Having An Older Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m still here

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

– Author Unknown –

Little Aiden Goes To The Market

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

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

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

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

A Jam Packed Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down…

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

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

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

Finally Ready

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

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

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

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