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.”

An Eventful Visit

Off to Kirkland Lake again…

Stopped on the way for a forest fire…

Moose just minutes from town…

Swimming & playing at the Quarry with our friends Jess & Glacier.

An end to a wonderful week (Guelph Penitentiary grounds).

Another Month Older


Reece and Aiden are both another month older – Reece is now 4 months and Aiden is 16. It has now been over a year since we began to raise puppies for Autism Dog Services. It has been a great experience, it has had it’s ups and downs, but we have enjoyed our time overall.

Reece has come a long way in the past two weeks. He now weighs 41lbs and if you look quickly in his direction you can actually mistake him for Cessna. His coat has gotten a little more wavy and his eyes are now more of a yellowish grey than bluish grey. He now understands the meaning of “stay” (sit), “down”, “come”, “leave it” and is beginning to “heel” – walking with a loose leash about 50% of the time. It is hard to believe that we have only had him 10 weeks, but looking back at his pictures we can see that he has grown a lot. His accidents are now only about once every couple of days and he has not had a poo poo accident inside in almost a month. I think it is harder for him to control his bladder compared to his bowels.

Aiden is still progressing well in his training and has now stayed with a family for a few days – as a tester for compatibility. I am not sure how it went, but from reading the Facebook messages of the family, it looks as though it went fairly well. This weekend he will be staying with another family, will keep you all posted on how that goes. Aiden is a real sweet boy, full of energy and personality – he will be thoroughly missed by our household (particularly by Cessna, who is still resisting Reece’s attempts to befriend her). I think her negative experiences with chocolate labs has made it hard for her to trust him, hopefully this will change with time.

Puppy Session At The Beaches


Yesterday we had an ADS puppy session at the Beaches in Toronto. Huib, Aiden, Reece and I went along with Stanley (a friend’s foster puppy from another program) as well as two other ADS moms. There were so many puppies and dogs at the session – probably about 20, with Reece being the second youngest and the oldest being a 3 year old golden named Spencer who is already in service. Aiden, Stanley and Reece were all pretty well behaved around the other dogs, but Aiden, for some reason, was not into doing his obedience or heeling.

We spent the first half hour split into two groups – 6 months and younger puppies in one & the older puppies/dogs in the other – doing some basic obedience and distraction exercises. Reece went with Huib and did surprisingly well, he is actually beginning to heel. Stanley worked with another family and performed pretty well, but Aiden stayed with me and had a pretty terrible session. He had been so good over the week and a bit we had him, so when we had this terrible training session I was left shaking my head. I am not sure if he was distracted by the sights and smells of the beaches or if he was just really excited to see Wade again, but one thing I do know is that he was horrible!

After the group sessions, we got back into a larger group and began to walk down the boardwalk towards the off leash dog area. The puppies and dogs all loved the opportunity they were given to run and swim. Stanley tried to swim out to the middle of the lake, but someone called him back…silly boy! Aiden played with the other dogs and made sure to swim as much as he could – he sure does love the water! Reece on the other hand wanted nothing to do with the water, he decided instead to follow another foster mom around the shore – soon enough little man, you will be swimming like a fish! After half an hour of play, we put the dogs back on leash and into jacket to head back down the boardwalk to the cars. It was a beautiful day for a walk and the dogs all got tons of exposure to crowds, bikes, water fowl, and other dogs.

Aiden returned to formal training after the session and we headed home with a sleepy Reece and Stanley. Aiden has not yet been matched with a family, but soon I am sure his trainer will find that perfect one for him. We will hopefully get our little Monkey Man back for a visit in May, but only time will tell.