Progress

Canyon has now been with us for almost 3 months and he has come such a long way. He now comes when called and he recognizes the difference between his name and the others. He is still not eating as much as I’d like, but he’s maintaining his weight at 67lbs. It is amazing to see what a difference a month has made. Once his recall is perfect, we’ll begin focusing on his heeling and stays. I am taking my time with him because I want him to know everything well before moving onto something different.

On another note, Cessna has spring fever. I find each spring she goes through a period of ignoring commands and letting her nose get her into trouble. I am thinking that she needs to work more, but it’s hard when Huib works and we live away from town. I think I’ll just need to start doing a little obedience training each day to get her back into shape.

This past week a friend of mine adopted a 1 year old great Dane lab cross from the Guelph Humane Society. I am really excited for her, she has wanted a pet dog for a while and has taken her time in finding the right one. His original name was Tank, but her and her fiance have decided to name him Kyo which means “big” in Japanese. She picked Kyo up on Thursday and had her guide dog meet him outside their home. Kyo needs a lot of work on obedience and relaxing, but I am confident that he has found his forever home. I will post updates and pictures of Kyo as I get them.

Condo update….SOLD!!! We will be going to Waterloo from the 28th until the 1st of April to deal with everything. We are quite excited because now we can stop living in a deficit each month and pay off some debt. We are going to view a house in town on Monday afternoon. We are not sure we want to buy our current home and are looking at other options now that our condo is SOLD!!!

Our Waterloo Trip


A week ago we piled the dogs and our stuff into the truck and headed for Waterloo. The dogs have become quite the little travelers, even Canyon seems like an old pro. After a stop for lunch in Burks Falls and then dropping Brandi off in Huntsville, we headed south.

Tuesday we went for lunch with a friend and her dog along with my friend’s current foster puppy, Cooper. He is about 14 or 15 months and quite adorable. His main issue is being overly social, But he can use some work on his heeling and obedience – he’s good, but needs constant reminders and can take a bit to think before obeying. If he doesn’t make the program and his family doesn’t want to adopt him then I think he would make a fantastic dog for my sister who is really wanting a dog of her own. Around 2pm we headed to Cambridge and picked up Jess, Glacier and Roscoe, Jess’ fiance’s working dog. We took them for a run along with our own dogs and then dropped everyone off before heading for dinner in Elmira. After dinner we headed back to my friend’s place and visited with Reece and his new family – a former ADS family we used to see on outings. Their dog, Urban, was disqualified just before Christmas for both digestive issues and over activeness. Reece is doing well and seems to be enjoying his new home. He loved his toys we brought him and came up on the couch to cuddle with Jess and I. I am so happy that we’ll get to see him on a semi-regular basis.

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful until Friday when we met with an agent to list our condo. It was the usual process, but when she was leaving she ran into another agent who asked if she had just listed a property. It turned out that her client was looking for a unit to buy as soon as possible. He made an offer and after a bit of back and forth we signed the papers Saturday night accepting his final offer. We are trying not to get too excited though until the 22nd when he is supposed to meet the conditions of financing and finding suitable insurance. It will be great to have one less thing to worry about and a little more money in our monthly budget.

On Sunday we packed the truck to go home, but on the way stopped for a bit in Etobicoke to visit with Phoenix’s foster family. We weren’t sure we’d have the time to stop, but were quite happy we did. Phoenix’s foster dad is in the hospital after having a few tumors removed from his bladder. H’es recovering well, but is eager to get out and back visiting with Alice – who’s still in long-term care and making progress. We were happy to have the opportunity to take Alice over to visit with Ray. It was heartbreaking though to see how emotional they were not seeing one another everyday. They have been married for 63 years and this is the longest amount of time they have ever been unable to see one another. Huib and I have only been married for 4 years and I can’t even imagine what it would be like not seeing him everyday. Around 3:30pm we took Alice back to her room and helped her put away her coat before heading north. The drive was quiet, a little bit of snow north of Barrie, but no real accumulation. When we got home the dogs stretched and had their last pees before heading to bed. Huib had to work early Monday morning so we didn’t have a lot of time to unpack and relax before sleep.

We’ll hopefully be heading south again on the 28th of March in order to clean up the condo and hand over the keys on the 29th.

What Would You Do?


Last night my husband and I watched 8 Below. It is a movie about a dog sled team in the Antarctic (I think) who is left to fend for themselves for over 5 months. There is a big storm coming into the area so the team’s handler as well as the other humans in the group have to flee in order to get urgent medical care. The handler doesn’t want to leave his dogs, but in order to save his hands he needs to go and is told the dogs will be rescued right after everyone is dropped to safety. While watching this movie I got thinking about what I would do in a life or death situation – would I be able to leave my dogs, not knowing when or if I would ever see them again…

I posed this question to my husband and he said it would be an extremely hard decision, but didn’t go any further than that. I thought about this throughout the night and came to the conclusion that I would rather stay with my dogs and die trying to save them. I don’t think I could even consider leaving them behind – I had enough trouble deciding not to adopt my last foster puppy who was disqualified for an elbow issue. I cried for over an hour getting his stuff ready the night before we headed south to drop him off for his assessment. Then I cried a bit more after I realized that there was no way we could adopt him – his personality just doesn’t mix with our pack.

Over the years I have watched numerous sad movies and it always seems to be the ones with animals that pulls at my heart strings. My absolute favourite movie is Homeward Bound – a movie about a cat and two dogs who are convinced that their owners have left them by mistake and need them to save them. My husband laughs everytime we watch it because I don’t even need to see the movie, I just need to hear the music which coincides with the part where the older boy is calling Shadow (the older dog) and is convinced he just couldn’t make the long trip when he doesn’t come right away, and I start to cry. I guess I see Shadow as a representation of Phoenix and it illustrates the loyalty a dog has for their owner. I know Phoenix and the others would do anything to get to us if they thought we were in trouble.

“There is no faith which has never yet been broken, except that of a truly faithful dog.”

Update

We have now had Canyon for almost 4 weeks and he has learned so much. He can sit and lie down on command, unless of course he isn’t interested in listening – which seems to be a theme in this house!! His house training is coming along, he has begun to sit at the door when he needs out – we are going on day 3 of no accidents!!

Our other dogs are still getting used to him. Phoenix ignores him for the most part, but Cessna enjoys wrestling and running around with him outside. Aspen gets along with him most of the time, but there are those odd moments when Canyon decides to bark at her, which causes stress…hopefully this behaviour will stop soon.

On another note, we finally got a new vehicle! We got a 2000 Ford Expedition and the dogs are absolutely loving all the space. We got it on Saturday and have already set up the back for ultimate doggie comfort by removing the very back bench and putting down foam along with a blanket.

In order to keep them safe and keep the passengers from complaining about dog hair, we bought a barrier which goes along the back of the seats and blocks the dogs from jumping up front. We had them out for a test drive yesterday and from the picture we took, I think you’d agree that they are loving their new ride!

Before I sign off, here’s a quick update on Reece. He’s almost been adopted, the potential family is just doing some last minute research on his elbow issue in order to make sure that they will be able to meet his needs in the future. I am really excited about this possible home because we will get to see him often and maybe even dog sit sometimes  I know it has taken a long time for a home to be found, but if this one goes through then I think the wait was worth it. Good luck Reecey Piecey, Mommy misses you and hopes to see you really soon. I have avoided seeing him thus far, so that he does not get confused as to why we are not taking him home. I want him to be well bonded to his family before we begin visiting – thus lessening the stress on both him and I. It would be too heart breaking to see him and then leave him again knowing he still doesn’t have a forever home.

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.