheet. I decided to take a year off and figure out where to go next and decided on social work.

I got my acceptance letter to McMaster University just before I went to Dog Guides for Cessna – I was so excited!! I got amazing marks throughout my time at Mac and just before the whole placement experience happened I thought, “for sure, social work must be the field for me.” – was I ever wrong!! It took the field placement person over two months to find me my first placement, she talked to over 20 different agencies and each were eager to have me until they learned about my disability… When she finally found an agency willing to take me on the other students had already been working for 2 weeks. My first placement wasn’t the greatest, but I met some interesting people and improve my advocating skills. My second placement was much better, but still I ran into issues – my supervisor was constantly asking me “so, once you’re in the field, how will you do this?” rather than helping me to look for solutions. Don’t get me wrong, she taught me tons and I really enjoyed my time with her, but she also showed me how narrow-minded social workers can be. In addition to all the placement issues I experienced, I was continually running into problems with my fellow students. Not one of my classmates had a visible disability and not one of the instructors looked at issues faced by people with disabilities – they all focused on women, children, poverty and racism. I would constantly raise my hand in class and ask why we were only being taught about these groups and no matter what, I was always brushed aside or made to feel like an outcast for my questions.

In my opinion, social work is based on the belief that people are broken and need to be fixed. I don’t know why we weren’t being taught more about how to work within the systems that hold back society and to help clients achieve their life dreams. If social workers did more of this, rather than just providing bandaid solutions, I think the field would be obsolete and there would be less psychiatric conditions.

Since graduating from Mac in June of 2007 I have applied for several jobs and attempted to attain a masters degree without success. Most social work jobs require a person to either have a driver’s license or masters degree, neither of which I have. All of the job interviews I’ve attended ended in me being told the agency would have loved to hire me, but I just don’t have the experience required – I have tons of volunteer work though… I get the same response from masters programs, you just don’t have the work experience we require for admission – so what now? It’s an endless cycle and no matter what, I can’t seem to get past it!

I got a letter in January telling me I needed to pay my licensing fee before the end of January or I’d have to pay a penalty. I called the College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers to explain my situation. Instead of giving me options for remedying the issue, I was told that’s too bad, I guess you’ll just have to pay the penalty – that’s great guys, but I still can’t find work!!!! A month or so ago I got another letter from the College to tell me that I had to pay my fees immediately or I’d be suspended. I called the College again and explained my situation. The woman on the other end told me she wasn’t a social worker, but an administrator and that the College isn’t here to help social workers, but to help the public – if that’s the case, then why does the public need to write a letter explaining their concerns in order to get information on a social worker? You can go to the Ontario College of Nurses website and type in any nurse’s name to find out where they work and if they are actually registered or have any limitations on their job. After hanging up from the useless organization to which I pay too much money to do nothing, I began wondering “do I really want to be a social worker?”

Today I called the Association of Social Workers to ask for their assistance. Guess what? I was told, you aren’t a member, you need to pay $106 and you’ll have access to our social work job bank. Okay, now let me get this straight…. I pay $270 to one organization and get nothing in return, then I have to pay $106 to another organization in order to get access to a job bank and nothing else???? I’m at a loss for words, I don’t know where to go from here. I’ve done everything I was told, I was a good girl and successfully completed 2 degrees at 2 different universities and for what? To live on a government pension? To rely on my husband for everything from toothpaste to a place to live? How does this even close to make sense?

Huib called me this evening from work on his break to see how I was doing and I quickly explained what the Association had told me. He said he was sorry to hear this, but sadly he didn’t have much more time to talk. So I’m at a point where I’m seriously wondering, do I really want to go on with this fight and be a social worker? Do I want to find something else to pursue? Is it too late to start over? I’m a 30 year old woman, with a visual impairment, 2 university degrees and nothing to do each day, but take care of the house and train our dogs – is this right

Canine Memories


Some of my friend’s have been doing something similar on their own blogs, but instead of talking about me, I thought it might be interesting to post my favourite canine memories.

Aspen: The Drama Queen

Since I always seem to focus more on my other four-legged family members I thought it might be cool to begin this segment of my blog with a memory I have of Aspen.

We got Aspen when she was 7 weeks old. She was an adoreable little golden girl – looking more like a lab than a golden back then. We picked her up on a Friday and brought her directly home. Phoenix wasn’t much into getting to know her at first, but once we got her home and he saw that she was staying, he was eager to get her playing. He would run and she would be hot on his heels, but then he’d turn and begin to chase her which was fine until she would stop and sit… Phoenix wouldn’t be able to stop as easily, so would plough over her, sending her yelping and crying to us. He never actually hurt her, but from her cries you’d think she was dying.

On the Sunday after we picked her up Phoenix and I went to camp. My aunt came along for the drive and promised to help Huib with our new little golden bundle. She carried Aspen all over the camp while Huib helped Phoenix and I with our luggage. Once we were all unpacked, Phoenix and I walked Huib and Auntie back to the car. Aspen was in Auntie’s arms and loving all the attention as they walked down some steep stairs. As they neared the bottom though, Auntie tripped. As she fell she worried about little Aspen so made sure to have her roll from her arms as they went down. Aspen rolled a couple feet away from where Auntie dropped and wouldn’t move even a whisker… She laid there for over 3 minutes while we panicked. My Aunt was so worried that she had injured our little puppy, but all of a sudden Aspen jumped up and began running around our feet, so proud of herself.

From that day on we knew we had a little drama queen on our hands 

Twelve Years Together


Phoenix and I celebrated our 12th year together on Friday (July 23). We didn’t do anything special, but I made sure to give him a little more love and attention whenever he was in reach. Now that he is almost 14, he tends to sleep a lot and isn’t as likely to come for attention. He no longer brings me toys to play tug with or throw, but he will play with canyon if he tries to pass with a toy. Phoenix’s favourite thing is still food and he’ll sometimes find his treat ball and give it to us to fill. It’s funny to see his reaction when you take the ball and throw it back into the toy bin – “what did you do that for? I wanted you to fill it stupid!”

I know I’m not guaranteed to have Phoenix next year, but we’ll take it a year at a time and enjoy every minute we still have together.

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.

Cookie Recipe

Everyone has been asking me for the cookie recipe I use when making my dog’s favourite treats. Here it is!!

1 cup of Oatmeal (do not use the instant type)
¼ cup of Vegetable Oil (but you can use any type of fat)
1 cup of Boiling Beef Drippings (or we sometimes use boiling water when making bananas or chicken stock )
1 Clove of Garlic (or vanilla extract when using bananas)
1 teaspoon of Parsley (or rosemary if making chicken or cinnamon if using bananas)
1 cup of Rice Flour (or whatever flour you have on hand if a gluten allergy is not an issue)
2-3 tablespoons of Corn Syrup or Honey
Enough additional flour to make a stiff dough (amount will vary)

In a large mixing bowl, add oatmeal, fat and boiling beef drippings, and mix. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.

Add 1 cup of flour, corn syrup, parsley, minced garlic and begin mixing. When well blended, begin to slowly add flour to make a stiff dough.

Take out of bowl and knead out on floured surface until smooth.

Preheat oven to 250F.

Roll dough to about ¼ inches thick and cut into shapes with your favourite cookie cutters. Place close together, but not touching (cookies will not spread much while cooking) on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 45-60 minutes or until cookies are dry and beginning to brown.

I hope your dogs enjoy these cookies as much as mine do. Thank you Missy (DG puppy raiser) for sharing this recipe with me years ago.

I’ll try and post an update on the dogs for everyone tomorrow or on the weekend at the latest….it’s been a while I know!

8 Months Have Passed

I had decided to delete this blog for a while, but now I’m back. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my life experiences without the dogs, but after months of having things to say and nowhere to say them, I’m back!

We sold our condo in Guelph a few months ago and are beginning to just now fully settle into our northern life. I guess it took having the condo sell to help us accept the changes in our lives. It’s been an interesting summer so far.

We had a bonfire with Huib’s co-workers in May when the black flies were at their worse. It was a challenge for the first few hours, but once darkness fell and the campfire was hot, the bugs didn’t seem as horrible. Everyone had a blast and wants us to do it again in the fall – stay tuned…

What else has happened during my 9 months away…. Well my step-dad was kicked out by his wife and is now living with my sister. He spends some time with us, helping out with the dogs and yard work, but still hasn’t figured out where he wants to go next. I think Brandi is beginning to find it hard sharing her little one-bedroom apartment, but I cannot have him stay with us full-time. He has severe depression and even though his medication seems to be working now, I don’t know what I’d do if he went into one of his moments and was staying here. I don’t do well with silence and I don’t think he’d be as good about putting up with the dogs wanting to constantly play. Hopefully things will work out in the end for him, but for now Brandi will just have to put up with it.

Since Dad has been staying with Brandi, we’ve all been going fishing a lot. Huib bought me and Brandi pink fishing rods so it’s been fun joining the guys. During our first trip I caught a 21 inch pike, Huib caught a 22 inch one, Brandi caught a 15 inch bass and Dad caught two bass (a 12 inch and a 17 inch). We brought them all home and Huib cleaned them with Dad in the front yard. I’ve had pike before and don’t mind it, but tried the bass for the first time and thought it was also not too terrible. I am not much of a fish eater right now, but hopefully in the future I’ll learn to like it more. We went out again a week or so later, but weren’t as successful, just a few bites here and there without much else. On our trip out two weeks ago though I caught another pike and Huib made it for his dinner to take to work. I don’t mind pulling the weeds off my rod, but I cannot handle removing the fish I catch – I know….I’m such a girl!!!

The only other interesting thing I can think of right now to blog about is our canoe. Huib and I got a red Pelican canoe a few weeks ago and are really liking our time out on the water. Huib had to work a bunch of shifts during his week off so we decided to splurge and buy ourselves a canoe. It fits 3 people and is quite sturdy. We went for an hour paddle around the lake behind our house – it was so peaceful and beautiful. Hough Lake is really small and weedy, but Huib was able to show me different things we came across – a lily pad, some blueberries growing by the water and the beaver dam where we think a lot of our trees are going. The weather hasn’t been the greatest this week, but hopefully it will clear up so we can go out for another peaceful trip.

I’ll sign off for now, but will try and post more often.