Adventures in Running: 12 More Days

D is back for a week or so.

On Saturday afternoon, we did a seven kilometre route in about 70 minutes.

Normally, we warm-up before starting to run. This time, I didn’t think about it, so after our second run, my lower calf muscles were hurting.

So, we walked at a brisk speed until I felt better.

Our route was a bit more hilly and the temperature was warmer, so I think it slowed us down a bit.

I was also a bit klutzy at times – poor D!!

Despite all of this, I think the run/brisk walk went well. Maybe I’m imagining things, but I felt as though we ran longer spurts.

This week is supposed to be warmer, so I am hoping we can get out a couple of times. I would much rather run several days outdoors, than even once on the treadmill, lol!!

After showering and getting dressed again, Huib and I went to The Running Room for some clothes. I got a baby blue jacket that has silver reflective, a long-sleeve black shirt and pants that are navy with baby blue on them. I thought about getting something to carry water and snacks, but I am not great at drinking while I walk, so I don’t see myself drinking while I run/walk, lol!!

I also talked to the clerk about finding another guide runner. She took down my contact information and said she would put an ad into their next newsletter – Very Cool!!

Just 12 more days before I do my very first, and probably not my last, 10k race – Scary Stuff!!

More Field

Sorry for the lack of entries, but life got a bit busy.

Field class continues to be going well for Arizona. Other than some minor issues during an indoor class, she has been rocking the retrieves.

We have had a lot of rain, so a few weeks ago, we had an indoor class. There were about six dogs present. Susie had us begin by walking our dogs around the room at the same time. Ari was really excited at first, but after a couple of laps, she calmed down and I had her walking really nicely. She had no problems passing the flat-coats or the lab, but every time we passed a toller, she wanted to play, lol!!

After a bit, we were each given a couple of bumpers to practice the retrieve and ‘hold’ with our dogs. Arizona was really distracted at first, but then became unsure. There were some dogs barking and some owners being a bit more firm with their dogs, so I think it made her nervous.

After talking to a couple of other friends who use mainly positive reinforcement with their dogs, I think her reaction was a side effect of our training choices. All of us have noticed similar behaviours in our dogs, they all seem a bit more sensitive to seeing or hearing other dogs disciplined. It’s not that we do not discipline our dogs, it’s that we do it in a less harsh manner.

Once we figured out she was nervous, we stoped trying to get her to take the bumper, and just sat on the floor with her, letting her observe everyone else. After about 15 minutes, I did some level 1 behaviours with her, to get her back “into the game,” and offered the bumper. She took it!!

Susie then had us all line up and send our dogs one at a time to retrieve a duck. Arizona was great!!

Arizona is fine at shows and other dog events, so we aren’t sure if it would be worthwhile signing her up for an actual indoor group class, but we are considering it.

The temperatures continue to be on the cooler side, so we haven’t been able to do any water work yet. Arizona is rocking the land retrieves though.

While we wait for things to warm up, I am working on lengthening her ‘hold,’ and making sure she gets an opportunity to retrieve a variety of ducks. This week, she retrieved two very smelly, squishy ducks. I so badly wanted to refuse to take them, but obviously I had to pretend she was giving me the best gift ever, lol!!

If she continues to retrieve like this, then I think we are going to have a really good field season.

Working Dog Conference: Presentation Day

We skipped breakfast and part of the morning, so I could focus on my presentation and so Rogue could rest more.

When I ran through my talk with Huib before we left the hotel, I was at 25 minutes with a lot of pauses to find my spot. As long as my nerves didn’t get in the way, I thought this time would decrease by at least five minutes when the time came to present.

Most of the talks before lunch were a bit more technical than I’d like, but the final one was pretty interesting. The presenter was talking about the work they have been doing on finding an effective way of decontaminating dogs after they have been exposed to some sort of chemical hazard.

Lunch was kind of boring. The curry flavoured vegetable soup was good, but the salad was a bit annoying to eat because the lettuce was really thin and difficult to get on the fork.

After we finished eating, Huib ran Rogue outside and I went back to my seat to read my notes again. When they returned, we went on to the stage, so Huib could show me the podium and show me what direction to look.

The presentations after lunch were probably some of the more interesting ones at the conference. There were a couple on service dog breeding programs, then a couple on service dog activities. For example, Colleen talked about research she’s doing with a program here in Ontario that is working with veterans and emergency responders.

I would like to do research with an organization someday. For now, I’ll just keep working on trying to get my name known.

At the break, I ran to the washroom and then got a drink before returning to our seats to run through my presentation a final time with Huib – I was now down to 20 minutes!!

I was the second talk after the break.

When I was introduced, Huib walked up to the podium with Rogue and I. He then went to sit at a table nearby, so he could easily control my powerpoint. We bought a remote for my laptop, so Huib can sit in the audience and control the powerpoint without anyone really noticing.

I had a bit of trouble getting Rogue to settle, but she finally did and I began.

I started to get nervous about a minute in, but I was talking about myself at the time, so told myself to stop worrying. I know who I am, so I didn’t understand why I was so nervous. The self-talk seemed to help because by the time I had finished introducing myself, the butterflies were gone.

I think my presentation lasted about 15 minutes or so. The committee person didn’t ring the bell to tell me I had five minutes left, so I assume I wasn’t close to 20 minutes. I also asked Huib to send me a text when I got to five minutes.

Rogue stood up and tried to lie back down in a different spot, but I forgot to change where her leash attaches to the harness. As a result, she barely had enough room to lie down – Whoopsie!!

Huib suggests we buy her a mat and teach her to lie on it. He thinks it is probably strange for her to be at the front of the room with people staring at her, so he thinks the mat work might help her settle. I agree. We’ll do it this week, so I can teach her to use it by the end of May when I have another presentation.

I think this presentation was the best I’ve done so far!!

I had to remind myself where I was heading twice, but otherwise, I remembered the whole thing. I also really tried not to just present the information, but talked about it.

When I sat down, a couple people came over to congratulate me and to exchange contact information. I really hope some of the connections I made will turn into something in the future.

There were a couple more talks after mine. When everyone was finished, we all got ready to go up Sulphur Mountain. The gondola was only a 10 minute walk from Rim Rock, so Huib and I chose to walk.

While we were waiting in line a few people congratulated me on a good presentation. I also got some comments and questions about Rogue. A lot of people like her harness and enjoy watching us work together. I guess our bond is really noticeable to others 🙂

When we got to the front of the line, we climbed into the cable car and prepared to go up. The ride was smooth and very pretty. I wasn’t sure how Rogue would like being in something that she could see out of on all sides, especially since we were really high up, but of course, she could have cared less.

This little fox red lab is amazing!!

At the top, we got out of the cable car and went to look around. It was a bit too windy to be outside for too long, especially since I forgot to bring Rogue’s jacket, so we did it in stages. Huib said the view was pretty cool. We got several pictures of Rogue and i, and one of Huib, Rogue and I.

I am not sure if it was the fresh air, but Rogue was pretty excited!!

After we had seen everything outdoors, we went up to the bar to grab a drink. I had a Pepsi and Huib had a beer. We sat with one of the people from the Service Dog Committee and then a few speakers. Dr. Reynolds had talked about sled dog nutrition earlier in the day, so I was excited to be able to talk to him a little more about his research.

At 7:45pm we all had to get ready to go back down the mountain. While waiting for our turn, I got to talk to one of the Pen Vet people. She really likes Rogue’s harness because it allows her to move freely. She also complimented me on my talk and said she really likes how fit Rogue is. While we were waiting, Rogue began doing her nose bumps, or ‘look,’ hoping I would give her a treat. I used her desire for treats to extend her ‘look’ more – we are now up to six seconds!! Some people asked why she was bumping me, so I explained that it is her way of giving me eye contact since I cannot see her.

On the ride down, Huib and I were alone with Rogue. Huib got a couple cute pictures of Rogue looking out the windows at the view.

When we got back, we walked to Rim Rock to catch the bus. Since we had not yet had dinner, we walked over to Subway and got falafel subs. I wonder why Ontario locations don’t have that option…

I was pretty nervous about presenting at this conference, but I’m really glad I did it!!

Adventures in Running: A Rough One

I want to keep everyone up-to-date with my progress. I also think publicly writing about it helps me stay accountable.

Things are going pretty well this week, but last week was pretty rough.

D and I got together at 8:30am on the 15th for a run. It was a bit crisp temperature-wise, but once we got going, it wasn’t too bad. Our biggest challenge was the snow on the sidewalks. Most of the sidewalks close to my house were quite clear, but some of the others we travelled were full of drifts because on top of the snow was a lot of gusting wind.

Like usual we started out walking a couple of blocks to warm-up. There are three long metal electrical wire covers along the warm-up route, so that’s why we walk it. Once we passed the third grate, we started running to Grange. I’m not sure how far I made it, but probably about 100 metres before I needed to slow down. The rest of the route went very similar, we only did about four more running spurts which equalled about 100 metres each. So, on top of running less of a distance, we also couldn’t manage as many attempts.

On the bright side, we still got back to my place within the same amount of time as before, so I guess we must have at least walked faster.

We planned to get together again on Saturday, but D went home for the weekend, so we rescheduled for Wednesday. Then we got wild weather Wednesday, so we’ll try again Friday.

On the treadmill workout front, Jess continues to push me 🙂 Unfortunately, my migraines have really been getting in the way.

On Friday, I did 40 minutes that included incline work. I developed a bit of muscle discomfort in my left hip region, so Jess suggested I walk and avoid going past incline level four.

My walking pace has really increased since beginning this adventure. In December, my fastest speed was around 3.0, but this is now my cool down pace. My normal walking speed is up to 3.5 miles and is creeping towards 3.7.

The workout didn’t go too badly overall, but I definitely felt like giving up at various points. I pushed myself and got through all, but incline four, where my muscle discomfort began to increase after 2.5 minutes, so I finished the last 2.5 minutes at a lower incline level.

Jess and I have been talking about the 10k goal and we’ve decided to increase my workout days to four times a week.

On Monday, I had a migraine during the day, so in the evening I did a 35 minute walking workout that had me changing speeds. I did the usual three minute warm-up, then I did 6 reps of five minutes at 3.7 and five at 3.9. Other than getting really warm and wanting to stop because I was bored, I did it all, including a two minute cool down.

I’m not sure why, but i’m really finding it tough to get through some of my workouts right now…

Tuesday, I did a walk/run interval workout – I really dislike these ones!! I did my normal three minute warm-up at 3.1, up from 3.0, then attempted to do three minutes of walking at 3.6 and two minutes of running. I am still trying to figure out a good treadmill running speed, so I played around a little. My first run was at 5.0 and the second was at 5.5. After each run, I had to pause the timer for 30 seconds to catch my breath, wipe my face and drink a bit of water. Thinking I might be able to go without stopping if I slowed it down some, I did the third and fourth runs at 4.5, but I still had to take a break. At this point, I wanted to quit, but I also didn’t feel horrible, so I pushed myself to try a fifth run at 5.0. I only got through 90 seconds of the final run, but I was happy I tried and I finished with a three minute cool down at 3.0.

Since D and I weren’t able to get together on Wednesday, Jess said she had “an easy workout” for me to do. She was totally fibbing!! I got distracted by the papers I needed to mark and by a book I’m reading, so I didn’t get around to the workout until later in the evening.

In total, my workout was 48 minutes long. I did a three minute warm-up at 3.1, then did four intervals of walking at 3.7 and 3.9/4.0. I started out well. I did two full intervals without pausing the timer. After the second 4.0, I stopped for 30 seconds. I slowed the third interval from 4.0 to 3.9, hoping I could push through to the end of the fourth without stopping, but I had to stop for a minute. Then, after the fourth 3.7, I stopped for three minutes. I was done, I didn’t want to go any further, but then I felt really guilty. So, I made myself get back to work and squeezed out 2.5 minutes at 4.0 and then did a five minute cool down. Even though I didn’t get through the final five minutes of 4.0, I still felt good about it because I pushed myself to go further than I wanted.

Today is my day off, then D and I run at 8:30am.

This and That

It has been a great weekend for tracking. The weather has been a bit icky, but Rogue, Canyon and Arizona don’t seem to have noticed.

Saturday afternoon we got together with Laura and Annie at the University of Guelph Arboretum. Annie hopes to do a test with Trixie and Maestro mid-May, so Laura wanted to get them into the fields. Since Canyon is learning and Arizona needs the practice, Laura invited us to come out as well.

Rogue absolutely loves tracking, so I couldn’t leave her out.

Canyon had a pretty rough tracking experience last week, so I suggested Huib handle him. Huib is able to see what he’s doing and Canyon isn’t as protective of him, so I thought we should try switching for a bit. We don’t know if it was the seizures last weekend, or the handling change this week, but Canyon did a fabulous job!!

I asked Huib what he does differently, and he said the only thing he can think of, is that he keeps Canyon close. He doesn’t give him as much line as I do. Next week, I will try it out and see if it makes a difference.

Arizona was next. Other than missing an article in a highly mousey area, she did a great job. She got a bit distracted in a couple of spots, but Huib was easily able to redirect her attention back to the track. Laura says she has really matured since November.

Rogue was the last to track. Like Arizona, she missed one article, but did the rest beautifully. Rogue’s missed article was covered with snow. It has been over four months since she last tracked in a field, so I was really happy with her work.

This morning we did some urban tracking with just the girls. College Royal is on at the U of G, so Laura had us all (Mary, Kay and John) meet at a high school.

Arizona was first. I don’t think she did anything wrong – way to go baby girl!!!

Even though she needs to earn her TD before she can try for her UTD, I want to keep her working on urban stuff. Arizona is a dog of habit, so if we focus on one thing too much, it becomes difficult to switch over to something different afterwards. That is why we try to always add new aspects to everything she learns, while continuing to practice stuff she knows.

Rogue was the last dog to work. After two consecutive weeks of mistakes, I had my fingers crossed for a good showing – she did not let me down!! She found all of her articles, stayed quite close to the track and found all of her corners. She went the wrong direction once, but only went a metre before stopping and letting me know we needed to go the other way.

I am still on the fence about entering the April UTD test, so we’ll wait and see how she does next weekend.

Canyon joined us, but he did not track. I think it can be easy to overwhelm a dog with new things, so I thought he might retain his lessons better if he doesn’t do consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s true, but maybe by not getting to work every time the others do, his drive will also increase.

I am SO glad the dogs had a good tracking weekend. It can be really discouraging to have several poor outings in a row.

Progress and Struggles

On Thursday evening we had another obedience class.

Class started with me working in the ring alone. Susie is trying to help me become more confident with the exercises. She is hoping that by practicing each week, it will become less stressful and require very little thought to complete. I do different heeling patterns, walking forward, stopping and turning in various directions. Susie thinks I am looking less uncomfortable each week.

Some dogs, like Rogue, cue off their human’s body language, so if the human knows what they are doing, it’ll be easier to avoid cuing the dog to do the wrong behaviours.

When I was finished, I called Arizona into the ring and we got to work.

Heeling is still an issue, but we have progressed in other areas. Ari did several sit-stays ranging from 15 to 30 seconds long. She stayed in place until I recalled her, and then she stayed until I returned and released her. I also used ‘touch’ to keep her attention off Susie and Huib as they made “beep, beep…” sounds, so I knew where the posts were for the figure eight.

We will get there.

Rogue and Huib were awesome!! Huib has really worked on keeping Rogue’s attention on him, and it has made a huge difference!! He needs to continue working on having Rogue stay until he returns – she gets up as soon as he comes close – but it’ll come. She just needs to learn that when we cue a ‘stay,’ she’s supposed to remain in position, but if we’re just walking around the house, she needs to MOVE.

To add a bit of challenge to our work, Susie suggested we both come into the ring. She had us go to opposite ends of the room and asked us to follow her instructions. Both girls were distracted by the other team. Rogue was distracted by me and Ari, while Arizona was distracted by Huib and Rogue.

We also did a ‘group’ sit-stay. Both girls rocked it!!

Susie says we will do this each week to give the girls some high distraction work. No one is more distracting than your best buddy and your other human.

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Saturday morning was Cessna’s annual vet check. I was worried about the large lump under Cessna’s front left leg. It has grown since last year’s appointment, so I thought Bianca might say we needed to have it removed. We were pleasantly surprised to find out she was not really worried, but said we would continue watching it. I am glad because she’s almost 13.5, so I don’t know if it would be good to do surgery, and I don’t think I could decide against it. Cessna is really happy, pretty healthy, and appears to have a lot of life left in her.

Bianca asked a lot of questions about what we are feeding Cessna and what supplements she is getting. She also asked about any illness or concerns. Cessna has lost a whole kilogram since last year, so Bianca wants us to feed her more and to bring in a urine sample. She didn’t have any concerns when she did the physical exam, but did voice her distress regarding Cessna’s coat condition. I told her it hasn’t changed in the past year or so, even though we have tried a number of different options. We will not be vaccinating Cessna anymore, but Bianca still wanted to run Parvo and Distemper titres, along with a geriatric blood panel and a test for Heartworm and tick-borne diseases. The results from the tests should come back in about a week.

After paying, we took Cessna back to the vehicle, and then brought each of the others in to be weighed. All three youngsters need to lose about four pounds!!

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In the afternoon, we had tracking with Laura.

Canyon was all over the place for most of his track. He found both articles and did some pretty good work the last 10 metres or so. I think it is just going to take time.

Once he gets the idea, he’s going to be great!!

Arizona was amazing!! She found all of her articles, did some surface changes (crossing over sidewalks), and barely overshot corners. Unlike Rogue, Ari only seems to go a foot or two past her corners before she realizes she has lost scent.

She stopped a couple of times to think, but Laura said that’s normal, so not to worry and not to rush her.

Rogue started off really well, but I think having to relieve herself caused some focus issues. She rarely goes to the washroom when not at home, but we fed them after Cessna’s appointment, so I think her schedule was off.

Rogue missed her first two articles, but found the others. She cut corners in several spots, so I think that might have been why she ended up on the opposite side of the sidewalk from her track at one point.

Rogue has had a really good couple of months for tracking, so it was about time for some mistakes.

I’m thinking about entering her into an urban test at the end of April, so hopefully we’ve got our struggles done for a bit.

Until next time 🙂

Busy Bees

The past two weekends have been good weather-wise, so we have been out tracking at the University of Guelph.

Last weekend Laura laid a really tough track for Rogue. She did an AMAZING job!!

The track was on Johnston Green, where a lot of students cut across to get to the corner of College and Gordon. There were a couple of corners where Rogue had to work harder to locate the track amongst all of the other scents, but she idd it perfectly. She has really improved over the past year.

This weekend’s track was a bit easier, but it still had some places where Rogue needed to work things out. I think the toughest part of her track was having to work through areas of slushy snow and puddles. It got up to about 8 degrees celsius on Saturday, so we had a lot of slush.

I am really glad I bought waterproof shoes last month. They kept my feet warm and dry, while also giving me enough traction to navigate the snow, slush and sections of ice.

Last weekend Arizona’s track was around MacDonald Hall towards the hospitality buildings. Laura and I stayed on the opposite side of the road to watch because Huib and Arizona had to cross the road twice. Arizona did a bang-up job!! Other than a bit of hesitation when she had to cross over the road, she really didn’t struggle at all. I love listening to people describe her working.

This weekend’s track was more about navigating the deeper snow. Laura wanted to see how she’d do with the challenge of finding her scent amongst the snow and other people’s footprints. Huib was able to see the track somewhat, so it gave him an idea of when Ari was checking out a cross track or if she was actually on the track itself. Other than taking the wrong direction near the end, she did great!! Ari had briefly indicated the correct direction, but it was such a fleeting indication, that Huib missed it.

Arizona has only been tracking for a year and she is such a different worker now than she was three months ago.

Last weekend, Canyon did a tough track that included pavement, snow, ice and sculptures. His track went through the sculpture garden at MacDonald Hall. I had to do a lot of encouraging, but he did a pretty good job considering how new all of this is for him.

This weekend, Canyon seemed a bit more unsure than usual. He kept running back to us, so I just encouraged him to continue on. Laura says that this behaviour is pretty common for obedience dogs. Canyon hasn’t really done formal obedience trials, but we have been training for them and he also does other dog events, like conformation, so I think her comment is still valid. She said that a lot of obedience dogs find it tough to work on their own, without constant direction, like they don’t think it’s okay to track.

I think it will just take Canyon some time to realize that it’s okay to work things out and to do things on his own, without any cues from me. Once he gets the idea of it, he’ll really excel!!

It has been really good for me to work with him. He is really a different worker than Rogue. I also find he’s less all over the track, so right now, it’s sometimes a bit easier to read him. This may change as he gets more confident though.

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On Tuesday I had my annual check up with my ophthalmologist. Alain wants to keep a close eye on how my optic nerves are doing, so each appointment begins with an O.C.T. (I just know the ‘O’ stands for optical). The images from the O.C.T. will give him a good idea of what is happening and if anything has changed. He wants to keep this record, so that when stem cell research into optic nerve regeneration progresses far enough, he will attempt it with my worse eye. In my left I really only have light perception, so I wouldn’t lose anything if it didn’t work. From the images he got this year, nothing has changed, so he was happy with the results. I had my pressure in each eye tested, but I didn’t have to have them dilated – YAY!!! My pressures were normal. Alain says he checks pressures because it would be a shame if I lost more vision because of something he could have prevented. He’s a pretty cool guy.

It would be really strange to have my full vision back. I wouldn’t mind having more than I do now, but I don’t know if I would want it all…

Unless I run into any problems, I’m good for another year.

We were going to meet one of my aunts for dinner, so we stuck around London after the appointment.

I needed to get a new CNIB card, since mine expires in March – it’s kind of funny to know that the card expires, it’s not like I’m going to stop being visually impaired. The new card should arrive in about two weeks. I hope the picture is better than my last one.

We went to dinner at Dawghouse with my Aunt Tracey. We haven’t seen her in a while, so it was nice to catch up. The food was great!! I had a vegetable stir fry with spicy teriyaki sauce, while Huib had a turkey club with fries and Aunty had a beef dip with a salad. We had a really large lunch at the Mandarin, so I ended up taking half of my meal home. After dinner we went over to Aunty’s place and they opened their Christmas presents. Last year, we had all planned to do a stocking sort of thing, so Aunty had Huib’s name and Dad had to buy for Aunty. We had an ice storm before our Christmas dinner, so Aunty was not able to make it. Huib got an awesome cushion for his chair at the office or in the car, along with a cute moose toque, a big travel mug and some other things that I cannot remember.

Huib is going to look pretty adorable tracking in his moose toque!!

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Friday was obedience class. Susie was quite impressed with the progress both girls have made.

Arizona and I need to continue working on heeling and sit-stays. I also need to get her used to people walking around her for the “sit for examination,” and making a beep noise when we’re doing the figure eight.

Since I cannot see, the obedience judge will have the ring stewards be the posts, making a “beep, beep…” sound as I approach. Arizona thinks this is pretty exciting at the moment, lol!!

I also need to keep working on ‘leave it’ because she wanted to sniff the floor at times, which really got in the way of my ability to remain in a straight line.

Like us, Rogue and Huib need to continue working on heeling and some stay stuff. She is paying more attention to him, dropping her head less, so that is huge progress!!

I think working with Rogue is good for Huib because it will make him a better trainer. He says that unlike the goldens, Rogue really seems to cue off his body. As a result, he needs to pay close attention to what he’s doing and make sure she knows he’s watching. When he doesn’t pay enough attention to her, she will often start tossing behaviours at him, hoping she’ll give him what he wants and get a reward.

From personally working with Rogue, and listening to them work together, I think the biggest thing he needs to do is talk to her more. I talk to her a lot when we are out walking and also while we’re tracking, so that’s what she is used to. I think she gets distracted or thinks she’s doing something wrong when we don’t communicate with her enough.

Rogue is a sensitive girl, so needs to know she’s doing things correctly. I think this communication is needed most when she’s initially learning things, then he can probably back off a bit.

While the girls were learning, Canyon was visiting his friends Mandi and Maddy. Last time we had obedience class, I left him at home, and he had a seizure. We got home just as it was finishing, but it still made us nervous to leave him again. Dad is usually pretty good at paying attention to him, but I think Canyon must have fallen asleep on the couch upstairs, waiting for us to return. i think the seizure caught him off guard, so he didn’t have enough time to get to Dad. It must have been a pretty mild one because when we arrived, he was still on the couch, laying close to the edge. If it had been a moderate or bad one, then he definitely would have fallen off. His head was up, so it was his usual partial one, but it still worried us. As long as Mandi and family are not busy, they have offered to take him while we are at class each week.

We are SO thankful for these guys!! They are so great with the goldens and amazingly accommodating.

Well, that’s a wrap. As you can see, our week was pretty busy.

Rough Conditions

Today was a tough day for tracking. It wasn’t extremely cold, but there was a light snow/rain mix, along with a bit of a breeze.

Wanting to keep everyone warm and dry, I had all three dogs wear their winter coats.

A few weeks ago, our friend, Kelly, asked if we might want a green Hurtta harness for Canyon. She purchased it a couple of years ago for Ace, but he has a very awkward body structure. On Saturday, she was at an agility thing with another friend, who offered to drop it off at our house.

I was looking forward to trying it out with Canyon.

Sunday’s tracking group consisted of: Stewart, the Belgian Tervuran, Cordelia, the Golden Retriever and our three.

Stewie tracks with his handler, Sandy, a lot more often than we admit to working with our guys – we’re so bad!! He tends to be quite on when he’s working, but he found this track to be really challenging. He missed almost all of his articles, which were mostly covered over with a light layer of snow, and he also had a bit of trouble locating the track while following it through a more contaminated area.

Rogue was up next and I was expecting the worst. Her first leg was a bit messy, like usual, so I brought her back to me and had her settle before cuing her to “find.” Once she settled in, she worked really well. She had some trouble locating her articles, but she let us know they were nearby, so we are all thinking the snow must have been creating some difficulties. Rogue did not really run into any issues following her track, even in the more contaminated areas. We were all quite surprised and excited!!

Next was Cordelia. She is still learning to do urban tracks, but she did very well. I don’t think there were any major problems. From listening to the rundown of her track by Laura and Sandy afterwards, it sounds like the biggest improvement came from her handler, Mary’s, work. Both Sandy and Laura said Mary has improved a lot in her ability to handle Cordelia on the track.

While Cordelia was running her track, Huib laid one for Canyon. When you are teaching a dog to track, you want to keep it fresh and avoid too many complications.

Arizona was next. Both Laura and Sandy were impressed. She found all of her articles and really didn’t struggle too much. The only place she showed some difficulty was as she neared the end. Arizona began to slow down, so Huib started tossing treats ahead, encouraging her to keep moving. We think part of the issue was that Laura had put a parking lot crossing into her track, so Ari got confused, but she figured it out and ended beautifully. We just need to continue extending her track, so she’ll be ready for the long ones at a test.

Last, but not least, it was Canyon’s turn. Huib put a squeaky tennis ball into his pocket as I got Canyon dressed. He really likes toys, especially balls, so we thought a ball, rather than a treat, would be a better reward at the end.

I will be handling Canyon in tests, so I am starting to work with him now. I need to work on teaching him to really check out the scent pad before we take off, but he did an okay job there. Once I felt he had located the track direction, I said “find” and we were off!! He is a very calm and focused worker. It was easy to follow him and he really didn’t seem to get distracted by other scents. I’m not sure if this will change, but it was sure a great start. Huib laid the track to have about 3 or 4 corners which Canyon found and navigated nicely. He is a very quick worker, so I’m sure glad that I’ve started to work on running. Once he located the glove at the end, he picked it up and gave it to me in exchange for the ball.

Despite the conditions, all three of our dogs did a fantastic job!!

Obedience with the Youngsters

It’s been a while, but we’ve finally returned to obedience class.

I would really like to try and earn the Pre-Novice Obedience (PCD) title this spring with Arizona.

If I can teach her consistent heeling and at least a one minute (30 seconds is actually required, but I’m thinking I should account for time needed to return and getting the leash back on) sit-stay, then we’ll be ready to trial.

Ari reliably performs a 25-second sit-stay at home. I need to extend this time, while also adding distractions and working outside the house.

As for heeling, it’s really a work-in-progress. She can do it when we’re at home, but add any sort of distraction in and she’s done.

From reading the CKC obedience rules, it looks like Arizona needs to earn three qualifying scores before she’ll get the PCD title.

Arizona absolutely LOVES Susie, so I didn’t expect great work. And, she didn’t let me down… She did her usual screeching and bouncing around, lol!! Once she’d efficiently greeted Susie, I took her into the training ring and began running through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours – sit, down, touch, ‘leave it.’ When we begin training sessions at home, I do this, and I think it helps to get her into “the game.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure Susie was a big fan of the work we’ve been doing. Her biggest concern was with the way I tossed treats after clicking. For me, when I click, the behaviour is over and the dogs can go get their reward. I feel tossing the treat helps reset them because they have to come back and get into position again in order to receive a click/treat. Susie doesn’t want me tossing treats because she bellies it is not promoting a bond with me, and she thinks it will just encourage scavenging. I don’t agree with her assessment, but I will follow her request when we’re in her presence.

Susie and I use the clicker in similar, but different ways. When I click, the dogs know the behaviour is over, so they can move and go get their treat. For Susie, the click means you’re doing it right, but it doesn’t mean you’re done.

I’m going to stop using the clicker when I am with her, just using a verbal “good” or “yes” instead.

I want the dogs to continue seeing the click as an end to the behaviour and a time for reward.

I am leaving Canyon out of obedience classes for now. I need to work out some problems we’re having with the sit-stay.

Last week, we started our Sensational Stays class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, so I’m really hoping his issues will iron themselves out.

Rogue is coming to class with Huib. I wanted to do obedience with her, but she gets confused when I ask her to heel because I also require her to ‘leash-guide’ from time-to-time. As a result, Huib has offered to work with her and together they will try for the PCD.

From listening to the comments he received in class, I think the first goal for him will be to develop a working relationship with her.

Once Rogue knows that she needs to pay attention to him, I think the rest of the requirements will fall into place quickly.

Rogue already knows how to work. She just needs to realize that I’m not the only one who might ask her to perform cues.

Thankfully our next class isn’t for about 10 days because we’ve got lots of work to do.

Busy Busy

What a week!!

Around 3:00am Wednesday morning, Huib, Rogue, the goldens and I took off for Gatineau. I had to attend a three day meeting that would be starting at 9:0am. We had originally planned to leave Tuesday evening, but Ottawa got a lot of snow, so instead of worrying about the road conditions, we decided to delay our departure and do an early morning drive. Our drive was smooth and uneventful – it only took us five hours, compared to the usual six.

After dropping Rogue and I off at the meeting, Huib and the goldens drove to our friend Jess’ place. They spent the day relaxing and helping Jess run a few errands.

Rogue and I had a pretty boring day. She slept under my chair most of the time, while I tried to pay attention and control my facial expressions. When you are in a room with a group of people who have very different life experiences and opinions, it can be difficult at times not to scowl or roll your eyes, but it’s important to try not to do so, just in case you might insult someone.

I’m not sure how many other service dogs were in the room, but Rogue was fabulous!! We had another dog sitting right beside us, but she never paid any attention to him. Other than getting up a bit more often starting around 3:00pm, an hour before the meeting’s end, Rogue remained relaxed throughout.

With the early start, we were all pretty exhausted Wednesday evening, so other than ordering some pizza and salad for dinner, we did nothing and went to bed by 9:00pm.

On Thursday, Huib fed and relieved the dogs while I got ready. Rogue and I had to go to another full day of meetings, so Huib tried to ensure she had a good amount of time to relieve herself. Rogue can be a bit of a finicky reliever when not at home, but I think it helped that she had been to Jess’ place before because she had no problems.

We were a little late getting to the meeting, so we had to rush into the building. We got stuck in traffic between Ottawa and Gatineau. With the rush, I let Huib get Rogue ready while I got my backpack on. He passed me her leash and we were off. As we were walking/running to the room, Rogue tried to sniff some things, so I told her to “leave it!” It isn’t normal for her to try sniffing in harness, so I was a bit firmer the second time it happened. When I settled at my chair, the woman beside me asked me if I meant to have Rogue work without her harness. The woman knows I am visually impaired, so told me about the missing harness because she was surprised I would choose not to have her wearing it. I laughed and immediately messaged Huib, who came running back inside with it. The mistake totally explained why Rogue was so interested in smelling things as we were walking through the building.

The rest of our day was completely uneventful.

At 4:30pm, Huib came to get us. Jess was also with him because her and I were going to her running group.

Before Christmas, I started walking a few times a week on my treadmill. Jess has been helping me increase my speed and endurance over the past month. Our treadmill measures things in miles, so I have gone from doing my workouts at 3.0 to 3.5 miles.

Jess has asked me to do a 10 kilometre race with her the last weekend in May. As long as I do not have a presentation that weekend, I said I would do it.

Walking/running outside is a lot different than doing it on a treadmill, so Jess asked one of her guides to guide me Thursday evening. I didn’t realize we weren’t going back to her place before the running group, so I forgot to pack my running clothes in the car. I had okay shoes for the run, but my clothes were a bit of a poor choice. I was wearing jeans and a knitted sweater, lol!! Jess asked one of the guys if they had a shirt I could borrow, which they did, so I changed out of my sweater and was ready enough to go.

The walk/run went well. The roads and sidewalks were a bit icy, so we only ran when the path was clear. I think we ended up doing a total of four or five short running sessions. While we walked, I learned about getting into a stretching routine, the importance of breathing and not heel-striking when running.

Jess, and our friend Jason, are going to see if they can find guides for me in Guelph, so i can continue working outdoors.

Every time I think about the fact I am actually considering a 10 kilometre run, I laugh. I have never been interested in running, but Jess has really motivated me to try.

Stay tuned for more updates!!

Friday was another full day of meetings. It is tough not being able to talk about the meetings, but I can say Friday was pretty serious and intense. It is sometimes rough going when you’ve got a large group of people coming from different walks of life. everyone has their own opinion on how the work needs to be done and has their own agenda. As a non-voting member of the committee, it can be frustrating at times not feeling as though you’ve really got a voice in the discussion.

On Friday evening we went to dinner with Jess, our friend Jason and some others. We met at a pub that had a nice atmosphere and good food. I had a nut burger with fries, while Huib had some sort of potato and veggie thing with fries. Jess and two others had fish in a coconut sauce with fries and I can’t remember what the other two people had. It was nice to catch up with Jason and to hear about the trip him and his wife had taken to Barbados. Jason is pretty excited about me running, so we took some time to chat about that as well. He has a lot of connections here in Guelph with the running community, so I hope he’ll be able to find some guides for me.

On Saturday, Jess had a triathlon camp to attend, so we got together with a friend to track. We have met Michelle at a couple of tracking tests, so when I knew we were going to be in Ottawa for a few days, I sent her a message on Facebook to see if she might want to do some tracking.

We got together at one of the National Research Council sites – a great place to track!! Huib laid a track for her dog, Cameron, while she laid tracks for Rogue and Arizona. Huib also laid a track for Canyon, so the poor guy wouldn’t be left out. After all of the tracks were laid, I had to pee, so we went to a little coffee shop nearby. They have tasty cinnamon buns and some good coffee.

Since Canyon is still learning, Huib had him run his track first. Michelle said he did a fabulous job!! This is Canyon’s second time formally tracking, so she was impressed. Huib says he thinks I can start handling Canyon now. Huib usually starts with them, so he can point out where the track is if the dogs need help, but Canyon seems to be a natural.

Next it was Arizona’s turn. I’m not sure where our crazy girl went, but Ari seems to have found her work ethic. She did a great job on her track. I walked along behind with Michelle, so got a play-by-play.

Cameron’s track was closest, so we did his next. Michelle did a really good job of handling him and he followed his track well. It was interesting to see the differences between his work and the way our retrievers work. Cameron checked out each of the cross tracks we passed, but never really went far off his actual track. I also liked how he picked up the article – I hope Rogue will do this some day!!

Rogue’s track was next. She was a bit excited at the beginning, so she had a bit of a messy start. She never got off track, but she was portering a lot. Michelle suggested I rein her in, not giving her so much line, so I brought her closer. She wasn’t as exact on her corners, but she followed her track well and found every single article!! Afterwards, I asked for Michelle’s opinion and she recommends I talk to her a bit less and also stop giving her so much line. I am going to work on this.

I liked having someone different lay her track because then she had an opportunity to follow another person’s scent and also work someone else’s track idea. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think we sometimes lay tracks in our own ways, so it can become a routine that the dog can predict.

For fun Michelle laid a quick track for me to run with Cameron. I have never worked with any other breeds than my own, so it was fun. Cameron is an English Springer Spaniel, so a lot lighter and different from my retrievers. Maybe it’s just that Cameron is more experienced, but I found him a lot less frantic or crazed than my guys can be. He checked out the scent pad, then followed the short track to the glove, picking it up and bringing it over to me. Michelle told me not to talk too much and I could see how the quiet really helped him concentrate.

Nothing too exciting happened while I ran Cameron, but funny stuff did occur before and after. As we were walking over to the scent pad, Huib had to take me over and through a difficult path of snow and ice. My guys are used to my balance being off, so they sometimes get pulled in different directions, so I felt bad for Cameron, but he was a good sport about it all. After the track, Michelle gave me a container and asked me to open it and give it to him. I had heard her mention bringing cheese curds with us, so I thought that was what was in the container. After I took the lid off, I reached in to get the curds and found wet food!! I quickly removed my hand and both Huib and Michelle laughed…lol! SO gross!!

I am glad we had a chance to meet up with Michelle and Cameron. I hope we can do it again.

In the evening, we were all pretty tired, so Huib made some yummy salad and pasta for dinner. We then chatted about our days and went to bed around 10:00pm.

On Sunday Jess had a 10 kilometre run in the morning, so we slept in and then started packing up. I had two hard boiled eggs and a bowl of Smarties ice cream for breakfast with some coffee – I love being an adult!!

When Jess came back, she brought Jason. It was nice chatting with them before we left.

On our way home we planned to stop in at Arizona’s breeder, so we left around 10:00am. The drive to Anne’s place was quiet and pretty. Anne and Jeff live outside Perth in Tay County. They have a beautiful house beside a lake.

When we arrived, we let Arizona out to pee and then went up to knock at the door. Anne came and let Sitka and Teal out to greet Ari before we all went inside.

Sitka has the same dam, but different sire than Arizona. I have always loved Sitka, she is very loving and adorable. In August she had a litter of seven puppies sired by Teak, Ari’s sire. I wish we had known about the breeding because we would love to have another Teak puppy.

Teal is six months old and one of Denali’s puppies. Denali has the same sire as Ari, but a different dam. Teal is a very cute girl!! She kept climbing into our laps and giving us kisses while we were there.

Anne brought Denali and Abba out after putting Sitka and Teal away. She wanted the girls to get a chance to greet Ari separately.

Abba came over and checked out Arizona, letting her do the same. Abba is now ten or eleven years old, so has some old lady lumps, but looks pretty good. After she was satisfied with Ari, she came over to cuddle with me – I loved it!!

Denali was a bit more enthusiastic about greeting Arizona. She is just a year older than Ari, so definitely has more energy than Abba.

Arizona was a good sport about being checked out by everyone, but she did get a bit grumbly after a while. teal had her head inside Ari’s mouth a few times, so I can’t really fault Ari for grumbling. She never went any further than that, so I didn’t say anything. Huib just had her come over and sit with him and lie down by his feet so he could control things a bit.

The only girl Arizona didn’t grumble with was Abba. I think Abba is a lot calmer and more respectful when greeting, so she didn’t annoy Ari.

I think this was probably the longest we’ve ever spent just chatting with Anne and Jeff. It was great!! I didn’t come right out and ask Anne about breeding rights for Ari, but from some of the things she said, we think she knows we want them. We are going to start getting Ari’s health clearances done, starting with her eyes and thyroid.

After a bit, Anne let Sitka and Teal back out and for the rest of the visit, we had all five girls together in the living room.

It was really interesting to learn about the personalities of each. Sitka and Ari seem to have the same independent-mindedness, which we think comes from Abba. Denali and Ari have the same crazy nature, but willingness to learn, so we think that must come from Teak. Anne says she never really knows what to expect at a test or trial with Sitka, and that Denali always makes life interesting – we all know who that reminds us of…lol!

Anne showed us her training room and had Sitka and Teal demonstrate some of the things they can do. It was fun to watch little Teal work, she’s such a smart girl!! One thing Anne uses, that we don’t feel comfortable doing ourselves, is use a prong collar when teaching the heel. She said her trainer suggested it and that she finds it works well.

Anne told us that she is hoping to start training for utility with Denali, but that she is done with obedience with Sitka because she really doesn’t seem to enjoy it. I asked her if she had any suggestions on how to get Ari in the game with obedience and she suggested using a puppy sized bumper as a reward, since it works really well with Sitka. Huib and I are going to find one and try it out.

Sitka will be trying for her senior hunt title this summer, but I’m not sure what Denali is working towards.

Before we left, Anne gave us a couple of goose wings and a few ducks for training. I am looking forward to seeing what Ari thinks of the goose wings.

Our drive home was nice. Huib decided to take the long way, since we weren’t in a hurry and we needed to make a stop in Aurora anyway. When we got home, Cessna was SO excited to see us!! She loves staying with Dad, but I think she also likes when we all return.

It was a great trip, but an exhausting one. Now I must get back to work, preparing my PhD application and a mini presentation for Friday.