Questionnaire

Below are some answers to a thought provoking questionnaire. Even though it doesn’t really apply to this blog’s topics, I still thought I’d post it here for people to see.

1) Name ten simple things that give you pleasure

My dogs
Snuggling with my husband
Spending time with friends
Drinking a warm mug of hot chocolate
Reading a book
Hearing news about my foster puppies – Aiden & Reece
Having a pajama day
Reading about someone overcoming an obstacle
Watching a sappy movie
Cuddling with a puppy

2) Name two trivial annoyances

Having someone comment on dog hair that I missed when lint brushing my clothes – I have 4 dogs, a little hair is no big deal!
Listening to someone talk about another person’s disability as if theirs is so much worse – we’re not comparing!

3) Name the best book you’ve read in the last 3 months

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

4) What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the last 3 months

The Ugly Truth

5) When you were 12 what did you think you’d be at your age now

A lawyer with a husband and kids

6) What message would you like to send to the 12 year old that you were

Money doesn’t fix everything

7) If you could see into the future would you want to

No, not at all

8) If you could meet a fictional character who would it be?

Gregory House (from the popular TV show)

9) If you could meet a living famous person who would it be?

There really isn’t anybody famous I’d want to meet

10) What is your most valuable possession?

My dogs – especially my guide dog Cessna

11) If there is a heaven what do you want to find there?

My mom and granny

12) What food do you wish had no sugar, no fat and no calories?

Reese Peanut Butter Cups

13) What three non essential things do you always take when you travel?

My pillow, my laptop and a book (even though I don’t think I’ve ever had time to read one while gone)

14) What do you miss most when you are away from home.

Not having a schedule to follow

15) Last thoughts?

This was a thought provoking questionnaire. Others should post their answers and then leave their blog address in the comments section.

Introducing Canyon


After some unfortunate circumstances, we have put our puppy raising hat on the shelf. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Autism dog Services, but it is now time to move on.

For the past month and a bit Huib and I have been trying to decide on what breed of dog we wanted to introduce into our family. We looked at getting a Bernese mountain dog, but due to timing, decided to wait a year or two. While surfing on the internet, I decided to look on the website of Rambling Goldens to see if they had any puppies coming from Smooches, the niece of our Aspen. Unfortunately she has been retired from their breeding stalk, but when I looked on their young adults available page I saw a puppy who interested me. When Huib got home that evening I showed him the pictures and profile. He asked me if it was still available and that question began our journey to bringing home Canyon (formerly sparky).

Canyon is a 6 ½ month old male golden retriever. He is (coincidentally) Aspen’s nephew – his mom, Goldie, is her half sister. He is 60lbs and already physically bigger than both Cessna and Aspen. His coat is thick and very fluffy – Aspen’s is not even close to as thick. He has not begun to feather, so it will be interesting to see how he looks in 6 months to a year’s time. His coat is similar to aspen in colour, except that his does not have as much white and hers has a little more red to it. He is gentle and sweet, but being a puppy he is also a big goof.

He does not yet know his name, but he did not seem to respond to Sparky so we decided that changing it wouldn’t be a big problem. We got the name Canyon from a list of cities in Texas. We now have Phoenix (Arizona), aspen (Colorado) and Canyon (Texas). The name Cessna does not really fit into our naming theme, but I’m sure Cessnas fly to each of those cities so it works  In order to teach him his name, we are practicing recall as much as possible.

Canyon has now been with us for 4 days and seems to be settling into our pack. Both Aspen and Cessna will play with him outside and Phoenix no longer gives him warning barks when he comes too close. he was not used to living in a house, but in such a short period of time he has already figured it all out. There has only been one accident inside and he is starting to pace less. Today he has actually been lying beside me longer than he has paced around the house. Our cats aren’t a huge fan, but I’m sure they will get used to him soon. They are never a big fan of a new dog coming into the house.

Before closing this post, a quick update on Reece. He is still waiting to be adopted, but the surgeon has decided that even though he is a good candidate for the corrective surgery, he probably won’t benefit much at this time. He is currently staying with a family in Kitchener, but hopefully soon he will find his forever home. I will post a picture or two of him when I get them.

“Every dog should have a man of his own. There is nothing like a well-behaved person around the house to spread the dog’s blanket for him, or bring him his supper when he comes home man-tired at night.”

A Wonderful Week Away

On Monday morning we set off for Waterloo. We picked up my sister in Kirkland Lake and then dropped her off in Huntsville before continuing on our way south. We arrived in Guelph around 7:00pm and did a bit of running around before we met up with a friend for coffee at William’s Coffee Pub. I sure do miss my latés living up north. We arrived in Waterloo around 10:00pm and headed straight to bed.

On Tuesday we took Jasper (an ADS foster who’s almost ready for training) and Cessna to Costco for a bit of shopping and then went to meet up with a friend for lunch. Lunch was great. My friend and I decided to share two dishes we both enjoy, a wonderful decision seeing as we both couldn’t decide between the two and would not have been able to eat two full meals ourselves. After lunch we ran a few errands and then went into Cambridge to visit with Jess and Glacier. Glacier was excited to see us and was happy to have Jasper to play with. Before taking Jess to horseback riding we went for dinner at a little Mexican restaurant near her house. It was pretty yummy, but not completely worth the money in my opinion. When we got back to Waterloo, Jasper and Cessna were exhausted so slept while we played Dog-opoly with Karen. My sister bought me the game as an early Christmas present.

On Wednesday we went to a couple of appointments in Guelph and then met up with Kelly and Ace another foster puppy from ADS. The dogs had fun playing with Ace and were all ready for a nap by the time we returned to Karen’s. In the evening we went to a puppy outing at Fairview Mall where there were 5 other ADS families with their puppies(Chester, Finnley, Cooper, Urban and Ace), not including us with Cessna and Karen with Jasper. We had a good outing and ended it all at Crabby Joe’s for a drink and appetizer. It was great to see how much some of the puppies have matured over the past month since we saw them last. Ace was still as well-behaved as usual and Cooper continued to outshine many of his older puppy buddies.

On Thursday Huib finally got his hair cut and we ran a few more errands in Guelph before heading to Etobicoke to visit with Phoenix’s puppy raisers. Alice (his foster mom) is improving everyday and is now walking a bit with the use of a walker. It has been neat to see how determination can overcome negative odds. She had a stroke in January of 2009 which left her in a wheelchair, unable to use her left side or eat solid foods. Now she is eating and drinking anything she wants and moving her left hand/arm more each time we visit. She is able to lift herself into a stand position and walk a bit with the walker. If her determination to go home continues to be this strong then it may be very possible that it could happen  We took Phoenix in to visit and then brought each of the other three (Cessna, Jasper & Aspen) one by one in order not to take up too much space in the small sun room. Thursday evening was pretty laid back with a bit of moving furniture and then playing a bit more Dog-opoly.

Friday was Cessna’s 6th birthday. We got her a couple new toys over the week – a fox wubba and a toy called a Flappy (a long rubber stick shape covered in colourful canvas that has tail like pieces sticking out from either side). Her auntie Jess bought her a stuffed squirrel toy and liver treats which she loves. We packed everyone into the car after a run in the baseball diamonds near Karen’s house and headed to Lindsay. In Lindsay we met up with Aiden’s new mom and followed her to their house which is about 25km from town. Aiden took about 20 seconds to realize it was us, but then the wiggles started and he almost couldn’t control himself. He looks fantastic and seems so happy. We gave him his new toy, a fox wubba and he ran around squeaking it and throwing it to us for another toss. Aiden’s new mom told us about how he has been doing and how much he has changed her son’s life. Aiden passed his public access test just over a week ago and will soon be attending school with Kamaran. We were there for about 3 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. Aiden has not changed at all. He is still full of beans and loves to give kisses and play fetch. For the last half hour we played fetch with Aiden and our dogs. Before leaving we gave Aiden a rawhide ball and he has it broken open and the middle eaten before we were in the car. It was nice to see that he didn’t mind us leaving – something I also see with Cessna and Phoenix when they visit with their raisers.

We met up with a fellow puppy raiser for dinner along with my uncle before heading home. It was great to see both of them. Our drive home was uneventful. We saw a wolf crossing the road just outside New Liskeard, but nothing else too exciting. Now that we are home, we have begun to unpack the car and will probably do a bit of cleaning before Huib returns to work on Monday.

Just a short update on Reece. He has been diagnosed with ununited coronoid process and has been released from the ADS program. He requires a very expensive surgery to correct the problem, but in the end will most likely develop arthritis by 5 or 6 years of age. We are not able to afford this surgery so have had to pass on adopting him, but hopefully soon the program will find a permanent home and family willing to cover the cost. In the meantime he is staying with the other foster mom and will go for a few x-rays to determine the true extent of his condition and a decision will then be made as to what exactly needs to be done and when it will take place. We will keep you all updated as we find out more about him.

My Old Boy Is Now 13

Phoenix turned 13 today. It is hard to believe another year has passed. I remember when he was 21 months old and full of life and energy. Now he is 13 years old and still full of life, but not as much energy. He is a little lighter in colour now and his muscle tone has gone, but other than that he still looks like the same Phoenix who entered my life so many years ago. Being my first real pet, he has taught me some of the signs of old age and taught me that not every dog ages the same either. He has well surpassed my expectations and has far outlived many of his fellow trainees, but still I see him slowing down. He now hears nothing, sleeps a lot more and has stiffness in his hind legs when getting up after a long nap.

I know we won’t have many more years together, but every day I thank him for spending another one with me. Tonight we will make him one of his favourite foods – macaroni and cheese. When I was in university and didn’t know he had a gluten allergy, I used to share my kraft dinner with him. I had to stop this once I knew what was causing his ear infections, but last month I decided to spend a little more and buy a box of rice pasta. I know he probably has no idea why he is being given this special treat, but at least I know he’ll enjoy it.

Thank you Phoenix for coming into my life and being my constant companion – it means more to me than you will ever know. I hope we can celebrate another year together, but for now let’s just take it one day at a time and enjoy every minute we have left.

Privilege

Over the years I have met many people with service dogs and each person brings a different perspective regarding access to the table. Some people think that everyone should just know the law and regulations regarding service dogs and refuse to educate people. Others feel that people should just ignore the fact a dog exists beside them and allow them to move on with their daily lives without asking questions or wondering why a dog has just entered a public place. Then there are others like me who believe in education and encourage people to come up and ask questions and learn what difference a dog can make. I recognize the fact that some people have health conditions which their dogs assist them with and they do not feel comfortable discussing it with others. And I understand that some people live busy lives and cannot afford the time to stop and answer every question or acknowledge every curious look. But, we have been given a privilege (not a right) that many people do not understand the reasons behind and it is our duty to educate and to understand why this knowledge does not exist.

I have been a guide dog user for 12 years now and have only really had access issues a dozen times. Yes, I use a dog because I am visually impaired and yes, the public is much more educated on the guide dog, but does this matter? – I have still faced access issues. I find the majority of my issues have been due to cultural differences and understanding. I know the people who have refused me should be aware of the laws regarding the refusal of service dogs, but sometimes there is a language barrier and sometimes there is a cultural belief which prohibits one from being around an animal such as a dog. Then there is the fear which exists because in many middle eastern countries dogs are wild and seen as dirty or evil. Therefore, as a guide dog user it is my duty to be polite (at first anyways) and explain what my dog does and what the laws are surrounding refusal of entry. In most cases the restaurant or store owners will relent seeing the fact that they do not have the authority to refuse me, but in other cases I will just choose to leave because the owner continues to ignore the fact that I am speaking. It bothers me when I hear other service dog users ranting about people who refused them and ignoring the fact that they themselves did not take the opportunity to attempt educating before throwing the law at them.

I guess I see having a guide dog and being allowed to take her into public places as a priviledge rather than as a right. If Cessna is barking, misbehaving or causing a scene then I feel the establishments have the right (no matter what the law says) to ask me to leave. If my dog is dirty or smelly then again I feel that restaurant and store owners have the right to ask me to leave. If she is well-behaved, well-groomed and not bothering others then I think that I should be allowed to remain, but if someone does not understand the law or the purpose of her being with me then it is my duty to educate because in many cases people just don’t understand.

I guess the point of this whole entry is to ask other service dog users out there to stop and think before they react to being refused entry into a public place. Ask yourself; is this person being rude? Or is this person missing the information required to understand what my dog does and why they are allowed to enter with me? Sometimes taking a few minutes to explain will avoid further issues later and issues for others who use service dogs as well.

A Month Has Passed

It has been just over a month since we moved north and I thought it was about time I sit down and fill everyone in on what’s been happening. The movers came around 9:00am on Monday the 24th of August and Huib and I piled the dogs into the car and set off on our long drive north. We made a bunch of stops in Guelph before leaving and then made a few stops on the drive to let the dogs relieve themselves and stretch their legs. They were all so good about being packed into the back of our little Cavalier. We arrived in Engleheart around 10:00pm and picked up our keys from the home owners. When we arrived at the house the dogs did their usual sniffing around and then quickly settled in for the night. The movers arrived around 10:00pm on Tuesday and quickly unpacked our stuff. They put together our bed, set up our china cabinet and put all of the boxes and Rubbermaid containers in their designated areas. My aunt and her guy friend arrived shortly after the movers and began helping us unpack and put things together. It was a long day, but we got a lot accomplished.

We have been living here for just over a month now and have only a few containers left to sort through. Huib has begun to create a path from our house to the lake and the dogs have begun to learn their boundaries. Cessna and Aspen both love the swimming and are learning to dock dive. Cessna has become pretty good at it, but Aspen still stops at the end of the dock and barks at the water not knowing what to do, but wanting to go after the toy that was thrown. Reece (9 months & 75lbs) still isn’t a huge fan of swimming, so spends most of his time running back and forth along the dock and shore waiting for the girls to come in so he can pounce on them and steal the toy or stick. Phoenix will go in to his shoulders and sometimes swim for a toy a couple of times, but most of the time he stands on the dock watching the “fools” chase the thrown object. I think he has decided that playing fetch is now for the “fools” to do rather than for him to waste his energy participating.

On the 14th of September we headed down to Waterloo and stayed with another fellow puppy raiser. We dropped Aspen off in Hanover to visit her breeder for a bit so only had Reece, Cessna and Phoenix. While “down south” as my sister likes to call it, we did some shopping at Costco, visited some friends and picked up some paperwork at the college. On the Wednesday evening we took part in the weekly puppy outing and got to meet an adorable new golden foster named Cooper. He was so tiny and fluffy – it made me miss my little golden girl. Reece was a star and out shined many of the other puppies around his age. He has come a long way from the insecure little chocolate puppy we picked up just 7 months ago.

On the Thursday morning we met up with another puppy raiser and gave Reece to her for his elbow assessment. Over the past month his limp has only improved when not doing the usual pavement and slippery floor walking he did while living in Guelph. Once we begin taking him for walks in town his limp gets progressively worse. Last week we got an update on Reece and he is behaving well – going into his crate without protest and playing well with the raisers other dogs (2 goldens, 1 lab, 1 toy poodle & a mix of some sort). She is still waiting for his vet records to arrive in the mail from the vet we took him to see, but is hoping to have him assessed this coming week so that we can pick him up on the weekend when we go back “down south” to retrieve Aspen. We will either be picking him up to continue fostering or we will be taking him to his forever home – a family with two young children. We had them come to meet Reece and he did absolutely amazing with both the 7 year old boy and his older sister. The young boy had him running up and down stairs and hills, but never once did Reece pull him off his feet. These children have ADHD and even though he might not be able to help them through service, Reece will be able to help them in other ways as their pet. It will be hard to say good-bye, but we know it is for the best – he is not a dog for us and we know he can do more for these children than he can staying with us.

It has sure been a quiet week without Aspen and Reece. Phoenix and Cessna sleep most of the time when Huib is at work. When he is home, we take them to the water to swim or around the property for a little exploring. We have started playing fetch with Cessna in the longer grass to see how she does at finding her Frisbee. On Friday she only missed finding it once out of the 10 or more times we threw it. I think we are going to look at the training that would need to happen for search and rescue and see if we can teach her some of that before looking into the actual volunteer process. Even though Cessna will be 6 years old at the end of October she still continues to learn new skills and desires the constant challenge.

Eleven Years of Memories

As of today at 10:00am Phoenix and I have been together for 11 years and 3 weeks. It has been such a journey full of happiness and sadness, but a wonderful journey through and through. A journey I would never change for anything. Phoenix and I were matched just two months before my mom passed away and just under 7 years before my grandma passed away. He has done more than most dog guides, except of course my friend jess’s dog Jetta who went all over the world for swim meets and to the Paralympics in Athens, Greece.

Over the years we have had a few scares, but overall his health has been good. He has had more ear infections than I can count, but once we figured out he had a gluten allergy then things seemed to settle a bit. Phoenix is beginning to get a little stiffer in his walking and finds it hard at times when he first gets up to get going, but he just wags his tail and keeps walking until the kinks work themselves out. He cannot always hold his urine as long as the others – with the exception of Reece who seems to have a bladder the size of a pea – but we have worked out a schedule along with a cranberry supplement each day and this seems to work well for him. He went through a period of time between the ages of 10 and 12 where he would have accidents semi-regularly, but now he seems to have his bladder under control and hasn’t had an accident in over a year.

But, recently we have begun to notice that he isn’t hearing us at times. We thought it might be a mixture of deafness and selective hearing, but in the past month we’ve realized that he no longer hears. This is hard for me to accept because I loved it when I would just say his name and he would look up at me while his tail wagged excitedly. Even though we have been together for over 11 years, his tail has never stopped wagging at the sound of my voice. He would regularly ignore commands from others and look over at me for support, but now not even my commands can be heard. If I get his eye contact then his tail will sometimes wag, but this only makes me sadder because I know he must be wondering what I am saying.

Just writing these words makes tears come to my eyes because I know that it is official – my baby boy is getting older and we might not have too many years left…

Elbow Update

Reece had an x-ray done on his elbows last week and it was determined that there are no obvious signs of elbow dysplasia. He is still limping and there is inflammation so a decision is still being made on whether he should remain in the ADS program or be adopted out as someone’s pet. He will be going to visit another foster mom who is more experienced in dog health so she can assess his elbow and have her vet take a look. We are moving in exactly 13 days so I am hoping this assessment will happen soon so that we can have him back in time to go north.

Stay tuned for further updates!

Three Weeks In Kirkland Lake

Phoenix, Cessna, Reece and I just got back on Friday from a wonderful trip up north. Huib came to pick us up and we picked Aspen up from her breeder’s on our way back to Kirkland Lake. It was great to have the gang back together – I think Reece was the most excited because his surrogate mommy had finally returned! Too bad she went back up north with Huib yesterday though. The poor guy continually tries to get Cessna and Phoenix to play, but neither seem that interested in entertaining him.

While up north we took a trip out to the house we are planning to rent until our condo sells and then buy. It is small, only 2 bedrooms, but it has a lot of potential for expansion. It is situated on 73 acres of land surrounded by a whole lot of crown land. There is a lake just 2 minutes from the back door and a private dock. The nearest neighbours are probably a 5 minute drive or more. Huib will have a 30 minute commute to work, but with all the land and possibilities this house presents, we couldn’t say no. We will take possession around the end of August and begin to do a little landscaping.

On Canada Day we took Reece to see the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus tribute bands and wander around the kids area. Reece didn’t seem to mind all the kids running around him and didn’t even notice the bouncy equipment set up for them to play on. He even fell asleep in the grass after we stopped to stand and listen to the music. Later in the evening we took Cessna to see the Eagles tribute band and it was really good. Cessna was more interested in all the people coming up to say hi to her, she didn’t seem to care about the music or loud singing. We didn’t end up staying for the fireworks though. The concerts were over about an hour before they started so rather than just standing around, we took my sister home and returned to the college residence where we were staying.

On the Saturday following Canada Day there was a Tom Cochrane concert at the recreation centre. It was a good concert, except for the fact that people talked to one another all through the singing. I guess that’s part of living in a small town, everyone knows one another. Huib and I enjoyed the opening act the most – Serena Ryder. We even went up to get a signed copy of her newest CD when she was finished. Tom Cochrane was also good, but Huib didn’t find him as entertaining. He may have been too intoxicated to dance around or maybe just too old now, but Huib didn’t really like his performance as much. Cessna came with us to the concert. She was fine throughout Serena Ryder’s performance, but was a little shaky at first when Tom came on. But, we took her harness off and got her some popcorn which seemed to settle her down enough.

We didn’t really do anything else as exciting the rest of the time we were up north, but the dogs got tons of time to swim and run which they thoroughly enjoyed. I think Reece is finally getting the knack for swimming. Huib would throw the ball out for the girls to get and then throw a stuffed turtle for Reece to fetch. He didn’t throw the turtle as far out as he threw the ball, but a few times Reece actually attempted to go out for the ball with the girls. Phoenix swam a little, but spent most of his time rolling in the sand. I’m not sure why, but he seems to find it entertaining to get as dirty as possible!

Overall our trip up north was good. We got a few too many bug bites for my liking, but then I guess 35 in 3 weeks isn’t that terrible… We cane home Friday around midnight and joined in on an ADS puppy outing to the St. Jacob’s Market on Saturday. Reece did amazingly well – out of 4 puppies he was probably the best behaved. Ace is only 3 ½ months though so he still has time to catch up to Reece in abilities. We worked on stays and crowds most of the afternoon so by the time we were ready to go home the dogs were hot and exhausted. At home Cessna and Reece drank tons of water and then fell asleep until it was dinner time.

On Sunday Huib and I weighed and measured Reece. At 6 ½ months of age he is 66lbs, 22 inches tall and 22 inches long. I am not yet sure how big he’ll get, but judging from the size of his paws and wrists I would guess he will be either very thick and short or very tall and sturdy. He now has all of his basic obedience commands down and can walk on a loose leash 90% of the time. He still gets pully around other dogs and his nose likes to work a little too much, but overall he is progressing well. Our major hurdles right now are his chewing out of anger (when we leave him home alone) and his relieving in public (a HUGE frustration!!). Hopefully in a month or two he will mature more and stop these annoying habits. If he can get through these and if his shoulder stops acting up (hoping it’s a growth thing), then I think he will make a wonderful companion for a young child with autism.

“One of the best things to hold onto in this world is a friend.”

Where Has The Time Gone?


It has been a while since I last posted so thought it was time to update everyone on both Reece and Aiden. Reece will turn 6 months on Saturday and is pretty much the same size as Cessna and weighs over 55lbs!! Gone are the days when he was a little puppy that I could carry around in my arms. He has progressed well in his obedience training and is now heeling about 60% of the time without reminders – unless of course we come upon another dog. We have begun to work on his extended stays and he is doing well with reminders here and there.

Over the past few weeks we have taken Reece to several events where he has been required to behave for long periods of time. He has really impressed us, for his age he is able to calm down and relax pretty quickly. Even his trainer has commented on how well he is doing.

Aiden will soon turn 18 months (June 23rd) and has now been matched. He will be going to his family permanently within the month. I am so excited for him, they are the perfect family for his energy level and personality. He will be assisting an 8 year old boy from the Lindsay, Ontario area. He will live in the country near a lake and will have unlimited opportunities to play fetch and swim as his little partner in crime and older brother love to play with him. This weekend is the ADS family/raiser picnic so I will get a chance to say good-bye to my little monkey man. I have an album made for his new family and have made up a care package of all his favourite toys – I can’t wait to give them this. I am sure I will get semi-regular updates on him, so will continue to post these when they come.

Good luck Aiden and Kamaran!! May you both share a life full of happiness and memorable experiences.

“Each of us is a vital thread in another person’s tapestry.”