Won’t That Affect Her Work?

Won’t that affect her guide work?

This is a question I hear constantly when I tell other service dog handlers about the various activities I choose to do with Rogue.

No, it doesn’t affect her ability to guide.

When you have a good working relationship, like Rogue and I do, you can choose to do almost anything together.

Rogue knows the difference.

She knows that when her guide harness is on, or even if it is off and she’s just hanging out in my office at school, that she needs to be professional. She knows she can’t be sniffing everything, visiting everyone, or chasing small critters that cross our path.

Rogue knows that when her tracking harness is on that her job is to “find” the track and follow it to the “article.” She knows that she doesn’t need to be paying attention to anything else. She knows that it isn’t her job to keep me safe. It’s her job to find the “article” for me.

Rogue knows that when we are at a conformation show and she’s wearing a show leash and collar that it isn’t time to guide; it’s time to walk nicely beside Huib. She knows that when they stop along side other dogs in the ring, it isn’t time to greet them or to sniff around. Rogue knows it’s time to “stack” and let the judge check her out. She knows that Huib will let her know what is expected and that he’ll remind her if she forgets.

When we are at field training and she’s wearing just her martingale and leash, Rogue knows it is time to retrieve. She knows that it’s okay to run away from me and get the duck (bumper with wings for now), and bring it back to me. Rogue knows it’s not time to sniff for articles or show me obstacles, it’s time to “mark” (or look forward and see where the duck is dropping from) and then “fetch” it and bring it back.

It’s true that dogs are not good at generalizing, but Rogue and I have been working together since she was 8 weeks of age. We’ve practiced things in a variety of environments and we’ve learned what’s appropriate in each situation.

Rogue knows that I will let her know if she’s made the wrong choice. And, I know that she’ll turn to me for help if she needs help figuring out what is expected.

so, the answer is no, conformation, tracking and field work will not affect Rogue’s work.

And, if we decide to try something else it won’t affect her work either.

This is why I love owner-training. I can choose to participate in any dog sport I want with Rogue. With Cessna, this was not the case. I wanted to try out rally obedience, but her school said no.

For Rogue and I, the sky is the limit!!

***This post is not directed at anyone. The questions I’ve been getting just got me thinking that it was time to try and educate others. I am thankful for all of the questions.***

She Did What?

Last night, Arizona returned to field training. She’s been off for three weeks, first because of the hot weather and then because she finally had her first heat.

We have continued to practice retrieves over the past few weeks, but you never know what is going to happen at the group training.

Susie was away at the cottage, so Laura worked with us while Dean and Maverick worked alone in another area.

We first attempted to do some simple land retrieves. Laura went out into the field while I got Arizona to sit beside me and ‘mark’ (or look out to see what’s happening), then Laura made a duck call and tossed the bumper with the wing attached. I then let go of Ari’s collar and said ‘fetch’.

Arizona ran straight over to Laura, then to the bumper. She then brought the bumper to Laura instead of bringing it back to me. After getting her excited about the bumper again, Laura got her to pick it up again and I called her back. She came. This same sort of cycle happened a few more times, with Arizona going to a shaded tree behind me to wait for me to coax her out again, so we knew it was time to try something new.

Even though it was 6:00pm it was still quite warm.

As part of the Working Certificate (WC) test, the dogs have to do two land retrieves and two water retrieves.

We’ve been working on the land retrieves for months, not wanting to introduce the water retrieve until Arizona was working perfectly on land.

With the hot weather we decided to try some water work.

I walked to the edge of the pond while Laura walked part way around it. I had Ari sit and ‘mark’. Laura did the duck call and then tossed the bumper into the water. As I released Arizona’s collar, I said ‘fetch’.

She ran into the water and swam directly to Laura, ignoring the bumper. So Laura tossed another bumper into the water, hoping that would entice Ari to go for it – not happening!

I had Rogue with me, not a usual occurrence, because we had been at a meeting and Huib picked us up with just enough time to get to training.

Rogue had been watching Ari “have fun” and she wanted to “have fun” too. She was excited while watching her do the land retrieves, but the water work had her whining loudly. Rogue does not like the water, so to us this was pretty strange. But, since Ari wasn’t retrieving the bumpers and they needed to be brought back in, we decided to see if maybe Rogue could create a bit of competition.

With Ari’s refusal to retrieve we have been told to try a force retrieve (pinching her ear), and with her sometimes slow recall we’ve told to try a shock collar. Both of these methods are not ones we’re willing to consider though, there are so many other options out there.

Like a little bit of friendly doggie competition.

I let Rogue off the leash and she bolted directly for the water. She ran in and as soon as she realized she could no longer touch the bottom she started to panic. This didn’t stop her though, she wanted to get to that bumper, so after a few false starts, she finally stopped panicking and swam out to the bumpers. She brought the first one in and dropped it at Huib’s feet. Then she turned and went back into the water for the other.

While she was doing this Arizona swam along side, only trying to get the second one off her.

We then spent 20 minutes tossing the bumpers into the pond and having Rogue and Arizona compete for them, returning them to Huib for treats.

Once Ari seemed to be getting the hang of it, I held Rogue and Huib worked with Ari, tossing the bumper a short distance from where he had her sit. She ran into the water without an issue, but it took a few attempts before she finally started swimming out and bringing the bumper back to Huib. A few times she gave up, so I would let Rogue go out a few times, before holding her again.

We worked on water retrieves for probably 30-45 minutes total and by the end I think both girls had a pretty good grasp of the concept.

We then decided to try some land retrieves again. Arizona did two almost perfect retrieves, just taking it back to Laura at first, but then turning to bring it back to me in the end.

Laura thinks that because we’ve been working so much with her bringing the bumper back to the person who threw it, that when she’s at field training and the “Gunner” throws it, Arizona thinks she needs to return the bumper to whoever tossed it.

While this was happening Rogue stood with me watching intently.

Once Ari was finished, I decided to do a couple practices with Rogue and she was freaking perfect!

Rogue has never done field work training, she’s only watched us work with Arizona. Just like in conformation, where she learned by watching Canyon, Rogue has learned field by watching Arizona.

I think I might start bringing Rogue with me to group field classes, maybe she can get her WC. I think we are also going to start bringing Ari to rogue’s tracking lessons so we can do some field work afterwards.

The ability to do whatever activities with my dog is one of the highlights of deciding to owner-train, rather than go to a program for a guide dog.

I think Laura had just as much fun as we did watching Rogue figure things out, and teach Ari about water retrieves.

Coursework

Now that my final grades are in, I am officially done the coursework portion of my masters degree!!

It was a tough semester, full of migraines and times when I didn’t want to write, but I made it through with some great marks.

My thesis supervisor would like me to consider taking two more courses just in case I decide to forgo the thesis and just do a major research project. I know I want to do the thesis so I’m sticking to my decision not to take more for now.

Since my thesis topic is heating up in the media and on the web, I need to rethink my methods for gathering data. I think I will spend the rest of May reading about research methods that use social media and blogs. Then once I feel really comfortable with my new methods, I need to write something up for my presentation in July.

Oh yeah!! I haven’t told you all.

I have been accepted to do a poster presentation at the 24th Annual Conference of the International Society of Antrozoology. The conference will take place in Saratoga Springs, New York July 7th to 9th. I could have waited to see if they had room for me to do an oral presentation, but since I did one in March, my supervisor and I agreed this would be a good opportunity to learn about doing a poster.

I will try to update everyone on my research progress as I go along.

2 Weeks Old

Abba’s puppies are now 2 weeks old.

2 week old golden retriever puppies

A similar picture of the puppies

Anne says the puppies have opened their eyes and are beginning to walk around.

People can go visit the puppies starting June 14th, the temperament tests will be done on the 9th of July and then we can pick up our bundle of fur on the 12th.

Huib and I are getting really excited about the new addition. I wasn’t too sure what Huib really felt about having another dog, but now that Abba has had her puppies, he has begun to show some excitement about the arrival.

I will post more pictures and updates as they come.

Rogue and Cessna Take on New York: Part II

On Monday (the 25th), we woke up pretty late. We had had such a busy first day that we all didn’t want to get out of bed, the humans included.

Once we had all eaten breakfast, Mommy and Cyndy packed their bags for the day and we set off for the subway. Cessna was kind of achy and the humans had sore feet, so we decided that it would be best to take the subway as much as possible.

our first stop was to see the Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. The exhibit was cool because Mommy and Cyndy got to feel all of the different statues and carvings on the sarcophaguses.

Brooke touching a statue. I'm wearing blue denim jeans, a burgundy hooded sweatshirt that says GAP in gray and an off-white Roots baseball cap.

Plaque that explains the statue Brooke is touching

Brooke checking out a Sphynx statue.

Egyptian statue of a man reading a scroll

while Cyndy and Mommy were checking out one of the sarcophaguses a museum worker came over, pulled Cyndy’s hand off, pointed and told her not to touch. Mommy was standing beside Cyndy feeling the different carvings and Uschi was standing right beside Cyndy, so it was as though the guy thought she wasn’t blind enough. The humans had wanted to see some of the other exhibits, but after that, they decided that we would move on to the Guggenheim.

Vulture on the Temple of Dendur

Huib with Cessna and Brooke with Rogue checking out a sarcophagus. Huib is wearing a navy blue jacket with white running shoes, blue denim jeans and carrying Brooke's white backpack. Cessna is wearing her black leather harness and Rogue's reddish-brown leather leash. Rogue is wearing a camo green harness that has Service Dog written in white on the pocket and has black strapping that has little white reflective paw prints all over it.

Monkey engravings on the side of a sarcophagus

Brooke and Rogue at the Met. Rogue is sitting beside Brooke.

Since Cessna was kind of tired, Mommy decided to give her to Daddy and asked me to help her out. I did pretty well. I overstepped a couple of curbs, but Mommy backed up quickly and we did them again. After a bit, I caught on and kept Mommy safe while Cessna took a break. At the Guggenheim I continued to help Mommy and we walked all over the building together. Mommy thinks I’m finally ready to do more of Cessna’s job which makes me really happy!

Walking toward the Guggenheim

Brooke and Cyndy sitting on the steps of the Guggenheim having a drink with Cessna, Rogue and Uschi. Cyndy is wearing a purple winter coat and Brooke is wearing a white with navy blue winter coat.

Brooke and Rogue standing together on the main floor of the Guggenheim.

Rogue with her paws up, looking down from the top of the Guggenheim

Roof of the Guggenheim

levels of the Guggenheim

After we had finished taking pictures and looking around, we walked across Central Park and headed back to the subway that would take us to our hotel. We were all tired from walking around, so the humans ordered pizza and canollis, and we watched television for the rest of the night.

Brooke with Cessna and Cyndy with Uschi walking through Central Park.

Rogue sitting in Central Park looking toward the camera

Oh, Cessna went on strike by the end of our second day, so Mommy had to ask Daddy for help. Mommy says Cessna is getting ready to retire and that she won’t be asking her to do anymore marathon trips. She’s only going to ask her to work when she feels like it.

Cessna

Come back tomorrow for the final entry on our trip.

Before I really sign off though, I’d like to wish Mommy and Daddy a VERY Happy 13th Anniversary! Thirteen years ago Daddy asked Mommy to go out with him 🙂

Wine Country Kennel Club

Sorry it took me so long to write about the Wine Country Kennel Club conformation dog show, but it was kind of a horrible weekend.

Judi (canyon’s co-breeder) picked us up early Saturday (October 12) morning and we headed to Welland. Canyon and Emmie were two of just six golden retrievers at the show, so right off the bat we knew it wasn’t going to be amazing. When we arrived, we set up the x-pens, camping chairs and shelter, then Huib started getting both goldens ready for the ring. Canyon’s coat was awesome and for some reason, his tail has gotten fuller, so we were really hoping he’d do well. Emmie’s coat, on the other hand, was not cooperating. It was overly wavy and has gotten thinner since she started to show. Once they were all groomed, Huib took each of them out for a quick tour around the fair grounds to practice walking and give them a chance to take in all of the sights and sounds. Then, at 10:30am it was show time.

Huib and Canyon were perfect! Canyon seems to know what he’s doing and barely needs Huib at all. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the judge’s type and ended up getting nothing, except for 1st place in the Canadian Bred Dog class because he was the only one entered. When it was time for Huib and emmie to enter, I took Canyon and they did their thing. emmie was absolutely horrible! Huib nicknamed her the bucking bronco and couldn’t do anything to get her to stop galloping and jumping around like a horse.

And, sadly, the next two days went the same for both dogs.

Judi thinks showing is just not emmie’s thing and will most likely stop trying to get her Canadian Championship.

canyon still loves the show ring, so we’ve scheduled him to have the inflamed gland on the lower lid of his left eye removed on October 30th. In addition to the worry that he might end up getting a major eye infection from injuring the spot, we think that having the spot removed will help his chances in the show ring and hopefully he’ll get an opportunity to finally get his title.

I’m not sure how much I’ve said about the spot on the lower lid of his left eye, but we took him for a surgical consult on the 15th, and were told that it’s not actually a cyst, but an inflamed gland. the vet told us that dogs and humans have glands in their eye lids and that sometimes they become inflamed, but usually return to normal. She said that sometimes this doesn’t happen, so the gland needs to be completely removed. canyon’s inflamed gland is right next to his tear duct, so she said that it’s even more important that we have it done.

This will be Canyon’s first time having surgery, so hopefully nothing eventful happens. He’ll have his blood drawn before the surgery in order to make sure all of his values are normal and we’ve also asked them to run his thyroid since Hypothyroidism is really common in golden retrievers. The surgery will last about 20 to 30 minutes and then we’ll pick him up sometime after 1:00pm. We’ll stay with him in the waiting room before the surgery while he is given the mild sedation and then the vet will take him into the surgical suite to have the rest done. He’ll have to wear the “cone of shame” for about a week and then she said he should be totally fine to return to his normal activities.

I’ll let everyone know how the surgery goes, but I don’t suspect it will be anything major.

How has Your dog Motivated You?

Welcome to the new site.

With all of the unknowns surrounding Blogger’s possible changes and accessibility concerns, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone, and create my own site.

I hope everyone enjoys our new internet home.

Now for the real purpose of this post.

A few weeks ago on Twitter I saw this question “How has your dog motivated you?”, and thought it was the perfect topic for my first entry on our new site.

As everyone knows, from reading previous entries, my dogs are a huge part of my life.

They go almost everywhere with us, and they provide us with hours of entertainment.

Thinking back to the days when I didn’t have a dog, I can honestly say, life was pretty regular and lacking in the excitement category.

If I wanted to spend the weekend in bed watching movies…then that is what I did.

If I wanted to drop everything and go out with friends…then that is what I did.

Before getting a dog, I never had to think about someone else’s feelings or needs, I just did what I wanted to do.

Now, things are different.

If I want to spend the day in bed, watching movies, I have to take breaks between scenes to take out the dogs…check that there is water…and make sure everyone is fed.

If I want to go out with friends at the last minute…I have to find out where we are going…whether they will allow dogs…and whether it is even advisable that I bring them along.

If I choose to leave my dogs at home, I have to make sure someone is able to come check on them if i am going to be away for longer than a few hours, and I can’t just decide to stay out for the weekend.

Yes, having dogs has made life a little less spontaneous and I can’t be as lazy, but having dogs has also made life more interesting.

For example, if it weren’t for Canyon, I wouldn’t be learning about the various dog sports, and how to teach them to him..

I wouldn’t be stepping outside of my comfort zone to find others with similar interests, willing to help me learn.

I also wouldn’t be spending long weekends away, in cities and towns I have never heard of, in crowded conference centres, waiting for our turn to strut our stuff alongside other people and their dogs.

Having Canyon has not only made my life more interesting, but has also motivated me to get out and learn new things, while meeting new people.

I could go on and on, giving examples of how each of my dogs have individually motivated me, but I think I’ll leave that for future posts.

In the meantime, please take some time and tell me in the comments, how your dog has motivated you.

A new Semester

On Monday, I started another online course through the University of Guelph. There weren’t too many options for winter semester, so I chose Business & Consumer Law, through the Department of Marketing and Commerce Studies.

From reading the course outline, it looks as though this course will be a little tougher than I had hoped. In addition to my online participation, there will be an assignment, a midterm and final examination. I’m not too worried about the online participation or assignment portions of the course, but am not too excited about the midterm or final because both will be multiple choice.

I’m hoping that as long as I study hard, that maybe I can defy the odds and for once, actually do well on a multiple choice exam.

Please wish me luck!

Independent Woman

I’ve never taken part in the Disability Blog Carnival, but after reading this round’s topic, I was inspired.

I lost my sight in the summer of 1993. I had just finished grade 8 and was excited to begin grade 9 at a new school. It was a total shock. My parents weren’t sure where to turn. I spent my summer indoors, trying to adapt to a life without 20/20 vision.

September arrived and students returned to school. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. She kept me home the first day, and called our region’s Board of Education. She talked to a woman in charge of organizing special services and was relieved to learn that there was a department of sorts designed to help visually impaired and blind students.

That afternoon, I met a woman who would forever change my life.

Stephanie Sommer arrived around noon. She sat with my mom and I, at the kitchen table and asked questions. She had come to assess whether I truly required her assistance. The phone rang at some point during our meeting and after watching me reach past the phone, she took my hand and placed it onto the receiver with a smile.

After mom was finished with the call, Stephanie told us she would start working with me the following day.

Over the next five years, Stephanie would teach me not only the usual lessons of Braille and getting around safely with a cane, but she would inspire me to be an independent woman.

Stephanie never once treated me like I had a disability.

She expected me to act appropriately and study just as hard as every other student in my high school.

She always expected me to give eye contact.

She wouldn’t help me unless I said please or thank you.

And if I got frustrated and attempted to give up, she’d walk away and wait for me to get over it.

Stephanie and I developed more than just a student-teacher bond, we became friends. She told me about her own vision problems and told me how she embarked on an educational journey that led her to working with students like me.

I remember the feeling of comfort that would come over me each time I smelled her perfume, and the smile that would sprout on my face, no matter how bad the day, when I heard her voice. Stephanie was my navigator, guiding me through a world I now found scary and full of unknowns.

She taught me how to read Braille and how to fully utilize the vision I still had.

She showed me how to travel safely throughout my community with a cane, and then when I told her I wanted to apply for a guide dog, she challenged me to first move outside of my comfort zone. I learned how to take the bus to a neighbouring town to attend movies and shop alone in their mall. Then, she gave me the biggest test of all, she asked me to learn how to take the bus to Toronto and then learn to take the subway to the largest mall of all (at the time) – the Eatons Centre.

Once I entered my final year of high school, Stephanie was there to help me reach my goal of attending university. She read through university brochures and program descriptions. Then she helped me fill out application, after application because I couldn’t decide on which one to attend. She was there when I received each of my letters of acceptance and then took it upon herself to arrange campus tours so that I could better decide upon the school for me.

After I began university, Stephanie and I talked a couple times a year, but after she attended my wedding in 2006, we sadly lost touch.

I still think about the lessons she taught me. She inspired me how to be the woman I am today, because when no one else did, she believed I could be better.

Training With The Rogue Puppy

As I mentioned in this post, I ran into some training issues with the Boarder Collie Lady, and with the help of Sharon, from After Gadget, I have created a new training plan.

After reading my post, Sharon, Karyn and others, suggested I forget about the Border Collie Lady, and start looking for new training resources.

Well, my first step in this process was to join the Training Levels Group with Sharon’s assistance. This was probably the most important decision I have made in the four months, since picking up my little girl.

As soon as I posted my introduction to the group, a wonderful woman from Wyoming, e-mailed me to introduce herself and immediately took me under her wing. She first gave me blind-friendly suggestions on teaching “touch”, and then called me a few days later, to discuss where I was so far, and where I wanted to go from here. She listened intently, then told me a bit about the process she went through in training her 20 month old male, standard poodle, who has now passed his public access test. She commended me on our progress so far, and told me to continue doing what I am, but to also start working more closely on Sue Ailsby’s Levels. She said that for the first year, she mainly socialized, exposed and trained her dog using the levels. The following day, she sent me her training plan for me to follow when Rogue is ready to begin her task training (or guide work).

Since our phone call, we’ve traded e-mails every couple of days. It is so great to know there is someone willing to invest their time and energy in helping us succeed. She has also suggested I start working on some of the Level 2 behaviours, since Rogue is pretty close to passing Level 1, we’re just working on targeting and come.

Here is where Rogue is with Level 1:

Come (from 20 feet) – In Progress
Down (with 2 cues) – Passed
Sit (with 1 cue) – Passed
Target/Touch (nose to palm) – In Progress
Zen/Leave It (5 seconds in hand) – Passed

Here are the behaviours Rogue will/has learn in Level 2:

Come (from 40 feet, 2 cues)
Crate (enter, open/close door with 2 cues) – Passed
Distance (goes around a pole 2 feet away with 2 cues)
Down (from sit with 1 cue)
Down Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Go To Mat (from 5 feet away with 2 cues)
Handling (tail, ears, feet) – Passed
Leash (loose for 1 minute with 1 distraction)
Sit (from stand with 1 cue) Passed
Sit Stay (while I walk 20 feet away/back with extra cues)
Stand (from sit or down with 2 cues)
Stand Stay (without moving feet for 10 seconds)
Target/Touch (nose to marked end of stick with 1 cue)
Trick (can be a very simple one)
Watch (eye contact for 10 seconds with 2 voice cues)
Zen/Leave It (5 seconds in hand & 10 seconds on chair with 2 cues) Passed

I have started to do regular little training sessions with Rogue when I’m in the washroom, and she really seems to be catching on to the “touch” behaviour. I am not naming it yet, but think she is pretty close to being able to “touch” on cue. I think the random, short sessions are working out a lot better for us both, because she isn’t expected to pay attention for more than 3 minutes at a time, and I am not having to worry about the others getting upset about being left out.

“Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly.” – Robert H. Schuller